Greetings from Nashville, where I’ve been attending the 67th annual conference of the Education Writers Association.
Among the hottest topics: the Common Core.
Speakers at a variety of sessions have passionately dissected the pros and cons of the new set of learning standards, which Washington and 43 other states have agreed to use.
On one end of the spectrum, Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, predicted the Common Core’s demise, while at the other, Jemelleh Coes, Georgia’s teacher of the year, said it would absolutely improve student achievement.
One of the most interesting speakers was William Schmidt, a professor of mathematics and education at Michigan State University, who supports the Common Core but sees a lot of pitfalls in how schools are putting it into place.
One of Schmidt’s big concerns: the many textbooks that say they’ve aligned to the Common Core, but Schmidt says are not.
Schmidt said he and his colleagues have analyzed about 700 math textbooks and found just two that, grade by grade, follow the path that the Common Core sets out.
In grades three and four, for example, most math textbooks devote just half the time to fractions that Common Core experts recommend, he said.
And in one commonly used textbook, he said, a little more than a quarter of the Common Core standards aren’t covered at all.
Since educators shouldn’t be expected to create all their own materials, he said, that’s a problem. If educators follow the textbooks, he said, they will fail to prepare their students for the new Common Core tests that are under development. Washington state was part of a field test of those exams in March and will start giving the new tests to all students next spring.
Schmidt declined to name the two textbooks that he believes are Common Core aligned, saying that, as a researcher, he didn’t want to be seen as promoting one book over another. But he said he is advising at least one group that will come out with some specific recommendations soon.