Search This Blog

Monday, February 27, 2012

What do your students know?

Marilyn Burns (Math Solutions) has been working for the past two years with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop the Math Reasoning Inventory (MRI). MRI is a online formative assessment tool.

It's now available, free of charge, to all teachers.

The goal of MRI is to help teachers find out what their students really understand about mathematics. MRI assesses students' numerical proficiency and asks questions that the Common Core expects all middle school students to answer successfully. A face-to-face interview is the core of MRI. And reasoning is the heart of MRI -- students solve most problems in their heads and always are asked to explain their strategies.

Information about the tool and how to sign up for a free account can be found on the MRI website. The website provides information about preparing to give MRI interviews and includes more than 80 video clips of actual interviews, samples of MRI reports, and the reasoning strategies students need to be numerically proficient.

For an introduction and overview of MRI, read the article Marilyn Burns posted about MRI in the Math Solutions Online Newsletter.

MEAP data shows Kalamazoo-area schools improving in reading, but slipping in math

On February 19, the Kalamazoo Gazette's education reporter, Julie Mack, did a piece on the most current MEAP scores for grades 3-8. It seems we have some work to do.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

PD Opportunity: Problem solving and Persevering in Middle School Mathematics

  • Does your department have a shared understanding of the FIRST Standard for Mathematical Practice: problem solving and perseverance?
  • Do you know what to look for and expect from your students when they are engaged in this Practice Standard?
  • Do you know how to support your students in learning to problem solve and persevere in mathematics?

If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, register to attend this two-day workshop to explore ways to successfully engage students in MAKING SENSE OF PROBLEMS AND PERSEVERING IN SOLVING THEM.

4/18/12 and 5/30/12

The Standards for Mathematical Practice outline the experiences and interactions ALL students should have with mathematics. In these two days, we will explore strategies for problem solving and persevering in depth. After developing a common understanding of what the practice standard LOOKS and SOUNDS like in classrooms, we will explore new resources that have been developed for teachers to assist you in implementing this signpost practice standard.

Each participant will receive 2 books. One relates to problem solving and the other relates to perseverance. We will use the books to explore strategies for supporting students in problem solving and perseverance.

REGISTER NOW. Space is limited to 50.

Implementing the Common Core State Standards

The Center on Instruction presented "Implementing the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics" at a February 21, 2012 webinar.
With an eye toward college and career readiness for all students, and drawing on the principles of Response to Intervention, the webinar focused on recommended changes in curriculum, instruction, and programmatic support and shared resources, strategies, and timelines for a sensible implementation plan.
Available files

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

GE Foundation Invests $18 Million in Common-Core Work

Repost from Education Week

The GE Foundation's $18 million common-standards grant will focus on helping teachers understand the shifts in instruction necessary for the new standards, and will build a storehouse of free resources for them to use.

Some of the grant money will be used for the training institutes, they said, and some will be used for "direct collaboration" with teachers nationally, in person and on the Web, to produce examples of good instruction on the standards. Some of the grant will be used to build a new website,, with free resources for teachers. These already include videotapes of instructional units in math or English/language arts, and will expand to include tools to help teachers track and evaluate students' work, and other as-yet-unspecified resources.

David Coleman, co-founder and CEO of Student Achievement Partners, and one of the lead writers of the common standards in English/language arts, said that SAP will collaborate with teachers and national teachers unions, and groups such as the Council of Chief State School Officers and the Council of the Great City Schools, to develop and share resources that will help "make the common core real" for teachers. Only the best of what is submitted will be posted online, he said; he envisions a collection of resources that is carefully "curated" by SAP and expert teachers.

Whatever Student Achievement Partners develops in support of the common standards will be available for free, Coleman said. On, SAP says that it will not hold any intellectual property in what it develops, will not accept money from publishers, and will not compete for state and district contracts.

I asked whether this will be the case in all SAP work in support of the common core, whether part of the GE Foundation grant or not. Coleman said that those principles would apply to all its work.

Student Achievement Partners relies on philanthropic grants and contracts for its support, Coleman told me. It currently has three contracts with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, together worth $4.1 million, to do common-core related work. Those projects include creating ways to measure the complexity of texts, developing instructional units for teachers in reading and writing, developing publisher's criteria for the standards, and creating a common digital language for cross-referencing them online.

The New York City-based nonprofit, as we told you earlier, was founded by three of the lead writers of the common standards: Coleman, and Susan Pimentel (English/language arts), and Jason Zimba (math). It counts the other lead math writer, William McCallum, and a member of the math-writing panel, Phil Daro, as advisors.

