To the Editor:
A recent Teacher Beat blog post, “Are Teachers Getting the Right Kind of Common-Core PD?”, shared noteworthy data from the RAND Corp. regarding mathematics teachers’ differing views on connecting key math topics and concepts across grade levels, as well as the content of state math standards. Teachers wish they were getting more training on the former topic and believe that they are getting far too much training in the latter. What makes this so interesting? Teachers are asking for very different amounts of what is essentially the same professional development, albeit packaged differently.
Mathematics standards combine to form a web of interrelated ideas that build upon one another to form deeper understandings. Unfortunately, this is not the approach many of us, myself included, experienced as students. I believe that this is what the survey data reflect when teachers state that they don’t want additional professional development on the state math standards, while at the same time asking for more training on the connections between key math topics.
It would be naive to blame teachers as too lazy to read the standards and make the inferences themselves. That would be committing what social psychologists call “the fundamental attribution error,” such as saying that voters are too lazy to read lengthy ballot propositions. The reality is that while the Common Core State Standards in math and the associated draft progression documents are comprehensive, they are not easy to read or use.
The real solution is that more resources need to be invested in creating professional development around teacher-friendly math progressions. This is akin to how voters value summaries of potential laws because it is difficult to understand a law’s implications without guidance.
Training specifically on math standards is well intentioned but needs to shift to focus on how math concepts progress so that the supply of professional development meets the demand.
Math Teacher Specialist
Downey Unified School District
Glenrock Consulting LLC
A version of this article appeared in the April 27, 2016 edition of Education Week as More Resources Needed for ‘Teacher-Friendly’ Math PD