Low standards

Fordham analysts give a lot of low grades in reports on The State of State Math Standards 2005 and The State of State English Standards 2005.

Eleven states received Fs in math, four in English. Most states’ K-12 standards received mediocre Cs or worrisome D grades from the reviewers. But three hot-shot jurisdictions got A’s in both subjects!

California, Indiana and Massachusetts are the three winners. Checker Finn writes:

Though tying federal dollars to school accountability has been controversial and, in some quarters, deplored and resisted, it was precisely the impetus that many states needed to improve their English standards. Looking across all the states in 2005, (Sandra) Stotsky finds substantial gains, especially in reading standards, which bear the heaviest weight under NCLB. The average state grade rose from 1.98 in 2000 to 2.41 in 2005. Most states have also heeded the emerging research consensus on early reading instruction and are incorporating the recommendations of Reading First into their standards, including systematic phonics instruction. Overall, they do a better job of addressing listening, reading, and writing skills and strategies than five years earlier.

The great weakness in English standards is literature, especially at the high school level.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Mike in Texas says:

    I’m confused; earlier this week Joanne posted a study saying that California schools, despite their insistence on high standards and phonics based reading instruction, were among the worst in the nation.

    But at least they have high standards; too bad the standards don’t really do anything.

    But remember education reformers, don’t let a lot of contradictory evidence sway you from the path of school reform, “for the sake of the children”

  2. The math standards for California weren’t written by “professional educators”. They were written by mathematicians, and clearly ignored and subverted by the education professionals. It’s true that standards don’t do anything if teachers don’t follow them, and I suppose that you would suggest that the fix for this is to spend more money?

  3. Mike in Texas says:

    Hardlyb,

    Actually my solution would be to remove both the politicians and the non-educators from the standards writing process. How would some university mathemtician know what is developmentally appropriate for a 7 year old?

    This article is more proof the so called “reforms” being pushed by the policians, high standards and phonics based reading programs, are not really meant to help schools at all but instead are intended to ensure all public schools fail.

  4. Mike in Texas wrote:

    not really meant to help schools at all but instead are intended to ensure all public schools fail.

    Oh my gosh! Who’s revealed the secret plans of the vast, right-wing conspiracy?!

    Rev up the black helicopters! Loose the Nazgul!

    You have to give Schwarzenegger a little time to undo all the damage done by professional educators. After all, they had decades to destroy the California education system and Schwarzenegger’s only been in office 14 months.

    I understand he’s got some ideas you’re just going to love: merit pay, performance standards for teachers, more charters and more voc tech. And you know what they say about California…..

  5. Okay, what’s a framework? It says what kids ought to know. Do the writers of frameworks know what is developmentally appropriate for seven-year-olds and so on? yes. The writers of these things did not just fall out of the sky. They are educated people, often a group of scholars, educrats, and practitioners.

    What happens is that sometimes people get murky, mushy, and constructivist in their desription or creation of frameworks. So instead of being clear sets of ideas to be mastered, they are little more than squishy suggestions.

    So, in California, where there are great frameworks, there is some kind of disconnect when it comes to putting together a protocol to achieve the goals of the framework. Use medicine: our framework is to manage a patient’s several health problems to end up with a healthier patient. Our protocol is the step-by-step process by which will accomplish that. That’s where the California system breaks down.

  6. MiT wrote:

    >”Actually my solution would be to remove both the politicians and the non-educators from the standards writing process. How would some university mathemtician know what is developmentally appropriate for a 7 year old?”

    Who would you rather have write the standards; K-8 educators who don’t know a darn thing about math (probably hate math too), or university math professors who know exactly what it takes to have a career in math, science, and engineering. (Our state math curriculum coordinator has her education PhD. in using movement to teach math. We’re back to the dancing cupcakes!)

    School is all about opening doors and I see too many state standards that close them. They are not even standards – they are frameworks or suggestions. These standards are pathetically poor because there are too many educators who want to apply their own fuzzy ideas of developmentally appropriate. I have studied many of the resulting math curricula and they virtually guarantee that the students will not be prepared for high school college prep or honors math without parental or outside help. Math is cumulative and skill-based and these curricula fail. The California Math Standards are the best in the country, very specific, and quite developmentally appropriate. If the students don’t meet the standards, then you automatically want to blame the standards? I can write some pathetically poor standards that all students can meet. Will you be happy then? Does that define success?

    Your attitude is one of the best justifications for charter schools and vouchers I have seen. I agree with you that you should remove the politicians, but the non-educators (parents?) and the people who are experts in the subjects that are taught? Why do you think that 25 percent of our town’s children go to non-public schools? Pathetically low and fuzzy expectations!. I guess you just don’t want anyone to have choice, you want to decide on the curriculum yourself without any outside interference, and you don’t want any accountability.

    Excuse me, but as a parent I want to know just who the hell you think you are? If you have a beef with politicians or outside textbook or money influences, then you better be specific about your complaint, because you are really beginning to sound like a whining child.

    >”This article is more proof the so called “reforms” being pushed by the policians, high standards and phonics based reading programs, are not really meant to help schools at all but instead are intended to ensure all public schools fail.”

    Public schools are already failing. They don’t need help. You just don’t like the idea of specific expectations and accountability. As I have said before, what is more important, public schools or the best educational opportunity for each individual child – right now.

