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Friday, June 10, 2011

The Immovable Object vs. the Unstoppable Force

The narrative seems to be boiling down to a showdown.

The Immovable Object: Mathematics
see also:
Paul Lockhart
Ellen Kaplan
George Polya
Andrei Toom
Michael Serra
Dan Meyer
Vi Hart
Jo Baoler
m-f'ing etcetera

The Unstoppable Force: Poorly-Written Purpose-Confused Tests with Non-Existent Validity
see also:
The College Board
Pearson/Prentice Hall
Bill Gates
The New York State Board of Regents
Governor Cuomo
The U.S. Department of Education
President Obama
The US Governor's Association
The Common Core common computer-based assessments : coming soon to a misery factory I mean school near you!

Until now, reasonable, effective, educated, brain-in-their-head math teachers have been able to shut their doors and concentrate on the immovable object.

But now, New York gets APPR (crammed down our throats, lawsuit-pending)? (40% of teacher evaluations based on student-progress-no-we-don't-really-know-what-that-means-yet-and-stop-asking!) Which I think means if we keep ignoring the unstoppable force, we get to lose our jobs.

Anyone get the number to that truck driving school? TruckMasters, I think it was called?


  1. Ahh, you put it so well.

    This may interest you:
    " many as half of the estimated 600,000 primary school students [in England] due to sit for tests will not take them because their teachers have decided to take a stand against them." (Valerie Strauss, in the Washington Post. Original article here, where it's called an 'industrial action'.)

    Time for teachers in the U.S. to learn how to band together?

  2. The issue I see with that, is that teachers won't participate in something they see as detrimental to kids. If we take the example of regents examinations in New York, in math, the first exam (Integrated Algebra) is required for graduation and the other two (Geometry and Integrated Algebra 2 with Trigonometry) are required for an "advanced" diploma. So if we refused to administer the exams, teachers would be afraid of being accused of hurting kids for selfish reasons (because we would be! by parents, administrators, and our colleagues...valid or not, that accusation would happen.) Even though we know we are really acting in the kids' best interests.

  3. We have the same thing in TN. Fortunately, the standardized exams are super-easy for the required-to-graduate classes (Alg 1, Alg 2, Geometry). In fact, they are giving us the opposite problem: "My kid failed your class all year but got an 89 on the final exam? What's the deal?" There are anecdotes of kids only answering 1/4 of the questions and getting a passing score (above a 70%) on the standardized exam.'s incongruous from the "authentic assessments" they're pushing on us from the other level. =/

    Also, in TN we now have no collective bargaining and organizing all the teachers to refuse an exam may be difficult.

  4. That's pretty much the deal here with the Algebra 1 exam - you can pass with like a 35% or something - that's the only one that is required for graduation, and graduation rates are a problem for politicians. So we get the same kind of deal on that test. And yeah, authentic assessment - what's that? We don't speak that language in NYS.

  5. I think that
    "The Unstoppable Force: Poorly-Written Purpose-Confused Tests with Non-Existent Validity see also: The College Board" is unfair. The College Board tests (SAT and AP) have had extensive work done to show their validity for what they are intended to measure: how well students will do in college. They are far from perfect, but they are not bad. Using them for other purposes is not appropriate, of course, but lumping them in with the politically motivated state tests seems unfair.

  6. We've heard the SATs could be used as part of APPR to judge teacher effectiveness. They're invalid for that purpose.

  7. The question, as I see it, is this: Can we do both? Can we teach students math—real, interesting, thought provoking, man-this-stuff-is-cool, math—and still have them show growth on whatever assessment is put in front of them?

  8. I agree that using SATs for judging teachers or schools is inappropriate. That is not the fault of the College Board (I think) but of clueless politicians.


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