kitchen table math, the sequel: national PTA gets tough on parents

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

national PTA gets tough on parents

Don't Politicize the Common Core State Standards!
By Eric Hargis, Executive Director of the National PTA

update: National PTA gets $1 million from Gates Foundation

10 comments:

Auntie Ann said...

*&^%!!!

Barry Garelick said...

Gee, if WE don't politicize the Common Core "State" standards, who will?

SteveH said...

"As a parent, the Common Core State Standards provide my wife and me with a clear understanding of what my children are expected to learn at each grade level, K through 12, regardless of what state the job takes our family (with the exception of a notable few)."

Major error number 1. Without seeing the actual test and the proficiency cutoff points, this "clear understanding" doesn't exist. I never expected my state test to tell me anything. I don't see how this will change with CCSS/PAARC test.



"That the Standards are evidence-based and developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators and experts gives me confidence that my kids will graduate fully prepared for college. "

"Fully prepared"?

Major error number 2. Does it say that anywhere? Do colleges sign off on that? What SAT score does "proficiency" equate to?

Does anyone know what they are doing in Michigan? It was my understanding that the state paid to have every high schooler take the ACT test. Are they replacing it with a CCSS test? Will they keep the ACT requirement and then try to calibrate it with CCSS scores?


Even the teachers in my son's AP classes have to show how the material aligns with the standard. Some of my son's teachers require them to do this for homework. Ask your kids what they know of CCSS. My son can tell you where the document is online and he knows how silly and arbitraty it is to claim that a specific piece of homework relates to the standard; book, chapter, and verse.

In US Lit last year, he had to put together a portfolio of his work and identify the specific CCSS location it applied to. He had to cut and paste that requirement into his portfolio. He was graded on that choice. I think that particular teacher did this because he was so pissed off that he had to do it himself for an honors English course.

A big problem of CCSS is that people think that it's much more than what they had before; that it's really college level.

SteveH said...

From what I can tell, PARCC will accomodate two different math pathways in high school: Algebra, Geometry, and Algebra II, and (integrated) Mathematics I, II, and III. I found this on an Indiana gov. website:

---------

Choosing a Pathway: Common Misconceptions

Before choosing a pathway, school corporations might wish to consider common misconceptions
associated with the high school pathways.

Three common misconceptions are:
1) The requirements of integrated mathematics are less rigorous than of traditional
mathematics courses;

2) State assessments are only aligned with the traditional pathway; and

3) Integrated textbooks only teach through “applied” situations and fail to address
procedural fluency. These misconceptions are described in greater detail below.

---------

I'm glad they're feeling defensive. Integrated math does not have to be less rigorous, but I haven't see one that wasn't.


Also, notice that both pathways don't get to trig or calculus. Unfortunately, these low goals filter back to the lower grades and that makes it almost impossible for kids to get to pre-calc or calculus in high school without outside help. I only found one mention of STEM when I searched for it on the PARCC site.

SteveH said...

Here is their one and only STEM reference.

--------

Fluency Recommendations

•The high school standards do not set explicit expectations for fluency nor will the PARCC assessments address fluency, but fluency is important in high school mathematics. For example, fluency in algebra can help students get past the need to manage computational details so that they can observe structure and patterns in problems. Such fluency can also allow for smooth progress beyond the college and career readiness threshold toward readiness for further study/careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Therefore, this section makes recommendations about fluencies that can serve students well as they learn and apply mathematics. These fluencies are highlighted to stress the need for curricula to provide sufficient supports and opportunities for practice to help students gain fluency. Fluency is not meant to come at the expense of understanding; it is an outcome of a progression of learning and thoughtful practice. Curricula must provide the conceptual building blocks that develop in tandem with skill along the way to fluency.

-----------

"...nor will the PARCC assessments address fluency"

This is so wrong. Apparently, fluency is just speed. There is no linkage between fluency and understanding, but magically, ...


"...fluency can also allow for smooth progress beyond the college and career readiness threshold toward readiness for further study/careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields."

Yep, those damn places like MIT just don't get it. They care more about fluency than understanding.


"...this section makes recommendations about fluencies that can serve students well as they learn and apply mathematics"

I didn't see any recommendations in "this section". No details.

How do you test high school math without testing for fluency? They really have a severe misunderstanding of what fluency means. They define it as just speed, but speed relates to understanding. High school math is not about being fast at long division by hand. If you are fast with logarithm problems, it means more than just speed.


"Fluency is not meant to come at the expense of understanding; it is an outcome of a progression of learning and thoughtful practice."

