Were Georgia teachers trained to teach the new math?

I appreciate the thoughtful responses on math instruction in Georgia.

The divergent responses bring up an ongoing quandary for those of us who write about  standards:  When are problems the results of teaching – too little or poor training on the new stuff, reluctance to adapt to new material,  personal beliefs that the standards miss the mark – and when are the problems embedded in the actual standards?

For example, on the GPS in math:  When the state adopted them, I talked to several college math professors, some  with children in the public schools. They had no problems with the new standards and did not understand the fuss.

When I pointed out that some of the criticisms were coming from parents who were also trained in math, they shrugged and said some of their colleagues simply don’t like to see math delivered in ways different than what they experienced. They saw this as a real non-issue. (I recently went back to two math professors with kids who have gone all the way through now on the new standards and they remain unfazed and pleased with how their children are learning math.)

I wonder about the teacher training issue. In 2004, when the DOE rolled out the new math standards, it asked teachers for their responses. Half of the middle school teachers who responded said they didn’t think they could teach to the higher bar.  At  the time, a DOE official explained, “They don’t think they have the skills to teach algebra because they’re teaching more arithmetic now.”

DOE expressed confidence that it could train those teachers and make them comfortable with the new standards. Did that happen across the board? Or could that be part of the problem?  (Please  read some of responses to the earlier blog entry on math. It will give you a good taste of the varying views of the standards.)

76 comments Add your comment

Not buying the new curriculum

September 25th, 2009
10:21 am

Maureen,
RE:(I recently went back to two math professors with kids who have gone all the way through now on the new standards and they remain unfazed and pleased with how their children are learning math.)

Remember, no students “have gone all the way through.” The oldest group are 10th graders, who are currently taking Math II. There are also students taking Math III but they would be gifted and talented in math. Juniors and seniors in high school are still on the old curriculum. The jury is still out on this one.

Darren

September 25th, 2009
10:26 am

Many thanks to PAGE for their donation to flood relief.

Maureen Downey

September 25th, 2009
10:32 am

What I should have said was that their children were in the inaugural roll-out class for the new math and are now in high school and doing well.

Tony

September 25th, 2009
11:14 am

Teachers’ professional development is the key issue when it comes to implementing new curricula like the math GPS. There are many reasons that should be considered, too. The true concerns usually link back to two major roadblocks: financial resources for professional learning and resistance to change.

Resources: Release time for training, learning about, and planning lessons is critical at the beginning stages of a major change. When the governor and legislature eviscerate the schools’ staff development budgets, it is impossible to provide the kind of quality time for the teachers to learn the new materials.

The state provided very limited opportunities for teachers. Some sessions were held and a “train the trainer” model was used. Systems were allowed to send only certain numbers of teachers/leaders to the state-wide sessions. These teachers were to come back to the schools and train the teachers. This was a very insufficient approach from the outset.

Resistance: There are two parts of this problem that have different and profound impacts on professional development and curriculum. First, many elementary and middle school teachers had inadequate coursework to be prepared for the new levels of math expected in today’s curriculum. The state changed some requirements for teachers but this had little impact on their actual mathematical knowledge.

Second, teachers sometimes have a tendency to become comfortable in what they teach. Even changing to a new textbook is daunting to some teachers. I have seen teachers cling to their lessons from the past in a way that made me think of the gun bumper sticker. (you know, the one that says “when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers.)

The current math curriculum does expect teachers to update their teaching methods and have the mathematical skills necessary to be able to teach higher level skills. This is true all the way through high school. These forms of resistance delay the inevitable and rob our children of good math teaching.

There are many wonderful, highly dedicated teachers who have been willing to put forth the effort to adapt to the new curriculum. Students are learning and they are learning at higher levels than ever before. Our old curriculum held kids back and brought about the dreadfully low math achievement that plagued our state.

Change will take time and commitment. The commitment must come from everyone – teachers, parents, school leaders, politicians, EVERYONE. We need to stay the course if we truly want to improve our children’s learning in mathematics.

jim d

September 25th, 2009
2:14 pm

“train the trainer” ??

pretty funny stuff if one can remember playing the “whisper game” as a child.

