State superintendent: Our new math program will work and we will lead nation

State School Superintendent Kathy Cox provided a spirited defense of the state’s new math standards Friday in an address to the DeKalb Rotary.

In doing so, she talked more about Massachusetts than Georgia since our standards are based on a reforms introduced there a decade earlier. She had lots of data and tests results from the New England state generally recognized as an educational leader. Her goal: To overtake Massachusetts in math performance.

Cox has been widely criticized for the state’s new math standards, even though they are based on models used with success in other states and nations, including Finland and Japan. (While she used Massachusetts as her comparison, she also said Georgia drew ideas from California, North Carolina, Minnesota and Texas.)

Cox has even brought the former Massachusetts commissioner of education to Georgia to work with her staff on the standards and urge them to hold fast; improvement will come. David Driscoll said that he, too, was excoriated for the state’s math changes, but that vindication came with time and higher scores.

“The first thing he told my staff was that it didn’t hurt to be burned in effigy,” said Cox. “It hasn’t gotten that bad here yet, but I don’t want to give anyone any ideas.”

Massachusetts has seen a remarkable improvement in its math scores, not just on its own tests but on international benchmarks.

In 1998, the 10th grade failure rate on the MCAS was 52 percent. By 2009, the rate was 8 percent. In 1998, only 7 percent of Massachusetts 10th graders scored at the advanced-proficient plus level; in 2009, 47 percent did. (The Boston Herald has an easy-to-read chart of 2008 and 2009 scores.)

To create an international comparison, Massachusetts gave its students the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). As a nation, the United States lands in middle of the pack on this international benchmark. In 2007, Massachusetts administered the test so it could have state data separate from the nation. And the results were reassuring.

According to the Boston Globe:

Massachusetts students significantly outperformed their peers nationwide on a prestigious math and science exam, putting the state on an elite international tier, according to results released yesterday.

In many cases, the state’s impressive showing on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (conducted by Boston College) puts Massachusetts in the same league with Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore – academic heavyweights that have long made US policy-makers fearful of losing an economic competitive edge.

The test, more commonly known as TIMSS, was developed by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement in Amsterdam and is considered the largest assessment of international student performance in math and science. Some 425,000 fourth- and eighth-graders in more than four dozen countries took the exam last year. It has been given every four years since 1995.

The results mirror the state’s strong showing on national standardized tests in math and science. But at home, students have struggled at times on the state’s own standardized tests, the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exams, which are noted nationally for their high expectations. The inability of some students to pass the MCAS has caused about half of the state’s schools to miss performance targets established under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which judges both schools and subsets of students based on standardized test results in their states.

The TIMSS study does not evaluate individual school performance or that of subsets of students at a school. The study doesn’t even collectively track the performance of students based on race or ethnicity because demographics vary so much from one country to another.

The TIMSS exam is administered nationally but individual regions can take it separately, though the latter requires the testing of more students. The decision to go separately cost Massachusetts $600,000, instead of having the federal government foot the bill.

In eighth-grade math, the state’s score rose 34 points to 547 from eight years ago, compared with a 7-point increase for the United States, which averaged 508 last year. In eighth-grade science, the state’s score rose 23 points to 556, compared with a 5-point gain for the United States, which scored 520 last year. The top possible score on each exam was 800.

Among Cox’s other points to the Rotary:

The budget: “It’s bad, bad, bad.It’s just a horrible situation.”

Graduation rate: “No matter how you measure it, our graduation rate is improving.”

As she did a week earlier in a presentation to education writers from around Georgia, Cox presented NAEP data — a national benchmark test that is considered the “Nation’s Report Card” — showing that Georgia is keeping up with or outpacing the nation in improvement in almost every demographic. The state is doing particulary well with Hispanic students.

Cox also told the group that 8,211 teachers in the k-12 system owe their jobs to federal stimulus funds. Without the federal infusion of money, they would not be working.

171 comments Add your comment

Michael in Decatur

January 30th, 2010
2:28 pm

I’m all for upgrading the math curriculum but the class of 2012 is getting the raw eand of the deal. Expect lower graduation rates, higher summer school attendance and fewer going on to college due to the horrible, horrible implementation of this program. I’m sure Kathy Cox is a nice person, but she has failed the class of 2012.

ScienceTeacher671

January 30th, 2010
3:10 pm

There are “the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exams, which are noted nationally for their high expectations”….and then there are the Georgia state exams such as the CRCT, which are noted nationally for their low expectations.

Tony

January 30th, 2010
3:14 pm

The new math curriculum is a good one. School systems and teachers have been particularly difficult to work with regarding implementation. Resistance to change is always a big factor that impedes school improvements and this curriculum implementation has been no differnt.

