Monthly Archives: February 2015

The False Assumptions of Common Core and PARCC

PARCC practice test question

You are probably aware that Common Core testing started last week in a state-wide rollout in Ohio. For our state, it was the implementation of the PARCC test (Partnership Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers). Even if your state didn’t give the PARCC test, if you live in a state which has adopted the Common Core standards, your child may very well be receiving a very similar round of testing.

 

The Common Core math textbooks have been in schools for several years now, spreading as the accepted “new” way to teach math and adopted by many schools nationwide. As this way of teaching math has become more prevalent, parents have started speaking out.

 

As a parent—and educator, and professional—I try to keep an open mind to change. Just because we have always done things a certain way doesn’t mean that there isn’t something better out there—but it also doesn’t mean that the change isn’t for the worse either. Either way, when a change is implemented, we need to be able to look at the effects and objectively analyze the results, then make necessary adjustments.

 

But sometimes we just get change for the sake of change.

 

I have tried to rationalize the concept of Common Core math, and I absolutely embrace the need for teaching students to think critically; however, I have not been able to figure out how on earth Common Core math even comes remotely close to meeting its lofty goal of raising the standard. In fact, I’m pretty sure it does the opposite.

 

So, let’s take a look at an example question from the PARCC practice test for third graders:

Cindy is finding the quotient 27 / 9. She says, “The answer is 18 because addition is the opposite of division and 9 + 18 = 27.”
Part A: Identify the incorrect reasoning in Cindy’s statement. Enter your explanation in the space provided.
Part B: Show or explain how Cindy can correct her reasoning. Find the quotient when 27 is divided by 9. Enter your answer and your work or your explanation in the space provided.

 

Honestly, it is hard for me to know where to start. Not with solving the math problem, but with pointing out all the things that are wrong and inappropriate about this question.

 

Common Core is negatively reinforcing math concepts.

 

First of all, the wording of this question is not directly asking the child to solve the math problem—or find the quotient—with the correct quotient actually being the answer. Instead, the math problem is posed with a hypothetical Cindy getting the wrong answer, based on faulty reasoning. Let’s think about this for a second. Why are we even posing questions that have misinformation in them to students? This can be a very destructive way to teach. I can guarantee that a small percentage of students will pick up on the phrase “addition is the opposite of division” and will remember this, even though it is explained in the question as “incorrect reasoning.”

 

Let me give you an example of the selective hearing that will lead to some students gleaning the incorrect statement of “addition is the opposite of division.” The other day, my third grade son came home from school and asked to play on his ipad. I told him that he could after he had a snack and did his homework. He came over and ate his snack, then went to the living room to play his ipad. I reminded him that he needed to do his homework first. His response was, “but you said I could play my ipad.” Does this scenario sound familiar to any other parent out there? Sometimes kids hear what they want to hear… maybe they only listen carefully to part of what is being said… maybe it was because that was the last part of the sentence and it stuck with him… who knows, but it is not out of the question to think that a third grader, who is just learning multiplication and division might get confused by the wording of this question. Perhaps, an older student, who has a more firm grasp of multiplication and division would be a better group of students to present “incorrect reasoning” questions to.
Second, let’s look at what the actual question is asking the student to do: “Part A: Identify the incorrect reasoning in Cindy’s statement. Enter your explanation in the space provided.” Now, the test is actually reinforcing the incorrect reasoning by asking students to only identify the incorrect reasoning and enter it in the space provided—this part of the question is not explicitly asking the student to explain why it is wrong. It is not until Part B of the question that the student is asked to identify how Cindy can correct her reasoning. Finally, the second action item of Part B asks the student to solve the math problem of 27 divided by 9 to find the quotient.

 

Let’s make sure we are keeping this straight. The student is reinforced of faulty information in the wording of the question and then asked to identify and explain the incorrect reasoning—two times being negatively reinforced—before being asked to come up with correct reasoning as to how to solve the problem and finally coming up with the quotient.  So the tests are not positively reinforcing that a child know the correct answer, but are negatively reinforcing the concept if they don’t now why hypothetical Cindy got the question wrong.  Hmmmm…

 

My suggestion for better wording for this question for a third grader: Find the quotient 27 / 9. Show all your work or explain how you got your answer. The wording of this question asks the student to solve the math problem, positively reinforcing the concept. Asking a student to show all work or explain how they got the answer will give the teacher (or test grader) an idea of the student’s reasoning.

