Kendall Hunt Publishing

Will Assessments Ruin the Spirit of the Common Core?

Written by Tim Pope

Along with the ongoing debate in many states about adopting the Common Core, many states have decided to keep (e.g., Alabama and Georgia), or are considering keeping, the standards but using neither PARCC nor SMARTER Balanced assessments.  I recently spent some time in Pennsylvania, and the teachers there threw their hands up as they are trying to plan the implementation of the Common Core standards with no guidance as to the form and structure of the assessments.

The primary driver for bailing on the assessments seems to be cost.  Education Week has posted a very informative article (warning: there is a pay wall) breaking down the costs of both assessments as compared to what states are currently paying.  At the end of the day, it seems the costs of the new assessments will be in the middle of what states are currently paying.  ACT has jumped into the fray offering an alternative assessment system at a lower price point.  Some states are considering tweaking their current assessments rather than buying into a new system.

There is also a political argument being made against the assessments that is similar to the argument being made against the standards themselves.  Just as many see the standards as a federal intrusion on local policy, the assessments are being seen similarly.  One of Georgia’s concerns when they dropped the assessments was the lack of local control.  Amongst other concerns, Florida legislators have expressed concern about the reliability of the new assessment systems.

One of the reasons I was initially excited about the Common Core was the significance given to the Mathematical Practice standards.  My enthusiasm only increased when the two assessment consortia committed to integrating the Practice standards into the assessments.  For too many years, I have observed the NCTM process standards and other state process standards being ignored in the classroom because they were not covered “on the test.”  Integrating the Practice standards into the assessments has pushed many teachers to truly examine their instructional practices.

I know very little about the new ACT assessment or the assessments of the states that are looking to simply modify what they already have.  I only hope that whatever decisions states make, the assessments truly integrate all of the standards, including the Practices.


What Can We Learn from Games?

Written by Werner Garciano

I recently finished conducting two professional development sessions with high school teachers. From the buzz in the room, you could tell that the puzzle solving session was the most engaging. Yes, the teachers were enjoying the time trying to solve the puzzles; but they also enjoyed discovering how they can connect mathematics at any level to the puzzles. (You can read more about these games in my previous post, 3 Mantras to Make Math Fun.)

What mathematics can you connect when playing these games?








































How about the Game of Nimm? How can we explain the optimum strategy with mathematics?


















































Try playing these games with another math-minded person, and try to connect mathematics to these games. You will be surprised with what you will find. I know I was after working with the teachers from last week’s sessions.



Register Today for the Next Student Success in College & Beyond Symposium!

Register today for the Student Success in College & Beyond Symposium in Nashville!
Register today for the Student Success in College & Beyond Symposium! This Fall, the event will take place in Nashville, TN October 11-13, 2013. Please visit for more details.

This cost-effective professional development opportunity is packed full of interesting and relevant session topics – it is specifically designed for YOUR student success teams. Kendall Hunt Publishing is proud to announce the following NEW Symposium Sessions:

  • Designing & Implementing an Effective First-Year Experience Course at two and four year institutions
  • Improving Academic Advisement
  • Creating a Student Success-Centered Campus Culture

The Student Success in College & Beyond Symposium is designed and delivered by faculty, administrators, and educational consultants in the student success field who supply specific, research-based practices that can be used to promote student persistence, learning, and holistic development in the first year of college and beyond.

Can’t be with us this Fall? No problem! Our Spring Symposium will be held in Las Vegas March 28-30, 2014.


Moving Towards 2062 from 1862… Cultivating Our Future in a Volatile World

Written by Laura Lottes

Recently while visiting my family cemetery, nestled on a country hillside, I stood before my great grandfather August (Gus) H. Quade’s grave. He was born 100 years and three days before me, in the family home approximately 300 feet from the cemetery. I imagined what life was like on that autumn day in 1862 and what it was like for him growing up, living his life, and dying on the same land my entire family calls home. At that time President Abraham Lincoln was in office, the Commander in Chief during the Civil War. While soldiers bitterly battled one another, determined to preserve their way of life without surrendering to another’s beliefs, a young boy had his entire life ahead of him.

Gus would attend elementary school in a one room schoolhouse that was erected on our family’s land. Parcel 17 of Table Mound Township to be exact. It had all of the modern conveniences of a mid 1800s classroom. There were desks with ink wells, small slate boards, and a coat hook for every student. A large slate chalkboard graced the front of the classroom; there were a handful of textbooks, and a large map of the United States Territories. Gus received a solid education at the one room schoolhouse and would continue his education at Dubuque Senior High School, at that time located in Turner Hall. His education served him well as he grew into a successful businessman and farmer. The one room schoolhouse seems to have existed so long ago. We imagine only our great grandparents had such a rustic educational experience. When in fact, Gus’s children, grandchildren, and two of his great grandchildren received part or all of their elementary education at the same one room schoolhouse, the two great grandchildren being my two oldest siblings!!!

Leap forward to 1968 when I began kindergarten at a school that hosted approximately 500 kids. Still located in Table Mound Township, replacing the one room schoolhouse, we still had a large slate chalkboard at the front of the room! Ahhh, how slate stands the test of time. But now our learning tools progressed to overhead projectors, slide strips, movie projectors, books covering every subject for each student, and lockers! Education was mostly traditional during that time. Fortunately for my classmates and me, there were a few teachers who explored different methods of teaching and learning. We experienced hands-on science projects, and math was related to everyday life, incorporating language arts and financial literacy. For example, in fourth grade every child was taught how to write a check, balance a checkbook, and develop a personal budget. My school was actually considered a "test" school in the 1960s and 70s. The focus was on learning math and science in a real world context, and incorporating this method of learning into the curriculum. I applaud the innovative leaders and educators who had the foresight to challenge the traditional way of teaching and learning.

And now we find ourselves in 2013. Wow, education has progressed over the course of 50 years and not to mention the last 100 years. We’ve replaced our trusted slate boards with interactive white boards with which all students can actively partake in the learning. While content should be first and foremost in all curriculum, the platform for delivery has evolved at a rapid pace. Hands-on, experience-based, and real world learning will no longer just be an option, it will be a requirement in order for states to meet the criteria outlined in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Students will have opportunities to engage with their learning experiences that we never imagined possible in 1862. The turmoil of the Civil War has long passed, but unfortunately confusion and chaos is present in many forms in today’s society, especially in education. There are impoverished school districts in which the main focus is not necessarily on learning, but on living… students are concerned with basic survival, and hopefully how to become self sufficient and contribute to society. This is the reality for several school districts across our great country. Think about it, what format of education would be engaging and benefit students in these classrooms? Could that format be similar to the education I received in the mid 60s and 70s, which was a practical approach connecting learning to real life experiences? How about using this format in all classrooms, not just those located in low social economic areas? It’s visibly a logical method. That format also appears to support the kind of learning called for in the CCSS. Once again, I applaud the group of people who were innovative and courageous in challenging the traditional way of teaching and learning, and forging ahead developing and promoting the CCSS. Now our goal should be for all states to transform their schools to a learning environment that will cultivate innovative, self-sufficient learners. By embracing and implementing the CCSS, states will not only be giving a gift to our current generation, they will establish a solid foundation for our future generations to thrive in the ever changing world.

Looking to the near future… 2062. I can only imagine what our society, lives, and education will be like fifty years from now. History lays the foundation for our future. Today is tomorrow’s history. It’s imperative that we are all committed to developing our own advancements in life and in education for our future generations to expand upon. I challenge you to answer one question. What will your commitment and contribution be to the present and to the future?


Common Core for the Uncommon Student

Written by Ann Bakker, Gifted Teacher

Last fall I had the opportunity to attend the Fall Educator’s Conference at Northwestern University.  The title of the conference was “Common Core State Standards: Let’s Make Them Work for Gifted” led by Dr. Joyce VanTassel-Baska.  Since then, I’ve had great fun thinking about and working to apply the standards so that the gifted and academically advanced pull-out students at my school receive appropriate instruction. 

Recently, my second grade students worked through a unit about Ancient China (Ancient China: The Middle Kingdom  published by Kendall Hunt Publishing).  The culminating project for this unit has the students work in small groups to research and report about one of the Wonders of the World.  This project is both engaging and challenging.  One group of three students chose to research, write a two page report, develop a Power Point presentation, and create a model of The Hanging Gardens of Babylon.  Once they determined the topic and projects, I created an assignment sheet and rubric that encouraged them to work at their level of ability by incorporating above grade-level and at grade-level Reading, Writing, and Speaking and Listening Standards.  These students read print and online texts about The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, completed their chosen projects, and presented to their classmates.

Listed below are some of the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts that I specifically targeted with the students who worked on The Hanging Gardens of Babylon project:

At the same time those the three students were learning and reporting about The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, another small group of students was studying The Great Pyramid of Giza.  Based on their point of entry, I targeted different standards with these students.  Now when I adapt or create lessons and units for specific students and groups of students, I think about their particular point of entry with each of the standards. While it takes time to create different assignments and rubrics for small groups of gifted and advanced learners, the standards provide a guideline for me as I differentiate specific units.  What strategies have you used in implementing CCSS with your gifted and advanced learners?

(Check out an earlier post on Kendall Hunt's social studies materials for gifted learners: Gifted Social Studies...Hard to Find? Not at KH!)


Common Core Assessment: Make Sense and Persevere

Written by Werner Garciano

Recently, I read an article in the May issue of Mathematics Teacher entitled, “Prepare for More Realistic Test Results” by Matthew R. Larson and Steven Leinwand. There were two main messages in the article. First, don't be alarmed if the percentage of "proficient" students on the CCSS math assessments decreases significantly when compared to current proficiency rates on state assessments. Second, stakeholders in education should make sense of the problem and persevere as they solve the problem, much like we ask of the students with the first standard of mathematical practice.

The authors cited many research projects to support their main point. One study compared the “proficient” percentage for current state assessments versus the percentage of students deemed “proficient” as reported on NAEP. I wanted to see how the new assessments developed by Smarter Balance and PARCC compared to the current assessments in use.

Here is a sample item from an Algebra math assessment from one of the states that has a lower proficiency standard when compared to the standard set by NAEP. Like NAEP, the CCSS math assessments will be internationally benchmarked.

And here is a performance task for a high school student from

So how do we get students to do these tasks proficiently?


The Noise of Politics and the Common Core

Written by Tim Pope

My Google Alert for “Common Core Mathematics” has recently supplied me with no shortage of reading as a fair number of states are engaging in debate around the Common Core.  The debate has created some strange bedfellows as the Tea Party and the teachers unions share antipathy for the standards while many Republican governors and legislators are joining President Obama’s administration in support of the Common Core.  Healthy debate on what is best for our schools and our children is not only appropriate, but a necessary part of a successful society.  What concerns me as a parent and an educator is my fear that the Common Core debate is being removed from a true conversation about preparing our children for a challenging future.  Learning standards seem to have become another pawn in the seemingly ceaseless polarized rhetoric that passes for political discourse.

Five states have, for various reasons, not adopted the Common Core.  A few others have been debating them for a while.  The number of states questioning the Standards jumped this spring when the Republican National Committee adopted a resolution condemning the Common Core.  Not wanting to use this blog to cover ground that others have covered, the Fordham Institute has provided their response.   














Red – Committed to CCSS             

Blue – Adopted CCSS, but state legislature considering rejection           

Gray – Did not adopt CCSS


The discourse has become heated as some of those wanting to abandon the Common Core accuse the federal government of conspiring to take over schools, invade the privacy of families, and increase the profits of companies involved with the new standards.  Not to only focus on one side of the traditional political debate, teachers unions have also provided lukewarm responses as they worry the new assessments may impact their job security.

In the Heath brothers’ latest book, Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, they explore the common mistake of confirmation bias when making a decision.  Our politics have become so polarized, I think we often look for reasons to assume the worst and the Common Core is falling victim to this bias.  Tea Party groups are looking to confirm their beliefs about the federal government and unions are looking to confirm their beliefs about perceived disrespect.  The Heath brothers suggest assuming positive intent as a strategy for overcoming the bias. 

Is it not possible to assume the writers of the Common Core are capable individuals seeking to ensure all students are prepared for college and careers? 

Is it not possible to assume the Department of Education was looking for a scalable solution to the incredible challenge of preparing students to make positive contributions to our nation? 

Is it not possible to assume publishers and other instructional materials vendors are simply reacting to the policy makers, districts, schools, and teachers that make up our customer base?

It is also possible that there are great conspiracy theories looking to cheat the American people, and our children, from a quality education.  However, starting with that premise only eliminates the possibility of true dialogue and any opportunity we have to improve student learning.


Education: A Ticket Out of the Cave

Written by Lacy Knipper

Last weekend I attended a college graduation ceremony.  It’s been years since I donned my tassel and robe, so admittedly I expected to take little more away from the ceremony than simply the “warm and fuzzies” of celebrating the achievements of a loved one.  (Which is unarguably a valuable and meaningful thing in itself!)  However, in addition to the happiness I felt for my loved one, I came away with a renewed sense of wonder and excitement for the field of education.

The president of the college started the ceremony at the podium speaking of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” in which prisoners are chained in a cave, seeing only shadows on the wall.  For the prisoners, the shadows are their perceived reality; they can’t see the objects that are creating the shadows.  The story goes on to present developmental and social implications of a scenario in which one of the prisoners rises up out of the cave into true reality and sunlight.  (While I find the social implications compelling, I will save that discussion for another day!) 

The developmental implications stood out to me as an educator, particularly as they relate to an inquiry approach to education.  Developmentally, Plato suggests that the freed prisoner would struggle in the bright light with unaccustomed eyes.  However, with the world opened up to him, the freed prisoner would eventually make meaning – discovering reality. 

Through inquiry-based education, students begin to see beyond the “shadows” and make meaning of the world around them.  Students are allowed to “struggle in the bright light” as they are challenged in a positive way, encouraged to ask questions, and communicate; they develop critical thinking abilities.  In making their own discoveries, students become confident and empowered in their ability to learn.  Learning extends beyond facts and figures and builds transferrable life skills. 

From my folding chair in the auditorium, I watched as two K-12 educators were honored after being nominated by their former students, now graduating from college.  A third K-12 educator was posthumously awarded an honorary doctorate for his contributions to countless students over his years of service in education.  What a testament to the impact of education and the opportunity that we have in the field of education to really make a difference!  It got me thinking, what better calling is there than to work in education?  How exciting and fulfilling to be involved in the process of each learner “rising up out of the cave!” 

As I sat amidst cheers of family members and the familiar notes of Pomp and Circumstance, I swallowed the lump in my throat and smiled right along with the graduates, beaming as they left the stage, diplomas in hand.

Does Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” speak to you like it did to me?  How are you involved in helping others “rise up out of the cave?”  What has helped you “rise up out of the cave?”


3 Mantras to Make Math Fun

Written by Werner Garciano

Every year, I present at Career Day at the elementary school that my kids attend. I have been doing it for seven years now, and it is always well received. I don’t know why teachers and students like my sessions since I talk more about the importance of math than I do my own career. Let’s face it, the career of a mathematics curriculum specialist (that’s the title on my business card) is not too glamorous. If I talked about what I do on a day to day basis, I am sure that kids will walk out saying, “No way am I going to do that job for the rest of my life!”

In order to show the importance of math in their future career, there are certain mantras that I follow when I design my presentations. It is much the same as the mantras that I used when lesson planning.

  1. Engage the participant. What could be more boring than a set of powerpoint slides about the life of a mathematics curriculum specialist? The slides just make it more bearable than a straight lecture since there is something to see other than the speaker and how he talks with his hands as he waves them about wildly.
  2. Be like Mr. Miyagi. In the Karate Kid, Mr. Miyagi had Daniel San do various tasks that did not seem related to learning karate but they actually did. Remember how “paint the fence” was actually the best way to defend against a kick?
  3. Recognize your star participants. Recognition can range from pats on the back, making a great example of the work done by a participant or giving them a small prize.

So now you want an example of what I did at Career Day?

I posed a set of questions that seem like off the wall questions that are used by various companies when they interview candidates. These questions ranged from “How many cows are in Canada?” to “How many quarters will it take to reach the top of the Empire State Building?” The kids were in amazement that such “preposterous” questions were asked and they wanted to know what those questions had to do with getting a job at Google. I told them it was more of a test of their problem thinking skills and they had to solve non-routine problems in order to hone their critical thinking skills.

The kids went to various stations with different puzzles and games. One game they had to play was the game of Nimm. This is a game with fifteen coins and each player removes one or two coins at each turn. The player who removes the last coin is the loser. I challenged the kids to come up with a strategy on how to play the game of Nimm and also how to tell when they were going to lose way before the last coin is taken. We also played Coin Swap and Lunar Lockout, which are found in Discovering Geometry.

After all the playing was done, I asked who was successful in the short amount of time they had to play the games or with the puzzles. The star students got a little prize and a lot of praise from me, their teacher, and most important of all, their peers.

