Caroline and I had a good conversation about math at Prairie Creek today and she asked me to write a reflection about what we're doing, what we could be doing and what this year's MCAs scores mean in the context of progressive education.

**First, we do not discount these scores.**

*use the latter regularly, we don't teach graphs and graphing vocabulary discretely. Both are opportunities for our curriculum development. As we receive more data, we'll be able to see more clearly "what happened" and address it accordingly.*

**The Challenge of Small Cohorts**

**What Does the Test Measure?**

**Overall, I find the MCAs, especially the reading portion, to be a fair test. They are untimed and they attempt to go beyond the multiple choice format and look more deeply at students' abilities. The reading portion really does measure students' ability to comprehend texts and write about them. The math portion assesses students' mastery of content more than pure problem solving ability. Vocabulary and familiarity with certain ways of presenting problems affect children's scores. For example, a student may be asked to take some data and create a pictograph of it. If a child does not know what a pictograph is, he does not receive credit -- even if he can represent the same data in an equally appropriate way such as a bar graph. A child's ability to comprehend data and create meaningful representations of it is not being tested, rather it is the child's vocabulary being examined. Should kids know the word "pictograph"? Sure. And we do work with pictographs occasionally, but we do not spend time drilling the word or how to make them. The word is not as important as the idea, which is intuitive for most children and does not warrant a lot of time in direct instruction (unless you make the decision to teach to the test).**

**Curriculum Bias in Test Design**

**I taught the Everyday Math program for years when I lived in Connecticut. I find it to be a solid curriculum that is well thought out, if uninspiring. The curriculum is ubiquitous and I believe that it is the foundation for the math MCA. The "In and Out" table is an example. It's a way of presenting a functional relationship and several lessons in the fourth grade Every Day curriculum teach it explicitly. However, it is not a standard mathematical representation the way a division sign or exponent are. On the test, a student would be given an "In and Out" table with two columns of numbers headed "in" and "out" and no further explanation. The question may ask for a missing number in the table. Many children, when looking at such a table for the first time, need support to figure out that the same thing happens to the "in" number to produce the "out" number. Children who have worked many "in and out" tables (i.e. those whose districts use the Everyday Math Curriculum) have a distinct advantage over those who don't. Similarly, vocabulary and concepts focussed on in Everyday Math seem to be emphasized in the MCA.**

**So, Why Don't We Use Everyday Math?**

**The Home/School Connection**

**Last Words**

*and*passionate about math, something which, sadly, the MCA cannot measure.

*I look forward to continuing this conversation informally via e-mail ([email protected]) and formally in a committee this coming fall. I hope you'll join me.*