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CA needs better effort on Common Core math, says Ed Trust-West

Craig Clough | June 3, 2015

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mathCalifornia is woefully deficient in providing quality math education to low-income students and students of color and needs to make a better coordinated effort as it switches to the new Common Core State Standards in math (CCSSM), according to a new report from Education Trust-West.

Fifteen percent of low-income eighth-grade students in California earned proficient or better scores on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress math assessment, while 45 percent of their non–economically-disadvantaged peers achieved proficiency, the report points out. By race, 11 percent of African American and 15 percent of Latino eighth-grade students scored proficient or above, compared with 42 percent of white students and 61 percent of Asian students.

More support and coordination will be needed as the state transitions to the Common Core, the report stated. It also highlighted some “emerging best practices from districts that are working hard to implement Common Core math in a manner that ensures low-income students and students of color have opportunities to learn relevant, coherent mathematics.”

The report found some serious flaws in California’s approach to CCSSM, not the least of which are textbooks.

“While most new math textbooks are advertised to be ‘Common Core–aligned,’ few actually are, differing little from their previous editions,” the report stated. “In fact, of the 31 instructional programs formally adopted by the California State Board of Education in January 2014, 10 were reviewed by EdReports, and only one partially met the non-profit organization’s expectations for Common Core alignment.”

The report also found great disparity in Common Core teacher training from district to district and that state lawmakers have not aligned graduation requirements with the demands of the Common Core math standards. “For example, California requires students to successfully complete an Algebra course in order to graduate, but that expectation is lower than what the CCSSM standards, adopted in 2010, expect of all students,” the report stated.

The report also highlighted some best practices it found in some districts and offered 10 questions every district should ask itself when designing its Common Core math curriculum:

  • Do all our educators believe that each student is capable of achieving at high levels in math?
  • Does our district provide ample time, coaching, and other supports for teachers to learn, collaborate and plan together, vet and refine curriculum, discuss student work, and approach math instruction with a continuous improvement lens?
  • Are there clear and consistent feedback loops among the district central office, the school sites and the classroom to inform, support and guide compelling CCSSM implementation efforts?
  • Are families routinely informed about and engaged with the instructional shifts embedded in the Common Core, district implementation progress and activities, and opportunities to learn how best to support their child(ren) to succeed in math?
  • Is technology being used to supplement the curriculum and provide both review and advancement opportunities tailored to student learning needs?
  • Are teachers utilizing teaching strategies and available resources that address the needs of all learners, especially English learners and students with identified special education needs?
  • Are teachers utilizing teaching strategies and available resources that address the needs of all learners, especially English learners and students with identified special education needs?
  • Do the district’s Local Control Accountability Plan goals support needed shifts in math instruction and include sufficient investments to make it happen?
  • Are there robust assessments and structures in place for measuring progress and holding schools and teachers accountable for helping all students become mathematically proficient?
  • Is the district developing partnerships with teacher education programs — either traditional or non-traditional — to provide pathways for effective math teachers to work in high-needs schools?
  • Are all students accessing math courses that offer them the content they need to meet and/or exceed the CCSSM standards? Both district and state graduation requirements ought to reflect these expectations.

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