Friday, November 22, 2013

Common Core Materials In Texas Public Schools

Texas Section 28.002, Education Code outlaws Common Core in Texas, but Texas Public Schools are still using its materials.

Texas Section 28.002, Education Code was amended by HB 462 during the 83rd Legislative Session. Governor Rick Perry signed HB 462 into effect on June 14, 2013. The law went into effect immediately, banning Common Core and its directly linked materials from Texas public and open-enrollment charter schools.

       SECTION 1.  Section 28.002, Education Code, is amended by adding Subsections (b-1), (b-2), (b-3), and (b-4) to read as follows: 
       (b-1)  In this section, "common core state standards" means the national curriculum standards developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative. 
       (b-2)  The State Board of Education may not adopt common core state standards to comply with a duty imposed under this chapter. 
       (b-3)  A school district may not use common core state standards to comply with the requirement to provide instruction in the essential knowledge and skills at appropriate grade levels under Subsection (c). 
       (b-4)  Notwithstanding any other provision of this code, a school district or open-enrollment charter school may not be required to offer any aspect of a common core state standards curriculum. 

       SECTION 2.  Section 39.023, Education Code, is amended by adding Subsection (a-3) to read as follows: 
       (a-3)  The agency may not adopt or develop a criterion-referenced assessment instrument under this section based on common core state standards as defined by Section 28.002(b-1).  This subsection does not prohibit the use of college advanced placement tests or international baccalaureate examinations as those terms are defined by Section 28.051.

This includes several web-based, online, and digital educational materials.

One such web-based program is still in use in Texas Public Schools. "Think Through Math" is championed by some teachers in the Judson Independent School District which serves portions of San Antonio and some of the eastern suburbs. In using this program as part of instruction in the schools, JISD is breaking Texas Law.

In fact, when students are asked if their parents had logged them into "Think Through Math" that week, those who had not are forced to do so on the classroom computers. Furthermore, this is being done without parental consent.

If left completely optional for students' use at home with parental supervision and consent, a teacher may recommend the educational site. However, it is illegal to make this program mandatory and it is illegal for use in Texas schools.

"Think Through Math" brags that it is part of Common Core on its website. In fact, one of the pages on their site furthers their boast proclaiming they are "Built For Common Core". On another page on the site, they posted an essay explaining how "Common Core Ready" their program and curriculum is.

Among the key problems with Common Core's approach to math is that it attempts to bypass the key lower levels of Bloom's Taxonomy. For those not familiar with Bloom's, this means that Common Core is designed to skip the definition and fundamental steps required to master any subject. The students are programed straight into relativity, ignoring facts. If they can justify an answer, they get full credit, even if the answer is wrong.

In other words, kids don't learn multiplication tables. They are expected to automatically understand and play with set theory when doing multiplication. If given 3x4, acceptable answers include 7 and 75%, because there is a 3 and a 4 in the problem. They can also justify 36, because they can say they counted 4 sets of 3 bags of 3 marbles. 34 is also justifiable, according to Common Core. However, the laws of mathematics dictate that 3 times 4 MUST equal 12. That fact, that law, is not being taught.

According to Common Core, PEMDAS is no longer a rule. The order of operations in mathematics is : Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication/Division, Addition/Subtraction. Under the way Common Core materials teach math, the order of operations no longer matters, as long as students can articulate what order they used as justification to why the answer they arrived at is correct. It doesn't matter that, if operations are done out of the proper sequence, they are wrong.

"Think Through Math" sets that very trap for students. It teaches conceptually instead of using an epistemic and empirical  approach that enforces rules, definitions, and fundamentals (like memorizing times tables) before attempting to advance along Bloom's Taxonomy towards the conceptual stages of development.

Another way to look at it is that Common Core, CSCOPE, and materials such as "Think Through Math" took something that already worked, and worked well, and destroyed it completely while fraudulently claiming to have "fixed it".

CSCOPE attempted to slip Common Core materials and curricula into the Texas Public School Systems. CSCOPE came under legislative scrutiny with the investigations headed by Lt. Governor Candidate Senator Dan Patrick. Legislation headed by Sen. Patrick limited CSCOPE, placing its materials under direct review by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and the state education board. However, the board isn't set to convene again until 2015. So, to the chagrin of concerned parents, some CSCOPE materials are still being used pending review. In the meantime, CSCOPE curricula are not allowed at this time. One key reason is CSCOPE's links to Common Core.

Parents need to be involved and observant. parents need to do their own research. Don't just accept what a teacher is pushing onto your kids to be correct. Look at the materials being used. Hold the schools accountable. They work for us and need to be reminded of that fact.

For the negative psychological effects of jumping the base stages of Bloom's on child development, please consider Dr. Megan Koschnick's lecture: