Thursday, April 27, 2017

A former student writes - with Thank You

Some 49 years ago, teachers had a lot more latitude than is permitted today. Now administrators call teachers "Professionals" but treat them more like young children. Here is a note I just received from one of "my kids" I began teaching in fall of 1968 in grade 7.
------------
I recently retired and during my career I became a story teller. I used stories to create emotion in listeners as a leadership tool. I had lots of stories about being raised in a small town and about lessons from my parents. I was also known for being a lifelong learner. I took classes every year I worked (picked up three masters degrees along the way).

When asked about my quest for learning, I shared a story about my seventh grade teacher. After having been taught by nuns for six years, a young teacher moved into this small town and lit a fire in me. He cared about all of us and taught me how to learn through his passion for mathematics. Using a high school math text, he challenged our ability to absorb new topics. The mathematical concepts served me well though high school and college. I wasn't really challenged again until college. Your gift for teaching became the basis for my BS and MS in Engineering which provided a path to leadership at Avista. I pointed to your math and teaching skills as the platform for all of my professional success.

I was very blessed to have you as my teacher at a pivotal time in my life. In case I never told you before, thank you for caring about me and for your guidance.

------------
In that remote town, I fantasized about how great it could be to teach in a larger setting with all the support one might receive from administration. Well that is exactly what it was a fantasy. Today there are many intrusions from upper decision-makers that hinder teachers from being more effective and make the teaching job more difficult. I with the help of other teachers could create an enormous list.

If it had not been for the fabulous time I had teaching initially, I would have dumped this teaching gig long ago. It is extremely difficult to find a math teaching job in Western Washington in which suitable instructional materials are available for use. Way too many districts are using the Danielson Evaluation model because it is one-size fits-all, while being largely useless to math teachers. Some places are moving to "Standards based grading" what a waste of energy. The focus should be on great instruction not grading. Leadership today is defective it resembles "bullying" not "cooperative guidance". PLCs, Professional Learning Communities are now a cover for more top-down edicts and indoctrination.

I am flying to Albuquerque today to interview tomorrow for a School Year 2017-18 math position at Ramah Middle/High School in Ramah, NM. The school is grades 6-12 with 195 students, 80% American Indian, 10% Anglo, 10% Hispanic. I've heard good things about the principal ... Hopefully Ramah is not required by the district to use "no books EngageNY" the latest round of instructional lunacy, so popular in the Olympia, WA area.

Singapore’s Math Results, How Do They Do It?

Singapore’s Math Results, How Do They Do It?


Monday, April 24, 2017

Add, Subtract, and more ... a plan for competence. [unlikely]

I am continually amazed at the relatively poor performance of USA math students relative to the East Asian countries of Korea, Japan, Singapore, etc. While legislators discuss how to change various aspects of college to deal with apparent inadequacies of incoming students a couple of things are clear:
(1) There is little if any real interest in analyzing Singapore's instructional approach.
TIMSS 2015 -- grade 8 USA 518 Singapore 621 gap 103 pts.
(2) Basing grade level promotion on skill acquired is not likely to happen. [Florida's requirement to read well to enter grade 4 is a remarkable exception.] It is well past time that the National Council of the Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) figured out that 60 years of trying to create better results their way has been remarkably inefficient. Today NCTM still pushes that Understanding should precede Procedural Fluency.... yet the high performing nations see conceptual understanding arising from Procedural Fluency. In short knowing how to accurately add and subtract is a skill that will make it easier to understand what addition is all about. It is possible to teach the four historic algorithms of arithmetic before "understanding" them. This is done in East Asia all the time. While East Asia leaves us in their mathematical dust the NCTM plods along with a failed ideology. 8th grade TIMSS math results with percent of students able to achieve benchmarks country - advanced -- high --- intermediate -- low Korea -------43% -- 75% -- 93% -- 99% Singapore- 54% -- 81% -- 94% -- 99% Japan ----- 34% -- 67% -- 89% -- 98% USA -------- 10% -- 37% -- 70% -- 91%
Instead of figuring out how to cut corners, we should learn from others how to improve instruction. Tell me about the Common Core, the big emphasis on (STEM) Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math careers and talk about what a great job we are going to do, after you explain the difference between Advanced 54% and 10%.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

NO Links version- Singapore Crushes USA - who cares?

