The above headline appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, September 3, 2015, after Pennsylvania’s first year of testing that was aligned with the PA Core Standards (Pennsylvania’s version of Common Core). Similar headlines have appeared in newspapers across the country since Common Core testing began.
Like many districts, Philadelphia experienced its biggest drop in math, with proficiency rates plummeting from 45% in 2014 to 17% in 2015.
So, what should we do about this?
One thing we should not do is fixate on the shortcomings of policymakers, test writers, or testing in general. I can understand if teachers feel they and their students were set up for failure. But drops in scores like those in Philadelphia are still a wake-up call. We must increase rigor in math classes--not just to raise scores, but to challenge students and prepare them for post-secondary success.
Another thing we shouldn’t do is blame teachers. Of course teachers should be accountable for student learning, but it’s unreasonable and unfair to hold them accountable without providing them adequate support. And when it comes to the Common Core math curriculum and instruction shifts, most teachers need a lot more support than they’ve gotten.
It’s not enough to just send teachers to occasional workshops. They also need ongoing job-embedded coaching and modeling. Ideally schools can provide this support internally. Otherwise they need to bring it in from outside. Either way, all school leaders play important roles. It’s especially imperative that they’re able to give teachers meaningful feedback following classroom observations. That’s why my team’s Common Core support includes training and coaching that helps leaders recognize and articulate keys to rigorous math classes.
Watch and hear about some of those keys in this short video from a recent workshop I led for instructional leaders in Philadelphia:
And here are a few related blog posts:
- Doing Math vs. Understanding Math
- Learning by Doing... and Grappling
- Perpetual Proximity
- Spiraled Instruction, Stifled Learning
- Estimation Before Computation
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The opinions expressed in Coach G’s Teaching Tips are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.