Re: California high school exit exam
- Subject: Re: California high school exit exam
- From: Erwin Morton <e-morton@WORLDNET.ATT.NET>
- Date: Tue, 16 Jan 2001 20:25:54 -0800
- Reply-to: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
- Sender: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
George Cunningham wrote:
> How can math standards be political? How can a math problem requiring
> adding, subtracting, multiplying, finding an unknown in a formula be
Any specific math problem is, of course,
However, the selection of standards and
problems, and the grade levels at which
they are set, is highly political, at least
The assumption that a set of standards
is nothing more than a list of topics is
The manner in which the two sets of
standards (Standards Commission and
State Board of Education) were pitted
against each other was certainly political.
And math teaching methods have certainly
been a political issue, even in the presidential
campaign, in which the two sides were
shouting "Fuzzy Math" at each other.
> The main problem with the test is the gap between what the creators of the
> standards believe all students in California should know and be able to do
> and what students can now do.
That is *one* of several serious problems,
but we'll save that for another day, another
> The idea, of course, is that these ambitious
> standards will encourage better performance.
Yes, that's one of the ideas. Some of the people
involved had (and even stated explicitly) a
different idea: proving that the public schools
could not be successful. That is obviously not
a good foundation for improvement.
Consider, also, that sometimes incremental
improvement is much easier to achieve--and
much more robust when achieved--than any
sort of Great Leap Forward. Athletes working
on their own performance raise the bar in small
increments. Why should the schools be different?
If students are not only missing the bar, but
missing it by a wide margin, will raising it
further encourage them to work harder, or
to drop out? (I don't think there's a universal
answer to that, but I do think it's important
to ask the question.)
> There is also the problem with
> the assumption that all students are capable of performing at the same high
True. Let's set the bar at a level higher than
the performance of the "top-performing"
schools in the state--and demand that *all*
children achieve at that level, *right now*.
> The test is a good reflection of the standards. In that sense I believe it
> is a content valid test.
Since the questions will not be made public,
even after the test is administered, it is very
difficult for most of us even to study this issue.
> There is also the difficulty or shear impossibility of setting reasonable
It's not impossible to define reasonable
standards. There are many ways to do
it. But you can't do it in a politically
charged atmosphere, and you can't do
it when you systematically exclude the
voices and opinions of the people who
actually teach math in K-12. Not only
do they know a great deal about the
issues, but they are the ones who will
have to buy into this system and to
So suppressing their ideas, demeaning
them, insulting them personally, and
holding them up to public ridicule
isn't a clever idea--IF improving the
system is actually your goal. In fact,
it is so ludicrous that it makes me
wonder whether that actually WAS
Remember that the California Math
Standards were [re]written by four
people who teach graduate students
in the Stanford Math Department. Is
education about teaching the subject,
about teaching the student, or both?
Even those four were not given a
free hand. They were given their
marching orders, and restrictions
on what they could do, by Janet
Nicholas, of the State Board of
Education--hardly an expert in
either mathematics or education.
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