  7. Mike in Texas says:

    Excuse me Steve but I beg to differ.

    Who the hell am I to decide what children should be taught? I’m the one who has studied child development and has years of experience in dealing with children.

    YOu statted public schools are failing and I say they are not; the so called “crisis” has been invented by businessman so they can get their hands on the $450 billion a year spent on education. NCLB is the tool by which they hope to accomplish this. If it were really such a great law then why does the Bush administration have to pay (bribe) journalists to praise it?:

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,143690,00.html

    As for me and my children, I would rather have an educator making decisions about what they need to learn than some politicians in Washington, or some university professor who hasn’t known a 7 year old since he was 7.

  8. Steve LaBonne says:

    “Who the hell am I to decide what children should be taught? I’m the one who has studied child development and has years of experience in dealing with children.” The experience is potentially valuable, the “having studied child development” far less so if you mean the kind of unscientific crap taught in ed schools, but neither qualifies you in any way to pronounce on math standards, whose development must proceed from a genuine understanding of the math skills students need to master in order to have the option to pursue serious study of math, science or engineering later in their careers. Whether you have that understanding is really impossible to say from anything you’ve posted. Your use of meaningless progressivist catchphrases such as “developmentally appropriate” is not an encouraging sign, however.

  9. Mike in Texas says:

    Steve wrote:

    You just don’t like the idea of specific expectations and accountability
    I’m not afraid of expectations, accountaability or standards. I just refuse to buckle under expectations, acountability or standards written by some jackass who knows nothing about education or child development. I bet you wouldn’t drive your car over a bridge whose specifications were written and designed by a politician in your state capital? Engineers would never stand for it. But somehow teachers are supposed to stand by and let politicians and non-educators decide what is appropriate for children at each grade level.

    BTW, 0 percent of the students in my town go to charter schools. Every charter school in my town has gone under, leaving the kids out in the cold.

  10. Mike in Texas says:

    Steve wrote:

    the “having studied child development” far less so if you mean the kind of unscientific crap taught in ed schools, but neither qualifies you in any way to pronounce on math standards, whose development must proceed from a genuine understanding of the math skills students need to master in order to have the option to pursue serious study of math, science or engineering later in their careers

    I teach 7 year olds through 10 year olds. They are not learning anything beyond basic arithmetic and muliplication facts at this point. However, the state mandated math tests is more a test of reading skills than math skills so we spend a great deal of time teaching kids how to decipher the questions. It is time we can’t spend on the basic math skills b/c some idiot politician, or mininformed “reformer” designed the tests and the standards. Do you really think it takes a PhD in Math to decide 7 year olds are not ready to do algebra? How much understanding of math do you think it takes to teach arithmetic?

    Your use of the phrase later in their careers tells me you believe the garbage the Business Roundtable puts out.

  11. instructivist says:

    “I teach 7 year olds through 10 year olds. They are not learning anything beyond basic arithmetic and muliplication facts at this point. However, the state mandated math tests is more a test of reading skills than math skills so we spend a great deal of time teaching kids how to decipher the questions. It is time we can’t spend on the basic math skills b/c some idiot politician, or mininformed “reformer” designed the tests and the standards.”

    Math tests as reading tests are the result of the influence of constructivst outfits like NCTM. Constructivists disdain computational skills.

  12. Mike in Texas says:

    Allen wrote:

    You have to give Schwarzenegger a little time to undo all the damage done by professional educators.

    Are you talking about the same governor whose plan to save schools is to cut the funding by 2.2 billion dollars? You can find the story here

  13. Once again Mike from Texas equates money with accomplishment. We have already seen how throwing more and more money at the ed establishment has wrought wonders with out ed systems. Down and down they go!!

    What needs to happen is for someone to see to it that the money gets where it needs to get to give us some good schools. It is already obvious that the current ed establishment hasn’t a clue how to do that. Throwing more money at them will accomplish nothing except give us more and more administrators.

    I think we need to see more of what Gov Schwarzenegger plans for the schools before we just throw up our hands and declaim about how cutting the budget will ruin the schools. Not cutting the budget sure didn’t make them work well. The NEA damned sure doesn’t help them to work well. We need something else and we need it soon. The carping of the current establishment is not it!!

  14. Steve LaBonne says:

    “Your use of the phrase later in their careers tells me you believe the garbage the Business Roundtable puts out.” What on earth are you babbling about? I’m a scientist and former college professor. I have firsthand professional understanding of the math skills kids need to develop in the K-12 system if they’re not to be precluded from serious college-level study of any subject that uses mathematics. It’s far from clear what sort of knowldedge base lies behind your comments.

  15. Mike in Texas says:

    I’m a scientist and former college professor.

    And how does that qualify you to determine what math skills 7 year olds should have?

    I’m surprised you’ve never heard of the Business Roundtable. It is a collection of businessmen who are the active developers of NCLB, as well as the push to privatize schools and high stakes testing. Also, surprise surprise, many of these companies are making big bucks off the “reforms” they have pushed through.

  16. Mike in Texas says:

    Also, I’m wondering. Is this analysis another one of Checker Finn’s “working papers” which are not subject to peer review (b/c they never get published anywhere but in spots the Fordham foundation buys or on the Fordham website)?

