Improving
Student Achievement In Mathematics
Iowa Council
Of Teachers Of Mathematics
Recommendations For The State Of Iowa
Approved by the ICTM
Executive Board - Summer, 2012
The Iowa Council of Teachers of
Mathematics (ICTM) is a professional organization for mathematics
teachers, pre-K through university, working towards the improvement of
mathematics education in Iowa. ICTM has been serving the schools in
Iowa, and mathematics teachers in Iowa for nearly forty years.
Current
Status
National Assessment of Educational
Progress (NAEP, 2009) data indicates that in 1992 Iowa ranked at the top
of the country in mathematics achievement, at both grade 4 and grade 8.
That has changed dramatically. Over the past nineteen years, nearly all
states have increased their mathematics achievement more than Iowa has.
Compared to other states in 2009, NAEP data demonstrates that Iowa is
currently average at grade 4 and slightly below average at grade 8. This
is not the proud competitive educational status for which Iowa was
known.
What Has
Worked For Other States
How did other states improve
achievement in mathematics more than Iowa did? Many of the differences
started with the State Systemic Initiatives in the middle 1990s.
Additionally, Iowa has recently missed out on federal Race to the Top
funds. Those federal funds, together with state and private support,
enabled other states to initiate several actions that have made a
difference, including:
1. aligning curriculum and assessment
2. encouraging elementary mathematics
specialists or coaches at each elementary school building
3. organizing and conducting ongoing
professional development for all mathematics teachers K-12
4. strongly encouraging or requiring
schools to offer mathematics at least one hour a day for all students
K-12
ICTM
Recommendations For Iowa
Now a collaborative state-wide
effort, with some state and local funds and actions, is needed to make a
difference. The following recommendations have emerged from the results
of a survey of the ICTM membership designed to collect ideas from
teachers to improve mathematics achievement. All of the recommendations
have strong support of the membership of ICTM and the Executive Board of
ICTM. They also have emerged from successful experiences in other states
and are based on sound research that is well accepted in the profession.
We strongly believe that implementing the recommendations will have a
much-needed positive effect on mathematics achievement in Iowa.
Recommendation One:
High-stakes tests in Iowa should be aligned with the expectations of the
Iowa Core. Either funding should be provided so the Department of
Education can fully participate in the coalition of states designing and
implementing the use of more appropriate tests or the state should use
updated ITBS and ITED tests, which include assessment of complex problem
solving.
For many years, the Department of
Education has promoted NCTM Standards-based teaching practices and a
curriculum (Every Student Counts and Iowa Core) to help students develop
deep conceptual understanding and complex problem solving skills.
There are two major difficulties with
our current high-stakes testing. First, the traditional tests in Iowa
are designed to rank students, not determine whether or not they have
met established standards. Second, the traditional tests do not assess
complex problem solving, one of the key goals of Every Student Counts
and the Iowa Core. Consequently, schools trying to stay off of the No
Child Left Behind list have little reason to address complex problem
solving. Complex problem solving simply is not on the tests.
The Department of Education has
already joined a coalition of states working on a new assessment that
better aligns with the Common Core, which is aligned with the Iowa Core.
This initiative needs to be funded so Iowa can move ahead with an
appropriate assessment or the state should use updated ITBS and ITED
tests, which include assessment of complex problem solving. This is
important because according to the New Standards Exam, only about twenty
percent of Iowa students are proficient at complex problem solving.
Recommendation Two:
Every elementary school in Iowa should have at least one mathematics
specialist with appropriate licensure.
There are programs in a few states
now to provide special training for elementary and middle school
mathematics specialists or coaches. Research (Campbell, P. F., and
Malkus, N. N. (2011). The impact of elementary mathematics coaches on
student achievement. The Elementary School Journal, 111, 430-454.) has
demonstrated that schools with these trained mathematics coaches have
impressive improvements in mathematics achievement.
It is common practice for schools in
Iowa to have specialists in literacy, but few have mathematics
specialists. Recently, few schools in Iowa have begun to hire
mathematics coaches. However, there is no training or licensure
required -- a good teacher is often just assigned the position. The intent
may be right, however, knowledge of the curriculum, content knowledge of
mathematics, and pedagogical content knowledge is often lacking. The
Department of Education needs to determine appropriate qualifications
for licensure of mathematics specialists. All elementary schools need to
be strongly encouraged to have at least one trained mathematics
specialist in each building. Schools that have been identified as
Schools In Need Of Assistance (SINA) in mathematics should be required
to have a mathematics specialist with licensure.
Recommendation Three:
A coherent professional development program for mathematics should be
developed and required for a team of teachers and administrators from
each district with an implementation plan for the other mathematics
teachers in their district that encourages collaboration of teachers.
Research has established that
professional development is one of the most cost-effective ways to
improve achievement. Beginning with the State Systemic Initiative grants
in the 1990s, many other states have implemented state-wide professional
development for mathematics with high levels of participation.
Iowa's first state-wide effort in
mathematics didn't happen until ten years later. But most of Iowa
teachers have not participated yet. Professional development that is
consistent with Every Student Counts and the Iowa Core need to be
provided for all mathematics teachers at all levels and should include
at least one teacher from each school building in the state in the near
future.
This professional develop should also
inform local efforts, with schools providing time and flexibility in
scheduling so teachers can develop professional learning communities
that include collaboration in planning, use of formative assessment,
increasing content knowledge, visiting other mathematics classrooms both
in and out of their district, data analysis, and reflection about
teaching and learning mathematics.
Recommendation Four:
Schools should be strongly encouraged to teach mathematics at least 60
minutes each school day for all students K-12.
There is well-documented research
that shows opportunity to learn is directly related to achievement. Over
the past twenty years there has been a growing trend for schools across
the country to spend more time teaching mathematics. It is common for
schools to spend at least 60 minutes a day on mathematics instruction
throughout the country.
In contrast, few Iowa schools teach
mathematics that many minutes per day. A related concern is the number
and types of interruptions (announcements, pull-outs, etc.) that are
allowed to disrupt the learning process. Many, if not most middle
schools in Iowa, a crucial time in learning mathematics, have expanded
their total curriculum and now have class periods that are often only
42-45 minutes per day. It is difficult for these schools to compete with
the achievement in other schools where students are getting one-third to
one-half more learning time each day. |