The curriculum is based on solid, foundational mathematics concepts. The content progression is much more appropriate than the so-called traditional approaches. For years, we have been selling our kids short in the area of mathematics because we have had consistently low expectations. People are still making excuses for kids by saying things like “not every kid is college prep” or “some kids just won’t get it” or “I didn’t take algebra and I’m doing just fine”.

For years, the people of Georgia have demanded improvement. Now that we have the tool to make it happen, everyone wants to run from it.

Schools must stick to the plan. They must provide their teachers with access to planning time, resources and materials that support the program. Parents must support the kids and the schools. Yes, it is hard work, but most everything that is worthwhile requires us to get off our bottoms and work.

I’m sure there will be the nay sayers for this topic. They will expound the virtues of the traditional curriculum. They will try to impugn the new standards by saying it comes from “fuzzy math”. They will attempt to say the new curriculum actually dumbs down the curriculum. All those arguments are based more on emotion than on actual evidence.

The math curriculum is one area Georgia has gotten right and I hope we stick to the plan. Otherwise, we will demonstrate once again our lack of commitment to provide the very best educational opportunities to the students of Georgia.

Tony

January 30th, 2010
3:16 pm

science teacher671 – the “low” expectation CRCTs you bring to our attention are based on the old QCC and not the new GPS. These comparisons were made in years prior to the implementation of middle grades math curriculum changes. The new high school math courses’ EOCTs certainly have not had criticism for being too easy.

Cox is a Joke

January 30th, 2010
3:19 pm

“Last in SAT’s, first in Japanese.”

CDog

January 30th, 2010
3:34 pm

The new math curriculum is great for the mid to upper level student and horrible for the low end student. The adage “what’s best for the best is best for the rest” is totally bogus. Our average SAT score will rise just because the normally low scoring students will all have dropped out before they have a chance to take it.

NuBomb

January 30th, 2010
4:07 pm

She will need to find some more folks from Mass. to come down and fix what has been started. She probably should have sent for them quite a while ago.

ScienceTeacher671

January 30th, 2010
4:08 pm

Tony, it is true that the highly-publicized NAEP/CRCT comparison was based on the QCCs in math (English switched to GPS sooner), but even the new GPS-based CRCT does not compare well with nationwide ITBS scores.

And while it’s true that many students have failed the new math EOCTs (how many? has that been published yet?), students can “pass” while getting only 45% of the questions correct, and apparently this year’s PSAT results aren’t looking very pretty either.

math teacher2

January 30th, 2010
4:11 pm

It’s all well and good to expect lower pass rates because of the increased rigor of the curriculum. But, no one takes that into account when calculating AYP for compliance with NCLB. It is killing us because we have to meet the standards, regardless of the time they say it takes to implement a new curriculum effectively.

high school teacher

January 30th, 2010
4:26 pm

As the mother of a third grader, I am amazed at the math that my son is doing now – scalene triangles, area, perimeter, and algebraic word problems are things that I encountered much later than third grade. However, he is doing it. I think that the current elementary school kids will do better in high school math (provided that we keep it that long) than the current freshmen and sophomores. By the same token, his simple math skills are not as sharp as they should be. He makes careless mistakes in borrowing, adding, etc. I wonder if it’s because there is too much emphasis on the higher level stuff (or it could be that I have boy who rushed through his work too! :) )

I am only speaking for my county; middle school teachers please take note of this statement! Last year, our ninth grade accelerated math teacher was chewed out on a daily basis by the parents of gifted kids because she was teaching math that way that the GPS and new math curriculum dictated. Their students were struggling because they had not been exposed to the “application” worksheets or something along those lines. Our middle school teachers apparently had not been following the proper format during the middle school years, and the parents raked our teacher over the coals. I don’t know if this deficiency was due to poor training or a defiance to change to the new curriculum, but our kids are the ones who have suffered regardless.

I will also say that you can’t judge a “new thing” in education after just two years; it takes time to implement something well. As much as I dislike the new math, I can’t say yet that it’s ineffective.

high school teacher

January 30th, 2010
4:28 pm

As the mother of a third grader, I am amazed at the math that my son is doing now – scalene triangles, area, perimeter, and algebraic word problems are things that I encountered much later than third grade. However, he is doing it. I think that the current elementary school kids will do better in high school math (provided that we keep it that long) than the current freshmen and sophomores. By the same token, his simple math skills are not as sharp as they should be. He makes careless mistakes in borrowing, adding, etc. I wonder if it’s because there is too much emphasis on the higher level stuff (or it could be that I have boy who rushed through his work too! :) )

I am only speaking for my county; middle school teachers please take note of this statement! Last year, our ninth grade accelerated math teacher was chewed out on a daily basis by the parents of gifted kids because she was teaching math that way that the GPS and new math curriculum dictated. Their students were struggling because they had not been exposed to the “application” worksheets or something along those lines. Our middle school teachers apparently had not been following the proper format during the middle school years, and the parents raked our teacher over the coals. I don’t know if this deficiency was due to poor training or a defiance to change to the new curriculum, but our kids are the ones who have suffered regardless.

