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On April 19, 2013, the third day of NCTM’s annual meeting in Denver, Uri Treisman gave a forty-minute address on equity that Zal Usiskin, director of the University of Chicago’s School Mathematics Project, called the greatest talk he’d ever heard at the conference in any year. Stanford math professor Keith Devlin would later call it our “I have a dream” speech. At least one participant left in tears.

I’ve personally seen it three times. I got the video feed from NCTM and the slides from Treisman. I then spent some time stitching the two together, resulting in this video. His message is important enough that I’d like to use whatever technical skills I have, whatever time I have, whatever soapbox I can stand on, to help spread it.

You should watch it.

If you’re interested in equity, you should watch it.
If you’re interested in teacher evaluation, you should watch it.
If you’re interested in school reform, you should watch it.
If you’re interested in charter schools, you should watch it.
If you’re interested in understanding which student outcomes teachers can control and which they can’t, you should watch it.
If you’re interested in the trajectory of math education in the era of the Common Core State Standards, you should watch it.

If none of those conditions apply to you, well, I can’t imagine the series of misclicks that brought you to my blog. Watch it.

Here’s a fair enough summary from Treisman himself:

There are two factors that shape inequality in this country and educational achievement inequality. The big one is poverty. But a really big one is opportunity to learn. As citizens, we need to work on poverty and income inequality or our democracy is threatened. As mathematics educators … we need to work on opportunity to learn. It cannot be that the accident of where a child lives or the particulars of their birth determine their mathematics education.

That was his destination and the talk took only three stops along the way:

  1. What did education reform groups like Achieve, the Gates Foundation, et al, recommend in their “Benchmarking for Success” document in 2008?
  2. How does TIMSS and NAEP data contradict or clarify those recommendations?
  3. What should we actually do about equity, as teachers and citizens, if those recommendations prove unfounded?

Highly Quotable

  • [A]s math people we know that if we’re going to work on a problem, we have to formulate it clearly. And as math people are wont, we need to swaddle ourselves in the numbers and the data because that’s what gives math people direction, strength, and courage.
  • Let’s look at “Benchmarking for Success” and see its analysis of the problem. Then let’s look at the data and see how it actually lines up with what we know today. And then let’s see where we need to go to really enact the vision of NCTM for equity.
  • So the notion was: “Let’s focus on teachers as the central driver of reform and rethink how we evaluate teachers.” They had the view that teachers were the single most important in-school factor in student achievement. And math people know that was just an artifact of the way they modeled the problem.
  • I’m now going to show you two graphs that I don’t believe anyone in the math community has seen. It’s the PISA data disaggregated by child poverty rates.
  • About one half of students who go from high school to college are referred to remediation and mostly developmental math. Fewer than a quarter of those students will ever get a credential. Those students are more likely to end up with debt than a credential. [..] Those remedial programs are burial grounds for the aspirations of students. And it’s mostly math that’s the key trigger. 35,000 students in California two years ago repeated a developmental course for the fifth or greater number of times. So no one can say those students don’t have persistence.
  • So states – where you go to school – are a profound influence on what you actually get to know.
  • Low income student scores in Texas were the top in the country in 2011. It’s really good for Texas to be the top of the country. Because whenever Texas does something well, everyone else is positive that they can do better. When Massachusetts is at the top, people go, “Ah, it’s just Massachusetts.”
  • Again, two and a half years difference in opportunity depending on where you happen to go to school. This is something that, as a math teaching profession, we can influence. Poverty is something we need to work on as citizens. Opportunity to learn is something we need to work on as math educators. That’s a core message for this talk.
  • So you would think that charters would fix this. Almost all the charters in Texas produced 0% of students who are college-ready. There are a few of them – one KIPP, one YES Prep, one IDEA, one Harmony – that are pretty good. Most of them are well below the public schools. So this theory of Achieve, NGA, CCSSO, Race to the Top, that charters were the answer? Not so clear when you actually climb into the numbers. The reverse looks true.
  • When you visit most math classrooms it’s like you’re in a Kafkaesque universe of these degraded social worlds where children are filling in bubbles rather than connecting the dots. It’s driven by a compliance mentality on tests that are neither worthy of our children nor worthy of the discipline they purport to reflect. That is the reality. That’s something that we as math educators can control.
  • What this shows is that the current theory about school improvement – that charters, Common Core, value-added measures of teaching are going to solve the problem – is profoundly wrong. That doesn’t mean we can’t use the Common Core powerfully to reboot our systems but it’s not the solution to the basic problems of schooling.
  • Guess what? Poverty really sucks. It’s incredibly hard. All the lifespan studies going back to the 1920s show that poverty and youth is a very hard force. We need to build fault-tolerant schools and systems if we’re actually going to address equity.
  • Just think about it. The great majority of our children finish our schools positive that there’s a whole list of things they’re not. They come out of schooling believing they’re not mathematical, they’re not artistic, they’re not philosophical, they’re not athletic. And these self-imposed beliefs undermine your sense of personal freedom, the font from which all freedoms come.
  • You have to remember that when the Common Core was created, they didn’t come to NCTM. They got David Coleman to write it and he brought his friend Jason Zimba to do the math. They did not come to NCTM. It’s time for us now – the professional societies – to talk about what standards should be and how to reshape the Common Core so that it reflects our best practice knowledge of schooling. Hard message, but a necessary message.
  • What is the determinant of whether you have a high-skill job in the US? Overwhelmingly it’s mathematics. It’s the single biggest factor in upward social and economic mobility. It’s our beloved subject. It would be wonderful if it were music instead of math. Think how great the country would be if everyone were striving to learn to play an instrument instead of factor quadratic equations but the fact is it is our discipline that is the primary determinant.

