Hoosiers Against Common Core Blasts Gov. Pence as Panel Approves a 'Rebranded' Common Core

Despite significant warnings from standards writers opposed to Common Core, such as fellow Hoosier Dr. James Milgram, Indiana’s Gov. Mike Pence (R) and his Education Roundtable recommended Monday that the third draft of a new set of math and English Language Arts standards be adopted by the state school board to replace the Common Core standards. The problem is that parents who oppose the new standards and advisers Pence sought out on both sides of the debate say these new standards are strikingly similar to the Common Core and, in some cases, even inferior.

The standards will now go to the State Board of Education on April 28th for consideration. If approved, they will replace the Common Core State Standard adopted in 2010.

During his State of the State address in January, Pence said, “When it comes to setting standards for schools, I can assure you, Indiana’s will be uncommonly high. They will be written by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers and will be among the best in the nation.”

Yet, Pence dismissed the warnings of fellow Hoosier Dr. James Milgram, mathematics professor at Stanford University and member of the Common Core Validation Committee, who refused to sign off on the standards. Instead, Pence had his Center for Education and Career Innovation (CECI) panel lead the Common Core rewrite.

Hoosiers Against Common Core parents Erin Tuttle and Heather Crossin, however, discovered that the state’s two panels to select draft standards and evaluate those choices were half to a third composed of people who publicly supported Common Core.

Tuttle told Breitbart News:

Yes, Milgram is from South Bend, Indiana. How does Pence reject his advice and support Sujie Shin from WestED, a quasi-governmental group partially funded by the federal government? She was contracted by the state to design and facilitate the entire process from start to finish. She was the main presenter to the Roundtable at yesterday's meeting.

“Secondly, there was only ONE math professor on the standards writing team and the College and Career Ready panel that approved them,” Tuttle continued. “He is from Manchester College, which isn't hard to get into; it's not anywhere near to being one of the top schools. The other people on both the committees for math have PhDs in math education [not mathematics], from schools of education.”

“How does Pence reconcile choosing the opinion of one math professor, from Manchester, over Wu from Berkeley, Milgram from Stanford, and a Hoosier from Notre Dame's math department, Alex Hahn?” asked Tuttle.

Common Core supporter Hung-Hsi Wu is a University of California at Berkeley mathematics professor who reviewed the drafts of Indiana’s standards, as well, and ultimately rejected them. In a statement sent to Breitbart News, Wu quoted from the draft:

The standards are not curriculum. While the standards may be used as the basis for curriculum, the college and career ready Indiana Academic Standards are not a curriculumTherefore, identifying the sequence of instruction at each grade—what will be taught and for how long—requires concerted effort and attention at the corporation and school levels.

Wu commented:

In other words, the fact that these standards are at times an incoherent jumble—my main criticism—is by design. Nowhere is this fact more obvious than the treatment of geometry in grade 8 and high school. Unhappily, the concerted effort and attention at the corporation and school levels that they fantasize about has not been effective in bringing any improvement for our students for the past four decades, because the needed mathematical knowledge is simply not there. In year 2014, we need a set of standards to take charge in order to make sense to teachers and publishers what needs to be done. May I add the obvious fact that a lot needs to be done for K–12 at the moment? This is a time when leadership matters, but the writers of the new draft chose to pass the buck. I find it disappointing, and more importantly, I believe the new draft is inferior to the CCSSM.

In an email statement to Breitbart News last week, the internationally acclaimed Milgram said he had reviewed the final draft of standards.

He wrote:

So far, I've gone through the three classes, Pre-calculus, Trigonometry, and Algebra II. I will also go over Calculus, Geometry and Algebra I. … My conclusions about the three that I did go over was that they are pretty much a complete mess. There are major errors in each; they are repetitive, and horribly disorganized. Moreover, the individual standards are typically so poorly stated that it is almost impossible to figure out what kinds of problems would be appropriate for them. At the moment I would suggest that your most sensible course would be to vote for the old Indiana standards (prior to the 2009 draft). They were second only to California, and I believe that you already have appropriate exams. I might change my mind when I finish the remaining three classes, but the odds of that are very close to 0.

Unfortunately, except for Geometry, which, even though it had both coherence problems and mathematical errors, was otherwise acceptable, both Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 were basically unacceptable.

So I reiterate that my recommendation is that you vote for your previous math standards, which were first class.

In fact, as observed by Milgram, Hoosiers enjoyed acclaim for math and English standards that were among the finest in the country until former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’ (R) decision to champion the Common Core standards for his state.

In a March interview, Professor Emerita at Arkansas University, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, who also refused to sign off on the Common Core standards, told Breitbart News that Indiana should return to its 2006 English Language Arts standards.

Stotsky was personally asked by Pence to assist in the evaluation process of the state’s new standards. When she saw, however, that the drafts of the new standards were “almost identical to Common Core,” she said she “almost fell off [her] chair.”

Though Stotsky, who developed the highly celebrated Massachusetts standards, informed Pence that she would not review new drafts of standards that were just rebranded versions of the Common Core, Pence still suggested that she continue to work with Claire Fiddian-Green, who heads Pence’s CECI panel.

“The governor said he not only wanted my input, but more than twice said how much he valued my contribution,” Stotsky told Breitbart News on Tuesday. “Now, Pence does not sound presidential, but duplicitous.” 

Ultimately, Stotsky’s advice was ignored, as was the advice of Milgram and Wu. After Pence requested, then rejected, the advice of nationally-renowned standards writers, his response on Monday to criticism was, “To those who would have preferred that we deferred more to out of state experts from Washington, D.C., to the East Coast to the West Coast, I ask, isn’t that the kind of elitist thinking that got us Common Core in the first place?”

In a statement to the Indiana Education Roundtable, Milgram wrote about the errors in the approved math standards:

In fact, there are even more errors in the current document than were present in the March 14th document for all six of these courses. The standards for these courses are completely disorganized, and, mathematically speaking, can only be described as bizarre.

But come to think of it, maybe this is a good thing. After all, the same kinds of issues will doubtless come up in other states, and being able to show people actual examples of the kinds of nonsensical things states can come up with would only be helpful. So perhaps for the greater good you should vote to make the current draft your new mathematics standards, and just to be on the safe side include a statement to the effect that you have done this to provide the rest of the country with a dramatic example of what not to do.

Regarding those who actually wrote the new standards, Milgram said:

I tried to make it as clear as I possibly could that even this would require an inordinate amount of work on the part of highly qualified people. Moreover, I made it as clear as I could in conversations with the apparent leader of the project that these highly qualified people were not the members of the committee that the Indiana Department of Education had selected to make those revisions.

In my view this was a committee of people, perhaps qualified in other areas not related to mathematics, but not qualified in any sense to handle fixing the mathematical monstrosities inhabiting the current document.

“Governor Pence dismissed reviews from national experts warning that the standards were not ‘uncommonly high’ because he felt they didn't represent Hoosiers,” Tuttle told Breitbart News. “Ironically, Pence contracted with an employee of WestED to control his Hoosier process and give the final report before the Roundtable vote.”

“For all Pence's claims of federalism, his signature legislation removing Indiana from the Common Core required the new standards to ‘comply with federal standards to receive a flexibility waiver,’" Tuttle added, quoting from the legislation that had Indiana, at least ostensibly, abandon the Common Core. “His Hoosier process was predicated on satisfying the federal government, thus resulting in a rebrand of the Common Core.”

“This was all about delivering a predetermined result, a set of standards with almost perfect alignment to the Common Core to satisfy the US Department of Education,” Tuttle said.


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