The Man Behind Common Core Math

Sarah Garland, NPR, Dec 30, 2014
Commentary by Stephen Downes

It's hard to believe, but the problems that plague the Common Core standards in the U.S. have the same roots as the problems that plagued Learning Object Metadata and other IMS standards. The Common Core standards were born in the No Child Left Behind program under the Bush government. The idea was to reform a very diverse set of state standards that were too broad and insufficiently deep. They would form the basis for standardized tests, and would enable publishers to create standard texts. Designed from the beginning as a state-led initiative, the standards were supported by the Obama administration.

So what went wrong? The math standards were essentially written by Jason Zimba, a physicist working in his garage who believed that if you got the testing right, all else would follow. This resulted in output essentially the same as IMS: all standards, no implementation. "As powerful and influential in reshaping American classrooms as the standards could be, they don't include lesson plans, or teaching methods, or alternative strategies for when students don't get it." So now while Zimba tutors his daughters in that same garage to make up for the gaps in Common Core, the standards themselves are the subject of widespread criticism. 

"I used to think if you got the assessments right, it would virtually be enough," he says. "In the No Child Left Behind world, everything follows from the test." Now, he says, "I think it's curriculum."

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