Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Common Core is exposing teachers who don't understand math--and teachers seem to be reacting by flunking kids

Christie Ritter at Voice of San Diego reports on the fascinating impact of Common Core on student math grades in San Diego Unified this year.  If I didn't know better, I'd think that weak teachers were actually expressing their frustration with Common Core by giving bad grades!

At Lincoln High, a whopping 68 percent of students received a D or F this fall, up 10 percent from last year. At Clairemont High, the rate went from 44 percent to 50 percent and at Hoover, the number of students receiving a failing grade went from 48 percent to 56 percent.
There are a handful of schools where grades are actually rising: San Diego High schools of International Studies and Media, Visual and Performing Arts, the School of Creative and Performing Arts, Mira Mesa and Mission Bay high schools.

I don't believe that this year's students at Lincoln and Clairemont are dumber or less hard-working than last year's students.  And, of course, the basic concepts of math haven't changed.

The difference is that this year teachers were required to teach concepts instead of rote formulas.
This yanked many teachers out of their comfort zone.  The result is that the truth has been exposed: a lot of teachers can't teach math concepts. And I suspect that some of these failing teachers might actually WANT kids to fail so that the public will take action to remove an onerous burden from teachers.

The truth is that many, many teachers do not understand basic math concepts. Many of them have harbored a horror of math since childhood, when they were taught by equally bad teachers.
It’s fascinating that many teachers are actually proud, rather than ashamed, of the fact that they don’t understand math. Over the decades, at various schools, I've seen teachers forming social bonds in the teachers' lounge by sharing stories of how they can’t do their own kids’ math homework.  I was always amazed that those teachers weren't ashamed of their ignorance.  Why didn't they slink home with a math book and study it in secret?  Why is such a shocking lack of math skills considered socially acceptable for teachers?

Even if Common Core goes away, teacher ignorance still needs to be addressed.
But many people would prefer to get rid of Common Core rather than admit that many teachers have been doing a really bad job for many years.

We need an effective evaluation system that would enable schools to know which teachers need training and which teachers can do training--but neither the teachers union nor school districts wants this.

Why not? Because an effective evaluation system would threaten the school politics that currently controls schools.

No matter what happens with Common Core, it’s long past time to begin effective evaluations of teachers.

It’s shameful that kids are being punished for their teachers' and administrators' deficiencies.

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