 

But let’s be honest, math is numbers, not writing essays. If a third grader can solve basic math facts correctly, time and time again, I don’t really think the explanation is necessary because getting a correct answer indicates that a student has basic understanding of the concept. So if the student can come up with the quotient of 3 for this question, but is unable to identify hypothetical little Cindy’s faulty reasoning or explain what she can do to correct her reasoning, do we say this student missed the question? How much credit does the student get for arriving at the correct answer, but failing to come up with a satisfactory essay for the other parts of the question? Did the teacher fail to teach multiplication and division if the student cannot come up with an adequate essay answer? Is this fairly evaluating a teacher’s ability to convey math concepts?

 

Reasoning for how to solve 27 divided by 9 and identifying strategies to do so is what goes on during classroom instruction. Really, the only person in a third grade classroom that needs to be able to identify Cindy’s incorrect reasoning and figure out what she needs to do differently, is the teacher. The TEACHER.

 

Finally, the computerized implementation of these tests assumes that all students are fully computer literate, able to seamlessly navigate between screens and understand all button functionality. I think it is safe to say that it would be a pretty accomplished feat for a third grader to be able to type with correct finger placement, let alone expecting them to toggle back and forth with the math symbol keys at the side or knowing when to flag a question for review.

 

Teaching students how to use a computer is great—and should definitely be a part of their education, integrated throughout the years, but why must we place even more pressure on students by making this the basis for high stakes testing?

 

I know there are some people out there that think something along the lines of “What’s the big deal? I was tested when I was a kid. We want to raise the standard, don’t we?” Yes, of course we want to raise the standard. Yes, standardized tests have been around for a very long time. But Common Core and PARCC are different.

 

The purpose of the PARCC testing is also different than typical standardized tests. In the past, standardized tests have been given to students every few years to benchmark education. When fully implemented, some students will be tested 12 times during a school year, which will consume several days and take 18-24 hours away from necessary classroom instruction, not to mention test prep time. The purpose, according to PARCC’s website is to now assess students, several times a year: “The PARCC states’ high quality assessments will allow parents and educators to see how children are progressing in school and whether they are on track for postsecondary success. The PARCC assessment also provides teachers with the ability to identify students who may be falling behind and need extra help.”

 

So is PARCC is telling us is that teachers do not know how to do their jobs? A teacher’s ability to assess a student throughout the year and keep them progressing is a pretty basic teaching skill. Why do we need these high stakes tests—putting unnecessary pressure on students and teachers? Why are so many teachers remaining silent when they disagree with Common Core and PARCC? Because their jobs are being threatened. So where are the unions? Why aren’t they standing up for the teachers?

 

If Common Core and high stakes testing are not acceptable or beneficial to a child’s educational process, let’s repeal them and give control back to the states and allow teachers to do what they do best—teach.

19 Action News Picked Up Our Efforts to Repeal Common Core and PARCC

Last week, I had the opportunity to talk to Reporter Dan DeRoos about concerns that parents (and teachers) here in Ohio are having regarding Common Core and PARCC testing.

I am also very happy to report that since starting the petition to repeal Common Core and PARCC just two weeks ago, we have received over 2500 signatures! If you are interested in signing and sharing, here is a direct link to the PETITION. Let’s continue to send a message, loud and clear, to our legislators that we want higher standards in education and accountability, but Common Core and PARCC are NOT the way to accomplish those goals. We need to allow teachers to teach students, not perpetually be in test-prep mode.

I have written a couple of articles on this subject lately:
The Cost of Common Core and PARCC: An Open Letter to Parents and Legislators
The Big Business of Education: Breaking Down the Dollars Behind Common Core and PARCC

Healthy Chocolate No-Bake Cookie Bars

Healthy No Bake Cookie Bars

 

Sometimes you just crave something a little sweet, without having to worry about the guilt of eating something fattening or unhealthy.  These no-bake cookie bars are absolutely delicious!  And they are healthy too– no preservatives and made using all-natural ingredients.

I am happy to say that these cookie bars have the seal of approval from my kids… and you know when your kids enjoy eating something, it is truly good.  I love the fact that I can give my kids a sweet treat in their lunch, that is healthy too.

Healthy No-Bake Cookie Bars

  • Servings: 2 dozen cookie bars
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of nut butter (peanut or almond)
  • 1/3 cup raw honey
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil (melted)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup raw cacao powder (cocoa or carob)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups oatmeal

Mix together in a bowl: nut butter, raw honey, melted coconut oil, and vanilla.

