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 firstname.lastname@example.org | necessity of reflection. -H. Poincare