Featured Comments

Bill McCallum, chair of the CCSS math writing committee, responds:

A beautiful speech by Uri and a great contribution by Dan to put the slides with the video.

However, the quote about how the Common Core was written garbles the history badly. Here is a summary of the process.

CCSSO and NGA appointed a work team of about 50 people—educators, mathematicians, teachers, policy people—and asked me to lead it. They also appointed a writing team of 3 people—Phil Daro, myself, and Jason Zimba—to draft the standards. We solicited progressions documents from selected individuals or groups in the work team. The three lead writers produced a first draft based on these progressions. There was also a feedback group of about 20 people. You can find the pdf with the names of all these people by googling “Common Core State Standards Work Team”.

Minor iterations of the standards were circulated to the working team for comment and critique, of which there was an abundance. Major drafts (about 3 or 4) were circulated to the feedback group and the 48 participating states, which also produced a huge amount of commentary. Finally, a public comment period starting in March 2010 elicited about 10,000 comments, of which we looked at every single actionable comment.

There were also numerous organization reviews, including one by NCTM. I spent a weekend in DC with a team from NCTM listening to their concerns, which resulted in significant changes to the standards. Jason and I also spent a weekend with teachers from AFT, one team for each grade band, who gave us detailed feedback that also resulted in changes to the document.

For more context, take a look at Jason’s Ed Week interview with Rick Hess.

Michael Pershan calls into question the data behind one of Treisman’s conclusions:

I’m now going to show you two graphs that I don’t believe anyone in the math community has seen.

That slide with PISA data is missing a bunch of countries. Where’s Japan? Where’s Hong Kong? Singapore? Canada?

All of these countries do well on PISA even though they have considerable child poverty. I put together a fuller picture of the data in this post, with links to the data that (I think) Treisman used.

54 Responses to “Uri Treisman’s Magnificent Speech On Equity, Race, And The Opportunity To Learn”

  1. on 16 May 2013 at 7:58 amDavid Wees

    Thank you so much for finding the slides and the time to stitch the two together. John Golden and I sent a couple of messages to the @NCTM account requesting that they do the same, so hopefully they will pick up that you have done it already.

