During Obama’s State of the Union Address he spoke of lofty initiatives to:
- Keep kids in high school until they are 18
- offer rewards and incentives for teacher effectiveness instead of seniority
- improve teacher quality by improving teacher preparation programs
- partner businesses with community colleges
- end tuition tax credits
- make college more affordable by keeping tuition rates the same and ending federal funding if the universities increase their tuition
- replace ineffective teachers
- Give schools flexibility instead of teaching to the test, creatively teach students to learn…(and how will this happen since there will still be a test?)
See the full article at Huffington Post.
Keep it REAL! This fourth common core standard for mathematical practice could be summed up in that statement. Modeling with Mathematics doesn’t quite mean pull out the snap cubes, color tiles, and pattern blocks. The essence of this standard is to create problem solving experiences for students that they will encounter in real life. Some practical problem solving experiences could include:
- If I have to put 2/3 cups of flour in the recipe and I need to double the recipe, how many times do I need to fill a 1/3 measuring cup to put enough flour in the doubled recipe?
- Which cell phone data and calling package is the best buy?
- What time do I need to wake up for school to get dressed and be there fifteen minutes early?
- If I can only spend 25% of my income on renting a house, how much money do I need to make to rent a house that is $500 a month? $600? $900?
- How could you create a floor plan for a house with 1428 square feet?
- If a certain medicine is shown to be effective 33% of the time, should it be used to treat an illness?
To create an environment for this third standard of mathematical practice, a teacher must create a safe environment where students’ do not fear risks and where it is okay for them to be wrong. In our current school culture most students do not feel comfortable being wrong for fear of being laughed at or belittled by their peers or worse–maybe the teacher. This culture must be replaced by the idea that everyone’s thinking is worth examining either for why it is correct or incorrect. For students, gone is the day when they simply agree or disagree with someone’s answer–might I add usually following the tone of the teacher’s voice to know if the answer is correct. Students must be able to explain why they agree or disagree.
We must value each student’s response. Instead of getting an answer and moving on, teachers should collect the thinking of at least several students and ask if the answers are reasonable or unreasonable. For example, for the problem 14 x 3, a teacher might go around the room and gather the answers 17, 34, 32, 42, and 44. The teacher can ask students which answers are unreasonable and why.
A student who is critiquing the reasoning of other with a viable argument might say something like:
“Well, I know that 17 can’t be correct because if you add 10 twice that makes 20 and fourteen is more than 10 and 20 is more than 17, so 17 couldn’t be correct. Also, I think they accidentally added because 14 plus 3 is seventeen.”
In the above case the student who gave the incorrect answer is not named because no one remembers who gave the response 17. Since 17 is written on the board as a response and no name is written by the response the answer is viewed merely as something to discuss. The student, however, who gave the response 17 is most likely intently listening because he gave the response. Further, the student answering 17 may have even recognized his mistake when the teacher wrote all of the responses on the board and saw how his was far from other students’ answers.
A practical approach of a student constructing a viable argument for his correct answer might sound something like this after being asked what is 14 x 3?
“I know the answer is 42 because I used the distributive property to multiply my tens first and then my ones. I broke the fourteen into one ten and four ones. Then I multiplied the ten times three and I got thirty. Next, I multiplied the three ones and the four ones and got twelve. Then I added thirty and twelve and got 42.
I know what you are thinking, “My students wouldn’t say all of that!” BUT, if you praise and expect this behavior, you will be surprised at what your students will be able to explain by the end of the year. Eventually you will no longer prompt students to go beyond the answer “42″, they will be explaining their reasoning without being asked.
Making Sense of Problems and Persevere in Solving Them is the first of the Eight Mathematical Practices of Common Core. Because this is a practice that needs to be fostered in students and is not easily modeled by teachers, it is one of the more difficult practices to develop in students. Teachers tend not to model problem solving, but they model a method or a strategy to find a solution. Making Sense of Problems and Persevering in Solving them kisses the old “direct modeling” lesson plans goodbye.
Instead of direct modeling, teachers should provide students with rich tasks that help students discover the content they are trying to teach. A good example of this is in one of the TERC math investigations books in which students are given several nets and asked to find the number of cubes needed to fill the net. Students then are asked to make a generalization about how to find the number of cubes needed to fill a net. After this task students devise their own way to calculate the volume of a figure. Students will have different methods to finding the volume of a figure, and this gives place for student voice and higher level questioning and discussion. Then the teacher may lead students into the conventional volume formula after students have found it for themselves.
