kitchen table math, the sequel: 5/6/12 - 5/13/12

Friday, May 11, 2012

Common Core Standards

The process is moving right along. In my son's high school honors classes, the teachers are required to cite CCSS book, chapter and verse for everything. Some teachers are annoyed and are directly teaching the kids their opinions. Also, our local paper talked about how the lower schools are finishing their scope and sequence document for CCSS math with help from the Dana Center at the U. of Texas. The Executive Director is Uri Treisman, whose philosophy is summed up by: "To Treisman, high school algebra is the burial ground for the aspirations of many students in part because "almost no one uses the content of these courses in their subsequent university courses." So why are these gatekeeper courses determining who goes to college? Kids who drop out of these math classes are the same kids who drop out of school, says Treisman. At the other end of the spectrum, students who need more challenges aren't finding them in high school math." "almost no one uses the content of these courses in their subsequent university courses." I had to reread that a few times. The Dana Center is working with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) on their CCSS test - which happens to be the test that our state will use. I've been trying to find some sample questions, but have only seen a few scanned examples that I could barely read. Everybody is waiting for test developers to quantify what CCSS means by "fluency", "understand", "reason abstractly", "solve", "represent", and a host of other vague terms. "Fluency" sounds pretty explicit (and it is specifically used sparingly in the standard), but we will have to wait for the sample tests. Then, we will have to wait to see how different states define the low cutoff levels. I find it instructive that some seem only worried about whether the standards will ensure that nobody has to take remedial courses in college. They are trying to find out whether colleges will buy into accepting their test results - and their cutoffs. There's the rub. I also found this commentary on fluency. "Although we do find that students who are fluent in facts have fewer obstacles when engaging in more complex problem-solving, we also find that many students who are fluent in facts still struggle with such problem-solving, and many who are not yet fluent are able to generate highly sophisticated solution strategies to different types of problems." Fluent students have fewer obstacles with more complex problem solving, but they still struggle with problem solving. And many who aren't fluent are able to "generate highly sophisticated solution strategies". Figure that out. They can't let go of their idea that understanding is somehow not connected with fluency. The haves will continue to get help at home and completely ignore CCSS. They will get on the AP calculus track to a STEM career and the rest get to look forward to college without remediation.

Monday, May 7, 2012