Now that Common Core or its look-alike math standards have been implemented in almost every state, the signs of failure are ominous.

Math scores on the ACT fell this year.

From Education Week:

*The newest batch of ACT scores shows troubling long-term declines in performance, with students’ math achievement reaching a 20-year low, according to results released Wednesday.*

*
*The average math score for the graduating class of 2018 was 20.5, marking a steady decline from 20.9 five years ago, and virtually no progress since 1998, when it was 20.6. Each of the four sections of the college-entrance exam is graded on a 36-point scale.

“We’re at a very dangerous point. And if we do nothing, it will keep on declining,” ACT’s chief executive officer, Marten Roorda, said in an interview.

*The pattern in math scores is particularly worrisome at a time when strong math skills are important for the science, engineering, and technology jobs that play powerful roles in the U.S. economy, he said.*

Matt Larson, the immediate past president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, said the math scores “are extremely disappointing, but not entirely unexpected.”

Please review the outrageous claims of advocates for the Common Core. It was supposed to raise achievement across the board for all students; it was supposed to close achievement gaps.

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More DEFORMS. I hope there is a special place in “hell” for them…for all the pain the deformers have caused.

Reblogged this on David R. Taylor-Thoughts on Education and commented:

Not really a surprise since we don’t teach math anymore. We just teach calculator skills and not how to think through the problems. Nauseating! There is very little expectation that students learn how to do the calculations.

As you well know, Diane, all fault is due to implementation.

ROFLM*O

Without any statistical analysis, the decline cannot be analyzed. Is this a significant drop? Was the rise since 1998 a significant rise? At the very least, what is the standard deviation?

Exactly. That and how many kids are now taking the ACT? Does this drop have anything to do with the fact that more and more states are making it a graduation requirement, thus mandating that all students take it, not just college-bound students?

This is certainly the case in Tennessee. Here not only is every child required to take ACT, school scores are integrated into the evaluation of the schools.

The number of students appears to have been climbing rapidly from 2012 (and possibly several years prior) to 2016, and has trailed off a bit in the following two years. See the image below.

Frankly when you look at the trendline of scores, they look flat more than anything, particularly viewed against the increase in the number of students taking the test.

Assuming this is apples-to-apples comparison, this is damning and should expose the fraudulence of the professors of math education who concocted Common Core math.

“We’re at a very dangerous point. And if we do nothing, it will keep on declining.”

Or it might stop declining. Or it might even increase. Frankly we have no idea whether we need to do anything.

What do we know about the students who have taken the ACT in the past versus now. Comparable students? Or, has the ACT test taking population increased and now includes students with less preparation?

That has also been a concern about the SAT’s (rewriting for Common Core aside) – that a larger, less prepared population has been taking the SAT’s. Not being in the high school classroom for many years, I am not sure of the impact of Common Core on these scores…..Sharon, can you enlighten me?

I doubt the scores will keep declining, unless education and politics continue to be highly fractious or our culture continues to decline, both of which are very possible, but most likely for a very limited time.

INNUMERACY is a REAL ISSUE these DAZE. I read a chapter book written for young people and there were blatant NUMERACY issues. My husband just SHOOK HIS HEAD. So did I.

Yep. We make a scale map of my classroom in geography, and not only do I have to now teach kids how to read a ruler, but I also have to put up a list of common decimal to fraction ratios (such as .25= one quarter inch) so that they can actually get the correct measurements. These are high school freshmen.

Yeah, we don’t need ACT scores to tell us Common Core math is not working. Why would we expect it to work? There were no successful trial studies that I’m aware of.

There were no trials of Common Core. None. Neither successful nor unsuccessful. None.

Thank you for all of those that have already posted many of the thoughts in my head. One of the common reactions of education policy analysts (even Dr. Ravitch who I have tons of respect for) is to take data and immediately apply causation (ie ACT scores are down – must be the Common Core). Kudos to all of you who noted that this could be because more kids are taking the ACT or even are being forced to take the ACT. Or there could be multiple other reasons. The same thing happens when someone shares that at School X test scores jumped 60% over a given year (well, why was that? Were there other things in place, like better support, longer school hours, etc).

Or are scores usually stastical quirks that mean nothing? I tend to go with Diane’s point originally: we embarked on the path of testing and reform because of supposed test scores. Now we have test score decline, so we should junk what all of us knew was a farce and go to,some solutions us teachers know will work. Smaller classes, wrap around programs for those who need support, and a host of other expensive solutions are the only way.

Agreed.

