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Topic: San Diego and the Standards
Replies: 12   Last Post: May 9, 1996 3:46 PM

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Kreg A. Sherbine

Posts: 26
Registered: 12/6/04
San Diego and the Standards
Posted: May 4, 1996 10:07 PM
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Following the lead of Ron and others, here is my report on a session
arranged by the Commission on the Future of the Standards and moderated
by NCTM Past President Mary Lindquist.

Mary explained that the objective of the session was for the NCTM members
and others present to share with the Commission their visions of where
the Standards as an entity should go next. She pointed out that it's
been seven years since the publication of the first document and over a
decade since a vision of the Standards was first articulated.

There were several threads running through the session; I'll try to
reconstruct those I can remember and would be grateful for help from
other list members (including lurkers) who were there.

One big theme was the backlash, perceived or real or both, against the
Standards and, by extension, against the ways of teaching, learning, and
thinking promoted by the Standards. Folks from California in particular
were quite concerned that the general public and the state legislature
saw some drops in standardized test scores at about the same time as new,
"Standards-based" curricula were implemented. Californians, who also
have the state Frameworks to deal with, were in many cases worried that
the general public would see the Standards as a fad; one participant
pointed out that the lack of a well-defined research base underlying the
writing of the Standards had given opponents of the Standards a rallying cry.

Another concern shared by many present was that not all pre-service and
almost no in-service teachers are being exposed to and taught about the
Standards; as a result, the existing cultures in schools and districts
are overwhelming the relatively few math teachers who embrace the
Standards as a useful set of documents. A related issue raised by some
of the South Carolina contingent, and similar to the Californians'
problem, is that there is a bill pending in the SC state legislature that
would allow for the firing of a principal and the reassignment of
teachers whose students show consistent mediocrity on state standardized
tests. The South Carolinians present said that teachers in their state,
instead of taking the risks necessary to change their classrooms with the
Standards as a guide, would instead move in an opposite direction and
would work very, very hard to drill their students on the basic facts
required for success on the standardized tests.

Another issue was that of the perceived nebulousness of the Standards.
Even with the Addenda Series, the Standards are seen by many as far too
un-specific for practical use by classroom teachers. It was pointed out
that most classroom teachers have too many responsibilities already and
that most would be wary of taking the time and energy required to read,
understand, and reflect on the Standards on a regular basis.

One final thread explored exactly what the Standards mean to
various people. I claimed (and believe strongly) that the Standards have
been tragically and extensively misinterpreted by a huge number of
educators at every level and by the general public. I think that there
were at least a few people in the room who agreed with me, and there were
also people there whom I would say are among those who have
misinterpreted the documents. One person essentially asked whether a
teacher could go through the Standards and create a Standards-based
classroom using all the elements found in the documents. I said that
such an effort would be both pointless and dangerous; I understand the
Standards to be a framework through which to look at a classroom, not a
prescription for action in a classroom. Once we have embraced the
fundamental points of the Standards, we can use that perspective to
decide what needs to change in a given classroom. In other words, we can
use the Standards as a catalyst for change, but not as the substance of
change. To decide what is good and appropriate in a given classroom, we
still must rely on the individual and collective wisdom of individual
teachers and individual school faculties.

As the meeting closed, it became clear that the Commission has its work
cut out for it. Mary did a wonderful job of moderating, and I was
grateful for the chance to hear such variant and interesting ideas.

Again, several other listpeople were there, and my perspective could
certainly be tempered, or at least augmented, by their comments.

Kreg A. Sherbine | To doubt everything or to believe
Apollo Middle School | everything are two equally convenient
Nashville, Tennessee | solutions; both dispense with the
sherbine@math.vanderbilt.edu | necessity of reflection. -H. Poincare







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