When I left after doing all of my sessions, I got a stack of thank you notes from the kids. The all said thank you and that they loved my session. Most of all, they said that they like math now. I made it fun.

How can you make every day in your classroom a Career Day, where students leave with excitement about math?


"...and All of the Children are Above Average."

Written by Tim Pope

For those that listen to the radio show Prairie Home Companion, you immediately recognize the title of this posting as part of Garrison Keillor’s traditional description of the children of Lake Wobegon (Coincidentally, this is also the town where all the women are strong and the men are good-looking).  Our culture seems to have an insatiable need to be better than the other guy.  This need is significantly influencing education policy and the implementation of the Common Core.

The effect of exceptionalism on education is not a new concept.  Math and science education took giant strides forward in the 1960s when we feared we were losing the space race to Russia.  The emergence of high-stakes testing in Texas in the 1980s gave us the ability to put a simple number on how our school/student performance/community is better than yours.  More recently, international assessments have led to headlines such as “Poor U.S. Test Results Tied to Weak Curriculum” and “Competitors Still Beat U.S. in Tests.” 

The cultural reality of exceptionalism in America is stated without judgment.  However, the spirit of exceptionalism may have created a dynamic of delusion.  For example, while American children may struggle with math, they excel at feeling good about themselves.  More notably, as parents we feel good about how brilliant our children are (as the father of five, I am often glared at when I proudly profess my children all seem to be stunningly average).    

The collision between exceptionalism and delusional brilliance is coming to a head with the new standards and assessments.  Texas has adopted new standards and assessments (not the Common Core, as Texas has its own brand of exceptionalism).  Policy makers there are backpedaling as parents are realizing that many students will struggle with the new assessments, and Texas has now gone from requiring four years of math including Algebra 2 to simply passing the Algebra 1 end-of-course exam for graduation.  Other groups have developed resistance to the Common Core as potentially limiting the learning of gifted learners.  Everyone seems to want to define career and college ready and to have their definition a.) be better than others, and b.) work for their children.

By and large, the Common Core (and the accompanying assessments) have done and will do a fine job of advancing the quality of mathematics education in America.  Many students will struggle with the greater demand just as students struggled 15 years ago when most states determined every student should take Algebra 1 (the argument on how these courses may have been diluted to achieve success for all will have to wait).  Rather than saying the Common Core is helping to move all students to the same end point, I believe the better articulation is that the Common Core will help move the entire continuum of learners in a forward direction.  Will the Common Core enable more students to be ready for success after high school?  Yes.  Can someone somewhere write a better set of standards?  Maybe, but it’s not worth the argument.  Now, on the other hand, arguments around the assessments and how they will be interpreted….


Doctoral practitioner research: A dissertation research problem that emerges from professional practice

Today we are lucky enough to have a guest blogger, one of our Kendall Hunt authors, Robin Throne:

Practitioner research continues to gain momentum as an emerging research methodology beyond the past perceptions of it as an “applied” research method since the chasm between research and practice continues to narrow in an advancing American knowledge economy. In this definition of practitioner research, a doctoral research study is practitioner research if the study problem of focus has originated from the learner’s professional practice and relevant to the current scholarship. 

In the past, these types of study problems may have been avoided as real-world problems may not have been appropriate for the white-coat objectivism expected within dissertation research. However, over the past decade, as executive leaders have pursued the online doctorate and more and more doctoral researchers bring their dissertation research to their professional practice, practitioner research as dissertation research has continued. 

It is not uncommon for a doctoral learner—turned practitioner researcher—to consider data collection long before a specific problem has been well situated within the research literature and an appropriate study method and design has been determined for the dissertation study. While it may seem to be the nature of research within a workplace setting, or that metrics from the workplace can easily be used as study variables, it is essential for the doctoral scholar to reconsider his or her multiple roles as scholar, practitioner, and researcher and approach a study problem first from a rigorous and complex perspective beyond a practice viewpoint. Once a stance has been articulated and this positionality established, the bridge exists by which to bring the problem of the field to the doctoral practitioner research investigation.  