The sky is falling, the sky is falling, the sky is falling. . . . . . !

haaaaaa haaa haa hee hee oh that is good

About ten years ago, a study by the NEA showed that 60-something percent of American adults couldn’t calculate a 10 percent tip, even though all they had to do was move the decimal place. This after almost ALL OF THEM had had K12 math through intro Geometry and Algebra. CC$$ has made this even worse.

When do we learn? When? This slays me. It really does.

of course

Here’s the bad news: These ACT sample math problems appear to be written on a 9th grade level. Nothing at all requiring deep understanding, as advertised by CC cheerleaders. All those problem solving and 21st century critical thinking skills that were promised? How is it that most college educated adults from my generation would have no trouble solving these relatively simple math items without the benefit of Common Core instruction? What a joke.

http://www.act.org/content/act/en/products-and-services/the-act/test-preparation/math-practice-test-questions.html?page=0&chapter=0

The residue of test-and-shame reform: test-prep leaves college bound students ill prepared to apply simple math.

What exactly is “ninth grade level math”? Do all high school kids take the same math classes at the same time in the same order?

At my high school (granted, I rode my dinosaur in those days), once you’d reached pre-req levels for general math (which could happen anywhere between seventh grade and junior year), you could start on subject-specific math like Algebra, Algebra II, Geometry, Trig, Calc, etc. Kids didn’t necessarily take those classes in the same order or the same years. A junior might just be starting on Algebra I, or might be up to Calculus. Any of those kids could still be college-bound. So what level and what area(s) of math should be expected for the ACT?

Dienne,

Might not a better question be “Why even worry about or take the ACT?”

If you ride a dinosaur, I rode….nothing. Just walked.

Kids’ ability to do abstract reasoning develops quite late (for most children; there are exceptions, ofc). You can do rote memorization of math facts with younger ones. But we would have MUCH more success with math instruction if, for most children, we waited on most of it until they were quite a bit older and had the cognitive tools for abstract thought. If we did that, they would learn more in a year than they do now in twelve. The parts of the prefrontal cortex that do very abstract reasoning don’t even start to develop in most kids until around the age of 14 and are not completely in place until their mid 20s. Asking third graders to contemplate “the concept of the variable” is like asking a fish to climb a tree. Dumb. We would be much better served to do lots and lots of exercises with kids on pattern recognition in the early years, to help speed along that building of the requisite internal hardwiring. What we are doing is not working, but what we do HAS NEVER WORKED. Most American adults have always been basically innumerate. This is why.

WHEN DO WE LEARN? How stupid to keep doing over and over and over again, variations on what has ALWAYS been an utter, abject FAILURE!!!

The trend to push higher level algebra concepts in to lower grades, instead of getting elementary students really solid in basic arithmetic, is not working. Again too many concepts, too much scattered learning, weakens their grip on the basics.

Yes. Of course it does.

We should do, with most kids, at the early ages, very little mathematics, and all of this very basic kind–multiplication facts, basic algorithms. But mostly, they should do pattern recognition activities. Then, when they get to be fourteen or so, we start teaching them real math, not the crap we’ve been teaching them, once they can actually grok it. https://www.maa.org/external_archive/devlin/LockhartsLament.pdf

But, ofc, for those who can grok it from the early ages–those rare geniuses, whom we know, in this field, exist–we should have a separate track taught by very, very highly trained real mathematicians. All kids are important. But those kids–we really need to identify them and give them what they need. A LOT depends upon that. The identification of genius. But in our current system, with its one-size-fits-all approach, a kid can have perfect pitch, say, and go through 13 years of schooling and never have this recognized by anyone. We need to identify our Ramanujans.

On point Caligirl!

Maybe the pendulum will eventually swing to a ‘back-to-basics’ approach. Hopefully sooner rather than later as it is sorely needed. The adults in charge apparently missed their lesson on Piaget’s theory of cognitive development. Basic arithmetic, memorized addition and multiplication facts, fractions/percents/decimal equivalencies, the simplest algebra, coordinate graphing, and basic geometry by the end of 8th grade.

The problem is the swinging pendulum never stops in the middle where it should be. Back to basics and just pure memorization of facts isn’t ideal for developing understanding behind the memorized steps just as focusing on understanding the steps doesn’t help with fluency. The true answer is a combination of both of these within one class, and not just one over the other. If you asked me in Grade 4 why I “carried the one” when I added 95+27, I probably couldn’t answer that the “one” really represented one set of 10’s. I just knew the procedure. Both fluency and understanding are needed within reason.

