Sharon Necaise, a public school educator at West Feliciana High School, in St. Francisville, La., told FoxNews.com her experience with Common Core has been positive.
"This is the thing, [Common Core] brings a critical thinking and cognitive awareness component that will ensure our students and children are not robots," Nercaise said.
Teachers complain Common Core-linked lessons little more than scripts to read
By Perry ChiaramontePublished December 05, 2013 FoxNews.com
Friday, December 6, 2013
Having written a check for $445 this morning to cover the cost of the 5 AP tests my son will take in May, I figure I'm allowed to gripe a little bit. I came close to telling him not to bother taking the tests. They will have NO influence on whether he gets into one college or another. However, his school won't give him the weighted value for the course unless he can get at least a '3' on each test. Never mind that all of his grades are A's. Does anyone know of students who do not bother to take the tests? I think the cost is too high and parents should not have to pay for them 6 months ahead of time. I feel like I'm at the car dealership for service. I just write the check.
Thursday, December 5, 2013
Enhancing the Efficacy of Teacher Incentives
Loss-aversion incentives increased math test scores between 0.2 and 0.4 standard deviations
In recent years, a number of U.S. states and school districts have implemented teacher financial-incentive plans, also known as merit pay, with the goal of increasing student achievement. Some past studies have shown that such reform attempts, which pay teachers bonuses after their students hit certain goals, have had limited effects on student achievement.
In Enhancing the Efficacy of Teacher Incentives Through Loss Aversion: A Field Experiment (NBER Working Paper No. 18237), co-authors Ronald Fryer, Jr., Steven Levitt, John List, and Sally Sadoff find that using an alternative "loss aversion" incentive -- with teachers being paid bonuses in advance and asked to give money back if students don't achieve specific results -- significantly improves student achievement. Their results also suggest that loss-aversion incentives might be used in the corporate world in the pursuit of profits.
Although earlier studies have confirmed a correlation between teacher quality and student achievement, the challenge to date has been identifying quality teachers and providing proper incentives for all teachers to successfully strive for improved and lasting student achievement. At least ten states and numerous school districts in the United States have adopted programs that reward teachers with extra pay after students achieve certain goals on tests or report cards, but these "traditional" incentive programs generally have not had large effects on long-term student performance.
Fryer and his co-authors conduct a field experiment of teacher incentives using the concept of loss aversion -- that is, by framing incentives as losses rather than gains. They worked with schools in Chicago Heights, Illinois, which is located thirty miles south of Chicago and has nine K-8 schools with a total of about 3,200 students, during the 2010-11 school year. Chicago Heights' schools are made up of primarily low-income minority students who struggle with low achievement rates.'
In cooperation with school administrators and the teachers' union, the authors randomly selected 150 volunteer teachers and divided them into two main categories. The "gain" group was subject to traditional merit-pay incentives distributed after student achievement levels were determined and met; the "loss" group was subject to loss-aversion incentives that gave bonuses in advance, with the stipulation that money would be returned by teachers if students didn't hit stipulated test goals at the end of the school year. With a pool of $632,960 to distribute in incentive payments, the authors further subdivided the "gain" and "loss" groups in order to measure individual-based and team-based teacher incentives.
Using benchmarks from prior student test scores and final end-of-school-year ThinkLink Predictive Assessment test results, the authors find that loss-aversion incentives increased math test scores between 0.2 and 0.4 standard deviations, or the equivalent of increasing teacher quality by more than one standard deviation. The traditional "gain" incentives yielded "smaller and statistically insignificant results." Similar patterns were found in reading test scores -- and in both individual-based and team-based teacher incentive approaches. The authors did not identify any other factors, such as student absenteeism or outright cheating in test scores, which could explain the differences in achievement results.
Saturday, November 23, 2013
Here's a weird thought to ponder: across the land, future teachers are being taught that direct instruction is bad, that they should be the guide on the side, that the discover method is the best way to educate...but exactly HOW are they being taught this? Does a guide on the side help them to discover the enduring understanding that this is the best way to teach? I bet not. I bet they are being directly instructed not to directly instruct. Hmm...
The reason this came to mind is that I was remembering a curriculum writing workshop in which I was instructed (and it felt direct to me) that if a question has a single correct answer then it is not an essential question.
What has happened is that the understanding-by-design crowd has claimed the term "essential question" as their own special buzzword. I guess the common core crowd is using it too.
...taking and successfully completing an Algebra II course, which once certified high school students’ mastery of advanced topics in algebra and solid preparation for college-level mathematics, no longer means what it once did. The credentialing integrity of Algebra II has weakened.
The declining significance of successfully completing Algebra II highlights a dilemma. Pushing students to take more advanced coursework has been a mainstay of American school reform for several decades. That prescription has worked in boosting enrollments. In 1986, less than half of all 17 year-olds (44%) had completed Algebra II, and for Black and Hispanic students, the rate was less than a third. Completing Algebra II is now commonplace. In 2012, about three-fourths of students completed Algebra II, and the race/ethnicity gaps associated with taking the course have narrowed significantly. (All NAEP data below are from the NAEP data explorer.)