To learn more about the use of workplace problems as rigorous and relevant doctoral dissertation research problems, see

Practitioner Research in Doctoral Education:

  • Explores the ongoing research-based conversation that demystifies doctoral research study and clarifies its relation to and within the setting of professional practice. 
  • Is inspired by the varied and intriguing research into doctoral learner success, practice settings as research setting, practice-based constructs and variables, practitioner as independent researcher, and the many connotations of what practitioner research is and should be.
  • Is designed for doctoral scholars who desire to bring their research to practice; as well as the doctoral faculty, doctoral program developers, and the leaders in doctoral education who serve them to consider practitioner research across the disciplines and its value for the scholar practitioner. 

Users of Practitioner Research in Doctoral Education bring innovation, problem-solving, research-based decision making and the betterment of the discipline outside of the academy as they return to professional practice.

Kendall Hunt author, Dr. Robin Throne will facilitate a free virtual weekend workshop May 3-5 entitled, “Construct operationalization: Quantifying variables from professional practice.” Send email for more information or to register. She is the author of Practitioner Research in Doctoral Education (2012, Kendall Hunt).


Organization Strategies in a Digital World

Written by Megan Veech

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by today’s constant updates in technology? Or, that the internet is one big information overload? The days of using library archives have dwindled. Instead, we want something at the click of a mouse. But, it can be hard keeping your connections organized and still stay up to date with recent news.

To help me stay focused and on task during the workday, below are some strategies I use so that I can keep up with education topics, such as the Common Core State Standards and STEM Education.

  • Organize – Google recently announced that their web-based aggregator, Google Reader, is retiring soon. For those of you who don’t know, Google Reader collects and reads RSS Organization Strategies in a Digital Worldfeeds and Google Alerts, which are emails sent to you that match a specific term you create (i.e.: Inquiry-Based Learning). This is a great tool to house any favorite newspaper, web page or blog. Here are a few replacement suggestions from another user of Google Reader. This brings me to my second point…
  • Read – Block at least 30 minutes out of your day to read journals, blogs or whatever relates to the area of your interest. Many of my ideas are sparked from reading posts online. Don’t have time to read the article right away but you want to save it for later? Try an app such as Pinterest or Get Pocket to organize your findings in a virtual file that can be accessed at the click of a mouse.
  • Network – Reach out to others in the same field as yourself through forums, Facebook or other social media platforms.  Kendall Hunt’s Facebook page posts something new every day that features today’s education topics, and also serves as a way for one to share and comment with others.
  • Share – Just like networking, it is also important to share your own findings. Don’t be afraid to share a recent article you read with others through your LinkedIn profile or Twitter page. In the end, we’re all contributing to an endless circle.

Trying to manage your digital library can be overwhelming. But, it helps to have some sort of organization for all the data that comes your way. Taking the time to apply strategies for yourself that you will utilize will save you time to focus on your career. Of course, I’m always finding new apps and reading new ways to enhance my organization tactics. Let us know what different strategies you use. Perhaps your ideas will benefit another educator in the classroom!


Uncertainty and Technology Integration

Written by Tim Pope

This entry is Part 3 in a three-part series. See Part 1: Too Much Uncertainty in Math Education is Cause for Concern and Part 2:  Uncertainty and the Common Core.

The education community in general, from educators to policy makers to materials providers, has been declaring that paper in schools is dying and computers will become the primary learning tool for students.  In the last ten years, technology has begun to emerge as a stronger supplemental tool in most schools (and a primary tool in a few).  The majority of teachers are perfectly comfortable, if not preferring, to access their instructional materials digitally.  If the schools I spend time in are any indication, LCD projectors have become as ubiquitous as overhead projectors were fifteen years ago.  Interactive whiteboards, graphing technology, “clicker” assessment systems, and other technologies are becoming more prevalent in our classrooms.  However, most schools still rely on paper as the primary tool for communicating with students both in terms of instructional materials and receiving work products.  Uncertainty here?  Let me count the ways:

  • Will technology lead to truly individualized learning or will technology be used to improve the communal classroom experience?
  • Is the one-to-one student tool a laptop, netbook, or tablet?  iPad or Android? 
  • Will instructional materials all be open-sourced, non-curated content from which teachers select or will teachers still use publisher-provided complete programs?
  • What is the true cost for technology?  Hardware, software, web tools, technology support, professional development are all costs that need to be considered.

There is uncertainty.  There are also resources that will help convert uncertainty to risk.  Along with professional organizations such as ISTE, web searches will turn up phenomenal educators such as Dan Meyer who are leading the way to help teachers use technology to improve instruction and learning.   Through (name your social media tool of choice here), vibrant communities have grown to help teachers implement incredible strategies for using technology to increase student learning.

