Tuesday, June 9, 2009

This Country Deserves Better!!

Sandra Stotsky tells us what’s what:

“If another country wanted other countries to respect its educational system and the reforms it was trying to make, who would it choose to lead such an important professional project as the development of its national standards in mathematics and in the language of its educational system itself? In any other country in the world, one would expect a distinguished mathematician at the college level to be asked to chair the mathematics standards-writing committee–someone who commands the respect of the mathematics profession (and obviously is an expert on mathematics). For the language standards-writing committee, one would likewise expect an eminent scholar in a college-level department–someone whose command of the language and understanding of the texts that inform the development of this language could not be questioned. If the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers had thought about national pride (and national need) as well as academic/educational expertise, then all of us would respect the Common Core Initiative and look forward with eagerness to the drafts the NGA and CCSSO have promised to make public in July.

These two organizations could have followed, for example, the exemplary procedures followed by the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, on which I had the privilege to serve. The Panel was chaired by the former president of one of the major universities in the country, all Panel members were identified at the outset, their qualifications were made known to the pubic, their procedures were open to the public and taped as well, and the final product was hammered out in public, after dozens of reviewers provided critical comments.

But instead of choosing nationally known scholars to chair and staff these committees–to assure us of the integrity and quality of the product–the NGA and the CCSSO have, for reasons best known to themselves, treated the initiative as a private game of their own. The NGA and the CCSSO haven’t even bothered to inform the public who is chairing these committees, who is on them, why they were chosen, what their credentials are, and why we should have any confidence whatsoever in what they come up with.

One person has announced on his own to the press and to a state department of education that he is chairing the mathematics standards-writing committee. He has not been contradicted by anyone at NGA or CCSSO, so we must assume he’s for real. It turns out he is an English major with no academic degrees in mathematics whatsoever. No one has yet announced on his/her own that he/she is chairing the English standards-writing committee. One wag has already wondered whether this person might be a mathematics major with no academic degrees in English. But it’s possible the sad joke in mathematics is not being repeated in English.

This country deserved better for a project of such national importance.”

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