Tag Archives: common core standards

Coffee Talk – “New Math”, Discuss

 

The idea for this post originated from an email discussing experiences with the “new math”.It evolved into this collaborative effort; a discussion between parents (and a Lead Learner as well) from two different states sharing their perspective on the new math method adopted by the Common Core Standards. We welcome your opinion – please share your thoughts in replies.

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Tony Sinanis – Parent of a 4th grade student and Lead Learner

On June 2, 2010 the landscape of public education was changed dramatically when the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics for grades kindergarten through 12 were officially released to the nation in their completed form. These proposed national standards, which came as a result of the 2004 report Ready or Not: Creating a High School Diploma that Counts, were developed because both employers and colleges were demanding more of high school graduates than in the past and because these same graduates were lacking in the skills and knowledge they needed to succeed. The Common Core State Standards were developed as an opportunity to create a clear and consistent vision and understanding of what students are expected to learn in school so that educators and families know what they need to do to support their students. Furthermore, the CCSS are intended to address the “educational crisis” that exists in our country and is reflected in our inability to compete in the current landscape of the global economy. Our children are reportedly lacking the literacy, mathematical and critical thinking skills necessary to compete with learners from other countries and secure jobs that are relevant in today’s world. These standards and the aforementioned crisis have led to the “new math” unfolding in classroom across this country.

New math, as it has been coined on social media, by educators and families, is extremely concerning to me as an educator and lead learner. You see, I was educated by the “old math” way and I turned out fine. I am able to compute numbers, shop in a store and manage myself at the bank. I think the math experiences I had as a child prepared me for a success life where working with numbers has never been a problem. Unfortunately, the current landscape of public education tells us that way of teaching was good enough; didn’t go deep enough and didn’t challenge students to master important concepts. So, here we are today, struggling with the new math – educators, students and families – all struggling with new math. I mean come on, who really understands bar modeling? And does it really matter in the end? I am not sold on the idea but for some reason many elementary kids in this country are being exposed to this concept, and many other new math concepts, and are being told that is the way they must solve the problem. Really? We want all our kids to use the same strategy no matter what their learning style? For me, this is one of the biggest problems plaguing our schools today as a result of new math!

With that being said, I think there are some significant upsides to the entire new math experience. First and foremost, we are introducing less concepts to children and we are challenging the children to explore these concepts at a deeper level. This focus on deeper understandings is important because it challenges the children to move beyond basic computation and apply concepts to different real life situations. Another piece of new math that I value is the idea that we are seeing an increase in the use of manipulatives during the introduction of new concepts so the children develop a concrete understanding before moving on to a more abstract one. It is a powerful evolution to observe. Finally, our children are developing stronger problem solving skills, which will serve them well in any scenario or situation. So, do I love everything about new math? No! Do I think we need to make some improvements? Yes! And the main thing we need to remember is that each of our children learn differently – some like the old way while others embrace the new.

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Lisa Davis, Parent of kindergarten, 5th grade, and 7th grade students

Being the mom of 3 school aged children, you can be sure that the subject of “new math” has often been a topic of conversation. I also held the position of President of my elementary school PTA last year, the first year of implementation of common core in the state of New York.

I cannot tell a lie, none of the feedback from parents has been positive. For my daughter in 4th grade, the new math seemed less of an issue than for my 6th grade son. He had a rough time. As a matter of fact, so did his entire grade. The gaps in the curriculum proved very challenging. The pace was incredible, and the new “rigor” was certainly there. These factors on top of a transition from elementary school to middle school did not play in the favor of my son and his classmates.

At PTA meetings, I heard frustrated parents share homework questions, and discuss issues with helping with their children. Pictures were posted on Facebook and Twitter, showing 1st grade math problems that made even math majors scratch their heads.

Even with these experiences, I am not ready to definitively say that the new math is a failure. I still question where it came from, why it’s so different than the way we learned, and what created the need for such a change. But my inquisitive mind also wants to figure it out. I want to see why this is meant to be the answer we’ve been waiting for, that I didn’t realize we had questioned.

So we’ve been sold some promises. This new math will allow children to have a better number sense. They will be able to do “mental math” faster and at greater lengths than before. After a foundation of this math style, students will have a better understanding of math functions.

Ultimately, when asked my opinion on new math – I’m still undecided. There’s no question in my mind that new math was improperly rolled out. If the state had decided to begin new math in kindergarten last year, I think we would have been spared a lot of headaches. But as we can’t turn back the clock, I chose to be optimistic and hopeful that this new curriculum will deliver.

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Gwen Pescatore, Parent of 1st grade, 4th grade, and 7th grade students

When I was taught math, we weren’t often just given a formula and set of numbers to compute. We were given a problem; one filled with words and numbers. We then needed to take the scenario and pull the pieces of information we needed to solve the problem at hand. Sometimes this meant completing several steps – and we always had to show our work and label our answers. Math was always real. It was calculating the tip for a waitress, the amount of carpet we needed for our room, how long it would take to drive to our vacation destination, how much time we would save if we increased our speed, and so on.

