Ever wonder about the process the D.O.E. goes through when revising Core Curriculum Content Standards? Say, for instance, math curricula? Especially since 40% of New Jersey high school graduates require remedial math courses when they enter N.J. colleges and universities, and 80% of N.J. high school graduates require remedial math courses when they enter N.J. community colleges?
Now you can be a fly on the wall. A group called New Jersey Coalition for World Class Math, which counts as a co-founder a Board of Education member in Bridgewater-Raritan, has a website that chronicles its advocacy for rigorous math standards that prepares our kids for college without the need for remedial courses. This group believes that our poor math achievement is tightly linked to the heavy use of math programs such as “Everyday Math,” a touchy-feely curriculum light on traditional algorithms and memorization and heavy on calculators and games.
After getting stonewalled by the D.O.E., the Coalition started getting trickles of information, including the list of math educators who were writing the State standards. At a State Board of Education meeting, members of the group addressed the D.O.E.’s math standards team and urged them to reject the proposed standards. Amy Flax, a Co-Founder of the Coalition, said,
In 2005, our standards received a “D” grade by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a non-profit organization that conducts research in education. Three states: California, Massachusetts, and Indiana, all received an “A” grade.
Some of the reasons that NJ received a “D” in 2005 are: widespread use of calculators, the lack of memorization of basic facts, the rejection of teaching standard algorithms, insufficient instruction on fractions, obsession with patterns and manipulatives, the over emphasis of estimation, probability and statistics, and not gradually increasing the difficulty of problem solving.
The Coalition also solicited criticism from math professors across the country, including, for example, a Professor Wu from Berkeley, who wrote:
Thank you for filling me in. I have just taken a brief look at the algebra standards, and I was literally stunned speechless by the everywhere presence of solecisms in the document. It is not anywhere near a *mathematical* document by any stretch of the imagination. In mathematics, we insist on precision, clarity, and logical reasoning, at the very least. I could find almost none of these qualities here. If I
were to document the many transgressions against mathematics, I would need a volume.
To the D.O.E.’s credit, they appear to be responsive to concerns expressed by rigor-hungry mathophiles and are revising standards to move away from the trendy and ineffective “Everyday Math.” More worrisome: is there a NJ Coalition for World Class Language Arts or Biology or Social Studies? Would a Dr. Wu with a degree in Biology please edit our standards to eliminate imprecision, lack of clarity, and illogical reasoning?