Christy

September 25th, 2009
3:27 pm

Get real. “More rigor” is a crock in this case. Let’s see… my second grader received homework that said ALGEBRA on it. She had to select 900+60+7 as the answer for what is the same as 967. This is not Algebra! I sure hope my child’s second grade teacher clings to the past to teach math (at least then she’ll learn some actual math facts). Could teachers benefit from some actual math training? Sure, but teachers and the students would benefit more from a traditional math curriculum.
As I see it, the inherent problem here is not so much whether teachers have been trained, but rather that the state and counties are stating that the math curriculum is more rigorous because Algebra, Geometry, etc. is being pushed down to the lower grades, when in reality, it is a shell game. Spiraling does not work, which will be reflected in the lower retention of math knowledge. There is an elephant in the room and he just took a dump!

alice

September 25th, 2009
3:37 pm

The train the trainer method is baloney. If Kathy Cox is so convinced that this is the right curriculum, then she should have come up with the money to ensure that all math teachers (especially middle and high) were “touched” by the very best trainer the state could hire. Didn’ t happen.

At our elementary school, the appointed trainer’s husband left her the first week of school. She wasn’t capable of teaching her own class let alone finding the time to do the training.

Additionally, when you ask state officials about poor quality instruction from math teachers, they reply that some teachers need to be replaced. However, that almost never happens and it isn’t like there is a line out the door of new qualified math teachers.

philosopher

September 25th, 2009
5:54 pm

This is obviously a very hot issue for some- I personally have been quite pleased with my daughter’s progress in math- she is in accelerated math now, in 7th grade, and doing quite well- she has been blessed with excellent teachers. On the other hand, my older daughter (in college now) would have had a very hard time during some years if we had not been there to assist…go figure!

high school teacher

September 25th, 2009
9:25 pm

In addition to having resistant teachers, parents are also resistant to the change. I heard complaint after complaint from parents last year whose children weren’t making an A in math for the first time ever. Our gifted Math I teacher was an excellent teacher, and she taught the class according to the DOE guidelines. Our students and their parents were used to being spoon-fed and didn’t adjust well when a teacher actually had high expectations. To be fair, this particular group of students had had the same teacher for three years straight in middle school, and she didn’t implement the new curriculum the way that it should have been.

BTW – my son is in third grade and his math homework last year was nothing but algebra: “If Tommy gets $.03 for every can he recycles and $.05 for every bottle he recycles, how much money will he have if he recycles 4 cans and 2 bottles?”

Reality 2

September 26th, 2009
12:11 am

Christy,

There is a huge difference between “algebra” as a label for HS courses some of you seem to fondly remember and “algebraic thinking and representations” discussed in the “algebra” strand of the GPS. Writing 967 as 900+60+6 is “algebra” may be a bit of a stretch, but understanding 967 is 900+60+7 is a part of an understanding of our number system. Eventually, we want children to understand it as 9×100+6×10+7×1 so that the ideas of place values become much more explicit.

Oh, by the way, there is no “algebra” strand in K-2 GPS. So, you may want to straighten out your understanding of things you are trying to criticize.

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ScienceTeacher671

September 26th, 2009
8:36 am

I recall doing problems such as “900+60+7″ to learn place values in elementary school nearly half a century ago…I don’t think it’s algebra, but I don’t think it’s anything new, either.

So far as teacher resistance to changes in teaching methods – that’s a well-documented phenomena. Teachers must be quite convinced that a change will be beneficial before investing the significant time and effort necessary for such a change, and teachers must be given significant extra time for planning & practicing for the change.

I know that in our district, teachers are given a quick rationale for the change, but never the extra time required to implement the change. There’s also the question of whether the rationale is seen as compelling, or whether we’re just being fed the current “cure de jour“….

