Many Americans are familiar with the controversy surrounding the Common Core educational standards, which some say are convoluted, political and prevent parents from being involved in their children's education.
But fewer know that at least one of the three men who wrote the mathematics portion of Common Core, William McCallum, admits there are problems with the standards. Phil Daro and Jason Zimba — McCallum's co-writers — see ways they could be improved, too.
"When I see some of those problems posted on Facebook, I think I would have been mad, too," McCallum says. Daro tells a story about his grandson, who brought home a math worksheet labeled "Common Core," with a copyright date of 1999.
They argue there's actually very little fuzziness to the math in the Common Core. Students have to memorize their times tables by third grade and be able to do the kind of meat-and-potatoes problems Zimba asks of his daughter during their Saturday tutoring sessions, requirements he believes the so-called Common Core curriculum at her school essentially ignored.
Hung-Hsi Wu, a mathematics professor at Berkeley and one of the expert advisers in the Common Core process, blames the Common Core's problems on bad — and ubiquitous — textbooks that the publishing industry is reluctant to change. "Publishers don't want to bother with writing anything because they've gone through too many sets of standards," he says.
Since they can't standardize the lesson plans and teaching methods, they say, some schools aren't executing the standards in the most effective way.
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Even as Zimba and his colleagues defend the standards against cries of federal overreach, they are helpless when it comes to making sure textbook publishers, test-makers, superintendents, principals and teachers interpret the standards in ways that will actually improve American public education, not make it worse.
Like McCallum, Zimba agrees with the North Carolina dad that the question on his son's Common Core-labeled math quiz was terrible. But as long as Americans hold to the conviction that most of what happens in schools should be kept under the control of states and local communities, the quality of the curriculum is out of his hands. "Like it or not, the standards allow a lot of freedom," he said.
Read the complete article at NPR.