News from the Far West
Sara Munshin, Western 2 Regional Director
NCSM members from California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington have been very busy this school year, not necessarily with big, "newsworthy" happenings, but with all of the activities that mathematics education leaders do on a regular basis, sometimes within the scope of their job description and often volunteering to provide additional support for teachers and students.
Conferences and Student Activities
The only remaining state conference is the California Mathematics Council, Central "Algebraic Thinking Symposium" held March 12-13 in the Monterey Bay area. Having attended that conference in the past, I can vouch for the quality of the presenters who are given the time to delve into the theme-related topics in more depth than is often possible.
The Hawaii Council of Teachers of Mathematics had their annual conference on February 13, 2010.
Many counties, districts, states and regions hold sponsor mathematics competitions in the spring. One that I am involved in is the Mathematics Field Day for students in grades 4-8, sponsored by the Los Angeles County Office of Education. The work that goes on in preparation for the event includes writing items, developing rubrics, and providing professional development for teachers coaching the teams as well as for those who score the results. Many other mathematics education leaders in Western Region 2 are giving of their time and expertise to put on student events and make them a positive experience for all. Who knows-by participating in contests, students may be inspired to follow a path that will make them the next generation of NCSM members!
This is a reminder that the applications for the Presidential Awards in Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) are due April 1. This year's focus is teachers of grades K-6.
Race to the Top
The federal Race to the Top (RTTT) program has elicited a wide range of responses. The main features of this program are:
- Tying teacher and principal pay-and school assignments-to student test scores
- Adopting internationally benchmarked academic standards
- Turning around lowest-performing schools
- Building long-term student tracking systems
- Loosening legal caps on the number of charter schools that states allow each year
In California, around 60% of the school districts did not sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to become a part of this initiative. Some of the districts that signed an MOU did so without the approval of their teachers' unions.
In addition to the fiscal challenges faced by school districts, the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) has gone on record expressing its concern over the make-up of the nine-member California Board of Education (CBE), the ultimate policy-setting entity at the state level. ACSA is concerned that no CBE member is a credentialed administrator working in a non-charter school or district; that not one is a credentialed teacher currently teaching at any grade level; that none has ever managed a K-12 district with a multi-million dollar budget while adhering to rigid education codes; and none has been involved in negotiating collective bargaining agreements with certificated and classified personnel.
A recent court decision allowed to stand the decision by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to drop the high school "Discovery" series published by Key Curriculum Press from the recommended list and leave the Holt high school mathematics program as the sole state adoption.
The issue is balance-in the decision-making group in California and in the choice of textbooks in Washington.
How can mathematics education leaders continue to work collaboratively within our professional community and with other constituencies to maintain a high-quality public education system that truly prepares all students a future where collaboration, flexible thinking, and appropriate use of technology is demanded? We must continue to develop our PRIME leadership skills and put them to use wherever we can.