Christy

September 26th, 2009
10:16 am

To Reality2,
I’m not trying to claim that the non-Algebra is from an Algebra strand in K-2. I’m just pointing out that the state/county are explicitly stating that they are making it more rigorous by pushing down Algebra and Geometry into the earlier grades. That is a fallacy… and some parents (and teachers) are falling for it. The “Algebra” exercise given to my child concerned place values and it should be labeled as such.
As for the difference between 2nd grade and HS math courses, I am well aware. In fact, I have ripped apart the Math I curriculum and found it so lacking that my eldest son was taught Algebra I by me during the summer. Yes… REAL Algebra. There was no ping-pong interplay between math topics. He actually learned Algebra in a traditional way so that he MASTERED the concepts and algorithms. He will continue on this path so that I know he will not require remedial math in college, as so many reform math students from other states have needed.
As a final thought regarding teacher training: it is a whole lot harder to familiarize a teacher with concepts of Algebra I & II, Geometry, Probablity & Statistics, and Trigonometry so that they can effectively TEACH it. Math requires mastery in the instructor based upon the different fields of math. Science is the same way. You wouldn’t ask a Chemistry major to teach Biology or Physics without giving them the where-with-all to be successful. The traditional mathematical structure allowed teachers to specialize in the Algebra sisters or in Geometry/Trigonometry. They weren’t tasked with being a Jack-of-all-trades and a Master-of-None.
I have concluded that this new math curriculum is half-baked. I have yet to meet a math teacher (or parent, for that matter) that actually likes it. It seems like Kathy Cox said, “Let’s make a big change so people think we’re doing something… anything to bring up the scores” and that’s what happened. She didn’t think it through all the way. She (and her minions) didn’t do their homework, because if they had, they would have seen that numerous states are kicking integrated math to the curb. They would have read the latest release from the National Math Panel that is not very complimentary regarding integrated math. They also would have noted that integrated math won’t work on a block schedule, so they were dooming groups of kids for failure before the “experiment” began.
I’ve said my piece. My kids will be educated in spite of this curriculum. The rest of you are on your own.

parent

September 26th, 2009
10:40 am

Christy – I feel the same way. We did have to supplement most of our childs math at home (including some math tutoring) . So if my childs test scores go up – I would like everyone to know its not what she learned in her Math 1 classroom. I still believe that this was an academic exercise at the expense of our children.

ScienceTeacher671

September 26th, 2009
10:55 am

What happens if Georgia students move to another state partway through high school? Where in the traditional high school math sequence should those students be placed? Ditto for a student FROM another state?

And does anyone have a short explanation for why integrated math doesn’t work on a block schedule? (Actually, according to the GaDOE’s own research, nothing seems to work quite as well on a block schedule, but that’s another discussion…)

ScienceTeacher671

September 26th, 2009
10:58 am

If a Georgia high school student transfers to another state, with a traditional math course sequence, where will the Georgia student be placed? And will the Georgia student be ahead of or behind his or her age-group peers in the new state?

Same question, but pertaining to a student from out of state moving into Georgia. Must these students start over at the beginning of the course sequence?

Cobb County Parent

September 26th, 2009
12:36 pm

Good questions ScienceTeacher671. I think you’ll find that the county/state CAN’T answer them, but I can tell you of one incident I personally know of. A rising 10th grader left the state of Georgia and was placed back into an Algebra I class with freshmen in his new school. Apparently, he didn’t possess enough Algebra I knowledge to “test out”, so he had to restart the sequence. This puts him one year behind and means he needs to step it up a notch in order to get all the math courses in that he wants before graduation. Of course, he now has traditional math courses so he can double up if needed. Bet you can guess how happy he is.

Reality 2

September 26th, 2009
2:07 pm

Christy,

Much of “traditional” Algebra I topics (linear equation/inequality, linear functions, etc.) are discussed in grades 7 & 8. Understanding relationships among topics – across domains like algebra, geometry, statistics, etc. – is THE essence of learning mathematics.

So, I wish your son the best.

As for meeting math teachers, I believe there is a conference of math teachers in a couple of weeks. I’m sure they aren’t all for the new GPS, but I’m sure you get to meet those who do support it, too. They usually meet at the Rock Eagle. Maybe you should visit there and talk with the teachers. Maybe Maureen can attend the conference and talk with math teachers there, too.

Fulton Parent

September 26th, 2009
2:15 pm

I find it interesting that the online math education courses that count toward teaching degree credit in Georgia are still set up in the traditional sequence.

If it’s the best way for the teachers to learn the subject area, why is it denied to Georgia high school students?

ScienceTeacher671

September 26th, 2009
3:27 pm

Thanks, Cobb County Parent. Your anecdotal account is the sort of situation I was afraid of.

My other question – I’ve seen several teachers mention that integrated math is incompatible with block scheduling, and I wonder if someone could explain why?

Reality 2

September 26th, 2009
4:05 pm

Cobb County Parent & Science Teacher

This anecdotal instance is just that – an anecdote. What evidence do you have that this child would have tested out the algebra 1 test? What if he was just put in algebra 2 only because his transcript says algebra 1? Would that really serve him?

