Tag Archives: Dr. Ze’ev Wurman

Lots of Opinions, Not Many Facts: Judy’s Vail’s Letter to the Editor

Cartoon by Randy Bish in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Cartoon by Randy Bish in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Senator Patrick Moynihan once famously said, “You are entitled to your own opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts.”

Judy Vail, Common Core Specialist in Calcasieu Parish, wrote a recent letter to the editor. It was riddled with opinions but lacking in facts. Here is my response.

Common Core will never solve the true stumbling block called poverty; anyone who thinks so is simply not looking at the facts.

She claims to know why people oppose Common Core. Considering that she is one of the core group of teacher leaders chosen by John White to promote Common Core, she most likely possesses only the side of the story with which she is comfortable. To claim that people oppose it only due to national infringement of local control only displays the lack of understanding on supporters’ part. Parents are complicated, loving people, and to reduce their valid concerns to only one category is another sign of one-size-fits-all approach CC supporters employ.

As for her statement that Common Core started with the states, that is wrong. The National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) are NOT the states. The individual states did NOT appoint the people or send any members to be a part of the core group who wrote Common Core Standards. With vast donations of Bill Gates’ money, the NGA and the CCSSO appointed the people who designed the standards that some 45 states would originally adopt.

“Common Core standards actually spell out what math and reading skills students should have in each grade…” That’s exactly what the Louisiana Grade Level Expectations (GLE) also did, and they were ranked as some of the better ones in the nation. Poverty, however, dramatically affects our performance on state rankings, but instead of addressing poverty, CC supporters claimed the GLEs were deficient. It’s a perfect example of addressing the symptom while ignoring the disease.

Vail also uses faulty logic. She claims that since less than 20 states have signed up for the PARCC assessments, how can this be a national test? She failed to mention that PARCC is only one of two groups designing such tests; the other is called Smarter Balance that has some 21 participating states. Combined, those two groups represent almost seventy percent of the nation taking tests based on the same standards.

“If Louisiana were to delay the use of PARCC, costs could rise to the millions of dollars.” Actually, the Pre-PARCC tests cost between $8-11 dollars per test, while the PARCC tests conservatively were estimated to cost $29 per test—almost triple the cost—and that’s not including the exorbitant amount of computer upgrades each district must absorb as the tests only run on the latest computers.

How did 45 states somehow think it a good idea to hand over their educational future to a group of people who were not teachers, had never written standards before, and had no grasp of cognitive development in children? What could possibly go wrong?

As for my mathematical experience, I trust the words of Dr. James Milgram, who served on the Verification Committee for CC and refused to sign off on it, and Dr. Ze’ev Wurman who has written extensively on the notable omissions in the math standards: removing Algebra I from the 8th grade, replacing traditional foundations of Euclidean geometry with an experimental approach, removing topics in Algebra II and Geometry that make a college-ready student really only ready for a two year college; failure to teach prime factorization and least common denominators or greatest common factors; failure to address mathematical induction; barely touches on logarithms; incompletely addresses conic sections; and the list goes on.

Vail lastly states that Louisiana is ready for CC because the state has worked tirelessly to implement these standards. I certainly don’t have Vail’s 40 years as an educator, but in my 24 years, I have never seen such a haphazard rollout of such a poorly-conceived plan. I’ve had five different curriculum maps in the last five years, all significantly different and all implying that we apparently had no clue what we were doing from year to year.

She closes with the usual argument that the state’s 48th place ranking means we must keep Common Core. As long as poverty remains the real problem, we will always rank near the bottom. Common Core will never solve the true stumbling block called poverty; anyone who thinks so is simply not looking at the facts.



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