Getting more students to take higher level math courses may be a hollow victory. It has not coincided with students learning more math.
It's been somewhat fun.
It's also been interesting in that I discovered, on my first night 'back,' that I had missed the board. Missed as in missed members of the board as people for whom I feel a great deal of affection. I was happy to see them again, after so long away.
I've spent years attempting to reform my district, and being frustrated by the administration and by whoever was currently serving on the board who wasn't someone I helped elect.
And Chris's middle school years were harrowing.
But Chris's middle school years are well behind us now, and come to find out, my essential emotion today, where board members are concerned, is: affection.
I seem to feel the same way about our administrators. (That's really weird.)
Ed says I have become the loyal opposition.
Anyway, it's somewhat fun to be back.
The somewhat comes from the content of board meetings, which is never what I want. Or, rather, it's (sometimes) in the vicinity of what I want, but it's not what I actually want.
Plus, there are surprises.
Last Tuesday night's surprise was the revelation that the district does not have an early reading curriculum.
I had been assuming we had a bad one. Last I checked we have something like 18% of kids going into 'Tier 2' intervention, and I'm pretty sure that number would be 10% with a good reading curriculum. (I hope palisadesk is around to weigh in.)
So I had just naturally been assuming that we have a really bad early reading curriculum the same way we had a really bad math curriculum in K-5 and a really bad reading curriculum in the middle school.
We don't have any early reading curriculum at all.
The funny (ha-ha) thing about this is that back when Ed and I first moved to town we became dimly aware of what seemed to be chronic conflicts at the board level re: not enough textbooks to go around. Various classes didn't have enough textbooks, and somehow enough textbooks were never bought or budgeted for or who knows what, and teachers were getting in trouble for spilling the beans to parents about the not-enough-textbooks situation, until finally the then-board president took matters in his own hands and decreed that enough textbooks be ordered at once and distributed to students. That's the story I heard, at any rate.
So it's path dependency.
We have always been a district with a not-enough-textbooks problem, and we are evolving into a district with no textbooks at all.
I'm sure regular attendance at board meetings will reverse that trend.
Friday, November 22, 2013
Monday, November 18, 2013
In 2007, MN adopted "better, more rigorous!" standards that they claimed were the tops in the nation, matching MA and CA. In these, all 8th graders were required to take Algebra through the algebra of the line. This would now be called "algebra 1", and algebra 1 was no longer a credit bearing course in high school. Also in these changes, all high schoolers were required to take algebra 2 before graduation. The standards defining algebra 2 covered only those subjects expected to be
learned to mastery. These standards did not include trigonometry nor logarithms nor other kinds of mathematics.
In 2011, the standards were rolled in. The state did not change the teacher credentialing requirements for 8th grade math teachers.
The new Algebra 1 class looked like old Algebra 1 to parents. Except it's only 1/2 of the algebra they knew. And Algebra 2 is about 1/2 of the algebra 2 they knew. But there's no way to be half a year ahead, though, for most schools, and therefore, for kids. So the new alg 1 is the only alg 1, and the only alg 2 is the rest of the old alg 1 and 1/2 of old alg 2.
Content including trig, logs, complicated factoring, circular functions, all of this is now in pre calc.
Limits, sequences and series, graphing of high order functions, de Moivre's theorem, etc. is now in most APcalc classes.
Now, schools cheat this by offering a year for AP calc AB, they claim, and a year for AP calc BC.
But this is a sham. A 5 of the AB test is mathematically no less than a 4 on the the BC, because the BC test simply does not offer that much more material than a competent calculus course would already have offered. While it does offer new topics, it most definitely does not offer multivariate calc, which is the 2nd term of calc in any semester-based engineering or STEM calculus sequence, and the third term at any quarter based university calc sequence.
So...to recap: we in MN, without CC, teach algebra earlier now, and as a result, kids leave no better off where they did before in terms of knowledge, but a year behind the titles of the courses they are taking. They and their parents are misled about what they know and what they have been taught when.
For the majority, they basically take pre calc, same as always. But for the honors kids who used to get a real AP course that really was the equivalent of the first semester of calculus, they are screwed. They no longer get that, or they only do by taking finding some school supposedly giving them alg 2 in 8th grade--who is qualified for that???? and then, they still only get as far as 1 term of college calc. Likely they waste a year instead of learning something for real.
This means without 2 years of supposed hs calc, they are not ready for calc based physics in college.
This can't be blamed on Common Core. This can't be blamed on ed schools, either.
This is the Cargo Cult of education (a phrase I coined here UPDATE! below) and the Cargo Cult of politics. We walk around, mimicking what real people once did, pretending that coconut headphones and a guy waving sheets as if they are semaphores on the tarmac will bring back the cargo planes.
