Rebuttal letter to AL State Board of Education from Eunie Smith regarding email from Jeremy Zelkowski, PhD

February 28, 2019

To: Members of the Alabama Board of Education

From: Eunie Smith, President, Leslie Whitcomb, Education Chairman

Re: Clarification after Mr. Zelkowski email

Each of you recently received an email correspondence from Jeremy Zelkowski, PhD regarding his views on a one-page flyer distributed by Eagle Forum about the proposed 2019 Math Course of Study.

The fact that Alabama prior to Common Core was ranked 25th in the nation by Education Week “Quality Counts” (QC) was touted in 2011 by the Alabama Department of Education. It included a ranking of 25th in the nation “based on standards, assessments and accountability”. The 2009 Alabama Math Course of Study was rated B+ by Fordham (before they committed to promote Common Core). QC certainly cannot be directly compared with NAEP.

Graphs #1 and #2 (see below) which we provided to you illustrate that Alabama NAEP scores, while low, were on an upward trajectory and improving every year prior to Common Core. With the advent of Common Core a downward trend began so that by 2017 the previous progress was practically erased. Graph #3 (see below)  ACT National Math Scores show a similar scenario nationally. Reversing an upward trend since Common Core implementation, the whole nation has gradually dropped below the 2003 ACT score.

Therefore, we remain convinced that removing all vestiges of Common Core and moving to non Common Core standards which have shown success is the only wise course of action. In consulting with nationally recognized mathematicians who were successful standards writers we were directed to Minnesota with its non-Common Core standards. It is at the top. Please see the two documents we provided to you. In the NAEP grade 8 state math score Minnesota ranks second and Alabama ranks next to last among the states. In the 2017 ACT ranking of those states which test 100% of their students, Minnesota was first and Alabama was third from last.

Apparently, Dr. Zelkowski has not reviewed our website to see the charts referenced above and the five page academic review with cites from the Alabama Math Proposed Math Course of Study by Dr. James Milgram. He only gave you his incorrect and biased opinion of Dr. Milgram.

The question which Dr. Zelkowksi fails to answer for you is, “Where is the empirical basis for the proposed new high school Course of Study?” It is the obligation of those who propose this radical new approach to provide empirical data to show it has been implemented effectively somewhere, anywhere, at a comparable scale before imposing it on the students of Alabama for the next six years. (Dr. Milgram noted the failure of this approach in the Soviet Union, which Dr. Zelkowski does not dispute in his email.)

Dr. Zelkowski’s claim that Milgram “has long been critical of any standards-based movement in math education” is flatly false. In fact, Dr. Milgram assisted in the development of the successful California mathematics standards adopted in 1997. His expertise was acknowledged by the Common Core writers who asked that he participate in the review of the original Common Core Math Standards. He found they were not adequate and refused to sign off on approving them. He is not against standards, only poor ones!

NCTM and its state affiliates with which Dr. Zelkowsky is associated were among the main backers of Common Core math and we now have the results to show that they were wrong. Their view has resulted in disproportionate harm to the lowest performing students according to the highly respected NAEP results included in the material presented to you. There is no basis for trusting in the expertise of people who wish to continue a failed approach that they recommended.

Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and Institute were strong backers of, not only Common Core, but of a single national curriculum and national test. That is why their “evaluations” are negative toward any alternatives to Common Core. As with NCTM, the results of Common Core math have shown that Fordham was wrong and there is no reason to trust their curricular judgment.

Again, we urge you to review the data we provided to you, to vote NO on the proposed 2019 Math Course of Study, and to direct its replacement with sound, proven standards. We believe that all Alabama students are capable of outstanding achievement if teachers are given teachable tools.

Eunie Smith, President
[email protected]