The confusion over Appendix A

A number of people have gotten in touch with me recently about Appendix A, so I wanted to clarify something about its role. States who adopted the standards did not thereby adopt Appendix A. The high school standards were intentionally not arranged into courses in order to allow flexibility in designing high school courses, and many states and curriculum writers have taken advantage of that flexibility. There was a thread about this on my blog 3 years ago, and there is a forum on the topic here.

Appendix A was provided as a proof of concept, showing one possible way of arranging the high school standards into courses. Indeed, on page 2 of the appendix it says:

The pathways and courses are models, not mandates. They illustrate possible approaches to organizing the content of the CCSS into coherent and rigorous courses that lead to college and career readiness. States and districts are not expected to adopt these courses as is; rather, they are encouraged to use these pathways and courses as a starting point for developing their own.

States will of course be constrained by their assessments. But Smarter Balanced consortium does not have end of course assessments in high school, leaving states and districts free to arrange high school as they choose. And although PARCC does have end of course assessments, they do not follow Appendix A exactly. See the footnote on page 39 of the PARCC Model Content Framework , which says

Note that the courses outlined in the Model Content Frameworks were informed by, but are not identical to, previous drafts of this document and Appendix A of the Common Core State Standards.

Furthermore, there are plenty of states not using either the PARCC of SMARTER Balanced assessments.

I hope this helps clear things up.

New Draft of NBT Progression

Here the almost final draft of the Progression on Number and Operations in Base Ten, K–5. It incorporates many changes in response to comments here on this blog and elsewhere.

In addition to numerous small edits and corrections, and some redrawn figures, here are some of the more significant changes:

  • The sidenote with glossary entry for algorithm was moved to first instance of “algorithm” together with some text on notation for standard algorithm (this piece is a revision of a paragraph that was in the main body of the previous version).
  • Section on Strategies and Algorithm: The 2 old paragraphs were deleted and 3 new paragraphs were inserted. Reason: the new paragraphs give an overview of the organization of the NBT standards for strategies and algorithms explaining that students see efficient, accurate, and generalizable methods from the beginning of their work with calculation and that there is a progression from strategies to algorithms: for addition and subtraction (with whole numbers in K to Grade 4; and generalization to decimals in Grades 4 to 6), for multiplication (Grades 3 to 5) and division (Grades 3 to 6) with whole numbers, then decimals.
  • The balance of emphasis on “special strategy” vs “general method” in the earlier progression has been shifted in this draft in the direction of general methods..
  • Mathematical practices section was revised to focus more on the centrality of the SMPs, illustrating progression from strategy to algorithm and following the structure of the sections on computations, and strategy and algorithm.

As usual, please comment in NBT thread in the Forums.

New Illustrative Mathematics website, with K–5 blueprints

Illustrative Mathematics has a new look today. There’s a video explaining some of the new features on the Illustrative Mathematics Facebook page. One big new feature is the course blueprints. At the moment we just have K–5 blueprints. We’ll be adding more content to those and also adding high school and middle school blueprints over the next few months. I’ve made a forum here for people to comment and ask questions about them.

Learning about the standards writing process from NGA news releases. Take 2.

About a year ago I noticed there was a lot of misinformation being spread about the process for writing the standards, so I came up with the brilliant idea of pointing people to the historical source documents that chronicled the process: the NGA press releases about the Common Core during 2009–2010. That will solve the problem, I thought; people will just read the press releases and figure it out. Boy was I ever wrong. In this post I’ll try to give a clearer timeline of the process. Along the way I’ll point out the involvement of testing organizations, since I think that one of the reasons the misinformation has survived for so long is a narrative, compelling to some, that the testing industry dominated the process. (Spoiler alert: they didn’t.)

First, here is the list, with an additional one from July 2009 that I missed last time (which has been the source of much confusion):

Notice that there seem to be duplicate announcements of the Work and Feedback Group and duplicate releases of the standards. What’s going on here is that there were two documents. First, in summer of 2009, the people listed in the July 2009 release worked on the document that was announced in September of 2009. That document, which was actually entitled College and Career Readiness Standards for Mathematics, was confusingly referred to as Common Core State Standards in the title of the September 2009 press release. If you take a look at it you will see that it is a draft description of what students should know by the end of high school.

Subsequently, as described in the November 2009 press release, a new process with new groups was started, to produce “K–12 standards.” These were to be a set of grade level recommendations that described a pathway to college and career readiness. For the K–12 process, there were about 50 people on the Work Team and about 20 people on the Feedback Group for mathematics, representing a wide range of professions, including teachers, mathematicians, policy makers, and one representative each from College Board and ACT … none representing for-profit providers of assessments. The members of this group are listed in a linked pdf in the press release.  This is the document that was released for public comment in March 2010, as described in the March 2010 press release, and released in final form as the Common Core State Standards on 6 June 2010, as described in the final press release.

As you can see from the list of members, I chaired the Work Team for the second document. Within the work team there was a smaller writing team consisting of myself, Jason Zimba, and Phil Daro (who had all been involved in the summer 2009 document, Phil Daro as chair for mathematics). We based the standards on narrative progressions of particular mathematical topics across grade levels that were solicited from the Work Team. We circulated many drafts to the Work Team, the Feedback Group, the 48 participating states, various national organizations such as AFT and NCTM, and, in March 2010, the public (see the March 2010 release). I personally made sure that we responded to and made considered decisions about all of the voluminous feedback we received.

When you hear people claim that “the standards were written by the testing industry,” they are probably referring to the first document, because of the greater involvement of College Board and ACT. Both organizations, along with Achieve, which was also represented, had conducted research into the requirements of college and career readiness. (All are non-profits, by the way.) The problem is that some people refer to the first document in a way that suggests they are talking about the second document (i.e., the actual K-12 standards adopted by states). That is an error and a misleading one.

The two documents are different in nature, of course, since one of them is just a picture of an endpoint while the other is a progression. Feel free to compare them. One influence of the first document on the second is that in the first document you can see the first draft of what became the Standards for Mathematical Practice. And the topic areas listed in the first document evolved into the high school conceptual categories in the second. All this evolution happened under the processes for the second document, with input from the various groups described above.

I think the second document is the work of the 70-odd people listed as the Work Team and Feedback Group in the November 2009 press release. But, just for fun, I put the teams for the two documents together and counted how many of them came from ACT and College Board (no other testing organizations were represented). It comes to a total of 81 people with 7 from ACT and College Board, about 9%. So even with this interpretation the claim that the process was dominated by the testing industry is false.

Problem with RSS Feed for Forums Fixed

The link to the RSS feed for the forums (on the right of this page) was broken. I’ve fixed it now. You might not have noticed (I didn’t for a while) because it was simply not updating. So if you are using an RSS reader to follow the forums, you should delete your old feed and add the new url. If you don’t understand this message, ignore it!