Thursday, July 8, 2010

ACSC Public Comment by Deborah Burfeind


Remarks made during public comment to the Academic Content Standards Commission during a discussion about whether to adopt the Common Core Standards and whether to add up to 15% additional standards.  Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Good Afternoon, my name is Deborah Burfeind.  I received my credential in 2000 and have been teaching second grade in Orland for the past ten years.  Orland is about 90 miles up the road from Sacramento and my K-2 school serves approximately 500 students in the Orland area. 

When I began working in 2000, slightly over 50% of the students came from homes where English is a second language.  In the ten years since, more than 75% now come to school from homes where English is a second language.  Most of the students from English speaking homes are living below the poverty line.  Many classrooms have only 1 or 2 students from traditional English speaking middle class households.
I would like to speak in strong support of the Common Core Standards without additions.  For ten years the highly dedicated team of teachers at my school have worked diligently to meet all of the California State Standards and have done a remarkable job.  We are 20 miles down the road from Chico State University where a large pool of candidates compete for each opening in our school, allowing us to hire truly excellent teachers. 

Our staff has analyzed the standards and used curriculum based assessment data to improve our teaching of the standards.  We are amazed each year as we see our students gains in all areas of the curriculum.  Our second grade scores have steadily increased each year.

In spite of all that, our analysis of this process has revealed that we are teaching too many things for too little time.  Many teachers have been energized by hearing about the Common Core Standards (CCS) which would allow us to focus on fewer concepts so that we can provide in-depth learning experiences.  When I told teachers in various schools that California was considering piling on as much as possible on top of the CCS, the reactions included confusion, dismay and even horror.
I believe it has been established again and again, when comparing the United States to countries where students are achieving the highest level of mastery, that our curriculum tends to be a mile wide and an inch deep versus curriculums in other countries that are narrower and deeper.  This is why teachers all over the state are applauding the Common Core Standards because they might actually allow us to achieve mastery.  Fewer standards does not mean LESS RIGOROUS.  More standards does not mean MORE rigorous.  The well crafted and rigorous Common Core Standards can lead students to a deeper mastery that will stand the test of time.

If you were to think of the curriculum as a meal, we are anxious to serve our students a balanced diet with reasonable portions which will allow them to grow and thrive rather than a smorgasbord which will give them indigestion. 

I would like to finish my remarks by focusing on math with an eye to supporting the Common Core standards as they stand with the fewest possible additions. 
I recently completed three years of participation in a combined professional development / research project called Math in the Early Grades.  This was an amazing project which resulted in tremendous professional growth for the almost 30 teachers from several northern California districts.  We participated in workshops, assessments, classroom coaching, and laboratory style teaching opportunities.  Our project was created in response to the need to address the weak number sense that plagues students as they leave the primary grades.

If large numbers of buildings were falling to the ground all over California because their foundations were crumbling after 4 years, we would all agree that the materials and building standards for foundations should be fixed.  The state's STAR system shows that the foundation of our student's math is crumbling starting in grade 5.  Although CST math scores have increased steadily since 2003 at every grade level, when you compare CST math scores between grade levels, they consistently increase through grade 4 and begin dropping starting in grade 5.  For example, in 2009, 63% of all second graders scored proficient or advanced on the CST rising to a high of 66% by fourth grade.  In fifth grade it drops to 57% and drops precipitously so that by eighth or ninth grade only 21% of the students in Algebra I are proficient or advanced.  The percentages remain under 30% for Geometry and Algebra II.  See the California State STAR table below for a comparison of all the grades in the years from 2003-2009.

I believe that the CCS are the beginning of the process to change this trend.  Primary teachers are building the foundation.  The three year project that I just finished gave me a glimpse of how primary teachers can deepen math instruction and develop the kind of number sense that will allow students to thrive mathematically in the upper grades.  The CCS supports my experience in this project and I strongly encourage this commission to be very cautious about adding things to the CCS.  I fear that most additions that I have read about would undermine the chance for deeper and richer math experience in all grades.
Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program:
Summary of 2009 Results in Mathematics

Table 5: Percentages of Students Scoring at Proficient and Above*
Grade
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
Change in Percentage
2008–2009
Change in Percentage
2003–2009
Grade 2
53
51
56
58
59
59
63
4
10
Grade 3
46
48
54
57
58
61
64
3
18
Grade 4
45
45
50
54
56
61
66
5
21
Grade 5
35
38
44
48
49
51
57
6
22
Grade 6
34
35
40
42
42
44
49
5
15
Grade 7
30
33
37
41
39
41
43
2
13
General Mathematics
20
20
22
22
21
27
26
-1
6
Algebra I
21
18
19
23
24
25
28
3
7
First time test takers




26
28
31
3
5**
Repeat test takers




15
17
21
4
6**
Geometry
26
24
26
26
24
24
26
2
0
Algebra II
29
24
26
25
27
27
28
1
-1


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