Less understanding than you think in terms of “why”. Much more understanding is needed in “how” (application). The real reason that most students don’t like math is not because they suck at it, but because it is pointless. And the way math standards and curricula have been developed it really is a pointless manipulation of numbers via strict rules (orders of operation, algorithms). Even kids who are strong math students only find meaning in their good grades. One of the great ironies of K to 12 education is the fact that math instruction has undermined the actual values of numbers. I teach quantitative sciences (chemistry and physics), and student’s inability to understand the meaning of numbers becomes all too obvious.

I’ll admit up front I’m no expert – my entire experience is based on my daughters’ school’s approach to teaching math – but I’m not sure I agree with you. The kids I’ve seen at their school are very much capable of understanding abstract ideas in math, just not the formulaic ways such ideas are presented in typical high school level classes like Algebra.

From the beginning they’ve been allowed to play with math, explore it, and understand it as a way to understand the world and solve problems. My kids are now in fourth and sixth grades and I’m amazed with what they can do with math and the kinds of problems they’re dealing with – algebra, geometry, etc. Now, granted, every one of them would give you a blank expression if you tried to explain something like the quadratic equation (as would I for that matter, and I dutifully learned it in eighth grade algebra many moons ago), but the problems they’re working on and the way they’re approaching them are definitely in the realm of algebra.

This is an idea that I have tried and failed to get anyone to think about at all seriously for a long, long time. It’s difficult to get people to suspend disbelief even long enough to consider whether what I am proposing has any plausibility at all. I’ve wondered why this is so. Often, I think, there’s a “Clever Hans” phenomenon going on–people think that they’ve seen CONCEPTUAL understanding when they’ve seen someone carry out a concrete operation that he or she has managed to learn when that understanding isn’t really there. To give a simple example, most people think that they “understand” the difference between big numbers like a million, a billion, and a trillion, but when I tell them that a million is the number of seconds in11.5 days, whereas a trillion is the number of seconds in 31,709.79 years, this is a surprise to them. And even a number like 31,709.79 is difficult for many to grasp intuitively unless I give them very concrete notions to hang onto (e.g., that’s before humans learned how to bake unleavened bread, more than three times as long as from now back to the earliest agriculture, over twice as long as between now and the first human habitation of the North and South American Continents, ten times as long as between now and the beginnings of ancient Egypt, etc). Even adults often struggle with fairly simple conceptual mathematical notions. Ask them to set up a fully automatic, or algorithmic, procedure and they will come up with one that isn’t–that sometimes works, that has major lacunae, or gaps, etc. When I tell people that a recent large-scale study showed an 85 percent decline in flying insect populations since 1975 or that another study has shown a 58 percent decline in wild vertebrate populations worldwide during the same period, they don’t seem to get at all what those numbers “85 percent” and “58 percent” really mean–how breathtaking they are, and how very, very serious. But when I explain that for every 10 flying insects that existed 50 years ago, there are now only between 1 and 2, it starts to dawn on them how very weird and frightening this is. Why? There’s little genuine conceptual understanding of these matters.

lol. cx: about 40 years ago

According to the OECD Skills Outlook 2013, 67.0 percent of American adults are not able to do simple calculations involving common decimals, percents, and fractions; simple measurement and spatial representations;

estimation; or interpretation of relatively simple data and statistics in texts, tables, and graphs. This is failure. Two thirds of American adults, almost all of whom have had many years of math instruction in our PreK-12 schools, can’t do even very simple math. And they hate math. That’s the main thing they’ve learned from their math studies in school. If you were following a recipe and two-thirds of the time the meal turned out INEDIBLE, you would think that you would start looking for a completely different recipe.

Bob

Loved your idea and decided to play with it:

One million dollar$ > 100 wallets, each containing $10,000

One billion dollars > 1,000 wallets, each containing $1,000,000

One trillion dollar$ > 100,000 wallets, each containing $10,000,000

Tune in to a Michigan home football game; look at the aerial view of the stands. Now imagine every person with ten million dollars in their wallet. Gives a whole new understanding to a trillion dollars of US debt.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjZ4fr-hpHeAhXpct8KHS6YCOsQjRx6BAgBEAU&url=https%3A%2F%2Fdetroit.cbslocal.com%2F2015%2F08%2F07%2Fmichigan-stadium-reduces-capacity-to-107601%2F&psig=AOvVaw2bYyuJ8rWV2vrcCi4-Ii-O&ust=1539988558133554

When?

Not being a very good seer I can’t answer that question. But I do know what Ackhoff said goes:

Doing the Wrong Thing Righter

The proliferation of educational assessments, evaluations and canned programs belongs in the category of what systems theorist Russ Ackoff describes as “doing the wrong thing righter. The righter we do the wrong thing,” he explains, “the wronger we become. When we make a mistake doing the wrong thing and correct it, we become wronger. When we make a mistake doing the right thing and correct it, we become righter. Therefore, it is better to do the right thing wrong than the wrong thing right.”

