**Catherine Sanderson**era School Committee meeting, where free expression reigned ... until the system crushed the rebellion.

For context sake: Regional School Committee members (those who wished to) responded to presentations by senior ARPS Admin staff regarding "School Improvement Plan." Some of them were ever so mildly critical. Mr. Fonsh, Committee Chair, took great offense. A tad too easily.

## 89 comments:

Mr. Fonsch has been to this rhetorical place before, in the service of shutting up and marginalizing other voices. He's a master at it.

It was very important to use the excessive word "cannabalize", so he did it three times. And there was, of course, the obligatory reference to how long he has been "serving" us, as if he had greater authority and privileges than those who may have lived here for a shorter period of time.

Implicit in the use of the word "allies" is the word "enemies". Mr. Fonsch tends to quickly identify both on any issue. It's not an inclusive message he's giving us.

If some forget how dissent was squelched the last time, this is the tip of the iceberg.

Maybe we need to go back to teaching rhetoric in school.

Rhetoric 101:

Comparing anyone in 21st century civic life with Hitler and Nazis is always a bad idea.

Characterizing the contributions of others with any verb with the root "cannibal" probably won't yield the necessary tempering result.

A call for cooperation and moderation employing implicitly "us versus them" terms like "allies" is probably self-defeating.

Why is he still chair of the regional school committee? Maybe if the members re-voted for chair there would be a different outcome this time. Mr. Fonsh's rhetoric is accomplishing little besides increasing current tensions.

just watched most of this meeting and I have NO idea to what Kip is referring. The mildest of criticism was offered (and those that offered it bent backwards not to offend). What the heck, Kip? Kudos to the Pelham member (whose name I don't remember) to stand up for himself and demanding the space to say what he feels is his job as an elected SC member.

And, of course, there's the racist implications of the use of the word "cannibalize" when addressing an African American. Oh, my mistake, there's no problems with racism in Amherst.

He cannot tolerate "the mildest of criticism" about schools. He has demonstrated that in the past. He expects his language will have a chilling effect on dissent. Usually it works.

This is why the real dialogue turns up here, on blogs where commenters can remain anonymous.

We can debate about everything here, shade trees, affordable housing, measures to curb destructive student behavior, zoning articles, development issues, conservation measures, BUT NOT PUBLIC EDUCATION. Not that one. To do so would be impolite and "dangerous", in Mr. Fonsh's words, to those doing the work.

Sing it Kip.

SSSSSSSSSSing it!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6ZB7CsSw6Q

To Kip Fonsch,

Dangerous? Interesting terminology here. Dangerous would be doing the same thing year after year after year. Calling it something different each time you change it. Not doing any real evaluation of the changes to determine outcome. Letting the administration off when programs disappear without asking why. Not standing up for the people you represent and hold a school system accountable. Inferring that the actions of others are not appropriate. Hearing different SC members asking for the same thing year after year after year, finally giving up like so many parents. Then when one bothers to stand up you verbally eviscerate them and tell them of your vast wonderful experience and how the parent or member does not understand. They don't understand that you the self anointed highly biased king are the end all be all of what is appropriate and good for 4 different town. That, Mr. Fonsch is true danger. You are becoming a polite tyrant in sheeps clothing. Take a long look in the mirror. Want to help the kids? Retire from the SC like you did your teaching job and let some parents who are suffering in they system take it to task for what it is. Let them work to save their kids education without the likes of you to tell them how to speak appropriately. Our kids will suffer the consequences down the road for your rhetoric and inaction. Your departure would be a great first step in bringing meaningful change to the system.

I could not agree with Kip more?

We all want the same thing, true, the best education possible for our kids. Happy, confident, educated kids ready to move on to college, armed forces, jobs, etc.

Now about those details... They do matter?? On this we clearly disagree. Take the MS math discussion going on. What the administration has indicated they want to do, does not sit well with many parents. Should those parents talk nice about this. When the MS gets rid of Algebra just say, oh well. Should we get mad as hell and fight this change for our kids. Are we bad parents if we raise our voices, post to blogs, write letters to the paper, come and speak negatively at SC. We are just parents scared for the future of our children. We are parents who have seen the slow erosion of our school standards and wonder how our kids will compete with others after they leave Amherst.

So Kip is correct that we all want the same thing. The difference is in the details and those details do matter. I would suggest more parents show up to future meetings and let Kip know if they disagree with him. Question everything you see that does not make sense. Write letters to the paper. Sunshine is the best disinfectant. Send a message and take back the schools from those who are completely out of touch.

The System is broken down. There is no check and balance any more. The school committee suppose to represent the families, parents and students and hold school administrators accountable to high education standards. Some of the school committee members give a blind eye to how the administrators run the school. SC has failed its fiduciary duty to represent the families in 4 towns.

From SC chief, Kip Fonsch, to school boss, Maria Geryk, they silence the families, they silence other SC members, they silence the any concerns, or comments. Students's sufferings are not heard, parents's angers are not heard. Only the eurologies are allowed to be said and heard on SC meetings, like an old record playing all the time.

Algebra & Geometry programs in middle school is mysteriously cut, this is not announced, nor published in ARPS website. Students and families rights of curriculum choice is quietly killed. This is the perfect dawn for district dictatorship on public education.

Until a child crying out: "But, the emperor doesn't have clothes!"

Is Team Maria in the process of "crashing & burning"?

Public officials have been removed from office for comments less incendiary than Mr. Fonsh's.

Maria's response: because my people worked really hard on developing this plan, thou shall NOT criticize or question it. This is deeply flawed leadership.

My favorite part was one SC member asked how we will know if the new initiatives are working. No reply (and of course, no plans in place, despite repeated rhetoric claiming the district will use data to drive progress forward). How about a few specifics?

Kip Fonsch accuse other SC member "cannibalizing their allies." in SC meeting. This is an interesting revelation. Who is who's allies. I can see Kip Fonsch sternly remind the other SC members to get back "in line", and not critisize "our" (i.e. Kip's) allies. And that "allies" are Maria Geryk and her administrators.

Kip Fonsch is grossly wrong. SC member and school administration should never be "allies". SC members should represents the conscience of 4 town families and have an utmost responsibility to make sure the school is running to the best interests of the 4 town families. It has supervising and monitoring role in it. SC members should keep a healthy distance from the School administration to make sure the system's check and balance mechanism works. Kip Fonsch's statement clearly shows his hand that he is colluding with the school administration. He is defining his role as the protector of the school administration from the general public.

With SC chair's encouragement without supervision, Maria Geryk can act so defensive to any comments and criticism (as gentle as it can be) to her district improvement plan. Maria Geryk's data team, Rhonda Cohen and Ian Stith, can boldly strip 4 town students off their freedom of curriculum choice that have been a 4 town tradition for so many years. Algebra and Geometry are removed from middle school curriculum offering at the whim of Rhonda Cohen and Ian Stith. More similar changes are expected in high school as long as these people are behind the steering wheel. Maria Geryk and her cohorts are planning to revamp the school system in a race to the bottom of the performance.

Students's suffering are ignored, parents's objections are suppressed. The problem starts from the top and can only be fixed from the top.

Kip Fonsch has failed his fiduciary responsibility for the 4 town families. As the chair of the SC, he even reminded and persuaded other SC members to collude with him in the public meeting. Kip Fonsch should resign and leave his chair to worthy citizen that can truely represent 4 town families.

So, which of the two towns, Leverett/Shutesbury still want to regionalize with the Amherst schools? Stand up and be counted. There are decades upon decades to regret your decision.

