Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Louisiana Math Standards in Our Middle Schools Are a Disaster!

Louisiana is attempting to teach Common Core math. The recent legislatively mandated revision resulted in a change of only 5% of the standards. But the middle school math standards are poorly designed and are failing our students in every way possible. Students in the middle school grades are performing dismally on the new Common Core math tests. In my opinion, the middle school math standards are not age appropriate. We are trying to teach high school algebra and geometry to students who are not mature enough and who have not learned enough basic math to prepare them to succeed.

Let’s make one thing clear. The new tests that were implemented over the last two years are the curriculum! Nothing else matters in teaching math in Louisiana but attempting to prepare students for the annual spring LEAP tests. Everything the math teacher does now is geared toward preparing students for the math tests. And most of this effort is failing!

Here are the results of the new math LEAP tests now being given to our students:
  • The tests are so difficult and impractical that the LDOE and their testing company have lowered the passing grade for the 8th grade test to only 27% for the school year 2015-16. A student needs to only get 27% of the questions right on the math test right to get a passing grade.
  • In the 2014-15 school year, the first year the new Common Core aligned tests were given, the cut score for passing was set at only 22%.
  • But even with these ridiculously low passing scores, 45% of our students failed the 8th grade math test in 2015 and 43% failed in 2016.
  • In 2016, my best estimate is that the average 8th grade math score statewide was only 33%. Considering that large portions of the tests are multiple choice, many students can do almost as well on these tests by just making random guesses.

The test results are telling us that at least half of our 8th grade students know almost nothing about the math we are attempting to teach. Yet the BESE policy which Superintendent White recommended allows such students to be promoted to high school.

Find out for yourself about the 8th grade math test by taking the practice test by clicking on this link to the LDOE testing website.

So how are our 8th graders doing on the NAEP math test which compares Louisiana to all other states? Unfortunately, on the 2015 NAEP (which was the most recent NAEP) our 8th grade math scores dropped in overall points and in the rankings of the states. Louisiana's 8th grade math NAEP scores now rank only above Alabama and the District of Columbia.

During my teaching career, I taught physics to 11th and 12th grade students. Physics was probably the most difficult course at our school because of the difficult concepts and the math used in Physics. But if I gave a test where half of my students scored below 33% (that never happened), I would have immediately questioned either my teaching or the structure of the test or both. I certainly would not have continued doing the same thing, hoping that my students would do better.

In the case of our middle school math, I have concluded that both the curriculum and the math tests are not age appropriate, nor are they going to prepare most of our students for future careers. But in this brave new world of our state-dictated, test driven curriculum, the powers that be refuse to be questioned. And they hide the hideous results of the state testing by using an obscure scale score system. This is a system where if a student gets zero questions right, he/she still gets a scale score of 650 out of a possible 850 points. A scale score of 725 is considered a passing score even if is equivalent to only 27% correct answers. This does not represent higher standards. These are insane standards. Such standards are driving education into the ditch.

Someone told me recently that the debate about Common Core in Louisiana is over with and that the Common Core advocates have won. If this is winning, I just don’t know how we can explain to parents that their children are learning almost nothing in their middle school math classes.

Parents need to demand that this failed curriculum be junked before it does too much more damage to our students.


J-BIRD-MEDIC said...

As a parent and education advocate this really breaks my heart. My son is entering 6th grade and I have no alternative than him to be setup to fail by this state. Bese and LaLeg have moved on and arent looking back.

Michael Deshotels said...

Dear J-Bird:
I hope you can take the time and effort to talk to other parents about this serious problem. Ask them to read this post on my blog. Let's talk to our legislators. Not BESE so much because they were elected with millions from the very reformists who pushed for the adoption of these standard. But I find that the legislators are very willing to listen to parents if we go to them with the facts. I would be happy to go with any group of parents who want to discuss this with their legislator. Just call me at 225-235-1632.
Mike Deshotels

Emily Pitre said...

