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Parents: You Are Not Alone!

Are Your Children Frustrated With New Expectations for Math?

December 18, 2014

There is no doubt in my mind that parents, grandparents, family members or guardians who help their children with math homework on a regular basis are experiencing the frustration and heartache that comes from trying to help your child with a simple math concept that looks nothing like you learned while you were in elementary school!    It is so sad to hear and read about parents who express their painful experiences with math homework at the kitchen table!   What has changed and why is this happening to families across the state of Texas?   I want you to know you are not alone!   

 What has changed?  This year the state of Texas mandated that all K-8 math teachers begin the implementation of newly revised math standards known as TEKS or Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills!  The new standards were approved by the state board of education in 2012.  In general, TEKS are very helpful and not a bad thing; however, the newly revised and implemented “math” TEKS for grades K-8 are revealing some very negative consequences that must be addressed!  These ill conceived and misplaced standards are already creating massive math gaps in student learning for many of these elementary and junior high students.  These gaps are being created because critical content is being moved down into grade levels where the standards are not developmentally appropriate for students.  Take a look at these graphs taken from an article in the Dallas Morning News provided by the Richardson Independent School District.

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Please note:  43% of Grade 3 and 57% of Grade 4 TEKS are either totally new or dropped from a higher grade level.  The revised math TEKS represent the most comprehensive change in learning standards ever adopted by the State Board of Education.

If your child is in grades 5 or 6 this year, take a look at the changes in their math TEKS.

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Please note:  54% of Grade 5 and 57% of Grade 6 TEKS are either totally new or dropped from a higher grade!

The graphic illustrations above clearly reveal the instructional gaps that have been created through grades 3-6 and regrettably, the time required to address the gaps associated with the transition to the new standards exceeds the number of available instructional days!  Most math teachers will tell you that due to the quantity of standards, the gaps that must be covered, and the pace of instruction required to cover them all, students’ math grades have either declined across the grade levels or teachers have been forced to make adjustments to their students’ report card grades.  These instructional struggles with math have forced teachers to slow down the pace of their classroom instruction to prevent students from falling further behind.

Regardless of these instructional challenges with the new, revised math standards in your children’s classrooms, there is one other, in my opinion, more frightening and unexpected consequence of these significant changes – the frustration being experienced by the students and the growing resistance for the study of mathematics!  This sudden flood of significant changes in the math curriculum is resulting in students who absolutely dread having to do their math homework and parents or significant others who feel very incapable of helping their children at home!  At one time or other, we have all experienced the effects of this additional stress on our family lives!  It is not healthy for any member of the family.

Our second and final question – why is this happening – is very easy to answer and is a very noble cause hard to dispute!  The answer can be found within every grade level (K-5) Texas Administrative Code introduction adopted in 2012 by the Texas State Board of Education:

                Chapter  111.  Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Mathematics

                Subchapter A.  Elementary    111.2 (a)(1) – 111.7 (a)(1)

                The desire to achieve educational excellence is the driving force behind the Texas essential knowledge

                and skills for mathematics, guided by the college and career readiness standards.  By embedding statistics,

                probability, and finance, while focusing on computational thinking, mathematical fluency, and solid

                understanding, Texas will lead the way in mathematics education and prepare all Texas students for

                the challenges they will face in the 21st century.

 There is no doubt in my mind that the state board of education created these TEKS for mathematics with only the best of intentions for our children and their education.  They are all good people who commit a great deal of their time and energy to providing an exemplary education for Texas children.  A majority of these TEKS can be presented successfully; however, the rush to implementation has created a situation where without doubt there will be students left behind!

 In conclusion let me say, high expectations and great teachers have been the key to the success that Newcastle ISD has experienced over the past several years and our outstanding team will continue to expect great things from each and every one of our students!   Our school has also learned that our students’ best learning takes place over time and not within a moment of time!  Excellence and academic growth requires time for thought and nurturing!  There are hundreds of research studies indicating that the most important factor for a student’s successful learning is time on task!   The Texas state board of education should immediately take a second look at the scheduled implementation of these math TEKS and the potential gaps that are being created for many of our students!  Our children’s education is a journey, not a race!

 Parents:  You Are Not Alone!  We would like to hear from parents and get your input related to these concerns, so please be watching for the announcement of a parent meeting after the Christmas holidays to discuss the new, revised math standards and your experiences at home!  With these new challenges the state has presented us, we will all need to work very closely for the benefit of our students!



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