Add dry ingredients and mix evenly.

Cover a cookie sheet with a piece of wax paper.  Pour mixture onto wax paper and spread out evenly, using spatula, until about 1/4 inch thick.

Place in freezer for 30 minutes, until mixture is firmly set.  Remove from freezer and cut into bars.

Store in airtight container and keep in the refrigerator.

You may be thinking, if these are made of healthy ingredients, then they must be super expensive to make.  And while they are a bit more expensive to make than regular cookies, the difference is really not that much… and making them is much cheaper than buying healthy energy bars.

It costs about $6.50 for the ingredients used in these no-bake cookies, so only about $3.25 per dozen.  Yes, you can make regular no-bake cookies for probably about half the cost, but those cookies are loaded with sugar and butter.  Make the healthy choice… you will be glad you did!

Enjoy!

 

 

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The Reason No Woman Should Have Blonde Hair. Ever.

 Path1

 

If you don’t live in a bubble, you have probably heard about the great debate over what attire is appropriate for a woman to wear in public in order for a man to not have lustful thoughts. The arguments in this area are mainly comprised of how leggings or yoga pants, being form fitting, or how sleeveless shirts or dresses, that reveal a woman’s shoulders, can cause a man to have lustful thoughts.

 

From experience, I have one more thing that should be added to the list of lust-invoking thought catalysts: blonde hair. Yes, blonde hair.

 

Probably the most eye-opening, blatant statement anyone ever made to me was about my blonde hair. When I first became a manager, my superior told me that the guys on my team wouldn’t listen to me because they were too busy wanting to sleep with me. He suggested that in order to be taken seriously, I should dye my hair brown.

 

What? WHAT?!  Why on earth would he say that? What made him think that the men in the office wanted to sleep with me because I had blonde hair? I worked hard to get that promotion. I was good at sales and could teach others. Wouldn’t my team listen to me because I knew what I was doing?

 

If I dyed my hair brown would that make me smarter? Would it enable me in some way to do my job better? Would brown hair actually somehow make men hear what I had to say? I am ashamed to admit that I almost bought into his comments. I did actually dye my hair darker blonde for a while. I figured that I would try to make my hair darker gradually. My husband didn’t like it though.

 

Then it occurred to me. Why in the world was I trying to change myself anyways? Why was I the one responsible for the alleged lustful thoughts of male co-workers? So I went back to my regular blonde hair. As a manager, I trained employees in group settings and individually. I took over a team that was not doing well, in fact, dead last in the company, and within a year, we were number one in the company. Believe it or not, I was able to accomplish this even with my blonde hair.

 

Being totally honest here, I have reasons as to why women should not wear blue silk blouses, white pants, or dress-length trench coats because they invoke lustful thoughts in men. I won’t go into those stories because this is a family-friendly article, you’ll just have to trust me when I say that these wardrobe choices elicited some rather inappropriate, lustful commentary. So let’s add those to the list of banned items as well.

 

It is not my intention to ridicule anyone’s personal decision to wear jeans rather than leggings for the sake of modesty. I firmly believe that as women, and for me personally, as a Christian, we should dress in a manner that is respectful of our own bodies. If we demand respect, we will get respect, right? As the mother of three boys, I appreciate a movement for women to dress modestly. That teaches our sons that it is not okay for society to sexualize women; similarly, it teaches our daughters that gaining affection from a man should not be based on merely being able to attract attention with provocative attire. We should all be praising modesty, lest we end up with more Miley Cyruses, scantily clad, twerking and grinding with large foam fingers.

 

But what if the list of “do-not-wear-this” is not enough? I mean, we could probably keep adding to it until almost nothing is deemed appropriate, except maybe for sweatpants and sweatshirts. And even then, there may be some sweatshirt-lusting men out there. So what’s the answer?

 

The Bible warns men against adultery and lust; likewise, it directs women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety. Each has a responsibility to act in accordance with God’s word.

 

Men:

“Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes.”  Psalm 6:25

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”  I John 2:15-17

 

Women:

“I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.”  I Timothy 2:9-10

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”  I Peter 3:3-4

 

So does this mean that I have to give up leggings, yoga pants, blonde hair, silk blouses, white pants, or any other item that could remotely have the possibility of spurring a lustful thought for a man? No. It is a man’s responsibility to have control over his thoughts and control his desires. It is my responsibility, however, to use good judgment when it comes to my wardrobe choices.