Category Archives: Standards

2011 Common Core Workshop

Last spring I attended my first common core workshop and wrote the following:

Common Core Curriculum

People don’t like change.  There seems to be a lot of angst among teachers about the implementation of the Common Core Standards.

Some see it as a continued move towards useless high-stakes testing.  Others see it as another annoying thing teachers have to deal with.

This year I went to an seminar thingy where we learned more about the standards.  Teachers came from all over LA county.   Some of the details contribute to the overall angst.  The standards will be tested during the 2014-15 school year.  Textbooks and other materials will be available in 2016.  No I’m not kidding.

(According to the presenters.  I’m not sure how accurate that is since I’ve already found quite a few materials online.  Besides by 2016 textbooks will be obsolete.  Whether we still use them is a different matter….)

A lot of questions went unanswered:  Will we still have the STAR tests?  What about the High School Exit Exam?  The answers depend on legislation which hasn’t been passed by our not-at-all-disfunctional California legislature.

I’m actually looking forward to the changes.

1.  Process Standards:  The math standards are more aligned with the NCTM standards and include 8 process standards which emphasize a problem based approach.  These standards emphasize the process of problem solving not just learning content.   I admit students may not ever need to understand hyperbolas. But the process of learning about hyperbolas has always been valuable.  And now it will be emphasized.

2.  Computer Adaptive Testing:  The inevitable tests will be done on the computer.  As students get questions correct the questions get harder.  When they miss questions they get easier.  The advantage is fewer questions are needed to figure out what the student knows.  Another advantage is that it identifies what the student knows, not just what they don’t know.

3.  In high school, only juniors have to take the state mandated tests.  This should reduce the angst among 9th and 10th grade teachers.  There will be tests available for these grades.  But it looks like the data will be mostly used to help teachers.

4.  All juniors will take the same test. This really helps at our school…

(Thoughts on this years workshop coming soon.)

Content Standards Blasphemy

(I wrote this a year or so ago.)

The problem with problem solving….

Math teachers throughout time have said, “math is important to help you develop problem solving skills.”  And then they show you how to solve the problem and you know how to solve THAT problem.  When faced with a new problem you’re just as lost.

But that’s not the problem.

So we develop quasi real world problems that look open-ended…   But, in reality, we expect a certain outcome from the students.  We expect them to choose a certain strategy and come up with a particular answer,  or range of possible answers.  If they don’t, we help them by giving them a strategy.

That’s still not the problem.

The problem is the standards.  We look at a content standard and say let’s create a problem that utilizes that standard.  We give it to the student and they solve it a different way.  And we adjust and give the next students steps to solving the problem.  Now we’re back to helping the students more than we should because we’re overly attached to the standards.

I may be exaggerating but…  “real world” problem solving is not compatible with content based standards such as California’s.

Developing problem solving skills should be the goal, not understanding the difference between equations of ellipses and hyperbolas.

I hope the Common Core standards are better.

Cartoon by Carlson

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