I will also say that you can’t judge a “new thing” in education after just two years; it takes time to implement something well. As much as I dislike the new math, I can’t say yet that it’s ineffective.

I apologize if this posts twice, but it did not appear the first time I tried to post. I have learned to copy what I have typed…

Ole Guy

January 30th, 2010
4:32 pm

Through her proclamation, Ms. Cox has demonstrated perhaps the most foolish commitment made by politicians. During his bid for a second term, Senior Bush made the very same foolish promise…by the year 19XX, long-since gone, we, the public educational systems of the US, would be #1, in the world, in terms of academic achievement. While it is always admirable to strive for the top spot in any endeavour, it is also wise to maintain a sense of reality; the reality is that, false/feel good reports notwithstanding, the public educational systems of Georgia would do well to get off the ground before going for altitude records.

Tony

January 30th, 2010
4:38 pm

Science Teacher – I’m interested in the ITBS comparisons you mentioned. Where can I find them?

Catina Jones

January 30th, 2010
4:38 pm

I am sure that the Math plan will work eventually. Unfortunately, my daughter is not afforded the advantage of a book to use with the new math that has been introduced. Even if I was “smart” enough to help her, we don’t have a book to refer to. She has always been an A-B student but this year she is failing math! With budget cuts, etc. she may not even have the opportunity to attend summer school if she continues to fail the new math. We need some “math tutuoring in GA!”

john konop

January 30th, 2010
4:43 pm

,Tony

The irony is your math plan is based on understanding how to use math in the real world according to Kathy Cox. If Kathy ever took a real research methods class while in college and understood the concept should we know her math 123 would be laughed out of a case study project!

Since you obviously are very confused let me lay out the data.

In the case study the following facts a rational person would lay out before attacking the issue.

1) 40 % of kids are dropping out!
2) A large % Kathy Cox has been with passing them along to inflate the graduation number and then shoving then into a GED program at the end with no skill sets if they graduate.
3) Only 29% of students nationally complete as high as geometry in high schools today

If your goal is to raise the graduation rate, give kids skills for a job after high school and help foster high level math students would anyone in the right mind implement math 123 knowing the following;

1) It requires every kid to get the equivalent of Algebra II even special needs kids.
2) It does not follow the proper math track for a student taking Chemistry
3) Instead of focusing kids falling through cracks on skills, Kathy Cox has students are either passed along with no skills or drop out!
4) Cox punishes gifted and advanced kids by not letting track with the university system which created the only national rank gifted program in Georgia.
5) Kids transferring in and out of the state are left behind since her math program tracks to nothing any school or University uses.

Enough is Enough, KATHY COX YOU HAVE DONE ENOUGH DAMAGE! Please resign and stop with the spin!

elementary georgia teacher

January 30th, 2010
5:00 pm

Teachers never were in approval of investigations. But once again we were asked to vote for a series and I have never spoken to any classroom teacher that voted for this program. Don’t even get me started on the Weekend workshop that we were REQUIRED to attend in order to convince us this is how math was going to be taught forever. Another waste of money and time.
My contract said 180 days-not 180 plus weekend to learn a program that is going to be unsuccessful..furloughs..etc. I wish teachers were truly listened to just once!

elementary georgia teacher

January 30th, 2010
5:04 pm

John I agree completely with you! Kathy Cox needs to leave as soon as possible! She is clueless.

Veteran teacher, 2

January 30th, 2010
5:10 pm

So, now we see that the state curriculum was, in fact, modeled on another state’s success. Someone blogged a couple of months ago that Georgia should look at the Massachusets math curriculum. I answered that they did, and I was called out. Now you see that I was correct. John Konop, you are very passionate in your arguments. However, using my experiences in the state of Georgia over a 25+ year career, you are selling students short. There are places in even rural Georgia that had high percentages completing Algebra 2 before graduation, including some special ed kids. The DOE had these percentages about four years ago. Science Teacher, our math PSAT scores have increased the past two years. The 9th and 10th graders outscored the 11th graders in math.

My system has a diverse and colorful student body. How are we doing it? Hard work and a positive attitude. Is every student successful? No, but they are encouraged to succeed by multiple people every day.