I could continue to write of other uncertainties in math education.  School funding, changes in teacher and school evaluation systems, changes in student demographics and many other issues also lead to uncertainty.  It seems the best advice is to make sure we are embracing the first mathematical practice standard of the Common Core: Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.


Student Success in College & Beyond Symposium Just Around the Corner!

Register for the Student Succes in College & Beyond SymposiumRegister today for the Student Success in College & Beyond Symposium! This spring, the event will take place in Dallas, Texas April 19-20, 2013. Please visit for more details.

This cost-effective professional development opportunity is packed full of interesting and relevant session topics – it is specifically designed for YOUR student success teams. Kendall Hunt Publishing is proud to announce the following NEW Symposium Sessions:

  • Key Elements of a Comprehensive & Coordinated Student–Success Plan
  • Universal Principles of Student Retention & Student Learning
  • Instructor Training for the First–Year Seminar

The Student Success in College & Beyond Symposium is designed and delivered by faculty, administrators, and educational consultants in the student success field who supply specific, research-based practices that can be used to promote student persistence, learning, and holistic development in the first year of college and beyond.

Can’t be with us this Spring? No problem! Watch for details soon on where and when you can join us for the Fall Symposium.


How to Lose Your Common Core Blues

Written by Melissa Cragg, Math Educator

The Common Core State Standards can be overwhelming, especially when many teachers are trying to make sense of them while still teaching their students every day.  There isn’t enough time in a day to get it all done.  And no one teacher is expected to get it all done alone.  Here are three things that I always keep in mind to help me from losing my mind during any change in curriculum:

By Flickr user: Andy Clarke United Kingdom [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

1.)  This will take time… Adjusting to a new curriculum will not happen all at once, so take baby steps and change one thing at a time.  It’s not going to be perfect the first year, but don’t worry, next year will come and you can fine-tune your lessons.  Have no fear; the adjustments will decrease with each passing year.

2.)  Hone your skills… Just as doctors should to stay current on the latest medical breakthroughs, we teachers need to stay at the top of our game as well.  Attend a conference, read mathematical journals, search the web for the latest information on the CCSS.  In other words, do something to improve your skills.  Also, remember you are a professional and have quite a bit of knowledge yourself, so listen to your gut as well.

3.)  Teamwork… Find a teacher or teachers who are willing to collaborate.  Everyone is in the same boat, so split up the work load and dig in.  Perhaps one of your fellow collaborators loves to write assessments, and another enjoys creating student centers.  Let them tackle these areas while you focus on incorporating graphing calculators into the lesson.  Play to everyone’s strengths and passions.

Finally, remember that you can do this.  You encourage your students throughout the day by telling them that they can do it.  Listen to your own advice.



Kendall Hunt Hits the Road

It's that time of year again -- Kendall Hunt PreK-12's authors and staff will be taking to the road to attend some of the nation's largest educational conferences and introduce our programs to the educators who attend them. We're excited to show you our digital and print curriculum solutions for a variety of disciplines, and like most exhibitors, we'll provide you with program samples that are right for you. But did you know that Kendall Hunt's presence isn't confined to the exhibit hall? Our authors and staff also will be presenting a variety of workshops that highlight the many ways that our hands-on, inquiry-based programs are building student achievement in classrooms across the country. 

However, educational conferences aren't just a platform for us to promote our products. They're also a great way for us to learn from you. Each year, the entire Kendall Hunt team looks forward to speaking with conference attendees to hear what's working -- and what's not -- in your districts, buildings, and classrooms.  The conversations in our booth, in meeting rooms, and at conference-related events are especially meaningful to us and often serve as a springboard for developing new programs and services that address your specific needs. 

Here's where we'll be this spring -- if you're attending, too, we hope you'll attend a presentation or stop by our booth for some good discussion about ways we can support you and your students. 

See you along the road!

