All states across the United States require standards that must be met in different subjects by specific grades, especially in reading and math. End of year testing is required for specific grades to ensure schools and students are meeting these standards.
The concern is that states, including the Arizona schools, are trying to teach everything at once to students, with teachers losing the ability to teach the important math concepts in depth. Otherwise, students are learning a little about everything (just enough to pass state tests) but not enough to actually use in the real world.
Many educators in the Arizona schools are concerned that they are being forced to teach for testing, rather than real in-depth learning that is needed in higher grades and college.
For example, the Arizona schools require second graders to know 77 math concepts by the end of that grade. That is a lot of concepts, and teachers are given no guidance from the Arizona schools on which concepts are the most important. That means that equal importance is given to all, and all must be sufficiently taught. In order to do this, Arizona schools would need to create mandatory day-by-day lesson plans, which they have not done.
The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics is a highly influential organization, whose recommendations are followed by most educators. Almost all math textbooks for kindergarten through eighth grade reference the council, also aligning with their recommendations.
In a report released in September, the council agrees with many Arizona schools educators that the state is trying to cover too much within one year, noting that some states require even more.
Council Executive Director Jim Rubillo points out that too many mandatory math concepts taught means very little in-depth learning by the students. They may be able to pass a test at the end of the year, but it is doubtful that many students will carry the concepts into higher learning without the repetition and in-depth instruction required. Too many concepts to teach leaves no time for in-depth instruction.
The council also released new recommendations for curriculum focal points. The recommendations narrow the focus to just three math concepts at each grade level with all instruction for each grade built around them. The council hopes states will enter into a discussion on this issue and consider their recommendations.
The Arizona schools begin revision of their math standards next spring and are considering the council’s recommendations, according to Mary Knuck, state director of standards for the Arizona schools. If the Arizona schools follow the council’s recommendations, it would mean a major overhaul of their current standards and testing methods.
The real challenge for Arizona schools teachers currently is not the vast array of standards that must be taught; however, the real challenge is to teach math for both real world applications and standardized testing. It must make sense in the real world, or it is wasted. Yet, Arizona schools students must be able to have instant recall in order to answer state test questions correctly. Hopefully, the council and the Arizona schools can together make more sense of the crucial math standards for the Arizona schools.