I was at Rhonda Cohen' 7 grade math curriculum meeting. I heard Rhonda mentions common core endless times. I have little knowledge about math and not in a position to analyze it. I can only trust Cohen as I thought she is a educator. Now I understand common core is just a minimum standard for students. It is the minimum requirement for any student, no matter he is in amherst and Lexington, or Springfield and Dorchester. Amherst can do much better than minimum,as we have been doing for so many years. Rhonda, if you want to run our district into a minimum standard school at the bottom of the state chart, why not just say so, in a language we parents can understand? I feel my trust is being betrayed. I am furious!

Part 1 of 2:

George Orwell would have loved responding to the fascist tactics being used to advocate Common Core...

Rhonda, if you want to run our district into a minimum standard school at the bottom of the state chart, why not just say so, in a language we parents can understand?In other words, we're gonna hide the bad stuff behind obtuse technospeak that few can comprehend -- but don't you dare use the same to point out what we are hiding and where we are hiding it.

I'm surprised she hasn't (yet) been accused of being both mentally ill and on the Koch Brother's payroll....

Yes, initially it was social conservatives who were concerned about Common Core, much as it was young gay men who were first concerned about what we now know as AIDS/HIV -- and for many of the same reasons.

Parents on the political left love their children as well, and there are now voices on the left speaking out against both Common core itself and the thuggish tactics being used in advocacy of it.

Here is what theHuffington Post had to say about it.

I think his first paragraph is all one needs to say to the lovely anonymous critic attacking Rhonda Coehen.

...the Common Core literature tries to intimidate opposition, in part, by using pretentious language. To support this claim, [Tampio cites] math standards as well as the literature explaining them.To paraphrase George Orwell, words like commutativity and associativity give a scientific air to dubious judgments about the quality of the Common Core.Continued in Part 2

Part 2 of 2

Now I understand common core is just a minimum standard for students.Yes, that of Mississippi....

Parents: This quote, from the paper I mention below, is why you need to be worried. "STEM" is "Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math" -- and one of the Common Core Math authors has just been asked if CC Math standards are high enough to give kids the background required to major in STEM in college.

“Not only not for STEM, it’s also not for selective colleges. For example, for UC Berkeley, whether you are going to be an engineer or not, you'd better have precalculus to get into UC Berkeley.”Parents: Common Core Math will enable your kids to go to Holyoke Community College and maybe UMass -- and if you want them going somewhere else, if your expectations are that they will be going to a "selective college", then you need to worry....

-------------------------

James Milgram (the only actual "math person" involved with Common Core) has denounced the math standards as lower than the standards of Massachusetts, Indiana, Texas, Minnesota, and California.

Sandra Stotsky -- the strong-minded woman who essentially created the current Massachusetts standards -- someone whom I have known for years and whom I respect -- is vehemently opposed to Common Core.

Anyone who wants a definitive explanation why Common Core Math is BAD NEWS needs to read this-- the paper which they wrote in opposition to Common Core Math. And the references they cite might also be worth reading.BTW -- I have two pieces of paper that Maria G doesn't -- a classroom teacher's certificate (Grades 7-12 Social Studies & English ) and a Doctorate in "Teacher Education & School Improvement."

Yes, they are only pieces of paper -- but so is a vehicle registration. Try telling "Officer Friendly" that though when you are driving a vehicle that doesn't have one....

Dear Bloggers,

It is unsettling to read these postings and think that some of you have responsible roles in our community. For all of the bashing that you do, you certainly have not done any real research to understand the range of issues from what the "school committee's" is really responsible for to what a guaranteed, viable curriculum means consistent with addressing the country wide movement to the core standards. Are any of you current educators or administrators? Please do question, but know what you are questioning to begin with and set put aside the trivial commentary. And, for goodness, please be at the meetings before you make your comments. Hearsay is not permissible in most courts, so please take it out of the court of public opinion!

One Frustrated Reader

RE: Parents: Common Core Math will enable your kids to go to Holyoke Community College and maybe UMass -- and if you want them going somewhere else, if your expectations are that they will be going to a "selective college", then you need to worry....

With this comparison, it is apparent that this blogger do not know about the competitiveness to get into UMass's Engineering, Science, and Business programs; and how challenging they are. Guess having a strong school in your own town doesn't mean much...

Dear "One Frustrated Reader"(Anon 3:36PM)

When you talk about hearsay and request that people attend meetings, are you referring to the School Committee meetings? All the School Committee meetings are recorded (this blog snippet comes from Amherst Media's recording of the 10/22 School Committee meeting), and the minutes of the School Committee meetings are posted on the ARPS web site; the 10/22 minutes are up already. I have attended School Committee meetings in person previously, but since there is so little opportunity for public participation (the public is allowed to make comments only at the start of the meeting even for items that are on the agenda), I now choose to watch the meetings from my own home, at my convenience. When recordings and minutes are available, as there are for the School Committee mtgs, then everyone can see the remarks by School Committee members, Mr. Fonsh included, and the administration for themselves.

Anon 3:36

Many of us have spent countless hours attending SC meetings, School council meetings and other informal meetings with various administrators for over 10 years. We know exactly what we are talking about. We understand the problem not only from a uniquely Amherst level but also from a state and federal level. We are concerned parents who have worked hard, researched, tried to be supportive, collaborative, you name it. In the end we feel ignored, brushed aside, and our time wasted. Many of us could deal with that just fine but our kids will suffer for what we see as an inadequate education.

We have talked to teachers directly. We have tried all angles to no avail. While I am sure some of our comments may seem short or less than fully informed they are not. What you are seeing is a decade of frustration boiling over.

Instead of telling us to do more why don't you ask your school committee members to support better education, higher standards, accountability, true evaluation of teachers and programs, etc. and silence us for good. Wake up and get a critical eye to what is really going on. From my perspective you do not have one yet.

From my position all I see from you is another person trying to discredit my years of hard work to support the administration. The door swings both ways.

I heard Maria say, "Address me, not my staff, because they are implementing my policies." I did not hear her say to anyone, 'you cannot comment.' That is a true leader who is backing her staff. She is willing to take the heat, but doesn't want to throw her staff under the bus.

anon@6:08, yes, I heard her say that as well but since "she" didn't present the plans, it was certainly reasonable for SC members to assume that they could address the staff who presented the plan(s). I watched the mtg and for the life of me, can not see how offense could have been taken that would prompt such aggressive response from Ms. Geryk and Mr. F. She basically said/demanded a simple YES (or no) on the vote to accept. I believe MGL does allow SC members to question elements of the plan and indeed they could vote no on particular elements, if they want (which wasn't pointed out to them when one member asked for clarification on procedure).

I am wondering whether the school leader has rushed to implement the common core this time. This common core is new to us. Does the school leadership fully understand each grade implementation plan and curriculum alignment plan, and preserve the curriculum choice and acceleration plan. I would consider this is a large effort that need design, discussion, revision, etc. from teachers, parents, admin, etc. that fully understand where we are going and what we will get, what the consequence will be. When admin said they are still working on it and will announce it in the spring, I have this uneasy feeling that the curriculum plan is not well thought of before implementation. This raise the red light. It is like building a bridge without fully design it, just build while we design, or design while we build it. This raise the question what is more important? Get Amherst onto Common core bus as early as possible, or the children's education of a whole 7th grade? Responsible leader probably should take this plan back to drawing board, and switch back to old curriculum plan for a few years until the common core is fully understood and we are sure it is good for us?

What policies does she refer to? What is her position on teaching all children, not just to the minimal standard of MCAS? She is great at rhetoric and political statements but has no idea about what to do on the ground floor. Her teaching and learning department is making mistakes but she does not have the personal knowledge of math education or program implementation to properly supervise it. And yes, frustrated reader, I am an educator. Although it does not take an educator to know your child is not getting what they need.