  2. on 16 May 2013 at 8:11 amKristin

    Thank you for sharing, Dan. I appreciate the work and vision you promote!

  3. on 16 May 2013 at 8:23 amAaron B.

    Dan – your link for the 0% of students slide points to the wrong place.

    [Thanks a mil. Got that fixed. -dm]

  4. on 16 May 2013 at 8:48 amJohn Golden

    Yeah! And I mean YEAH, no sarcasm and cynicism. I’ve been dying to see these slides, and this is typically great Dan editing.

    So what’s next? Here’s the rallying cry, where’s the rally? How can we draw some mainstream attention to this?

  5. on 16 May 2013 at 9:54 amsuehellman

    I thought I’d add a plug for the work of Bob Moses — http://www.pbs.org/now/society/moses.html. Long before Khan or Gates came on the scene, he was speaking about how skill in math meant economic empowerment and was working with students through “The Algebra Project.” I think he’s a role model for us all.

  6. on 16 May 2013 at 11:16 amFawn Nguyen

    Thank you so much, Dan, for putting forth this video and slides. Difficult not to tear up. I immediately think of Julian Weissglass who’s a phenomenal figure to me in championing the issue of equity in mathematics education. He started the Tri-County Mathematics Project (California) in 1983, and I’m proud to say I was a workshop participant turned presenter for the Project.

    Weissglass’s 2002 article in The Mathematics Educator still resonates today: http://ncee.education.ucsb.edu/articles/Inequity_in_Math_Ed.pdf

    It’s important that we as teachers stop the madness of thinking that we can’t allow our students to explore mathematics more deeply because we need to move on to content Y so our students could be prepared for test Z. By doing so, we have become compliant to a system that ironically perpetuates the very inequity it pretends to abhor.

    Maybe I can’t change my kids’ poverty level, but I sure as hell can give them access to the richest math tasks available.

  7. on 16 May 2013 at 2:50 pmmary dooms

    Dan,

    The relentless Diane Ravitch has been sending the same message. Poverty has created an educational divide and the gap will narrow when society does its part and teachers do their part. One question I have for you is: has our educational system contributed to this problem? Meaning–has tracking or “excessive tracking” denied students access to knowledge and could it be considered a form of segregation and oppression?

    In our middle school we’re eliminating the academic classes. Have we been part of the problem?

  8. on 16 May 2013 at 3:47 pmElizabeth (@cheesemonkeysf)

    Dan — Thank you for putting this together and helping to spread this message. He speaks in a clear and courageous voice about the consensual trance under which our system is dysfunctionally functioning.

  9. on 16 May 2013 at 5:50 pmSue King

    THANK YOU so much for posting this! I saw Uri Treisman years and years ago at a conference in TX (where I was teaching at the time). He was equally as inspirational. Quality math education for all students has been a passion of mine for a long time; it continues to be now as I am working in a small district as a Director of teaching & Learning. My first big “task” is to work with teachers to revise math curriculum, instruction, and assessment. We are off to a good start, but it is difficult work. Watching this video gave me a bit more “fuel” for my fire. I will share it with others!

  10. on 16 May 2013 at 6:05 pmblaw0013

    Thank you Dan. This is courageous work.

  11. on 17 May 2013 at 3:03 amBill McCallum

    A beautiful speech by Uri and a great contribution by Dan to put the slides with the video.

    However, the quote about how the Common Core was written garbles the history badly. Here is a summary of the process.

    CCSSO and NGA appointed a work team of about 50 people—educators, mathematicians, teachers, policy people—and asked me to lead it. They also appointed a writing team of 3 people—Phil Daro, myself, and Jason Zimba—to draft the standards. We solicited progressions documents from selected individuals or groups in the work team. The three lead writers produced a first draft based on these progressions. There was also a feedback group of about 20 people. You can find the pdf with the names of all these people by googling “Common Core State Standards Work Team”.

