I was the opening speaker at NCTM last night and I had a wonderful event. First of all, I sat next to a smart middle-school teacher from Wellesley, Massachusetts, and we talked about the problems of the Common Core standards and about Wellesley in the spring. She told me that she wasn’t sure that even her students–who live in an affluent suburb of Boston–will be able to handle the expectations of the CC standards. I asked her, if they can’t, who will? The problem, as I later told the audience, is that these standards have never been field tested. But more about that on another post.
When I got up to speak, I suddenly realized that I was utterly awestruck: Everyone in the room was a math teacher! That meant that everyone in the room was really smart, much smarter than I! I did well in math in high school, but I always considered myself an English & history person. So, of course, I am awestruck in the presence of 2,000 or more math teachers.
I talked about what historians and mathematicians have in common: respect for evidence. And I went through the popular reforms of our day, none of which has a solid base of evidence, and some of which have a long record of failure (the most obvious example of a policy that fails and fails and fails is merit pay).
It was altogether a terrific event. I got an 8:30 train back to New York City, couldn’t find a taxi so took a subway home to Brooklyn, and got home about 11 pm. I was too tired to make dinner. But satisfied that another 2,000 people, really smart, really engaged people, understand what is at stake today in the struggle to save public education from oblivion and bad ideas.