Date: May 27, 1995 5:31 PM
Subject: meaningful standards


Thanks for your reply
Your post of May 25 read:
>>Books do work real well, the kids actually learn and remember the stuff.
>>Applied Math is good in that it really addresses the school-to- work issue
>>head on, without all the fuzzy and PC stuff we're seeing in some of the


>*** How long do they remember, how are you testing this long-term memory and
>what is your documentation of this claim?

They seem to remember pretty well (using the Saxon books). I'm afraid I won't
be around to test them in their 60's. I do believe in supplementing the books
with some of the good stuff I've seen (I like the NCTM addenda books, for
instance, and lots of other resources). Generally, I've found the new stuff
is very useful in presenting concepts and some of the new teaching strategies
like cooperative learning are excellent. But, even more strongly, I believe
long term retention is promoted by practice. I'm afraid many reformers have
confused momentary understanding with developing a reservoir of knowledge
to be retained and accessed later.

I assessed the efficacy of the Saxon Algebra 2 books with the MDTP
Pre-Calculus Readiness tests out of UCLA. Students almost doubled results of
non-Saxon kids. Not something I would bet the fate of the world on, but
enough to convince me!! And believe me, where I teach, anything that works at
all, I'm hanging onto!!
>>BTW, has anyone read "Class Action"? It's sets out a real blueprint on how
>>can actually implement meaningful standards and institute both student and
>>teacher accountability, something which is totally lacking in American

>*** Could you be specific as to your definition of "meaningful" ? Also of
>"real" in the following snip?

By "meaningful, I mean standards where there are consequences. Where the kids
understand that tests mean something to their future. And where the results
of our students mean something to us, as teachers. As an example, I'd point
out to you all the discussion on this forum about the AP exam. And why is
that? Because our students really study for these tests and a bit of our
egos are involved in the results. We stand on the same side of the fence as
our students working on the AP Calculus curricula. I bet a lot of teachers
spent mornings and a few Saturdays before the test working with their
students like I did. I'm afraid I've never done the same thing with my
Algebra 1 kids. Do you think Escalante (who, amusingly. teaches using a lot
of rote methods) would have had the same success in East LA with the AP
test?I doubt it. All our kids deserve the same meaningful standards.

>>Seems to me the NCTM standards don't have much to do with real standards.
>>Every standard I've ever heard of means real objective criteria judged by
>>standardized forms of assessment. And usually that means tests with real
>>content that can be studied for. All I hear about lately is nonsense about
>>portfolios which only show that a student once knew something some time


>I believe standardized tests only show that a student once knew something
>the time of the test, or knew how to study for that test, or knew what type
>question that particular examiner was likely to ask. The NCTM standards are
>about concepts, which are about being able to solve "real" problems in any
>guise, which is about being the one designing the "test", writing the books,
>and pushing the standards forward.

Often the greatest enemy of "good" is "perfect". And sure I'd like to produce
kids who can write standardized tests and books. But, for the moment,
realistically, I'll take kids who can merely pass them. And the idea of real
tests is mostly useful for the motivation it produces in the students. It
makes them study ( a long forgotten concept in American education, and one
that some of the daffier new curricula I've seen really resist.)

Thank you.

Dan Hart