Saxon: Proposed Math -Testing
Standards Damaging to Minorities "Too often, tests designed for
other purposes have been used unintentionally as filters that deny
underrepresented groups access to the further study of mathematics.
Today the mathematical development of each child in a diverse
multicultural society must be valued. Assessment procedures must no
longer be used to deny students the opportunities to learn important
mathematics. "
From: XcongressX
Date sent: Thu, 19 Mar 1998 01:14:55 EST
To: education-consumers@tricon.net
Copies to: DNSBNA@aol.com, CAREYJDA@aol.com, brucec76@ix.netcom.com
Subject: Re: Chicago Math (math standards in general)
Saxon: Proposed Math -Testing Standards Damaging to Minorities
Saxon Publishers Inc.
1320 West Lindsey
Norman,OK 73069
(800) 284-7019
When African-American students and Hispanic students make high scores on a
normed test such as the SAT or ACT the scores prove to the student, to the
students' teachers, and to the students' prospective employers that the
students understanding of mathematics equals that of able white and Asian
students and exceeds the understanding of most students. The job of math
educators is to find ways for blacks, Hispanics, and all other students to
make high scores.
The authors of the Assessment Standards for Mathematics, published by the
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) in May 1995, do not seem
to share this view. A careful reading if the Assessment Standards has
convinced me that the leaders of the NCTM want to raise the grades of the
self-esteem of minority students and other students by changing the way
tests are given and graded instead of ensuring that the students know what
they should know. The leaders of the NCTM do not seem to realize that the
approach they recommend will delay the day of reckoning until the students
graduate from high school and try to get into a college or try to find a
good job. Then the students will find that they are totally unprepared to
compete and will spend the rest of their lives thinking that the world is
unfair. I believe that this "feel good" approach to grading is wrong as it
will cause grievous long-term damage to many of the very students that the
NCTM wants to help.
Introduction to the Assessment Standards contains the passage,
Too often, tests designed for other purposes have been used unintentionally
as filters that deny underrepresented groups access to the further study of
mathematics. Today the mathematical development of each child in a diverse
multicultural society must be valued. Assessment procedures must no longer
be used to deny students the opportunities to learn important mathematics.
The statement that tests given to measure what students have learned deny
students access to the further study of mathematics is ridiculous. If
students score poorly, it informs the teacher that there is a problem that
should be addressed and corrected. At first, I was puzzled by the phrase
underrepresented groups; however, the words diverse multicultural society
gave me the clue needed to understand this new euphemism. My understanding
was further enhanced when I read further and found this statement:
Assessments have too often ignored differences in students' experience,
physical condition, gender, and ethnic, cultural, and social backgrounds in
an effort to be fair. This practice has led to assessments that do not take
differences among students into account.
The document also says that new
assessment strategies and practices need to be developed that will enable
teachers and others to assess students' performance in a manner that
reflects the NCTM's reform VISION for school mathematics. For school
assessment practices to inform educators as they progress toward this
VISION, it is essential that we move away from the 'rank order of
achievement' approach in assessment toward an approach that is
philosophically consistent with the NCTM's VISION of school mathematics and
classroom instruction.
We have printed the word "vision" in bold face because the authors of the
NCTM Standards seem enamored of this word. The word "vision" appears 56
times in the first two volumes of the Standards and appears 18 times in the
first six pages of the Assessment Standards for a total of 74 times.
I am pleased that the NCTM has "visions" but what we need are measurable
gains in students' achievement. We do not need "visions" We need a way to
teach mathematics that works and we need it now. The NCTM assumed control of
the philosophy of teaching mathematics some thirty years ago. They were
responsible for the "New Math" of the seventies, the Agenda for the
Eighties, the Standards for Curriculum (1989), Standards for Teaching
(1991), and now we have the Standards for Evaluation (1995). The NCTM did
not then, or does it now, test and prove its recommendations to be effective
before they are forced on the nation. The "New Math" was not tested and its
failure was blamed on the teachers. The Agenda for the Eighties was not
tested and did not work, and now we have yet another totally untested and
unproven set of recommendations called the Standards.
