Wednesday, June 13, 2012
MCPS Superintendent Joshua P. Starr plans to brief members of the Board of Education on MCPS efforts to implement the November 2010 recommendations of the Math Work Group. MCPS has prepared this memo to set the stage for discussion.
To get things started, MCPS claims its new curriculum "is substantially more challenging" than the old. This claim, made without evidence, is based on adoption of Common Core State Standards. MCPS claims that conformance equals rigor. Yes, MCPS gets credit for adopting CCSS. Yes, the CCSS has widespread support among mathematicians for its logical progression of math concepts. But this has nothing to do with challenge, which is primarily about the pace of moving along that path of math concepts.
A pace that challenges the average student will bore some students and strain others. Many school systems adopting CCSS are, at the same time, sharply limiting variations in pace. Students are expected to proceed at the same pace, with very few exceptions. That prescribed pace usually results in a first algebra course in grades 8-9. Parents in North Carolina recently raised concerns that this will limit the achievement of many mathematically talented students.
MCPS uses the word "deep" sixteen times in this nine-page memo. Many MCPS students already have a solid conceptual foundation; they do not need any more digging right now. Ready for a faster pace, they are being held back by the MCPS one-pace-fits-all policy.
Board members should note the profound lack of facts and evidence in this memo. In the "Implemented Curriculum" section, MCPS claims "As a result, the mathematical practices are integrated into the design of Curriculum 2.0." Basically, MCPS cannot point to any results, so they choose to claim that practices are "integrated".
In the "Assessed Curriculum" section, MCPS states "Professional development will be required on the effective use of assessment data to plan instruction that builds students’ deep mathematical understanding." Here we go with deep again. Seriously, if formative assessments show students are well prepared to move ahead at a quicker pace, MCPS should actively support their progress.
MCPS says it is "committed to challenging every child with this additional acceleration and enrichment model". By this, they mean differentiation. A select few students "will need to advance a grade level in mathematics to receive sufficient challenge". Experience has shown us that differentiating instruction over a wide range of academic readiness has not and will not challenge every child. MCPS has never offered evidence to the contrary – parent and teacher feedback clearly show the limits of differentiation. This is a disaster in the making for MCPS. History will not favor a Board that willfully ignores evidence contrary to the trending educational ideology.
MCPS claims its "vision for mathematics teaching and learning supports and challenges all students and leads to equity in instruction and student achievement". Clearly, MCPS is not challenging all students. Forced to discuss the only facts and evidence cited in this memo, Starr admits "the gap between Black or African American and Hispanic/Latino students, and their White or Asian counterparts continued". The only evidence available, numbers MCPS chooses to make a case for its one-pace-fits-all policy, convincingly demonstrates that gaps have not closed. It is shameful that MCPS continues to claim otherwise. It is shameful that Board members refuse to call them out on those bogus claims.
Do Board members really want to buy what Starr is trying to sell here?