    Minor iterations of the standards were circulated to the working team for comment and critique, of which there was an abundance. Major drafts (about 3 or 4) were circulated to the feedback group and the 48 participating states, which also produced a huge amount of commentary. Finally, a public comment period starting in March 2010 elicited about 10,000 comments, of which we looked at every single actionable comment.

    There were also numerous organization reviews, including one by NCTM. I spent a weekend in DC with a team from NCTM listening to their concerns, which resulted in significant changes to the standards. Jason and I also spent a weekend with teachers from AFT, one team for each grade band, who gave us detailed feedback that also resulted in changes to the document.

    For more context, take a look at Jason’s Ed Week interview with Rick Hess.

  12. on 17 May 2013 at 5:02 amAmy

    Thanks for putting this together Dan. I always find Uri’s talk powerful and inspirational, but this topped what I have heard from him before. The open question is what is involved in creating “fault tolerant” mathematics education systems…

  13. on 17 May 2013 at 5:59 amLynn

    Great message, but what are math educators doing as part of their lessons to ensure the language of math is accessible to all of the students who don’t speak English as a native language? This is a huge elephant in the room right now — especially in light of our country’s shifting demographics.

    For the most part, responsibility for teaching ELLs has been relegated to the school ESL teacher (with the assumption that ELLs first must learn English in order to participate in content area instruction. Yet the language requirements embedded within the Common Core and federal accountability requirements mean that ELLs (*and* their districts, schools, and teachers) are still held accountable for the ELLs having learned math — even before they have reached full English proficiency. What if we used this window of opportunity to provide teachers with opportunities to share and discuss with each other how to help students access the language of math?

    A major part of equity also deals with ensuring that the language of math is accessible to all students, including those who don’t speak English as a native language. I would like to see more differentiation ideas for the language of math presented as part of the lessons discussed here. It’s a huge need and one that is directly tied to improved Opportunity to Learn.

  14. on 17 May 2013 at 6:52 amkmorrowleong

    Fault tolerant.
    Airplanes.
    That example really hit home for me. By building in redundant systems that will fill the job when other elements of the system inevitably fail, we don’t really don’t try to fix all forseeable problems. We build in safety nets, none perfect, but all working in concert.
    …Like humans do when given a chance to work together…
    What are these safety nets for our nation’s students? I think it is more trained personnel in each classroom. Like a plane should never rely on one single part or pilot in order to stay afloat, a classroom should not rely on a single individual to teach 30 children.
    What do you think about trained para-professionals, apprentices? Co-pilots, if you will.

  15. on 17 May 2013 at 6:52 amMaryke

    Thank you.

  16. on 17 May 2013 at 7:40 amMark Watkins

    Second best talk of the weekend ;)

  17. on 17 May 2013 at 9:22 amPaul Alves

    Echoing everyone else’s comment, THANK YOU. A great way to finish the week. Even though I don’t teach in the US, the neighbor to the north, there is so much that correlates to our experience – high stakes testing, value added measures, and curriculum revision.
    Just recently a report from a group called People for Education (http://www.peopleforeducation.ca/pfe-news/the-trouble-with-course-choices-in-ontario-high-schools/) pointed to course choices for students in our high schools ignoring the factors that form the central message in Uri’s talk, poverty and opportunity to learn.
    Once again a big thank you on behalf of math teachers EVERYWHERE.

  18. on 17 May 2013 at 10:42 amJames Key

    Regarding the PISA data, disaggregated by poverty rate: can someone help me understand this? It looks to me as though the least poor students in the U.S. (0-10% on Free/Reduced price Lunch) are being compared to the *entire* population of other countries, such as Finland. Am I missing something?

  19. on 17 May 2013 at 12:53 pmdanny h

    [a friend of Gary Cavender]

    After watching the first 20 minutes of that address, I am wondering if the educational “problem” is really a problem at all?

