>The following has been sent to the Mountain View Voice for publication. >Perhaps, Wayne will post this to all of the listserves to which >he posted Ms. Hobel Schultz's misleading opinion piece.
Glad to oblige. I do have some questions, though, through the list if it stays up long enough or privately for posting to these other lists if not.
> During the Mountain View session I explicitly called >for daily drill focused on number computations.
Your book talks about the importance of student-developed algorithms even though Shelli's portfolio indicates that she felt much more comfortable using the algorithms she had been taught earlier. Did your MV presentation point out the importance of direct instruction of standard algorithms for many, probably even most, students? Also, I saw no evidence of anything close to a recognition of daily drill in her portfolio. Would you explain why that might be?
>Participants saw plenty of evidence of my fifth graders >computing with fractions in the student work I shared during the talk.
I saw almost none in Shelli's fifth grade portfolio, a bit of addition of easy fractions (denominators 2, 4, and maybe 8, unfortunately I loaned out the book and do not have it available) but no multiplication or division of fractions at all. Would you explain how that occurred or has the fraction orientation of fifth grade evolved from that year with teacher Cathy and student Shelli?
>I have never stated, as Ms. Hobel Schultz claims, that standardized >tests are not important. Norm-referenced standardized tests, however, >guarantee that there will always be fully half of our students and >roughly half of our schools at or below the 50th percentile and thus >considered inadequate. High-stakes norm-referenced testing is >detrimental to education and children as teachers experience >increased pressures to just teach to the test.
Would you please explain what you mean by the first sentence in relation to everything you say about standardized testing thereafter? Is it, perhaps, the "norm-referenced" to which you object? If so we are in rare agreement on grade-level examinations. Do you applaud the California standards-based "augmentation" exams instead, as do I?
In some sense, almost by definition, "fully half of our students and roughly half of our schools at or below the 50th percentile". Would you explain for our audience how the entire Inglewood Unified district could come in at the 72nd %-ile in second grade and the 66th in third? Is the this the affluence of the district, the racial makeup, the language fluency, or what do you think? Regarding teachers experiencing "increased pressures to just teach to the test", I do not doubt that some administrators do apply such pressure. They are ignorant and should be reprimanded, fired if they persist. Good teachers do not *just* teach to the test and, in large part, do not teach to them at all. Their students will do well if they have been assigned students who are prepared at the level they should be.
Do you have evidence that "High-stakes norm-referenced testing is detrimental to education" or is this just a statement of personal faith? To what do you credit the positive trends in California mathematics performance or do you deny that these improved numbers are an indication of mathematical progress? The greatest increase has been in schools and districts that have embraced the state's curricula that was approved to meet the state standards, such as Bennett-Kew Elementary and Sacramento Unified.
>The only math program I have ever publicly advocated for, a >K-5 program called Investigations in Number, Data and Space, ...
Would you tell us why you would be recommending a mathematics program that was not submitted for SBE approval? Do you believe that it actually does meet the California Mathematics Content Standards? If so, on what do you base that assessment? If not, do you make this belief clear to parents in your popular presentations?
>The standards fairly well ensure that education in California >will continue to be "a mile wide and an inch deep"
On what do you base this assessment? Which topics are under-stressed in your judgement? And what topics should be eliminated or down-played in order to accommodate this additional depth? The Fordham Foundation report ranked the CA standards above even those of Japan. Do you consider the Japanese mathematics standards to outline a program that would be "a mile wide and an inch deep"? If not, please explain for us why one does and one does not.
>Even Liping Ma, whose work is supported by all sides of the so >called "math wars", has repeatedly stated that she opposes the >notion of using the Singapore, Japanese, or any other country's >curricula in the U.S.
Are you sure that this is an accurate representation of her words? My interpretation was that what she says is that she does not recommend their use (nor any other that I know of, but could be wrong), which is quite different from recommending that they not be used.
>Why do many Asian educators come here to study what we do?
Well, I'm sure there are lots of reasons. A paid trip to the U.S. is reason enough for some, I assume. I do not see *any* of these countries adopting MathLand, Quest 2000, Investigations in Number, Data and Space, etc., for use in their countries. Do you?
Thanks in advance,
The following has been sent to the Mountain View Voice for publication. Perhaps, in fairness, Wayne will post this to all of the listserves to which he posted Ms. Hobel Schultz's misleading opinion piece. ___________________________________________________________ In her Guest Opinion, "District parents were poorly served by expert's math presentation", Vicki Hobel Schultz wrote a false and misleading report of a talk I gave in Mountain View on August 22nd.
There were nearly sixty attendees at the open public session. All participants were given an opportunity to provide written feedback at the end of the session. Most participants responded, yet only three negative responses were turned in -- those of Ms. Hobel Schultz and the two women sitting at her table and talking to her throughout the session. Ms. Hobel Schultz's column is unrepresentative of the Mountain View community's response to the session and only serves to misinform the public. Although her column is inaccurate and misleading, it has already been posted to several list-serves where it is being used to discredit my work and the work of others who are very committed to improving mathematics instruction for our youth.
