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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Common Core State Standards: Bringing Parents on Board

As schools across the country move toward implementing the Common Core State Standards, district officials face a major challenge: 
How do we make the new academic expectations understandable to parents? 

A number of national organizations, including the Council of the Great City Schools and the National Parent Teacher Association, have taken up that effort, publishing written materials and creating video and audio segments—in multiple languages—designed to explain the standards to parents, in clear, jargon-free terms.

Our webinar guests will talk about those efforts, describe common challenges that districts face in discussing the common core with parents, and explain how school systems can address parents’ fears and misgivings about the standards.
  • Denise Walston, director of mathematics, Council of the Great City Schools, Wash.
  • Gina Kilday, K-6 mathematics coach, Exeter-West Greenwich Regional School District, R.I.
This webinar will be moderated by Sean Cavanagh, assistant editor for Education Week.
Underwriting for this webinar has been provided by the Walton Family Foundation.

Register now for this free live webinar. 

An archived version of the event will be available within 24 hours after the original presentation.
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
2-3pm EST

Monday, October 22, 2012

Michigan’s Career & College Ready Portal is now available for use by Michigan’s educators. A website has been created to connect users with the resources available for helping all students graduate career and college ready. This user-friendly portal is organized into categories such as:

  • Effective Instruction Accountability & Transparency
  • Balanced Assessment Supporting Quality Educators
  • Infrastructure P-20 Resources
  • Success Stories

The portal will be updated frequently with current, high quality resources thus becoming the central point for career and college ready information.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Long Reach of early math skills

How much do early math skills really affect a child's opportunity to be successful?
Does reading matter more than math?
Do school-entry and K-5 math skills affect

  • overall achievement
  • high school completion
  • college enrollment
  • crime in early adulthood?
You might be very surprised at the answers.

Greg Duncan from the University of California at Irvine has been studying these questions and now has definitive data for each. Check out a slideshow of his results.

If the slideshow catches your attention and you'd like to read more, check out these articles that discuss more of his findings

Friday, October 12, 2012

Khan Academy: the hype and the reality

  • Are you a teacher who has been incorporating Khan Academy videos into your instruction?
  • Are you an administrator whose school is considering using Khan Academy videos as part of a school-wide math initiative?
  • Are you home-schooling and using Khan Academy videos?

If so, you need to read on....

In the American Educator article, "Khan Academy: The Hype and The Reality", former math teacher and coach Karim Kai Ani praises Salman Khan for creating such a large collection of instructional videos and sharing them for free – but has several criticisms
  • Khan’s style of instruction is very traditional – Do this, then do this – which presents math as a “meaningless series of steps,” says Ani.
  • Khan says he does “two minutes of research on Google” to get ready for each video he records, doesn’t use a script, and admits, “I don’t know what I’m going to say half the time.” Ani says, “If a teacher said that, he or she would be fired. And yet, in the past year, Sal Khan has been hailed as the savior for everything that ails public education.”
  • Some of the videos are flawed. For example, Khan’s explanation of slope is “rise over run,” which is actually a way to calculate it. “In fact,” says Ani, “slope is a rate that describes how two variables change in relation to one another… To the layperson, this may seem like a trivial distinction, but slope is one of the most fundamental concepts in secondary math.” In June, two math professors pointed out errors in Khan’s lesson on negative numbers, and Khan revised the video.
  • Ani is bothered by Khan’s reaction to criticism, which he’s labeled “nitpicking” and driven by jealousy.
  • Khan Academy is not the silver bullet it’s hyped to be, says Ani. The real work of improving classroom instruction is providing teachers with PD and resources and giving teams the time to collaborate and create content that will engage students and teach them at a conceptual level. “We face challenges in K-12 education,” Ani concludes, “and they will not be solved with just a Wacom tablet and a YouTube account. Instead, they’ll be solved by teachers who understand their content and how children learn, who walk into the classroom every day and think, ‘I know exactly what I’m going to say, because that’s what teaching means.’”        
There is a longer version of this article that appeared in The Answer Sheet, a Washington Post blog. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Timed Tests and the Development of Math Anxiety

  • Teachers, do you give timed math facts test to your students?
  • Administrators, are you considering a school-wide program that would require students to take timed math facts tests? 