Anon: 6:08

If our fearless leader does not throw staff under the bus, then what happened to Beth Graham?

Anon 7:24

Thank you.

Hey, Larry! My mom says hi!

Larry, you've unleashed a monster!

And do I detect that there are (gasp) Amherst school employees commenting on here, anonymously?

Is there dissension in the ranks?

Common core is state minimum standard, MCAS is a measurement of state minimum standard. Higher MCAS score may let school leaders look good, but it is at the expense of student true learning. Has the school provide resource to support students to learn as much as they are interested? And as fast as they can and want to learn? Common core should never have been used to intimidate parents and used as an excuse to take away curriculum choice and curriculum acceleration. Algebra and geometry offerings should be given back to 7th graders now!

If school admin cannot clearly mapped out the common core implementation for all grades, k-12, along with curriculum choice, curriculum acceleration, and curriculum alignment, school should delay its implementation until its feasibility are fully studied, stop gap plan, teacher training are all in place.

For some reason the anchor tag doesn't work on ftp urls -- so here it is:

ftp://math.stanford.edu/pub/papers/milgram/ZimbaMilgramStotskyFinal.pdf

I wouldn't call this "hearsay" -- I'd call it "expert testimony."

.....it is apparent that this blogger do not know about the competitiveness to get into UMass's Engineering, Science, and Business programs; and how challenging they are.I meant UMass Amherst in general and not any of the selective programs. My reference to "selective colleges" was the quote which I have also pasted below, which explicitly exempts "STEM" and implicitly exempts all "selective" programs at "not selective" IHEs.

"Not only not for STEM, it’s also not for selective colleges."If the young lady I knew in the engineering program is reflective of her peers, those are young people whom we should be proud of.

Common core is state minimum standard,No more than the 21-year-old drinking age is a

stateminimum age. They are making an end-run around local control of education, but it is a NATIONAL standard.MCAS is a measurement of state minimum standard.WHICH WILL BE ABANDONED under Common Core -- which has much LOWER standards!!!!!Higher MCAS score may let school leaders look good, but it is at the expense of student true learning.I would argue against this point -- I've heard the "teach to the test" argument and the rest, and as one who often solved math problems correctly and using a "correct" mathematical method but not the one the teacher had wanted (and hence marked them wrong), I understand it.

BUT it is the best we have -- and it does work.

We won't even get into the ready-to-go US History MCAS exam which Deval Patrick refuses to permit to be administered....

Has the school provide resource to support students to learn as much as they are interested? And as fast as they can and want to learn?Don't get me going here -- I was so bored in 2nd Grade that I decoded the Roman numerals on the circa-1910 clock so that I could tell when that day's torture would be over.

We "teach to the middle" and spend untold sums on SPED while ignoring those on the other side of the curve. It's not fair.

Common core should never have been used to intimidate parents and used as an excuse to take away curriculum choice and curriculum acceleration.As the advocates of Common Core tend to also oppose teaching above the mode (not median but essentially that), I'm not actually sure that Common Core actually precludes this.

But as all resources are limited, it essentially does.

Algebra and geometry offerings should be given back to 7th graders now!In other words, they should be able take them in 7th grade and not 9th & 10th -- which means that in those grades they'd be able to take Advanced Math & Calculus.

This is what Milgram & Stotsky are saying. EXACTLY what they are saying. It's why -- nationwide -- concerned parents & educators are uprising against Common Core and it well may be a distinction without a difference if Common Core explicitly precludes High School Calculus or if it is an excuse for eliminating it.

The important point to remember here is

ONLY SIX YEARS-- there are only six grades, hence only six years between 7th grade and graduation, and math courses have prerequisites. Hence in order to take the upper level math courses in High School, you have to have already taken the lower level ones in Middle School.If you wait until High School to take the lower level math courses, there won't be enough time left to take the higher level ones!Be kind to the commenters, don't feed Ed's head.

Thank you Dr. Ed. for bringing out the background information about Common Core Math. Parents need information to make informed decisions.

I skim through the paper Dr. Ed bring out. This is from Jason Zimba, the lead writer of Common Core Math Standard, as recorded in meeting minutes, when he explain college readiness expected from Common core:

“Mr. Zimba said that the concept of college readiness is minimal and focuses on non-selective colleges."

The official common core promotion document doesn't raise the bar too high either,

“These standards define the knowledge

and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers so that they will graduate

from high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in

workforce training programs.”

These are important information that support some previous blogger's statement:

Common Core is state minimum standard.

Spread the word and let parents know about these findings even if they don't read blog.

I found some collections that tells more of Common Core.

http://www.uaedreform.org/sandra-stotsky/

There are many information on internet. Google it. Knowledge is power.

When district leadership adopts common core, have they asked a special committee to thoroughly study the Common core, and involve community input and community debate, and have final recommendation presented to the whole community for approval?

This is a important decision that involves all families with children. Thorough research with fully community discussion and approval is needed.

I would urge the school district leadership to delay implementation of Common core for current students and send the study of common core back to committee to research and report their findings to the community.

In a September 2013, a Hechinger Institute writer reported Zimba acknowledging that students

who do not go beyond Common Core’s high school standards could be precluded from attending

selective colleges and that these standards are not aligned with expectations at the college level.

Zimba is quoted as saying: “If you want to take calculus your freshman year in college, you will

need to take more mathematics than is in the Common Core.”

Here are some questions from R. James Milgram and Sandra Stotsky, two education expert that question the promotion of Common Core:

Zimba is quoted as saying: “If you want to take calculus your freshman year in college, you will

need to take more mathematics than is in the Common Core.”

First, why is this situation not indicated in the Common Core document? Or by the

advocates of Common Core’s standards? Or by their many endorsing organizations?

Second, why didn’t those individuals and organizations capable of recognizing the

crippling limitations of Common Core’s mathematics standards suggest an additional set

of mathematics (and possibly English) standards that

would

prepare students for the

freshman mathematics course that most majors in science, mathematics, engineering,

finance, and economics (and, increasingly, in other areas) must take and pass

successfully?

Third, given the limited mathematical literacy of most citizens and education policy

makers, where did responsibility lie to inform local and state educators in charge of

secondary school curricula about what was missing from Core Standards? Likewise, who

was responsible for indicating what had to be added for pathways that would lead to

admission to selective colleges and universities? Who was responsible for indicating

what was needed for STEM areas before and after state boards and departments of

education adopted them?

Fourth, whose responsibility is it now to ensure that at least some (if not an increasing

number of) American high school students will be eligible for admission to selective

academic institutions in this country? This is no small matter since their faculty and

students have propelled this nation’s economic, scientific, and industrial development for

over a century.

"Common core should never have been used to intimidate parents and used as an excuse to take away curriculum choice and curriculum acceleration."

Dr. Ed. I think this blogger is talking about Rhonda Cohen & Ian Cohen's practice. I remember seeing her in Math curricular meetings, whenever other parents mention Algebra, Geometry, their dependencies, and loss of opportunities to learn at middle school, Rhonda will flash and wave a stack of paper(presumably common core standard), and common core Math textbook, without explanation what is covered, or not covered in common core of these math subject areas, just use "Common Core" as district adopted standard to counter parents's point. Some of our parents are not well versed in Common Core. So Rhonda Cohen's way to use "Common Core" as a big word to suppress parents opinion of traditional math subject area and refuse to discuss math suject in detail. I would consider that as a intimidation tactics. Guilty as convicted.

I think the next step is to eliminate the tradional math track at the high school and go to IMP. Good-bye geometry, algebra 1 and 2, trig and precalculus and calculus and hello....? Will anyone talk to the parents in this district by letter and explain things in normal words?

