Monday, February 14, 2011

National Math Core

Utah has decided to hop on board with the Common Core State Standard Initiative. This is a drive by many of the states to develop a common core for our national standards, as opposed to the cores which presently  vary from state to state. This is not a federal initiative, but that doesn't stop my local state senator, Chris Buttars, from declaring it a socialist plot.

In theory, I think we need a common set of standards. For one thing, it would help us make more objective judgments when comparing results state to state. As anyone who has moved from out East to Utah can tell you, Utah schools are just.... easier.

In our ever more mobile society, a common core would help students transition after a move. Students would be able to hit the ground running.

Also, at the moment, most states are getting Texas and California's hand-me-downs. Textbook publishers design their programs for Texas and/or California... and then tweek them for the rest of us.

Unfortunately (and here I will bang my usual drum) we will still have our central problem of poor placement.

What I propose is this- make school years into trimesters. Then, for example, divide the Math core into 30 sections. So "first grade" would consist of 1a, 1b, 1c. Each section would require that you "pass" to go on to the next section. Students needing to repeat a section would have the opportunity to do so. If a student wanted to "test out" of the next section, they would have that opportunity as well. In this way students could move through the system at a pace that targets their learning and motivational edge; rather than being consigned to math classes that are too hard or easy for an entire year - or worse, their entire pre-college academic career.

This would also give summer school real purpose! Summer could be used to catch-up, get ahead, or be spent in leisure.... real choice would be available.

The core would be completed by most during their 10th grade year. Those who needed more time would be able to stretch the core out over 12 years. Those with the core complete on or before 10th would have the opportunity to choose more advanced math or applied math courses.

Presently, once our new math core is in place (I will be piloting it next year), it will still contain that deadly Achilles Heel. When deciding where to place students along the core, we will use the most blunt and dull measure we have at our disposal:

"How old are you?"

1 comment:

Don said...

Andrew- You mentioned Texas and California as the states that drive textbook choices. I'm sure you know why, but others reading this may not understand why that is the case. The choice of textbook contents is economically driven by these two states. They buy the largest number of textbooks from the various companies which offer choices. So, it results in the rest of the country receiving, basically, as you said, what Texas and California desire. The problems with that scenario has been starkly apparent in recent history when the textbook committee in Texas made some less than stellar declarations about the content they wish to see in the textbooks taught to Texas students. I don't know what the answer to the problem is, but I see how the "almighty dollar" is affecting the quality of education that U.S. students receive when this is the "raison d'etra" for choosing textbooks.

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