SBAC’s draft for CCSS assessments

Wendy Hart from the Alpine School District board sent me this link to W. Stephen Wilson’s review of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium’s plan for creating the assessments for the Common Core state math standards. Dr. Wilson is a professor of mathematics at John’s Hopkin’s university and received his PhD at MIT. No sloucher.

The SBAC is led by Linda Darling-Hammond, proponent of social justice, close to Bill Ayers, and was on President Obama’s short list of candidates for Secretary of Education. She is a constructivist (For the uninitiated, this is where children should construct their own knowledge instead of being given it directly–to see this set to comics, visit my math comic site) and what is being seen of the framework for the assessments isn’t good. Here’s a link to Dr. Wilson’s full review, but here’s his final paragraph:

Ultimately, the actual assessments will tell us all what SBAC thinks is important.  This Draft does not give good guidance for curriculum developers because content is an afterthought. It appears that the assessments will focus on communication skills and Mathematical Practices over content knowledge.  As such, there is little to be optimistic about.

Dang, who saw that one coming???

4 Responses to “SBAC’s draft for CCSS assessments”

  • Daniel Rush:

    I disagree that Constructivist means to simply build your own knowledge.  Properly taught constructivist models teach pupils to understand why 1/4 + 1/4 = 1/2.  The alternative is to simply say 1/4 + 1/4 = 1/2 (just memorize it and do the algorithm).  Advanced mathematicians (the ones who create complex mathematical formulas to answer scientific questions) know more than just algorithms, they understand how and why the mathematics works. Great scientists like Einstein most certainly knew all of the algorithms which I think are important, but he also applied constructivist mathematics.  I think that both are powerful if used together.   Of course, I’m not a mathematician, but I do have a science background, and science lends itself very substantially to constructivist models. Why do you think lab work is so often used in classrooms?  To simply be told things are what they are is not education but indoctrination.  Kids need to be taught to think for themselves, to question, to hypothesize, and to experiment in order to verify their hypothesis.  Columbus would have never sailed across the Atlantic if he simply accepted what he was told to believe.       

  • Hi Daniel, thanks for posting. My views on constructivism are greatly simplified above. You can find more than you ever wanted at http://www.oaknorton.com and http://www.weaponsofmathdestruction.com. Constructivism as a tool is great. Constructivism as a math curriculum is completely unsupported by research. Here’s a couple of key articles:
    http://www.oaknorton.com/mathupdates/20080903.cfm (study that shows no studies exist to support constructivism)
    http://www.oaknorton.com/imathresults34.cfm (Project Follow-Through which proved constructivism ineffective)

    Without a foundation, Einstein and Columbus wouldn’t have gotten anywhere. When a school district (and many do this) like Alpine where I live says to parents, “we’re not teaching the times tables and long division to children anymore and don’t teach them at home or you’ll mess up your children,” common sense and foundational skills are both missing to a large degree.

  • Daniel Rush:

    Oak, I’m glad that you agree with me that Columbus and Einstein needed those basic foundations and that constructivism is a powerful tool.  I also live in ASD and I do remember when some elementary teachers were accused of not teaching the times tables.  My children and now grand-children attend ASD schools, and they have all been taught their times tables.  Is your complaints about a minority of teachers or are they residual complaints about problems that have been rectified over the last decade of resistance to investigations?  What is the experience of your children in ASD schools regarding mathematics?  Please be honest.  I’ve had others in my neighborhood complain that such and such a teacher his not teaching times tables and is teaching investigations math, but then I find out through actual experience with the teacher that those claims were completely untrue.  I’m to a point that I’m very skeptical of those making these claims as having a perception problem or of having a greater political agenda (who have no scruples about throwing innocent teachers under the bus).  No pun intended.   

  • The teachers weren’t accused of not teaching the times tables, ASD threatened their contracts in some schools and confiscated textbooks at night in some schools, in order to force teachers onto Investigations math and ensure that children didn’t get the times tables.

    My own personal experience with Investigations matches thousands of other frustrated parents and is the reason that ASD has so many charter schools. In fact just tonight I learned that ASD is of the the top 10 districts in the country with the highest charter school growth and it’s almost entirely due to math. 

    My story of getting started in this math war is as follows…

    A few years ago my oldest daughter was finishing up her third grade year and at a parent/teacher conference I asked her teacher when they were going to start learning the times tables since they hadn’t yet and I’d done it nearly thirty years earlier in third grade.  The teacher replied, “Oh, we don’t do that anymore.”“You don’t do that anymore?”“That’s right, it’s not part of the curriculum.”“Well then how do you expect the children to learn their times tables?”“Well, the smart kids will just pick it up as they go.” This was a 22 year veteran teacher. I then had a conversation with the principal who assured me this was the latest research on the best way to teach. I left his office and drove to Walmart and bought flashcards. I’m an accountant. :)I didn’t understand what they were doing but I mostly ignored it and supplemented at home with Singapore math books. It hit a breaking point though after several more very frustrating episodes hearing my daughter cry that she wasn’t allowed to do long division the way I showed her and so I got involved with a lot of other people and the district does times tables and long division now but hasn’t dropped their infatuation with constructivism. This is not the teachers’ fault, it’s the administration. I learned my first political lesson early on when after a school board meeting I made some comments, a lady who got the teacher of the year award came out in the hall when I was leaving and told me “I used to shut my door to teach the times tables.” I shared that with my email list and one week later I had a letter on ASD letterhead from this lady telling me how I’d misheard what she said and it was a misunderstanding. WOW, I’d almost got her fired! I was much more careful after that. So my oldest daughter got into a charter school with Saxon math, but returned to ASD schools in 9th grade, got the highest math score at Mountain Ridge Jr. High, and is doing very well now. Unfortunately, the constructivism problem has produced a 70% remediation rate at UVU where 20-30% of the students are ready to do college level algebra (http://blog.oaknorton.com/the-uvu-remedial-math-situation/). That’s pitiful and I blame the school districts for this. Tens of thousands of children graduated from ASD without knowing their times tables or long division because “they’ll always have a calculator…” is the mentality.