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Louisiana’s Standards Review: Common Core Writers and Eureka Math Developers Invited

December 19, 2015

The Common Core in Louisiana is supposedly under review based on legislation passed in the 2015 session.

However, the alleged review is Common-Core-centered and is transpiring at warp speed.

Practically speaking, the resulting changes will only be cosmetic.

Even so, at least some individuals initially involved in this review intended to thoroughly review Common Core– and to propose significant changes because, in their professional opinions, such changes are necessary.

One of those individuals was Brenda DeFelice. DeFelice was a member of the math standards subcommittee, and her task was to examine and offer suggested revisions for the Common Core geometry standards.

Brenda DeFelice  Brenda DeFelice

On December 02, 2015, DeFelice was told that she needed to attend an extra meeting– a meeting-before-the-meeting– with an individual from the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) and who served on the Common Core math work group (read about it here) and others connected to Eureka Math, a Common-Core-aligned product over which Common Core math work group lead member Phil Daro had the final say (read the background on Eureka math here).

Prior to that extra meeting, LDOE Common Core writers had once before been involved in a Louisiana standards review committee meeting.

After the geometry meeting-before-the-meeting, on December 02, 2015, DeFelice quit the Louisiana Common Core review farce.

Here is her resignation letter, in full:

December 2, 2015

Dear Ms. Sanford, Ms. Boothe, and Math Standards Review Sub-Committee Members:

Please accept my resignation from the Math Standards Review Sub-Committee effective immediately.

Over a month ago, I expressed the following concerns at the end of a three-page letter emailed to you:

When I signed on to be a member of this sub-committee, I understood that we had an incredible responsibility placed upon our shoulders, and like the rest of our sub-committee members, I agreed to commit the hours and the diligence necessary to make sure that we get it right.  I have been dismayed that the process handed to us expected that this tremendous amount of work should have been accomplished in just a few hours at our meeting last week.  This fact alone has made me wonder whether the expectation for us is to simply push something quickly through, perhaps a rebrand, perhaps a few little tweaks and changes so that Common Core proponents can shout from the rooftops that we no longer have Common Core in Louisiana, that we have new standards that a panel of educators wrote, and that this issue is forever settled.  If what I now suspect is indeed the case, then I want no part in this process.  If, instead, we are truly expected to come up with the best possible set of math standards for the students in this state, then we need to make sure that we get it right.  If we need to meet for a full week to accomplish this task, then let’s do it.  If we need to create a draft, go home to review it, and meet again in a week to tweak the draft, then let’s do it.  After meeting and talking with many of my fellow sub-committee members last week, I know that this group of talented and accomplished educators is up to this task.  We have great minds at the table….with insights and experience and passion …that are truly capable to getting this job done right, but only if we are given the time and resources necessary to write the best possible set of math students for our Louisiana students.  I do not want my name associated with anything short of this goal.

During our last sub-committee meeting in Monroe, two people were introduced as experts and were invited to be seated at microphones to answer questions and to offer input to the sub-committee as we conducted the review.  I have since learned that the two experts who were added to the group, Carolyn Sessions (LDOE standards coordinator and PARCC cadre) and Nancy Beben (LDOE curriculum director), were two of the original writers of the national Common Core State Standards in Mathematics.  In my opinion, they had absolutely no place at the table or in front of a microphone as the sub-committee conducted our review.  In fact, in the very first Standards Review Meeting in August, the Standards Steering Committee rejected a proposal to form a panel of experts to assist in this review process, saying that the work was to be done by the appointed committee members only.

This morning in Baton Rouge, in an effort to continue the high school discussions prior to the full sub-committee meeting tomorrow, several of the high school sub-committee members met to review the Geometry standards revisions, with the rest of the high school sub-committee members reporting in this afternoon to continue the review.   Imagine my surprise to find, seated at the sub-committee table, Scott Baldridge (LSU math professor and author of Eureka Math) and James Madden (LSU Cain Center and another of the original writers of the national Common Core State Standards in Mathematics), both strong proponents of Common Core.  We were also joined by Carolyn Sessions (LDOE and PARCC) again.  Not surprisingly, all three spoke strongly against the sub-committee members’ proposed changes to the current Louisiana Common Core Geometry Standards, and once again, I feel very strongly that these people had absolutely no place at these discussions.

Why are we conducting a review if the same people who brought us Common Core are invited to a seat at the table and are encouraged to influence the committee in a particular direction in which they benefit?

What is the purpose of the Louisiana Standards Review if we are expected to join lock-step with the ones who brought us our current standards…the ones who wrote the corresponding curriculum…the ones who created PARCC?   Legislators were promised a fair and impartial process and are getting neither.  I expect outrage when concerned citizens find out exactly who was invited to join these sub-committee meetings.

