kitchen table math, the sequel: Famous last words

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Famous last words

"If we end up starting the higher standards process all over again," he recommends, "let's agree that teachers must be well-represented at the table."

John Thompson: Can the Gates Foundation Learn?
So next go-round it'll be Bill Gates, Chester Finn, the White House, the N.E.A., the A.F.T., . . . . and the membership of the N.E.A. and the A.F.T.

Good deal!

Here's a thought.

If we're going to be small-d democratic and all, next time let's have parents at the table.

Parents, taxpayers, and disciplinary specialists.

Lots of disciplinary specialists.


froggiemama said...

Lots of disciplinary specialists were involved with the Common Core math standard. I can't say much about the ELA standards since that is not my area. But for math, you cannot assert that disciplinary specialists were not involved.

As for parental involvment - which parents? The few parents like yourself who want rigorous standards? Or the vast majority who would prefer to go back to lots of arts and crafts projects and "make school fun again" (as I have heard stated on my block)? Or perhaps the parents with a political agenda, whether pro-creationism or those who want to promote a particular ethnic group's agenda?

Catherine Johnson said...

On the subject of parents, I've actually followed parents as a group over the years, via surveys and histories like Diane Ravitch's Left Behind.

Consistently, parents as a group make far better choices than ed-school professors.

I'm sure Christians who don't believe in evolution also make better choices when it comes to other subjects.

But even if parents didn't consistently exhibit far better judgment than education professors, I don't believe that ed-school instructors should possess the power to determine what other people's children learn & how they learn it.

Ditto for Arne Duncan.

Catherine Johnson said...

Not one single literary scholar is included in the list of ELA standards writers.

As to the presence of multiple disciplinary specialists on the math side, the fact that Phil Daro is also there is problematic, to say the least.

(Phil Daro was involved in the same program Ed was in CA in the 1990s...when I told Ed Daro was part of CC he just about fell off his chair.)

Jen said...

Part of the problem with CC is that the disciplinary specialists were college level.

While I certainly understand the idea of figuring out where you want students to end up, that is what you want them to know, college professors aren't experts in children's learning.

So, we see a lot of shoving of full topics down the grade levels. If kids aren't learning X very well in 7th grade that means we need to start teaching X in 3rd grade.

Problem is that if kids aren't understanding it in 7th grade, they aren't going to get it in 3rd grade. The idea of looking at the core skills that will lead to those skills being learned well in 7th grade seems to have escaped everyone.

In a lot of cases all you end up with is kids lacking a basic foundation which would enable them to learn the concept fairly quickly and easily at the time it's really needed.

So, yes, disciplinary specialists to set the targets. Grade and age appropriate curriculum developed by people who know how kids do (and don't) think at various ages.

Allison said...


What part of CC are you talking about? ELA? Math? other?

I don't have any thing to say about ELA; my comments are all to the math side.

I don't know of *anyone anywhere* complaining that the math CC standards are bringing in concepts or skills "too early". Complaints I have heard include 1. too little too late at the high school end, 2. too much prescription in how primary grade standards should be taught; specific errors in wording; leaving certain things out entirely.

To Froggiemam's comment, and Catherine's, I would not say that "lots of disciplinary specialists" were involved in the actual writing or review. Rather, I would say that there was already a subculture, or a small circle of higher math and related folks that was sounding alarm bells, writing papers, sharing ideas, making recommendations about k-12 math problems, and CC math standards were written by people who took that community seriously, whether or not they agreed with everyone's premises on math ed. So they took a lot of input on the content from that community.

Jen said...

We must read different places.
This is an overview, but there are lots of links at the bottom:

In our district (small to medium sized, urban) starting with the 2012-2013 school year, they eliminated 5th grade math, pushing that work into earlier years. Then 6th grade math became 5th grade math, etc. They messed less with high school, assuming that these marvelous changes will guarantee that kids in a few years will be so much more prepared -- a whole year ahead!

The math program they were using in elementary at the time was awful to begin with (a district created, scripted mishmash of 2 programs with, it seemed, everyone on the committee's favorite activities thrown in as required). It moved fast -- just one day on a lot of topics with vague suggestions about reviewing them in small, differentiated groups in 20 minutes of the math time. That turned out to mean that the teacher had to leave all the "proficient" and above kids with do on your own group games and activities, while trying to reteach way too much content to the struggling children.

In reading, the kids rarely read full books, there is no emphasis on reading for pleasure in the choices (other than the exhortation that of course, you MUST LOVE reading) and lots and lots of unrelated non-fiction reading. Kids will read short passages about (seemingly) random topics from day to day and be expected to have "deep" discussions about them, despite only having a paragraph's worth of knowledge.