  17. Steve LaBonne says:

    Knowing enough math to understand what they need to master in order to learn more math later on is exactly, and only, the needed qualification. I have that qualification; others who regularly comment here, and are regularly excoriated by you, have it in much higher degree than I do. Do you have it? Not for the first time, I strongly recommend Liping Ma’s book _Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics_ for a lucid explanation of the very nontrivial level of mathematical understanding needed to successfully teach seemingly simple aspects of grade-school math- and the shocking extent to which very many elementary teachers in the US fall far short of that level of understanding. Why don’t you read it and share your reactions with us?

  18. Mike in Texas says:

    Steve,

    I am familiar with the book you mentioned and I can’t say I agree with everything in it. For example, in the disucssion of teaching regrouping, a skill commonly taught to 2nd graders (typically 7 – 8 years old) she cites this example as quality teaching:

    What do you think the number, the number 64, can we take a number away, 46? Think about that. Does that make sense? If you have a number in the sixties can you take away a number in the forties? OK then, if that makes sense now, then 4 minus 6, are we able to do that?

    This is a prime example of a researcher thinking he or she knows what is effective, whereas those of us who teach on a daily basis consider this a very poor example of teaching. The questions are poorly worded and violate the maxim that even begninning teachers know, you don’t ask young children multiple question, the discussion (there was more I didn’t quote) is monotonous, and most 7 year olds would totally miss any connection to the skill they were try to learn. In fact, pull this little example of “quality teaching” in a typical 2nd grade classroom and the kids would start climbing the walls to escape.

    I also disagree with her idea (and yours if I’m reading you correctly) that 7 year olds need to know the “mathamtical rationale underlying the algorithm”. They’re 7 year olds for God’s sake. Some of them are still having problems controlling their bladders. They can learn effectively how to perform the procedure but are not develomentally capable of understanding the underlying algorithm.

    I have that qualification; others who regularly comment here, and are regularly excoriated by you, have it in much higher degree than I do

    How much experience do you or any of the others have teaching math to 7 year olds? I’ve done it for years.

    Since you’re recommending books for me to read I’d like to suggest one for you. The Truth About Testing: An Educator’s Call to Action
    by W. James Popham

  19. Steve LaBonne says:

    1. Asian countries where teachers disagree with your dicta on what 7 year olds “need” to understand regularly outperform the US in internatioanl comparisons of math achievement. So what’s your evidence, other than personal prejudice, that you’re right?
    2. The book also documents that almost none of the surveyed US teachers knew how to divide by a fraction- let alone how to teach it. What do you propose should be done about that kind of problem?

  20. Mike in Texas says:

    How often are 7 year olds required to divide by fractions?

    And by Asian countries would you mean Japan?

  21. Steve LaBonne says:

    And Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

    I think a TEACHER even of 7 year olds better damn well know dividing by fractions, don’t you? And Ma in any case was not talking about teachers of 7 year olds, but teachers in grades where kids were in fact supposed to learn it- and were being “taught” by people who completely misunderstood it themselves. That, I submit, is a scandal. Don’t you agree? If not, why not?

  22. Mike in Texas says:

    Japan has a lower graduation rate than the US. Less than two-thirds of their students graduate from high school. I also have experience teaching Japanese students so I am qualified to speak about them.

    Just b/c someone doesn’t know the underlying algorithm for regrouping doesn’t mean they don’t understand how to do it or why to do it. I disagree with you that knowing how to divide fractions is a measure of how well you can teach subtraction with regrouping. The two have nothing to do with each other.

  23. Mike in Texas says:

    Also, why do you automatically assume elementary teachers don’t know how to divide fractions?

  24. Steve LaBonne says:

    I like how you change the subject from 7 year olds to high school when you want to evade an uncomfortable point. Every kid in Japan goes to 4th grade. TIMSS shows that Japanese 4th graders have better math skills than US kids. That, my friend, is empirical evidence that the philosophy of math teaching you espouse does not produce optimal results. What do you have, again aside from personal prejudice, to counter that?

  25. Steve LaBonne says:

    As to your second question, if a sample of elementary teachers with a reputation for being strong in math- from “good” suburban districts- includes a high proportion of teachers who don’t understand division by a fraction, it is a reasonable inference that the problem is widespread. And just such a sample was observed and interviewed by Ma.

  26. Mike in Texas says:

    Is is you,sir, who is evading the tough questions. I merely pointed out that one of the supposedly superior Asian education establishments you mentioned has a failure rate higher than the US.

    You have shown me no rational as to why a person teaching 7 year olds subtraction with regrouping should be required to know how to divide fractions. Both yourself and the author’s work you cited seem to think it is necessary.

    In addition, your refusal to answer the question about why you assume most elementary teachers don’t know how to divide by fractions shows the anti-teacher bias you have.

    In this discussion only one of us has experience in what actually works when teaching 7 year olds. If this discussion were about teaching advanced math you sir would have the benefit of experience; it is not so in the case we have been arguing.

  27. Steve LaBonne says:

    In this discussion only one of us has referred to empirical data about what kids have actually learned. The rest is BS. Lousy teachers have just as much experience as good ones, so clearly experience not validated by objective measurement of student outcomes doesn’t mean much on it own.

  28. Mike in Texas says:

    Ahh, again you assume the worst.

    And you’re still dodging the tough questions.

