CONTROVERSY IN TEXAS OVER NEW MATH REQUIREMENTS

Nov 17, 2014 by

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“Controversy in Texas Over the New Math Requirements”

by Donna Garner

11.17.14

 

Why is there so much controversy in Texas over the new math requirements?  Remember back in the late 80’s when a Presidential election was won because of the phrase, “It’s the economy, stupid!”  The problems with math (and other subject areas) in Texas can be summed up with a similar version, “It’s the CURRICULUM, stupid!”

 

The new Math TEKS were passed in May 2012. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) gave the teachers two years to study the new Math TEKS and to readjust their lesson plans to bring them into alignment. 

 

The STAAR/End-of-Course tests developed from the new Type #1 TEKS are based upon the Type #1 philosophy of education.

 

Chart – Type #1 vs. Type #2:  http://www.educationviews.org/comparison-types-education-type-1-traditional-vs-type-2-cscope-common-core/

 

Type #1 is knowledge-based, academic, explicit, grade-level-specific (or course specific), measurable (able to be tested mostly through objective-type questions) with an emphasis on the right answer over process.

However, rather than change from Type #2 to Type #1 curriculum to prepare students for the new STAAR/EOC’s, 893 school districts in Texas (out of 1,031) chose to purchase Type #2 CSCOPE. 

 

Since 2006, Texas school districts have sent approximately $72 Million to the Education Service Centers (ESC’s) for CSCOPE.  In 2013 alone, taxpayers spent $15 Million on CSCOPE.  Consequently, Texas students are not raising their STAAR/EOC scores significantly because many are being taught from the wrong philosophy of education – Type #2.  Rather than abandon CSCOPE, the ESC’s simply changed the name to TEKS Resource System; and the ESC’s have gone right on emphasizing Type #2 rather than Type #1. 

 

Instead of Texas educators getting their math courses aligned with the new TEKS, 893 school districts (a huge majority) continued to purchase CSCOPE (and still are using the TEKS Resource System which is a rebrand of CSCOPE).  CSCOPE is the Texas name for Common Core; both are Type #2. 

 

For many years, math in Texas has been taught through CSCOPE in a scattershot manner with no systematic instruction that grows in depth and complexity from day-to-day, year-to-year.  Consequently, children have not been mastering their basic math skills as required by the new Math TEKS. 

 

Then this school year when Texas educators finally were forced to pay attention to the new Math TEKS (2012), some teachers have been clumsily or even half-heartedly trying to implement them or else have been loudly complaining because (guess what?), their math units are not in alignment with the new Math TEKS. 

 

For instance, Texas students previously were not required to learn all four math operations with both fractions and decimals until Grade 7.  Because the National Math Panel’s research shows that students need to have learned these skills thoroughly before taking Algebra I and Geometry, the new Math TEKS require students to know how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide fractions and decimals by Grade 5 with full mastery by Grade 6.

 

One of the strengths of the new Math TEKS is that students in Kindergarten through Grade 5 are not to use calculators but instead are to develop their own computation skills without relying upon the “crutch” of technology.  

 

Because so many years have gone by with students being taught from the Type #2 philosophy, they are years behind in learning their basic math skills. 

 

When the new Math TEKS were passed in 2012, teachers should immediately have started transitioning their students by going back and implementing the math skills that students had not learned in previous years. Texas math teachers have had two school years to help bring students up to grade level. Instead, teachers wasted those two transition years by continuing to teach CSCOPE.

 

Important Point:  Math is a subject which is competency-based (just like reading, grammar/usage, and foreign languages).  “Competency-based” means that math skills have to be taught in a systematic order because each new concept is based upon mastery of the previous concepts.  In competency-based subjects such as math, shortcuts and/or the skipping of skills only makes failure a certainty.

 

The TEA has also granted school districts a year’s reprieve by giving teachers extra time to get their students ready for the new Math TEKS.  This 2014-15 school year only, promotion for students in Grades 5 and 8 will be decided based upon other academic information outside the STAAR test results.  

 

Grades 5 and 8 students will still take the STAAR Math test in the spring of 2015, but the performance standard will not be set until after that administration.  

 

Then by the 2015-2016 school year, the “new” Math STAAR test will again count for promotion.

 

Another tragic mistake being made by school leaders in Texas is to contract with the Charles A. Dana Center to train math teachers.  The Charles A. Dana Center is totally aligned with Common Core and pushes the Common Core Toolbox as one of its many Common Core products.  Thousands of Texas math teachers have been sent to be trained by the Charles A. Dana Center. This is pushing Texas teachers right straight into the Common Core Type #2 philosophy which is against the law in Texas.  As of June 17, 2014, the Texas Attorney General has prohibited Texas school districts from using Common Core:   

 

“Texas school districts are required to provide instruction in the essential knowledge and skills at appropriate grade levels, and pursuant to subsection 28.002 (b-3) of the Education Code, they may not use the Common Core State Standards Initiative to comply with this requirement.”

 

“Texas school districts are required to provide instruction in the essential knowledge and skills at appropriate grade levels, and pursuant to subsection 28.002 (b-3) of the Education Code, they may not use the Common Core State Standards Initiative to comply with this requirement.”

 

The Common Core State Standards include the Common Core Standards. Therefore, Texas schools are not to use the Common Core Standards (and curriculum) to meet the TEKS.

