Monday, June 29, 2009

NJDOE Math Task Force Dies without DOE Action

The NJDOE convened a math task force which met for 4 full days and to date, DOE, has ignored the task force and has not released one iota of information from the task force.  Thus, I wrote the following letter to DOE:

Now that the Math Standards Task Force has completed its work, a number of us want to address the issue of what will happen next.  For the Department of Education to develop a set of math standards that will provide teachers, schools, and districts with the guidance that they need to enable our students to achieve high expectations in mathematics, it is critical that the next steps, following the efforts of the Department’s Task Force, build on the good work already done and involve people who are best able to craft the standards New Jersey deserves.

Concurrent with the Department’s Task Force, the New Jersey Mathematics and Science Education Coalition convened a working group of experienced math educators to take the two early versions of the standards, the December version prepared by the Department of Education’s writing team and the February version prepared by the Department of Education’s staff, and develop a set of recommendations that combines the best of them.  That document came to be valued and used by a number of members of the Task Force as it deliberated; it should be integral to any subsequent development of the math standards.

There are many people who can examine and critique individual indicators in the standards, including many of the members of the Task Force.   But only those with a more intimate knowledge of the curriculum, such as math supervisors and curriculum specialists, are able to see the standards as a whole, so that an individual indicator is not only analyzed in itself, but also in regard to how it fits in the K-12 flow within its standard and how it fits it with indicators in other standards at its and nearby grade levels.  Those are the people who should be called upon to provide advice on the content of the standards.

Writing standards requires a team whose members:

ª have a deep understanding of mathematics and of the PreK-12 mathematics curriculum

ª understand the curricular consequences of what might appear to be a modest change of language

ª can write concisely and clearly

ª understand assessment and have experience with a wide range of types of questions including multiple-choice and extended response

ª have knowledge of a wide variety of curricula in order to ensure that appropriate, high-quality instructional materials are available

ª have knowledge of the psychology of learning mathematics so that content is developmentally appropriate.

Even those who have experience with the content cannot necessarily translate their recommendations into the language of standards.  The people in New Jersey who have the greatest experience and expertise in doing that are Janet Caldwell, Warren Crown, Bob Riehs, Joe Rosenstein, and Bill Smith (Crown and Smith are now retired and may therefore not be available).  In addition to and because of their qualifications, they have the trust of their colleagues across the state. They should be key players in the further development of math standards which are both credible to the field and of the highest quality.

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