February 13, 2015

Oklahoma Gets Experts’ Advice on Replacing Common Core

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Nate Robson

Nate Robson

EDUCATION WATCH BLOG
Feb. 13, 2015
(Updated: Feb. 16)

Three education experts flew to Oklahoma to help guide the state in the creation of new academic standards after lawmakers threw out the Common Core last year.

The visitors, Larry Gray, Sandra Stotsky and Jane Schielack, each have ties to Common Core, but each have also helped create unrelated standards.

All three spoke on Monday at the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, 655 Research Parkway, Suite 200, in Oklahoma City. Below are tweeted highlights of their remarks.

Highlights from Monday’s meeting:

Some background on each:

Gray, a math professor at the University of Minnesota, helped develop Minnesota’s math standards in 2003 and 2007. He also helped create the Common Core math standards, but urged the state not to adopt them in 2010.

Gray said the state’s own standards had just been implemented, and that it was unfair to teachers to make another switch. He added that Minnesota’s standards were just as good as the Common Core.

Stotsky, a professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas, worked on the English language arts standards for Common Core. Stotsky eventually refused to sign off on the standards, and is a vocal opponent of Common Core. She has spoken to lawmakers in states across the nation urging them to repeal Common Core.

She also helped create Massachusetts’ previous English standards, which many considered among the best in the nation. Those standards were dropped for Common Core.

Schielack, whose work developing math standards was also used in creating the Common Core, has helped Pearson develop Common Core curriculum for teachers.

Last summer, she helped Oklahoma determine if the state’s old Priority Academic Student Skills standards were college or career ready after the state ditched Common Core.

Schielack, dean of assessments and preK-12 education at Texas A&M, has also developed standards in Texas.

Here is more information on their views:

Larry Gray

• In Minnesota, Gray said a focus on what textbooks students should use, or whether they could use a calculator in class brought work on Minnesota’s math standards to a stop. As a result, Gray told the team of experts to forget about the textbooks and calculators, and to focus only on what students needed to know. That included defining what a college- or career-ready student was. Minnesota’s definition meant ready for college-level algebra.

• Anyone tasked with developing the Oklahoma’s tests needs to be involved in the process from the start. That ensures the state is developing standards that can be tested, and that test makers understand what students need to know.

• Gray believes the committees creating standards should have co-chairs running them. In Minnesota’s case, that included Gray as a college professor, and a high school math teacher. That ensured insights from higher education and grade schools were included.

Sandra Stotsky

• Stotsky said committees creating standards should be chaired by one content expert from the a college or university. The committees should also only include people who are knowledgeable in that content field. That means an English language committee should not include a culinary arts teacher. The committee should also not be stacked with Common Core supporters if the Oklahoma expects to see truly new standards.

• The committees and their work needs to be transparent to gain the public’s confidence. She said part of the problem with Common Core is some of the standards were drafted behind closed doors.

• The standards need to be clear and understandable. If teachers do not understand the standards, that means the standards don’t work, Stotsky said.

Jane Schielack

Schielack did not respond to a request for comment, but in an interview about Common Core and academic standards at Texas A&M, she attributed an increase in testing to districts’ own policies.

According to the interview, she said:

“A lot of districts were adding to their assessment burden by saying, we’ve got to measure things every week or every month — to the point where they were testing more than they were teaching. These aren’t things that are mandated by the law; those are things that districts decided to do.”

In the same interview, Schielack gave her insight into what’s needed for a strong math curriculum:

“The bottom line is, a curriculum is only as good as its implementation. I do all the things I do because what I really care about is helping the teachers do a good job. If they don’t have a good curriculum, if they don’t have good leadership, if they don’t understand how to use the assessments, then they’re not going to be able to do a good job. And most of them want to do a good job.”

Nate Robson can be reached at nrobson@oklahomawatch.org


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