Here is an article on How an eight-year-old’s homework assignment led to a political upheaval in Indiana, where Indiana has become the first state to retreat from the Common Core standards, as Governor Mike Pence has just signed a bill suspending their implementation.

National Review online:

Two Moms vs. Common Core

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/347973/two-moms-vs-common-core

Here is a short excerpt:

How did the bipartisan Common Core “consensus” collapse[ in Indiana]?

It collapsed because some parents saw that Common Core was actually lowering standards in their children’s schools. And because advocates for Common Core could not answer the questions these parents raised.

In Indiana, the story starts with two Indianapolis moms, Heather Crossin and her friend Erin Tuttle.

In September 2011, Heather suddenly noticed a sharp decline in the math homework her eight-year-old daughter was bringing home from Catholic school.

“Instead of many arithmetic problems, the homework would contain only three or four questions, and two of those would be ‘explain your answer,’” Heather told me. “Like, ‘One bridge is 412 feet long and the other bridge is 206 feet long. Which bridge is longer? How do you know?’”

She found she could not help her daughter answer the latter question: The “right” answer involved heavy quotation from Common Core language. A program designed to encourage thought had ended up encouraging rote memorization not of math but of scripts about math.

Heather was noticing on the ground some of the same things that caused Stanford mathematics professor R. James Milgram to withhold his approval from the Common Core math standards.

Professor Milgram was the only math content expert on the Validation Committee reviewing the standards, and he concluded that the Common Core standards are, as he told the Texas state legislature, “in large measure a political document that . . . is written at a very low level and does not adequately reflect our current understanding of why the math programs in the high-achieving countries give dramatically better results.”

Here is a white paper that discuss the common core problems:

"Controlling Education from the Top"

http://truthinamericaneducation.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Controlling-Education-From-the-Top-PRINT.pdf

I put some the Common Core math deficiencies summarized by a math expert, Ze’ev Wurman, quoted in the above documents. I will use a few page to

post the specifics of the common core Math decificies for intereted parents. Here is the statement from Ze’ev Wurman.

I have thoroughly reviewed the Common

Core Standards and have found that they

fail to achieve their stated goal of improving

U.S. K-12 mathematic achievement. Using

sound mathematics teaching principles and

comparison with strong, proven standards

used by the highest performing states and by

our international competitors as benchmarks,

I have set forth below a description of

the major Common Core deficiencies in

mathematics:

1. Its abandonment of the expectation that

students take Algebra I in grade 8. This

expectation, based on the standard of

the high-achieving countries (and our

international competitors), has currently

pushed about half of American students

to take Algebra I by grade 8, more

than double that of a decade ago. The

Common Core will reverse this trend

by firmly relocating Algebra I back to a

grade 9 high-school course. This change

means that, as a practical matter, the great

majority of American students will not

be able to reach calculus in high school.

Among other consequences, far fewer

students will be able to take and excel in

Advanced Placement (AP) math courses

if the Common Core is implemented.

2. Related to the above-deficiency, a course

of study aligned with the Common

Core would provide students with poor

preparation for taking Algebra in grade

8. Only private and elite schools will

continue to provide sufficient preparation

and, consequently, one should expect the

proportion of students from challenging

backgrounds taking Algebra by grade 8,

or advanced mathematics in high school,

to drop precipitously.

3. Common Core replaces the traditional

foundations of Euclidean geometry with

an experimental approach. This approach

has never been successfully used in any

sizable system; in fact, it failed even in

the school for gifted and talented students

in Moscow, where it was originally

invented. Yet Common Core effectively

imposes this experimental approach on

the entire country, without any piloting.

4. Common Core excludes certain Algebra

II and Geometry content that is currently

a prerequisite at almost every four-year

state college (see point 9 below). This

effectively redefines “college-readiness”

to mean readiness for a nonselective

community college, as a member

of the Common Core writing team

acknowledged in his testimony before

the Massachusetts Board of Elementary

and Secondary Education.

Here is a white paper that discuss the common core problems. It will provide parents with some of the specific Common core deficiencies provided by an Math expert,

Ze’ev Wurman, who has thoroughly reviewed Common Core standards. These can be the talk points if the district school leader ever invitate our parents

for "Community Input". I will need to post a few times for people to read through.

"Controlling Education from the Top"

http://truthinamericaneducation.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Controlling-Education-From-the-Top-PRINT.pdf

The following is an excerpt from Ze’ev Wurman's statement regarding common core math standard:

I have thoroughly reviewed the Common

Core Standards and have found that they

fail to achieve their stated goal of improving

U.S. K-12 mathematic achievement. Using

sound mathematics teaching principles and

comparison with strong, proven standards

used by the highest performing states and by

our international competitors as benchmarks,

I have set forth below a description of

the major Common Core deficiencies in

mathematics:

1. Its abandonment of the expectation that

students take Algebra I in grade 8. This

expectation, based on the standard of

the high-achieving countries (and our

international competitors), has currently

pushed about half of American students

to take Algebra I by grade 8, more

than double that of a decade ago. The

Common Core will reverse this trend

by firmly relocating Algebra I back to a

grade 9 high-school course. This change

means that, as a practical matter, the great

majority of American students will not

be able to reach calculus in high school.

Among other consequences, far fewer

students will be able to take and excel in

Advanced Placement (AP) math courses

if the Common Core is implemented.

2. Related to the above-deficiency, a course

of study aligned with the Common

Core would provide students with poor

preparation for taking Algebra in grade

8. Only private and elite schools will

continue to provide sufficient preparation

and, consequently, one should expect the

proportion of students from challenging

backgrounds taking Algebra by grade 8,

or advanced mathematics in high school,

to drop precipitously.

3. Common Core replaces the traditional

foundations of Euclidean geometry with

an experimental approach. This approach

has never been successfully used in any

sizable system; in fact, it failed even in

the school for gifted and talented students

in Moscow, where it was originally

invented. Yet Common Core effectively

imposes this experimental approach on

the entire country, without any piloting.

4. Common Core excludes certain Algebra

II and Geometry content that is currently

a prerequisite at almost every four-year

state college (see point 9 below). This

effectively redefines “college-readiness”

to mean readiness for a nonselective

community college, as a member

of the Common Core writing team

acknowledged in his testimony before

the Massachusetts Board of Elementary

and Secondary Education.

5. Common Core fails to teach prime

factorization and consequently does not

include teaching about least common

denominators or greatest common

factors.

6. Common Core fails to include

conversions among fractions, decimals,

and percents, identified as a key skill

by the National Research Council,

the National Council of Teachers of

Mathematics, and the presidential

National Advisory Mathematics Panel.

7. Common Core de-emphasizes algebraic

manipulation, which is a prerequisite

for advanced mathematics, and

instead effectively redefines algebra as

“functional algebra,” which does not

prepare students for STEM careers.

8. More specifically, at the K-8 grade span:

8.1 Common Core does not require

proficiency with addition and

subtraction until grade 4, a grade

behind the expectations of the

high-performing states and our

international competitors.

8.2 Common Core does not require

proficiency with multiplication using

the standard algorithm (step-by-step

procedure for calculations) until grade

5, a grade behind the expectations of

the high-performing states and our

international competitors.

8.3 Common Core does not require

proficiency with division using the

standard algorithm until grade 6,

a grade behind the expectations of

the high-performing states and our

international competitors.

8.4 Common Core starts teaching

decimals only in grade 4, about two

years behind the more rigorous state

standards, and fails to use money as

a natural introduction to this concept.

8.5 Common Core fails to teach in

K-8 about key geometrical concepts

such as the area of a triangle, sum

of angles in a triangle, isosceles and

equilateral triangles, or constructions

with a straightedge and compass that

good state standards include.

At the high school grades:

9.1 Common Core barely touches

on logarithms, of great importance

for chemistry, physics, and STEM in

general.

9.2 Common Core fails to address

mathematical induction.

9.3 Common Core fails to address

parametric equations, and infinite

geometric series (progressions with

common ratio), and incompletely

addresses conic sections.

9.4 Common Core omits in

trigonometry the phase of periodic

functions, half-angle formulas, and

polar forms and functions.

25

Controlling Education From the Top

standard algorithm until grade 6,

a grade behind the expectations of

the high-performing states and our

international competitors.

8.4 Common Core starts teaching

decimals only in grade 4, about two

years behind the more rigorous state

standards, and fails to use money as

a natural introduction to this concept.

8.5 Common Core fails to teach in

K-8 about key geometrical concepts

such as the area of a triangle, sum

of angles in a triangle, isosceles and

equilateral triangles, or constructions

with a straightedge and compass that

good state standards include.

9. At the high school grades:

9.1 Common Core barely touches

on logarithms, of great importance

for chemistry, physics, and STEM in

general.

9.2 Common Core fails to address

mathematical induction.

9.3 Common Core fails to address

parametric equations, and infinite

geometric series (progressions with

common ratio), and incompletely

addresses conic sections.

9.4 Common Core omits in

trigonometry the phase of periodic

functions, half-angle formulas, and

polar forms and functions.

verbose and imprecise guidance as to the

level of fluency needed, omits basic skills

such as factorization (reducing problems to

the basic “building blocks” of the equation),

and deemphasizes algebraic manipulation,

leading to under-preparation for STEM

disciplines. In terms of college readiness,

its content is far below what is presently

expected for college eligibility, which will

create unreasonable expectations by parents

and pressure on state universities to admit

under-prepared students, with concomitant

growth in remedial enrollment in college.

For concerned middle school parents, I repost this decificies regarding your children (excerpt from Ze’ev Wurman statement):

"Its abandonment of the expectation that

students take Algebra I in grade 8. This

expectation, based on the standard of

the high-achieving countries (and our

international competitors), has currently

pushed about half of American students

to take Algebra I by grade 8, more

than double that of a decade ago. The

Common Core will reverse this trend

by firmly relocating Algebra I back to a

grade 9 high-school course. This change

means that, as a practical matter, the great

majority of American students will not

be able to reach calculus in high school.

Among other consequences, far fewer

students will be able to take and excel in

Advanced Placement (AP) math courses

if the Common Core is implemented."

We have to suspend common core in our school district. It is damaging our children's education.

http://truthinamericaneducation.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Reasons-for-Concern-about-the-Common-Core-Gen-03-13-12.pdf

This article has shown some political background why common core was adopted. But here are the Math content concern for our parents:

* The math standards in CC, by moving algebra 1 from 8th grade to 9th, will ensure that the large majority students do not reach calculus in high school.

* The math standards in CC require that geometry be taught by an experimental method that has never been used successfully anywhere in the world.

This is really depressing. I feel like Amherst and the rest of the country is circling the drain. It feels like public school has been a social experiment since the 1970's and is clearly in danger of causing the future children of this country to loose any competitive edge with the rest of the world.

Hey, there is always the Chinese Charter School next town over at the top of the state for math scores and it's free and your kid learns one of the most complicated languages and it's free and they are adding high school students.

Common core is of a low standard compared with old/traditional Massachusetts state standard. It is unfortunate that MA join the national bandwagon of common core.

Here are my questions:

1. What is the deadline that local district school has to adopt Common Core? Do we have the option to delay its implementation?

2. Is Curricular acceleration still an option under Common core? I assume it is, since I didn't see anywhere saying that common core prohibit students to learn beyond standards.

Can educators here shed some light on that?

Here is why common core is dangerous:

a) They are not internationally benchmarked. In fact, for math in particular, they are exactly contrary to the kind of national standards used in high-performing countries.

b) The two major experts on content who were on the Validation Committee reviewing the standards backed out and repudiated them when they saw what the standards actually are.

c) State legislatures and parents were cut out of the loop in evaluating the standards themselves or the cost of implementing them.

d) The Common Core standards are owned by private trade organizations, which parents cannot influence.

Common Core try to get local school into adoption by state level test, but they cannot and do not go to each school to force you to do common core teaching & learning. Amherst school can still figure out a way to keep more rigorous curriculum and state test ready.

Chinese Charter school teaches common core, but has math acceleration as well.

If ARMS rigidly doing common core, they will see exodus of students to schools that offer more rigorous curriculum.

CURRICULUM CHOICE AND ACCELERATION PETITION ARTICLE

There are rumblings of a "Special Special" Town Meeting before next spring's Annual Town Meeting.

Upset parents could gather signatures for a CURRICULUM CHOICE AND ACCELERATION PETITION ARTICLE which they could ask the Select Board to include in the Warrant for the Special Special Town Meeting, or even a Special Special Town Meeting with just a CURRICULUM CHOICE AND ACCELERATION PETITION ARTICLE on the Warrant.

The petition article would only have to ask Town Meeting to express support for curriculum choice and curriculum acceleration as important priorities that the School Administration and School Committee should respect.

Just give you a flavor of the Common Core Math:

Question 1.1: What is 1+1?

Question 1.2. Explain your answer.

Answer: 1+1 = 2. Ummmm, because whoever originally came up with our number system said 1+1 is 2.

Wrong! You failed to recite the common core math scripture.

It seems like between no child left behind under Bush and Common Core under Obama we are eroding the quality of our schools.

Anon 7:46 PM

fantastic! This is important local news! This will give parents upper hand to maintain our tradition of curriculum choice and curriculum acceleration.

Print out that article that detailed common core deficiencies in all grades and read through the upheaval of common core all over the country. Talk to your neighbors, and call your prescient town meeting members. Let's do this to preserve our 4 towns tradition and all of our children's future.

d) The Common Core standards are owned by private trade organizations, which parents cannot influence.It's actually worse than even that.

As I understand it, all the materials are not only owned but copyrighted by private organizations with part of the licensing agreement being a promise to only let teachers and students see them -- to

notlet parents see them.This is causing a bit of concern in some states.

As I also understand it, everyone invovled in Common Core is sworn to secrecy and not permitted to tell certain things which they may know about it. I will freely admit that I really don't know the exact details, but it did get my attention when I was told it.

Whenever anyone doesn't want the public to know what they are teaching, it's usually because the public would be rather upset if they did know -- something is being done that could not withstand the bright light of public scrutiny.

There is also a good deal of interesting stuff on the Pioneer Institute's website -- http://www.pioneerinstitute.org

from that "Controlling education from the top" article mentioned before, I found the English Language Art from Common Core is also inferior. This is from DR. SANDRA STOTSKY's statement. By "College-readiness", I believe she is referring the level of students at end of 12th grade, before entering college.

"the average reading level of the passages on the common

tests now being developed to determine “college-readiness” may be at about the grade 7 level"

"As admitted by one of the creators of Common Core, Dr. Jason Zimba, at a meeting of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in March 2010, Common Core defines “college-readiness” as ready for a nonselective community college, not a four-year university."