The legislature pretended that decreeing students do something earlier was the same as doing it well.
The legislature pretended decreeing everyone take algebra 2 would make them capable of it.
The Dept of Ed pretended to concur and changed the content of the standard.
The publishers pretended to concur and changed the content of the books.
The schools pretended to concur and changed the content of the courses.
The teachers pretended to concur and gave everyone high grades.
The parents and students ...well? some pretend their schools are still great. Some are duped until college. And even then, most just want someone else to pay for the student loans they had to take for remediation, not yet angry about the remediation.
But the kids who used to be ready for an engineering degree program are no longer ready, and are losing ground compared to their foreign counterparts.
Until people admit reality we will keep playing these games.
From the MN dept of ed Math 2007 standards FAQ
"Some algebra II material is introductory in nature and lays the foundation for future courses. Students are not expected to master such material. For example, logarithms are usually introduced in algebra II, but mastery of the fundamentals of logarithms is not expected until precalculus or college algebra. For this reason, logarithms are not mentioned in the 9-11th grade standards and benchmarks."
UPDATE: E. D. Hirsch first used the phrase Cargo Cult here http://www.hoover.org/publications/policy-review/article/7262 to refer to the state of educational research. My use of it was independent of this, and somewhat different.
Saturday, November 9, 2013
Isn't there one right answer to "how many ways can we achieve the sum of 23"?
Isn't the answer: "There are an infinite number of ways to achieve the sum of 23"?
Another thing: would this question be asked, in this way, in combinatorics? (In the time I've spent trying to learn combinatorics, I haven't encountered a question with more than one right answer. Nor did I encounter a question with an answer of infinity.)
(And how is this question "topical"?)
I am watching in amazement as Common Core rolls across the land.
It's as if every constructivist in the country has suddenly been handed a lifetime prescription for anabolic steroids.
All those years of No Child Left Behind and Adequate Yearly Progress must have created a massive pent-up desire in the breasts of America's educators to conduct mini-lessons and ask math questions with no right answer.
My son also has a college brochure stack two feet tall. He also made the comment that if you put your hand over the name of the college, you could not tell which one it is. (That would make a good YouTube video. Name This College.) I also liked the survey where they asked students why they got into a top college and the general response was: "I have no clue whatsoever." For others, however, it seemed like the extra oblong interest and special talent made the difference. It has to be special or at some particularly high level.Steve is in his year of viewing dangerously....college viewbooks are a world unto themselves.
Unfortunately, the segment talks only about the most egregious application mistakes and stupid parents. I would like to be a fly on the wall when admissions people make the final decision. After they process race, gender, sports, and alumni parents, (grades are given), there will still be many to choose from - maybe one in five. what are the deciding factors? It might depend on whether you catch the eye of one of the strong or powerful admissions people. It might be your essay that does it, but it might also be your special talent.
My favorites were the ones from Grinnell, which were so striking, and so indecipherable in terms of who the intended audience was supposed to be and what message we were supposed to be taking away, that I kept scans.
What is the story Grinnell is telling prospective parents with these images?
After the mean girls reject your son, he'll gel his hair and take up violin?
And this is worth $50k a year?
By the way, if I were the parents of the three girls, I would have been furious. They are sisters whose parents -- both university professors in Kabul -- immigrated from Afghanistan. They're beautiful girls, and Grinnell had no business a) taking a photo like that and b) using it to promote the college.
Of course, maybe the parents weren't consulted. Which makes it even worse.
Thursday, October 31, 2013
As the nation's schools undergo a wave of teacher retirements, some 25% of teachers have only five or fewer years in the classroom, "a precipitous decline" in experience since the late 1980s, when the typical teacher had 15 years' experience, according to a study by the National Commission on Teaching & America's Future, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit advocating teacher quality.This generation of teachers has been trained in pure constructivism.
That may explain why some 43% of parents report being "extremely worried" about their kids' elementary-school teacher assignments, according to a poll last month of 306 parents by CafeMom, a social-networking and community website.
Dread of August: The Kids' Teacher Assignments | By SUE SHELLENBARGER | Aug. 6, 2013
According to Robert Slavin, direct instruction hard been all but dropped from teacher training by 1991.
Something really struck me as strange during Fordham's panel discussion last week. At 54min 50sec in the video, there's a very basic, yet revealing, question posed by this young lady.
Question: Garrett Fryer American Youth Policy Forum Was there ever a discussion, when you all were designing it, to implement it on a kindergarten level and letting it grow with the students as they aged on through each grade, as oppossed to implementing it with the entire school system nation wide?