Here is another anecdote. A HS senior who moved here from another state had algebra 1 in MS. He took the Algebra 1 EOCT as demanded by the math department at his new (GA) high school. He scores very well 90+ % (or percentile, I’m not sure which). However, in that school system, Algebra 1 taken during the MS year would not count toward HS credit, so the district refuse to give him HS credits.

Here is another anecdote. I met an 8th grade student while back. Because of her family situation, she was attending her 3rd school in 3 years, in 3 different states. She was taking a life science class for the third time because those three districts sequenced the content of MS sciences differently.

All of these annecdotes seem to suggest we need a national curriculum, don’t they?

Fulton Parent

September 26th, 2009
6:39 pm

Only if the national curriculum will allow us to go back to teaching math operations and topics sequentially instead of treating math as a survey course of isolated topics. There’s too much anecdotal evidence and documented studies that integrated math leaves out too much of the important Algebra 2 and Pre Calc concepts. According to the NMAP only 9 of the 15 critical aspects of Algebra 2 were touched on at all in NC and none to mastery. I would refer anyone interested in this to pages 43 and 44 of the Report of the Task Group on Conceptual Knowledge and Skills.

A national curriculum should reflect the findings of the National Math Panel Report which the State DOE refers to as authoritative on its website.

ScienceTeacher671

September 26th, 2009
7:03 pm

Reality2, as a teacher in one of the many districts in Georgia with a high percentage of [highly transient] military dependents, I am all for a national curriculum. It isn’t fair that my students are frequently penalized because their parents chose to serve our country.

School Teacher

September 26th, 2009
7:36 pm

Look, all of the blasts at Kathy Cox and the DOE is ridiculous. Georgia is a local control state. Each local school system has a responsibility to train its teachers and hire competent teachers. The DOE does offer year-round trainings, but county administrators don’t force their teachers to attend. The old way of teachig math was not working on the grand scale. Some students were doing fine, but the state was not. I have had the pleasure of teaching classes at Georgia State, Georgia Perimeter, and summer at Georgia Tech and I know first-hand that most of our GA students memorized and breezed through high school. The new curriculum is tough because some of the GA teachers, including teachers at my school, don’t have the content knowldege to teach this curriculum. Then, some teachers are brilliant, but do not know what it means to teach. To those who say we should teach Algebra, Geometry, Algebra II, etc: we are teaching the same courses, but in a different arrangement. If GPS is implemented as it is intended, then our students, as a whole, will be academically competitive in the United States and internationally.

Amateur mathematician

September 26th, 2009
7:43 pm

Fulton Parent,

What do you mean by “evidence and documented studies that integrated math leaves out too much of the important Algebra 2 and Pre Calc concepts”? Can you name any report that went through the GPS? What specific algebra 2 or Pre Calc concepts that is NOT in the GPS. Name one, please, instead of making this kind of ridiculous accusation. If TEACHERS are skipping them, then that’s not the standards’ problem. If you go through MATH 4, students have done everything typical Pre Calc class includes and more. Please read the GPS. The GPS does not specify how math is to be taught – it is simply a list of grade level expectations.

There are actually a lot more evidences that students in the US compartmentalize mathematics – and typical US approach is to compartmentalize mathematics to Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, Trigonometry, Statistics, etc. REAL mathematics is about the relationships of ideas, without attention to the boundary that was placed by people arbitrarily.

Here is what the Math Panel said about integrated vs single subject:
“The curricula of most high-achieving nations in the TIMSS study do not follow the single-subject sequence of Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II, but they also differ from the approach used in most U.S. integrated curricula. Instead, Algebra, Geometry, and Trigonometry are divided into blocks. The teaching of each block typically extends over several months and aims for mathematical
closure. As a result, these curricula avoid the need to revisit essentially the same material over several years, often referred to as “spiraling.”

A search of the literature did not produce studies that clearly examined whether an integrated approach or a single-subject sequence is more effective for algebra and more advanced mathematics course work. The Panel finds no basis in research for preferring one or the other. ”

You go through the “major topics of school algebra” the Math Panel listed in their final report, you will find them ALL in the GPS, starting around Grade 7. There is nothing in the GPS that prevents a HS in GA to teach the content of MATH 1, 2, 3, and 4 by “blocking” related topics.