If so, read on [reposted]
by Jo Boaler
Mathematics education is in crisis: A third of all schoolchildren end up in remedial math courses, and the level of interest in the subject is at an all-time low. This is a result, in part, of schools in the United States heading down a fast-moving track in which the purpose of math has been reduced to the ranking of children and their schools. Math has become a performance subject. Children of all ages are more likely to tell you that the reason for learning math is to show whether they “get it” instead of whether they appreciate the beauty of the subject or the way it piques their interest. The damage starts early in this country, with school districts requiring young children to take timed math tests from the age of 5. This is despite research that has shown that timed tests are the direct cause of the early onset of math anxiety.
Timed math tests have been popular in the United States for years. Unfortunately, some of the wording in the Common Core State Standards may point to an increased use of timed tests. From the 2nd grade on, the common standards give math “fluency” as a goal. Many test writers, teachers, and administrators erroneously equate fluency with timed testing.
It is critical that we take a moment to review the emerging evidence on the impact of timed testing and the ways in which it transforms children’s brains, leading to an inevitable path of math anxiety and low math achievement.
The personal and educational consequences of math anxiety are great. Math anxiety affects about 50 percent of the U.S. population and more women than men.Researchers knowRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader that math anxiety starts early. They have documented it in students as young as 5, and that early anxiety snowballs, leading to math difficulties and avoidance that only get worse as children get older. Researchers also know that it is not related to overall intelligence.
Until recently, we have not known the causes of math anxiety and how it affects the brain, but the introduction of brain-imaging research has given us new and important evidence. Sian Beilock, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, for example, has found that when children are put under math stress, they are unable to execute math problems successfully. The stress impedes their working memory—the area of the brain where we hold math facts. Beilock found that stressful math situations cause worries that compete for the working memory, causing it to be blocked. She also found that math anxiety has an impact on those with high, rather than low amounts of working memory—the very students who have the potential to take mathematics to higher levels.
In Beilock’s recent research conducted with children in 1st and 2nd grade, she found that levels of math anxiety did not correlate with grade level, reading level, or parental income. For the most capable students, the research confirms, stress impedes the functioning of their working memory and reduces achievement. Research conducted at Stanford revealed that math anxiety changes the structure and workings of the brain.
When I moved to the United States from Europe a few years ago, I was shocked to learn that many school districts give children, as early as 1st grade, 50 math problems to solve in three minutes. For many students, it is not an exaggeration to describe this experience as torturous. When teachers of 2nd and 4th graders in one elementary school I visited asked students to write down how the test made them feel, responses showed that the test prompted anxiety in one-quarter of the students in each class, but that anxiety was not correlated with test success. Indeed, some of the students with the highest levels of success were those who indicated the greatest anxiety and made comments such as “I feel nervous. I know my facts, but this just scares me.”
It should not come as a surprise that the highest achievers displayed the greatest anxiety; in fact, neuroscience tells us that these students experience the greatest degree of cognitive dysfunction. But this anxiety does not only affect high-achieving students. Second graders from across the achievement spectrum described the tests as making them feel “upset” and “unhappy” and that they are “terrible at math.”
"It is critical that we take a moment to review the emerging evidence on the impact of timed testing and the ways in which it transforms children’s brains."
Timed tests have been given to young children in school districts in the United States with the best intentions, but with negative consequences for many years. The brain research that has emerged recently could be the impetus for shifting the momentum. But the inclusion of the word “fluency” in the common standards may mean that educators will continue to use these tests, and that they will even be included as part of the new common-core assessments.
There are many good teaching strategies for encouraging fluency in math, but the ones that are effective are those that simultaneously develop number sense—the flexible use and understanding of numbers and quantities—without instilling fear and anxiety. Strategies that involve reasoning about numbers and operations, such as the pedagogical approach called “number talks,” are ideal for developing fluency with understanding.
Beyond the fear and anxiety, timed tests also convey strong and negative messages about math, suggesting that math ability is measured by working quickly, rather than thinking deeply and carefully—the hallmark of high-level mathematical thinking. The ideas students develop about math in elementary school are critical for their future in the subject.
Policies in education rarely draw from research knowledge. But I would argue that this particular policy—of giving young children timed math tests—is one of the clearest ways schools damage children, and we now have evidence of the extent of the damage.
The United States faces a serious problem with widespread underachievement in mathematics, and insufficient numbers of students available to continue mathematical, scientific, and technological innovations. Educators and policymakers share an important goal: to create math classrooms where students are excited to learn the subject, rather than being stressed and worried about their performance under pressure. There is no disagreement about the goal, but policies that require the testing of young children under timed conditions may be inadvertently achieving the opposite. Assessments for the common core could break or perpetuate this cycle of damage. Let’s hope they do the former.

