Tuesday, July 24, 2007

WA Math 2.0

A consultant reviewing the state's math standards may have said it best last week: it's time for an upgrade.

That's the sentiment offered by Linda Plattner of the independent, Maryland-based educational research firm Strategic Teaching. Speaking before the State Board of Education (SBE), last week, Plattner delivered the draft report on our state's math standards. Given that about 40 percent of Washington's high school students still haven't passed the math WASL, some may have hoped the independent review would indicate the standards are too high.

Quite the contrary, per the new report.

According to the Associated Press' coverage of last week's SBE meeting, the independent reviewers from Strategic Teaching in Maryland found that compared to other high-achieving states and countries, Washington is actually not expecting enough from students when it comes to math.

The state is "on the right path" according to the report, but that adjustments must be made to help prepare students for post-high school success:
"If mathematics is the gateway to student success in higher education and the workplace, Washington is getting too few of its students to and through the door," the report concluded.
In a nutshell, the report suggests Washington state's standards place too great an emphasis on conceptual math and not enough on the mechanics. For example, the report found the standards often require student "understanding" rather than demonstrate they can actually use math to "calculate, estimate or solve" a problem (page 3 of the executive summary).

The researchers make seven recommendations (again, page 3, executive summary) to clarify what is to be expected of students and offers greater guidance to educators about what to teach and when to introduce different math content.

The initial document is being discussed at various SBE meetings around the state this week. AWSP has encouraged its members to attend and voice their concerns about the math issue.

What do you think about the report? Did you participate in any of the focus groups?


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Ryan said...

Sadly, I missed the focus group session here in Spokane because I wrote down the wrong date in my plan book.

As to the document itself, I think it has some serious issues. Our math EALRs and GLEs didn't come out of a vacuum--some very committed people worked very hard to make them what they are--and for a handful out out-of-state consultants to write them off whole-hog seems....presumptuous? Arrogant? Not good, that's for sure.