 

What Texas math teachers should have done way back in 2012 is to take the new, grade-level-specific 2012 Math TEKS; sit down with fellow math teachers to figure out what should be taught at each grade level; identify the math gaps that exist between the old set of TEKS vs. the new; and decide which skills have not previously been learned by students.  Math teachers should have used those two transition years between 2012 and 2014 to bring their students close to grade-level mastery.  Then by this school year, students should have been ready to move forward successfully to meet the new Math TEKS goals.  

 

Instead, math teachers did not follow this plan (probably because they were being forced to use CSCOPE by their unwise administrators; and now teachers are going to have to take the time to stop, re-evaluate, devise a plan, and implement it with fidelity.  

 

The Texas State Board of Education should resist the pressure to “dumb down” the 2012 Math TEKS and instead should strongly encourage Texas school districts to stop contracting with the TEKS Resource System and/or the Charles A. Dana Center.

 

Teachers should locate sources of Type #1 math instructional materials to help hone their own skills so that they can better teach their students the Type #1 2012 Math TEKS with due diligence.  

 

SUGGESTED TYPE #1 MATH RESOURCES

 

“John Saxon’s Story: A Genius of Common Sense in Math Education” – by Nakonia Hayes — http://saxonmathwarrior.com/

Saxon instructional materials  – 1.800.247.4784

 

K-8 Saxon Math

Algebra I and II – 3rd edition only

Advanced Math – 2nd edition only

Calculus (by Frank Wang)

Saxon Grammar & Writing – Grades 5 – 8

Saxon Phonics

 

OTHER ARTICLES

 

10.27.14 — “CSCOPE: False Narrative Being Pushed by News Media” — by Donna Garner — http://www.educationviews.org/cscope-false-narrative-pushed-news-media/

 

 

8.30.14 — “Why Texas’ STAAR Math Tests in 5th and 8th May Have Been Suspended This Year” – by Donna Garner —

http://www.educationviews.org/staar-math-tests-5th-8th-suspended-year/

 

 

11.3.14 – “Interactive Math Glossary for Teachers of Grades K – 8” – from Texas Education Agency —  

http://projectsharetexas.org/resource/interactive-math-glossary.

 

 

 

Donna Garner

Wgarner1@hot.rr.com

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3 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Nichelle R.

    The TEKSResource System is nothing like CSCOPE. All it offered was a suggested Scope and Sequence, a detailed breakdown of the objectives, a performance assessment piece, and unit assessments. That’s it. No lesson plans or activities.

  2. Avatar
    Camille Coleman

    Great rebuttal, Alison. Donna, have you ever taught before?

  3. Avatar

    In the article above you assert that these new math TEKS are Type #1 with “an emphasis on the right answer over the process.” Does that statement accurately describe the new Math TEKS for 3rd grade because I feel quite the opposite is true. Take for example Revised TEK 3(4)G “The student is expected to use strategies and algorithms, including the standard algorithm, to multiply a two-digit number by a one-digit number. Strategies may include mental math, partial products, and the commutative, associative and distributive properties.” The focus of this TEK certainly seems to be the process. In fact, my daughter’s class was instructed on this TEK this week. Here is a homework problem: Suzie wanted to find the product of 37X4. She rounded 37 to 40 and multiplied 40×4. She got a product of 160. Next Suzie multiplied 3X4 to get 12. She then added the products 160 and 12. Do you agree with how Suzie solved the problem? Why or why not?

    I hope it is as simple as blaming it on the curriculum because that would be a lot easier to change. I can tell you that if the curriculum is the problem then making the generalization that it is because educators are being clumsy or stubborn is unfair. The teachers and administrators I know want their students to succeed. They are interpreting these TEKS in the way that they believe the students will be held accountable for them, and districts across the state are investing in curriculum that they believe will best prepare their students for state assessments. After all, they are held accountable for students’ performance too. So perhaps the better question would be why are educators across the state interpreting these TEKS in a way that aligns them with Common Core/C-Scope Curriculum?

    I would also like to respectfully disagree with you that it is the districts’ and teachers’ fault that students are not prepared. According to curriculum experts from Richardson ISD the following is the percentage of new standards not found in tests last year or new standards that were in tests from another grade last year: 3rd grade – 43%; 4th grade – 57%; 5th grade – 54%; 6th grade – 57%. How were teachers supposed to prepare students for very different yet still rigorous TEKS last year, while also introducing 40%-60% additional material? (Source: http://www.dallasnews.com/news/education/headlines/20140905-new-state-math-standards-mean-many-kids-started-the-year-behind.ece) On top of that according to TEA Commissioner Williams, the instructional materials to teach these TEKS were not available until this year. (Source: http://tea.texas.gov/index4.aspx?id=2147505332)

    And to make matters even worse, TEA told educators for two years that there would be an overlap this year and the STAAR test would be built on TEKS common to the old and newly revised versions, which has been the practice of the TEA for the first year revisions are in place. However, on May 1, 2014, TEA rescinded their plan to test on common TEKS. An employee of TEA’s Student Assessment Division told me in a phone conversation on November 4, 2014, that at first glance the TEKS seemed to be similar; however, when TEA staff from the assessment and curriculum divisions sat down to review them earlier this year it took them by surprise because they found many restrictions on them that prevented them from building a quality assessment on common TEKS.

    Educators need our support not our pointed fingers. And let’s not forget who is at the bottom of this pile. Precious children like mine.

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