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The Common Core is right for a STEM career – Bill Duncan in the Concord Monitor

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Common Core opponents use any hook they can for their critiques.  Recently, Dr. James Milgram, one of two former academics traveling the country to make the case against the Common Core, sent this testimony to the House Education Committee recently.

Here’s my response in the Concord Monitor.

Have you heard that the Common Core math standards don’t prepare our children for STEM careers?  Don’t believe it.

Preparing students for careers in science, technology, engineering, and math has been one of Governor Hassan’s highest education priorities. She emphasized the importance of the Common Core in her State of the State address and went on to announce her new STEM task force.

New Hampshire businesses thinks the new math standards get it right too.  The Business & Industry Association of New Hampshire (the BIA), the New Hampshire Coalition for Business and Education, New Hampshire’s Advanced Manufacturing Educational Advisory Council and many CEO’s have all endorsed the Common Core.

Thousands of educators and experts participated in developing the Common Core State Standards for math. Hundreds worked on and gave feedback to the various committees involved. Every major mathematical society in America is on record endorsing the standards.  The New Hampshire Teachers of Mathematics thinks so as well.

Actually, most every math teacher you talk to thinks provides the preparation our students need – except James Milgram, a retired math prof who travels the country opposing the Common Core.

Dr. Milgram recently submitted testimony to the House Education Committee in support of the several anti-Common Core bills.  He tells the committee some ancient history about the math standards in California and stories about who said what to whom as the Common Core standards were being developed.  But he does not actually critique the standards.

In fact, Dr. Milgram concludes by saying,  “In spite of the issues raised above, it is true, first that Core Standards are considerably better than the old New Hampshire Math Standards, and second, that much of the material in them is very well done. In fact Core Standards are better than the standards of 90% of the states…”

Then he finishes that sentence by saying that all those political problems make the Common Core standards “entirely unsuitable for state adoption.”

His recommendation is that New Hampshire put together a few good math teachers from “top New Hampshire universities such as Dartmouth” and tweak the Common Core standards.

Actually, New Hampshire math teachers from schools around the State have already done that.  Guided by NHDOE, they commented on early drafts and saw their comments used.

And the process continues today. The annual conference of New Hampshire math teachers next month is entirely devoted to the Common Core.  Many math teachers share their teaching methods in statewide networks the New Hampshire Department of Education has set up.

Day-to-day, math and science teachers meet in their schools to figure out the best way to use the new standards in their classrooms.  And they’ll tell anyone who asks that they appreciate the Common Core standards.

As the Alton School Board was voting to reject the Common Core a few months ago, Richard Kirby, sixth grade English and mathematics teacher at Alton Central School, told the board that the Alton Teachers Association welcomes the Common Core standards, saying ”It offers new challenges to students to become problem solvers, critical thinkers and technologically literate,” he said. “It raises the bar for grade levels and individuals.” (Laconia Sun, 9/17/13)

Carol Marino, 6th Grade Math teacher at Sanborn Middle School, told me, “The Common Core is much more focused.  We can spend more time on a topic and really delve into it deeper.  And we have continuity across the grades.  It just makes so much more sense to me.”

As Dave Juvet, senior vice president of the BIA, said when a sponsor of the anti-Common Core legislation asked if he had read the critics of the Common Core, “My belief is they represent a small, small, small minority of those who worked on the development of the Common Core standards.”

via The Common Core is right for a STEM career | Concord Monitor.


  1. Bill Duncan says:

    You’re right, she’s very active. And, actually, we have offered to debate Dr. Stotsky and other political opponents of the Common Core. It’s under discussion.

    But I disagree with her on the substance, which is what this post discusses. Why don’t you join that debate instead of going on about how evil Bill Gates and Fordham and unions and everyone who supports the Common Core is?

    • You need to face the lady, not me. I have seen and heard her in action too many times to know that she speaks clearly for the children of this country. She has nothing at stake. I sense that many other careers and philosophy are whats on line here not substance. When ever I hear her speak she backs up her knowledge with study after study from her research, experience teaching and training teachers. I have witnessed teachers and supers coming up to her privately after her appearances incognito in fear of retribution of their careers. Just the fact that she is so obviously being marginalized by all political sides bothers me. Since 2005 Massachusetts has held the top spot in every subject tested, in every grade. The state is now in the top six countries in math and science on international testing.
      She was the point person in developing the Massachusetts standards and the teacher qualification standards. Many states rather than research and develop their own have copied those standards. It is clear that Obama, Patrick, Duncan, and Bill Gates came along to try to destroy them with the help of the teachers unions and the Federal money that was put on the table. Why didn’t that debate occur when she recently appeared in New Hampshire?