School Teacher

September 26th, 2009
7:44 pm

Christy, you need to check with your child’s teacher because the state does not make homework for teachers. Just because it said “Algebra” doesn’t mean that Kathy Cox told her to put it on there. Stop looking for reasons to knock this curriculum. My students are now required to understand mathematics and communicate it in a meaningful manner, not just memorizing steps and algorithms.

To all who question what happens when someone moves out of state, the DOE has a document posted that tells the correlation of courses compared to GPS. All of these scenarios, such as a student moving in the middle of the year, remember that GA is not the only state to be teaching via new standards other that the traditional. Plus, even if everyone was on a national curriculum, a student going to another state may be ahead or behind in the same class. Nothing is perfect, but some things are definitely better than others. The middle school CRCT scores are showing that students are doing better than before and this can be contributed to the new curriculum.

Reality 2

September 26th, 2009
7:58 pm

School Teacher,

Those who are against the GPS will say anything and do anything to discredit the GPS – forget the logical consistency or even ethics. If the CRCT scores go up, they blame that the CRCT is worthless. If the CRCT scores go down, they say it’s the GPS. If it rains again tomorrow, they will probably blame the GPS.

Fulton Parent

September 26th, 2009
8:38 pm

Most of the textbooks on the state approved list do not align well with the GPS . If as you say, many teachers do not have the content knowledge to teach the standards, they will be forced to rely on the textbooks and the electronic lesson plans developed by the state to determine what actually goes on in a typical classroom. These lesson plans seem to reflect the Instructional Frameworks more than the GPS. The template for picking out textbooks penalizes for examples and explanations. These are all the more important if subject matter knowledge can sometimes be an issue. A good textbook allows a motivated teacher or student to teach themselves conceptually and shows them the connections among a myriad of math and science concepts.

There are textbooks that could be used in combination to fully and sequentially teach the math GPS. The Singapore math textbooks are one example and the Brown & Dolciani PreAlgebra and Algebra books are another example. Neither is on the approved list in Georgia.

The NMAP report was looking at NC which numerous school officials in Georgia have said we are trying to emulate. The pages cited above go on to state that 4 years of NC integrated math cover less material than 3 years of the traditional Algebra 1 and 2 and Geometry sequence. Time in school is finite.

Finally, my assertions are supported by documentation. You may disagree with them or they may make you uncomfortable. That does not make them “ridiculous”.

Fulton Parent

September 26th, 2009
8:39 pm

Enter your comments here

N. Ga Teacher

September 26th, 2009
8:58 pm

Enter your comments here

I find it interesting that the math professors Maureen consulted found “no problem” with the new curriculum. Well of course they wouldn’t! Both they and their kids are culturally geared for academic success! They have good work ethic, intellectual curiosity, internal motivation, and good social skills like working well with others. These kinds of kids get into the “accelerated” version of the GPS math. The PROBLEMS involve not so much the curriculum (except some incredibly badly-worded and overblown “tasks”) but the characteristics of students. Once you get past the “accelerated” elite kids, most whom have parents who are college-educated and take interest in their kids’ academics, then you run into problems. Once you have difficult concepts that take active thinking and WORK to practice and learn, it becomes extremely difficult to teach and learn some of the new curricula. It is NOT teacher training OR teacher knowledge that is the problem, but abilities, behaviors, and cultural aspects of students that must be acknowledged and dealt with. The “failure” of the new curriculum is not that the curriculum is flawed but that the majority of students have not been properly socialized at home or at school to work and study like they should. Also, some kids just lack the mental acuity to comprehend some of the topics. A great educator named Piaget demomnstrated that abstract (formal) reasoning is a developmental process that may take until 12th grade or adluthood or never, for some concepts. This largely explains the tremendous numbers of kids who for generations failed algebra in 9th grade but could do well in that subject by 11th grade. Perhaps the best solution to this is to recognize how valuable technical high school are, and make a strong return to that system, with totally different graduation requirements for kids attending those schools. The GPS standards will have no impact on the roughly 40% of Georgia kids who drop out, but votech high school could put a very serious dent in this.

School Teacher

September 26th, 2009
9:17 pm

N. GA Teacher, I guess the old curriculum would be better suited for the “improperly socialized” students. The arguments some of you make is irrational.

Fulton Parent, you simply talked about textbooks. Each school system can choose their own textbook. The state has nothing to do with whether you use a textbook or not. You claim that my post proved your assertions, but you didn’t address anything I stated.

