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Topic: [ncsm-members] TX: St. Bd. wants calculators out / New math curriculum set
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
[ncsm-members] TX: St. Bd. wants calculators out / New math curriculum set
Posted: Apr 21, 2012 5:03 PM
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[I] From The Houston Chronicle, Thursday, April 19, 2012. See

State board wants calculators out of grade schoolers' hands

Texas officials tentatively approve tougher math standards

By Gary Scharrer

AUSTIN - Texas schoolchildren should not use calculators until they
learn to work through math problems the old-fashioned way - on paper,
State Board of Education members said Thursday.

The board on Thursday tentatively approved new math curriculum
standards designed to add rigor while encouraging students from
kindergarten through fifth grade to learn basic math without the aid
of calculators.

"We hear more and more from parents that their kids in school are
being allowed to rely on calculators without actually memorizing
their math facts and building that firm foundation," board Chairwoman
Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, said.

Member Mavis Knight, D-Dallas, cast the only dissenting vote against
removing calculators from the early elementary grades. The board is
expected to take final action on the new math standards Friday.

The vote followed Education Commissioner Robert Scott's urging of the
board to adopt standards that are better than the "common core"
standards adopted by 45 other states or delay approval of anything
until it can.

"We're going to fight and we're going to complain and we're going to
have amendments and we're going to have dialogue," Scott told the
board. "If you can't walk out of here tomorrow with math standards
that are better than the common core, delay. Come back in May and
finish then."

The Texas Association of Business also has opposed the new math
curriculum standards, saying they are not strict enough and
ultimately will hurt the competitiveness of future Texas workforces.

Tentative approval

Hours after Scott spoke, the board voted 14-0 to give preliminary
approval to the new requirements.

"Our objective today is that our kids are required to memorize their
math tables and their basic math," said David Bradley, R-Beaumont,
who pushed for the restriction on calculators. "That will then lead
to success."

The board, he said, wants to send a message in the new standards that
"calculators are not to be an instructional tool in K-through-5."

Knight said she believes teachers need flexibility and should be
allowed to use calculators as "an enrichment activity."

"I think it's nonsensical in this 21st century that we are not having
students use the tools at the appropriate time and at the appropriate
level because these are the tools that they will be using as they
advance through school and in the work world," she said.

The new math curriculum standards will not ban calculators in the
early elementary classes as there is no way to enforce such a
prohibition, but Knight said teachers "will interpret the standards
as 'we cannot use calculators.'"

Texas' current math standards do not address calculator use.

New math curriculum standards are scheduled to take effect in the
2014-15 school year for kindergarten through eighth grade and the
following year for high school students.

The standards will last for about 10 years but will take effect only
if state lawmakers provide funding for new instructional materials.

'Mediocre C' for Texas

Texas received "a mediocre C" in a 2010 national study of math
curriculum standards by the conservative-leaning Thomas B. Fordham
Institute because the state's math standards were deemed minimal and
lacked specificity.

The state's new math standards represent an improvement but do not
approach "the best of the standards that were in place in states such
as California and Florida," according to Johns Hopkins University
mathematics Professor W. Stephen Wilson, who reviewed Texas' proposed
standards for the Fordham Institute.

"Moreover, though this comment may cut little ice in Texas, the
present draft lags behind the Common Core math standards on a number
of fronts," Wilson said in his review.

Texas is one of five states that have not joined in the movement for
national curriculum standards, with Gov. Rick Perry declaring he
would "not commit Texas taxpayers to unfunded federal obligations or
to the adoption of unproven, cost-prohibitive national standards and
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

[II] From The Associated Press, Friday, April 20, 2012. See

Texas Education Board approves new math curriculum

By Will Weissert

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - The State Board of Education approved math
curriculum standards for all K-12 students in Texas for the next 10
years on Friday, despite concerns by an influential business group
that the new requirements weren't strenuous enough to train the
future workforce.

The unanimous vote came with little fanfare or debate, even though
the issue has sparked strong feelings among supporters and critics.
The new curriculums for students in kindergarten through eighth grade
are expected to take effect in 2014, and high school math standards
should begin the following year.

Approval only went smoothly after the education board spent hours
Thursday going through curriculums for each grade, tweaking language
and the requirements. There was little support, however, for delaying
a final vote to allow for more-substantial rewriting.

The proposed requirements are based on previous Texas standards and
past curriculums in California, Massachusetts and Minnesota, as well
as standards in Singapore. They don't adhere to the widely used
national standards outlined in the Common Core State Standards
Initiative, which is coordinated by the National Governors
Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State
School Officers. [Emphasis added by JPB]

Texas is just one of five states to shun the national standards in
math, language arts and other essential subjects, which were
developed working with teachers, school administrators and experts.
The standards are meant to provide a consistent benchmark for
preparing students for college and the workforce.

The national standards have been seen by some in Texas as a national
overreach and a threat to state control of schools. Texas Education
Commissioner Robert Scott urged the board to come up with standards
unique to the state - but ensure they were better than the ones
adopted almost everywhere else in the country.

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a nonprofit think tank that Texas
lawmakers have previously described as conservative, said Friday that
it supports the new Texas curriculum but believes the requirements
don't go far enough.

"The new standards are an improvement on the current mediocre
standards but still flawed and inferior to the Common Core math
standards," said Kathleen Porter-Magee, senior director of the High
Quality Standards Program at the Washington-based institute.

The Texas Association of Business, one of the most-influential
organizations of its kind in the state, opposed the new curriculum
standards as not strict enough - arguing that they ultimately will
hurt the competiveness of future Texas workforces.

The group said the requirements try to cover so many areas that they
practically are incoherent at times, and don't place enough focus on
basics like algebra.

The association's president, Bill Hammond, declined to comment
following Friday's vote, saying he hadn't seen the modified and
amended curriculum as passed by the board.

Some education groups and classroom experts have supported the
standards as a major step forward. But others worry students are
being asked to do too much, tackling advanced math at young ages.

Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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