Sunday, February 27, 2011

Meanwhile, for Those of Us Who Actually Teach

I know that the most important thing going on right now is all of the day lighting of the incompetent and criminal behavior going on at the John Stanford Center for Education Excellence. Please don't let up on this until every rock has been overturned.

However, Cliff Mass wrote an Op-Ed in the Seattle Times that was published on Friday about the possibility that Washington may adopt the Common Core national standards. This would be a major tragedy for our students, especially in mathematics. Now I freely admit that I do not like the books that I have been saddled with to teach Algebra 1 and Algebra 2, but I do have to say that the new standards are excellent and I see no reason to do anything to them. To adopt the Common Core would be a step backward, as they are not as rigorous as out current standards and are hard to understand.

Please remember as we send the current top administration down the road, the idea is to educate children and prepare them for the future. Please don't let this assault on the state math standards pass by unnoticed.



ConcernedTeacher said...

There were very few people who showed up to the public meetings, and when I spoke up about my objections to adopting these, I was shot down by the head PTA person there and his honchos who spoke about how great it would be to have these when moving from school to school and to different states - everyone teaching the exact same thing at the exact same time (regardless of whether or not is appropriate for that group of kids). He didn't seem to get my points about how alarming it was that a small group of people were going to determine what is important for all kids to learn - no matter what their locality and culture - and that this would soon lead to a national curriculum and a national test; in essence more one-size-fits-all. Additionally, I have grave concerns with how quickly these are being written; some countries have taken 6-8 years just to get drafts out and in the hands of educators for input, yet these are pretty much done. The last time I looked at the second grade reading standards, much of the literature being considered was completely inappropriate for 2nd graders, particularly those who are not yet reading at grade level or have ELL backgrounds, which for me is generally most of my class. They might be great for those high-income Bellevue schools where the majority of the kids are white, wealthy, and speak English, but that's not what a large segment of the public school population in this country is made up of.

Alfie Kohn has a pretty good take on the national standards - I don't agree with all of his points, but he has some good ones.


Chris S. said...

Getting more disillusioned about the PTA every day...

Zebra (or Zulu) said...

Michael...thanks for bringing this one up. I spent a month writing a standards alignment document for an alternative curriculum to EveryDay Math and have served on math panels with Prof. Mass. He has been on point for a number of years regarding math standards and textbooks. I agree with his editorial wholeheartedly.

Allow me to provide blog readers with one exemplar of how unruly Common Core Standards really are using the following contrast. Put down your beer first - as Melissa so eloquently pointed out yesterday we don't want any spit-up accidents.

Washington State Standards - Algebraic Relationships - Grade 5

5.4.B Write a rule to describe the relationship between two sets of data that are linearly related.

Common Core - Algebraic Thinking - Grade 5:

3. Generate two numerical patterns using two given rules. Identify apparent relationships between corresponding terms. Form ordered pairs consisting of corresponding terms from the two patterns, and graph the ordered pairs on a coordinate plane. For example, given the rule “Add 3” and the starting number 0, and given the rule “Add 6” and the starting number 0, generate terms in the resulting sequences, and observe that the terms in one sequence are twice the corresponding terms in the other sequence. Explain informally why this is so.
Huh? The CC Standards are full of that type of hyperbole. While comprehensible to most teachers, they are unusable as a teaching guide.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Rice,

Thanks for bringing this critical issue to the attention of this group of involved, active community members.

As a math teacher at Franklin, I can't see any good reason to adopt these standards - unless we're going to burn up another decade of time, of money, and of students chasing the fantasies of the reform math crowd.

While there were many problems with the way I was taught 40 years ago, those problems are in large part gone because many of those out of touch grouchy head-in-the-clouds math teachers have long ago retired from teaching, or from the mortal coil.

THE PROBLEMS in math today start with a lack of mastery with basic skills, and with an unwillingness to acknowlede that skill mastery ... yawn ... takes work. Period.