      • Bill Duncan says:

        So if I understand your response, you are not prepared to engage on the substance of the issue, just make these political statements?

        • Attempting to marginalize me or delegitimize me confirms exactly what I am saying. It doesn’t work. Taking a sample of current teachers and publicizing their names on how they like common core is not acceptable. Even you must wonder why politically unaffiliated school administrations from all over the state of Massachusetts are inviting this “doberman grandma” to speak to them. Are they possibly bypassing the people who do not represent the children or the parents in this country? Are you also marginalizing this courageous lady who is battling the people who have the power to destroy our children’s education opportunities for the sake of closing false creative gaps constructed around labeling Whites and Asians as “rich” and African Americans and Spanish speaking people as “poor”. The growth and success of Charter Schools, happening predominately in inner City neighborhoods throughout the country are supported overwhelmingly by the so called “poor”. It is the unappreciated catalyst of turning upside down and inside out the disaster that is happening all too much in Public Schools. Please note the current 16000 children that are on the waiting list to get into a Charter School in Boston.
          Question concerning “Common core” are going on in every town and state that invites the “Doberman Grandma” to the table. And the last time I talked with her at Peabody MA the other night the list of state Education committees and town and city school administrators inviting her is overwhelming. Who do you represent?

          • Bill Duncan says:

            Comment all you want, Donald, on how much MA loves Dr. Stotsky. And NY. And IN. When you get to the substance, about NH, give us the high sign.

          • The basic mission of Common Core, as Jason Zimba, its leading mathematics standards writer, explained at a videotaped board meeting in March 2010, is to provide students with enough mathematics to make them ready for a nonselective college—”not for STEM
            In a September 2013 article published in the Hechinger Report, an education news website affiliated with Columbia University’s Teachers College, Mr. Zimba admitted: “If you want to take calculus your freshman year in college, you will need to take more mathematics than is in the Common Core.”
            As Stanford mathematics professor James Milgram noted in “Lowering the Bar the Common Core deliberately leaves out “major topics in trigonometry and precalculus.” Contrast that with the status quo before the Common Core, when states like Massachusetts and California provided precalculus standards for high-school students. The implications of this are dramatic. “It is extremely rare for students who begin their undergraduate years with coursework in precalculus or an even lower level of mathematical knowledge to achieve a bachelor’s degree in a STEM area,” Mr. Milgram added.
            All the heads of major professional mathematics associations expressed “strong support for the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics” in a July 2013 letter solicited and posted by William McCallum, professor of mathematics at the University of Arizona and a Common Core math standards writer. Other signers include the presidents of the American Mathematical Society, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the Association for Women in Mathematics, the Benjamin Banneker Association, the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics and TODOS: Mathematics for ALL.
            Why leaders of these organizations would endorse standards that will not prepare students for college majors in mathematics, science, engineering and mathematics-dependent fields is a puzzle. But no educational reform that leads to fewer engineers, scientists and doctors is worthy of the name.

          • Bill Duncan says:

            You’ve got a lot of misunderstandings imbedded in here, Donald. That’s why you are “puzzled” about the broad support for the standards.

            Have you seen Zimba’s testimony to the NH House Education Committee? It pretty much answers every point you make.

            Beyond that, a couple of simple points: Why does Milgram say the NH standards are just fine as they are, with a little tweaking? And what about trigonometry and calculus? The standards don’t go far enough there, right?

            These subjects are not part of the “Core” standards because not every student needs to master these subjects. It depends on their career goals. As education policy researcher Marc Tucker points out, “Fewer than 5% of the occupations in the United States actually require calculus.” There is no need to make calculus part of the core standards and test every student on it.

            Builders might want more geometry and trigonometry. Students interested in public health might go more into statistics. New Hampshire high schools will continue to teach these and many other subjects that go beyond Common Core requirements.

            It’s time to move on, Donald. Do as Dr. Milgram recommends and Manchester is doing. Tweak them as you like, but put the standards to work.

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