    I wonder if the poverty problem is less a problem of school achievement and more a problem of decreased purchasing power of the currency?

    I wonder if a call for educational reform is just a means for a group of individuals to maintain their status in the machine?

    I wonder if we allowed ourselves to let loose of our need for public control, that we would in turn see greater rewards of self-control?

    Lastly, I wonder what would be some of the unseen consequences of actions that never happen?

  20. on 18 May 2013 at 5:11 amSue Jones

    It was great to hear the “fault-tolerant” education model. I remember learning about it regarding the space program, post-Sputnik… and I saw this video *right* after talking about the need to build in redundancy for our developmental math course for the same reasons (http://resourceroomblog.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/fault-tolerant-education/ )

  21. on 18 May 2013 at 7:38 amChris Shore

    I have heard and spoken with Dr. Triesman several times; he is always inspirational. Dan, I am curious how you reconcile his comments that it is more about policy than teachers with the work of you and so many of us that is more about teachers than policy. I will be posting my thoughts soon. Was curious about yours.

  22. […] Complex tasks designed with multiple entry points lowers the barriers allowing all students an opportunity to learn. See Dan Meyer’s recent post on Equity, Race, and the Opportunity to Learn. […]

  23. […] go one step further than Dan did in recommending you watch Uri Treisman’s talk at the NCTM National Conference in […]

  24. on 19 May 2013 at 7:35 amConcrete Classroom

    […] Dan Meyer put together the slides and talk from Uri Treisman at NCTM 2013. This is a very detailed critique of education bashing (particularly math) in this country that shows poverty and place are major factors in test results. I highly, highly recommend viewing it. Go watch it and come back […]

  25. on 20 May 2013 at 6:01 amLMacfarlane

    “Fear creates a blip of activity largely followed by a period of denial.”

  26. on 20 May 2013 at 11:51 amTom Hoffman

    I honestly don’t know why I would believe anything anyone says about how the standards were drafted without seeing some documentary evidence, but there is none, because it is all a big secret.

  27. on 20 May 2013 at 12:37 pmBill McCallum

    It’s not all a big secret and it’s not true there is no documentary evidence. Here are some press releases that came out during the year of the writing of the standards. And, as I mentioned before, you can find the document listing the names of the work team and the feedback group with the google search I suggested.

    http://www.nga.org/cms/home/news-room/news-releases/page_2009/col2-content/main-content-list/title_common-core-state-standards-development-work-group-and-feedback-group-announced.html

    http://www.nga.org/cms/home/news-room/news-releases/page_2009/col2-content/main-content-list/title_common-core-state-standards-initiative-validation-committee-announced.html

    http://www.nga.org/cms/home/news-room/news-releases/page_2010/col2-content/main-content-list/title_draft-k-12-common-core-state-standards-available-for-comment.html

  28. on 20 May 2013 at 1:09 pmJ. Schwartz

    Agree with Tom. These are press releases from the NGA. With all due respect to Dr. McCallum, the Common Core remains highly suspect. Who paid for the Common Core? What exactly is the CCSSO and the NGA? What is their agenda? Who pays their bills? Why did tens of millions in Gates foundation money flow to Achieve Inc and the NGA? What are the connections to David Coleman’s Student Achievement Partners, Pearson, and Students Choice? Why were states told by a USDOE led by corporate reform ally Arne Duncan that they would not qualify for RTTT funds unless they adopted the standards? The profits to be made by companies promoting “Common Core aligned” curriculum and test-prep materials and delivering the new PARCC-ready computerized assessments is enormous. I’m not entirely sure where kids fit into this equation. It seems to me it’s more about money than math.

  29. on 20 May 2013 at 10:14 pmBill McCallum

    Here is some more information in response to some of these questions.More information is at my university home page, which you can get to by googling my name.

