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Strategy Balance tests and curriculum


Begin with the premise that different people are solving different problems as best they can. The mathematics leaders and teachers are trying to optimize learning and instruction while the district administration is trying to optimize management and the systems that inform it. Both are aware of the importance of state tests but see them differently. In these circumstances, communication can break down between otherwise well meaning people. To avoid this and its consequences:
  • Look for an approach that recognizes the legitimacy of both kinds of concern: learning and management.
  • Bring focus onto the issue of what balance of mathematics proficiencies you want your students to learn. There is support from a wide spectrum of mathematicians and educators for a balanced diet with substantial portions of skills, conceptual understanding and problem solving prowess along with proficiencies in reading, writing and speaking mathematically. Harmony will often require some re-balancing.

To get the assessments and program into a manageable alignment, both have to pragmatically mix in some of what they lack. This implies that:
  • The programs include some regular and systematic exercises recognizable to the parents as old fashioned basic skills. Homework is the best setting for such stuff. This mitigates the danger of a Challenge Math Wars backlash.
  • The periodic district-wide assessments are balanced to include short items that reflect those on the state tests and conceptual and strategic problems that cut across topics and demand student thinking.
  • To this end, the system introduces tasks from the substantial and growing range of Tool standards-based assessment tools available to balance the short items
  • The periodic assessments are complemented by the more frequent assessments embedded within the adopted program.

The "download extended report" gives a full description of this strategy including budget issues, benefits and implementation pitfalls, and evaluative evidence.

Applicable tools

Design and development

Person Phil Daro and the Organization Toolkit team, with change agents in various school systems � still in development, comments welcome.

Challenges addressed

Complementary strategies

Other similar strategies