A version of this piece on Common Core was stuck behind a firewall, so here is the full text, courtesy of Lagniappe Mobile, which I think for publishing this piece of mine:

Governor Ivey can and should kill the mis-educational Common Core

Alabama governor Kay Ivey has a chance this fall to start reversing the state’s horrid, decade-long slide into educational disgrace.


With prison reform now intelligently accomplished, Ivey can now refocus on education. As this week’s special session on redistricting attracts attention to candidate-qualifying for next year’s elections, Ivey can bolster her own record, and her case for re-election, by finally jettisoning the Common Core math standards that have plagued students, parents, and teachers for ten years.


Ivey is chairman of the State Board of Education (SBOE) that is evenly split between pro- and anti-Common Core members. Her leadership could make the difference. Very few other gubernatorial initiatives could be this important for Alabama’s children.


Most people already have forgotten that in the first decade of this century, Alabama rose from near the bottom of all states in educational-attainment assessments all the way up to 25th. Then, in a November 2010 meeting, the SBOE formally adopted Common Core – and Alabama’s national rankings began plummeting. Correlation is not necessarily causation, but charts showing the correlation between the declining assessments and the staged implementation of Common Core are dramatic. A decade later, of all the many national assessments I can find, every single one puts Alabama again among the nation’s worst five states, usually 49th, in educational outcomes.


Ivey already pledged to eliminate the math part of Common Core, and she said she had done so when a process using advisory committees revised the standards in 2019. Alas, the education establishment sold Ivey a bill of goods. The revisions were mere window dressing. Even a cursory analysis of the 2019 standards and the Core shows that the latter track the former in almost every particular, usually with the same language, very thinly disguised by “tricks” (of the sort popular with junior-high students) such as merely reversing the order of two paragraphs or turning one long sentence into two short ones by replacing the word “and” with a period.


Seriously, that’s what they did.


But much of the text of the “Alabama standards” is still gobbledygook. Consider this word salad in the Core standards provided to Alabama’s teachers: “Mathematically proficient students make sense of quantities and their relationships in problem situations. They bring two complementary abilities to bear on problems involving quantitative relationships. One is the ability to decontextualize, to abstract a given situation and represent it symbolically and manipulate the representing symbols as if they have a life of their own, without necessarily attending to their referents. The second is the ability to contextualize, to pause as needed during the manipulation process in order to probe into the referents for the symbols involved.”




Teachers can be forgiven for having trouble with this nonsense. Meanwhile, at a more practical level, internet videos are plentiful showing how the Core demands that students learn early arithmetic not the “old” way, but adding numerals in columns, but by a multi-step visualization process whereby, for example, students should draw dots on a page to represent the “one” column, lines to represent “tens,” and squares to represent “hundreds.” Therefore, adding, say, 377 to 824 involves drawing eleven dots, nine lines, and eleven squares, and then remembering to make a dot into a line when the dots exceed ten.


It’s confusing even for parents. It takes what should be a useful visualization tool for the minority of students who have trouble learning abstract concepts and makes it into the primary means of addition even for the majority of students who rather easily understand the old method – and, of course, requiring far more time and effort to draw the whole thing out on paper.


This is borderline bonkers.


Worse, the actual Core-compatible textbooks used in Alabama schools are out of line with most students’ cognitive and linguistic development, so that in some grades the actual textbook language is beyond the reading ability of most students, while in other grades the required math itself is absurdly simplistic.


Consider this, from the very early pages of a First Grade, Core-aligned workbook (not the teacher’s manual, but the actual workbook given to the students) used in Mobile County public schools. Beneath a drawing of a smiling child banging a drum (what the drum has to do with anything is unclear), the page explains in smallish print that “sometimes you cannot solve a problem with one try. When you try again, you may need to change the way you do things. Having more than one strategy helps you to solve more problems.”


Excuse me, but in the first weeks of First Grade, a lot of students are barely mastering short sentences with two-syllable words. Can they even read (much less understand, in context) the word “strategy,” or understand the rest of its semi-complex sentence, much less apply it to adding, say, 21 and 14? This is ludicrous.


No wonder Alabama’s impressive rise up the national education rankings stopped dead, and then reversed, so quickly.


The short-term solution should be simple. The state school board, under Ivey’s leadership, should pass a resolution abandoning the current, Core-in-thin-disguise standards and replacing them with those in place in Alabama in 2009. Those earlier standards were written in more direct language, with substance better aligned to actual student intellectual development. And they worked.

Common Core “strategies” could be taught to teachers for use as alternative instruction methods for students whose cognitive abilities do work differently – as a supplement, not as the main course.


Education bureaucrats, for whatever unfortunate reason, are wedded to the Common Core, even as it continues to prove a disaster. For the sake of Alabama’s next generation, Ivey needs to teach the education establishment a lesson. She should discard their pet theory, the Core, in favor of time-tested practice that produces beneficial, real-world results.

NOTE; The subsequent state school board meeting came and went without any action on Common Core. If it doesn’t happen at the December meeting, there should be holy he** to pay.

Quin Hillyer, a senior commentary writer and editor for the Washington Examiner who lives in Mobile, has written about Common Core in dozens of local, state, and n



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