Here is what I found. The common core is a political product, under the Obama's "Race to the top" federal policy, with the private funding from Gates' foundation. They want to create a LOW enough standard so that they can push it through 50 states. The federal link the state adoption of Common core, to federal funding available to the state. The executive summary of the common core paint a bright picture of loft standards. Given the average Math literacy of our politicians, and today's economic situation where states are eager to get more federal education funding, about 40 states jump onto the common core standard. The whole adoption process is not very transparency. Like the story "Two moms and Common Core" quoted above, Not only average parents know nothing about it, even some state legislature (i.e. Indiana) who is sitting on Education Committee know nothing that their state has adopted such new standard. It is the parents who find that their school children are being taught material of an inferior standards. That caused a lot of anger all over the country. For example, in Indiana, two courageous moms are fed up with the Common Core and work with other parents and sympathetic politician run into a david vs goliath fights against the powerful, and well founded private organization, special interests groups. Even the two moms thought they just fought a worthy fights with little chance to win. They know who they are up against and how powerful they are. But in the end, the Miracle happens, Indiana is the first state to retreat from Common Core standard when their governor sign a bill to suspend Common Core implementation in Indiana.

I can understand Common Core is of lower standard by design. Since Federal Government wants all 50 states to adopt common core, the curriculum cannot be too rigorous. You have to accommodate the low performing states. There should be accelerated pathways for many of our local students who can perform better than the bare minimum. Parents, Town meeting members should be able to work out a petition/resolution, like one previous blogger suggested, and set curriculum acceleration and choice high priority in our school district. So the School committee and School administrators will be able to follow our local policy to save our children from nation wide issue.

I agree with all of the writers that this issue needs to be address at both a local and state level.

I am amazed at how much information is out there that this program is weak. It is really a travesty when you consider that Massachusetts had the highest educational standards in this country. Now they are being watered down.

What is a bigger travesty is that we have so many highly paid administrators in our district. Maria is supposed to have a vision for the future. If these people have vision and are worth what we are paying them, then why do we have to first hear about the problems with the common core on a blog. Why would the administration is such a liberal protest everything town just go along with mediocrity without saying a word.

We need a leader who will stand up for our children not just fall in line. If Maria does not want an uprising I suggest she start looking out for our kids and redirect Rhonda and company to fix this problem now. Anything less will just prove her complete incompetence.

WHAT WAS MEANT IN EARLIER CURRICULUM PETITION ARTICLE POSTING

The earlier posting was meant to inform upset parents what action they COULD take.

An unordered starting list of tasks for upset parents to undertake follows:

- Organize themselves

- Settle on specific language for a Town Meeting petition article such as, "To see if the Town will urge the School Administration and School Committee to consider curriculum choice and curriculum acceleration as important priorities that should be respected"

- Get Petition forms from the Town Clerk's Office in Town Hall

- Find out from the Town Clerk or Select Board how many signatures will need to be obtained

- Get twenty or thirty percent more than that number to be safe when registered voter signatures get checked

` Arrange to appear before the Select Board to request that they schedule a Special Special Town Meeting to consider the petition article

anon@146: I fear your suggestion may be the only recourse available.

8th grade algebra is NOT accelerated math, it should be considered standard. Offering algebra in 7th is acceleration (which we no longer offer). While some students might not be prepared for taking it in 8th grade, many of our students should be. It is TYPICAL to offer 8th grade algebra. It would be shocking if our peer MSs (or aspirant ones) are planning on dropping 8th grade algebra.

Parents concerned about math in our schools should read Dr. Chen's report. It's illuminating and ignored. His goal was to raise Amherst's math program to international standards. He had a lot to say.241

From the paper, Can This Country Survive Common Core’s College Readiness Level? by R. James Milgram and Sandra Stotsky. September 2013

The following was quoted from Dr. Jason Zimba, the lead Common Core Math Writer on Common Core Math's College-readiness level:

“Mr. Zimba said that the concept of college readiness is minimal and focuses on non-selective colleges."

“We have agreement to the extent that it’s a fuzzy definition, that the minimally college-ready student is a student who passed Algebra II.” (background knowledge: Most middle school and high school offer Math curriculum above algebra II, i.e. Trigonometry, pre-calculus, calculus AB, calculum BC, AP Physics (rigorous version require calculum BC).

Stotsky (a member of the state board at the time) later asked him to clarify what he meant. Zimba stated: “In my original remarks, I didn't make that point strongly enough or signal the agreement that we have on this—the definition of college readiness. I think it's a fair critique that it's a minimal definition of college readiness.”

Stotsky remarked at this point “for some clleges,” and Zimba responded by stating: “Well, for the colleges most kids go to, but not for the colleges most parents aspire to.”

Stotsky then asked “Not for STEM? Not for international competitiveness?” Zimba responded “Not only not for STEM, it’s also not for selective colleges. For example, for UC Berkeley, whether you are going to be an engineer or not, you'd better have precalculus to get into UC Berkeley.”

Stotsky then said: “Right, but we have to think of the engineering colleges and the scientific pathway.” Zimba added “That's true, I think the third pathway goes a lot towards that. But your issue is broader than that.”

In white paper, "Controlling Education from the top", Stotsky further argue the common core standard defines “college-readiness” as ready for a nonselective community college, not a four-year university.

Dr. Jason Zimba, the lead writer of Common Core Math Standard, acknowledged that Common Core is a minimal, college-ready standard, for non-selective colleges. Students who want to study Science, Technology, Maths, or Engeering, and students who want to go to selective colleges should be provided an alternative curriculum pathway.

District School leader should read these comments from the lead writer of Common Core curriculum and acknowledge that Common Core is a minimal standard, and should provide our students with alternative curriculum pathway, i.e. curriculum choice, and curriculum acceleration.

The Godfather of the Common Core writer, Jason Zimba, has acknowledge the limitation and minimal standard of the Common Core, and agree there should be alternative curriculum pathway for many students who want more than minimal standard, who wants to go to more selective colleges or to study science, technology, math, engineering, etc.

Our district school leader, the worshiper of the Common Core, should listen to their Godfather's call and return the curriculum choice and curriculum acceleration back to the students.

How do I reach out to the parents who want to get involved in getting the District to include community involvement in the planning process of the 8th grade and HS math curriculum? A group of 10+ parents have a meeting with Rhonda Cohen in 2 weeks to discuss this - but now I realize that there is already a group out here. I can't tell if you are one person or many - since you all post as 'anonymous.' We should join forces. Since everyone is posting anonymously I am worried about putting my email address here (perhaps everyone knows something that I don't know). So please tell me how to reach your group. Perhaps you could make FB group page and invite people to join? (Maybe the criteria is that we have to tell you privately (via FB message) who our child at ARMS is?) Thanks, Mom of a 7th grader at ARMS

hey anon@1148:

why don't you move ahead and start a FB page and post the link here. I'm sure many would be interested. Thanks

Pretty easy to start an on line petition at MoveOn.org.

1

HOW TO BRING A PETITION ARTICLE TO TOWN MEETING

From the town website:

http://www.amherstma.gov/DocumentCenter/Home/View/3090

Anon 11:48,

If I understand your posting correctly there is already a meeting scheduled with Rhonda? If there is a meeting just go to it and meet the other like minded parents. More is always better. There are always people who can't make it and extra people help, especially if they take notes and pass it onto the group. So don't be shy, crash the meeting and get involved. Good luck.

If I am wrong and there is no meeting please post something to this tread. I can set up an email to get people together.

to Anon 11:48 AM and other interested parents. I try to summarize some of the points posted on this blog into a letter style writing. Hopefully it will help to clarity our thinking. Due to limitation of number of characters in a single post, I will post a few times.

post #1

We are middle school parents of Amherst Regional Middle School. It has been more than two months since the start of school, we found our 7th graders are still practicing elementary math, i.e. addition/subtraction/multiplication/division. Many of our students are bored and not learning anything at school, but still wasting a lot of time on the homework.

When we asked Rhonda Cohen, Director of Teaching and Learning, and Ian Stith, K-8 Math & Science coordinator, we were told the district has adopted "Common Core". Rhonda implied to us Common Core is a one size fits all and future Curriculum acceleration is no longer needed.