The major book companies are in business to make money for their
stockholders. This is the American way and this is true for all of our
corporations. In fact, it is the emphasis on the bottom line that makes
America productive. So don't blame the book companies. They will do whatever
is required to stay in business. They cannot be blamed if their customers
demand and purchase inferior products. For thirty years these companies have
done their best to follow the recommendations of the NCTM. I do not know of
a single school that has used books that follow the NCTM's methods to
produce measurable gains. Schools of education at our universities are
parroting the recommendations of the NCTM, so public school administrators
are afraid to think for themselves. The public schools can cover their
fannies if they use books that follow the recommendations of the NCTM even
though this results in no gains for their students. You can's blame the
superintendents and the curriculum directors because few of them have ever
taken college calculus, chemistry or physics - subjects that are taught at
the college level in their high schools. I was in the book store at the
University of Oklahoma last week and saw used copies of the NCTM Standards
for sale. I assume that this fine university and other universities all over
the nation are following the party line and teaching the totally untested
Standards as gospel. What else can their department of education teach and
be respectable?
The preface of the Assessment Standards states that the senior author was
Dr. Thomas Romberg, Professor of Education at the University of Wisconsin,
and that the recommendations of the Assessment Standards were endorsed by
the last six presidents of the NCTM. It lists the names of 41 distinguished
educators who helped in its creation and further states that the document
was revised as a result of more than two thousand responses from reviewers.
How could all of these fine people be endorsing pedagogy that has not been
tested and proven to be effective?
The Standards are not standards in any sense of the word. They are totally
non-specific and talk about giving students "mathematical power" - whatever
that is. Read these documents yourself. They are full of vignettes and
suggest pedagogy that might be effective. The Standards recommend that the
emphasis in mathematical education be switched from teaching fundamental
concepts to teaching the art of problem-solving. This is a horrible mistake!
Teaching the concepts and the skills necessary to apply the concepts to
solving problems must come first. We had three generations on non-productive
nonsense from the NCTM. Enough is enough!!
The denizens of many state departments of education follow the lead of the
NCTM and write recipes for success from vantage points of failure. Texas and
California have led the way in this effort for over two decades and the
results have been catastrophic. Scores in California have hit rock bottom,
as have the scores in many Texas systems. In addition, Kentucky and South
Carolina have set the NCTM recommendations in concrete and I believe that
the math achievement in these states will go even lower. Oregon has also
copied the recommendations of the NCTM Standards to the dismay of many
teachers.
Hans Christian Anderson pointed out that only a child can, with impunity,
say that the emperor is wearing no clothes. I am a septuagenarian and not a
child, but I can speak with impunity because I own my own company. I cannot
be fired or intimidated. The math scores of students in America have been
failing for decades as schools have slavishly tried to follow the
recommendations of the NCTM. Scores on college entrance exams have improved
a little recently, but this improvement came because the tests have been
renormed. Almost all of our major state universities have huge numbers of
students in remedial math classes. Many people are realizing that it's time
for the NCTM to put-up or shut-up. We need no more "visions."
America desperately needs a method of teaching mathematics successfully in
inner-city schools. We need a method that works in rural schools, in
small-town schools, and in suburban schools. We need something that works,
and has been proven to work in massive test programs, and we need it now. We
can no longer afford to implement untested pedagogy because it is
recommended by people who are supposed to be experts. The NCTM recommends
introducing calculators in elementary schools, having students write essays
about how they tackle word problems, using groups to solve "real-world"
problems, and giving group grades for those projects. They have not been
able to name one school that has used these methods to cause measurable
gains. I don't say they are wrong. I just say we have had enough of their
pie-in-the-sky "visions."
Saxon Publishers has used other methods to create a mathematics program for
grades K-12 that has produced huge gains at all grade levels and at all
ability levels. The books have been tested and found to be effective in
thousands of schools nationwide. Most of the high schools that have used the
Saxon math books have raised college board scores in math a minimum of 20
percent, have doubled the number of seniors enrolled in academic math
courses, have tripled calculus enrollment, and have reduced the enrollment
in "dum-dum" (remedial) math classes such as consumer math by over 50
percent.
