Required Reading

by Robert Pondiscio
November 18th, 2009

My “Blog About This” list is growing like kudzu, so in the interest of time….

Jay Greene “can’t understand the enthusiasm of education reformers for national standards and testing.”  Jay sees plenty of room for mischief.  I’m inclined to agree.  However, if all we end up with is national testing that allows apples-to-apples comparisons of students from different states, it would help eliminate the clearly fraudulent state testing games we’re now seeing. 

Speaking of standards, Dan Willingham’s latest over at The Washington Post’s The Answer Sheet looks at the emerging math standards.  Dan likes what he sees–with the caveat that setting standards and knowing how to reach them are very different things.  He points out that students need three types of mathematical know-how: math facts, procedures and conceptual knowledge.

It’s great that the Common Core standards acknowledge the importance of conceptual knowledge, but prior documents have done so—sometimes to the exclusion of factual and procedural knowledge. The problem is that this is the most difficult type of knowledge to teach and to learn.

Dan concludes that a recent calls for kids to have specialized math teachers starting in 4th grade are good, but not good enough.  He thinks we should start in 1st grade.

I meant to weigh in on the blog-on-blog violence that has broken out between Checker Finn, Rick Hess and Kevin Carey over saving teaching jobs with economic stimulus dollars.  I’m also long overdue in pointing to this excellent post about rhetorical excesses in discussions about charter schools by Nancy Flanagan over at Teacher in a Strange Land. 

Via Kitchen Table Math comes a post from a mom in Alaska not named Sarah Palin, who complains about how her daughter’s class time is frittered away watching TV and movies.  How many each week? 

She thought a bit, counting up on her fingers and trying to remember. “Oh–I don’t know–five or six, maybe more. We watch t.v. pretty much every day in at least one class and any time we have a sub they put in movies or something. We watch stuff like Mythbusters a lot and call it chemistry.”

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  The post strains my credulity, sounding too over-the-top to be quite credible.  But if even a quarter of what this mother says is true, it’s cause for alarm.  I’d love to hear more about it.

Lastly another one of those wild, wacky yet oh-so-effective teacher stories, this one out of San Diego.  I’m sure the guy is great, but I have to confess I’m getting as tired of attention-seeking behavior in teachers as I was of it in students.