As Tony has said numerous times, people have demanded that Georgia do something to raise the rigor and scope of mathematics instruction. Now that it has been done, I keep hearing about how wonderful the past was. I was there, it wasn’t for many students.

Is the curriculum perfect? No. I have several suggestions for improvement myself. I can say without hesitation as a 25+ year veteran teacher that the kids in my school know more math at an earlier grade level and can do more with it than any group I have worked with in my career. And that will still be true regardless of what they make on the stupid EOCT.

PsychMom

January 30th, 2010
5:13 pm

I think these changes are moving in the right direction. I know New York State also has moved towards Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II. I believe more states will adopt this, as it has proven (as in Mass.) to be successful. It will take a few years to get up to speed, but I think it will make a difference in the long run.

E. Cobb Parent

January 30th, 2010
5:24 pm

To high school teacher, my 2nd grader came home with math titled “algebra”, it was just a sheet where he had to determine if 200 = 180 . I don’t call that algebra. Algebra solves for a variable. My daughter had the same work in first grade under the old math. In talking to parents after the ITBS scores, most complained that their child(ren) scored below 50% in computation. Matter of fact, Tritt ES held onto the scores because the math computation was so dismal. According to the teachers, they wanted to put a plan in place to address the low scores before letting parents see them. Students in high school and middle school struggle because the material is not presented in a logical order and moves quickly with little emphasis on mastery. When the teacher circles back to the subject several weeks later, the students do not remember the material so building on it is useless and the students become frustrated. Those math oriented students tend to do okay because they do not need the same amount of repetition to truly understand the problems.

E. Cobb Parent

January 30th, 2010
5:26 pm

Veteran Teacher 2, Wheeler’s Magnet PSAT scores were not higher they were lower.

john konop

January 30th, 2010
5:38 pm

Veteran teacher, 2,

How does this mandatory math curriculum deal with a drop out rate of 40%? Why is Kathy Cox passing out waivers like pizza coupons if it is working? And why do you think it is smart to put about 60 to 70% of the kids at risk of dropping out, getting a GED or passed along with no real skills for a job?

Not to be rude but you guys are pushing a math program that if taught right would tell you not to do it!

E. Cobb Parent

January 30th, 2010
5:58 pm

Maureen, other than Kathy Cox’s say so, what proof or examples can you provide that GA’s math is modeled after Mass?

Veteran teacher, 2

January 30th, 2010
6:03 pm

All I can do is tell you what is true at my school I am truly sorry that your experience is different. Our kids like the new curriculum and generally work hard with it, even special ed kids. If we don’t tell kids they can’t do it, they usually can.

john konop

January 30th, 2010
6:07 pm

Does anyone fact check Kathy Cox? The truth is they do not use math 123 and teach the traditional sequence for math! Also they have a separate track for vocational kids not a 1 track system!

High School

Geometry – Holt Rinehart Winston

Advanced Algebra – Holt Rinehart Winston

Algebra – Holt Rinehart Winston

Algebra II – Glencoe

Algebra: Concepts and Applications – Glencoe

Focus on Geometry – Scott Foresman/Addison Wesley

Focus on Algebra – Scott Foresman/Addison Wesley

Discovering Geometry: An Inductive Approach – Key Curriculum Press

Algebra: Concepts and Skills – McDougal/Littel

http://worcesterschools.org/modules/cms/pages.phtml?sessionid=f7f03534552b5ed3f9c7d64c009a689f&pageid=122564&sessionid=f7f03534552b5ed3f9c7d64c009a689f

john konop

January 30th, 2010
6:08 pm

Veteran teacher, 2,

In all due respect do you have any facts! What is the graduation rate at your high school? How many kids needed summer school? How did your students do on the PSAT?

One think I have learned Kathy Cox will say or have people say anything to defend her over what is right for the kids!

E. Cobb Parent

January 30th, 2010
6:09 pm

Veteran teacher – what schools PSAT’s were higher? I know that Wheeler’s Magnet was not and Pope won’t release their scores. It stands to reason if the scores were better they would release them. For the record my children do not have an issue with the math, but then we supplement at home. If there are schools that are not seeing a downward trend in the scores then I would like to know if they do anything differently, if so what that is. When you say special needs, what type of special needs? The term is used for a wide range, the child that recieves speech to the child that is still in diapers in MS. I have a friend with a special needs child in MS that can’t tell time or add and I really don’t know the details of the math, but I’m sure it has to be modified for the child. Also, what county are you in? Fulton obviously saw declines in their scores since they are returning to a more traditional approach.

E. Cobb Parent

January 30th, 2010
6:12 pm

John K thanks for the facts.