As a society we never question the idea that it takes mastery of basic skills to BEGIN to master things which are interesting, whether 1 is playing the violin or basketball or singing or building cabinets or fixing cars or writing or starting a cooking career ...

The reform math crowd will not admit to their stunning failures because they'd have to come up with solutions other than more meetings for adults, more studies by adults, more junkets with adults, more fiddling with more paper ... and more employment doing meetings, junkets, studies, fiddling and paper.

Help us help our kids get the skills to participate, to compete, and most importantly, to create the next steamships and computer chips.

Bob Murphy

We are such stuff
As dreams are made on,
and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

Zebra (or Zulu) said...

Bob...you nailed it...'basic skills mastery.'

I remember MGJ discussing the waiver that Schmitz Park acquired to implement Singapore Math. Her comment was that it's a "drill and kill" curriculum.

The arrogance and ignorance was astounding. First, it is no such strategy as "drill and kill" in that program, and second, Singapore Math focuses on the "mastery" of concepts. If mastery correlates to "drill and kill," the relationship (if one exists) is remote at best.

The "inquiry-centered" ideology (from which the CC Standards hail) of math instruction fails to recognize that math has three levels of practice: the concrete, pictorial (visual), and the abstract (algebraic and higher thinking).

As children advance through grades, they move from the concrete to the abstract utilizing various skills taught by teachers. Drill and kill (practice) is a strategy, not a paradigm. However, the dogmatic adherence to "inquiry-based" mathematics, whereby students must rediscover Pythagorus, is nothing more than an inefficient route to mathematical understanding. That's why CC Standards are not what Washington State students need. Efficiency and mastery are the core elements of a focused math program. Discovery (inquiry) is a low efficiency teaching strategy which, as Dan Dempsey has pointed out so well time and again, stinks!

dan dempsey said...

And who will be paying for the $183 million to implement the Common Core State Standards Initiative in WA State? ...

91% according to OSPI will come from local district funds. So the Districts get an additional financial burden which does ZERO for students.... in order to support more "overhead from elsewhere".

The Districts were expecting $208 million from Sen. Patti Murray's school funding bill ..... but the Gov. and legislature hi-jacked that and put it in the General Fund.

So now the Districts will be on the hook for $160+ million (to implement CCSSI)... thanks to legislation pushed by Randy Dorn, Gov. Chris, and many state legislators. This is nuts. Students need assistance please no required administrator stimulus package should be paid for from local funds.

As most who teach realize it is student learning than needs to be the focus.

Mike Rice is correct CCSSI is academically inferior in math. The CCSSI will be an expensive mis-step for WA State.

Note a two year delay is a no-brainer because the first CCSI testing is slated for 2015.

Unfortunately the Bill, HB 1891 to delay for two years the adoption of the CCSS never got a hearing. House Education Chair Sharon Tamiko Santos decided against giving HB 1891 a hearing. Her district the 37th, includes Aki Kurose, RBHS, Cleveland. Clearly she has failed to do much to impact education positively in the 37th. Blocking a hearing on HB 1891 ... is a big hint as to why things have not improved in the 37th.

Perhaps Rep. Santos needs to talk with Mr. Michael Rice, who teaches students in the 37th.

The $183 million over 5 years estimate is from OSPI.

wseadawg said...

Without a dysfunctional curriculum to propogate throughout the nation, there wouldn't be for-profit tutoring businesses popping up in every neighborhood, would there? Hmmm. Think these things are done by design? Who ultimately benefits?

chunga said...

Yes, thanks for bringing up this important topic. The Common Core debate is primarily not a reform vs traditional math conflict. It is primarily about power and who has it: corporate reformers or educators.

While I generally support constructivist approaches to math (and disagree with some of the Where's the Math crowd), I am in complete agreement that the Common Core are ill-conceived and should not be adopted by WA. Decisions about standards should be primarily driven and approved by educators, not corporations and politicians. I can live with some traditional math if that decision is arrived at by educators in a thoughtful manner.

LG said...

Who do we contact to oppose the national standards?