Principal Gladhand Verbatim, Dept.

traditional math

I regularly read Principal Gladhand’s weekly missives on how great his school is. There’s something that bugs me about his missives, but there’s nothing distinct that I can point to. I think it’s the unspoken but ever present undertone of “Look at me and how great I am” .  I’m interested in your reactions and interpretations, so will be posting these regularly.  Here’s the latest one.

Many of our students participated in the 17-minute walkout on Wednesday, March 14, and many of our students didn’t. To me, this tells me students felt respected for whatever they chose to do that day and students were comfortable expressing themselves by walking out, or by remaining in their class.
For the students who did walk out, they were amazing. In the quad, we had set out markers and butcher paper with the title “17 things you can do to change the world” written at the top. Students filled…

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Will Fitzhugh: Common Core, Close Reading, and the Death of History in the Schools

Diane Ravitch's blog

Will Fitzhugh is founder and editor of The Concord Review, which publishes outstanding historical essays by high school students. I have long been an admirer of the publication and of Will for sustaining it without support from any major foundation, which are too engaged in reinventing the schools rather than supporting the work of excellent history students and teachers. You can subscribe by contacting him at

He writes:

A few years ago, at a conference in Boston, David Steiner, then Commissioner of Education for New York State, said, about History: “It is so politically toxic that no one wants to touch it.”

Since then, David Coleman, of the Common Core and the College Board, have decided that any historical topic, for instance the Gettysburg Address, should be taught in the absence of any historical context—about the Civil War, President Lincoln, the Battle of Gettysburg—or anything else. This fits…

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Jamie Gass: How “Frankenstein” Lost to Common Core

Diane Ravitch's blog

Jamie Gass of the Pioneer Institute (a think-tank in Boston with which I disagree about charters) wrote a terrific piece about the history of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, why it is a classic, and why young people today should read it.

Gass writes:

Until recently, Massachusetts’ nation-leading K-12 English standards were animated by such classic British literature and poetry. Great fiction contributed to the commonwealth’s success on virtually every K-12 reading test known to the English-speaking world.

But in 2010, Massachusetts took $250 million in one-time federal grant money to replace its proven English standards with inferior nationalized ones known as Common Core. These national standards – an educational Frankenstein’s monster – largely decapitated timeless fiction and stitched on brainless so-called “informational texts…”

Frankenstein awakens us to a key lesson of modern learning – science is a powerful tool, but when uncoupled from moral and ethical grounding, it can easily become…

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What you learn in Ed School, Dept.

traditional math

For those who are wondering what future math teachers learn in ed school, here is a concise summary:

Traditional mathematical teaching has never worked and has failed thousands of students.

The standard ed school catechism is that traditional math teaching is based on rote memorization with no understanding, and no connection between concepts.  Another is that the conceptual underpinning of math procedures are not explained. According to ed school teaching, procedures are presented as a “bag of tricks” (such as “keep, change, flip” for dividing fractions). The evidence presented is simply that many adults do not remember how to solve certain problems. This stands as proof that the traditional methods are not effective–if they were, they would “stay with us.”

That people do not maintain proficiency in math as they age says less about traditional or reform math than about the way in which a population’s knowledge and skill base…

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Rationalizing memorization, Dept.

traditional math

I thought this article would be in the category of “learning math through interpretive dance” but I’m happy to say, I was wrong. It’s about a math teacher who uses musical chants/rhymes to help students memorize (yes, memorize) particular formulas and procedures.

As she puts it:

“Memorizing basic formulas can make it easier for students to grasp larger, more abstract mathematical concepts because students’ minds aren’t mired in the minutiae, Jorgensen said.

For example, it’s easier to understand the square root of 36 if you already know the answer to 6 multiplied by 6.

Jorgensen’s method has yielded results. In her 8th-grade geometry class from last year, 23 of her 40 students had perfect scores on the Smarter Balanced exam, and in the 7th-grade algebra class, every student exceeded the standards, she said. Seven of those students had perfect scores.

I couldn’t believe I had actually read that and read…

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