    Why does someone who teaches 7 year olds need to know how to divide fractions?

    Why do you assume that most elementary teachers don’t know how to divide fractions? Is it b/c Liping Ma took an extremely small sample of American teachers (23) and you’ve extrapolated her findings to cover all American elementary school teachers?

  29. Mike in Texas says:

    My apologies Steve. I missed one of your replies where you did answer the question as to why you think American elementary teachers don’t know how to divide by fractions.

  30. Steve LaBonne says:

    If someone teaching 7 year olds does not know how to divide by fractions, this fact is significant not so much in itself but as a symptom of a very low level of mathematical competence and understanding. Put bluntly, math cripples should not be teaching math, not even in 1st grade. However, I also note that Ma found (in a sample of what can safely be assumed to be _above-average_ American teachers) many teachers _in higher grades_, teaching curricula _that covered division by fractions_, who couldn’t do it themselves let alone explain it properly. Yet again, do you find that situation acceptable, and if so why? And if you agree that it’s unacceptable, what would you propose to do about it?

  31. Mike in Texas says:

    I do not find the idea of someone teaching a math concept they do not themselves understand a good idea. Did Ma do any research to determine if the teachers she interviewed couldn’t do division by fractions, or simply forgot how to do it b/c of a lack of practice? The two are totally different. As I’ve mentioned I am an elementary school teacher and I cannot recall a single instance in my life outside of school where I had to divide by fractions. I still don’t see how not knowing how to do it (or not being able to remember how to do it) would make anyone teaching basic arithmatic any less of a capable teacher.

  32. Mike in Texas says:

    Steve, the question as to what to do about it is tougher. I know from experience that many schools, in order to save money, often assign teachers in junior high and high school to teach subjects they are not qualified to teach and have no training to teach. In Texas it is legal to do so. I’m not familiar with all of Ma’s research but perhaps she should have been looking into why the teachers couldn’t perform the skills they were assigned to teach and why they were assigned to teach them in the first place.

  33. instructivist says:

    Math teachers who think algorithms are harmful should read this: http://www.aft.org/pubs-reports/american_educator/fall99/wu.pdf

  34. Mike in Texas says:

    You must be new to this site instructivist. Don’t you know the American Federation of Teachers is the source of all evil in the universe? Except for that evil caused by the National Association of Educators?

  35. Mike, if you don’t know what it means to divide by a fraction it shows that you don’t understand the basic structure of the real numbers that forms the basis for all arithmetic. There are only four basic operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. You can perform these operations on any pair of real numbers, with the exception that you may not divide by zero. (Although my math teacher in middle school taught us that you COULD divide by zero…I’m not making this up.)

    I’ll give you an example of a situation where it might be useful to divide by a fraction. Let’s say someone asks you to give them 5 dollars in quarters, how many quarters should you give them?
    The answer is 5 divided by 1/4, which is 20.

    Maybe you don’t recognize this case as being one where you are dividing by a fraction, but that just means you never learned division by fractions beyond just memorizing an easilly forgotten algorithm. If so, I don’t want you teaching math to my kids.

  36. Mike in Texas says:

    Ed Johnson,

    The issue Steve and I were discussing was where the researcher asked teachers to divide fractions by fractions, or actually a mixed number by a fraction, perhaps that wasn’t clear.

    In the example you showed, dividing 5 dollars into quarters, you can derive the same answer much more easily by converting 5 dollars into 500 cents and dividing it by 25, hardly an advanced math skill. In fact, its so much easier it can be done in your head. Why complicate things anymore than they need to be?

    And once again, why do you assume that just b/c I’m a teacher I don’t know how to divide by fractions or understand the basic underlying principles of Math?

  37. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Do you suppose the failing in high school literature might be because the classics have been abandoned and replaced with PC boilerplate?

  38. ed johnson says:

    Mike,

    It’s simple enough to modify my example so that it involves dividing a “mixed number” by a fraction. I’ll leave this as an excercise.

    I didn’t say there wasn’t any other way to solve this example, just that you might want to solve it by dividing by fractions. And if you understand how numbers work, it’s actually very easy to do it that way. You may be amazed to learn that I solved it in my head! It involved the difficult step of multiplying 5 by 4 (in fact that was really the only step). The fact that you find it hard is revealing.

    I assume you don’t know how to divide by a fraction not because you’re a teacher, but because you’ve given that impression in these comments. You implied that dividing by fractions is such a complicated and arcane concept as to be useless for everyday life.

    If you’re going to be teaching math to children, I think you should have a good mastery of what it means to divide a real number by another real number, even if one or both of them is not a positive integer. This understanding is crucial for any higher math such as algebra.

  39. Michelle Dulak Thomson says:

    Ed Johnson, funny, that was exactly what I was thinking when I read MiT’s explanation of how he would find the number of quarters in $5.00. Um, multiply 5 by 100, then divide by 25? As though multiplying 5 by the reciprocal of 1/4 were more difficult? Wow.

  40. Mike in Texas says:

    Actually I’m very aware of how to divide by fractions and I’m perfectly capable of teaching it too.

    Even 1st graders could be taught how to figure out the number of quarters in 5 dollars using my approach but not using yours. The fact that you and Michelle don’t recognize the simplicity involved in teaching to young children simply shows you know nothing about teaching.