Top down, not bottom up. If fluency is not obtained, then it's OK because they have understanding. So, all it takes to go from the CCSS standard of understanding to one that offers STEM opportunities is just a little speed practice.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. They KNOW that something else is going on but they won't admit it.

SteveH said...

The big fallacy is that one can be successful with just rote understandings of math. This is not possible. There are too many variations of problems for this to happen. I remember having students who tried to do this. They would look at a problem and try to pattern match(!) it to one of the homework problems. At best, they would get partial credit, but they weren't on the path to passing the course.

Students can also have inflexible understandings, but the path to full understanding lies through lots of homework, not group discussions of real world problems and superficial concepts. It doesn't lie with an integrated approach to math.

Let's say that a student learns to divide fractions by using the "invert and multiply" rule. There are different levels of understanding of why this technique works, but for those who just follow a rote rule, they will easily get stuck with things like:

(2/3) / (5)

Do they learn another rote rule for this case? How about:

(2) / (2.33/3)

Do they learn another rote rule for this? What happens with:

((x-1)^2/(2x^3)) / (x^2-1)

Can this be done with rote rules? What top-down "understanding" prepares students to do all of these variations?

The problem is not that students need more general concepts or integrated real world problems. They don't need "thoughtful practice". They need lots of individual homework problems that improve their flexibility and fluency. Fluency proves understanding. This is fluency based on understanding mathematical identities and rules. It's a mathematical understanding, not some sort of vague, pie chart understanding. Fluency is not just speed, but PARCC will NOT assess fluency.

Lsquared said...

It's actually really hard to design a test that doesn't assess fluency, at least by accident. If speed doesn't matter, does that mean students can take as long on the tests as they want? (generally not--standardized tests are timed). So, even though they aren't planning to assess fluency, I can't see how they are going to avoid it.

SteveH said...

This is what PARCC says, exactly:

"The high school standards do not set explicit expectations for fluency nor will the PARCC assessments address fluency, ..."


They, like many other educators, are trying to define a clear line that unlinks algorithmic facility with understanding. This is the fundamental basis of all of their "rote" complaints. While you might make this case in K-5 with things like long division by hand, the argument quickly falls apart when you come to fractions, decimals, applying algebraic identities, and solving equations.

But then they get stuck with this continuation:

"... but fluency is important in high school mathematics. For example, fluency in algebra can help students get past the need to manage computational details so that they can observe structure and patterns in problems. Such fluency can also allow for smooth progress beyond the college and career readiness threshold toward readiness for further study/careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields."

In high school, they are still trying to make the distinction between speed and understanding, but have to AT LEAST admit that not stumbling over "computational details" allows for better understanding.

Then they have to admit that this fluency can also allow for a "smooth progress" towards STEM career opportunities. So the only difference between a student prepared by CCSS and one who is STEM ready is a little bit of practice in computational speed? Considering their complaints about traditional rote classes, how do they think that students who get to AP calculus ever succeed?

Educators know that the difference is not just speed, but come up with this malarkey to try to justify lower expectations. They try to unlink skills from understanding. This is the basis for so much bad education. If they want education to be defined from the top-down using real world problems with in-class, mixed-ability groups, where skills are almost a trivial consequence of understanding, then they have to redefine "fluency" and work really hard to explain why lower expectations are better. The only difference between their ideal student and a traditionally-prepared STEM student is a little rote practice in computational details?

Even if you overlook this incredible twisting of the word "fluency" and the difference between a proper math preparation and what they think is important, the key point is that CCSS/PARCC is NOT about preparing kids for a STEM career. The test will not even be able to calibrate a higher level cutoff for STEM in K-8. They will probably be able to see a nonlinear jump in PARCC scores for STEM-ready kids in middle school, but they will not ask what goes on at home or with tutors. I found another document where they talk about calibrating different cutoff levels (two or three) for the PARCC test, but they clearly state that STEM-ready is NOT one of those levels. Their "Advanced/Exceeds Expectation" level does not, by definition, mean that your child will be STEM ready. They talk about how these levels can be used to drive expectations down into the lowest grades, but STEM-ready will NOT one of those goals. They will see that some kids become STEM ready, but they will have no clue as to how that happens. They won't want to know the answer because the people putting the PARCC test together have their own bias to protect.

Catherine Johnson said...

lsquared wrote: It's actually really hard to design a test that doesn't assess fluency, at least by accident. If speed doesn't matter, does that mean students can take as long on the tests as they want?

Yes! It does mean students can take as long as they want.

A teacher friend of mine says the number of kids who qualify for extra time on tests at her school increases significantly each year.

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