Thursday, December 26, 2013

Open Letter to the Wisconsin Committee Taking Comments on the CCSS

To the Select Committee reviewing the CCSS in Wisconsin:

Thanks for the opportunity to comment on this issue.  I am a father of 3 children (13,12 & 10 years old) and a second-career teacher just starting my eighth year of teaching High School math.  I spent my first dozen years of my career as an engineer and manager in the private sector, which gives me a different view of the standards.   As a nation we must embrace the ideal of making students who are college and career ready, and while the CCSS are not perfect, they are a step in the right direction. 

I have spent the last few years working with the CCSS in mathematics and have formed some solid opinions:
1) Being from industry I knew some states' graduates were not as strong as others, some sort of national guideline is most likely needed.  Many countries that we trail in education have a national set of standards.  And anytime a small group forms a large set of standards there will be problems and complaints - as a nation we need to work together to move forward. 
2) The core in math is strong K-6 but in my opinion simply has too many standards in High School, thus these individual standards take precious time from class room teachers to teach problem solving, deeper discovery, reasonsing, etc (the mathematical practices).  But the practices are a strength of the CCSS which can be built upon and the standards will need to evolve.
3) We try to move too fast in education (the CCSS being a great example of too fast).  We should move on a continuous improvement path; yet education moves with an all or nothing mentality.  That is why the testing in 2014-2015 will be disastrous, we are trying to be 20% better in 2 years versus 2% better year after year.  Whether the CCSS can survive the poltical "firestorm" that is coming (or is here) is an unanswered question.
And finally, 4) The standards are plenty rigorous and we need to focus on the practices in the CCSS.

As a parent and educator I worry about the CCSS being a list of standards to check off, and since the list is long deeming it rigorous.   I worry about the politics and the desire for instant results derailing the opportunity for there to be true progress with the CCSS.  I do not believe the CCSS are perfect, far from it, but it is a decent starting point.

And the CCSS should be a starting point for Wisconsin.  While I feel the HS math standards are overloaded on topics, I think they provide a framework that can be used to move Wisconsin and the nation forward in education.  It is the practices we should be focusing on - problem solving, tenacity, the ability to read, justify and revise.  And that is why the CCSS should not be dismantled but allowed to evolve, I do believe the mathematical practices to be the strength of the CCSS.

In the end I support the CCSS with its flaws, because I view it as a first step in a continuous improvement process.  We need national standards, and I feel the practices are good.  I am hoping that as time passes we can correct some of the "mile wide, inch deep" issues and in the end have better students who are ready for college and career. 

Scott Anderson
Math Instructor
Juda High School
Juda, Wisconsin