    NGA is the National Governor’s Association. Its members are the governors of all the states. CCSSO is the same thing for all the chiefs of education in their states.

    Yes, Gates was among the foundations that funded this work.

    Adopting Common Core was not a requirement of RTT funding. It was worth 20 out of 500 possible points, not a condition of winning a grant.

    Yes, we live in a country where companies try to make money by selling products. Buyer beware, in this arena as in every other one.

  30. on 20 May 2013 at 10:23 pmBill McCallum

    Sorry, somehow the first paragraph of my response got garbled. What I meant to say is that I am happy to answer further questions by email, and that my email address is available at my university home page.

  31. on 21 May 2013 at 9:11 amRich Konarski

    Wait till you see the SBAC High School Math Test, aligned to the Common Core. My students piloted it today. I’m looking for a new career tomorrow. I think I’ll follow Dan to the college ranks.

  32. on 21 May 2013 at 12:53 pmJoe Schwartz

    That’s the idea. Soon we’ll all be looking for jobs unless we enlist as soldiers in the new testing-industrial complex.

    What state are you in? Here’s something I found interesting. I love the quote at the end.

    Texas legislature considering a bill to drop Algebra II as HS diploma requirement.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/12/education/texas-house-bill-would-drop-algebra-ii-requirement.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    From the article:

    But some education researchers caution against overstating the importance of advanced algebra in preparing for college and career success. A seminal study bolstering the connection between second-year
    algebra and student achievement came from two researchers at the Educational Testing Service, Anthony Carnevale and Alice Desrochers, who followed high school students from 1988 to 2000. The study showed that
    completing the course increased students’ chances of getting a higher-paying job.

    But Mr. Carnevale, now the director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, said that although he still believed that advanced algebra was “pivotal,” policy makers had heard the study’s
    conclusions “much too loudly” as a call to increase standards.

    “It is becoming a problem because we keep upping the ante, and standards never get high enough, and at some point nobody’s going to graduate from high school except the two kids that are going to Harvard,” he said.

  33. on 21 May 2013 at 1:11 pmRich Konarski

    I’m in Michigan. Our gang of misfits are also considering dropping Algebra 2. I’ve never been so disappointed/discouraged in my life. Thank god that people like Dan and the rest of the awesome bloggers keep giving me hope.

  34. on 21 May 2013 at 4:12 pmanonymous

    Rich is not exaggerating. The SBAC pilot was underwhelming to put it mildly. Looks nothing like the sample questions they released. The content level will be intimidating to most students. But, it seems to be intentionally designed to allow for a teach to the test approach (narrow scope, one dimensional questions, easy to guess & check).

  35. on 22 May 2013 at 5:47 amRich Konarski

    If you’re wondering about the pilot SBAC test. I wrote a brief blog about it at http://coachkmath.blogspot.com.

  36. on 22 May 2013 at 5:48 amkmorrowleong

    @FawnNguyen. I agree about Julian Weisglass. I took 2 math courses at UC Santa Barbara in 1988, using his Exploring Elementary Mathematics text. Those two courses changed the trajectory of my career and my life. It makes me unable to accept the status quo in math ed. Thanks for the reference.

  37. on 22 May 2013 at 12:33 pmJoe Schwartz

    @Rich and anonymous: Not surprising. A system designed to produce what he testing-industrial complex and their corporate overlords want: “career and college ready” products ready to take out massive student loans and spend their lives in debt peonage working in mind-numbing jobs for low pay and no benefits. Unless of course you excel, in which case you can work for Apple figuring out new and creative ways to help the company avoid paying taxes.

  38. on 22 May 2013 at 1:02 pmMichael Pershan

    “It would be wonderful if it were music instead of math.”

    Why? School would ruin that too.

  39. on 23 May 2013 at 6:59 pmAlex

    Nice job throwing charters under the bus based on SATs w/o looking at college completion (which is over 4x the national average for minority students graduating from top charter networks) or looking at growth in grade level proficiency. Charters have a long way to go on college readiness but Uri’s narrative was intellectually dishonest by excluding lots of other compelling data.

