Update: some of you may have missed the link below to a video of a kindergarten teacher teaching math via Common Core standards. I'm putting it in this thread as well.
New York State's Education department has a website to promote its work called EngageNY. @The Chalk Face education blog has a story on Common Core videos that are being used.
I personally found the one
in the story - for kindergarteners - to be somewhat disturbing. There
is something so mechanical and detached about the way this teacher is
providing the teaching. I also learned that there's two ways to
think/learn about math. The teacher does not state the name of the
first way (as she starts) but she calls the second way, "the math way."
Can a teacher or someone who knows about teaching math explain why the
students would need to learn to think of math in two different ways?
What is interesting as well are the comments to this story. Is warmth
and engagement just as important as teaching and learning? Does it
matter more at one grade level than another?
End of Update.
First, a link to a great interview in the NY Times with Liping Ma, a former teacher and principal in China, who writes about the differences in how China and the US teach math. Important reading if you care about math instruction (thanks to reader Dan Dempsey).
The writing below is from a member of the SPS math committee who does not want to be named but wanted to give input on what is happening with the work. This person is careful to state that he/she does NOT speak for the committee but is reflecting on their work.
I appreciate the input on Common Core standards.
Start of reflection (bold mine):
In response to a comments from a publisher forwarded to a community member…
Publisher: "Seattle, like many other districts currently conducting curricula reviews, has rigid guidelines based on the Common Core. The boilerplate publisher applications are exacting to the letter of the CCSS, but not necessarily the spirit of the movement. Thus, our currently available series would not pass the muster despite the obvious parallels between [our framework] and the Standards for Mathematical Practice. Looking forward, we will be releasing a new CCSS-aligned edition [of our product] this coming Spring and therefore will be much better positioned to market to schools and districts looking for ‘CCSS Stamped’ programs."
Community member added: “So CCSS and national testing will dictate what is taught in the classrooms.”
I can give you my impression of the email based on my experience as a member of the Math Adoption committee, but recognize I am not an expert. I first confronted the common core (CC) standards in detail when I first joined the committee.
I am not sure whether perspective from the marketing manager is accurate, at least the way I have experienced it. I don't know the exact timing of the solicitations but I think that the requests to all the publishers went out before the committee ever met – our first task was to come up with our evaluation criteria, and the scoring and weights were not developed until last week (week of December 20th). Not sure how the publishers could not have known the rigidity, or lack of it, until after they chose to not participate. From their email it appears perhaps that they are just late, which is too bad since they do have a good reputation. But there are other publishers who have participated who also have a good reputation, including one based on the same teaching method as this publisher, and others that are the favorite of a few teachers at my daughter’s school.
The evaluation method derived by the committee to me appears thoughtful, but not overly rigorous; it includes reasonable room for interpretation within the core components and while a majority of the weight is given to adherence to the core elements, it is not much more than half, and the other part is given to a broad category of its "effectiveness of implementation/delivery”, including things such as the ability of the teacher to deliver the lessons, navigate the tools, support a variety of student backgrounds, and also help support parents. Being a parent member you would think that I would have been the strongest supporter of the latter component, but the teachers are dedicated to making sure the curriculum is understandable to parents. I did not have to advocate for this at all
As for the Common Core itself the tone of the letter below seems to be mocking it. I have spoken to nearly all of the teachers who are on the committee and not only do they like the Common Core but there is genuine enthusiasm about it; I can be cynical about a lot of things, and some have called me a nihilist, but the enthusiasm shown by the teachers has made be a believer.
I have also learned to view a standard differently. One should not view it as a way for some body to impose their will on others I now think of if it as a guidepost for teachers to work well together across grades, or school, etc. The benefits of having confidence in what their next brood of students will know is worth restricting their own options slightly so that they can provide the same courtesy to the teacher’s one up the ladder. This and they appear to think the standards are actually good.
As far as testing, the perspective of some teachers is that it may now be the other way around; the teaching will dictate the tests, and the teachers appear to anticipate the testing will be helpful to them; yes, you read that right, these teachers appear to like the tests when they are aligned with both the standards and the text. Imagine being a teacher when the tests, standards, and texts are not speaking with a single voice. Who wouldn’t hate tests.
They are an impressive dedicated bunch, the teachers on the panel – they are dedicated, professional, thorough and thoughtful. They are so good in fact that I have been struggling to find a way to contribute since it is clear they do not need me to do a good job.
The evaluation process is a massive undertaking; but it did not have to be. It is time consuming by their choice to not exchange thoroughness for expediency. Each publisher includes up to 6 and some times more texts per grade level, plus computer (web) help for teachers, parents, and students. All of it needs to be evaluated and scored. In a group of three I spent between 10AM and 2PM on just one publisher and when I had to leave at 2:00 the other two were only halfway through this single offering, and all the other committee members were still at it too. The room was largely quiet but with an occasional inquiry or moment of ad-hoc deliberation over elements they were reading. They were helping each other understand the structure and nature of the offerings without even a hint that they were influencing each other’s opinions. They were all bringing their expertise to the problem in a vigorous and thoughtful way. I am a cancer researcher and I can say that I wish reviews of grants to the National Cancer Institute were always evaluated with as much thoughtfulness and care.
As the publishers comments states, that the common core is closely aligned to the principles used in their product; I know this is true because I once compared the CCSS boilerplate to this publishers own boilerplate and recognized the similarity. Perhaps there is an element of turf invasion here now that everyone is doing it their way and competing. A curriculum expert I spoke to said that the big losers in the CCSS movement will be the large-textbook markers because they now will have to compete on a national market, rather than simply making texts for Texas and California, then offering trivial modifications for small states like ours. This could bring a lot of innovation -- and some duds – but from what I have witnessed the teacher committee members, and the other non-teacher members (other than me) Seattle will be able to eliminate the duds pretty easily.
Hard to know what it means to be "exacting to the letter" of the CC which is intentionally not very exacting; from my perspective I wish it was more “exacting” then we would not have so many variations to consider. But the offerings vary quit a bit from each other while still addressing the core standards. It does not appear to have any risk of turning your teacher into a robot.
But I am all-new to this myself, and it is also based on my short experience, so reasonable people can disagree. When I started this evaluation I had no idea what to expect. The professionalism and enthusiasm of the teachers who are involved makes me feel highly optimistic about the changes that are coming. My enthusiasm was not there when I started. I acquired it by spending some time looking at what the CC is and inquiring about the enthusiasm seen in these teachers. There is not a note of pessimism in the room.