This is my second year teaching the GPS math in high school. My school does have a huge percentage of minority students, students with emotional behavior disorders, disabilites, etc and still they are becoming better learners by being able to complete learning tasks via GPS. You can hate it all you want, but until YOU teach, you can say nothing about curriculums. By the way, from your posts, I can tell which part of ulton County you are in because we all know that there are 2 parts, the part which think their students are the most brilliant and the part which deals with reality. Your part hates GPS because you all think that your students were great with the traditional curriculum.

Fulton Parent

September 26th, 2009
10:21 pm

Reality 2 is impugning the ethics of those who have a problem with the GPS as implemented in a typical Georgia classroom.

School Teacher is engaged in numerous ad hominem attacks. I suppose that means you recognize the accuracy of what I and others are saying.

You also owe an apology to residents of both parts of Fulton County. Some of us go to this trouble because we want all children to be the best they’re capable of becoming without regard to their parents education or the socioeconomic level or other aspects of their background.

What makes you think I haven’t taught this curriculum or that only a teacher can have a valid opinion?

Would you like to put a gag order on every parent who is concerned about their experiences with GPS? Who would then be left to speak out?

Educator1997

September 27th, 2009
2:46 am

Well said Tony and Science Teacher671! No training took place at my school in Henry County and I never got a response concerning who was responsible for training us and when. I took, and paid for out of my pocket, a two-day class on the new Mathematics Georgia Performance Standards from RESA the summer before we were suppose to implement the standards and I attended subsequent trainings that I sought on my own. I also spent a lot of personal time researching, planning, redesigning assessments, etc. because I desired to become proficient in the content I was expected to deliver and I expected my students to be proficient math students.

It paid off in that my fifth graders did well on the watered down CRCT, and MAP scores were dynamite! Also, I became comfortable with the content and delivery. We had A LOT of gaps to fill in and some days, it was ROUGH! Why didn’t the state of Georgia provide us with the experiences I sought and did on my own – true professional development experiences? Better front-end planning by the state and counties could have made the difference even with strapped professional development budgets. Teachers need time to master content just like students do.

After reading the previous comments about the middle and high school math, I’m glad I served elementary students! I do sympathize with the parents who are responding. The discourse from varying frames of reference is good for all of us.

I, nor any other teacher, should be expected to seek our own training on a state or county mandated product (ref. to the previous thread. The longer I am an educator, the more ridiculous things seem to get! Private and charter schools are sounding more and more appealing to me each day, not because of the kids, parents, communities, or workload; but, because of the seemingly inept people making decisions on the state, national, and some local levels. Will we ever return to putting students first?

Reality 2

September 27th, 2009
3:15 pm

Fulton Parent,

No, just rationality of those who criticize the GPS. Most of them make no distinction between the GPS, Math Frameworks, the way teachers teach, the way teachers were trained about the GPS, test scores (in relative to which standards students were under), etc. They say one thing at the beginning of a paragraph and ends with another that contradicts what they said a few sentences ago. If anything, they are the best examples of why we needed to make some changes.

Fulton Parent

September 27th, 2009
6:04 pm

Please appreciate some of us grasp these distinctions very well and have put a great deal of time into researching how to best teach conceptual understanding in math, especially for at risk or special needs kids where an emphasis on inquiry learning can be catasphrophic. No degree gives anyone a monopoly on knowledge. There is in fact a great deal of literature on point including last spring’s IES publication on using RTI to help struggling students in math that included eminent mathematicians from UGA.

The story of PRISM in Georgia is quite fascinating. I think too many parents though are only focusing on K – 12 and not realizing that in Georgia, the repeated references are to P – 16 and what the true implications of that are.

Reality 2

September 27th, 2009
8:13 pm

I imagine you are referring to “Assisting Students Struggling with Mathematics: Response to
Intervention (RtI) for Elementary and Middle Schools.” So, tell me what part of the GPS is incompatible with the eight recommendations in that document? Are you criticizing the GPS or the math framework? Or, are you criticizing that the teachers weren’t well prepared to teach the GPS to at risk students – are you also saying that teachers were much better at dealing with at risk students before the GPS?

I really don’t see that you are making those important distinctions. The issue of at risk students is VERY important, but the solution isn’t getting rid of the GPS.