Yes. Pull aside the young Gausses and give them special training from the beginning. But for most kids, freaking wait on this stuff until they have the tools for the job.

We put them through 13 years of math, and a few years later, they’ve forgotten almost all of it. All the studies of American adults’ mathematical abilities have ALWAYS shown this. It may be a little worse now. The long-term outcomes may be a little worse now, but they have ALWAYS BEEN TERRIBLE. There was no golden age in which American adults were mostly numerate. This should have long, long ago given people pause and made them rethink their approach FUNDAMENTALLY.

Incredible, so to write, incredible. I’m sure that’s quite accurate. Development, developmental plateaus, hurdles and curves. The growth mindset doesn’t make up for ignorance of reality, of wiring, of appropriate growth and progress.

Incredible.

By the Average ACT Math Scores in the EdWeek article…

From 1998 to 2006, the ACT Math testing process operated stably and produced average scores within 0.13 points to either side of the process grand average score, 20.68.

Then around 2007, something changed the ACT Math testing process that made it operate unstably from 2007 through 2012, yet still produced higher average scores but only generally within approximately 0.05 points to either side of the process grand average score, 21.03.

Then around 2012, something changed the ACT Match testing process yet again, causing it to stably produce average scores that declined 0.089 points per year from 2012 through 2018.

The ACT Math testing process in 2018 produced the average score 20.5, the lowest in the history of the data given, 1998 through 2018.

If the ACT Math testing process remains unchanged and stable through 2019, the process can be expected to produce yet again the lowest test score in history, something around 20.4.

So, what caused the ACT Math testing process to experience very different change and behavior twice since 1998? Tampering, in the form of Common Core?

Most American adults are extremely math phobic. It’s long been a truism in publishing that you will kill the sales of a nonfiction book if you include any equations.

American adults are innumerate, for the most part, and they fear and loathe math. And this has ALWAYS been so. Why? Because we have always done it before the vast majority of them had the cognitive skills–the abstract reasoning skills–to grasp what is beautiful and fascinating in it. For them, it has been drudgery and misery. And what they’ve learned, or think they have learned, is that they are no good at it. That it’s some sort of magical ability that they don’t have.

Well, no. It’s a magical ability that most of them don’t have until the prefrontal cortex is largely developed, but by that time, it’s too late. Their WRONG-FROM-THE-START math education has already taught them that they are terrible at it and would rather have their teeth drilled than to do any of it.

And yet, for a freaking century, people have been screaming that American adults NOW aren’t any good at math and that the schools should buckle down and get more serious about forcing them to learn it. LOL. Oh the power of a foundational misunderstanding..

The real test is not how kids do on a high-school exit exam. It’s whether people like math and are any good at it when they are, say, 30. And for ALMOST ALL AMERICAN ADULTS it has ALWAYS been the case that on both measures, K12 math instruction has been a complete failure. You would think that such an incredibly obvious couple of facts would long ago have made people question their approach on a basic, foundational level.

What’s to lose by doing what I am proposing? Certainly, the long-term outcomes for MOST Americans could not be any worse. They are already. and have always been, just about as bad as you can get. Almost universal fundamental innumeracy and loathing of mathematics among adults.

My suggestion: Test regularly in the first few years from mathematical inclination/propensity. When kids have it, pull them aside for master classes. We desperately need to recognize and nurture those rare individuals. For the rest, wait until they are cognitively sophisticated enough for truly abstract reasoning, and along the way, do lots of pattern recognition exercises to hasten the development of those cognitive abilities. Math is patterns. But for most kids, as it is done now and has always been done, it just seems like a pointless moving about of symbols, as though they were being forced to spend enormous amounts of their lives copying rows of random, abstract, and mostly meaningless symbols from one set of columns to another following a lot of tedious rules for doings so.

At “Politically Georgia,” Maureen Downey says,

“In its annual benchmark report on college readiness released today, the ACT found only 40 percent of 2018 graduates who took the test — including Georgia teens — posted scores indicating they were ready for first-year college algebra.”

Her column also quoted more of the [behind paywall] EdWeek article: “Larson said that states have made solid progress adopting good math standards, but the ACT results suggest that schools need to focus on improving curriculum and instructional practice to bring those expectations fully to life. “As a country, we’ve reached the limits of what we can get out of standards alone,” he said. “We need to pay more attention to what is taking place in the classroom.”