From the start, this process has not been designed so that a “panel of educators” can “write Louisiana’s very own standards, “ as we have all read in news articles and have heard in campaign commercials.  Sadly, I now know that all that is wanted from the math sub-committee is a word change here…a tweak there….a rebrand of Common Core.

Dear Louisiana, I would love the opportunity to participate in a thorough review process, much like what was done in Indiana.  I want the chance to review every single mathematics standard in Grades K-12 from many different states and to choose the structure and sequence that will serve Louisiana students well.  I want the time to check for vertical alignment across all grades and subjects and to check for proper scaffolding, consistent wording, and skill progression.  I want the time to discuss the “missing” high school math skills in the current Louisiana standards and to make sure that our standards align with those included on the ACT.  I want to get it right.  I feel that I have much to contribute to the development of the best possible set of math standards for the students who are fortunate to call Louisiana their home.  I have not given up on my hope for this outcome in the years to come, but I have lost all confidence in continuing down this current path.  I cannot and will not be a part of this process anymore.

It has been my pleasure working with those of you on the math sub-committee.  Your commitment and passion to mathematics education inspires me, and I wish you well as you continue the work.

Brenda DeFelice

In an email to me dated December 14, 2015, DeFelice added the following:

The fourth person present that morning (December 02, 2015) was Tiah Alphonso (Program Manager of Curriculum Production at Eureka Math).  In my hurry to get the resignation letter written and sent, I was not able to find her full name and job title in time to include her in the resignation letter.  She was there, and she was vocal as well.

In her October 25, 2015_letter referenced above, DeFelice expressed concern at not having access to Louisiana’s version of PARCC so that she and other math reviewers might understand the degree of connection between Common Core and Louisiana PARCC:

After our sub-committee meeting last week, I left with many questions over our discussions regarding the directive, that we must follow, which states that standards are not to include specific strategies and methodologies.  Are the strategies listed after the words “for example” and “e.g.” truly optional, only examples, and not required to be taught in the classroom?  If this is indeed the case, then why are these same strategies apparently tested in questions on the 3-8 PARCC-like tests and high School EOC exams?  Are these strategies only included in questions written for specific standards?  Only in certain grades?  Only for specific domains/clusters?  We do not have the answers to these questions.

As of the time of her resignation, Common Core review committee members were refused access to Louisiana PARCC questions.

One more observation:

In another statement of her concerns, DeFelice notes evidence of groups feeding Common Core approval comments to the comment portal:

Evidence of Small Groups Working Together on the Public Portal to Just Click Yes for Approval of Standards

  • Look at time and date stamps on the screen shots from High School Geometry on August 5th.
  • Between 8-10 reviewers approved every standard (with only one reviewer changing one word in one standard) for High School Geometry in ONLY 18 MINUTES (time stamped from 14:14 to 14:32).
  • With the total number of reviewers for all High School Geometry standards ranging from 17-21 on any given standard, these clumped reviews represent a significant portion (approximately half) of all the reviews for each standard and certainly increase the statistic that gives the Percent Feedback that Recommends Standard Remain Unchanged.
  • This statistic is the main one listed on the summary page for the public review portal comments for each grade level and content area.

Regarding this additional list of concerns, DeFelice added the following explanation in the December 14, 2015, email to me:

Standards Review Committee Concerns:  This is a list of concerns I had compiled for Rep. Brett Geymann early on in the process.  He and several other lawmakers issued a press release that included this list.  I did not share this list with the sub-committee, and I was not identified as the author of the list in the press release.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Louisiana standards review, and it appears to be a protected path to a Common Core rubber stamp.

I have spoken with DeFelice and plan to interview her in person on her experience with the Louisiana Common Core review.

More to come.

rubber stamp 3


Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, published in June 2015.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

  1. And who is surprised ?
    Some one needs to write a book, “Eureka, the Death of Math”.
    Apologies to Archimedes.

  2. Another piece of evidence to be used in an indictment relative to John White’s (et al) illegal/unethical promotion of Eureka Math. More than enough factual evidence from White’s dismissal of textbook statute governing adoption of instructional materials to his bogus textbook review committees to his printed letter of recommendation to (now Great Minds).
    There are bound to have been “promises” made for his compliance and $$$ to be gained by those involved. On top of the misappropriation of local, state and federal dollars based on test scores and school performance score fraud. . . . Can’t wait til the call is made for audit and investigation.

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  1. Mercedes Schneider: Sure Is Hard Getting an Independent Review of Common Core | Diane Ravitch's blog

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