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.)