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MAINE: An Up-Close-And-Personal Encounter with the Standards Review Process

Again, the process to review or write quality academic standards has become a SHAM.
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An Up-Close-And-Personal Encounter with the Standards Review Process

Heidi Sampson

9/25/14

 

It was with reserved optimism that I accepted a post on the Standards Review Panel. I was informed that this process would only look at the standards to make sure they are of the highest quality for Maine students. I was also assured by the commissioner we would be bringing in outside experts.  Those things did not happen. In the end we looked at the standards in the narrowest, ineffective way and we never heard from a single expert. We now will have standards that are not any better than what they were and the entire effort was a total waste of time. In fact, most of the committee came with an attitude that there is nothing wrong with our current standards.  Members of the committee were defensive about every challenge; “if they are perfect, why alter them?”  No one on the committee, including myself was a standards expert. I knew I was not an expert, did my homework and came prepared with substance, turning to outside experts for assistance.

 

Initially, when the list of members of the review panel was shared, I discovered there were no actual College Math Professors or English Professors on the panel. I expressed my concern to the commissioner, stating that if we are to have ‘College & Career’ ready standards shouldn’t we include individuals well versed in the requirements for College?  I was pleased to see a member for Math and English added to the panel. This bears repeating— there were no standards writing specialist brought to the table!

 

We were given two specific criteria with which to address the standards. 1. Clarity – Guides learning for students and/or supports educator communication of the standard to students and parents. 2. Rigor and College and Career Ready – Supports complexity of reasoning, breadth/depth of content or college and/or career readiness.  The latter is the weightier of the two.  We assigned a ‘1’ if the majority of the review panel felt these met the criteria and a ‘0’ if we did not. My dissensions caused some consternation. Because actual additions to these standards were not an option, the last criteria only spoke to the specifics of the standards written.  Additionally, we looked at each of these criteria in chunks of standards.  For example Measurement and Data could include a number of standards for grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, and we had to judge them as a whole package.  In the end, both criteria could pass muster yet we would still completely miss the most weighty issues; developmental inappropriateness and omissions within the standards.

 

I raised my concerns many times among the entire review panel, the smaller group I was a part of for the K-5 Math review team, and wrote a detailed letter to the Commissioner.  On all three counts I was essentially dismissed, or actually silenced.  After we had completed the task, the Commissioner told me that it was unfortunate we were all finished because he wanted to figure out how they could ‘accommodate my concerns’.  My response was, “Stop jerking me around, do you really expect me to believe you?”  He responded with nothing more than placating statements.

At the end of this procedure I expressed my contempt for the whole process.  The following are the exact points I raised:

  1. No standard writing experts were considered, consulted or invited.
    1. I corresponded and spoke with both Dr. Sandra Stotsky (author of the Massachusetts ELA standards) and Dr. Jim Milgram (author of California math standards) who were willing and available to assist us in this process.
    2. I personally consulted with Audrey Buffington, a long time math specialist and textbook author, who was most helpful in dissecting these standards.
    3. The commissioner challenged me that these people were not necessarily experts asking me, “What makes them the experts?”  My response was their successful standards in MA and CA prior to the 2010 Common Core adoption. Both of these folks are renowned national experts – an undisputable fact.
    4. The Commissioner then asked me “What makes you think the California and Massachusetts standards were superior”…Oh-My-Gosh…do I have to answer that?  This was merely deflecting the real issue to cover his lack of diligence and honesty in this whole process. I’m totally disgusted.
    5. We had no one on the panel that had the least bit of standard writing expertise.

 

  1. No ‘Proven, High Achieving Samples’ were allowed as side by side comparisons.
    1. This is totally devoid of the basic principle of evidence based research.
    2. It’s rather ironic that the Department of Education would proceed in such a manner.  Anyone worth their salt knows the value of validated, qualified, proven facts to determine accurate conclusions.  Not understanding that defies quality, integrity, honesty and basic scientific investigation. I find that despicable and disgraceful! I also find it to be intellectually dishonest, arrogant and foolish.
    3. How will anyone, who is not a specialist at this know what is needed and what is not, what is missing and what is not, what is sequentially out of order and what is not?

 

  1. 3.     The criteria totally ignored the developmental inappropriateness of specific standards.

a.   Over 500 Early Childhood Health and Education professionals have expressed their strong concern with respect to these standards being developmentally inappropriate in grades K-3, especially.

b.   I was told by the facilitator and the commissioner that, “These things are not happening in Maine”.  So, I must conclude that we have a unique species of little human beings in Maine – Really? (I will muster documentation to prove this issue does exist – I talk to many teachers and parents and I know for a fact that this is a problem.)

c.   When I spoke with Dr. Milgram, he made a profound statement about the high achieving countries. He said, “They know the limits of child development, understanding it and they do not  surpass it”, therefore they have success. On the contrary we have standards that have completely ignored the child’s development process and in turn exercise a wholly arrogant attitude that ‘if we make this harder, they will get smarter’.  This defies many decades of proven teaching methodology and exposes their total ignorance of both proven teaching approaches and the student needs. This is NOT how to increase learning in K-3!

 

  1. 4.     The criteria totally ignored the omissions that are documented, regarding these standards.
    1. Under the copyright rules, the permitted 15% of additional content other states have added to their standards is very revealing. Maine has added none.
    2. Here are just a couple of quick examples; in the K-5 math under measurement and data: telling time is addressed yet days of the week, months of the year, seasons and the calendar are never addressed. Another example in math is division of a fraction with a fraction; it doesn’t exist. Shouldn’t these be incorporated?

In a day and a half both the ELA review panel and the Math review panel completed their work; a total of less than 8 hours to determine the validity of these standards using two criteria only.

 

We spent the first half of the initial day considering general questions and concerns.  We learned that this was part of the process for the DOE to then proceed into the APA rule making procedure for changes to Chapter 131.  It’s ironic, but this Chapter rule change was the very first legislation presented in January 2011, LD12.  I wonder if it’ll be the last piece of legislation of this term.

 

To no avail, I voiced my disappointment and objections to the facilitators and the

Commissioner.  I was dismissed as being concerned about something that was really irrelevant and insignificant. After all, am I to conclude that none of these concerns pertain to Maine?

This is utterly insulting to the future of Maine children. They have squandered an opportunity for Maine to lead the nation with proven standards.

 

Maine Teachers Turning On Common Core

AUGUSTA – Maine teachers are growing frustrated with the Common Core State Standards, a controversial educational reform that has quietly wound its way into nearly every American school in the past few years.

“Teachers from around the country (including many here in Maine) have expressed concerns about the way the Common Core standards are being implemented and assessed,” wrote Maine Education Association (MEA) lobbyist John Kosinski in a Feb. 19 email to Democratic leaders.

“Frustration is quickly growing among teachers,” Kosinski wrote.

The email, which was sent to Senate President Justin Alfond (D-Portland), House Speaker Mark Eves (D-North Berwick), Sen. Rebecca Millett (D-Cape Elizabeth) and Rep. Bruce MacDonald (D-Booth Bay), was obtained by The Maine Wire through a public records request.

Kosinski did not respond to requests for comment about Common Core and the MEA, but the email says the National Education Association (NEA) is “calling for a review of the standards and their implementation.”

“You can expect the NEA will be calling for greater collaboration with teachers on retooling the standards,” he wrote.

Maine replaced the Maine Learning Results with the Common Core in January of 2011, becoming the 42nd state to have adopted them.

Read more…