The $18 million grant is one of the biggest that the GE Foundation has made in education, its president and chairman, Robert L. Corcoran, said during the conference call. It has made five-year grants of between $20 million and $25 million to several of its large "Developing Futures" districts, focused narrowly on specific aims, he said. The grant to Student Achievement Partners is an investment in "infrastructure," to enable "something that can help millions of children" over many years, he said.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

K-12 Math Conference: Math in Action

Math In Action 2012

Strategies for Student Success

Saturday, February 25, 2012
8:00 am - 3:30 pm

Grand Valley State University
Allendale, MI

Math in Action is for K–12 teachers of mathematics, administrators, curriculum directors, parents, prospective teachers, and college and university mathematics education, mathematics, statistics, and education faculty.

The conference features five concurrent interactive sessions. During sessions, participants engage in hands-on activities they can use with their own students in learning mathematics. SB-CEUs will be available for most sessions. Check out the 2012 Conference Program and Conference registration for more information.

The conference fee is $30 and includes coffee and tea in the morning and lunch.

Registration for 0.5 SB-CEUs: Registration is on February 25th during conference registration (7:30–8:30 AM). PLEASE NOTE: Each session is worth 0.1 credit and you MUST attend 5 sessions. To be eligible for 0.1 credit for a session, you must attend the full session. Sessions begin at 8:30 AM. Plan to arrive early to complete SB-CEU registration. If you earned SB-CEU credit in 2011 for a session that is being offered in 2012, you may not earn SB-CEU credit for the same session in 2012.

For further information, please email conference co-chairs Charlene Beckmann at or Firas Hindeleh at

FREE PD opportunity: Instruction using 21st century tools

The REMC Association, Discovery Education, and Kalamazoo RESA are pleased to present

A Day of Discovery
Saturday, February 18, 2012
8:30 AM – 3:30 PM (Registration begins at 8:00 AM)

Designed specifically for Michigan area educators, this interactive day of free professional development will highlight creative ways to engage students and invigorate your curriculum using the latest 21st century tools. Whether you are new to Discovery Education or a long-time user in search of the latest instructional strategies, this event has something for everyone. This exciting day of professional development will give you the opportunity to join multiple sessions, earn a certificate for participation, win prizes, and workshop with nationally recognized K-12 experts.

Kalamazoo RESA
1819 E Milham Ave, Portage, MI 49002

Event Cost: Free! (Continental Breakfast & Lunch Included)

Attendee’s are invited to bring your own device for a more hands-on experience!
Reserve Your Seat

Questions? Contact
Gina Loveless:

Obama pushes to speed transition to eTextbooks by 2017

Repost from USA Today

Obama's goal: an e-textbook in every student's hand by 2017.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski and Education Secretary Arne Duncan will recommend today at a summit of industry and education officials that states modify the textbook adoption process, allowing K-12 schools to use taxpayer funding once reserved for printed books on iPads, Kindles and the like — as well as software.

They'll begin pushing publishers, computer tablet makers and Internet service providers to work together and lower costs if they want to sell their products to the nation's 50 million schoolkids.

Administration officials say Web-connected instructional materials help students learn more efficiently and give teachers real-time information on how well kids understand material. "We spend $7 billion a year on textbooks, and for many students around the country, they're out of date," Genachowski says. In five years, he predicts, "we could be spending less as a society on textbooks and getting more for it."

While up-front costs for tablet computers are high — new iPads start at $499 — he says moving from paper to digital "saves a ton of money" in the long run. "We absolutely want to push the process."

Matt MacInnis, founder and CEO of the e-textbook company Inkling, says the transition is essential. "There is no future for American education unless we figure this out. There's no segment of any industry anywhere in the world anymore that doesn't rely on technology to get its job done."

Based in San Francisco, Inkling sells college textbooks online and by the chapter, making them available for $2.99 apiece, in most cases, in Apple's iTunes Store.

Robert Pondiscio, spokesman for the Core Knowledge Foundation, a Virginia-based non-profit group that promotes a "coherent, cumulative and content-specific core curriculum," says he's dubious that simply moving materials online or onto e-readers will improve schools, dismissing much of the enthusiasm around educational technology as "magical thinking."

"I wish there was even 10% as much thought as to what is going to come through these devices as in getting them into kids' hands," he says. "It's not a magic bullet. We need to worry about what is on these tablets while they're sitting in kids' laps."

Karen Cator, the U.S. Department of Education's technology director, says moving classwork onto devices such as tablets gives students the ability to do research, check their work and get feedback from teachers, among other uses. "One of the opportunities to extend the school day is by providing students with interactive and engaging environments outside of school," she says.