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My Turn: The Common Core is right for a STEM career

Last modified: 2/15/2014 12:52:21 AM
Have you heard that the Common Core math standards don’t prepare our children for STEM careers? Don’t believe it.

Preparing students for careers in science, technology, engineering and math has been one of Gov. Maggie Hassan’s highest education priorities. She emphasized the importance of the Common Core in her State of the State address and went on to announce her new STEM task force.

New Hampshire businesses thinks the new math standards get it right, too. The Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire, the New Hampshire Coalition for Business and Education, New Hampshire’s Advanced Manufacturing Educational Advisory Council and many CEOs have all endorsed the Common Core.

Thousands of educators and experts participated in developing the Common Core State Standards for math. Hundreds worked on and gave feedback to the various committees involved. The presidents of every major mathematical society in America say they think the standards are right. The New Hampshire Teachers of Mathematics thinks so as well.

Actually, most every math teacher you talk to thinks it provides the preparation our students need – except James Milgram, a retired math professor who travels the country oposing the Common Core.  

Milgram recently submitted testimony to the House Education Committee in support of the several anti-Common Core bills sponsored by a group of liberty legislators. He spends the bulk of this testimony telling the committee some ancient history about the math standards in California, where he lives, and a lot of inside baseball stories about who said what to whom as the Common Core standards were being developed.

But Milgram’s testimony about how bad the Common Core is does not actually critique even one of the actual standards.

In fact, after many pages of information not relevant to New Hampshire, Milgram concludes by saying, “In spite of the issues raised above, it is true, first that Core Standards are considerably better than the old New Hampshire math standards, and second, that much of the material in them is very well done. In fact Core Standards are better than the standards of 90 percent of the states.”

Then he concludes that sentence by saying that all those political problems make the Common Core standards “entirely unsuitable for state adoption.”

His recommendation is that New Hampshire put together a few good math teachers from “top New Hampshire universities such as Dartmouth” and tweak the Common Core standards.

Actually, math teachers from schools at all levels all over the state have already done that. Guided by the state Department of Education, they commented on early drafts and saw their comments used.

And the process continues today. The annual conference of New Hampshire math teachers next month is entirely devoted to the Common Core. Many math teachers discuss best practices in statewide networks the New Hampshire Department of Education has set up.

Day-to-day, math and science teachers all over the state meet constantly in their schools to figure out the best way to use the new standards in their classrooms. And they’ll tell anyone who asks that they appreciate the Common Core standards.

As the Alton School Board was voting to reject the Common Core, Richard Kirby, a sixth-grade English and mathematics teacher at Alton Central School, told the board that the Alton Teachers Association welcomes Common Core. According to the Laconia Sun, Kirby said, “It offers new challenges to students to become problem-solvers, critical thinkers and technologically literate. It raises the bar for grade levels and individuals.”

Carol Marino, a sixth-grade math teacher at Sanborn Regional Middle School in Newton, told me, “The Common Core is much more focused. We can spend more time on a topic and really delve into it deeper. And we have continuity across the grades. It just makes so much more sense to me.”

As Dave Juvet, senior vice president of the BIA, said when a sponsor of the anti-Common Core legislation asked if he had read the critics of the Common Core, “My belief is they represent a small, small, small minority of those who worked on the development of the Common Core standards.”

(Bill Duncan of New Castle is the founder of the advocacy group Advancing New Hampshire Public Education.)


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