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Publisher : Discovery Association Publishing House
ISBN : 1931967164
Release Date :
What if we could boil teachers, students, schools and states down to one number neatly wrapped in a standardized assessment? Then we could judge people, institutions, curricula, and pedagogy with a single number. But education, teaching, studenting, learning, and knowledge are more complexly rich than just a number. This book is an interpretive study of two high school mathematics teachers negotiating the meaning of traditional and reform curricula in a milieu of high-stakes standardized assessments. This book examines how two teachers cope with reform, tradition, and standardized assessments. I set out to research the meaning teachers made of traditional and reform curricula. But my time spent with the teachers was infused with the pressure of standardized assessments. The current era of standardized assessments places immense pressure on teachers, administrators, and politicians to raise test scores. This draws into focus the very fabric of our educational community. I explore classroom interactions, pedagogical strategies, and curricular adaptations. I did not intend for this book to be largely about standardized assessments. However, the influence of No Child Left Behind on the teachers I observed is a crucial component threaded throughout their educational practice. The meaning the teachers make of traditional and reform curricula are intricately related to standardized assessments. I was a participant-observer in four Algebra 1 classes taught by two teachers during summer school and the 2004-05 school year in a large, public high school in southern California. The four classes used College Preparatory Mathematics (CPM), a reform modeled on the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics recommendations. I was also a participant-observer at a CPM seminar. Analysis of the data suggests that the teachers in this study adapt the reform curriculum according to their context. The teachers negotiated their adaptations with students during classes and with colleagues during meetings and casual conversations. CPM is a student-centered curriculum in which students socially construct knowledge in small groups. At the seminar, CPM was adapted to reassure teachers that they would continue to control student interactions and knowledge. However, in the four classrooms, the teachers transformed CPM into a teacher-centered curriculum, skipping problems that required small-group work, problem-solving, reasoning, and conceptual understanding or transforming them into recitation sessions or modeling of procedures. The teachers adaptations were driven partly by time constraints, their perceptions that the students were not college bound, the CPM curriculum, their context, and pressures to teach only topics covered on standardized assessments. The teachers used standardized assessments to determine what they taught and as a convenient justification for how they taught. One conclusion from this study is that educators, now more than ever, are accepting and internalizing standardized assessments. Conversations among some teachers shifted in the last decade from what should we teach to what s on the standardized test? I witnessed the stifling of valid pedagogical and curricular questions with responses such as if it s not on the test, we shouldn t bother with it or it s on the test, so we re teaching it. There is nothing inherently wrong with standardized assessments. After all, they are just tests. But the extrinsic value placed on these tests by administrators, politicians, parents, and even teachers facilitates standardized assessments driving mathematics curricula. We all contribute to the current milieu of standardized assessments so we are all part of the solution. Inherent in the solution is a shift from talking about standardized assessment scores to talking with students.