What is Common core?

The common core is a political product, under the Obama's "Race to the top" federal policy, with the private funding from Gates' foundation. Fed wants to create a LOW enough standard so that they can push it through 50 states. In order to accommodate low performing states and its nationwide adoption, the Common core is low and minimal standard by design. Dr. Jason Zimba, the lead writer of Common Core Math Standard, acknowledged that Common Core is a minimal standard for college readiness, for non-selective colleges. Students who want to study Science, Technology, Math, or Engineering (STEM), and students who want to go to selective colleges should be provided an alternative curriculum pathway.

As evidenced by acknowledgement of Dr. Jason Zimba, the lead writer of Common Core Math Standard, as recorded in meeting minutes of Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in March 2010, when he explain college readiness expected from Common core (source#1 ):

“Mr. Zimba said that the concept of college readiness is minimal and focuses on non-selective colleges."

“We have agreement to the extent that it’s a fuzzy definition, that the minimally college-ready student is a student who passed Algebra II.” (background knowledge: Most middle school and high school, including ARPS offer Math curriculum well above algebra II, i.e. Trigonometry, pre-calculus, calculus AB, calculum BC, AP Physics (rigorous version won’t be possible without Calculus).

Stotsky (a member of the state board at the time) later asked him to clarify what he meant. Zimba stated: “In my original remarks, I didn't make that point strongly enough or signal the agreement that we have on this—the definition of college readiness. I think it's a fair critique that it's a minimal definition of college readiness.”

Stotsky remarked at this point “for some colleges,” and Zimba responded by stating: “Well, for the colleges most kids go to, but not for the colleges most parents aspire to.”

Stotsky then asked “Not for STEM? Not for international competitiveness?” Zimba responded “Not only not for STEM, it’s also not for selective colleges. For example, for UC Berkeley, whether you are going to be an engineer or not, you'd better have precalculus to get into UC Berkeley.”

Stotsky then said: “Right, but we have to think of the engineering colleges and the scientific pathway.” Zimba added “That's true, I think the third pathway goes a lot towards that. But your issue is broader than that.”

Zimba is quoted as saying: “If you want to take calculus your freshman year in college, you will need to take more mathematics than is in the Common Core.”

[End quote]

Talking points

post#2

The "STEM" above, represents "Science, Technology, Engineering, Math". Clearly, The Common Core lead writer, Jason Zimba, acknowledge that Common Core is a minimal standard, not rigorous for students pursuing STEM in college, not rigorous for students aspiring to go to selective college. Jason Zimba surely agreed that there should be an alternative pathway for students who want to study STEM, or want to go to "selective" college. We have a lot of students in school district that fits into this category.

Stotsky further argue the common core standard defines “college-readiness” as ready for a nonselective community college, not a four-year university. (source #2)

In white paper, "Controlling Education from the top", DR. SANDRA STOTSKY, and ZE’EV WURMAN listed deficiencies of Common Core Math & ELA (English Language Arts)

e.g. " the average reading level of the passages on the common tests now being developed to determine college-readiness may be at about the grade 7 level."

The federal government links the state adoption of Common core, to federal funding available to the state. The executive summary of the common core paint a bright picture of lofty standards. Given the average Math literacy of our politicians, and today's economic situation where states are eager to get more federal education funding, about 40 states jump onto the common core standard. The whole adoption process is not transparent. Like the story "Two moms and Common Core"(source #3) listed below, Not only average parents know nothing about it, even some state legislature (e.g. Indiana) who is sitting on Education Committee know nothing that their state has adopted such new standard. It is the parents who find that their school children are being taught material of an inferior standard. That has caused a lot of angers and uprising against the Common Core all over the country.

There are many reports on the news about parents, school teachers against the Common Core. Here is an excerpt from "Two Moms vs. Common Core" (source 3)

How did the bipartisan Common Core “consensus” collapse[ in Indiana]?

It collapsed because some parents saw that Common Core was actually lowering standards in their children’s schools. And because advocates for Common Core could not answer the questions these parents raised.

In Indiana, the story starts with two Indianapolis moms, Heather Crossin and her friend Erin Tuttle.

In September 2011, Heather suddenly noticed a sharp decline in the math homework her eight-year-old daughter was bringing home from Catholic school.

“Instead of many arithmetic problems, the homework would contain only three or four questions, and two of those would be ‘explain your answer,’” Heather told me. “Like, ‘One bridge is 412 feet long and the other bridge is 206 feet long. Which bridge is longer? How do you know?’”

She found she could not help her daughter answer the latter question: The “right” answer involved heavy quotation from Common Core language. A program designed to encourage thought had ended up encouraging rote memorization not of math but of scripts about math.

Heather was noticing on the ground some of the same things that caused Stanford mathematics professor R. James Milgram to withhold his approval from the Common Core math standards.

Professor Milgram was the only math content expert on the Validation Committee reviewing the standards, and he concluded that the Common Core standards are, as he told the Texas state legislature, “in large measure a political document that . . . is written at a very low level and does not adequately reflect our current understanding of why the math programs in the high-achieving countries give dramatically better results.”

[End quote]

talking point #3

In our school district, Middle school used to offer curriculum pathway of Algebra I and Geometry classes starting 7th grade. This allows the students to select more advanced Math topics in high school, and better prepare them for college and beyond. This curriculum pathway is widely shared by many public school district and private school as well, and are considered well tested pathway for student to college. This pathway is for a lot of students. Among current 8th graders, there are about 50% students who have already studies algebra or are learning algebra. Some other students have learned algebra and geometry at 7th grade as well. About 50% students learning algebra in 8th grade, this is happening all over the country as well.

Our school district starts to eliminate algebra I and geometry offering from 7th graders starting this year. This replaced the curriculum acceleration with a "flex" program, called regular "Math 7" and "Math 7 flex". These are almost identical regular Common Core 7th grade program. "Math 7" and "Math 7 flex" uses same textbook, same homework, same course progression schedule. In essence, the "Math 7" and "Math 7 flex" are the same program for regular Common Core Math 7 curriculum. "Math 7 flex" is not an alternative curriculum pathway, as recommended by Common Core designer, Jason Zimba, for many students in the district who are ready, able and want to accelerate in Math curriculum.

School district hints that they may be able to design a pathway where more advanced math topic can be learned in high school. But the simple fact is that there are only six years (2 years middle school, and 4 years high school). There are many Math courses for students, Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, Trigonometry, PreCalculus, Calculus AB/ Calculus BC, Differential equation, etc. It is very hard, or impossible to cram everything into High School, where you have three years (until high school junior year) to take these courses and get your course score ready to submit to applied college. At the same time, there are many other courses (college preparation, or Honor, AP), SAT preparation, college visit, essay preparation. There are simply not enough time practical for a typical High School students to finish those math course in high school without sacrificing everything else.

That is exact the reason, for many years, in ARPS and many public schools around the country to offer Algebra & Geometry from 7th Grade in middle school. Such curriculum pathway is consistent with what Jason Zimba, the chief Common Core math curriculum designer, agreed as alternative curriculum pathway for many students.

With the adoption of Common Core, the state will administer test on the knowledge of Common Core. We can understand that the school district want the students to perform well on Common Core test. This shouldn’t prevent school to offer alternative curriculum pathways. The current 8th graders and above have been taken standardized MCAS test and study accelerated Math courses at the same time. The school district has been doing this practice for many years. Replace traditional grade level MCAS test with Common Core grade level test won’t present any challenge to the district.