Answer: Jason Zimba This is something that states have each approached differently. Some states have done something more like that, some states have done something less like that. I seem to remember at one point I saw a MA plan where the grade level wasn’t the key parameter, but they had a Venn diagram, you know, what we do now the Common Core doesn’t do, what the Common Core does that we don’t, and then what sort of overlap, where we want to do it better. And they decided to take those three... in year one, we’re gonna focus on the overlap and do it better. In year two, we’ll drop things… and then in year three, we’ll add… I got the details of that wrong, but… my only point is that different states all approached it differently, and we may find out that some states were much wiser than others in this way. Singapore has a long standing, high functioning system in which they not only revise their syllabus ever so often, but they do it actually on the basis of how kids do, so think about that, a performance-based loop, a feedback loop. Which is something we are taking halting steps toward, but can only imagine. And so roughly every six years or so, they’ll put out tweaks to the thing. This year I noticed that they’ve rolled out a new thing in kindergarten.
Lisa wonders... How in the world can one "image" OR take "halting steps toward" creating a "high functioning system" based on a "performance-based feedback loop" when we are STARTING with a top-down DESIGN by the name of Common Core?
Mathematically proficient students start by explaining to themselves the meaning of a problem and looking for entry points to its solution. They analyze givens, constraints, relationships, and goals. They make conjectures about the form and meaning of the solution and plan a solution pathway rather than simply jumping into a solution attempt. They consider analogous problems, and try special cases and simpler forms of the original problem in order to gain insight into its solution. They monitor and evaluate their progress and change course if necessary.I haven't watched the video, but I hope one of the approaches the two students consider involves asking the teacher what the problem means by "the chairs."
This video shows an excerpt of a conversation between two students comparing approaches to solving a problem and trying to understand why they got different answers and where one of them made an error.
Three halls contained 9,876 chairs altogether. One-fifth of the chairs were transferred from the first hall to the second hall. Then, one-third of the chairs were transferred from the second hall to the third hall and the number of chairs in the third hall doubled. In the end, the number of chairs in the three halls became the same. How many chairs were in the second hall at first.
By happenstance, my students and I read the first half of G.K. Chesterton's essay on fairy tales in class today. When I say "read," I mean that my students and I read each sentence individually and out loud and then stopped so I could explain what the sentence meant and why after first asking the person who had just read to take a crack at it.
Chesterton's opening lines:
Some solemn and superficial people (for nearly all very superficial people are solemn) have declared that the fairy-tales are immoral; they base this upon some accidental circumstances or regrettable incidents in the war between giants and boys, some cases in which the latter indulged in unsympathetic deceptions or even in practical jokes. The objection, however, is not only false, but very much the reverse of the facts.I asked my students what the words "the objection" meant. When nobody knew, I pointed out that the words "the objection" function as an anaphora: the definite determinative (the) tells you that you already know which (or what) objection because you've seen it before, in the text. It's the objection, not "an objection."
So, if you've already seen "the objection," and you've only read one other sentence, what is the objection? It's got to be inside that one other sentence.
At that point, my student who was educated outside the United States in his early elementary years (and who speaks very lightly accented English) figured it out.
My answer to the Illustrated Math problem, which I arrived at on my own and without a lot of conjecturing and solution-pathway-planning and special-case mongering and the like is: 4,938.
The Common Core era is going to be an unhappy one for mathematically gifted children.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
I'm waiting for the many apologies due to come rolling in from all the central administrators & board members who insisted on sticking with Trailblazers for lo these many years.
My favorite was the board member who said, during the candidates' forum, "We're not changing the math curriculum because of 20 people on a blog."
He meant list serve.
Saturday, October 26, 2013
We've hired a curriculum director who is a smart, fantastically hard-working true believer in the wisdom of mini-lessons and students designing their own "literacy" curriculum by choosing their own books to read for class and discussing them in pairs or pods.
A smart, fantastically hard-working true believer gets a lot more done than a dull and lazy true believer.
(Ed and I and numerous others fought to keep that position from being filled, by the way. Fought.)
So, where Common Core is concerned--Common Core as understood by a public school curriculum director--we are ahead of the curve.
Which means that after 10 years of strife over Math Trailblazers we have unceremoniously dumped Trailblazers and adopted the engageny math modules, which are being written and posted as we speak. No teacher has ever taught engageny math, no student has ever learned engageny math, engageny math does not yet exist in toto, and the vast set of engageny material has to be downloaded from the internet.
And this is what we're using.
Because, you know, COMMON CORE.
Those are the magic words, COMMON CORE. Once an administrator invokes the name of COMMON CORE, s/he is absolved of all responsibility for children actually learning math.
