This is the 28th [and last!] post in a series of questions, concerns, comments, and issues related to NCTM's 1991 publication, "Professional Standards for Teaching Mathematics." Today we will focus on "Next Steps," pp 189 -- 194. Because all questions have been numbered sequentially for reference purposes, I'll begin today with # 117. [As always, readers who have missed any of the preceding posts may write to me directly and I will send you what you want.]
Ron Ward/Western Washington U/Bellingham, WA 98225 firstname.lastname@example.org
117. Given the writers' emphasis on the total environment in which teaching and learning takes place, and the existence now of all three NCTM Standards documents, I wonder if the "futures" discussion (mid-course correction?) might consider an INTEGRATED standards document which simultaneously updates, modifies, makes connections, and weaves common threads from all three?
118. Given that it has been seven years since the C&E Standards were released, and five years since the Professional Standards debut, are you finding evidence in your community of collaborative efforts to reach consensus on how your "school mathematics programs need to be changed and what steps are needed to make that change"? Do you see a "systematic, long term commitment to change that heads in an appropriate direction" and which would remain operative even if the standards are modified in the future?
119. Although we have previously discussed the professionalism issue, including decision making vs accountability, input into professional development that really meets teachers' needs at all levels, and so forth, some of you might wish to discuss the role of teacher educators in the "development and regulation" of the profession.
120. The writers suggest that reform becomes a reality thru the "individual acts of teachers." Do you agree with this? If so, do school systems in your area encourage teachers to grow in their profession thus ensuring the "self esteem and intrinsic rewards" necessary?
121. I'd say there has been considerable discussion on this listserv about some of the issues raised in the "structure of schools" section, including varying the length of class periods, the myopic view of some districts concerning teacher participation in conferences, etc. But I would still be interested in hearing from readers about how we can BUY TIME for teachers to do all the things discussed in this document.
122. Concerning "entry into the profession" I would remind readers that "the current shortage of QUALIFIED mathematics teachers" does not necessarily translate into available jobs--lots of UNQUALIFIED folks retain their positions. I'd have to say that in my own part of the country, there is fierce competition for teaching jobs and lots of good folks cannot find employment. So I'm not sold on the need for more alternative forms for initial licensure. There are programs, for example, for folks who are employed full time in the schools as teachers' aides and who take all their coursework at night. I find myself wondering when they do their required reading? How much time do they spend solving problems? It just seems to me that something has to get short changed in the process. At least the writers included a list of "what's essential"!
123. I agree that "teachers need to know both where their students have been and where their students are going mathematically," but I wonder if it's happening? For example, do elementary school teachers "experience the big ideas of school mathematics at all levels"? Do their instructors even have a clear idea of what those big ideas are? To say that high school teachers need to understand how significant math ideas prior to high school are represented implies a considerable amount of time spent, it seems to me.
124. The authors lay the blame for the schism between school mathematics and the mathematics studied at the university squarely on college and university mathematicians. I think they are correct. What is required are mathematicians who CARE about precollege math education and who are knowledgeable concerning school mathematics--rather rare in my experience. Perhaps the place to look is in organizations such as the Mathematicians in Educational Reform Forum [MER]. Reactions?
125. If you are a precollege teacher, did you learn in a technology-rich environment? If you are a college or university math ed instructor, do you teach in such an environment? It might be helpful for several of you to describe such environments and how they influence learning.
126. I would be interested in hearing about the NATURE of interactions among mathematicians, educators, math educators, and precollege math teachers in your area, provided such collaboration truly exists. It is also gratifying, I think, to note the ongoing emphasis both on expanding the pool of young people who are interested in pursuing professions in mathematics or the sciences as well as attracting talented and caring young people into teaching. Perhaps some of you who have specific programs targeted toward these efforts could share some insights into what works.
127. How do mathematicians "communicate the excitement of mathematics" to elementary school students, especially those from underrepresented groups?
128. The writers advocate the articulation of mathematics programs between elementary, middle, high school, and college. It has been my experience working in such programs that although there is substantial interest on the part of those who teach at a LOWER level in hearing how they can better fit or match with those teaching at the next level up, such feelings are seldom reciprocated in the opposite direction. :)
129. Here is a serious question for you: As a teacher at any level, do you "have high expectations that EVERY student can learn mathematics"? When you reflect upon the college and university math departments in your experience, would you say that "creating learning environments for students in which the building of confidence in the learning and doing of mathematics is a primary goal" was important to them?
130. One question regarding accrediting agencies: have you noticed a trend for colleges and universities who can't "pass NCATE" to simply drop out of that process and substitute state recognition? Concerning state certification agencies, I can only say "Amen!" to the recommendation that they review their practices in light of these standards documents. It is very discouraging to have, for example, k-8 certification but neither middle school certification nor elementary content specialist recognition. Or to have states that provide endorsements in mathematics that require relatively little mathematics and that, essentially, "do an end run" around educators who are serious about proper preparation. Other concerns?
131. The section on "networking with other disciplines" is thought provoking. It is hard to argue with the logic of seeking common ground, supporting other disciplines, sharing ideas and so forth. But I wonder if some of the argument can be reconciled with earlier pleas for separate math methods, subject-specific learning approaches, and so forth. What do you think?
132. There have been a number of posts on this listserv concerning whether the research exists to support the standards. On the one hand, these writers say that the vision set forth is based on values and beliefs that are "consistent with current research." But then they say that these standards "suggest a research agenda." Anyone care to comment?
133. The last paragraph prior to the "summary" does a nice job of listing what we still need to understand. And the first paragraph of the "summary" provides an excellent lead into the current call for ideas concerning the future of the standards. I think that's an excellent place to end our discussion of the Professional Standards!
This concludes the AMTE series on the Professional Standards. I wish to thank all of you who have contributed to the discussion either on the listserv or by writing directly to me. I encourage you to respond to any one of today's items, to ask different questions or express different concerns on the "Next Steps" section, or to go back and pick up a previously listed item. I also hope that many of you will respond to the invitation, initially from Annie Fetter, then from Mary Montgomery Lindquist and Hank Kepner, and most recently from Ed Esty to participate in the "futures" discussion.