California World Class Math
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National Math Standards/ A Closed Process

Summary:  The approach to national standards is secretive; the panelists discussions and deliberations are confidential.  The panelists are primarily employees from College Board, ACT, and Achieve.  They do not have the expertise in mathematics of a university or college mathematics professor or mathematician.  A panel of mathematicians was appointed to advise the panelists but they do not have any decision making role.

     Forty-nine states and territories have signed on to the current movement for national math standards called the “Common Core State Standards Initiative" (CCSSI).    It is a joint effort by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). These two organizations are coordinating the process, and the Common Core Initiative website identifies the process and the people involved in developing national math standards.

     The actual writing of national standards has been delegated to a "Standards Development Work Group," a panel that consists primarily of staff employees from three organizations:  College Board, ACT, and Achieve

     The Common Core Initiative process is not occurring as one would expect in an open government environment.  In California, the public has an expectation that governmental processes such as the development of new academic standards will follow open meeting laws, furnish minutes, accept public input and provide accountability.  In contrast, the workings of the Common Core Standards Initiative are secretive, and the website states that all "deliberations will be confidential throughout the process."

   Consider the differences between the NGA/CCSSO Standards Development Work Group and the mathematics experts on the National Math Advisory Panel, a panel that spent almost two years articulating how the United States should raise its math standards. Even though the National Math Advisory Panel was composed of experts in mathematics and mathematics education such as University of California Professor Hung-Hsi Wu, the panel also accepted revisions and criticisms from other nationally recognized experts in mathematics who were not on the panel.    

     Following criticism, the NGA/CCSSO recently announced appointments to a "Feedback Group." The members of the Feedback Group are primarily people with expertise in mathematics and mathematics education, such as Stanford Professor R. James Milgram and Johns Hopkins University Professor Stephen Wilson.  

     But the Feedback Group will not have any capacity to directly improve or change math standards:

The role of this Feedback Group is to provide information backed by research to inform the standards development process by offering expert input on draft documents. Final decisions regarding the common core standards document will be made by the Standards Development Work Group. The Feedback Group will play an advisory role, not a decision-making role in the process.

     No matter how well intentioned the employees of College Board, ACT and Achieve are, they are not expert in mathematics to the same level and extent as the appointees to the Feedback Group. 

     The development of high, world class, internationally competitive math standards matters tremendously.  It is anticipated that the federal government will tie funds to whether states align with the Common Core Initiative's national math standards.  If these standards are lower than California's current internationally competitive standards, California may have to decide whether to lower its standards or lose federal funds. 

     Now is the time to act to ensure that national math standards are internationally competitive benchmarks. Please join us.

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