    Finally I didn’t really understand why he used disaggregated US PISA data by income level against the overall averages of other countries to declare victory for our wealthiest kids. How are their peers doing in other countries?

    I thought it was a good talk, but it seems to me the narrative was more important than the actual data.

    e.g., A whole lot of NAEP growth happened under NCLB. Seems to me he could have told a different story if he chose instead of going the Campbell’s law route.

  40. on 23 May 2013 at 7:37 pmDan Meyer

    Alex:

    Nice job throwing charters under the bus based on SATs w/o looking at college completion (which is over 4x the national average for minority students graduating from top charter networks) …

    Treisman:

    There are a few of them – one KIPP, one YES Prep, one IDEA, one Harmony – that are pretty good.

    Seems like he did highlight top charter networks.

  41. on 24 May 2013 at 6:50 amihor

    After Treisman said this:
    What this shows is that the current theory about school improvement – that charters, Common Core, value-added measures of teaching are going to solve the problem – is profoundly wrong.

    I thought he meant there was only one KIPP school in Texas that was doing the job, not the entire network.

  42. […] is the version of the speech compiled by Dan Meyer. The inclusion of the slides from the talk gives it even greater depth because there is some […]

  43. on 28 May 2013 at 11:37 amMichael Pershan

    I’m now going to show you two graphs that I don’t believe anyone in the math community has seen.

    That slide with PISA data is missing a bunch of countries. Where’s Japan? Where’s Hong Kong? Singapore? Canada?

    All of these countries do well on PISA even though they have considerable child poverty. I put together a fuller picture of the data in this post, with links to the data that (I think) Treisman used.

  44. […] to build fault-tolerant schools and systems if we’re actually going to address equity. —Uri Treisman, Iris M. Carl Equity Address, NCTM 2013, at 35min, […]

  45. on 11 Jun 2013 at 1:07 pmJoel Walsh

    To me, the notion of a school as a fault tolerant system has a different meaning than it might for most. I teach high school math in the Watts district of Los Angeles. Sometimes we get a class with lower English language proficiency levels than most, or with more behavioral problems than most. You can train teachers in conflict resolution, SDAIE strategies, etc. This solves some problems, but not all. Until all high-poverty schools have built in redundancies like social-emotional counseling or small group language instruction, the plane will continue to fail mid-air.

  46. on 19 Jun 2013 at 2:25 pmCollin

    Dan, aren’t you in favor of high-stakes testing and merit pay for teachers and accountability and all that stuff? This guy is definitely on the other side of that battle. And yet, here you are, boosting his signal, because you think that what he has to say is important! That shows true democratic spirit.

    +10 Levelheaded, Nonpartisan Cool Person Points for you!

  47. on 19 Jun 2013 at 5:01 pmDan Meyer

    Hi Collin, I’m always happy to accept Nonpartisan Cool Person Points but I’m afraid you may have confused my stance on all of the above. Please feel free to let me know which posts you’re referring to.

  48. on 19 Jun 2013 at 9:10 pmCollin

    Oh crud, I bet you’re right. I may even be confused on the general details of the issues here, and not just on your stance. I’m not even a teacher (yet), and so my mental picture of the education world is still fuzzy. Though I am trying to unfuzz it.

    This is my mental picture as of now:

    There is a controversial “accountability” issue diving the education world into two camps. I’m not entirely sure yet who I agree with.

    The first camp liked the message of “Waiting for Superman,” and they believe in a Michelle-Rhee-like approach to dealing with bad teachers and bad schools. That is, carry out standardized testing to see how everyone is doing, then pay them accordingly – and if they do very badly, fire the teacher or close the school. This way teachers and schools are held accountable for doing their jobs, and lazy/awful teachers can’t get away with getting paid while their kids suffer.

