Thursday, December 31, 2015
At my son's high school, all of the teachers, including honors and AP teachers, had to align their content with the book, chapter, and verse of CCSS. One teacher was so pissed off that he gave it to the students to do as homework. My son had an assignment where he had to not only do the assignment, but break it into CCSS tasks or goals - citing specific sections, and explain why each part fit the CCSS standard. I remember helping him with it. Our reaction was "Whatever."
Education is the only public policy area that I ever analyzed (and experienced) in detail. I'm still amazed by how stuck and entrenched it is. I am also amazed at the bias, the shallowness, and amount of misunderstanding. I call it a turf thing. That's all they have, and ironically, ed schools directly teach it to their students by rote. The problem is that if you take that away from them, they have nothing. However, when my son got to 7th grade, when our state required subject certification to teach, things began to change. High school was a completely different world (which is not true everywhere) where none of his classes cared about CCSS. For those parents who know better, CCSS is meaningless. They will have to ensure learning at home. For other parents, high school content focus comes too late.
Since "education" is now its own separate content (devoid of subject content), they assume that it informs them about best practices in other areas. I found it astounding to be lectured by a first grade teacher about understanding in math and why it's good for kids to explain why 2+2=4. Their position seems to be that content experts were naturally good in the subject so they don't know what's best for most other students. They also claim that parents only want what they had when they were young - that they just don't understand modern ideas of learning. Critical thinking? No. Bias and turf.
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
"Kids like those questions because they feel creative in math class. They're exposed to other students thinking. They get the generation effect with minimal extraneous load. They get to see lots of worked examples..." and so on.
In my experience some kids may like it, but many tune out. If it's welcomed it's because it's a good way to pass the time until class is over. They get to talk, to BS a bit, and "feel creative" but not much math is learned.
It's torture on the kids who actually want to learn something, but for the majority, it certainly is "fun",
"...inspired as they are by educational progressivism, are supposed to favor child-centered discovery learning. And yet, in many ways, they are less child-centered than ever."
I've seen so many cases where what they say and what they do are completely different. They want child-centered, but that really means group-centered in class. They talk about different learning styles, but don't let the students decide, especially if the student wants to use traditional algorithms rather than something like the lattice method. They talk about discovery, but they can't do this for everything so only a few topics get that in-class, group approach. They assume that it works and don't care if the light bulb goes on for one student who proceeds to directly teach it badly to the others in the group. Apparently, students can't discover anything with individual homework assignments. They talk about differentiated instruction, but that never gets done and it's not acceleration. My son had to draw crayon pictures of science terms in sixth grade even though he memorized them in very short order.
They want students to discover what they want them to discover. They make it clear to the students that the teachers favor some techniques and explanations over others. It was a big problem for me when my son was in K-6. How do you tell them that they are completely wrong? They don't even do what they say they are going to do. I came to the conclusion that their only goal is group work in class with the teacher as the guide on the side. They want to follow a rote process and assume that it works by definition. I don't see any arguments that would get these people to understand anything else.
I thought that maybe if they knew what the parents of the best students did at home with ensuring basic skills, that it would make a difference. They don't want to know because if you take their beliefs away from them, then they have nothing.
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Posted by Katharine Beals at 2:30 PM
Monday, December 28, 2015
Why couldn't the US simply adopt Primary Mathematics as the "standard" and be done with it?
(With the exception of 3, they don't seem unreasonable to me.)
I thought I would see "Students should be able to solve problems in more than one way," but I didn't find that particular phrase on the page I linked to. Do you know where it comes from?
There's nothing wrong with having students persevere in solving problems, but this has been interpreted as "struggle is good", and giving students problems without much help or guidance and having them "struggle" so that they can learn. There are ways to do this productively, of course. But the "struggle is good" philosophy is one that's been around for a while, and the SMP's are gasoline on the fire of bad math practices that have been around for 20+_years.