ScienceTeacher671

January 30th, 2010
6:17 pm

@Tony, I understand that one or more of the metro counties have done such comparisons, but I have not seen them published. When we recommend students for SST and now RTI, we are required to include previous test scores in the packet, and it is something I have noted consistently.

@Veteran teacher, 2, I don’t have any personal knowledge of the PSAT scores, but based my statement on something that IIRC, Maureen commented a couple of weeks ago about the DOE being disturbed that PSAT scores were not looking very good this year. If they’re better, that’s great. The only thing I have seen personally is the scores my students got back saying that Georgia’s scores were below the national average, but whether they are more below or less below I have no idea.

john konop

January 30th, 2010
6:27 pm

Maureen,

I checked another county in Massachusetts and NO MATH 123! Are you going to hold Kathy Cox accountable for lying to the public?

• Algebra I
• Algebra I/Honors
• Algebra II: Functions
• Algebra II: Real and Complex Variables
• Calculus/AP (AB Level)
• Calculus/AP (BC Level)
• Geometry
• Geometry/Honors
• IMP 1
• IMP 2
• Introductory Calculus/Honors
• Mathematical Modeling
• Number Patterns A
• Number Patterns B
• Parameter Graphing
• Precalculus: Analysis/Honors
• Precalculus: Trigonometry/Honors
• Quantitative Reasoning
• Transformational Geometry

http://www.arps.org/Curriculum/Maps/HS/Mathematics/

Been there for 32 Years

January 30th, 2010
6:42 pm

My experience with third grade math (I taught it for 25 years) is the curriculum now tries to cover too many new concepts. There is not enough time to make sure the students understand a concept before we’re having to rush on in order to “cover” everything before the benchmark test at the end of the nine week grading period. Also, quite often, the concepts are not developmentally appropriate for the age child we’re trying to teach. This is further compounded by the new report card in third grade that requires a separate score for each concept covered that nine weeks. It is pretty difficult to find time to teach new concepts when you’re so busy trying to do an adequate job assessing what they do and don’t know. It’s all about testing and data, and testing and data…poor teachers don’t have enough hours in the day to do what is expected. I have many friends in the classroom; good teachers who work hard to reach their kids. Many of them are feeling so demoralized and pretty hopeless about the state of education. Yes, they are happy to have a job and want to do a good job, but their hands are tied with decisions being made by politicians who don’t have a clue what teachers face in today’s classroom environment.

Maureen Downey

January 30th, 2010
6:48 pm

John, I will let Kathy Cox speak for herself, but she has addressed the fact that what Georgia took from other states — including Mass. — and countries was a new framework in which to teach math that emphasized early and deeper introductions of concepts and more integration. It is not the textbooks or the names of the courses that ought to concern parents, she said, but what is being taught in math class. And we are similar in approach to Massachusetts, as noted in the final report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel on teaching practices and content:

In 2005, the Fordham Foundation report on state mathematics standards (Klein et al., 2005) ranked state mathematics curriculum standards based on mathematics content, clarity, and reasoning, as well as negative qualities, assigning different weights to each criterion for the overall assessment. The standards of California, Indiana, Massachusetts, Alabama, New Mexico, and Georgia achieved the highest ranking. The curricular profiles of the standards of these six states do, on the whole, provide an emphasis on fewer important topics per year than most states; but compared with the “A+ countries” (Singapore, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Flemish Belgium, and the Czech Republic), they all spend a great deal of time in the primary grades on topics other than arithmetic.

HS Teacher, Too

January 30th, 2010
6:57 pm

When we base judgments on “test scores improving” and we fail to examine the threshold for passing and how much “teaching to the test” is happening, it’s really not a valid argument.

Anyone can improve test scores when they lower the passing score and dril and kill for test prep.

Show me some real, unbiased data, please. Someone mentioned PSAT scores, and while that’s not the purpose of the PSAT, it may provide some more meaningful benchmark for judgment as to how our students really are doing in math.

I have many friends who teach in Mass. and they all say the MCAS scores are skewed by the amount of test prep that goes on in the schools.

HS Teacher, Too

January 30th, 2010
6:58 pm

Sorry for the typo. Meant “drill,” not “dril.”

john konop

January 30th, 2010
7:00 pm

Maureen,

What are you talking about? Kathy Cox changed the “frame work” from teaching math in proper sequence to her ‘spiral theory of math” which mixes up all the concepts instead of teaching them in traditional order!

If this is a similar approach than how does her spiral approach work than? And if it is similar than we did we change teaching math out of proper sequence?

Lee

January 30th, 2010
7:10 pm

“…she [Cox] talked more about Massachusetts than Georgia since our standards are based on a reforms introduced there a decade earlier. She had lots of data and tests results from the New England state generally recognized as an educational leader. Her goal: To overtake Massachusetts in math performance.”

