Public school watch: Texas creates grade-level math standards!

THURSDAY, MAY 26, 2016

How can such standards work:
Over at Slate, Sarah Garland reports about the new grade-level math standards adopted for the public schools in the state of Texas.

The new math standards aren't quite brand-new. But according to Garland, this is the first year that statewide tests on these new standards will count:
GARLAND (5/26/16): [T]his year, New Frontiers Charter School in San Antonio needed its best teachers to help younger students get ready for a new set of math standards Texas adopted in 2012, so Demore switched to elementary school. It’s the second year the standards are being tested but the first the scores will count for schools.

The Texas standards aren’t the same as the Common Core State Standards Initiative, adopted by more than 40 states.
It’s actually illegal to teach Common Core in Texas.

But even in a state that said an emphatic “No!” to Common Core, the new math standards here are pretty similar to the standards the state rejected, experts say. Across the Lone Star State, as in the rest of the nation, number lines are replacing pizzas in lessons about fractions and lectures are losing out to rambunctious lessons in which kids seem to run the show.
Texas refused to adopt the Common Core standards, then adopted new math standards which are quite similar. You may know what our question will be:

How can such standards work?

We returned to the first interactive graphic in that recent New York Times report. How can one set of fifth-grade math standards work for the wide range of kids in these Texas school districts?
Average achievement, two Texas school districts, grades 3-8:

Highland Park/Dallas: 3.0 grade levels above average
Laredo: 1.5 grade levels below average

Achievement gap: 4.5 grade levels
That's a vast achievement gap. We'll assume it obtains by the fifth or sixth grade. And remember:

Roughly half the kids in the Highland Park district will be more than 3.0 grade levels above average. Roughly half the kids in Laredo will be more than 1.5 grade levels below average.

Now we're discussing a gigantic gap. We'll ask our basic question again:

How can any set of grade-level "math standards" work for that wide range of good decent kids?


  1. Don't forget young members of the Howler Junior Analysts, Club: The gap between Laredo and Highland Park in SES can be accounted for in number of parents per household and educational attainment of parents, not just income.

  2. Isn't it well known that art and music instruction help more with math than high-stakes testing?

    Should we have high-stakes art tests? A student must be able to draw a good banana with sunglasses to pass to the next grade. And MAKE IT FUNNY!

    1. No. It's not well known. Yes, we should have them.

    2. Testing is better for learning than an equal amount of time spent studying. The act of trying to recall info and apply it in the context of a question is an excellent way of learning. Those who criticize testing don't seem to be familiar with this finding from cognitive psychology.

      The findings about the Mozart effect are bogus. Art and music are important for their own sake but they cannot replace math teaching and practice.

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