Thursday, September 18, 2014

Standards, Good and Bad

I'm one who believes that the Common Core state standards represent a step down from California's previous standards, at least for math.  Yes, the old ones could have been improved upon, but the Common Core standards are not that improvement.

Today we had a professional development powwow on writing "learning targets", what students are supposed to be able to do after each lesson.  How these differ from "goals" or "objectives" is just an exercise in semantic masturbation to me, but whatever, that's what our professional development was about today.

A few of us math teachers were tasked to "deconstruct" a particular calculus standard, breaking it down into what students should know, what they should be able to do with that knowledge, etc.  It's a new taxonomy but you get the idea.  Start with what they should be able to "recall" or "regurgitate" and work your way up to developing a cure for cancer, or something.

Before I continue, let me say that, despite my sarcasm, there's nothing inherently wrong with doing this.  It's a good thing for teachers to do if they haven't really thought before about why they're teaching some point, or how what they're teaching fits into a grand whole.  I just don't think that the time spent doing this for every lesson is going to reap rewards in student learning.  I accept that I could be wrong about this, but it hasn't been proven to me yet.

So anyway, we were talking about some of the mathematical standards in Common Core.  In some cases we were trying to figure out what, exactly, they mean.  Whether you liked the old California standards or not, you cannot deny they were worded in such a way as to be crystal clear in intent.  My favorite (I don't have the manual here at home from which to quote others, I apologize) was a 3rd grade standard:  "students will know the multiplication tables up to 10x10 to automaticity."  If that isn't an exact quote, it's darned close.  Is there any doubt what is expected?

After trying to "deconstruct" a couple of the Common Core standards, this is what one of our members came up with:  a bad standard is one that needs to be interpreted.


maxutils said...

Oh ... Darren ... "KNOW" the times tables? what exactly does that mean? Please deconstruct for me. Write me a goal and objective for each square. ;)

Happy Elf Mom (Christine) said...

I just hate that they're national, they WILL inform curricular choices on a national level (what is tested is what is taught) and also that the standards are full of so many minutiae that can all be data-tagged and tested nationally.

They can track your kid now from preschool to college. It's crazy the amount of data outside companies will have on our kids now. It's also nutty to think that the computer programs will tell the teachers what to teach, when and how.

I'm stunned teachers' unions are taking this lying down.

Darren said...

Max, the first square says "go", the second one is kinda hard to read, but the third one clearly says "yourself". :-)

maxutils said...

You laugh, but I'm going to forward my idea to your administration as a suggestion for your next in-service ... you can do it right after the "What color jellybean are you" icebreaker ... (P.S. for those who don't know ... that is an actual activity Darren and I both participated in on an in service day. True story. My color turned out to be 'the one on the table I was closest to')