President's Report - Fall 2010

 

From the NCSM President
Diane J. Briars
Fall 2010

"Common Core State Standards represent an opportunity-once in a lifetime-to form effective coalitions for change." -Jere Confrey, August, 2010

With the release and adoption by 35 states of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSS), it's time to turn our attention to supporting their interpretation and implementation. The strengths of the CCSS-the mathematical practices, the emphasis on conceptual understanding-and the curricular focus they provide make them sufficiently strong to merit our support. (See the joint NCSM, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics [NCTM], the Association of State Supervisors of Mathematics [ASSM], and the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators [AMTE] statement regarding the CCSS on the NCSM Website, mathedleadership.org). The CCSS have the potential to be a powerful lever to promote high levels of mathematics achievement by all students. Parts of the CCSS, in particular the mathematical practices, can promote improvement in mathematics teaching and learning, even in states and provinces that have not adopted the CCSS.

A factor complicating implementation efforts this year is that, even though the standards have been adopted, state assessments will not be changing significantly for a few years. Given that, what activities should leaders engage in now to help teachers and administrators understand and begin to implement the CCSS, even though teachers will still be accountable for student achievement on current state assessments?

First, we need to help teachers, administrators and also parents understand that the CCSS is not "business as usual." At least in most cases, implementing the CCSS will mean more than just making minor adjustments in the grade levels at which particular content is taught. Cuss's emphasis on conceptual understanding and the eight mathematical practices are significant departures from the current reality in many mathematics classrooms. Although these emphases echo the recommendations from NCSM's PRIME Leadership Framework (2008), and NCTM's Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (2000), Curriculum Focal Points, and Focus in High School Mathematics: Reasoning and Sense Making (2009), too often these aspects of previous standards documents have not been implemented. Thus, the CCSS can be an important lever to promote mathematics instruction that emphasizes conceptual understanding and mathematical processes, something many of us have advocated for a long time, but has often fallen on deaf ears.

Consequently, one possible starting point is examining the mathematical practices. What do they mean? What would instruction promoting students' proficiency in a particular practice look like in an elementary classroom?

Another starting point is examining the development of particular mathematical concepts and skills across grades. How is the concept of place value developed across grades? Fractions? Functions? How does this compare to current practices? What changes can/should be implemented now to better support development of students' understanding of these ideas, even while the current assessments are still in place?

The CCSS are also an opportunity to promote instructional practices that will support students' attainment of the standards, such as engaging students in rich, high-cognitive demand tasks that require students to struggle to make sense of mathematics.

Supporting the interpretation and implementation of CCSS will be a major focus of NCSM's work this year, as described in our strategic plan. (See the Board Strategic Planning Meeting article, page 4.) The CCSS will be featured in our Fall Leadership Seminars, our Annual Conference, and in two webinars we will offer this year. We are also developing resources regarding interpretation of the mathematical practices and an instructional resources selection toolkit. In addition to these individual activities, NCSM is collaborating with NCTM, ASSM, and AMTE in other activities related to the CCSS specifically, and to improve mathematics teaching and learning more broadly.

One valuable existing resource for this work is the Noyce Foundation's Inside Mathematics website [insidemathematics.org]. This relatively new professional resource provides materials from the Silicon Valley Mathematics Initiative, including instructional and assessment tasks, classroom and coaching videos, and sample student work.

Another new resource is The Future of High School Mathematics: New Priorities and New Resources. This report is the outcome of the September, 2008 forum organized by The Center for Mathematics Education at the University of Maryland, Math Is More, and six National Science Foundation (NSF) high school curriculum development projects. One key goal of the forum was not to lose sight of the promising innovations produced by mathematics educators through extensive research and development over the last 20 years. This report summarizes the issues raised at the forum, and also summarizes the work of these innovative curriculum development projects. As an NCSM member, you will be receiving a copy of this report shortly. Hopefully, it will be useful in local discussions about high school curricula, especially with respect to implementing the CCSS.

Resources and tools specially designed to support CCSS interpretation and implementation planning from other sources are beginning to be available. They include:

  • Model pathways for high school mathematics courses, which describe possible organizations of the high school standards into integrated and traditional course sequences are available as Common Core Standards, Appendix A on the NCSM Website [mathedleadership.org], as well as the CCSS website [corestandards.org/the-standards].
  • Materials from the August 1-3 Center for the Study of Mathematics Curriculum (CMSC) Conference, Curriculum Design, Development, and Implementation in an Era of Common Core State Standards (visit: mathcurriculumcenter.org/conferences/ccss/index.php). Included are PowerPoint presentations from Phil Daro, Jere Confrey, Hugh Burkhardt, Brad Findell, David Foster, and Diane Schaefer. Proceedings from the conference will be available shortly.
  • The first version of the Achieve Implementation Guide is available: achieve.org/achievingcommoncore_ implementation
  • Briefs comparing the CCSS to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Framework, National Mathematics Panel recommendations, NCTM Focal Points, and the Singapore, Japan, California, and Massachusetts standards: achieve.org/ achievingcommoncore_comparisonbriefs

Other NCSM News:

  • The Conference Board for the Mathematical Sciences (CBMS) will hold its third national forum, Content- Based Professional Development for Teachers of Mathematics, October 10-14, 2010 at the Hyatt Regency Reston. See the CBMS website [cbmsweb.org] for details.
  • Please look at the list of candidates for the Fall NCSM elections (page 10). Voting will be through our Website, mathedleadership.org. Just go to the website, read about the candidates, use the ID number on your NCSM Election postcard, and make your choice. Remember, your vote is your voice in NCSM!

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