Fulton Parent

September 27th, 2009
10:05 pm

Such contempt.

We are the parents who entrust our children to you.

We are the taxpayers who pay your salary and benefits.

If I didn’t understand the large sums of money involved and the careers that have been threatened, I’d be mystified by your hostility. Under the facts, however, I am simply horrified.

Reality 2

September 27th, 2009
11:26 pm

If you are talking about me, you are a bit off target. I am not a school teacher, and I have been very critical of teachers in the past (and I will be in the future, too). By the way, teachers ARE tax payers, too.

Whose careers are you referring to? I suppose none of those are the CEO’s of our banks and other financial institutions.

Lynn

September 27th, 2009
11:44 pm

Reality 2, you seem to want specifics of what isn’t working rather than accepting that many, some or all of the issues are combining to harm our students. We would not be so concerned about this topic if we could see that our students were learning.

The absolute proof of how well the new Math works would be to release the EOCT scores from last years 9th graders. Across the state, I am sure each of your variables would be addressed whether it is textbooks or teacher preparation or the framework itself. If the state has confidence in the new approach then let us all see the proof. What you have now are many parents and teachers who are living the problems each day. We may have older students who didn’t struggle under the old system who are now doing quite well in college. We now have students (in my case two) who are struggling to a high degree to do well with this approach. These younger two did just as well of better than their older siblings in Math until they hit the new curriculum. Now they struggle daily to understand with as much help as I can give them and with the hiring of weekly tutors at $60 an hour. If we didn’t care, we wouldn’t be so concerned. And before you dismiss this as anecdotal as you have the comments of others, think that with all of the smoke (and the lack of published 2008/2009 EOCT results) there may be fire.

Reality 2

September 28th, 2009
5:51 am

Lynn,

Let’s say the results of the EOCT is released. Let’s also say the results were really good – 95% passing. Now what? Was it because teaching was good? Was it because the standards were too low? Was it because the cut off scores were set too low? Did they cheat? Let’s suppose the results were really bad – 10% passing. Now what? Was it because of the standards? Was it because teachers weren’t teaching what they were supposed to? Was it because the teachers weren’t prepared well enough to teach it? Was the test created too poorly? Maybe their textbooks were horrible. How do we know? Would throwing out the standards solve the problem no matter what?

I commend you on your efforts and willingness to support your children’s mathematics learning. When you say “until they hit the new curriculum,” can you say exactly when that was?

Cobb County Parent

September 28th, 2009
9:25 am

The point Lynn made is spot-on. Release the scores and let us evaluate what really is going on. Don’t give me attitude with your “Now what?”. Contrary to what you may believe, some of us parents actually have attained degrees in math and we are qualified and entitled to assess the damage being done to our children with this new curriculum.

melany

September 28th, 2009
10:19 am

Last year as my kindergartener started bringing home homework that I thought was a little advanced for a five year old, i remember feeling frustrated on how to get her there. I thought about it though if I can figure out how to help her learn this it will help her in the long run. The flip side of that is this I also have a ninth grader and an 11th grader. I have tried to help her but their is not a lot of information on the math she is bringing home as a matter of fact my husband and I find it easier to help our 11th grader because the concepts are a little more familiar and he is in trig or Alg 2. I think when assigning homework to a student a teacher should give better instructions not just to students but also to the parents who may be helping them

Reality 2

September 28th, 2009
10:49 am

Cobb County Parent,

With your wonderful math degree, please explain to me how the EOCT score from last year will mean anything – high or low? Last year was the first year Math 1 was offered. So, there is no score to compare. If the scores are high, is it necessarily a good thing? No. If the scores are low, is it necessarily a bad thing? No, again. In order to use test scores for a comparison purpose, we need a comparison group. But, there is no student who studied under the old standards taking Math 1 EOCT last year, nor no Math 1 student taking old EOCT, either. Without those comparison, just looking at the results of a single test is meaningless. I have no problem if the state department released the results, if people realize what they can and cannot say about the new standards based on the test results.

Lynn

September 28th, 2009
11:02 am

Reality 2, do you really think that if the EOCT passing rate had been high, the scores would not have been released? The state planned to use the scores until the results of the first semester block schedulers came in.