    The second camp includes people like Diane Ravitch and Pasi Sahlberg, and the entire nation of Finland. They believe that the way to improve teaching is to try to make it a more attractive and respected profession (with higher pay, union membership, lots of teacher support, and higher barriers to entry), and then more young, smart, motivated people will try to become teachers, for the same reason they try to become doctors now. This camp opposes merit pay and high-stakes tests, on the basis that having to “teach to the test” impairs teaching, and that teachers will do better if they are trusted rather than subjected to frequent evaluation.

    I had mentally placed you in Camp One because of these posts from years past:

    http://blog.mrmeyer.com/?p=61
    http://blog.mrmeyer.com/?p=971
    (Although, upon further review, that second one is about an *opt-in* merit pay system.)

    I put Uri Treisman in Camp Two because of the slide with “Campbell’s Law,” where he said, “High-stakes assessment produces compulsive focus on narrow parts of schooling.” Also, his claim that poverty rather than teaching is the biggest cause of kids’ academic failure seemed characteristic of the second camp, who frequently blame No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top for using high-stakes testing to justify taking money away from poor schools.

    But in reality, people’s positions on this are probably too complex to be expressed in a single bit, and I shouldn’t be pasting Camp One and Camp Two labels on people right and left. What’s your actual stance?

    (The answer will not affect my high level of respect for you – not that you should care about how much an unknown internet person respects you, because that’s not healthy.)

  49. on 20 Jun 2013 at 10:23 amDan Meyer

    Hi Collin, I appreciate you letting me off the hook with that last line there but it does matter to me how I represent myself online.

    I think you read those posts accurately, but any post with an ID in the double- or even triple-digits was written nearly ten years ago. There are other posts I’ve thought about deleting but which I leave around a) to illustrate one teacher’s process of change and b) to remind myself to chill out a little bit and remember that ten years from now I may regard my most cherished ideas as more jackassery.

    My current state of mind:

    • The CCSS for math are quite a lot better than the standards I labored under in California for six years. I’m glad we adopted them. (See Andrew Stadel’s comparison.)
    • I’m convinced by existing research on merit pay that it won’t achieve its goals while also having negative knock-on effects.
    • I want good assessments that measure things we should care about. The current SBAC preview test looks encouraging.
    • Those tests shouldn’t account for more than a small fraction (say 20%) of the decision to retain or fire a teacher. They’re too unstable, with teachers ranking great one year and ranking terrible the next. I don’t trust them.

    Might change my mind tomorrow, though.

  50. […] tried to have an opinion. Most of them were wrong, but I respected bloggers who wrote about their own opinions as well other people's. So that's how […]

  51. on 01 Jul 2013 at 8:08 pmopportunity | sonata mathematique

    […] me as I watched. Then right after I finished the video, I found Dan’s post from May where he did the same thing. (And dumb me for not stumbling upon it earlier, because that side by side video/powerpoint would […]

  52. […] Treisman gave a near-perfect talk on race, poverty, and equity at NCTM 2013 (which I trust you've now seen at least once) but he left […]

  53. on 26 Nov 2013 at 5:47 pmcheesemonkeysf

    I went back and listened to this talk again because I wanted to capture another “Highly Quotable” insight that has been echoing in my mind for a couple weeks now. It comes in Treisman’s answer to the first questioner:

    “One of the consequences of the current reform emphasis is that it’s taken the focus away from one of the central roles of schooling in a diverse society, and that is as places that produce citizens with a deep commitment to democratic ideals.

    In the 1920s, our schools were places that forged this common identity in a diverse society and we need to return our schools to being places of forging a complex American identity with a commitment to the things that make us a country, which are *ideas*, not blood.”

    Thanks again for putting together the video and the slides.

    – Elizabeth (@cheesemonkeysf)

  54. […] his exceptional address last year, I don't even check Uri Treisman's titles or descriptions […]