This part of the “new math” I am ALL for. I believe we need to show kids how what they’re learning in the classroom relates to their real life today and in the future. From here, I think I disagree more than I agree. I think there’s truth to the statement that “one size doesn’t fit all”. Showing our kids a variety of ways to solve a problem is wonderful. We not only appeal to different learning styles – but also ways to solve a problem in a variety of situations…but at what point are we throwing too many options at them? When does it simply cause confusion? When does it create a larger issue that you are spending so much time sharing the various ways to solve the problem, and not enough time allowing kids to become proficient using a select few? Also, why are we forcing kids to use a particular method to solve the problem?In my opinion, as long as they can solve the problem, show their work and explain why they chose the method they did – I say let them choose.

Personally, I feel lucky to be in the position we’re in at our school. When the math program changed over, we had several options to learn about it, what to expect as far as the writing and reading to come, and the timeline we should expect it may take our children to adjust. I have yet to see or hear people in our school or district sharing out math problems that they, as adults, struggle with when lending their child a hand doing homework as I’ve seen done in other places. I’m not saying there aren’t kids struggling. We do after all have a large ESL population. But…I don’t feel the struggles are as extreme.

Changes can be scary, especially when it can make you feel helpless and/or inferior. Schools need to do their part to eliminate as many of those fears as possible by providing families with information such as why there is a change, what “new math” looks like, an approximate length of time it may take for their kids to adjust…and where they can turn for help, when they need it, to be able to help their children at home.

A special thanks to Tony for being our first post collaborator! You can find Tony on Twitter at @tonysinanis and his blog at http://www.leadingmotivatedlearners.blogspot.com.


TALI Hosted Diane Ravitch And I Was There!

Last week I was so blessed to have the opportunity to see Diane Ravitch speak to Take Action Long Island (TALI) in Woodbury, NY. The audience was filled with over 1,100 educators, parents, activists ready to learn more about the state of public education in New York and the country.

Topics of her speech included: the widespread attacks on unions (which in her words are an attack on the middle class), Race to the Top (origins and effects), High Stakes Tests, Charter Schools, Vouchers, and Cyber Schools, Teacher Evaluations (APPR), Data Mining, and ALEC. Her comments were succinct and insightful, and she provided many sources to back up her analyses.

Her explanation of high stakes testing really struck a chord with me, especially since my school aged children are right at the heart of testing years. Her words resonated one at a time, as she discussed the goal of these assessments – they don’t close the achievement gap, they measure them. She spoke of the achievement gap, which is more accurately an economic gap because it is clear that economically challenged students suffer the most from high stakes tests. She explained that tests aren’t scientific instruments, but social constructions. As many parents know firsthand, she explained that high stakes tests destroy real teaching as instruction inevitably becomes “teaching to the test”.

The educators in the room all applauded when she said that the true purpose of public education is to nurture and promote character, integrity, and citizenship.

Diane shed some light on charter schools, exclaiming they are not public schools, but private schools using public money. They cherry pick students and either kick out or deny students with IEPs and English Language Learners. These students are then sent back to public schools where all students are guaranteed an education. The problem becomes that public schools are depleted of funds because monies are going to local charters, cyber schools, and vouchers, leaving the district without proper funding for these children. The most remarkable fact she shared was that even after these schools weed out “undesirable” or challenging students, they still score lower than public schools. Charters have been wrought with scandal. There isn’t a week that goes by that we don’t hear about embezzlement, impropriety, or other questionable acts. The sad truth about charters is that they have no local allegiance, only a desire to make a profit.

There were positive moments when Ravitch shared the reason why this moment in public education will pass – because it’s wrong. She said we all must take action to ensure this happens. Speak up, tell politicians that high stakes tests are wrong, that basing teacher evaluations on tests are wrong, and that we won’t stand for charter schools, vouchers, and cyber schools taking our public school monies.

After an emotional hour, she responded to a question by a member of the audience. The crowd roared as she ended her talk with this sentiment – I have a dream….that all Long Island will opt out of high stakes tests.

For more information on Diane Ravitch – http://dianeravitch.com/

ALEC exposed – http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed

Making the Grades, Todd Farley  – http://www.amazon.com/Making-Grades-Misadventures-Standardized-Industry/dp/098170915X

Network for Public Education website – http://www.networkforpubliceducation.org/

United Opt Out National website – http://unitedoptout.com/


Common Core Assessments & Teacher Evaluation Testing – Enough Already!

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For the past few weeks, I have spent many hours in meetings with administrators, teachers, and parents discussing the changes that have been integrated into our schools since the adoption of the common core standards. We’ve talked about the “rigors” of the core. We’ve talked about the new focus on language in all subjects. We’ve talked about the new programs that the district has purchased to address the core. One thing we haven’t discussed very much – the assessments and the schedule.

It wasn’t until the other night, that I came across a tweet that linked to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) website. What I read shocked me. The pdf discussed the testing schedule for the 2014/15 school year. To my surprise and disgust, it said that there will actually be TWO PARCC tests scheduled for our children. Beginning in 3rd grade, our children will take TWO high-stakes tests per year –

A performance-based assessment (PBA) component, administered after approximately 75% of the school year, and an end of year assessment (EOY) component, administered after approximately 90% of the school year.1

When did this happen?  Add in test prep, when are these kids learning? When are teachers not prepping, benchmarking, and testing? When is enough enough?

