kitchen table math, the sequel: More unfortunate headlines

Monday, December 8, 2014

More unfortunate headlines

(Unfortunate headline number 1)

Also on page 1 of the 12/3 Education Week:

Parents Get Schooled on New Math Standards

Schools around the country are holding math nights, sending letters home, and posting videos on their websites to teach parents about the Common Core State Standards for mathematics, which require students to use calculation methods that many parents never learned.
Math nights?

Like this one?

Reminds me of that great piece of advice from the Math Trailblazers people re: how to deal with parents:
Be pro-active with parents. Don’t wait until complaints hit. People have done a lot of things to involve parents, from math nights to big math carnivals, where the kids teach the activities to the parents. There are letters in the program that go home to parents.
Math nights are never a good sign.

How to Get Parent Buy-In


Froggiemama said...

We've had math nights in our district for as long as I have had kids in the schools (first one started in 2005). Nothing new here. I think most parents just didn't pay attention until things got politicized. But I am the kind of geeky mom who cares about math, so I have gone every year.

Glen said...

Our math nights here in Silicon Valley sometimes turn into shouting matches. A majority of parents in our neighborhood seem to be Asian or European immigrants and tend to work for tech companies. For the last three years or so, administrators in our district have had to start each math night at the lone middle school in our small district with an announcement meant to quiet the parents: "Before anyone says anything, no, Common Core does not mean eliminating the advanced math track. We have no plans to do so. Now, hold your questions, and let's talk about Common Core...." ("Advanced" means a few 6th graders get pre-algebra instead of "6th grade math.")

Since our district's last math night, our neighboring school district (200 meters from my house) has decided that, yes, Common Core DOES mean eliminating the advanced track.

"...the district’s move away from offering more advanced courses like introductory algebra and geometry courses. This is coming with the new shift to Common Core standards that focus more on the use of technology in the classroom and projects, the district said. This is cause for worry in parents ...."

In fact, they are claiming that Common Core will mean that not just geometry but even algebra will be eliminated for most middle school students, in order to "focus more on the use of technology in the classroom and projects."

"The proposed common-core math pathway for an average student starts with Common Core math in middle school, then follows [in high school] algebra I, geometry, algebra II and pre-calculus...."

The argument they make for eliminating the advanced track for everyone is that 30% of those who were advanced in 6th grade were getting Ds and Fs in calculus years later. No discussion of what the schools did in between, of course. Quality of teaching, assessment, fixing problems as they arise.... No. They're talking as if kids are ballistic projectiles, and if 30% end up in a bad place in 11th grade, it can only be because the schools aimed too high five years earlier. The 70% who succeeded are elite outliers, so the solution is to set our sights lower for everyone and, with Common Core, we can.

With this going on next door, I have a feeling that the next "math night" in our district will be more animated than ever.

Barry Garelick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
palisadesk said...

We've had math nights since the middle 1980's, and maybe before (I don't remember before, but I was in charge of organizing one around 1986 and it was already an established annual event). We also had -- and still have -- Literacy Nights.

There wasn't any agenda other than to get parents involved in seeing what the students were doing and sharing some interesting activities. I remember setting up little stations by grade level for kids and their parents to do something that reflected the curriculum for the grade. We had a "Battleship" station for plotting points on a grid with the x and y axes, some with only positive integers and others with positive and negative. We also posted work samples (with names removed) that showed fair, good and excellent work that illustrated achievement of the expectations of the particular grade level. The purpose was to help parents, who were often immigrants, to understand what their children were learning and what they were expected to do to show their learning. These were all low-SES areas and the family nights were always well-received.

We found that getting parents to "meetings" was always a challenge -- we'd be lucky if 10 people out of 800 turned up for a "parent meeting." But for active participation events, it was standing room only.

I'm sure "math nights" or "literacy nights" could be used for propaganda, but they have also been used for years simply to engage the community and keep the community informed of what the students are doing (non-parents were and are also welcome; all school events are publicized in community media).

Allison said...

MSMI has done several parent math nights.

When we are asked to give a math talk by a school and it is well attended, it is because the parents are upset. If it is very well attended, it is because the parents are in an uproar about the math program.

Since we generally are going in to fix the math program, or or to support a math change to it, our goal is first to name the problem. We explain the issue (nationally, not just locally, not just here, wherever we are, but nationally) is that US curricula are not preparing kids for algebra. We tell parents what they know intuivitely but can't name. We tell them what they've watched their older kids suffered through. Then we explain we need to change what we teach, when we teach it, and what the teachers know about the maththey teach to fix it. When we are done, generally, parents calm down and give us the benefit of the doubt.

Usually, the second math night (a followup) has 1/4 of the turnout the first one had.

If a math night has no attendees, it is because math is doing just fine--the parents are concerned about some other problem.

Parents don't have time to go to meetings if things are fine. They go to indicate their disapproval or their concern.

We also found if the *children* put on the math night, as one of the grade night programs, it is well received--so if we want parents to learn about the math program, learn the games to practice math facts, etc. then it needs to be a child-centered event. Parents come when kids put on a math carnival. They even enjoy it. It does not need to be fuzzy math--kids LOVE stumping their parents at mental math calculations and bar modeling.

lgm said...

Math Night was cancelled when full inclusion started. After parents of twins complained about the difference between classroom offerings, the dept chair set the syllabis and eliminated everything needed to score as 'advanced', focussing classroom time on basics in order to make everuone into 2s and 3s. Parents who protested were branded elites and told that offering the grade level course was elitist and they should be ashamed of themselves for attempting to steal the teachers' time away from 'those that REALLY need her'. Middle classmparents Immediately started afterschooling. Common Core is no better.
8th Algebra selection here is good ol boy (GOB), no recommendation, no seat no matter what your test scores say. These days so many are flunking out of preA due to poor K-6 prep that well behaved nonGOB mathy kids can get a seat in 8th Alg.....but the majority have been afterschooled as so much is omitted from ele.