For the past five years I have worked to help school districts learn to work with their public. I do so because I do not believe we will have the kind of schools we need until the public is brought fully to the table. To my knowledge, I have never laughed at my "detractors". Indeed, I welcome constructive dialogue about what should constitute good mathematics instruction for our children. What I do not welcome is Ms. SchultzÃÂ¹s unsubstantiated and very public personal attacks and mischaracterization of what was presented.
Ms. Hobel Schultz misrepresents my position on arithmetic. During the Mountain View session I explicitly called for daily drill focused on number computations. Children need to understand a variety of algorithms, have facility with numbers and understand number relationships if they are to make sense of numerical information in the world around them. One cannot be a powerful user of mathematics without facility with number. Participants saw plenty of evidence of my fifth graders computing with fractions in the student work I shared during the talk.
I have never stated, as Ms. Hobel Schultz claims, that standardized tests are not important. Norm-referenced standardized tests, however, guarantee that there will always be fully half of our students and roughly half of our schools at or below the 50th percentile and thus considered inadequate. High-stakes norm-referenced testing is detrimental to education and children as teachers experience increased pressures to just teach to the test. The multi-billion dollar textbook/testing industry is driving educational policy in this country to the detriment of mathematics education.
IÃÂ¹m sure Ms. Hobel Schultz meant to say that the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth requires elementary children to be in the top 3% rather than the top 97%. I would guess that roughly 3% of our nationÃÂ¹s youth are so gifted in the area of mathematics that special programs that provide unique and challenging opportunities for them to pursue mathematics are appropriate. There are ways to identify these children, however, that donÃÂ¹t at the same time indict one out of three of our nationÃÂ¹s children to scores below the 34th percentile and to the resulting low expectations and diminished futures that accompany such scores. Norm-referenced standardized tests by their very design guarantee low scores. This is an abominable way to measure the progress of our children and our schools.
Ms. Hobel SchultzÃÂ¹s charge that I advocate a math program that will keep Mountain View students from college is especially troubling. The only math program I have ever publicly advocated for, a K-5 program called Investigations in Number, Data and Space, is currently used in districts like Palo Alto, San Mateo, Oak Park and Las Virgenes as well as many other districts throughout the nation. Students from these districts score well on state and national tests. To imply that this program will keep children from the university is just a wild charge meant to inflame. There is no evidence to support this absurd claim.
I am not familiar with the test scores of either Los Altos or Mountain View. However, if we are using the wrong measures, and I believe that California is with the SAT 9 and the STAR augmentation, then we should not pretend that children will be well prepared for their future.
I have never blamed our teachers or students for the state of mathematics education today. I would challenge Ms. Hobel Schultz to substantiate this claim. If she cannot, then she should print a retraction and an apology.
Ms. Hobel Schultz states that the California math standards have received critical acclaim. It would be equally true to state that CaliforniaÃÂ¹s math standards have been widely criticized both nationally and internationally by mathematicians, mathematics educators and teachers, as little more than a long laundry list of abstract skills pushed earlier into the grades. The standards fairly well ensure that education in California will continue to be "a mile wide and an inch deep" ÃÂ a state of affairs decried in reports of the Third International Math and Science Study (TIMSS).
Ms. Hobel Schultz states that when she asked me about Singapore math, I said, "what was good for Singapore might not be so good for us because, after all, they are different over there." This is NOT what I said in response to her question. I said that improving mathematics education in this country is a far more complex issue than simply taking a textbook from Singapore or any other country and implementing it here in the U.S. Even Liping Ma, whose work is supported by all sides of the so called "math wars", has repeatedly stated that she opposes the notion of using the Singapore, Japanese, or any other country's curricula in the U.S. though she clearly believes, as we all do, that we can learn from examining them.
Regarding Ms. Hobel SchultzÃÂ¹s statement about the offensiveness of my view of children and families from Singapore, I offered NO view. I know very little about education or life there, so it would make no sense for me to give any description at all. It is a FACT that cultures differ. Why do many Asian educators come here to study what we do? Because they view us, perhaps accurately, as having some strengths where they have self-perceived weaknesses, most notably in creative, original thinking. I doubt they are going to take our programs and adopt them on a wholesale basis and neither should we do so with theirs.
It is a shame that Ms. Hobel SchultzÃÂ¹s inflammatory review has been given such prominence. It does not represent the communityÃÂ¹s response and it has done a disservice to local dialogue about mathematics education.
Bio: Ruth Parker is a former classroom teacher of grades 1 through 9. She currently works for the Mathematics Education Collaborative, a non-profit organization founded to help school districts learn to work together with their parents and public.