So here we are:
- The children have no math textbooks
- Because Trailblazers was so slow, children in later grades don't have the skills to begin grade-level engageny units, but they have all been forced to begin grade-level engageny units anyway, regardless of preparation
- Because we've never had a scope and sequence for any subject in the district (this state of affairs finally came to light at the last board meeting, after I requested a copy of our scope and sequence) no one has any idea what skills the kids are supposed to possess
- Because the district has never held itself responsible for children actually learning the content being covered in class (and retaught at home by parents & tutors) there is no mechanism in place to figure out what skills kids are missing
- Because no one apart from high school math teachers has any expertise in math, neither teachers, building principals, nor the curriculum director has any idea what the proper sequence of skills actually is & thus no idea how to assess the kids' "gaps" (lots of gaps talk amongst parents and teachers; calls to mind the early days of ktm)
- Although engageny promises a year-long "scope and sequence" for its curriculum "modules," the promised scope and sequence for math either: a) does not yet exist or b) does exist but is unusable by people absent a deep and hands-on knowledge of K-5 math and math curricula.
No one knows anything, and, very clearly, no one is going to know anything any time soon.
I've seen a lot of bad math teaching in my day (a whole lot), and a lot of bad math curricula, but I've never seen anything like this.
Friday, October 25, 2013
Heh. The word "nominalization" is a nominalization.I wish I'd thought of that.
I'm often asked what algebra book I'd recommend.
The answer is Modern Algebra, Structure and Method by Mary Dolciani et. al. Copyright 1960 or 1962. But I can't recommend any edition of it written after 1970 without reservations, and the 1980s and later one should probably be pulped.
The same book title with same author has over 100 versions with over 100 different ISBNs. The old ones I recommend don't even have ISBNs.
What's the difference? Here is a tiny slice.
Modern Algebra, Structure and Method, Dolciani, Berman, and Freilich, Hougton Mifflin Co., Boston. c. 1965, 1962. No known ISBN.
This is a great book. Mathematically rigorous, 30+ oral exercises per lesson, 40+ written exercises per lesson, and ten problems as well per lesson and real content.
Chapter 3, Addition and Multiplication of Real Numbers(p. 69) begins with a discussion of axioms of equality (3.1). It states clearly:
"you learned to perform many operations with numbers because you abided by certain rules.These rules, which are statements accepted as true are called assumptions, axioms, or postulates...The first fundamental assumptions that you will meet are the axioms of equality which govern your work with equations..."
3.2 covers axioms of closure. The language is sophisticated--
"Any set S is said to be closed under an operation performed on its elements, provided that each result of the operation is an element of S. This is known as the closure property of a set under an operation. Calculations in arithmetic are based on the often unstated assumption that the set of numbers is closed under addition and multiplication."
The text goes on to list and explain the closure properties of addition and multiplication,
explains the set of numbers of arithmetic is not closed under subtraction.
A later but still similar edition is
Modern Algebra, Structure and Method, Dolciani and Wooton, Hougton Mifflin, Boston c. 1970,
(this one has the pendulum picture on the cover.)
Yet already content is removed and moved.
3.1 leaves out all discussion of axioms of equality, relegating them to one pink box, no explanation.
The bit I quoted above, "you learned.....fundamental assumptions..." is not here at all.
The content of 3.2 and the axioms of closure are in 3.1 instead, including what I quoted above, "Any set S..." so the language that is preset isn't always simplified, but some is missing.
A discussion of how the set of odd numbers is closed under multiplication but not addition stayed in, but the statement that the set of numbers of arithmetic is not closed subtraction is taken out.
3.3 and 3.4 in this 1970 edition are totally different, however. Their material is about
adding and subtracting real numbers on the number line, material in chapter 4 of the 1962 edition. still, it's similar, some of it the same.
This book is one I managed to procure ten of to teach with. I need more, but so does everyone else, whether they know it or not. Anyone know if HMH ever grants permission for a fee to someone to copy their out of print books?
Then we come to lousy. Algebra, Structure and Method, Dolciani, Wooton, Sorgenfrey, and Brown, ISBN 0-395-26637-8, c. 1979 is a horse of a different color.
Gone are the explanations. Gone are the depth of problems. Gone is the mathematically deep and proper language. Wholly new material is added and it is watered down.
3.1 is now "Rules for Multiplication". It states:
"To learn how to multiply negative numbers, notice that
2 x (-1) = -1 + (-1) = -2
3 x (-1) = -1 + (-1) + (-1) =-3
and so on."
The next sections go on to transform equations by multiplication and division, even though in the prior books, doing those sections came after introducing the axioms of equality, closure, opposites, etc.
In 3.8, the total explanation of axioms is given:
"Many rules or number properties have been stated earlier in this book. Some are axioms. Others are theorems. An axiom is a statement that is assumed to be true. A theorem is a statement shown to be true by using axioms, definitions, and other theorems in a logical development. The axioms that account for the rules or properties used in working with real numbers are listed below."
And then there is a list. No explanation of closure at all, no explanation about the use of axioms.
Exercises are far cry in content. Six oral exercises as opposed to 30, 20 written, except with nearly all of the work done for you (2 column proofs, steps provided, you fill in the property)
no problems at all about what sets are closed under what operations.
Nonetheless, I did find 30 of these, and we use them. It still has more problems and exercises than nearly any other book these days. But the teacher really uses the other 10 books as the base.