To: Executive Director 
The Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession

Dear Nasue Nashida,

I initially listened to the Jana Dean webinar of 4/13/17 because among other things it was advertised as dealing with Singapore's math program. I am deeply disappointed.

As a "math person" who was a member of the State Board of Education's Math Advisory Panel, which was involved in the formulation of the 2008 Math Standards, I am particularly disappointed in WA State's current NAEP performance and the direction math instruction has been headed.

Advertising Ms. Jana Dean's presentation as having anything to do with Singapore's math practices was incredibly misleading.  I think your organization needs to do more to improve instructional practice.

I’ve been puzzled by the lackluster performance in math of USA 8th graders on the TIMSS testing for two decades and recently a drop on NAEP 2015. It seems inexplicable to me that the Math Ed gurus at the state and school district level have very little interest in how Singapore consistently scores so far above the USA. Does saying USA ranks in top 10 suffice?

I’ve reached the conclusion that the current USA math education gurus believe so strongly in their current  ideologically-based pedagogical superiority that there is no reason to consider anything else.  It is downright anti-science.

Singapore vs USA compared from grade 4 2011 to grade 8 2015
------------grade 4 :: grade 8 :: change over 4 years for the cohort
USA  -------   541 :: 518 :: change -23 lower
Singapore -- 606 :: 621 :: change +15 higher
USA Gap : :  -65 :: -103 ::

July 29, 2016 at the 13th International Conference of Mathematical Education in Hamburg, Germany,  Berinderjeet Kaur, PhD of Singapore, presented the in depth pertinent information about teaching practices in Singapore.  Ms. Dean was in attendance at this presentation. I've watched Dr. Kaur's presentation online and downloaded her slides. Unfortunately USA persons of authority in math leadership positions take at best a passing interest in Singapore's consistently outstanding performance.   (Reminds me of Lilly Tomlin’s We don’t care, we don’t have to. We’re the phone company.)

Dr. Kaur's Findings from Singapore: close-up lens

Analysis of the interview transcripts revealed that students deemed a mathematics lesson as a good one when some of the following characteristics were present.

Teacher

(1) explained clearly the concepts and steps of the procedure

(2) made complex knowledge easily assimilate through  demonstrations, the use of manipulatives, and real life examples.

(3) reviewed past knowledge

(4) introduced new knowledge

(5) used student work/group presentations to give feedback to individuals or the whole class

(6) gave clear instructions related to mathematical activities for in class and after class work.

(7) provided interesting activities for students to work on individually or in small groups

(8) provided sufficient practice tasks for preparations towards examinations
-----------------------
In a lesson there may be more than one instructional
objective but the structural patterns of the lesson
are done in sequence.

Instructional approaches may involve:
D - Whole class demonstration (aimed to develop students' understanding mathematical skills and concepts)
S - Seatwork
R - whole class review of student work
M - Miscellaneous -  managerial and administrative
Q - Group Quiz
T - Test
[D] [S] [R] were present in all 3 classrooms observed

----------------------------
Singapore bases its instructional program not on “inquiry” or “student-centered design” but on a combination of teacher-centered Traditional Instruction with Direct Instruction and then builds from this to Teaching for Understanding.   Why is the USA not doing the same?

The evidence is all there, if anyone wants to read it and believe it.  But THEY DON’T!  Evidence of this claim is seen in Jana Dean’s presentation at the 4/13/17 webinar.  She simply IGNORED the information presented in the well detailed Singapore talk by Berindarjeet Kaur.  It didn’t compute in her ideologically bound frame of reference. Ms. Dean reduced Dr. Kaur’s presentation to “Singapore focuses on testing”.  Apparently Ms. Dean  is representative of the entire US K-8 ed corps, with a few exceptions.  Why are agents like OSPI, school districts, and The Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession not intelligently applying the relevant data to greatly improve USA math practices and performance?  

Isn’t a 123 point gap enough to elicit some interest in change?

Sincerely,

Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.
Olympia, WA

8th grade Math - Singapore Crushes USA - who cares?

