In an earlier post, I wrote about students at the Sobrato High School filing a petition protesting how math is taught at the school. They specifically protested against being taught in groups, lack of instruction, and “the math department does not tailor its teaching needs to every learning style of its students.” The school board responded to the petition as reported in this article.
I had thought that this comment was likely to get attention, since the concept of learning styles is near and dear to most educationists and administrators. My thinking was that the school board and administration would go the opposite way the students wanted and institute even more ludicrous practices in the name of personalized learning, and learning styles. I had not considered that the complaint of being put into groups could be considered a practice that went against a so-called learning style of some students. Administrators would thus be forced to either 1) acquiesce and accommodate those students for whom group learning was not their “learning style”, or 2) admit that learning styles are tantamount to the old medical practice of “blood letting” and stop believing in such nonsense.
The latter did not occur. What did happen was that a school board member applauded the students for circulating the petition and making their concerns known. He complemented the school for providing an environment in which students felt safe doing so. And one of the trustees said it was not likely a fault of the teachers nor the curriculum they were using, per se but “the curriculum that the state requires the teachers in California to teach.”
This is a good start, but as much as I dislike the CCSS for their embedded pedagogies and math-reform dog whistles that cause interpretations along reform math ideological lines, nowhere do the standards require that students be taught in groups. (If so, please correct me and provide a citation of the CCSS where it says so. All I could find was the discussion in Frequently Asked Questions on the CCSS webpage:
Do the standards tell teachers what to teach?Teachers know best about what works in the classroom. That is why these standards establish what students need to learn, but do not dictate how teachers should teach. Instead, schools and teachers decide how best to help students reach the standards.
In fact, it is the curriculum that is directing such practice. A look at the Sobrato HS website shows that they use the CPM series of textbooks (College Preparatory Math) which is discovery-based and advocates/instructs teachers to organize classes in groups, with teachers being facilitators. I am familiar with CPM since I had to teach algebra using that book when I was a student teacher. (Readers curious about this can read all about it in my book “Letters from John Dewey/Letters from Huck Finn” which talks about ed school, my student teaching experience and other facets that define the ideological and cultural divide between the math reformers (progressivists) and traditionalists).
Of interest is another statement by a board member regarding the situation at Sobrato:
“Trustee David Gerard did not want any board discussion on the subject to single out Sobrato, but agreed that some sort of discussion needed to happen in the future. ‘It’s a broader question, not just Sobrato. It’s not a question of blaming teachers. It’s something that requires a lot of thought because it is complex,” Gerard said. “Obviously there’s some concern and we want to show that we are addressing that as a board.” “
Indeed. I’d be glad to furnish them with details. Watch this space for further developments.