Election Math

Election Math is a new collection by NBC Learn highlighting the mathematics of presidential elections. Use Cognitive Tutor® software from Carnegie Learning to engage in election math!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Smarter Balanced SAMPLE ITEMS Released

On October 9, Smarter Balanced released a set of 60 sample assessment items for Math and ELA. Samples are available for all grades 3-8 and 11.

Teachers: start using these sample items and rubrics TODAY with your students!

The sample items and performance tasks are intended to help teachers, administrators, and policymakers implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and preparing for next-generation assessments. They provide an early look into the depth of understanding of the CCSS that will be measured by the Smarter Balanced assessment system. While the items and tasks are not intended to be used as sample tests, educators can use them to begin planning the shifts in instruction that will be required to help students meet the demands of the new assessments.
The sample items and tasks can be viewed by grade band (grades 3-5, 6-8, and high school) or content focus. They showcase the variety of item types—including technology-enhanced items and performance tasks—that will be included in the Smarter Balanced assessment system. In addition, items illustrating the connections across grades within the CCSS—as well as the range of student achievement within a computer adaptive test—are also available. Most constructed-response and technology-enhanced items can be scored automatically, and many items include downloadable scoring rubrics.
It is important to note that these samples represent only a small fraction of the more than 10,000 items and tasks currently in development to support the Pilot Test in early 2013. In addition, the samples are displayed using a simulated test platform that does not include accessibility tools and accommodation options that will be available when the assessments are administered to students—such as Braille, translation options, highlighter tools, and the ability to change font size or magnify portions of items.
In the coming months, additional items and performance tasks will be made available. Smarter Balanced welcomes feedback and questions on the sample items and tasks. Comments can be submitted through an online form.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Help develop Michigan's new Interim Assessments

The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) and the Office of Standards & Assessment (OSA)  conducts numerous committee meetings throughout the year in support of the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP), MEAP Access, MI-Access, English Language Profiency Assessment (ELPA), Interim Assessments (K-12) and the Michigan Merit Exams (MME).  Context and Item Writers are also needed to write Items for the above mentioned assessments. 

is looking to update our database with qualified educators and Michigan authors to possibly serve on these committees.  To ensure our database is current, we ask that you complete this survey.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Kalamazoo County Common Core Fall Newsletter

The Kalamazoo County Common Core Math Committee has representation from the public and private schooldistricts in Kalamazoo County
We believe that county-wide collaboration will lead to greater efficiencies and increased effectiveness for planning and implementing the common core. 
With county-wide collaboration, all classrooms can provide the same, high level of instruction and learning in math.    
Each quarter, the Committee releases a newsletter to share our progress and newly released resources to help YOU implement the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics.

Check out our fall newsletter now.                                                       

Guest Speaker - Math and Science is for Everyone: Experiences from the Treetops

October 22
FREE event
Kalamazoo RESA’s West Campus

Math and Science is for Everyone: Experiences from the Treetops

Dr. Nalini Nadkarni has been called “The Queen of the Forest Canopy.” She is on the faculty of the University of Utah where she is Director of the Center for Science and Math Education and a Professor of Biology.  She has been both a pioneer in forest canopy studies and in fostering the communication of scientific research to the general public. Her research on the ecology of forest canopies in rainforests of Costa Rica and Washington State is supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society.

Dr. Nadkarni is deeply committed to public engagement with science.  In 1994, she co-founded the International Canopy Network, a non-profit organization to foster communication among researchers, educators, and conservationists. Her work has been featured in magazines such as Natural History, Glamour, Discover, Ranger Rick, and Playboy, and she has appeared in television documentaries, including Bill Nye the Science Guy, Good Morning, America, and National Geographic In 2011, she was awarded the AAAS Public Engagement With Science Award, recognizing “her unique, persistent and innovative public engagement activities that have served to raise awareness of environmental and conservation issues with a broad and exceedingly diverse audience.”