Testing Teachers

Reading this article, I really think Cliff Mass is missing the mark on a few points:

1. The testing process to become a teacher is much more than the West B. There’s the West E and the EdTPA.

2. Math content knowledge is sorely lacking, but there is (at least at UWB) a much more comprehensive look into how math works, the multiple ways to solve equations, and why it works. Dividing fractions is simple, but why it works is pretty interesting. Can you prove Pythagoras’s Theorem Algebraically Geometrically, and beyond? Personally, I have gone beyond Calculus, Linear Algebra, Matrix Algebra, but deep understanding of math isn’t enough to be able to teach it. How many college professors in mathematics could teach fifth graders?

3. What is the purpose of math? Are we training excellent calculators? We have programs like wolframalpha that can solve very complex problems. There are innumerable computer calculation tools. Is computation more important than problem solving? Understanding why we use mathematics is becoming more and more important. Algorithms and math facts are on the way out, because they don’t take number sense, and instead rely on following steps that calculators already far exceed in speed and accuracy.

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This post (from Cliff Mass, not from you) got me pretty fired up. People who don’t actually know much about the teacher education process shouldn’t use their weather blogs as soapboxes to mis-educate their readers.

I have a few of my own points to add to your list:

1. If we want to attract teachers who are experts in their field, such as math, we will need to drastically alter the way we view the teaching profession in our country. I know I’ve talked a lot about Finland this years – but in Finland, teachers are highly respected and well paid, so people who are experts WANT to teach.

2. Mr. Mass is completely off-base when he says that UW’s only math requirement is Math 170 (Math for educators). That class is a prerequisite. Teaching candidates must have completed that class (or something similar) before they can enter the program. Once they are in the program they take two quarters of “Teaching and Learning in Numeracy.” I’m sure people will judge that course by the name and think it is not “real” math, but I personally have learned more in my math education courses than I ever learned in school about math.

So, he’s not even a teacher? I tried to comment on his blog but I couldn’t- wordpress problems.

How would we even efficiently test subject knowledge? Surely not the West-E. I don’t know anything about economics yet I scored a 4+ in that section. Now I can teach economics (but I won’t).

After reading the original blog and the comments (I know I was warned), I really can’t believe that there are people out there that still believe we need to teach students to be efficient using algorithms and stop thinking about math. School are somehow still conveyor belts to quickly move students up through grades because they can solve equations quickly. I seriously thought he was being sarcastic when he said, “When you see a book putting down math facts and algorithms, and stressing the “deep knowledge of mathematics” that is offers, you know you got a problem on your hands.” WHAT???? This is exactly the opposite of what we’ve been talking about in all subject areas of what it means to be a good student. Is a good reader someone who can read fast? Is a good math student someone who can memorize the multiplication table?

Later in his comments he said, “Math is a tool that folks like me use to solve problems.” Folks like me? Ugh….this is too much….

[…] posts, here and here, show my growth as a blogger, because they started a conversation. The latter post is the infamous […]

[…] testing is a hot topic, as one of my cohort-mates, For Whom The Bell Rings, wrote about a recent blog entry from our local weather guru, Cliff Mass. I commented with my own ideas, and the […]

Thank you for sharing this conversation with us! – Not only did it get me thinking about what makes a good teacher, but about how blogging factors into that conversation. Thank you for sharing your thinking so publicly!