Instead of direct modeler, the teacher takes on more of a facilitator role. The teacher is responsible for giving students rich, engaging tasks that will guide them into discovering the math content they are trying to teach. Math class then becomes engaging because of its core of students’ discovery through problem solving, and the learning becomes their own. Teachers’ role is to provide students with mathematical vocabulary, notation, and convention to express their found ideas. Teachers should also formatively assess students throughout their learning to gauge the level of challenge that they need to provide for their students. When a teacher becomes skilled at providing rich lessons for the students, then the students persevere because their interest level is heightened.
According to a certain website and to the administrators at my school Bloom’s Taxonomy did change. Who knew? Actually Bloom’s understudy Lorin Anderson altered the taxonomy to be more relevant to the current times. This new version of Bloom’s taxonomy has been in place since the 90′s. Synthesis has been removed and Creating has been added as the most difficult level of Bloom’s taxonomy. Also, Anderson changed all of the taxonomy levels into verbs instead of nouns. For example, instead of the Knowledge level, Knowledge has been replaced with the verb Understanding. To view an example of the taxonomy, click here.
In John Stossel’s recent report on public education, he conveys how the government school monopoly does not trust education to the free market even though the free market has made everything else in America great. Opposing teacher’s unions argue that the parents aren’t real ‘customers’ because they aren’t knowledgeable enough about education. Stossel’s report implies that if we trust public education to the teachers unions as we have before we will get more of the same–increased funding yet no results shown in improving student achievement. Teacher’s unions continue to advocate that they are ‘for’ improving education, yet some teacher’s unions are explicit in their thoughts such as one teacher’s union leader who stated, “When school children start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.”
To read more click here.
With all of the talk about reforming our schools and standards, we seem to be changing the law but just trading one set of regulations for another. I, too, hope that the common core standards and current school reform leads us to better educating children. However, I just read an interesting article that addresses the spirit of the law which seems to be missing from our educational system. This article by Margaret Spellings of The Huffington Post makes the point that our nation has managed to lead the world in cutting edge discoveries in medicine, technology, and business yet still lags behind other countries educational systems. Spellings proposes several paradigm shifts in her article. If American public schools treated parents as clients, and parents were able to move students to the schools that best suited their child, then would the educational system improve? If teachers were paid not by a scale, but by the amount of work they did and by how skilled they were, then would that improve education? Ultimately, what if competition drove our school systems and the voice of the clients, would that improve American education? If the private business sector has become great on these principals, then wouldn’t it work for American education?
I was listening to Kim Komando (the digital goddess) on nationally syndicated talk radio today as I often do, and a word caught my ear. She mentioned a Mathnasium! I, being a math coach at my school, had to wonder what it was. So I looked up a Mathnasium on line and found out that they are franchises that teach students math like a Sylvan Learning Center. They aren’t very well known yet, and they are international. Not all states have a site. This is a franchise which may interest you if you are burned out in the classroom and have a little business capital. Since they aren’t well known yet and there aren’t many locations, now would be an ideal time to get in on this business venture.
In case you haven’t heard the monumental news, Obama made a major decision in education last week. Some see this ploy as merely a political move especially since he didn’t give Congress the time to edit the current No Child Left Behind law, but nonetheless it affects the national educational landscape. His decision is giving states the choice to opt out of the No Child Left Behind law in exchange for waivers from certain aspects of NCLB. If a state chooses to opt out of NCLB (at least 45 states are expected to opt out), then they will receive flexibility with federal spending and with school improvement accountability. In order to receive this flexibility, the state must have adopted the common core standards in math and literacy, develop a test to show accountability of common core standards, and measure the performance of teachers and principals factoring in student achievement.
Surprisingly 31,737 of the 98,916 schools were labeled failing in 2009. Because this is such a large number of schools, Obama’s decision is to help the bottom 5% of schools that are failing instead of all 31,737 schools, which is an insurmountable number of schools to help. Since the change to NCLB decision was not a bipartisan effort and the House and Senate did not contribute to this effort, critics are concerned that the Secretary of Education is taking too much national control.
In Illinois, the teachers union in the Illini Bluffs school district have currently been on strike for 8 days in anger over having to be drug tested. Students are unable to start back to school because of the lack of teachers. The district is taking applications of temporary substitute teachers so that students may start back to school. The teachers union resents the drug testing as a power move. I however think that the school systems in any state could potentially get rid of poor teachers a lot more quickly if they would allow drug testing so I am in favor of the idea for the betterment of the children. What do you think? Should teachers be drug tested? For more about this story, click here.