**Loopholes in NCLB**

By **Jerome Dancis**, Associate Professor Emeritus, Math Dept., Univ. of
MD

** Math Education Website: www.math.umd.edu\~jnd**

As U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said [1]: You all well know that it is hard to
teach what you don't know. When we get to 6th, 7th, and 8th grades, we see a
lot of students start to lose interests in math and science, and guess why,
because their teachers don't know math and science ... [since the teachers] are
struggling with the content [themselves]. So I agree we can use a ton of these
[Race to the Top] resources to send teachers back to schools and universities
... to get the content and knowledge they need to be able to teach.

[For teachers to] know the content is a step in the right
direction. A great great use of one-time [Race to the
Top] money is to give teachers content knowledge they need that will stay with
them forever.

If a first grade teacher read at the fifth grade level, we'd be
outraged. But what if she had only third or fourth grade mathematics skills and
lacked the conceptual understanding needed for teaching mathematics? Unfortunately, this is the reality for
all too many licensed K – 8 teachers in this country. [2]

**1. Big
Problem**.
Certified teachers with insufficient content knowledge, including Math teachers who do not
know the Math. This contributes to
states setting low standards for students.

**NCLB to the attempted rescue**. Teachers must be "highly qualified".

**Loophole**. States get to set the standards as low as they please for
"highly qualified".

For example, about a dozen states use the absurdly low-level
Praxis II Middle School Math Content Exam as a criteria
for their designating "highly qualified" Middle School Math
Teachers. But, middle school Math
teachers get to use calculators on this exam, so *no* need for "highly qualified" Middle School Math
Teachers to be fluent or even knowledgeable in Arithmetic.

**Possible plug for loophole**. NCLB
should require states to implement the recommendations of the National
Mathematics Advisory Panel in mathematics courses and programs for
prospective and current teachers of mathematics and science in K-8 on their
licensing tests for "highly
qualified" teachers.

**Loophole.**
Mathematics supervisors, Mathematics coaches of teachers and writers of
NCLB mandated state Math assessments are *not*
required to be "highly
qualifiedÓ in Mathematics.

**2. Big Problem**. Students not learning enough.

**NCLB to the attempted rescue**. Required standardized tests.

**Problem.**
NCLB mandated state Math standards and assessments contain parts that
are Mathematically wrong and parts that are unclear, ambiguous and incoherent,
also unteachable.

**Possible** **Partial** **Solution.**** **All** **NCLB
mandated state Math standards and assessments, should
be checked by a college
professor of Mathematics (with Ph.D in Math), to insure they are clear,
non-ambiguous and coherent and that the Mathematics is correct.

**Loophole**. States get to set the standards as low as they please. The lower a state sets its
standards, the easier it is for its schools to meet the standards.

**Example**. The MD Grade 10 NCLB Math exam is so low that students can
easily pass it, but not know enough Arithmetic to avoid remedial Arithmetic
when they enter college.

**NCLB Back-up for its attempted
rescue**. The NAEP exams are supposed to expose
and embarrass states whose NCLB exams are too easy.

**Loophole**. The NAEP Grade 12 Math exam's
questions appear to be mostly Grade 8 level Math. Scoring proficient on Grade 12 NAEP Math means being
proficient on Grade 8
Math. Students can
pass it, but not know enough Algebra to avoid remedial Algebra I when they
enter college.

**Possible** **Partial** **Solution.**** **Have states collect and publish the
percentages of college freshmen, who need remediation
in arithmetic and Algebra and reading and writing. [3]

**Ready for college**. To survive the first year of college, students need the three Rs, Reading, Writing and Arithmetic (and Arithmetic-based
Algebra).

**Algebra** **Possible** **Solution**.
Let each state's
Grade 10 NCLB mandated Math exam be based on the Arithmetic and algebra
questions on a college placement Math exam (In Maryland, all the community
colleges agreed (c 1998) on the same placement exams and cut scores for
remediation). Scoring *advanced* on
the exam should mean that the student will *not* need remedial Arithmetic or Algebra
I, if and when they enter college.
The cut score for *proficient *could be set as low as
the state desires*.*

**Loophole**. NCLB does *not* mandate that any students need score
a*dvanced* on state assessments. This pressures ÒpoorÓ schools to *just* teach the easier 60% of the state standards – enough for
students to score *proficient.*

[1] This was DuncanÕs answer to my question; May 11 at Brookings Institution
(broadcast on CSPAN).

[2] Relatedly, read ÒMaking the grade:
New math standards for teachersÓ on Boston.com, Sep 11, 2009. To read this, click on the link below
or cut and paste it into a Web browser:

www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2009/09/09/making_the_grade_new_math_standards_for_teachers/?s_campaign=8315 The author of this article, Richard Bisk, Chair Mathematics Department
at Worcester State College,
teaches a Professional Development Math Content Course.

[3] For example, the Maryland Higher Education CommissionÕs (MHEC) Student Outcome and
Achievement Report (SOAR) at www.mhec.state.md.us/publications/research/AnnualReports/2008SOAR.pdf