Friday, September 12, 2008

Utah's Math Future


Anonymous said...

I understand people's loyalty to Saxon, but we've been living in such a poor environment for academics (reform math/integrated science) that we forget that there is some outstanding curriculum available for students. The traditional US curriculum leaves much to be desired. It works for a segment of our society, but not for the majority of students.

There is an opinion about Singapore that seems unjustified - that Singapore is okay for accelerated students, but not for all students.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The textbook was written to teach math concepts at an earlier age. So textbooks can be used by students independent of their reading level. The majority of the Singapore population speaks a language other than English, yet schools in Singapore teach students English only. That is how good those textbooks are, in fact much better than what gets published by so called "independent" researchers (liars!).

Anonymous said...

What have you read about the Bellevue strike lately? I am glad the WEA is involved. The issue is precisely over curriculum. New leadership is in order. Go Bellevue teachers.

Anonymous said...

There's some interesting commenting going on as you read comments from the signers beginning with mickey mouse. The site owner has wisely responded to Mr. Mouse from Lehi, UT, who of all things wondered if the site owners were receiving 'kickbacks.'

I'm wondering why? since Singapore is not on the list of approved curriculum yet.

Mickey also confuses the petitioners with the school choice movement. I have heard this from more than one source and I believe it is deliberate to confuse the textbook controversy with school choice. Nobody could be that stupid, not even Mickey.

Finally, Mickey should be posting their comments on a blog, not on a legal document - Mickey has interfered with a democratic process, something with which the reform movement is accustomed to. More reason to put this group out to pasture. Lets see, which no nothing textbook consultant lives in Lehi, UT and identifies with Disneyland.

Anonymous said...

There are two parts to this debate which have framed the discourse over curriculum and have given publishers and their advocates an advantage.

The current adoption process looks like a district that is outfitting itself in a tailor shop.

First, that districts have a choice of textbooks is not altogether accurate since the textbooks must be from the state's own list of adoptible material which is actually taken from the DOE's list of 10 exemplary and promising textbooks.

It is interesting that the list has not been modified since it was first approved in 1999? 61 programs were submitted and reviewed, Singapore was not one of those programs even considered. The committee spent five years making that list!

Disagreements I have with the committee:

1. Not one program submitted for review spanned k -12.

2. Reading level was not one of the criteria. At the time, algebra was considered a high school topic. And accelerated students took algebra in the 8th grade (middle school).

As a side note: CPM was controversial because it recommended teaching algebra in the eighth grade. High school teachers and parents said it was too easy and they stayed with traditional curriculum (e.g. Muirlands and La Jolla - A good lesson for reformers. Why try to change something that already works?!)

CPM is a middle school curriculum. Black Mountain Middle School (BMMS) knocked the socks off the Golden State Exam whereas the nearby Poway high school (PHS)students scored significantly lower. BMMS was one of three middle schools that feeds into PHS.

3. There was never a committee consensus over what was overall a best curriculum and they did not distinguish curriculum by pedagogy. Nor did they try to explain how the pedagogy differed. So ... traditionalists are structuralists, Core Plus uses embedded learning, CPM applies cognitive models, etc. It was left to School Board Members to get themselves (mis)educated.

3. Balance has been misused/abused throughout this debate by reformists and to squelch open debate.

Often it gets misapplied. In one context, balance has meant the public should have an open mind or that they should broaden their understanding of mathematics and that is why they should accept new ideas.

Balance has also been used to describe the various aspects of learning itself - striking a balance between repetition and learning concepts.

As an example, Core Plus is riddled with concepts, but the authors also feel that learning depends on the intelligence of the learner too. If you are white and a reformed Baptist than you will feel very comfortable in a school that uses Core Plus.

Balance has also meant that teachers are somehow in overall control and somehow supplement those dull, dry, dusty textbooks despite what school boards do teachers manage to strike a balance between what works for their kids as opposed to what is being tried at other schools.

And by the way, this belief is not uniform throughout the US. Bellevue, WA is a perfect example where a teacher's role went from curriculum guru to curriculum slave in a span of about 10 years.

In some districts, teachers are not allowed to do any supplementing, short of a notice of dismissal. Imagine being handed a Core Plus textbook and then told to teach a class of Latinos learning English. The answer to that question is self-evident. The Latinos move somewhere else.

And our elected leaders say Washington State is not race based. Then they have no conscience. I have a solution. Don't teach in a district that uses Core Plus. You can thank me later.

The irony of course is this debate is not balanced and naturally, academics is at an all time achievement low. In fact, schools spanning every grade level up to college are saturated with low achieving students and endless piles of worksheets are being amassed that have students doing absolutely meaningless, repetitive tasks.

Teachers say they are teaching, but are they really doing it honestly, or is it the realization with sheer terror, that the majority of their students are going to spend an entire year with them and maybe not learn a single useful skill to carry them into the next grade level.

Balance has inaccurately been used to describe what has supposedly been happening in elementary classrooms, where non-standard algorithms are taught and teachers never manage to find the time to teach the correct standard algorithm. School boards (and teachers) should be made aware that non-standard algorithms are not counted when scoring tests.

In fact, these algorithms have no utility since they are often discarded by children, who can't trust the results they are getting by using the algorithm. Why? Because the algorithm is incomplete or defective. Meaning the algorithm works in limited cases and can't be applied in a broad sense.

As an example - students encountering problems involving decimal points, fractions, and square roots introduces completely new contexts that can't be solved unless the student invents the algorithm by themselves.

The debate over academic curriculum is precisely why schools have no choice but promote students because everyone is presuming the teacher is doing their best to provide a learning environment for their students and maximizing achievement based on some capacity for learning AND all curriculum is then presumed to be of the same high caliber.

Nothing could be further from the truth. I encourage everyone to sign Utah's Math Petition. They need 100,000 signatures.

Anonymous said...

If you are a linguist, then you will quickly realize the debate over math curriculum is actually an issue involving literacy and language acquisition. Math is a language that teaches students how to think and the goal is to gain fluency by applying mathematical thinking to solving problems.

As an example, students in Mexico with traditional textbooks do better than US born Mexican-Americans. Latinos do better if they immigrate to the US after eighth grade. Also, in some states, age is counted at the moment of conception in Mexico, not at birth so sometimes this gets overlooked when immigrants arrive to the US. My point is, students who learn traditional math in their native tongue have an advantage in school. Latinos raised in the US cannot be easily reassimmilated into schools in Mexico. They are two distinct, separate cultures.

Victor Villasenor, author of Rain of Gold, is a perfect example of a Latino born and raised in Carlsbad, CA who became a high school dropout and traveled to Mexico where he learned to his surprise that Mexicans were going to college.