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testing: why we need more of it – lots more.

This article was first published on Getting Smart on February 10, 2014

student girl playing with tablet pc
I worry about testing in the way I worry about alcohol abuse. On a societal scale, addiction is a tragic waste of human potential but in the privacy of my own home a glass of Tempranillo before dinner is at worst relatively harmless. Similarly, on a national scale student testing is a complex issue bound up in a Gordian knot of interrelated concerns from equity to test anxiety to teacher accountability to the appropriateness of assessing against standards that cross state lines, while in the haven of pursuing academics in my home it is not merely benign but essential – it is feedback.

As a math mom I’ve been asking (and asking and asking for the past decade) “ How do I know whether my math kid really understands the math?” For that matter, how do I know whether I understand it myself? Or if we are both merely engaging in the equivalent of “just invert and multiply” to get correct answers without much depth. What I’ve been asking for are tests. Read more

please share my children’s data

This article was first posted on Getting Smart on July 15, 2014


System Network

As a parent, I demand the right to have my children’s data used by schools, researchers, content providers, and other 3rd parties. My kids deserve no less than for their learning institutions to use every tool possible to improve their education and enhance their learning.

Warm, caring, competent professional educators came within an inch of beating the love of math out of my precocious, curious math kid. How? By making him repeat mastered material three years in a row. Why? Because they had no diagnostic tools to assess what he really knew and could do beyond grade level. Or perhaps they did, but worked in a culture that didn’t support using data to make such decisions.

Data gives power to students and families. It takes accountability from some abstract plane to a very concrete personal one. “My son learns 3-4 times faster than you teach, learns by solving new problems rather than listening to lectures and drilling the same problem over and over with different numerical values, and needs an hour to a day to work on one challenging problem at a time – preferably collaboratively. He has mastered topics A-Q except M and P, and has some understanding of T, V, and W. How are you going to nurture his talent? I hold you accountable for this.” Read more

a new breed of apps puts joy back in math learning

This article was first published at Getting Smart on September 6, 2013


em8Math should be fun – even when it’s stupidly hard.  Instead it feels grueling – even when it’s fundamentally a delightful puzzle.  This has nothing to do with our smarts or math aptitude and everything to do with how we approach it.  I’ve written previously about the dearth of excellent math apps and how disappointed I’ve been that the promise of achieving computational and mathematical fluency as a side effect of truly engaging work has been left unfulfilled.  Until recently, that is. Read more

what are teachers responsible for?

This article was first published at Getting Smart on April 30, 2013

generic12Where does the current emphasis on accountability come from?  I think it comes from a desperate need for equity and justice – from the awareness that has been raised by the national high-stakes testing of students that there is a very real and tragic difference in the outcomes of poor students versus those that are more affluent.  The No Child Left Behind legislation has caused data to be collected for the first time that measures achievement according to race, economic status, English learner status, and so on.

The results are grim.  According to this blog from the National Education Policy Center, a think-tank based at the University of Colorado:

“In 2012, white and Asian students had a 71 percent probability of a higher English Language Arts score than Black and Latino students, and a 75 percent probability of a higher math score.”

There is widespread agreement that the achievement gap is real and persistent and that this sort of social inequity is unconscionable.  Something must be done, and an obvious place to start is by ensuring that every child, regardless of race, has access to a quality school with quality teachers and quality leadership. Read more

education standardization – essential or harmful?

This article was first published at Getting Smart on April 26, 2013

em25In my previous post, I described how much of the standardization that exists in our current system of schooling is harmful to students and should be eliminated, but made the argument that not all standardization is harmful – that, in fact, in some cases it is essential to enable innovation and transformation.  Today I will discuss some areas where standardization is possible, some advantages and disadvantages of each of these, and my rationale for whether standardization at this level is helpful or harmful. Read more