My thoughts in releasing the scores along with the cut score was that we might could evaluate some of the many variables that you discussed. Did a high percentage pass in a district that was using x textbook? Did schools on block schedules do worse than those on a regular or modified block schedule? How were teachers trained in districts with better results. If we do all of this then we might be able to reduce the variables somewhat. And in the end it may just be that this curriculum is not working or will not work well for x years and we are harming the students who are moving through this curriculum for the first few years it is taught.

As for when my younger children started to struggle, it became most apparent in 8th grade with some struggles in 7th. In Math I it was an all around struggle with certain concepts. And as others have commented, the textbooks we are using do not provide examples so it is difficult for parents or students to go back and understand what they are supposed to do.

My children want to do well. They make great grades in other subjects and struggle with Math. They attend school help sessions, tutoring sessions with the hired tutor 1 to 2 times a week and go to their teachers for help as well. With all of this effort, you would expect better results or at least better comprehension. I am concerned that they are not getting an indepth grasp of each discipline. Algebra for a few weeks, them Geometry and then Statistics or a blending of the three throughout the semester has not given them a fundamental understanding of any of the three.

Cobb County Parent

September 28th, 2009
12:03 pm

I echo everything Lynn has said.

Still don't buy it

September 28th, 2009
12:10 pm

I agree with Lynn and Cobb County Parent.

Reality 2

September 28th, 2009
12:12 pm

Lynn,

I have no idea how well students did on the EOCT. My point is, looking at the EOCT will never really tell us the quality of the GPS. For that, we need a comparison group.

As for your children, the GPS doesn’t specify how topics are to be taught. There is nothing in the GPS that prevents a teacher/HS to teach all algebra related topic in one chunk, then moving onto all geometry related topics in another chunk. However, I contend that mathematics is a web of interconnected ideas, and the distinction among algebra, geometry, etc. is arbitrary and non-productive mathematically. Furthermore, we know from many research that too many US students (whether they study in the traditional sequencing of courses or integrated) have superficial math knowledge. So, it’s not the matter of how we organize the course. It is how teachers teach. Once again, the GPS simply lists what to be taught, not how.

Finally, you say your children started to struggle in 8th (some in 7th) and that doesn’t seem to be caused by the GPS as they must have had the GPS, at least in Grade 6, where they were fine.

Concerned Henry County Parent

September 28th, 2009
2:13 pm

Good Grief Reality 2 – who are you – the former math coordinator for the Henry County School System? She gushed about how wonderful the new Math standards were, and pushed the Connected Math and Carnegie Learning “textbooks” (and I use that term loosely) down our throats. Of course she is no longer the math coordinator (imagine that!), but we are stuck with her legacy down here. My son is in the 8th grade, and is struggling. I have spent over $200 so far this year on math reference books to try to help him. The Connected Math “textbooks” we have are not used (most of the teachers I have spoken to despise them), and wouldn’t help anyway if they were. I have friends whose children are now in 10th grade, and have been in a continuous struggle with this junk since 6th grade. I absolutely dread the thought of my son going to high school next year to begin the arduous journey into Integrated Math 1, 2, 3 & 4. I have made my feelings known to the powers who be within the School System, but have been told that they have no choice but to teach this State mandated curriculum the way the State wants it taught, and that they’re doing the best they can. Great – once they figure it out, my child, along with many others, will be sitting in a remedial math class in college. Maybe we should all bill the State of GA for the money we’ve had to spend on reference books, tutors, etc.!

Reality 2

September 28th, 2009
2:45 pm

Henry County:

Tell your “powers” to read the GPS. There is NOTHING in the GPS that says a particular way of teaching – other than, perhaps, a loose reference to “student centered” way. The state does NOT mandate the use of Connected Math or Carnegie Learning, or any other textbooks.

Your complaints should be about how your system is implementing the GPS, not the GPS itself.

Concerned Henry County Parent

September 28th, 2009
3:16 pm

Reality 2 – I really don’t care what you think you know – I know and many other parents, teachers and students know, this is a flawed curriculum. The training was not there, the textbooks are not there (I have been told by the “powers” that there really are no relevant textbooks to match this curriculum), and the roll out was haphazard. I know that my child is struggling as are many others, and we in Henry County, as well as in many other counties, are watching our capable children struggle with math. If it’s so great – why so many problems? If you’re so knowledgeable, why don’t you get in contact with the State DOE and offer your services to advise the school systems across the state on how to implement this curriculum. You would be doing a wonderful service for the struggling children of Georgia!