I continue to try to puzzle out what contributions the standards are making/have made/can make to improved math achievement. Are they necessary but not sufficient? If so, what more is needed? Are they unnecessary? It's stories like these that trigger my interest. This is from the "Daily Report Card" of the Education Commission of the States.
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*8 MATHEMATICS ACHIEVEMENT: IMPROVEMENTS ARE MODEST According to a new study by the Policy Information Center at the Educational Testing Service, mathematics achievement is improving, the gap in achievement between males and females is closing and the use of technology in classrooms is on the rise (ETS press release, 5/25). "Mathematics achievement is on the rise in America, especially across the decade from 1982 to 1992. However, many challenges remain in the areas of providing quality instruction, helping students use math for problem solving, reasoning mathematically, and better preparing all math teachers," wrote Ina Mullis, co-author of the report and former director of the National Assessment of Educational Progress at ETS. "Reaching Standards: A Progress Report on Mathematics," examines how much progress educators have made in attaining the five goals established by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. The goals include: 1) Learn to Value Mathematics; 2) Become Confident in Their Ability to Do Mathematics; 3) Become Mathematical Problem Solvers; 4) Learn to Communicate Mathematically; and 5) Learn to Reason Mathematically. "To these ends, the NCTM Standards envision classrooms as places where interesting problems are regularly explored using important mathematical concepts. The premise is that what a student learns depends to a great degree on how he or she has learned it," writes the report.
Among the report's findings: most students spend more time each day watching television -- at least three hours -- than they do learning how to read, write and do math; about 70% of 12th- graders agreed that mathematics is useful for solving everyday problems; only 5% - 10% of students are able to demonstrate satisfactory or in-depth performance on problem-solving tasks; less than 5% of students in grades 8 and 12 were asked to write reports or do mathematics projects on a weekly basis; and only 22% of 4th-grade students were able to solve a problem about earning money on a class trip. The ETS used NAEP data to assess students, notes the press release. "The NAEP assessment results suggest that all concerned have made an excellent beginning toward improving mathematics learning, but perseverance is required to sustain the effort," writes John Dossey, who co-authored the report with Mullis and Mary Lindquist. The report writes that Dossey and Lindquist are both former presidents of the NCTM. Despite overall improvements, the authors caution that the improvements are modest and that great disparities among minority and poor children still exist, writes the press release. "We must renew our commitment to a comprehensive mathematics education for every student, have high expectations of all students, and assist in helping each student reach his or her potential," pens the report. "Reaching Standards: A Progress Report on Mathematics" is available for $9.50 prepaid. Make your check or money order payable to ETS Policy Information Center. Send requests to ETS Policy Information Center (O4-R), Rosedale Road; Princeton, N.J. 08541-0001.
Anne Wheelock firstname.lastname@example.org Boston, Massachusetts, USA