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California Dreaming

California Dreaming: Reforming Mathematics Education

Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    California Dreaming
    Book Description:

    This compelling book tells the history of the past two decades of efforts to reform mathematics education in California. That history is a contentious one, full of such fervor and heat that participants and observers often refer to the "math wars." Suzanne M. Wilson considers the many perspectives of those involved in math reform, weaving a tapestry of facts, philosophies, conversations, events, and personalities into a vivid narrative. While her focus is on California, the implications of her book extend to struggles over education policy and practice throughout the United States.Wilson's three-dimensional account of math education reform efforts reveals how the debates tend to be deeply ideological and how people come to feel misunderstood and misrepresented. She examines the myths used to explain the failure of reforms, the actual reasons for failure, and the importance of taking multiple perspectives into account when planning and implementing reform.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12753-9
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiv-xvi)
  5. 1 Curriculum Wars
    (pp. 1-5)

    We often think of U.S. schools as safe havens, sheltered environments designed to nurture and teach our children. Their walls deceive us into thinking that these places are escapes from the larger American society where children can acquire knowledge and self-esteem, learn the rules of social behavior and intellectual work, and find a place and identity of their own. But schools, as part of the larger social fabric, cannot escape our large, complex, and contested social landscape. This point was poignantly brought home to us repeatedly at the turn of the twenty-first century, as children killed children and adults in...

  6. 2 “Ours Is Not to Reason Why. Just Invert and Multiply”: School Mathematics and Its Critics
    (pp. 6-27)

    School mathematics is not typically considered the stuff of high drama. It’s predictable, familiar. You walk into class, take out your homework. The teacher goes over the answers, stopping to solve problems raised by students. In elementary school, students work out problems on the board; in secondary school, teachers talk through the answers, scribbling proofs when necessary. After the homework review, papers are passed forward to be checked by the teacher.

    After reviewing homework, everyone opens their books to the next twopage spread about a new topic (in high school the topic might take up as many as five pages)....

  7. 3 Capturing Professional Consensus: The California State Department, 1983–1990
    (pp. 28-62)

    Louis “Bill” Honig is a tall, wiry, athletic man. He’s opinionated, electric, energetic, not shy. Charismatic and peripatetic, he is respected both for his intelligence and energy. He is known as an avid reader, and his colleagues are in awe of his memory.¹ Honig was born into a wealthy California family and—after a short stint as an attorney—started his career as a teacher. Attending San Francisco State in the 1960s, Honig had been taught to teach mathematics with a problem solving orientation:

    I was taught by a guy . . . who had joint appointments by the math...

  8. 4 Earlier Reforms and Their Legacies
    (pp. 63-76)

    Joseph Featherstone once called us the United States of Amnesia, for we often forget or conveniently remember the past.¹ Yet understanding California’s past efforts in education sheds important light on how the 1985Frameworkarose, where the teacher-leaders came from, and who inspired them. Understanding that past will also help us see why the subsequent backlash was so virulent. Before continuing with a description of the very busy State Department of Education and its systemic reform activities, then, we’ll briefly consider here some of the historical roots of this 1980s math reform.

    That there was consensus about a vision of...

  9. 5 Networks and Their Leaders: Broadcasting and Shaping Reform
    (pp. 77-112)

    William Firestone argues for a view of the educational system that runs counter to our larger society’s hopeful or naïve belief that policy—once mandated—makes a beeline for schools. Instead, he argues, the education system consists of loosely linked games: a state department game, a legislature game, a classroom game, a school district game. This view pushes on the rational idea of the formal education system, and asks us to consider a wider array of participants and communities who might have some say in education policy.

    When I was in college, I played volleyball. I found out quickly that,...

  10. 6 Riding the Tiger: The California State Department, 1990–1992
    (pp. 113-131)

    The efforts begun in the mid-to late-1980s by Bill Honig and his staff continued in 1990. Working on all fronts, the state department hoped to change testing, teacher preparation, and available curricular materials. Using these levers and others, the California Department of Education aimed for coherent, consistent curricular guidance. They were a busy lot—surprisingly so, since the CDE had suffered approximately 200 position cuts in the late 1980s.¹

    Concern about a rigorous, well-aligned assessment system continued to grow. As measurement gurus sometimes put it, WYTIWYG—What You Test Is What You Get.² If tests did not align with extant...

  11. 7 The Tide Turns: 1993–1995
    (pp. 132-165)

    By 1992, California had many pieces of the reform puzzle in place: a framework and aligned assessment system, a theory of professional development, innovative curricula. This was a systemic reformer’s dream come true, surprising in any context, especially surprising in a state as diverse and large as California. But then things started to disintegrate.

    It is hard to pinpoint where and when the unraveling began. In 1991, tensions arose between Bill Honig and the State Board. Insiders spoke of “power struggles.” In 1991 and 1992, upset with Honig’s unwillingness to implement some of their policies, the State Board sued him....

  12. 8 Dueling Standards
    (pp. 166-203)

    By 1995, the legislature was taking its own measures. A pair of bills emphasizing a back-to-basics move toward a more balanced curriculum—the ABCs bills—was passed in October. They required that “the state board of education ‘shall ensure that the basic instructional materials that it adopts for mathematics and reading in grades 1 to 8, inclusive, are based on the fundamental skills required by these subjects, including, but not limited to, systematic, explicit phonics, spelling, and basic computational skills’ (AB 170); and . . . the state board of education ‘shall adopt at least five basic instructional materials for...

  13. 9 Parsnips and Orchids Side by Side: A View from the Classroom
    (pp. 204-215)

    Critics of the earlier reform jumped quickly to a conclusion that the steep decline in California’s National Assessment of Educational Progress ranking—in mathematics and language arts—was due to the frameworks. The finger of blame was steady and strong. Sweeping, facile generalizations were made. John Derbyshire confidently proclaimed that the revised NCTMPrinciples and Standards for School Mathematics 2000“revives such practices as rote memorization of multiplication tables, which math students have not been able to avail for a number of years.”¹

    Unfortunately, most critics had spent little time in schools, and were relatively naïve about the power of...

  14. 10 Toward a Civil, Constructive Discourse
    (pp. 216-230)
  15. Methodological Appendix: “This Frightful Toil”
    (pp. 231-254)
  16. Timeline
    (pp. 255-258)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 259-291)
  18. Index
    (pp. 292-303)