Let’s see, there was a recent AJC article about how Ga was now majority minority in it’s public schools as I recall. Contrast that to Massachusetts which is about 70% white.

Now then, review data about black/hispanic results on math such as SAT, ACT, CRCT, etc, etc for the past 50 years and show me where blacks/hisp have outscored whites in math on a consistent basis.

Now then, using the most elementary mode of logical deduction, explain to me how the hell Ga is going to overtake Mass in math.

As my uncle would say, “that dog ain’t gonna hunt.”

Teach

January 30th, 2010
7:26 pm

Tony – I am a career middle school math teacher and I agree with you. The integrated program will work. I’ve been successful when Gwinnett tried it years ago even though most high schoo teachers grumbled. As a middle school teacher I was willing to learn, willing to try collaborative problem solving in place of sage on the stage, teacher directed instruction. I was wager to try anything that gave real life purpose and connections to the math I taught so integrating geometry with Algebra was a perfect solution. The program in place will work and be better than the old AI, G, AII. I empathize with students caught in the transition, having been the parents of children caught in textbook changes every year, and I don’t know the solution to that problem BUT to use that as an excuse for not making the Math curriculum the best is not the correct approach.

Fulton Parent

January 30th, 2010
7:27 pm

I am mortified to read this article!! I attended the meeting in which Dr. Driscoll spoke to school administrators and Kathy’s staff. Dr. Driscoll stated that MA ONLY increased the rigor in the state’s standards. MA did not mandate books or teaching methods. It’s nice that Kathy Cox wants to be better than MA, but her current mandates WILL NOT get GA anywhere near the performance in MA. Attached is a letter that I sent to Kathy after the meeting…..no surprise that she failed to provide a response. If anyone would like to have the comparison document that I provided to Kathy, feel free to email me at georgiaparentsformath@gmail.com.

Dear Superintendent Cox,

I wanted to thank you for the opportunity to attend the meeting you arranged with Dr. Driscoll. I found it quite interesting to learn about the key factors that enabled Massachusetts to adopt more rigorous standards and achieve greater mathematical proficiency for their students. Since I am a huge advocate of inclusion and sharing of information to obtain the best solution to any design problem, I applaud you for looking beyond Georgia to gain lessons learned from others. It is evident that you share the MA DOE’s goal of ensuring that “high school graduates arrive at college or the workplace well prepared and reduce the number of students taking remedial courses in college”.

Since you expended the effort to arrange a meeting with Dr. Driscoll, I thought I would share my observations and thoughts with you. During the meeting I noted many critical differences between the implementation in Georgia and Massachusetts. In summary, I believe that GA could utilize many of MA DOE lessons learned to modify the existing GA program and begin moving in a direction that could result in a level of success consistent with MA. Some of the key concepts from Dr. Driscoll’s discussion that GA would need to embrace and implement are summarized as follows:

MA DOE’s standards focus ONLY on increased rigor, i.e., the content knowledge required by the students. Review of standards on the MA DOE website reveal a focus on mathematical rigor, even noting when to NOT use calculators so that a teacher can ensure that students obtain the appropriate skills.
MA DOE increased rigor without impacting math courses required for college bound students. MA High School standards are contained in a single document, with standards applied to a combined grades 9 and 10, or combined grades 11 and 12. Grades 9 and 10 focus on Algebra I and Geometry. Grades 11 and 12 focus on Algebra II, Trigonometry, and Pre-Calculus.
The MCAS test required for graduation is administered in 10th grade. For students with a deficit, this allows two years of instruction to remediate and obtain a diploma. End of course tests are not administered every year, i.e., no 9th, 11th and 12th grade end of year testing. Once a student passes the 10th grade test, there is no requirement to take additional tests.
MA DOE provided funding for tutoring to help struggling students ensure that they meet graduation requirements.
MA DOE did not mandate reform/integrated math or traditional math. Districts were given freedom and support to find the best approach for their district and/or schools. In fact, the additional set of recommendations for college bound students, as documented on their website, is “Four units of Math, including the completion of Algebra II or completion of the Integrated Math equivalent. All students are recommended to take a math course during their senior year.” The flexibility afforded by the MA DOE is evident throughout their website, including the structure and content of their standards.
Dr. Driscoll was not a supporter of relying on teaching methods to achieve increased proficiency. Instead, MA DOE enabled “innovation” by allowing each district to define the instructional methods and materials that would enable achievement of the higher standards and increased rigor. Dr. Driscoll reported that this resulted in districts communicating with each other, trying new approaches, sharing best practices, etc. and ultimately succeeding. This description of the “design environment” is consistent with the development of many innovative products.
MA DOE provided tests to determine strengths and weaknesses associated with their teacher’s knowledge of mathematics. This data was utilized to develop and provide training to improve teacher knowledge of the subject. Dr. Driscoll indicated that this is a critical requirement if you want increased achievement by your students.
MA DOE utilized nationally normed test results, such as ITBS and SAT scores, and the associated trends over time, to verify their increased proficiency. Comparison of MA student’s trends in national test scores and state MCAS test scores provided proof that the MCAS test was a valid assessment. This avoided inaccurately advertising success based solely on state developed tests.