  41. Michelle Dulak Thomson says:

    Mike, you mean your first-graders can divide by two-digit numbers? I just checked the CA math standards online, and they reserve division by two-digit divisors for the fifth grade. (That’s also where they put “multiplication and division of fractions,” by the way, but I’m not sure whether that includes “division by fractions, or just “what’s 3/4 divided by 2?”)

    Really, given the choice of dividing by 25 or multiplying by four, which looks easier to you?

  42. According to NCES (National Center for Education Statistics), Japan’s high school graduation rate was 95 percent in 1999, considerably higher than the U.S. rate of 78 percent.

    Perhaps Mike was thinking of this statistic: 69 percent of Japanese students earn college-prep diplomas while 26 percent earn vocational diplomas.

    Channeling students into different tracks is common overseas: Only 33 percent of German students earn diplomas that qualify them for college, though the overall graduation rate is 92 percent.

    All U.S. high school diplomas allow graduates to go to college, and most do, but half of those who enroll quit without receiving a degree of any kind.

  43. Following Mike’s reasoning, I don’t see why you would even need to understand multiplication and division at all to teach first grade math. After all, first graders just need to learn addition and subtraction. So Mike, would you be comfortable having a teacher who doesn’t know how to multiply and divide whole numbers teaching math to first graders? Why or why not? How about a teacher who can’t remember what a fraction is, or a negative number?

  44. Michelle Dulak Thomson says:

    MiT, just to be clear: I think it would be easy to teach first-graders that there are four quarters in a dollar, and from that to figure out how many quarters make five dollars. I think it would be very difficult to teach them to divide 500 by 25. I think it’s unlikely in the extreme that you yourself actually would do the calculation that way, unless you make a habit of doing long division, with two-digit divisors, in your head.

  45. Mike in Texas says:

    Michelle,

    That is the easiest way to do it and in that is the way I was thinking of. The earlier arguement Steve LeBonne and I were having was over a researcher who feels anyone who teachers Math needs to have an understanding of it akin to having majored in Math. Since most elementary teachers teach all subjects, applying this logic to all subjects, it would be impossible to find anyone to teach. I did not make that arguement b/c it would be taking that arguement to ridiculous extremes, as Ed Johnson has done above with his comments about 1st grade teachers not knowing how to do mulitiplication or division.

  46. Mike in Texas says:

    unless you make a habit of doing long division, with two-digit divisors, in your head.

    Are you kidding? I still count on my fingers.

  47. Tim from Texas says:

    As Joanne’s post reveals other countries have a system. They try to make sure everyone aquires a niche to be proud of and means to make a decent living. We don’t.

    I think it is obvious we need to adopt something similar to the their systems.

  48. Mike,

    I’m glad you agree that grade school teachers should be able to do basic math like multiplication and division. But not, apparently, division by fractions (unless they are specifically teaching how to divide by fractions). Because this would require an understanding “akin to having majored in math.”

    This is the heart of the disagreement. Some of us feel that dividing by fractions IS basic math that you should learn in elementary school. If you can’t divide by a fraction, and don’t even fully understand what it means to divide by a fraciton, it means you don’t really understand one of the FOUR BASIC OPERATIONS OF ARITHMETIC. This isn’t college math, it’s not even high school math.

    I’m glad, Mike, that you yourself can divide by a fraction, but I still don’t understand why you think it’s ok if other teachers can’t.

  49. MiT wrote:

    >”YOu statted public schools are failing and I say they are not; the so called “crisis” has been invented by businessman so they can get their hands on the $450 billion a year spent on education. NCLB is the tool by which they hope to accomplish this.”

    It’s all just a big conspiracy? There is no problem? Incredible! I should probably quit right here and not waste my time.

    >”As for me and my children, I would rather have an educator making decisions about what they need to learn than some politicians in Washington, or some university professor who hasn’t known a 7 year old since he was 7.”

    Well, I want my son’s curriculum developed by someone who knows math rather than an educator who doesn’t know or like math, and who sets very low expectations based on a fuzzy idea of developmentally appropriate. You’re making a great case for choice.

    >”I’m not afraid of expectations, accountaability or standards. I just refuse to buckle under expectations, acountability or standards written by some jackass who knows nothing about education or child development. I bet you wouldn’t drive your car over a bridge whose specifications were written and designed by a politician in your state capital? Engineers would never stand for it. But somehow teachers are supposed to stand by and let politicians and non-educators decide what is appropriate for children at each grade level.”

    But, somehow, you think that mathematicians are supposed to stand by and let educators fail to teach the knowledge and skills required for a technical career? There is content knowledge and skills that have to be taught in K-8. Do you think I should leave the definition of those up to math-phobic educators to define? What I see are curricula that guarantee that kids will NOT get the proper knowledge and skills needed to go into a technical career. Do you think that everything is just about what is developmentally appropriate? When math is left up to the educators (just like you want), educators create math curricula that fail to prepare students properly. If parents leave it up to educators to define developmentally appropriate, then they will find that educators think that careers in math, science, and engineering are not developmentally appropriate.

