Best Societal Practices for Implementing Standards-Based Strategies
The following reflection from Mary, a pre-service teacher, is a catalyst for the following discussion on additional support teachers and students need to embrace Standards-based reform efforts:
Writing this final journal brings me back to last semester in my first math methods course. I was a wreck. I was not sure if I knew anything, learned anything, or was doing anything right. I am in a much better position at the end of this second and final math methods semester. I am confident that I know a great deal of math content, I know that I have learned a vast amount of information, and I am secure in my work and accomplishments. Having said that, I think that I am ready to concretely state my mathematical teaching philosophy, which I have yet to do solidly since last semester.
I believe that every student is capable of learning and doing math. Some students come with an aptitude for math that allows them to absorb ideas and concepts relatively easily. Some students take time to figure things out. By tapping in to a student’s interests, a link may be found to connect what they are most interested in of the math content. By doing so, the student will be able to find their interests within mathematical content and thrive. It is my job as their teacher to help them find that connection.
I also believe that there are many types of learners. There are visual, kinesthetic, and auditory learners. Each of those students should be reached in every lesson that I create. It is my duty to allow students to learn the way they naturally do by fostering their needs in my lessons. I will not leave any student behind. Regardless of whatever hectic schedule I may be handling, there is always time to help a student that is struggling. I think that is it, for now. I am sure as I move along in my teaching career things will be added, changed, or revisited. For now, I am confident in my statement of my teaching philosophy.
Some veteran teachers may read this reflection and think, “Good luck! She has a lot to learn about the reality of teaching kids.” It is true that Mary has very high ideals (e.g., every lesson should include all learning styles), but, ideally, I believe that that is where teachers should start because she has the teaching and learning philosophy that connects directly to NCTM’s Teaching Practices and the CCSSO’s Standards 1-8. If she is not discouraged in pursuing her goals, she will likely advance to Standards 9 and 10 to seek help in addressing difficulties she will encounter so that she can appropriately adjust her goals.
Research from the American Association for Employment in Education (2014) reports that, nationwide, the areas of greatest need in education-related disciplines include teachers and related service personnel in special education, mathematics, and science. Since Mary is open to adjusting her thinking when necessary, an important question is: What is needed to sustain Mary’s enthusiasm for teaching mathematics so that she is still teaching after three years? On one of Jerry Becker’s list- server e-mails is a cartoon by Signe Wilkinson, of a teacher being blamed by “drive-by education experts” for the failure of her students (“What Are You Doing Wrong?”). The poor teacher says nothing, but on the desks of her students are labels that read, “homeless, teen mom, abused, drugs, no books, no discipline, TV on 24/7 and . . . .hungry.” On her desk are a pile of paperwork, test schedules, and a small box labeled, “my own $ for supplies.” In her reflection, Mary says, “I will not leave any student behind.” If she teaches in a school having students similar to those in the cartoon, can her determination help her students to perform well on high-stakes assessments?
One would expect that test scores of poor students will be much lower than those of the rich because the latter can afford to go to schools that have more experienced teachers and better resources, and they can also get extra support after school if needed. In his article summarizing his research on the widening of the academic gap titled “No Rich Child Left Behind,” Reardon (2013) reports that, while differences in quality between schools serving low- and high-income students are contributing factors, there is another having a larger impact:
It may seem counterintuitive, but schools don’t seem to produce much of the disparity in test scores between high- and low-income students. We know this because children from rich and poor families score very differently on school readiness tests when they enter kindergarten, and this gap grows by less than 10 percent between kindergarten and high school . . . That isn’t to say that there aren’t important differences in quality between schools serving low- and high-income students—there certainly are—but they appear to do less to reinforce the trends than conventional wisdom would have us believe.
Reardon cites preparation for kindergarten as a major factor influencing performance. Rich students are increasingly entering kindergarten much better prepared to succeed in school than middle-class students, and so his suggestions for breaking the link between educational success and family background include investing in developing high-quality child care that is open to all students. Reardon (2013) also recommends professional development for preschool teachers and child care providers. But much more is needed, he writes:
There is a lot of discussion these days about investing in teachers and “improving teacher quality”, but improving the quality of our parenting and of our children’s earliest environments may be even more important. Let’s invest in parents so they can better invest in their children. . . . These are not new ideas, but we have to stop talking about how expensive and difficult they are to implement and just get on with it.
Reardon (2013) concludes with a statement that speaks to the success of the implementation of Standards-based standards:
The more we do to ensure that all children have similar cognitively stimulating early childhood experiences, the less we will have to worry about failing schools. This in turn will enable us to let our schools focus on teaching the skills—how to solve complex problems, how to think critically and how to collaborate—essential to a growing economy and a lively democracy.
For implementation of Standards-based standards to be successful, it is crucial to provide teachers and students with the support they need to transition to the demands of the new curriculum and assessment system. The support should include not only a nurturing environment that blends theory with the realities of teaching kids from different socioeconomic backgrounds but also professional development to help teachers implement the curriculum.
The teachers in this book demonstrate how educators can try to move toward reform-based goals by teaching the content through the mathematical practices and with support from colleagues. They:
- • engage students in challenging, mathematically appropriate tasks that align with the NCTM/ CCSSM and make sense to students;
- • use strategies and materials for meeting the needs of a range of learners;
- • apply accommodations and modifications for English language learners to encourage their active participation in learning mathematics
- • apply the principles and mathematical practices within a classroom atmosphere conducive to discourse that encourages students’ alternative conjectures, approaches, and explanations;
- • use appropriate tools that include technology, cooperative group work, and individual instruction to accommodate students with different learning styles;
- • use alternative assessment methods to assess students and guide their instruction;
- • engage in activities to stimulate reflections for improving their practice;
- • collaborate with colleagues and pursue other forms of professional development.
Note: All URLs in this text have been accessed as of February 2017. However, readers are encouraged to Google the names of the various sites, given that many sites may change location at any time.
Boaler, J. (2015). Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students’ Potential Through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages and Innovative Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Carol Dweck: The Journey to a Growth Mindset: Carol Dweck’s Live Keynote Presentation.
http://leaders.edweek.org/leaders-live-stream-2016/#dweck ClassDojo: “Growth Mindset for Students—Episode 1/5.” Videos promoting growth mindset messages in a kid-friendly way. https: //wwwyoutube. com/watch?list=PLIChyVOpASG3UTHeoU- z6GuwyAFIFfpFj&v=2zrtHt3bBmQ