Please don’t take this as an affront against my school or district. I have so much respect and admiration for the professionals teaching and running our school system. They work their hardest to provide the best education for our children every day. Because of the delicate nature of this subject, I asked not my children’s teachers but teacher friends (elementary school) about how public education has changed since the integration of common core standards and APPR (the NY State teacher evaluation system) assessments. The answer was unanimous – Dreadfully.

More than one friend reported teachers crying after school hours, once the children had gone home. They cry for the children and they cry for themselves. These professionals entered the field with a love of children and education. They were given opportunities for creativity, relationship building, and even some fun. Now their time is spent addressing common core mandated assessing and APPR  mandated assessments as well. Their districts are scurrying for the best common core aligned programs. Professional development can’t keep up with the changes. Throw in the economic climate; funds are tight for materials, professional development, and other resources. APPR also requires assessments throughout the year. The assessments are meant to measure the efficiency and skill level of the teacher on the backs of our children. And the worst part I learned – the children are feeling it. They noted visible stress-related behaviors like students crying, having bathroom accidents, and children vocalizing feeling sick.

To paraphrase an analogy from an article written about high stakes testing in Texas:

You can keep weighing the cow, but it’s not going to gain weight until you feed it.

The timing of this post seems perfect. Yesterday two amazing things took place:

1 – The Texas House of Representatives voted 145-2 to reduce high-stakes testing. The legislation reduces end-of-course exams from 15 to 5 needed for graduation from high school. The win is largely attributed to parent activism.

{http://www.statesman.com/news/news/heated-debate-in-texas-house-over-testing-graduati/nW4qF/}

2- I was fortunate to watch a live Google Hangout discussion from Finland, discussing the success of the Finnish Educational System and what America can learn from their practices.  Finland, as well as South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore top the list of best global educations based on international test scores. One amazing difference between Finnish and American education is the absence of high stakes tests and test-based teacher evaluations.

For more information on Finland’s educational system  {https://www.facebook.com/PennFinn13?fref=ts}

http://www.parcconline.org/sites/parcc/files/PARCC%20Assessment%20Administration%20Guidance_FINAL_0.pdf 1


Passionate Learners – Take 2

For my first blog post I had written a beautiful paper about the importance and significance of being a passionate learner as a parent…..and then I participated in PTChat.  For those of you unfamiliar with PTChat, it’s a weekly online Twitter discussion between teachers, administrators, staff, parents, and students.  Topics change each week – If it’s happening in education, it’s being discussed in PTChat.  This week the subject was “Encouraging a Love of Reading Beyond Required Texts”.  The passion and heart displayed in this discussion went beyond the words; they were felt in each tweet.  I realized something very important – to write about something you really care about with all your heart, you have to write from your heart to the hearts of your readers.  So, gone are my beautiful charts and research.  In their place are my feelings and beliefs on the subject.

All the players in schools today are being pushed and challenged to new levels.  Where students were once compared to peers within the state, they are now being compared to peers around the world.  This new global approach has taken our educators to a new frontier of learning.  Reading, math, science and technology are surpassing the old expectations.  Along with these new “rigors” of education, our children are also expected to be passionate about their learning.  Lifelong learning is the goal.  Preparedness for 21st century higher education and jobs is now the focus.  Teachers, staff, and administrators are on the cutting edge of this new style of teaching.  They too are expected to be passionate learners.  No parent wants a teacher who is “phoning it in”, certainly not now when the stakes are so high.

As parents we need to be in the game too.  Our education is not the same as that of our children today.  This new curriculum requires stronger critical thinking and research skills than ever.  One thing comes to mind as I learn more about the common core standards, parents need to model lifelong learning and passionate learning if we want our children to do the same.

This is what I’ve been doing to be a role model for my children:

  • I took them with me to the library to find that book discussed on PTChat that I re-tweeted (as a reminder to myself  of the title).
  • I registered for a MOOC!  I am taking an online class called “Critical Thinking in Global Challenges” through the University of Edinburgh via Coursera.
  • I’m almost done reading “The Story of the World – History for the Classical Child, Volume 1”, a book given to my son by his 6th grade social studies teacher when he displayed interest beyond the class requirement.  He read it in 2 days, it’s taken me about 3 weeks!
  • AND – I have the best new pen pal since participating in PTChat!  She inspires me, motivates me, and re-energizes me.  Having a partner makes it exciting to challenge myself to learn more and share ideas and thoughts.

How are you challenging yourself to become a passionate learner?  The opportunities are boundless.  The internet never sleeps.  Share your next step here!


SheilaSpeaking

A space for thinking, reflecting and sharing about education -- and the odd other thing...

Ingvi Hrannar

Icelandic educator, iPad 1:1 classroom, speaker & entrepreneur.

Penn-Finn Learnings 2013

Sharing our inquiries - March 23-30

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