…And the Counterpoint

A few days ago, I posted a link and some commentary about reform math in Washington. Today, I came across this post, which is specific to Everyday Math.

The author notes that, “Reform math has dominated our schools for more than 15 years. Over this period, our international ranking has plummeted.” It seems that the article in the Seattle paper directly refuted this claim. At any rate…

The author basically degrades Everyday Math, citing several states that have banned or failed to adopt the program for various reasons. Here’s what might be my favorite paragraph:

Everyday Math has been described as a “mile wide and an inch deep.” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is calling for “more depth and less breadth” in education. States like Connecticut are heavily invested in reform programs like Everyday Math. The Hartford Courant newspaper recently reported that 40 percent of incoming college freshmen require non-credit “remedial” mathematics.

Mile Wide, Inch Deep: Show me a core basal program that isn’t. It’s a symptom of over 50 different sets of standards and a long-running debate over what students really need to know.

More Depth, Less Breadth: This should be the goal of every teacher. Figure out what your students know, what the “kinda” know, and what they don’t know, and then adjust your teaching to fit. I’m a big fan of Texas Instruments and what they are dong for education, but stories like the one I received in a TI email today send shivers up my spine: “Imagine having your whole year planned out before stepping foot in your classroom.”

Remedial Math: Only 40 percent? Seems low. Again, this is a symptom of more than the program. It’s about outdated standards, outdated teaching, and a refusal to move away from the teacher’s comfort zone.

So we’re back to the same place: It’s about instruction.

(Note that nashworld does a great job of highlighting the need for quality instruction-through his own experience-in a recent post.)

Related:
How many times do I have to tell you…

What did you expect?

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2 thoughts on “…And the Counterpoint

  1. “Imagine having your whole year planned out before stepping foot in your classroom.”

    Ugh.

    That statement is almost criminal. I would suggest that this message was crafted by someone who spent less than two years in a real live classroom. It is a terribly inhuman quote. It is a slap in the face of purposeful formative assessment to drive instruction, isn’t it?

    And for what my 2 cents is worth: the only systematic thing I have seen that can help teachers beat the “mile wide, inch deep” problem is a careful study of “Understanding by Design” by Wiggins & McTighe. It helps to drill down to the truly essentials in order to score more time for depth… while moving more expediently through concepts kids already do fairly well.

    Without rapid and nearly real-time assessment practices there is no way to steer instruction in an effective way for YOUR kids. Planning a year in advance (or even a month) should constitute malpractice.

    • Matt says:

      Thanks, Sean. I agree with your assessment of the author of the message, and I would question whether the author has ANY classroom experience. I would recommend the work of Wiggins and McTighe to anyone faced with designing or implementing a common school or district curriculum, as it helps teachers focus on what students really need to know.

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