    By-the-way, how do you define what is developmentally appropriate? Are you using a full-inclusion, mixed-ability, child-centered, social promotion model? Educators are confronted with the conflict of including all ability kids and keeping all same-age kids together. This leads to social promotion and lower expectations. You cannot use developmentally appropriate unless you define how it is applied. Our public schools try to solve this problem with “differentiated instruction” – to teach all ability, same-age kids to their own levels. The best they can do is to give the advanced (or, even average) kids more of that same work; enrichment versus the curriculum advancement they need. This separate work conflicts with their mixed-ability grouping philosophy, so much of this differentiation is given as homework. This attempt at differentiation allows them to continue with their fuzzy, spiraling, social promotion-based low expectations. It doesn’t work. Parents send their kids to schools with higher expectations.

    You want parents to leave it up to educators to define how all of this works, what content and skills are taught, and what grade-by-grade expectations are required? Most educators cannot claim expertise of the subjects they teach and there is great philosophical differences of opinion between parents and educators over what constitutes developmentally appropriate and how it is achieved. Then, you want the rest of the world to leave educators alone to make these decisions? And, you want to keep your monopoly and not allow choice? Incredible!

    You also keep wanting to bring in politicians into this group and mix them in with professionals that know the subjects that have to be taught. The problems with politicians are different and you better be more specific about your complaints.

    >”I teach 7 year olds through 10 year olds. They are not learning anything beyond basic arithmetic and muliplication facts at this point. However, the state mandated math tests is more a test of reading skills than math skills so we spend a great deal of time teaching kids how to decipher the questions. It is time we can’t spend on the basic math skills b/c some idiot politician, or mininformed “reformer” designed the tests and the standards. Do you really think it takes a PhD in Math to decide 7 year olds are not ready to do algebra? How much understanding of math do you think it takes to teach arithmetic?”

    Just curious, what math program, book or curriculum are you using with your students? (TERC, EM, etc?) By the way, the tests you are describing are all based on the fuzzy discovery/constructivist, thematic concepts of the NCTM. These people are educators, not mathematicians, scientists, or engineers. NCTM math is the problem. The California math standards were defined by mathematicians, scientists, and engineers. They do not include fuzzy understandings and reading skills that you complain about. Have you read them? I think you would be very happy to see how much more rigorous and explicit they are than the fuzzy NCTM-based tests. Perhaps you should cite some specific math test questions that you think are inappropriate so the rest of us can figure out why you have a problem with these tests. You might find some support from others on this list. But, when you complain about both fuzzy NCTM-type tests and rigorous California standards-type tests, then I think that either your problems are elsewhere or that you really don’t know what is going on.

  50. Mike in Texas says:

    Steve wrote:

    The California math standards were defined by mathematicians, scientists, and engineers. They do not include fuzzy understandings and reading skills that you complain about. Have you read them?

    As a matter of fact I have and some of them are good and very specific. I won’t argue over the fact many states have fuzzy math standards, however, I am not in agreement with the educators who think this is the way it should be. California, while having some good standards also has some fuzzy, non-specific ones too.

    However, the problems with CA. schools run deeper than mere standards. For starters, despite a well publicized initiative to lower class sizes in elementary schools, the teacher to student ratio dropped from 29.7 to 29, hardly an improvement. This tells me that CA politicians pay lip service to schools but really don’t back up their talk.

    You also keep wanting to bring in politicians into this group

    You must not have read many of my posts; I want politicians completely removed from the education process. They should not be allowed to vote on education funding, they should not be allowed to set standards,they should not be allowed to decide the what tests should be given or what the tests scores should be used for.

  51. “Just curious, what math program, book or curriculum are you using with your students? (TERC, EM, etc?) By the way, the tests you are describing are all based on the fuzzy discovery/constructivist, thematic concepts of the NCTM. These people are educators, not mathematicians, scientists, or engineers. NCTM math is the problem. The California math standards were defined by mathematicians, scientists, and engineers. They do not include fuzzy understandings and reading skills that you complain about. Have you read them? I think you would be very happy to see how much more rigorous and explicit they are than the fuzzy NCTM-based tests. Perhaps you should cite some specific math test questions that you think are inappropriate so the rest of us can figure out why you have a problem with these tests. You might find some support from others on this list. But, when you complain about both fuzzy NCTM-type tests and rigorous California standards-type tests, then I think that either your problems are elsewhere or that you really don’t know what is going on.”

    You are hitting the nail on the head. It’s a disgrace that fuzzy NCTM math was adopted so widely and institutionalized. It’s also disgraceful that the tax-supported National Science Foundation through its EHR division is spending a fortune to promote fuzzy (constructivist) math. TERC, CMP and many other fuzzy math products were financed by the NSF.

    For a detailed account, see here: http://www.csun.edu/~vcmth00m/AHistory.html

  52. Mike in Texas wrote:

    They should not be allowed to vote on education funding, they should not be allowed to set standards,they should not be allowed to decide the what tests should be given or what the tests scores should be used for.

    Ooooh, let’s all suspend our credulity for Mike’s convenience.

    Hey Mike, it’s called the public education system for a reason. The public brought it into existance, it’s answerable, at least theoretically, to the public. The representatives of the public are….wait for it….politicians.

    If you’re really that unhappy about having to eke out an existance under the thumb of those misbegotten politicians you can get out from under by getting a job teaching in a private school.

    Of course, that’s not a free ride either, is it?

