Monday, July 14, 2014

Diane Briar's Core Truth

Diane Briars
At the last NCTM conference in New Orleans (2014) Diane Briars officially became the 48th president of NCTM. One of her mandates as president is to support the roll out of the CCSSM and look at it as a cup half full rather than half empty. In her first president's message entitled "Core Truths" she does an excellent job of presenting the CCSSM as an opportunity for the math community to build on and create curriculums for their districts that empower students and teacher to learn and teach math. About the backlash to the Standards she writes:
"With respect to the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM), what I find most troubling is that much of the rhetoric is based on false or incomplete knowledge about the standards and their development, or it confuses the standards with implementation activities, issues, and policies, including testing policies. Such arguments have little potential to improve mathematics education. Distinguishing CCSSM facts from fallacy is essential both for implementing the standards effectively and for engaging in thoughtful, reasoned critique of them for future refinements."
This is true. In its purest form who could argue that a coherent set of standards would not benefit math education. However, the opponents have some relevant points to make and these are not addressed in her message. It's also not in her role as president, which is too bad. It would have been nice if she had acknowledged the concerns that more than half of the teachers polled in the study Diane mentions have about the standards and how these concerns can be addressed. My main concern is that the standards will be perceived as merely a list of objectives. Unlike the Standards of 2000 which had some spirit and lots of good examples this latest version is more like a set of to dos which teachers in their busy lives will complete in a more rote manner. The Principles to Actions does a little to help, but the examples in that book are not all that interesting. The chapter on technology is excellent in that it appeals to the power of Web 2.0 to transform math education. None of this powerful trend in technology is mentioned in the standards. I'm sure that Diane is aware of this being a long time supporter of technology in math education, but her main purpose in her Core Truth message is to address the negative spin as indicated in her closing remarks that describe the three pronged approach to support CCSSM which I quote below. (It's times like this that I miss the possibilities that Steve Leinwand might have brought to the table as president.)

Here is Diane's closing comments.
"The Common Core State Standards represent too important an opportunity to squander because of rhetoric based on incorrect and incomplete information and public confusion of the Common Core State Standards themselves with shortcomings in their implementation. NCTM has developed a three-pronged approach to support the CCSSM: 
1. Clearly describe and publicize the practices, policies, programs, and actions required for successful implementation of CCSSM through wide dissemination of Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All. NCTM cannot do this alone. Our Affiliates and their members are important partners in this effort. 
2. Enhance and expand our professional learning opportunities related to Principles to Actions and implementation of CCSSM at our conferences and institutes and in our journals, and continue to build our collection of relevant professional learning resources. This spring, each NCTM committee developed specific plans for this work. 
3. Actively advocate for the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, correcting misconceptions, clarifying confusion, and highlighting ways in which CCSSM supports students in learning more and better mathematics. Most important, we need to help parents and the broader public become aware that the conceptual understanding and habits of mind—for example, problem solving, reasoning, and perseverance—that CCSSM calls for are essential for students’ preparation for their futures 
This third prong requires all of us, especially teachers and parents, to personalize CCSSM by describing its benefits for their students and children. I strongly urge you to get involved in the dialogue. Correct misconceptions. Separate standards from implementation issues. And highlight the benefits and opportunities that the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics afford to increase the mathematics learning of all students."
I'm an optimist at heart and I wish Diane a successful term as president.

You will find the Diane's entire message here.

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