Even worse is Algebra, Structure and Method, Dolciani, Brown, Cole, ISBN 0-395-43053-4, c. 1988.
This book managed to drop an entire chapter by Chap 2. Chap 2 "matches" the old chap 3, Addition and Multiplication of Real Numbers. But it has no mathematical language. No use of "set", no explanation in general about closure, nothing of the kind.
Now, chap 2, Working with Real Numbers", begins with
"The rules used in adding and multiplying real numbers are based on several properties that you can take for granted. For example, the following statements are accepted as facts.
1. Every pair of real numbers has a unique (one and only one) sum that is also a real number.
2. Every pair of real numbers has a unique product that is also a real number.
3. When you add two real numbers, you get the same sum no matter what order you use in adding them.
4. When you multiply two you get the same product no matter what order you use in multiplying them."
It doesn't get much better. No precision, no formalism.
Worse, the whole thing above is misleading. Nowhere does it explain that various subsets of the reals *aren't closed* under addition or multiplication. Nowhere does it ask students to determine closure.
Nowhere does it even explain a set.
Now, I just compared 3.2 for ease. I didn't cherry pick for the most egregious. But every page, every sentence is rewritten in these later editions. The relationship to the 1970 work is not recognizable.
This phenomenon is known in college level math and physics books, certainly--my 2nd ed Thomas (no Finney yet) calculus is a thing of beauty. My 3rd edition Kittel Thermal Physics is too. The later editions are dreadful. But most people don't know this about high school texts.
Suffice to say, the 1970 books will be even rarer now that people know to look for them, but if I were homeschooling or running a small class, I would spend the premium for the oldest you can possibly find, and junk anything from the 80s on.
In our town, life is going on just about the same. We still have Everyday Math and only those kids with help at home will get to algebra I in 8th grade and have a chance of getting to a STEM career. High school kids still pack their schedules with honors and AP classes while ignoring the meaningless state tests. The CC PARCC test will be no different. Students worry about the PSAT and SAT, but ignore the state tests. They are meaningless for them.I attended the SRO Common Core shindig in my district last night.
However, there are still many kids who will now have to meet these state test standards to get their high school degree. These are tests that try to judge one's thinking and understanding abilities, not just mastery of basic skills. They are the ones most hurt by these fuzzy tests. Classroom teachers should be the ones best able to judge these qualities, but it's now turned over to test makers who try to boil that ability into a few understanding-type questions on the state test.
Why should students fail to graduate high school when they pass high school courses but flunk a fuzzy state test? This is a failure of the school or the test. Why should minimal passing grades be based on fuzzy understanding rather than mastery of basic skills? How do these tests give teachers any feedback on how to improve? When my son was in first grade, I was a member of a parent-teacher team that evaluated our state test results. The test gave thinking-type questions where they (magically) split the results into areas like number sense and problem solving. Rather than directly test to see if students can add, subtract, and handle percentages and fractions, they test to see if they "understand".
So here we were sitting around a table discussing what could be done to fix a lower school score in "problem solving". The answer was to spend more time on, you guessed it, problem solving. If they tested something directly, like fractions, that would give them much better feedback. But then again, they should be doing that already. A state test should only be used as a last-resort check for systemic school failures, not as a means to check for "understanding".
The downside to CC is that many more will point to it as rigorous path that is meaningful to the development of their kids. I'm also waiting to see if our 7th and 8th grade math texts are watered down. A few years ago, we managed to get rid of CMP and replace them with the same strong algebra textbooks used by our high school. Common Core might now force us into a less rigorous path.
Irvington kids are going to be inferencing for 13 years.
Inferencing and problem-solving because, in the real world, math has more than one right answer.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
How much does it cost to hire a firm or an individual to run focus groups and write a report?
What I would specifically like to know is the prices for a firm not associated with the public education world to do this.
How much would it cost to hire a political polling firm, for instance?
If any of you has information, I'd love to hear.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
The problem is the name has changed, but the song remains the same.Given the difficulty of the Common Core tests, I wonder if we'll see so many parents up in arms that .... that school boards will finally have to wake up.
Common Core is the new "new Math", unfortunately the umbrella name for everything happening in math ed these days as the standards get put in place, including things that really have nothing to do with standards.
The Common Core State Standards were, and are, a set of standards. Standards are lists of requirements. It's true that CCSSI were more proscriptive than typical standards, but they were still just standards. Standards are not curriculum. For more on this, see my post.
The CC standards in k-8 are better than NY's previous standards. That is about the end of the good I can say in NY's implementation of the new standards.
For whatever reasons, probably largely related federal funding, states adopted CCSS. Except they did so before any textbooks had been written. And before the assessments against the standards had been written.
So NY schools and teachers were supposed to magically teach from the new standards about which they had been told nothing, or use hastily repackaged curricula that wasn't really changed, or who knows what.
