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Comparison of PASS to Common Core in Mathematics - Ze'ev Worman

Comparison of PASS to Common Core in Mathematics - Ze'ev Worman

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Published by RestoreOKPublicEd
The comparison was performed based on the Thomas B. Fordham Institute 2005 criteria and indicates that the two sets of standards are very close in terms of their quality and expectations, with a slight edge to the Oklahoma standards over Common Core. The report also draws on additional sources to validate these findings. Based on the totality of the evidence, the report concludes that there seems to have been no educational purpose for Oklahoma to switch to the Common Core in 2010 because the existing Oklahoma standards were on par with or slightly superior to the Common Core.
The comparison was performed based on the Thomas B. Fordham Institute 2005 criteria and indicates that the two sets of standards are very close in terms of their quality and expectations, with a slight edge to the Oklahoma standards over Common Core. The report also draws on additional sources to validate these findings. Based on the totality of the evidence, the report concludes that there seems to have been no educational purpose for Oklahoma to switch to the Common Core in 2010 because the existing Oklahoma standards were on par with or slightly superior to the Common Core.

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Published by: RestoreOKPublicEd on Apr 25, 2014
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Comparison of Oklahoma’s 2009 Mathematics Standards with Common Core’s Mathematics Standards
 
1
Comparison of Common Core’s Mathematics Standards with Oklahoma’s
2009 Priority Academic Student Skills (PASS) for Mathematics
Ze’ev Wurman
 Visiting Scholar, Hoover Institution April 2014
Executive Summary
This comparison between PASS and Common Core mathematics was done in response to a request of State Representative Jason Nelson. The comparison was performed based on the Thomas B. Fordham Institute 2005 criteria and indicates that the two sets of standards very close in terms of their quality and expectations, with a slight edge to the Oklahoma standards over Common Core. The report also draws on additional sources to validate these findings. Based on the totality of the evidence, the report concludes that there seems to have been no educational purpose for Oklahoma to switch to the Common Core in 2010 because the existing Oklahoma standards were on par with or slightly superior to the Common Core. Table 1 summarizes my comparison results for both sets of the mathematics standards, offering a closer look at the minor differences between them. The 2010 Fordham comparison between the two sets of standards, which used a newly revised set of criteria, found similar results, albeit with the order reversed. Further, a recent 2012 study (Schmidt and Houang, 2012)
1
 found Oklahoma mathematics standards to be among the top ten states in terms of their alignment with Common Core, further indicating that any differences in the quality of standards are rather small.
Table 1: Points per Section and Totals for Both Math Standards Sets
CC OK Language Clarity:
 Clarity, Definiteness, Testability 3.00 3.83
Content
: Elementary, Middle, High School 3.33 3.33
Reason
4.00 2.50
Negative Qualities
: False Doctrines, Inflation 2.75 4.00
Total Score 3.28 (B+) 3.40 (A-)
While both sets of standards get similar total scores, both could be improved. PASS strengths are its clear and relatively jargon-free language and its strong mathematical content. Minor revisions to PASS, particularly in the area of clarifying expectations of fluency with elementary arithmetic operations,
1
 William H. Schmidt and Richard T. Houang, Curricular Coherence and the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics,
Educational Researcher 
 v41 p. 294 (2012) 
 
Comparison of Oklahoma’s 2009 Mathematics Standards with Common Core’s Mathematics Standards
 
2 would significantly improve their quality. No such easy fix exists for the Common Core because its weaknesses are spread throughout the standards
. Furthermore, correcting them is beyond Oklahoma’s
power because their copyright belongs to Washington, D.C., organizations. Consequently, this report recommends that Oklahoma returns to its own mathematics PASS standards and consider their revision over time.
Introduction
This comparison between Oklahoma’s 2009 Priority Academic Student Skills (PASS) in mathematics and
Common Core mathematics was done in response to a request of State Representative Jason Nelson. The purpose is to assist legislators and the public to evaluate whether the replacement of PASS by the
Common Core standards is likely to improve or weaken Oklahoma’s public
 education. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute performed a comparison of Common Core and PASS in 2010 as a part
of its “State of the State Standards” project. Unfortunately, Fordham ha
d modified its evaluation criteria at that time, thereby breaking the trend line used by Fordham since 1998. For this comparison I used the original Fordham 2005 evaluation criteria.
2
 