More from Downey: “A few years back, I wrote about a study out of the University of California, Irvine, that challenged the practice of using games and hands-on activitives to develop math skills in young students. That 2014 study found traditional math instruction — what many call “drill and kill” — was more effective in helping young children struggling in math than group work, peer tutoring or hands-on activities that use manipulations, calculators, movement and music.

“What worked better for struggling students were teacher-directed activities, which researchers described as ‘using textbooks or worksheets, giving students lots of time to practice skills being modeled by the teacher, more explicit types of instruction.'”

That last part rang a bell w/me. I am math-challenged. Typical of many who do well w/logic [& later, very basic-level computer-programming], geometry was easy but algebra nearly impenetrable. It was thanks to my hisch algebra teacher, who spent hrs/wk w/me after school in “teacher-directed activities… [w/] lots of time to practice skills being modeled by the teacher” that I passed the NYS Algebra Regents. (Later as a Fr major/ Sp minor at an Ivy, I was not reqd to take math).

One of my sons inherited my weakness, & his jr-yr “practice HSPA” [then NJ’s hisch exit exam] predicted failure. So sr yr he was reqd to forego an elective in order to have back-to-back math classes, one of which was devoted to HSPA math practice. He passed. He did have to take math-for-artsies as a music major, & did fairly well. I loved his textbook “Mathematics: A Human Endeavor” (Jacobs), & kept it for my own use.

For all those decrying today’s mathless hisch grads & adults, I say, use it to learn it, & use it or lose it. I got quick at mental arithmetic & a number of basic algebraic operations in the decade I worked in purchasing for an engrg/ constr corp, & have retained those skills. What we are observing may be only partially related to stds/ curric/ pedagogy. DAILY USE teaches & inspires further learning. My not-very-math-y kids were quick to learn tip calculation cuz they delivered pizza. And got swift at budgeting/ gen math when they had to live on their earnings & pay taxes.

Ask almost any adult at random, unless you happen to work in a tech firm, and he or she will tell you, I’m not very good at math, and I really don’t like it. That “not very good” is usually a DRAMATIC understatement. And this has ALWAYS been so. Why? Because we start major instruction in mathematics before people are conceptually ready enough for it to have any SIGNIFICANCE to them. And so they go through the motions and hate it. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb now. Always was.

From the Ed Week article:

“The average math score for the graduating class of 2018 was 20.5, marking a steady decline from 20.9 five years ago, and virtually no progress since 1998, when it was 20.6.”

Seriously? The head of the ACT is whining about this? 20.5 versus 20.9? And then he comes up with this:

“ ‘We’re at a very dangerous point. And if we do nothing, it will keep on declining,’ ACT’s chief executive officer, Marten Roorda, said in an interview.”

We’re at a “dangerous point?” Maybe Marten has some issues.

Then, the Ed Week reporter (Catherine Gewertz, “a senior contributing writer”) says this:

“The pattern in math scores is particularly worrisome at a time when strong math skills are important for the science, engineering, and technology jobs that play powerful roles in the U.S. economy, he said.”

There it is. Again. STEM. The reporter says nothing about the glut in STEM jobs. Zero. Nor does the reporter mention the fact that the World Economic Forum now ranks the U.S. as the world’s most competitive economy. Yeah, it’s #1.

The World Economic Forum notes the challenges in the U.S.:

“American weaknesses include checks and balances, judicial independence and corruption. The U.S. lags behind most advanced economies on the health pillar…”

Guess who’s responsible for these deficiencies? Hint: It isn’t public schools.

More sloppy education reporting.

“More sloppy education reporting.”

Other than a few blogs that most of us here know about isn’t it more like “TYPICAL sloppy education reporting”?

The comments above are insightful. Here’s the beauty and ugliness of data: it’s so open to interpretation that anyone can make any case.

Can we all agree that data from standardized tests is overrated at best and meaningless at worst?

I’m so glad that test scores have been the driving force of ed reform. We made all of these changes to fail to move the needle. Oh, well. At least hedge funders got to make some money from continued mediocrity and failed “solutions.”

There is no doubt that in and of itself the DATA IS MEANINGLESS due to the many errors and falsehoods and psychometric fudgings that go into producing that data. No amount of human intervention and rumination about the data can ever make it other than MEANINGLESS.

Adding a few other possible contributors to the discussion: the increased prevalence of asking teachers to develop their own curriculum materials from downloaded, open educational resources (and a decreased reliance on well-developed, coherent instructional materials); an increased push to use unproven personalized learning programs for various purposes; and dramatic cuts to time and funding for mathematics professional development.

Bob Shepherd, such great comments! I’ve been reading them to others and I’ve printed them. Not that it’s so new, but the ideas are so well articulated and with such clean and heavy impact, part of which is due to them coming from such a credible source.