But help was on the way! Engage NY was created! It would be an entire curriculum online, free to everyone, digital! No need for textbooks! Isn't that great? And famous mathematicians and math teachers who are pro Singapore math had signed up to lead the writing of the curriculum on EngageNY.
At some point last spring, I saw several job reqs from EngageNY. They needed curriculum writers. I considered taking the position. Then I looked at what was already on EngageNY.
I saw a fraction lesson that was fundamentally wrong from beginning to end. I saw other lessons with equally egregious errors. I told someone who told someone high up at EngageNY. The response was, yes, it's wrong, and the writer was informed, but the writer could not understand what was wrong with it and refused to rewrite it, saying they knew it was better for kids this way.
EngageNY is still beholden to the same NYS ed people. The math people who were supposedly leads don't control the curriculum; the bureaucrats do, and are actually telling the math people what the scope and sequence must be.
This is now all called "Common Core."
Till now, the math warriors in any community were always a minority, but now everyone's child is failing math.
That said, here in Irvington sentiment in the one and only survey ever taken on the subject, was around 80% anti-Trailblazers, and the board still voted to reject Singapore Math & keep Trailblazers.
Of course, the Interim Curriculum Director announced at the time that the survey was favorable to Trailblazers. She also announced, again, that the Parents Forum (me) had misled the public.
I always enjoyed that, sitting in the audience at school board meetings, being slandered via innuendo.
Or is that libeled?
I never remember which is which.
I learned the legal meaning of the word innuendo through direct personal experience of innuendo about me, purveyed by sitting members of the school board and by central administrators.
I'm going to go read the link Allison left to Wu's piece now.
Can a $400 Blender Change Your Life? Yes:
“I love my Vit-a-mix,” she continued, enunciating each syllable, before launching into a highly complimentary review of the company’s return and repair policy. “I love it so much, I would recommend it to the dead!”My thoughts exactly.
So. My district.
No longer has Math Trailblazers.
Does have timed worksheets.
With the predictable results.
Lost the battles--all of the battles--won the war. That was my conclusion.
My district does have good math scores, comparatively speaking, and I continue to think our math scores are 'real,' not a product of random variation. But we'll see.
The appearance of timed worksheets and better math scores coincided with our losing all the battles; that part is true, too.
It's the last part that doesn't track, the lost all the battles, won the war part. Normally when people lose all the battles they lose the war, too, and that's what happened here. We lost all the battles, and we lost the war--and we got better math scores in the bargain because somewhere in there, after ten or twelve years of parent uprisings, we got timed worksheets.
The battle to get rid of Math Trailblazers culminated in the district getting rid of Math Trailblazers...and replacing it with nothing.
We have no curriculum, in my view (I'm not going to be taking this one back), and we have no textbooks. Little kids are coming home from school in tears, not knowing how to do their math homework.
When parents complain, they are told "COMMON CORE" and sent to EngageNY. Some children have gaps because of COMMON CORE, parents are told. The younger kids will be in better shape than the older kids because they started COMMON CORE from the get-go & didn't have to suddenly shift over to COMMON CORE when the state commanded schools to shift over to COMMON CORE. COMMON CORE, COMMON CORE: COMMON CORE is the problem, and COMMON CORE is the explanation of the problem.
So I am told.
Meanwhile our new curriculum director (another battle lost) is engaged in a multi-year effort to "map" the curriculum.
When she is done, the curriculum will be modular (my term, not hers); we will be able to swap out old units and swap in new units whenever the state passes a new curricular mandate. No word as to whether ease of unit-swapping will solve the problem of gaps.
So yesterday I asked for a copy of the district's scope and sequence, K-12.
Not sure why I didn't do that years ago. It's funny how there are always some lines you feel you can't cross. I'm reasonably certain the district doesn't have a scope and sequence--a friend of ours was told so directly when he asked for one maybe 15 years ago--and for some reason I've felt I shouldn't put people on the spot by asking for something I'm pretty sure they don't have.
I do remember, I think, asking for copies of a math syllabus back when C. was in middle school -- I think Debbie S. may have done the same. I'll check. I think we were both told we couldn't have copies of the syllabus, but the details are hazy now....Actually, as I think about it, the then-Assistant Superintendent finally sent me a syllabus, which I discovered was for the old class with the old textbook. The district had adopted new textbooks that year, and as far as I could tell no one had written down a syllabus based on the book teachers were actually using.
I'm going to have to go through my old emails one of these days...
In any event, where the possibly apocryphal Irvington scope and sequence is concerned, now's the time. Presumably the high school classes have syllabuses (syllabi) and it's time for the community to see what K-8 has.
UPDATE: We don't have a scope and sequence and never did. Confirmed in BOE meeting of 10/22/2013.
Beyond that, I don't want to hear that young children are coming home crying over math and COMMON CORE did it.
The problem isn't COMMON CORE.
Children crying about math in Irvington long pre-dates COMMON CORE.