I have said this for years! The reason they are not prepared for middle school is because they are not mastering basics in elementary. As soon as I saw the standards, when first introduced, i wanted to quit, immediately! It does not matter what is on paper, in the form of our standards, their brains are not developed enough to grasp the concepts. I always compared the standards to my budget- just because it looks good on paper, doesn't mean it is going to work! Our students are mastering less and less, but keep getting promoted every year. By the time they reach high school, they realize they have no options other than failure. I am frustrated with the education system in this state. I have stuck it out for 24 years, one year until retirement! I stuck it out because I had to, but to think that the people making these mandates in Baton Rouge have, more than likely, have not stepped into a school or classroom in years need a dose of reality. They need to go into the schools, and not the cream of the crop school. Go into the ones who have high poverty rates, low attendance, high dropout rates- not the highest performing, but the worst performing! Let them see what their Common Core has achieved! Talk to the teachers, talk to the students- the ones who deal with it every day!

Anonymous said...

For many years, I have been convinced that the buffoons who concocted this hash of Common-Core middle school mathematics have either contempt for, or an almost total ignorance of, the cumulative nature of mathematics.
You cannot create a rigorous curriculum by simply extracting (or plagiarizing) and bundling items from upper level courses.
The laborious (and often tedious) accumulation of facts, postulates, theorems, and techniques, built on and added to , grade after grade and year after year is what creates mathematical maturity. But the reformniks have successfully marketed the idea that you can skip this approach and “get your cash now.” They can not only build Rome in a day, they can do it before lunch! And as long as the public can be swayed by Madison Avenue
hucksters promising a quick fix, don’t look for any real relief. It has taken twenty-five plus years for math education to sink to this state, and I do not believe that much will change between now and Labor Day.

KimberlyDtchr said...

Research supports the theory that mathematical learning is developmental: There are concepts/skills to be understood and mastered before a learner can grasp - let alone learn to "mastery" - subsequent and more complex/abstract concepts/skills. So, your assertion that middle school students are too young for the concepts being taught/tested is supported ... in a round-about way.

So, how do we fix it?

1) Engage education stakeholder groups on this issue and gain specific feedback to a) define the perceived problem and, b) delineate what is the desired outcome.

2). Enlist one of the groups to sponsor a meeting to refine the objectives to one to three actual changes in the current policy(ies) to be made.

3). Enlist the support of educational researchers well-versed in human cognitive development AND mathematical reasoning/learning to compose a position statement for the redesign of the current mathematical standard grade-assignment, curriculum pacing, and assessment.

4). Submit the position statement and findings from the stakeholder meeting(s) to BESE members and request the issue be placed on the agenda for the appropriate committee meeting.

5). Once the agenda item has been scheduled, arrange for one or more of the researchers to address BESE. Have a representative of one or more of the stakeholder groups to provide a summation and the two-five minutes of the "ask" based upon the research presented.

6). Volunteer your services as you did on the science standards committee to plan and implement changes. Have a list of credentialed volunteers ready as well to serve in such a capacity.

I know you know these action steps of community/advocacy organizing, Mike. Perhaps some of your readers did not experience this type of grassroots work such as the work many of us experienced with ESSA (NCLB reauthorization). Please note that the messenger is equally important to the message in these days.

A word of caution: Anyone who appears to be self-seeking or engaging in factionalism will be neither seen nor heard in a way that brings positive change for our students and schools.

Note also that personal or professional misgivings regarding our current LDOE Superintendent, Mr. John White, may have to be set aside as well to enlist the full support of BESE and facilitate the change we all desire.

Thanks for all you have done amd continue to do for our Louisiana students, Mike. You are a role model, indeed!

"Be the change you wish to see in the world."
~ Mahatma Gandhi

Michael Deshotels said...

Thanks Kimberly. Your suggestions are right on target, with the exception that I think approaching BESE is premature until we convince the Governor and the legislature to put the necessary pressure on BESE. But I do agre that a systematic approach is our best chance to make the necessary changes.

S.B. said...

We, as teachers, have said all of this for years. If we are forcing our kids to do work that is not developmentally appropriate, there will be a point in their school career where they are not prepared. And what will happen-more high school and college drop outs and less who become productive members of society. The problem is we keep talking about it and not changing anything. We have begun another summer and we are still discussing the same things, but no one is listening or changing anything. And we still employ the same people who are making these bad decisions. We need to fix things now and not let another school year pat us by!!! We are failing our students. Talk to teachers....they are the ones in the actual trenches!!!

British Princess said...

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