In consideration of each of the eight key concepts that I documented in the above list, I generated a document that contains a comparison of the MA implementation/philosophy and the GA DOE implementation/philosophy. I am attaching this document to this email and hope that, in review of this information, you agree that the only issue or implementation strategy that is common to GA and MA is the increase in rigor in the standards. The execution of change in the schools by GA DOE is not the same, or remotely similar, to the change implemented by the MA DOE. Given this conclusion, I do not believe that GA will achieve the same success as MA unless GA makes significant modifications to their current implementation/philosophy.

In summary, it is my belief that your staff should have heard all of the same messages that I described in this email and the attached document. Since your goal is to ensure that the students in GA achieve increased proficiency through achievement of higher, more rigorous, standards, you will have to hold your staff accountable for tracking success rates and implementing changes that result in success (note: you were right that the PSAT example is not sufficient). I would suggest that you begin by asking your staff the following:

- Provide data comparing the ITBS performance across the state to the CRCT performance. This comparison should include, at a minimum, data from years 2000 – 2009. If the ITBS data is not trending with greater improvement than CRCT, then the additional rigor in the standards is not being achieved by the students. Increased rigor and proficiency should correlate to increased ITBS scores. The increase in scores should be true for all students, all grades, all counties, not just one group or one grade.

- How does your staff plan to compare the training provided to MA teachers to the training that GA administered to the GA teachers? You should see a report from your staff stating that MA is focused on improvement of mathematical skills of teachers instead of “implementing reform math teaching methods.” They should have noted Dr. Driscoll’s comment that the college methods class was not sufficient. Methods should not be the answer for improving performance!!

- Ask for the plan that defines the expected improvement over time. Note, your current 10th graders are in year 5 of this effort. Further you now have 3 years of 8th grade ITBS test scores for students in the new math. If you have not yet achieved visible improvement, you should ask for root cause data….there is no excuse for failure after 3-5 years. Additionally, if there are no planned changes by your staff, you should expect to see continued failure to achieve your standards and continued failure to increase scores on national tests, including ITBS, ACT and SAT.

- Ask for data describing performance of all students. What is happening to the low, medium, and high “skilled” students? You need to ensure that all are improving, not just one group. You want your students to have a higher level of achievement everywhere, including ITBS, ACTs and SATs.

- Ask your staff what support they are providing to the county superintendents. Has your staff asked the superintendents for ideas to improve the implementation? Has you staff offered to support any superintendent who attempts a change…noting that even a failure can result in terrific lessons learned? Has your staff asked whether superintendents think that allowing either traditional or reform math might allow for greater student achievement…especially now that they have many years of experience using new textbooks in elementary, middle and high schools?

Finally, it might be helpful for you to form your own “community support group”, as recommended by Dr. Driscoll. You could use a group of people with varying backgrounds to discuss your accomplishments and plans forward. This might help you bring a variety of ideas to your staff.

I hope this information is helpful. If you have any questions or would like to discuss anything, please feel free to contact me at anytime. In the end, I do hope that the GA DOE is able to enable change that impoves the performance of college bound students as well as students that transition directly into the workforce. I am confident that you will have the support of everyone in GA if you are able to improve student proficiency and improve performance on national tests!!

Thank You!

Tammy Lucas

john konop

January 30th, 2010
7:35 pm

It obvious Kathy Cox is not telling the truth! Thank you Fulton Parent and keep up the fight!

Fulton Parent

January 30th, 2010
7:38 pm

I also find it interesting that there is some claim that Georgia’s math program is based on MA. The briefing charts provided by GA DOE in the Fall of ‘07 listed the following as the basis for the new Math program….note, no mention of MA by Kathy’s staff in 2007:
– Adapted from the 1989 Japanese standards
– Written using the North Carolina format
– Rigorous grade-level standards

Ole Guy

January 30th, 2010
7:47 pm

John, if they teach all that stuff in Ma high schools, they just may as well send em to MIT. It would be interesting to learn some of the background info regarding leadership principles and philosophys within Ma governance.

