Monday, August 02, 2010

A Big Disappointment

California has signed onto the new national content standards--which will be a disaster in math, especially Algebra 1.

California joined 29 states today in approving national K-12 academic standards.

The California State Board of Education approved the common core standards unanimously at 12:30 p.m. after much public debate about whether they were as vigorous as the state standards...

State school trustees praised the standards, which were molded to California's standards by a commission over six days last month. They said the standards are more focused than the previous standards and teach critical thinking instead of memorization.

I'm not sure it's possible to teach "critical thinking", especially without a large storehouse of knowledge upon which to draw. Like "grit", it just happens given the right conditions.

More information on these standards, with lots of links, is available at Joanne's site.


maxutils said...

I'm not sure this is the disaster you think it is -- I haven't looked at the standards in detail yet, but the impression that I've got is that they have backed away from intensive algebra early on, replacing it with a more intense immersion in the basics. That gives the impression that we have dumbed down Algebra 1 for 8th graders, but is that a bad thing? The expectation that everyone take Algebra 1 in 8th grade coincides with an expectation that everyone be taking Calculus, or no solid math class, in their senior year. Not very realistic. Also, not successful -- as you pointed out in another recent post, in 1997, 54% of students in the CSU system needed to take remedial math. Every figure I've come across has that number hovering around the 50% markfor both UC and CSU. So, this might not be the best fix, but it seems to harken back to the way math was taught when I was going to school . . .

As for critical thought-- you can't teach it, and it's really just a euphimism for 'word problems' anyway. But, you can model it, and you can, if given fewer topics to cover, do some very good directed lessons where kids can derive rules themselves . . . and if they do, they will remember.

Darren said...

For someone who has taught math to think that dumbing down a course isn't a bad thing--well, that does a bit more than disappoint me.

Yes, college remediation is too high. But more California students are taking *and passing* Algebra 1 than ever before. That can only be a good thing.

And these new standards take topics from earlier coursework and move them into Algebra 1--a course I've already described as drinking from a fire hydrant. Now there's even *more* to cover.

maxutils said...

More students are passing algebra 1, yet they then need remediation in it -- every student who attends UC or CSU has passed at least algebra 2: yet half of them need remediation. I would refer you back to your post in which you mention schools finding ways to game the system -- that's what has happened here, clearly, and those results are nothing to be proud of.

You took my dumbing down comment out of context: I preceded it with "gives the appearance of", indicating that I didn't feel it to be necessarily true, and followed it with "for 8th graders" thereby limiting it to a subgroup that for many years was not expected to take algebra, save for the top end. You know me better than to think that I want standards lowered, and you've had enough of my students to know where my standards are. I just want them to learn the math -- and, in my experience (and yours probably)there are a lot of eight graders coming in to geometry or algebra 2 in 9th grade who can't do a lick of algebra. I'm up for trying something new.

Darren said...

I don't see why that "something new" should be "postpone some topics and cram them into the already crowded Algebra 1 curriculum".