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Only A Fraction Of The Way There (CCSS Math Part 1)

Let me insert something else that's missing in the CCSS debate: even if the CCSS was fine and perfect, and we absolutely could NOT wait for everything to take effect, students still can't / won't come in with the prerequisite skills and knowledge for the CCSS to have the intended effect.

Scenario now: I teach eighth grade math, and according to the architects of the CCSS, the knowledge they get from pre-K to eighth grade is supposed to lead them to having stronger math skills by eighth grade, at least to the point where we can all assume that our students have already been exposed to the content knowledge from grades one through seventh. In the name of coherence, they would have seen fractions of all types and have some comfort with turning fractions into decimals and "improper" - because what's really improper about them?! - fractions into mixed numbers, etc.

Thus, I see the rationale for teaching CCSS, but, as with all things in edu-policy, I wish we had taken more time with implementing the CCSS if this is to have any longetivity.

During the first year of implementation, the students had an easier time with scientific notation, for example, because they had already seen it in the old seventh grade standards. This year, that lack of exposure meant taking two months for a topic that ought to take six weeks. Normally, I wouldn't care, but, the longer we take, the less time we have to cover the full pacing calendar, which means by the time April comes, our students may have covered 70% of the CCSS curriculum well enough to do OK on our exams.

Some of my more expert readers might say, "Well, Japan only teaches 50% of its curriculum and they do much better on tests than we do." That might be true, so please tell those in charge of testing what you just told me. Until then, the expectation is that I get through almost all of the curriculum by testing time so the students can achieve. Whether they learned is a whole 'nother animal.

As with the old standards, teachers are often asked to reteach the material within the lesson to make up for the things they didn't quite catch. All because we didn't want to start the CCSS with one grade at a time.

2 Comments

Sandy Merz commented on December 12, 2013 at 9:28am:

Eight Years in One

Make that nine.  I teach our 8th Algebra for High School credit - most of the students were in an advanced 7th grade math which covered a lot of the former 8th grade standards. Yet looking at the CC standards I know many of my students don't have the foundational material.  So, it seems like I have to make up bits of 8 years (well, really just three or four) to get to where we need to be with the CC.

In Arizona they are phasing in the standards over a time period, but only a couple of years, not the four of five that would be needed.

A twist in my context is that even though the class is for high school students, they have to take the 8th grade standardized tests.  That used to be no problem.  We give quarterly progress assessments and if they needed remediation, which they often didn't, we could take care of that with some homework or bellwork.  

This year the district is demanding they take the algebra progress assessments, even though they'll be taking the 8th grade test. So we have to find another way to check to make sure they're still up to speed in the with the 8th grade curriculum.

Fortunately, it's a great group of kids who work hard and want to do well, but dang, what a way to confuse things. 

Renee Moore commented on December 13, 2013 at 2:52pm:

Rolling Out Reform by Rolling Over Students

(Shucks, I think I just wasted a great blog title, anyway...)  I've seen this happen sooooo many times at the high school level when new edreforms are implemented. Something that is intended to be systematic and cumulative is snapped in place on students who are already nearing the end of the existing system. Students and teachers end up being frustrated and penalized. Then, when the "results" are what the designers expected or when they don't come in the unrealistic timeline---like THIS year's scores---policymakers are ready to toss the reform for a new trend. Infuriatingly predictable.

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