Heck, parents crying about math in Irvington long pre-dates COMMON CORE.
Crying and blogging.
I have to check in with Allison, who is I think on top of the NY situation vis a vis COMMON CORE math.
I love knowing someone in Minnesota who can explain my own state education department's math situation to me.
UPDATE 10/26/2013: We have replaced Math Trailblazers with "math modules" from engagny, which somebody downloads from the internet. The engageny curriculum has yet to be completed, so...let's say we have replaced Math Trailblazers with part of a curriculum. A brand-new, never been taught, never been learned from math curriculum you have to download from the internet.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
(Fall is for goals; winter and spring are for threatening to cut Latin and Greek if we don't override the tax cap.)
Thus far, he is in charge of framing the discussion, and since the board no longer allows comments at the beginning of meetings, he may remain in charge. We will see.
Irvington parents aren't meek. A couple of weeks ago, the super attempted to push through, with just two days' community notice and on a consensus vote, two "speech policies," the purpose of which was to sharply curtail (if not eliminate altogether) student First Amendment rights. That effort was crushed by a hardy group of parents and high school kids who shredded both the policies and the impetus behind them. It was a debacle and, judging by the look on the super's face the night everyone turned out, it may have been the first real parent uprising of his career.
In any event, the district is now the recipient of two letters from Adam Goldstein, the second of which a high school student read out loud during the board meeting. He did a fabulous job. Very witty.
But back to the goals of fall. The superintendent believes we should ask "challenging questions" (challenging questions constructed by him, not us). Last year the challenging question was: What does success look like?
A close reading of the above slide reveals a pattern in the use of evaluative adjectives:
Without the adjectives, we have:
Or, alternatively, adding evaluative adjectives to the first option, we get:
So that was last year's challenging question.
This year's challenging question for parents and taxpayers to ponder is:
- [Should our district goal be admission to] Ivy League vs. schools with top programs for the areas our students are interested in[?]
That's what we want!
We shouldn't obsess over Ivy League schools!
Fine, I won't, but I know brainy kids with very high SAT scores who are not getting into Big-10 schools. That's a problem.
The super also reports that the district has put 'technology' on the back burner (wrong), so now technology is going to be on the front burner. I bet if we play our cards right, we can be the first kids on the block to invest in Smart Tables! (The sturdy pedestal prevents tipping by even the most enthusiastic learners....)
The board asked him if he could come up with a couple of "deliverables." Last year's goals, they said, were too broad; this year they'd like a deliverable. Or two.
That is a fabulous word, deliverable. I wish I'd thought of it.
COOK: What are you looking into now? Where do you see the field going in the future?Number one: most college applicants seem to write personal narratives. As far as I can tell.
PENNEBAKER: One of the most fascinating effects I’ve seen in quite awhile is that we can predict people’s college performance reasonably well by simply analyzing their college admissions essays. Across four years, we analyzed the admissions essays of 25,000 students and then tracked their grade point averages (GPAs). Higher GPAs were associated with admission essays that used high rates of nouns and low rates of verbs and pronouns. The effects were surprisingly strong and lasted across all years of college, no matter what the students’ major.
To me, the use of nouns -- especially concrete nouns -- reflects people’s attempts to categorize and name objects, events, and ideas in their worlds. The use of verbs and pronouns typically occur when people tell stories. Universities clearly reward categorizers rather than story tellers. If true, can we train young students to categorize more? Alternatively, are we relying too much on categorization strategies in American education?
The Secret Language Code
Psychologist James Pennebaker reveals the hidden meaning of pronouns
By Gareth Cook
Number two: most college composition textbooks applaud the use of verbs, caution against overuse of nouns, and condemn nominalization (non-nouns turned into nouns) with zeal.
The world is topsy-turvy.
Sunday, October 13, 2013
... only 43 percent of SAT takers among this year's freshmen are ready for the academic rigors of college studies.
... The SAT Benchmark score of 1550 is associated with a 65 percent probability of obtaining a first-year GPA of B- or higher, which in turn is associated with a high likelihood of college success. Studies show that students who meet the SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark are more likely to enroll in a four-year college, more likely to earn a higher first-year GPA, and more likely to earn a higher first-year GPA, and more likely to persist beyond the first year of college and complete their degree.
A consistent pattern over the last few years:
Students planning to major in some of the liberal arts and sciences performed significantly better than many who are aiming at more vocationally oriented degrees. Students wishing to major in multi/interdisciplinary studies earned the highest combined SAT score (1757), followed by the physical sciences (1673), English language and literature (1665), and social sciences (1661).
Significantly lagging behind were students hoping to major in three of the most popular fields -- education (1442), psychology (1484), and business management and marketing (1497). Some of the lowest scores came from students wanting to major in parks and recreation (1328) and construction trades (1274).
- High school graduation goals do not include getting students ready for college (Cost of College)
- Are colleges exploiting remedial students? (Cost of College)