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not buying it

January 30th, 2010
7:57 pm

I find it interesting that Maureen uses the Fordham Foundation information. Maureen, I challenge you to speak to the writers. They will tell you that what GA currently has in place is not what was reviewed. Kathy Cox only sent parts of the information. Working for a newspaper I would expect that someone at the AJC understands investigative reporting and would ask the right questions. Kathy Cox used the same amo that any guilty persons does with their attorney. Only answers the exact question, doesn’t give all the information.

Fulton Parent

January 30th, 2010
8:02 pm

I would like to address the reference to the 2005 Fordham Foundation Report (note, anyone can download it from the Fordham Foundation website…it’s titled The State of State MATH Standards). The Fordham review did not include Georgia’s current GPS standards. Instead, Georgia recieved a grade of a “B” based on their old QCC standards NOT the current GPS. Review for K-8 was of the 2004 QCC standards. Grades 9-12 were the 1998 QCC standards.

This is critical when you consider that GA DOE reported that they were heavily influenced by NC standards, which recieved a grade of “C”. Further, GA implementation and mandate of fuzzy textbooks is quite similar to WA which recieved a grade of “F”.

So in the end, GA had QCC standards that were not too bad and elected to move toward fuzzy/reform math that is similar to standards that recieved failing grades. This is a phenomenal failure on the part of Kathy and her staff!! If they read the 2005 report, they did not utilize the lessons learned from other states.

john konop

January 30th, 2010
8:10 pm

Ole Guy,

The fact is in Cherokee, North Fulton and Cobb we had the same thing but maybe even better! My son was the last class grandfathered after a big fight with Kathy Cox. But he started algebra 1 in 7th grade by his 9th grade year he had completed all high school requirements. As a 10th grader he is taking AP statistics and will complete 3 years of college math and two years of college Science. And he has the option to take the course work at KSU in his 11th and 12th grade year. This program was ranked in the top ten in the nation.

Instead of Kathy Cox expanded on what was working Cox created math 123 that does match the current University system ie destroying the best education idea we had in Georgia!

What rational person would have done is expand the gifted math program to other districts and apply the same concept with vocational training. That is what Macon did and the drop out rate improved dramatically.

Another voice

January 30th, 2010
8:30 pm

If this Math was successful there would not be so many students, parents and teachers upset. It is not resistance to change it is frustration with a curriculum that is not working. Our class of 2012 is doomed. Our best and brightest in this grade are failing their Advanced Math courses. The regular and below level Math students are struggling and failing. Release the scores! We now have the first semester block schedule results for Math II and a second year of Math I. I expect the results are not good. And remember the block schedule results will not include the lower level Math students who are in Math Support. Their EOCTs won’t be available until the end of the year.

The Students, Teachers and Parents at least deserve to know the results. Release the results of all of the testing including PSAT. If this year’s 10th grade scores are lower than last year’s 10th graders then we know this class was hurt by the change. Give us the information.

pay attention folks

January 30th, 2010
8:35 pm

Our state superintendent needs to put her money where her mouth is…
Let’s have her take the Math I and Math II EOCT as well as the Math III and Math IV finals from an honors level course and see if SHE can pass these tests…
Ms. Cox…Are you smarter than a 10th grader?????

Will T

January 30th, 2010
8:42 pm

Please stop complaining because your GIFTED child cannot make an excellence grade in a math class. Gifted students are not smart in every subject. Furthermore, it takes time to teachers and students to adjust to the paradigm shift. You have had high school teachers teaching algebra I for 25 years the same way and all they know is algebra I. GPS requires all teachers, especially math teachers to re-think how we deliver quality instruction to students with a variety of learning styles. Traditional lecture does have its place, but real world applications will cause students to think at higher levels of understanding. So, you we have grown pains, but the NAPE assessments proficiency levels have increased over the years. Give the curriculum a chance to work and require math teachers to become proficient in all areas of their content area, including geometry, statistics, trig, analysis, and yes algebra (I, II, and Adv Math). YES WE CAN!!!!!!!!!!!

Will T

January 30th, 2010
8:44 pm

Please stop complaining because your GIFTED child cannot make an excellence grade in a math class. Gifted students are not smart in every subject. Furthermore, it takes time to teachers and students to adjust to the paradigm shift. You have had high school teachers teaching algebra I for 25 years the same way and all they know is algebra I. GPS requires all teachers, especially math teachers to re-think how we deliver quality instruction to students with a variety of learning styles. Traditional lecture does have its place, but real world applications will cause students to think at higher levels of understanding. So, you know we have grown pains, but the NAPE assessments proficiency levels have increased over the years. Give the curriculum a chance to work and require math teachers to become proficient in all areas of their content area, including geometry, statistics, trig, analysis, and yes algebra (I, II, and Adv Math). YES WE CAN!!!!!!!!!!!