However, MCPS defines accelerated tracks on their web site. Acceleration opportunities start in grade 4, and in one option, this leads to algebra I in grade 7. Considering that CCSS, at most, expects only pseudo-algebra II content, it's not clear how they prepare these kids for algebra in 7th grade. (They don't.)Whatever they do has to be something not based on anything to do with CCSS. They can use their fuzzy UCARE words, but something else has to happen.
They start compacting the material in fourth grade, but the acceleration is based on the same fuzzy content and ideas of K-6 curricula. The only real change is when they get to a real algebra textbook that is far above what CCSS expects. Instead of a proper pre-algebra course, they force kids to suffer through "Investigations in Math." In other words, the only kids who will be on a STEM track are those who get math help at home or with tutors.
K-6 math ignorance has not been fixed by CCSS. It is just hidden by acronyms like UCARE. MCPS can make a connection to Calc AP as a junior in high school, but the onus is completely on the students and parents to make the nonlinear transition from K-6 fluff math to the real math textbook high school sequence.
CCSS is a one-size-fits-all (algebra II) expectation and anything above that is left up to the students and parents. MCPS can define the paths and students can make it onto those paths, but educators don't (want to) know how kids get on those paths.
I went through this exact process with my son. I worked with him on the (stupid) 6th grade Everyday Math material in the summer before 6th grade so that he could take pre-algebra in 6th grade. I know exactly what that nonlinear transition is all about. CCSS fails in that it does not address the transition from the fluff ideas of K-6 to the real world STEM options of the calculus track in high school. When I was in school, I got to calculus with absolutely no help from my parents. This is impossible to do now.
Sunday, December 27, 2015
A better assessment of the strengths of the two tests would be to show the number of problems a child can reasonably do in a set amount of time from each, and see how many skills the child has to master to do well on those problems.
1) The problem specifies the number of seats in each vehicle type, not the number of passengers it can carry. Does the correct answer presume that you have added a driver for each vehicle when calculating the total number of people transported?
2) If you need to make room for drivers, are the teachers driving a vehicle? So is the number of people in the vehicles equal to 69 students plus 3 teachers plus a driver for each vehicle, or three less than that total since the teachers could double as drivers.
Admittedly, the three "correct" answers all exceed any the total number of students, teachers, and drivers, but how much valuable time might be wasted by a student who thinks about this issue?
In addition, there is a third issue:
Who is driving the vehicles? The problem only mentions three adults (i.e., the three teachers), but no combination of vehicles can accommodate all the teachers and students with only three vehicles. So a student who is thinking critically might well conclude that it is impossible for all the students to be taken on the field trip.
Saturday, December 26, 2015
Friday, December 25, 2015
On more maps and fewer portraits:
The move to computer-based testing is a disaster. I tried taking an online sample, and the computer interface was incredibly time consuming and frustrating. How are kids supposed to show their work on a computer screen? Something that can be quickly done with a pencil and paper becomes unwieldy and aggravating on a monitor. (My grad school thesis contained equations long enough to fill an entire page, I know how hard it is to do math with a computer!)
We've seen a lot of math problems from the tests, but I would think the language arts part are just as bad. Does the 8 year old touch-typist have an enormous advantage over the kid who actually knows grammar, spelling and has good reading comp, but who hasn't spent much time at a keyboard? Probably.
It's a case of the shiny new thing being adopted because it's shiny and new, not because it is actually useful.
Thursday, December 24, 2015
On Bad things:
Some would benefit from improv classes if only to help keep them freezing when they make a mistake.
Others need to work on voice and intonation (suffering from the low-volume mumble or monotone that ruins so many academic talks). Again, acting classes could help (I take the grad students out into the woods once a year to practice speaking loudly.)
But most of the students need help in structuring their talks—in figuring out what the audience already knows, what they need to know, and what order to put the material in for smooth flow. That is not something that improv classes would help much with.