“Why parents?,” colleagues often ask regarding my writing Navigating MathLand. Why not author a book for teachers? My answer is the American education system’s 19th century industrial model does not allow teachers the time to read the thousands of “how to teach” books written for educators with the intent of improving classroom instruction. As result of our outdated education model, teachers are not properly trained, and the structure of the industrial system does not support instruction of 21st century skills. Mathematics education is the most affected by the antiquated system. So, while the system may or may not be slowly transitioning, students are the casualties of “math wars,” and parents need to learn how to navigate the spoils of war.
I am going into my 48th year active engagement in public education, retired from 36 ½ years of classroom instruction and administration. My experience as an educator has included teaching secondary mathematics, physics, earth science, and environmental science courses ranging from AP to self-contained special education. It has spanned four districts in New York State – two suburban, one inner city, and one rural.
My passion for supporting rigorous instruction in classrooms has continued for the past 11 years, as I was sought out by Southern Westchester BOCES and Generation Ready to work as a consultant. I have spent over 60 days a year in working in classrooms with teachers and students. I completed my doctorate in Educational Leadership and Higher Education at the University of Nebraska in 2011. My research addressed how the culture of school systems impacted the instructional decisions as secondary math teachers entered their practice beginning with student teaching.
Back to parents. In my 47 years I have worked with every machination of math and science standards-based programs. I presented workshops to teachers with every change in the New York State curriculum from the 1996 Math Science Technology (MST) through Common Core, and now Next Generation Standards for Math (2017) and Next Generation Science Standards (2013). I realized that in the past 13 years New York State has revised its math curriculum four times. A student entering kindergarten 13 years ago has had four different math curricula. The students get the short end of the math curriculum stick. This may be why the United States ends up 32 compared to other developed nations.
Thus, I saw the need to write a book to help guide parents through a potentially perilous education journey that has ended with at least 80 percent of the population not liking or understanding math. Unfortunately, in the 21st century math is key to securing jobs and professions in our global society. I see parents as the clients of their school system having rights to have their children experience the education needed to develop academic potential. The “one size fits” all may have worked in the 1850s but with technology today’s teachers can support students (our clients) with an instructional program tailored to their needs to learn to be independent problem solvers.
I was thrilled with the 2011 Common Core math curriculum (fully implemented by 2014) that was designed to engage students in learning and enhance the rigor of mathematics instruction. But now, this coming school year (2017-2018), New York State has cut back the rigor due to poor teacher training of the Common Core renamed and approved by New York State Department of Education as “Next Generation Standards for Mathematics.” The students did not do well on the Common Core state exams due to the fact that it takes over a decade for well-trained teachers to implement a rigorous curriculum. Now the curriculum pendulum has swung back to “easier” instruction and the 1800’s industrial model (that does not embrace 21st century skills or technology) remains.
I realize that teachers and administrators are ensconced in the industrial model and they are having a difficult time hatching 21st century instruction. Parents have a much better chance at proactively requesting change in a constructive way. This blog is about how parents can advocate for their child’s math education.