Commentary

By All Measures: 'Widespread Teacher Involvement'

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

When I meet a math teacher while visiting schools, I usually ask: "Tell me about the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics standards.''

Until recently, few could. Those who could were always among the hardy 4th- and 8th-grade teachers who launched Vermont's portfolio assessment. Teaching insulates many teachers from what policy leaders seem to consider common knowledge. Only unprecedented professional-development opportunities will enable teachers to embrace national standards.

A classroom ignited by these standards is something to see. At the Barnes School in Burlington, Vt., I watched Jane Cutting Miller teach transformational geometry to 4th graders using only a square of paper. She and the students folded the paper, tore along the fold, and then talked about the shapes they created. Again and again, they folded, tore, and then talked about the mathematics. They put the shapes together, tried on the proper mathematical terms, stopped to write in their journals about what they had discovered, then pushed on. A vision of mathematics as something one does, as a matter of problem-solving and communication, was what guided the enterprise. There were no worksheets and no textbooks. But I saw a lot of rigorous mathematics.

Teachers like Ms. Miller, who use the standards, constitute a virtual faculty that extends beyond their schools. I saw this in Snowmass, Colo., last summer, where teachers from a score of states were united by a common view. In Vermont, teachers used the standards to pick benchmark pieces of student work. That means they can show students--and each other--what excellent work looks like. Teachers collaborated to build and share huge stores of math problems. They don't operate alone any longer. Within 60 days of the release of the disappointing results from the pilot test of the mathematics portfolio, the teachers had organized 17 networks so that every 4th- and 8th-grade teacher of mathematics could have help on demand.

It has been terribly difficult to get to this point. Teachers are dismayed to see changes in curriculum, assessment, and teaching practices all at the same time. And yet it appears impractical to do otherwise. A curriculum that reflects the N.C.T.M. standards makes old-style, multiple-choice tests absurd; something to change now--not next year.

What works? Widespread teacher involvement works. Teachers need time to shape the standards into something personal, before they'll adopt them. Massive professional development works. Make our most generous estimates of needed training, then double them. And public involvement works. Parents have to see this new way of teaching and evaluating mathematics--and want it for their own children.

Richard P. Mills is Commissioner of Education of Vermont.

Vol. 11, Issue 39, Page s13

Published in Print: June 17, 1992, as By All Measures: 'Widespread Teacher Involvement'
Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on edweek.org, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories

Viewed

Emailed

Recommended

Commented

Sponsor Insights

Free Ebook: How to Implement a Coding Program in Schools

Successful Intervention Builds Student Success

Effective Ways to Support Students with Dyslexia

Stop cobbling together your EdTech

Integrate Science and ELA with Informational Text

Can self-efficacy impact growth for ELLs?

Disruptive Tech Integration for Meaningful Learning

Building Community for Social Good

5 Resources on the Power of Interoperability from Unified Edtech

New campaign for UN World Teachers Day

5 Game-Changers in Today’s Digital Learning Platforms

Hiding in Plain Sight - 7 Common Signs of Dyslexia in the Classroom

The research: Reading Benchmark Assessments

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

All Students Are Language Learners: The Imagine Learning Language Advantage™

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

How to Support All Students with Equitable Pathways

2019 K-12 Digital Content Report

3-D Learning & Assessment for K–5 Science

Climate Change, LGBTQ Issues, Politics & Race: Instructional Materials for Teaching Complex Topics

Closing the Science Achievement Gap

Evidence-based Coaching: Key Driver(s) of Scalable Improvement District-Wide

Advancing Literacy with Large Print

Research Sheds New Light on the Reading Brain

Tips for Supporting English Learners Through Personalized Approaches

Student Engagement Lessons from 3 Successful Districts

Response to Intervention Centered on Student Learning

The Nonnegotiable Attributes of Effective Feedback

SEE MORE Insights >