These books have produced wonderful gains across the entire ability
spectrum. Hillary Clinton attended Maine East High School in suburban
Chicago in the tenth and eleventh grades. When Saxon Math was introduced at
Maine East they had three sections of calculus. Last year, they had ten
sections of calculus, and thirty-eight seniors completed three semester
hours of differential equations. College board scores have rise 19 percent.
At inner-city North Dallas High School, the passing rate on the Texas math
test rose from 10 percent passing to 91 percent passing. In five years, the
pre-algebra enrollment went from 160 to 320. Algebra I enrollment increased
from 75 to 270. Algebra II enrollment increased from 20 to 170, and calculus
enrollment from 5 to 16. In spite of these increases, which were reported by
Mike Wallace on "60 Minutes," the superintendent threw the Saxon books out -
probably because of the objections of people who believed in the NCTM. The
numbers of math teachers quickly dropped from twelve to eight because of
decreases in math enrollment and the number of classes of Algebra II dropped
from eight to two. The school board of the Dallas Independent School
District watched this happen and did nothing.
The school boards in other major school systems also turn to the NCTM for
guidance, forgetting that the NCTM's recommended methods have, to our
knowledge, produced no measurable gains in any inner-city school in America.
The NCTM seems to ignore this on-going inner-city tragedy.
Saxon Math books have been used with great success in many schools with
heavy minority enrollment. Over one hundred schools in Georgia, Alabama, and
Mississippi have proven that minority students can make great gains by using
Saxon Math books. In thirty years, the NCTM has come up with nothing that
works, yet they denigrate and deny at every opportunity the gains caused by
the Saxon Math books. Responsible organizations should lead, follow, or get
out of the way. The NCTM has proven that it is incapable of leading and yet
refuses to get out of the way. They haven't been successful in teaching and
now they want to use "feel good" grading. I am sick and tired of the
ineptness of these people.
Large school systems tend to have curriculum coordinators and math
coordinators who have what I call an "NCTM mentality." They ask if the
publisher uses the methods recommended by the NCTM and they don't seem to
care about results. Saxon Publishers uses the NCTM methods that work and
refuses to use the NCTM methods that do not work. Because we think for
ourselves and are critical of the NCTM, many school systems are afraid to
try our books because the administrators have become senior administrators
by playing the game and going along to get along. They will not risk their
fine jobs by trying programs that are not approved at the state and national
levels.
Saxon Math books produce measurable results at all grade levels and for
students at every ability level. The results are most immediately apparent
in elementary schools in grade K-5, which causes us to place emphasis on the
promotion of our elementary books. This year we offered to give a class set
of books for one class in each of the grades K, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 in one
thousand schools so that teachers can watch the wonderful things that happen
when Saxon Math books are used. Unfortunately, at this time we have only
five hundred takers. (At $3,500 per school, this amounted to $1,750,000 in
free books for pilots.) We plan to do the same in two thousand elementary
schools next year for a total of $7,000,000 in free books for pilots. We
also have pilot programs for middle school and high school math books.
Teachers and administrators have to see it happen to believe it is possible.
Many of my friends have urged me to temper my speech and not be so critical
of the NCTM. They remind me that one can catch more flies with honey than
with vinegar. I reply that I am not trying to catch flies. I am trying to
improve math education in America, a task that is very difficult when the
NCTM refuses to test its recommendations and prove that they are effective,
when it is hostile to any other approach, and when so many math and
curriculum directors do not realize they are trying to implement "visions"
by using methods that are suspect because they have not been tested and
proven to be effective. The NCTM refuses, for example, to consider the fact
that the over-use of calculators in elementary schools is increasing the
number of middle school students who are bereft of fundamental skills. The
NCTM also refuses to realize that all they have done for thirty years is to
produce "fads for the decade." They are so insistent that their untested
fads be implemented that the others are not encouraged to find a way that
really works. Thus, book companies are afraid to innovate. To be dogmatic is
one thing, but to be so wrong that it prevents others from trying to end the
disaster is totally inexcusable.
____________________________________________________
Jimmy Kilpatrick Phone 713 520-9715
Coordinator of Community Programs Fax 713 520-7214
E-mail j2652368@earthlink.net
University of Texas at Austin 1723 Westheimer Road
Charles A. Dana Center Houston, Texas 77098-1611
EDUCATION CONSUMERS CLEARINGHOUSE