  53. MiT wrote:

    >”However, the problems with CA. schools run deeper than mere standards. For starters, despite a well publicized initiative to lower class sizes in elementary schools, the teacher to student ratio dropped from 29.7 to 29, hardly an improvement. This tells me that CA politicians pay lip service to schools but really don’t back up their talk.”

    You’re changing the subject. The thread was about standards, their quality, and who gets to decide on these standards. You were the one putting mathematicians, scientists, and engineers in the same group and having the same agenda as politicians. You are the one saying that parents and anyone who is an expert in the subject areas should not have a say in what should be taught and what should be expected on a grade-by-grade basis. Now, you want to change the discussion to just politics.

    >”You must not have read many of my posts; I want politicians completely removed from the education process. They should not be allowed to vote on education funding, they should not be allowed to set standards,they should not be allowed to decide the what tests should be given or what the tests scores should be used for”

    Not vote on education funding? Are you including local town elected politicians that approve school budgets? Get real! And just who should decide all of these things? Educators only? You seem to want to blame all of your problems on politicians or other people. You can’t even see the many fuzzy, low-expectation educator and union rules problems in your own “house”. It seems to me that the sort of tests you dislike come straight from the fuzzy Ed school philosophies than many of us are fighting.

    You also seem quite myopic. In our state (and many others), it is the public education hierarchy (educators) who are very good at playing the political game and getting the politicians (and newspapers) on their side. They may not be able to get rid of NCLB, but they are proactive in making sure that the state standards and tests meet all of their own progressive Ed-school-based philosophies, and that includes things like using math tests to check reading skills. You need to specify exactly which tests you don’t like (TAKS?) so that we can find out what type of test it is and who is behind the use of those tests. You need to be more specific in your complaints.

    Also, you did not respond to what is your philosophy on how to implement a developmentally appropriate process and you didn’t say which math curriculum you use. If you are an expert in developmentally appropriate techniques, I want to hear from you how it should be done and why it is something that only educators can figure out, and not parents, who know their kids a whole lot better than their teachers.

  54. Mike in Texas says:

    Steve,

    I currently do not teach math, as I am a Science and Technology teacher. As often is the case, though, Math comes up a great deal and I do not use fuzzy math when it comes to kids doing their work. There is one answer and it is the only correct answer.

    Not vote on education funding? Are you including local town elected politicians that approve school budgets? Get real! And just who should decide all of these things? Educators only?

    By all means, bring in the parents, scientists and others to set the standards but too often in education, especially when the Business Roundtable is in session and when the “reformers” meet, there are no educators invited.

    As for funding, all schools in a state should be funded equally. Determine how much the state needs to spend on a per student basis and give that amount of money to the schools. And require some fiscal accountability from school boads and administrators. That means when you have schools falling apart you don’t remodel your administration building, or build yourself a showcase football stadium.

  55. Mike in Texas says:

    I also should have mentioned in my funding plan, protect it from the whims of politicians. Make your education funding untouchable Formulate a plan to keep your per student spending level with inflation and see that all schools have adequate funding.

  56. Here is a MiT challenge:

    MiT is an expert in developmental appropriateness and has read the CA math standards. The CA math standards were written by mathematicians (as opposed to math “educators”). How developmentally appropriate are these standards?

  57. Mike in Texas says:

    instructivist,

    As I mentioned above, I think some of the CA standards are very well written.

  58. MiT, You’re all over the place with your complaints. You need to be more specific.

    >”By all means, bring in the parents, scientists and others to set the standards but too often in education, especially when the Business Roundtable is in session and when the “reformers” meet, there are no educators invited.”

    I have no idea what you are talking about. You changed your mind and then you make some sort of snide comment.

    >”I also should have mentioned in my funding plan, protect it from the whims of politicians. Make your education funding untouchable Formulate a plan to keep your per student spending level with inflation and see that all schools have adequate funding.”

    Do you think that public school problems are just about money? And, just what is “adequate funding”? Are you saying that school funding is not adequate and has not kept pace with inflation? Tell me exactly how much money you need to make everything OK? If you get this money, what kind of accountability and testing are you willing to accept? For the last 20+ years I have seen (and supported) enormous amounts of money being poured into public school systems. Now that I have a son in school and have first-hand knowledge of public schools’ fuzzy and low expectations, I know that the problem is not about money.

    Besides, you can’t change the subject now to talk only about politicians and money. You haven’t addressed the issues I raised about fuzzy concepts of education and developmentally appropriate practices. These ideas come from Ed-school educators, not politicians. You were the one saying that non-educators had no business being involved in these decisions. I am saying that developmentally-appropriate practices are used as cover for a whole range of philosophical and political agendas that are based on opinion and not science. What educators really don’t want are outsiders questioning their philosophy and agenda. This has nothing to do with science.

  59. Mike in Texas says:

    Steve,

    You can rant about fuzzy practices all you want and most of it I will agree with. However, I have never seen a vast conspiracy by the Ed. schools to promote these practices. For example, like many other teachers I learned about Whole Language but it was one of only many ways I was taught to present information. What I wastaught was that one method only will not reach all children. If you want to talk fuzzy practices look at the current “phonics only” push occuring in many states, including CA. In the case of reading instruction, one size does not fit all.

