Much like the runways of Paris with its changing fashion trends, the world of education follows trends as well. Educators cringe when they hear “No Child Left Behind” some ten years beyond its advent. Now, the phrases “Common Core” and “Student Learning Objectives” have teachers seeing red. However, despite the latest and greatest trends to boost student achievement, the very same students in the United States continue to underperform on a global scale in Mathematics. In 2012, the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) bore out results that “29 nations and jurisdictions outperformed the United States by a statistically significant margin,” (Heiten, 2013). In order for our students to rise to a position high on the performance scale of nations, students must master the basics in all subjects, but more specifically in the area of Mathematics. In an effort to develop students with a deeper understanding of mathematical and language and reading concepts, forty-five states (my home state of Maryland being one of them) and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core Standards, a system of expected benchmarks for students in grades K-12. According to the Common Core State Standards Initiative website, the standards “define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers so that they will graduate high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs,” (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2014). The local statistics mirror the national data. Both present conditions which are symptomatic of a larger systemic problem; American students are not mastering mathematical concepts at any level. The learning environment is a fourth grade inclusion classroom in a neighborhood school in the suburban Washington, D.C. (Maryland) area. Students in the class are differently abled. The class has students with Individualized Learning Plans (IEP) to accommodate varying needs from Asperger’s Syndrome to mild intellectual disabilities. There are also students who have been tested and identified as Talented and Gifted (TAG), as well as on grade level learners. Students are taught in whole group, differentiated small groups, and occasional pull out sessions with specialists. Current Conditions
There are twenty-one students in the fourth grade inclusion classroom. All students took a standardized unit test in October 2013 that tested the Common Core Standards taught in the first quarter of the 2013-2014 school year. Of these, Standard 4.OA.B - Find all factor pairs for a whole number in the range 1–100. Recognize that a whole number is a multiple of each of its factors. Determine whether a given whole number in the range 1–100 is a multiple of a given one-digit number. Determine whether a given whole number in the range 1–100 is prime or composite, (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2014), only 20% scored at a level of “proficient” on standardized (MUST Test Result Data, 2013). The lack of proficiency in this standard is symptomatic of the underlying condition I have encountered; students have not yet mastered basic multiplication facts. Without mastery of basic multiplication facts 0-12, students are unable to manipulate and perform operations on fractions and decimals and subsequent pre-algebra concepts in the latter half of fourth grade and continuing into following grades through high school.
The current conditions for the fourth grade class is at 20% of students who have performed at a “proficient” level of mastery in basic mathematical facts. This is equivalent to a grade of 80%, or a “B”, in traditional percentage and letter grading systems used in the US. The desired state of performance is the inverse of the current statistics; 80% should have mastery at a level of proficient or advanced and 20% performing at minimal or below grade level standards....
References: National Governors Association Center for Best Practices & Council of Chief State School Officers. (2010). Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. Washington, DC: Author.
Heitin, L. (2013). U.S. achievement stalls as other nations make gains [Electronic version]
Education Week. Retrieved January 10, 2014 from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/12/03/14pisa.h33.html?tkn=TVOFK6Cf%2F8yE Ou9QtmrZ7A2yUM0KFGZKxTBY&cmp=clp-edweek
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