A new report in Education Week discusses a “Consumer Reports-like” nonprofit group that will now evaluate math textbooks from different companies online. If you are teaching math and want to know which books are best—books aligned to the Common Core—you can go to Edreports.org and they will apparently tell you, eventually, which books, or book, best aligns to the math Common Core State Standards.
Isn’t this nationalizing the curriculum? I mean, once they rate the books, who is going to choose the books that don’t rate the highest? There will most likely be a monopoly of certain textbooks, or one textbook. This, in my view, definitely demonstrates that the Common Core State Standards nationalize the curriculum.
If you are shaking your head and saying, one more nonprofit to have to deal with, you are not alone. And Common Core Math has been highly criticized, even poked fun at, by comedians like Louis C.K. and others.
But there is trouble already with this group which should raise eyebrows. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation mostly sponsor it. They are involved now in almost every faction of public schooling, so much so, a commenter in the Ed. Week article says: “How long before the US Dept. of Education changes its name to The Bill & Melinda Gates Dept. of Education?” I think that’s an excellent question. Ed. Week also lets us know the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supports Education Week! I will boast I already knew that, but maybe you didn’t!
While they claim this new nonprofit to choose math textbooks provides expertise from teachers in part, most of those teachers come from groups like Teach Plus or the New Teacher Center, individuals who aren’t really seen as credible teachers to many who got their teaching degrees the old fashion way. The Education Trust, a highly provocative pro-privatization group, is onboard too.
They advertise there are individuals with math backgrounds in the group and on the board. They are correct. They have managed to corral several high profile university figures to lend their expertise. Some don’t think the math textbooks are well-enough aligned to the CCSS.
But how bias are they? And what is the point? It is like telling patrons of a restaurant that all the chefs, a few who are actually Italians, will be debating the quality of the marinara sauce. The trouble is, maybe ravioli, or another Italian dish, would be a more interesting option on the menu.
Many of these same people go on and on about the value of choice, but it is always a curiosity that there is truly less choice when you get right down to it.
Oh. And if you think you can flee public schools and put your children in a parochial or private school, forget it. Once David “doesn’t give an expletive about narrative writing” Coleman, aligns Common Core with the ACT and the SAT, every child in this country will have to go through the programs that most align to the Common Core State Standards. If you ask me, it doesn’t get more nationalistic than that.
By rights, the individuals who should be assisting with textbook selection are real teachers in real public schools, who have math backgrounds and who will be working with the children. Selecting how and what a teacher will use to teach is a truly personal decision. Teachers left out of this process are being denied a large part of their professionalism. And where are the school administrators and the community school board on these issues? While some teachers will follow any script put in front of them, others want some say into the kinds of textbooks and materials they will use.
I also find it a curiosity that Eric Hirsch is the founder and executive director of the group. He proclaims a teaching certificate from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and a degree in political science and he has been around when it comes to the New Teacher Center, once acting as their chief of external affairs. Is he related to the E.D. Hirsch who many would claim is the father of Common Core?
Whether or not the Hirsch’s are related, it really has come down to a select few, choosing materials to align to standards, selected by another elite group, to foist on America’s public schools. Why do these people get to choose what students should know, out of the limitless information out there?
Thus far, Core enthusiasts have argued that the standards are there and teachers can get students to master the standards the way they want. They will tell you upfront that Common Core is not a national curriculum. But with nonprofits like this which steer teachers into what they believe are the best textbooks in math their argument wears thin.
They may tell you Common Core isn’t a national curriculum but don’t expect to feed your children ravioli any time soon.
Heitin, Liana. “Common-Core Math Textbooks to Get Online Ratings.” Education Week. 34 (01). August 15, 2014.