    As far as funding goes, here in Texas a judge ruled the state’s system was unconstitutional. The state had argued that it was providing 55% of the necessary funding to achieve the 100% goals it is demanding from the schools and that should be sufficient. Allen (I believe) worked out the 100% figure to be 12K based upon the current average Texas expenditure per child. Why would Texas then knowingly underfund its schools? Because the state leaders and their businessmen friends want public education to fail. Then they can get a hold of the billions of dollars being spent on public education in Texas.

    If you want accoutability, fine. Just make it something meaningful. But judging an entire year’s work based on one test that has not been proven to be valid is just dumb, dumb, dumb. Here in Texas 8 year olds are now required to pass a state reading test or be retained and I think that situation is ridiculous.

  60. MiT, You still haven’t addressed the issues I raised about developmentally appropriate practices. You were the one saying that non-educators had no business being involved in these decisions. You were the one claiming that only educators have the knowledge and skills to make these decisions. This is not just about using different teaching methods like phonics or Whole Language. It has to do with opinion-based ideas such as full-inclusion, spiraling, and social promotion. You haven’t described how this should work or why others should be excluded from the process.

    >”However, I have never seen a vast conspiracy by the Ed. schools to promote these practices.”

    Are you saying that Ed schools are neutral on teaching methods? You must be kidding.

    >”If you want to talk fuzzy practices look at the current “phonics only” push occuring in many states, including CA. In the case of reading instruction, one size does not fit all.”

    What is fuzzy about a program that has been proven to work in a vast majority of cases? It may not work for everyone, but it is not fuzzy. And, it’s a whole lot better than the typical Ed school “balance” of phonics as a last resort in fourth grade.

    >”Because the state leaders and their businessmen friends want public education to fail. Then they can get a hold of the billions of dollars being spent on public education in Texas.”

    Talk about conspiracies. You could become famous in Texas if you had any shred of evidence to prove this. Go for it!

    >”If you want accoutability, fine. Just make it something meaningful. But judging an entire year’s work based on one test that has not been proven to be valid is just dumb, dumb, dumb. Here in Texas 8 year olds are now required to pass a state reading test or be retained and I think that situation is ridiculous.”

    “fine.” What a concession! But I never talked about high-stakes tests for accountability. In fact, I’m not a big fan of high stakes tests and I am not a fan of NCLB because it accepts very low expectations. However, if schools can do no better than social promotion and some vague use of portfolios and rubrics, then what do you expect the state to do? Educators have no one to blame but themselves. Since they couldn’t do the job, the government will come in and do it for them. Since the states get to decide on the test, I find that the selection process is greatly influenced by the state’s public school education hierarchy. What test do you object to in Texas, who developed it, and who advocated its use? Are you saying that your state’s educators had no input?

  61. Mike in Texas says:

    Actually Steve what I object to is what the results are used for. Testing is supposed to be a teaching tool, instead is the one and only evaluation tool. Research is now beginning to show the results don’t correlate with anything else but the tests themselves. Or if you prefer, Texas education has now become a test prep institution. Too bad the students are suffering b/c of it.

    As you probably know, Texas was the model on which NCLB was created. However, there have been large holes poked in the so called Texas Miracle and the holes begin with none other than Rod Paige Sect of Education. Under his leadership Houston schools lied about dropout rates and now it is coming to light the administration that came after him probably engaged in large scale cheating on test scores.

    I also object to the way the test scores are used by the politicians. Back in 2000 when Bush was running for President the test scores were manipulated to make him look better, with the teachers’ unions looking the other way. In that year you only had to get 50% of the questions correct on some tests to be considered passing.

    What is fuzzy about a program that has been proven to work in a vast majority of cases?

    Phonics only has not been proven to be effective for the majority of kids. I agree it does have its uses, especially in the emerging reading stages but you need only scroll down and read about how poorly CA’s students are doing in reading with a phonics only approach. What will turn kids into lifelong readers is giving them good quality literature to read and the phonics companies just don’t have it.

    By all means, bring in other people to help write the standards. Bring in the mathematicians, the parents AND the educators but leave the politicians out of it.

  62. Mike in Texas wrote:

    Bring in the mathematicians, the parents AND the educators but leave the politicians out of it.

    Well sure. There’s hardly a public institution that wouldn’t benefit from excluding the elected representatives of the public from the decision-making process.

  63. Mike in Texas says:

    The the elected representatives don’t usually distinguish themselves by working for the common good, do they? In fact, why not just substitute lawyers (since that’s what so many of them are), the least trusted profession there is.

  64. Mike in Texas wrote:

    The the elected representatives don’t usually distinguish themselves by working for the common good, do they?

    Really? And your handy substitute would be what? A dictatorship of the pedagogues?

    Sorry. The question was redundent in the face of some of your previous comments.

  65. Mike in Texas says:

    Allen, I think term-limits on political offices would help to change this situation. Of course, in order for that to happen the same people who benefit by not having term limits would have to give up their powers. Not likely to happen.

  66. Mike in Texas wrote:

    Allen, I think term-limits on political offices would help to change this situation.

    They’re still politicians and your prescription for healing what ails public education is to, somehow, exclude politicians from making decisions about public education.

    You’ve written that you’ve been a teacher for twelve years. Don’t you think it’s past time to put aside utopian notions of public school teacher’s paradise?

    Nothing comes for free so if you want more control over your destiny you’ve got to be willing to accept more risk and more responsibility.

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