The SBOE can even make math controversial

The State Board of Education is gearing up to revise math standards, and as is always the case someone is pushing back.

The Texas Association of Business is urging the state board of education to go back to the drawing board on the standards, which the 15-member state panel is expected to take up next week.

The proposed math standards are “far from in-line with Texas’ goal of raising educational standards; in fact, the currently proposed standards are actually worse and less rigorous than the Common Core Standards,” the group’s president and CEO Bill Hammond wrote in an April 9 letter to board members.


In an interview, Hammond said his group hopes the state board will “stop the process” for debating (and possibly approving) the new math standards, arguing that they require “massive revisions.”

“Obviously, the leadership in Texas decided we’re not going to go with the common-core standards, and we don’t have an issue with that as long as we have excellent standards, well-written, rigorous standards,” said Hammond, whose organization represents more than 3,000 business members across Texas, as well as more than 200 local chambers of commerce.

Hammond added that his organization’s main concern is “about creating a workforce that will meet the needs of our employers.”

The Texas board of education gave preliminary approval to the revised math standards in January, then put them out for public comment. A press release from the Texas Education Agency said that the revised standards drew from the state’s existing standards “as well as math standards from Massachusetts, Minnesota, and international standards from places such as Singapore, which are all believed to have some of the world’s best math curriculum standards.”

The Texas business group asked Ze’ev Wurman, a vocal critic of the common math standards, to analyze the proposed Texas standards. Wurman, a Silicon Valley executive and former education official under President George W. Bush, recently served on a California commission that evaluated the suitability of the common standards for that state. (I recently blogged about a forum in which Wurman debated the common standards with a math professor.)

Wurman’s analysis concludes that the Texas draft “picks many nice ideas from the common core, yet it also introduces errors and clumsiness. … The draft creates a wordy, sometimes incoherent, and often garbled document, particularly in K-8, that shows the disparate fingerprints of the various groups and committees that influenced it through its development.”

Ultimately, Wurman contends that the math document is inferior, in terms of “coherence and rigor,” to both the common-core standards as well as “many of the better state standards. I am hard-pressed, indeed, to say that it represents an improvement over the existing [Texas standards].”

Hammond, of course, doesn’t want to actually pay for a public education system that will meet the needs of a growing workforce, but that’s a topic of another blog post. He is correct to note, as he does at the end of the story, that this is only controversial in a very limited sense because no one gets all that riled up about math standards. That EdWeek post from last week (the SBOE review begins today) was the only story I saw on this until the Trib wrote about it yesterday. The Texas Freedom Network, which is usually all over everything the SBOE does, has no mention of this, which should tell you something. Anyway, I haven’t spent a whole lot of time on this, but you can read the review and grade by grade analysis, which seem reasonable enough. I don’t have any strong feelings about this, but I do think all curriculum revisions the SBOE undertakes deserve to be scrutinized and publicized. This one may not be particularly political, but it’s still worthy of our attention. EdWeek link via Political Animal.

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