What Fayette students may lose with Common Core math


Fayette County School Board voted [June 17] to purchase the Common Core aligned math textbooks. During the discussion of the textbooks, prior to the vote, it was pointed out by school board member Mary Kay Bacallao that these textbooks have skills that are delayed one to two years and even eliminated teaching certain necessary skills all together. This has been the analysis of math education experts from across the nation as well.

The Fayette teachers promoting the purchase of these textbooks promised they would teach these skills that are missing. This is very commendable, but is it realistic?

Here are a couple of teachers who have concerns that these teachers will be able to fulfill their pledges:

“Traditionally teacher manuals are duplicates of the student textbooks with the only difference being they include the answers. If skills are missing from the teacher manual, how will the teacher know they are supposed to teach the skills? With the continued changes in what is taught at what grade level, most teachers will assume that the particular math skills are being taught elsewhere. It seems to be a far-reaching assumption to claim that all future teachers will know they should teach skills that aren’t in the teacher manual. Additionally, with missing skills in the textbooks, how will parents know their children are missing out on essential math skills … until it is too late.”

These concerns are echoed by those of former teacher Kris L. Nielsen who left teaching due to the expectations of Common Core. He is author of the book “Children of the Core.”

He states: “The Common Core Standards are widely understood by professionals, who understand kids and their cognitive development and abilities, to be age-inappropriate in most of the elementary grades, but especially the younger ones.

“You know what it really feels like? Setting our kids up to fail. All in the name of words like ‘rigor.’ And undefined and meaningless phrases like ‘college and career ready.’ The biggest loss to the student is the assistance they could get from parents in the past with the standard math. The new math with unusual algorithms creates a situation where parents can’t help their students.”

Nielsen notes, “The teacher manuals used to be the same book as the student textbook …. But with the answers. Now the new teacher manuals are literally step-by-step scripts that the teacher must follow word for word. Common Core has taken away the need for professional teachers with the ability to teach the best teaching practices. Teachers will become facilitators as the computer takes over instruction.”

My observation about our current education system, after speaking to many teachers this past year from all over the state, is that it appears the system is very compartmentalized. Perhaps with the exception of the very seasoned teachers who have taught many grade levels, the typical classroom teacher has NO idea what was taught in the grade levels below his/her class level. So, the concerns of these two teachers seem to be justified.

The state BOE allows school districts to draft higher standards for math education than what the Common Core offers, and the Fayette School Board placed a caveat on the purchase of these textbooks that would include doing so. But these higher standards will be soon be useless due to the PARCC national assessments, tied to the Common Core standards, which are scheduled to be implemented in the 2014/2015 school year.

These assessments will only test the math that is in these textbooks and nothing else. The Common Core standards are copyrighted by the National Governor’s Association and must be taught word-for-word with no changes. Teachers may add up to 15 percent extra content, but anything not in the CC standards will not be on the assessments.

A major concern is that, since teacher performance will be evaluated based on the success of the student assessments, even our wonderful, dedicated teachers who now pledge to teach these missing math skills might find that they can’t afford to waste precious classroom time trying to teach skills their students won’t be tested on.

To return local control of what we teach, we need to contact our state representatives and ask them to support the Georgia Common Core withdrawal bill (SB 167) for passage in the upcoming 2014 legislative session.

Angela Bean
Fayetteville, Ga.