It is a great travesty to present Common Core as a single curriculum pathway and eliminate algebra, geometry, from 7th grade, and/or eliminate other curriculum choice and curriculum acceleration from middle school, and/or high school. Here, we very conservatively use only Jason Zimba, the lead Common Core’s Math Curriculum writer’s statement. There are many other Math experts who oppose Common Core and have A LOT worse things to say about the Common Core.

Our 7th grade parents feel that our children are being used as Guinea Pigs for this new untested political product. We are shocked at the district decision to implementing Common Core without thorough studies that involves community input, community discussion.

talking point posting 4

When we 7th grade parents asked Rhonda Cohen, the director of teaching and learning at ARPS about what the 8th grade math will look like. She simply replied that it is still in design, we won't get an answer until spring 2014. This sounds to us like the school district has not fully mapped out the Common Core implementation plan, and alternative curriculum pathway.

What even worried us more is the school district has not acknowledged that the curriculum acceleration and choice as an alternative curriculum pathway has to be provided to the student, as the Common Core lead designer, Dr. Jason Zimba, agreed.

School district and Rhonda Cohen's office has never been able to provide detailed Common Core implementation plan, curriculum alignment plan between grade progression, and alternative, accelerated curriculum plan for many abled students in the district.

If we want to build a solid bridge over river, we need thorough design and planning. We shouldn't start building the bridge while design is not fully finished, only to find it has serious flaws midway.

The current 7th grade math Common Core implementation plan only provides the minimal standard pathway. It failed to implement an alternative curriculum pathway that the lead Common Core designer, Jason Zimba, agreed and recommended.

To address these current issues around 7th grade math program, we have two proposals for school district:

1. If the ARPS has not complete figure out the Common Core implementation plan, curriculum alignment plan between grade progression, and alternative, accelerated curriculum plan for many abled students in the district, then the district should stop haste implementation of a half-baked plan, and return the Common Core implementation plan back to the drawing board, with community input and community agreement.

2. If the ARPS have already mapped out the Common Core implementation, and alternative pathway of curriculum acceleration & choice, the ARPS have the responsibility to give complete transparency to the parents and community.

Concerned Parents

Source #1: Controlling Education from the top: (problems & deficiencies of Common Core Math and English Language Art)

http://truthinamericaneducation.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Controlling-Education-From-the-Top-PRINT.pdf

source #2: Can This Country Survive Common Core’s College Readiness Level? by R. James Milgram and Sandra Stotsky. September 2013

ftp://math.stanford.edu/pub/papers/milgram/ZimbaMilgramStotskyFinal.pdf

source #3: Two Moms vs. Common Core: Indiana is the first state to retreat from Common Core.

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/347973/two-moms-vs-common-core

I am the parent of a third grader and I am very concerned about everything I am reading here about the Amherst math curriculum. I want to be part of whatever group of parents forming to address this issue with the administration. Rhonda Cohen should not be talking only to MS school parents about this. These program changes affect all who are in the ES. Presumably changes are also being made at that level. Dr Cohen should convene s meeting of all grade level parents to discuss this.

Is an email list of interested parents being formed on this topic? If so, how do I get on it?

To help facilitate like minded people getting together I have created an email account. It is amherstforeducation@gmail.com. I will use this to get people in touch with one another off the blog. If you send your email to me it will be shared with others who send theirs in. Your email must include a name. Any that do not, will be deleted.

Good luck

Haven't the ability right now to read all 80 comments. But I have this to say; Kip Fonsh needs to step down, but not without first apologizing for the use of the word cannibal, and for silencing Trevor Baptiste, twice no less, that same evening. His behavior was simply outrageous, and unacceptable. To accept this sort of behavior is to say that what he did is okay.If no one has the balls to stand up to this man, then our schools are in even sadder shape than what they currently are. The classism, and racism that exists in our schools, on our school committee, and in our administration needs to be put on the plate. And oh~what a feast we shall have!

anon@10am:

a way the community can show their support for the SC members who ask questions and to show their dissatisfaction w Kip's response is to attend the next regional SC mtg and say something. Wouldn't it be amazing is dozens of community members were to stand behind Mr Baptiste and the other SC members who want to speak up. The admin and Kip rely on the belief that the community is unconnected and doesn't really want to get involved (hence the efforts to do as much as possible without behind closed doors and without questioning, which only opens the doors to more questioning..)

BRINGING A PETITION ARTICLE TO TOWN MEETING

(1) HOW TO BRING A PETITION ARTICLE TO TOWN MEETING

on the town website at

http://www.amherstma.gov/DocumentCenter/Home/View/3090

(2) Section VI ADVICE TO SPONSORS OF WARRANT ARTICLES

(pages 29 - 32 of the TOWN MEETING HANDBOOK)

on the Amherst League of Women Voters website at

http://lwvamherst.org/node/952

Although the discussion of the 7th and 8th grade math curriculum is very important, I would hope that discussion that parents have with the administration and with each other via email lists, etc., will extend beyond middle school math offerings, and to the larger question of if (and how) the district will serve students who are unchallenged by the standard curriculum and who need better curriculum options than the minimum standards set by the common core. Like an earlier commenter from Sunday, my child is in elementary school, and I, like they have major concerns. The Amherst elementary schools already much of their attention on the lowest performing students, somewhat at the expense of other students, and from what I am learning about the common core, the common core may exacerbate this problem.

When is the meeting with Rhonda? It's useless to rant on this blog unless it's followed up with action! I've been meeting with her privately, as I hope others have, and it's had no effect!

A number of parents had the concerns addressed on this blog for many years about the education provided in the Amherst schools. They formed a group, wrote letters to the paper, and got several candidates (including myself) elected to the School Committee. During the three years I served on School Committee, I had a blog I updated frequently (which received considerable attention) and wrote a monthly column for the newspaper. We were starting to create change by requiring evaluation of our programs, regular surveys of parents, and comparison to other districts. And these parents received very little public support (much private support) and considerable criticism (including highly personal attacks). And now, these parents are mostly gone - they have moved from Amherst or stayed in Amherst but moved their kids to other schools.

This community now largely has school committee members who feel, as Kip Fonsch feels, that the job of the School Committee is to support the administrators. There will be no change in the schools until many parents are willing to stand up and say "this is not OK" to SC members and the superintendent. Writing anonymously on a blog isn't going to do anything. Nor is going to a private meeting with Rhonda Cohen.

I think that not all the School Committee members do think as Kip Fonsh does, and that's what led Mr. Fonsh to make such strong remarks at the Oct joint SC meeting. The SC members I know have faced harsh criticisms if they dare to question anything or even comment reflectively on anything that the administration is doing and not be a cheerleader for the schools and the current leadership at all times.

If current sc members have concerns they are free to raise those, including concerns about the current superintendent's performance. We definitely refused to accept weak school improvement plans when I was on the sc, and we brought motions forward to make change. Any of the current sc members could, for example, ask for a formal presentation of the new math plan and provide an open forum for such a meeting. We did that when I was on the sc. We also required an outside evaluation of the math program. Current sc members are free to do any of that. Have they?

Current School committee members should represent community's voice. ask the questions that community has concerns with. There is no reason to occupy a seat on SC and remain silence.

If school is to adopt The Common Core Math and ELA curriculum as single curriculum pathway, thus teach to the lowest standard and ignore the majority students who is able and willing to learn more than the minimum for a better college, and better career, and better life in the future, that should alarm/worry many of us parents. Many parents don't have this information referenced in this blog comments. They don't know the designer of Common Core Math has such low assessment on itself. I would send the pointer to this blog comment to parents I know and let the word spread out and get parents informed. I will talk to other parents when I get a chance. The more people know the truth, the more positive force it will bring about to move our school to the right direction.

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