To: Executive Director 
The Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession

Dear Nasue Nashida,

I initially listened to the Jana Dean webinar of 4/13/17 because among other things it was advertised as dealing with Singapore's math program. I am deeply disappointed.

As a "math person" who was a member of the State Board of Education's Math Advisory Panel, which was involved in the formulation of the 2008 Math Standards, I am particularly disappointed in WA State's current NAEP performance and the direction math instruction has been headed.

Advertising Ms. Jana Dean's presentation as having anything to do with Singapore's math practices was incredibly misleading.  I think your organization needs to do more to improve instructional practice.

I’ve been puzzled by the lackluster performance in math of USA 8th graders on the TIMSS testing for two decades and recently a drop on NAEP 2015. It seems inexplicable to me that the Math Ed gurus at the state and school district level have very little interest in how Singapore consistently scores so far above the USA. Does saying USA ranks in top 10 suffice?

I’ve reached the conclusion that the current USA math education gurus believe so strongly in their current  ideologically-based pedagogical superiority that there is no reason to consider anything else.  It is downright anti-science.

Singapore vs USA compared from grade 4 2011 to grade 8 2015
------------grade 4 :: grade 8 :: change over 4 years for the cohort
USA  -------   541 :: 518 :: change -23 lower
Singapore -- 606 :: 621 :: change +15 higher
USA Gap : :  -65 :: -103 ::

July 29, 2016 at the 13th International Conference of Mathematical Education in Hamburg, Germany,  Berinderjeet Kaur, PhD of Singapore, presented the in depth pertinent information about teaching practices in Singapore.  Ms. Dean was in attendance at this presentation. I've watched Dr. Kaur's presentation online and downloaded her slides. Unfortunately USA persons of authority in math leadership positions take at best a passing interest in Singapore's consistently outstanding performance.   (Reminds me of Lilly Tomlin’s We don’t care, we don’t have to. We’re the phone company.)

Dr. Kaur's Findings from Singapore: close-up lens

Analysis of the interview transcripts revealed that students deemed a mathematics lesson as a good one when some of the following characteristics were present.

Teacher

(1) explained clearly the concepts and steps of the procedure

(2) made complex knowledge easily assimilate through  demonstrations, the use of manipulatives, and real life examples.

(3) reviewed past knowledge

(4) introduced new knowledge

(5) used student work/group presentations to give feedback to individuals or the whole class

(6) gave clear instructions related to mathematical activities for in class and after class work.

(7) provided interesting activities for students to work on individually or in small groups

(8) provided sufficient practice tasks for preparations towards examinations
-----------------------
In a lesson there may be more than one instructional
objective but the structural patterns of the lesson
are done in sequence.

Instructional approaches may involve:
D - Whole class demonstration (aimed to develop students' understanding mathematical skills and concepts)
S - Seatwork
R - whole class review of student work
M - Miscellaneous -  managerial and administrative
Q - Group Quiz
T - Test
[D] [S] [R] were present in all 3 classrooms observed

----------------------------
Singapore bases its instructional program not on “inquiry” or “student-centered design” but on a combination of teacher-centered Traditional Instruction with Direct Instruction and then builds from this to Teaching for Understanding.   Why is the USA not doing the same?

The evidence is all there, if anyone wants to read it and believe it.  But THEY DON’T!  Evidence of this claim is seen in Jana Dean’s presentation at the 4/13/17 webinar.  She simply IGNORED the information presented in the well detailed Singapore talk by Berindarjeet Kaur.  It didn’t compute in her ideologically bound frame of reference. Ms. Dean reduced Dr. Kaur’s presentation to “Singapore focuses on testing”.  Apparently Ms. Dean  is representative of the entire US K-8 ed corps, with a few exceptions.  Why are agents like OSPI, school districts, and The Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession not intelligently applying the relevant data to greatly improve USA math practices and performance?  

Isn’t a 123 point gap enough to elicit some interest in change?

Sincerely,

Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.
Olympia, WA

8 thoughts from Singapore

At the International Conference on Mathematics Education held in Hamburg, Germany in July 2016, Berinderjeet Kaur gave a presentation on mathematics classrooms studies.   She is the foremost authority in Singapore on mathematics education.    At minute 38:45 came this observation from data:
about the student perspective on good lessons.