************************************* From the Vincennes (Indiana) Sun-Commercial, Sunday, June 25, 2000, p. B2. *************************************
Educators: Proposed math standards a throw-back to yesteryear
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Some educators claim proposed math standards for Indiana's schools are a throw-back to yesteryear, not the rigorous updated guidelines as state officials contend.
"One of my colleagues said when he read this draft that he felt like getting a crew cut because he felt like he was reading a document in the '50s," said William Frascella, director of the Indiana University Center for Math Education.
Stan Jones, the state's higher education commissioner, disputes such criticism, including claims the standards were drawn up with little input from educators in the field.
"This could not have been a more open process," said Jones, who has helped guide the Education Roundtable, a statutory advisory group on education policy.
"The state Department of Education and the Higher Education Commission have had a number of teachers assisting us in the process," he said. "We had invited that particular group (to help) on several occasions, but they chose not to. They would rather be mad."
The Roundtable, a group of educators, business leaders, parents and others, is expected to recommend next month that the proposed math standards be adopted by the State Board of Education.
The state is trying to make education standards more challenging as well as clear and concise. The Roundtable gave its blessing to new standards in language arts last Monday and the Board of Education adopted them.
A report issued early this year by Achieve Inc., a Massachusetts-based organization created by governors and business leaders to promote better standards, was in part highly critical of Indiana's current standards.
Among other things, it said guidelines for what students should learn at each grade level were not as challenging as in some other states and are missing some key content.
Jones said the state has been working to correct those problems in the new standards.
"They are going to be a lot more rigorous, have a lot more content and most importantly be clearer and easier for teachers and parents to know what is expected (of students)," Jones said.
For example, the proposed standards ask that students in second grade be able to count by ones, twos, fives and 10s to 100. Seventh-graders should be able to understand square roots and convert between fractions and decimals.
But Frascella said the proposed standards are too simplistic, do not take into account highly respected research on teaching math, and do not emphasize technology, such as using computers and software in applying math skills.
He sent the Roundtable letters and e-mails from others who share some of his concerns, including Frank Lester, a math professor at IU; Robert Trammel, math curriculum coordinator for Fort Wayne Community Schools and Jim Hersberger, a math professor at Indiana University, Fort Wayne.
Frascella said the state's current standards are more closely aligned with national standards and the proposed changes could cost the state. That's because the federal government and private groups often align grant requirements with widely accepted national standards.
"In an age where the support of both business and federal funding is critical to the improvement of education, I am especially alarmed that anything like the current draft will become official state policy," Frascella said in his letter.
The group also believes the standards were initially drafted with little input from math teachers and professors. When those educators were asked to review them this past spring, they were given too little time and too little influence, they say.
Lester said he, Trammel and Frascella met with the Department of Education officials and voiced their concerns.
"We were told they were only going to make cosmetic changes," Lester said. He said because of that, he declined any further role in reviewing the proposed standards.
Dorothy Winchester, director of the program development for the Department of 'Education, said the agency posted the proposed standards on the Internet March 15 and has been taking suggestions about them since then even though the formal cut-off date for public comment was May 15.
She also said they were sent to the Indiana Council of Teachers of Mathematics and several other professional associations for review, and post cards were sent to every principal in the state asking to have their teachers provide feedback.
"We have collected comments of all kinds and have put together an editing task-force and curriculum coordinator to go through every single comment, and as best we could, adjust the standards based on the feedback," Winchester said.
She said she met with the group of concerned educators and told them their advice would be valued, but two days later, she received an e-mail "telling me the group would not participate."
"My personal opinion is it's disengenuous for a group to say it was not included, that I did not knock at their door," she said. "It's unfortunate because in this whole process we have been working extremely hard to reach consensus."
Marvin Bailey, president of the Corporation of Education Technology, a public-private organization that promotes technology in school curriculum, said an initial version of the standards did not include enough technology use.
But he said he had a group of 10 people work for two weeks making suggested revisions to the standards, and has since been told that many of them are included in the draft proposal.
"We think we upgraded them considerably and feel pretty good about what is in there, he said.
Frascella said he hopes the Roundtable will hold public hearings on the standards before recommending their adoption to the Board of Education.
Larry Grau, Gov. Frank O'Bannon's executive assistant on education, said officials again will ask the educators to "come personally and speak to the Roundtable" and submit more specific comments about the standards.
"I don't know how much more we could have done to make this a wide-open process," he said. ************************************************
-- Jerry P. Becker Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction Southern Illinois University Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA Fax: (618) 453-4244 Phone: (618) 453-4241 (office) (618) 457-8903 (home) E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org