The Rubrics
The evaluation is based on four rubrics: Clarity, Content, Reason, and Negative Qualities. Each rubric is scored on a scale of 0 to 4 and totaled to a weighted average, with Content double the weight (40%) of the other three rubrics (each 20%). The following description of the rubrics is drawn from the 2005 Fordham report:
Clarity
 refers to the success the document has in achieving its own purpose, i.e., making clear to teachers, test developers, textbooks authors, and parents what the state desires. Clarity refers to more than the prose, however. The clarity grade is the average of three separate sub-categories: 1.
 
Clarity
of the language: The words and sentences themselves must be understandable, syntactically unambiguous, and without needless jargon. 2.
 
Definiteness
of the prescriptions given: What the language says should be mathematically and pedagogically definite, leaving no doubt of what the inner and outer boundaries are, of what is being asked of the student or teacher. 3.
 
Testability
of the lessons as described: The statement or demand, even if understandable and completely defined, might yet ask for results impossible to test in the school environment. We assign a positive value to testability.
Content
, the second criterion, is plain enough in intent. Mainly, it is a matter of what might be called
“subject coverage,” i.e., whether the topics offered and the performance demanded at each level are
sufficient and suitable. To the degree we can determine it from the standards documents, we ask, is the state asking K-12 students to learn the correct skills, in the best order and at the proper speed? For this report, the content score comprises 40 percent of the total grade for any state.
2
 David Klein et al., The State of State MATH Standards, 2005. Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and Institute.
 
Comparison of Oklahoma’s 2009 Mathematics Standards with Common Core’s Mathematics Standards
 
3 Here we separate the curriculum into three parts (albeit with fuzzy edges): Primary, Middle, and Secondary. It is common for states to offer more than one 9-12 curriculum, but also to print standards
describing only the “common” curriculum, often the one intended for a universal graduation exam,
usually in grade 11. Content gives rise to three criteria: 1.
 
Primary school content (K-5, approximately) 2.
 
Middle school content (or 6-8, approximately) 3.
 
Secondary school content (or 9-12, approximately).
Reason
. Civilized people have always recognized mathematics as an integral part of their cultural heritage. Mathematics is the oldest and most universal part of our culture. In fact, we share it with all the world, and it has its roots in the most ancient of times and the most distant of lands.
Therefore, in judging standards documents for school mathematics, we look to the “topics” as listed in the “content” criteria not only for their sufficiency, clarity, and relevance, but also for whether their
statement includes or implies that they are to be taught with the explicit inclusion of information on their standing within the overall structures of mathematical reason. We therefore look at the standards documents as a whole to determine how well the subject matter is presented in an order, wording, or context that can only be satisfied by including due attention to this most essential feature of all mathematics.
Negative Qualities
. This fourth criterion looks for the presence of unfortunate features of the document that contradict its intent or would cause its reader to deviate from what otherwise good, clear advice the document contains. We call one form of it False Doctrine. The second form is called Inflation because it offends the reader with useless verbiage, conveying no useful information. Scores for Negative Qualities are assigned a positive value; that is, a high score indicates the lack of such qualities. Under False Doctrine, which can be either curricular or pedagogical, is whatever text contained in the standards we judge to be injurious to the correct transmission of mathematical information.
… While in
general we expect standards to leave pedagogical decisions to teachers (as most standards documents do), so that pedagogy is not ordinarily something we rate in this study, some standards contain pedagogical advice that we believe undermines what the document otherwise recommends. Under the other negative rubric, Inflation, we speak more of prose than content. Evidence of mathematical ignorance on the part of the authors is a negative feature, whether or not the document shows the effect of this ignorance in its actual prescriptions, or contains outright mathematical error. Repetitiousness, bureaucratic jargon, or other evils of prose style that might cause potential readers to stop reading or paying attention, can render the document less effective than it should be, even if its clarity is not literally affected.

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