ASCD 2013 Annual Conference and Exhibit Show:  March 16-18, Chicago, IL -- Booth 535

NCEA 2013 Convention and Expo:  April 2-4, Houston, TX -- Booth 327

NSTA National Conference: April 11-14, San Antonio, TX -- Booth 1408

45th NCSM Annual Conference: April 15-17, Denver, CO -- Booth 301

NCTM Annual Meeting and Exposition: April 17-20, Denver, CO -- Booth 1731

IRA 58th Annual Convention: April 19-22, San Antonio, TX -- Booth 1137

NSTA STEM Forum and Expo:  May 15-18, St. Louis, MO -- Booth 600




Involve Me and I Learn

Written by Jen Gilbert, Special Populations Liaison

“Tell me and I forget.  Teach me and I remember.  Involve me and I learn.”  –Benjamin Franklin

When I sat down to think about why I am so passionate about inquiry-based education I tried to come up with an example that sums up the experience for both teachers and students.  I remembered a colleague sharing a story about a conversation she had with a student.  She was working in a small group with special education students and she asked one of the students, “What do you think?”  The student’s response was, “I don’t know.”  She made it a teachable moment by telling the student that she was asking what they think about the topic, not what they know in terms of looking for any particular correct answer.  To me that was a powerful lesson for both of them.  How often do we ask our students what they think, and truly consider the response?  The reason I love inquiry-based science is that it allows students to think about ideas, explore ways to solve a problem, and make sense of it all in the context of the particular lesson.  In other words, the inquiry approach allows students to do science.

Working with special education students has allowed me a unique perspective on lesson design. Establishing lessons that are suited to meet the needs of special education students in the classroom will benefit ALL students in the classroom.  My first exposure to an inquiry-based curriculum in the classroom
was BSCS Biology: A Human Approach.  I remember opening up the textbook and seeing the first engage activity called “Cooperating like a Scientist” in the Being a Scientist opening section.  I saw the way the section was introduced and could not believe how much it was aligned to material I normally had to adapt for students.  Here was a program already designed with the learner in mind! I often see students struggle with biology lessons when they cannot connect the material to their everyday life.  If you watch a group of students play the “radar game,” you will see firsthand what it means to be immersed in a lesson!  Students become the investigators in these lessons; they are doing science rather than reading/writing about it. 

Have you ever had an experience where you can say to a student “Remember when we...,” where you refer back to a previous activity, and you can see the student recalling the activity?  Or perhaps they reply with details and a story about that particular day in class.  How often do we get the chance to hear from students about the impact a lesson has had, or see the connections they make?  I worked with a dozen high schools implementing BSCS Biology and feel so fortunate to have been in a position to see it on a regular basis.  From self-contained special education to general education classrooms without a cooperative team teacher, I have seen the impact of inquiry-based science on our students.  The students have to be actively engaged to participate in an activity.  When we use the inquiry model in our lessons, we ask our students to do science: to think and become problem-solvers.  I feel like I am empowering students to become lifelong learners, and I cannot imagine being in the classroom without using inquiry practices.


iPads, Digital Learning, and Facebook…Oh My!!!

Written by Lacy Knipper

I love learning.  I just love it.  As educators, we all do.  You have to love learning and be a strong believer in the gift of education if you are to commit to a lifetime of helping others learn.

Furthermore, as an educator (and therefore a lover of learning) I want to stay current, fresh, and in touch with what’s going on in my field.  When I start to think about all the changes that have taken place even in the couple years since I was teaching in the classroom, it’s enough to send my head spinning. 

Ponder with me the possibilities for learning now available to educators any given day with just a few simple clicks:

  • I can watch a video of a teacher in Turkey and learn about his flipped classroom.
  • I can engage in a discussion with other educators on Facebook and learn about best practices for parent teacher conferences.
  • I can search #edchat on Twitter and learn what other educators are saying about formative assessment.
  • I can attend a webinar and learn how to use social media in the classroom.
  • I can stay in touch with my professional contacts on LinkedIn and learn from their collective wealth of knowledge.

And what about the possibilities made available through new devices and tech applications?  There are now classroom-ready apps on my iPad.  Interactive whiteboard activities, online simulators, and digital curricula all offer new opportunities for learning in the classroom, and Bring Your Own Device and 1:1 technology approaches abound in schools.

If my head was spinning before, it becomes a spinning blur as I think about classroom management, lesson planning, preparing for new assessments, implementing curricula, professional development, and all the other things whirling through educators’ minds.  So what stops the spin?

Technology, specifically good technology, is at its core a solution.  To justify its existence any given technology should solve a problem.  For me, the key to utilizing technologies without falling into an overwhelming state of head spinning is to focus on how I can use technology to solve a problem I’m currently experiencing.  At that point technology stops being another thing to add to my list, and instead becomes something that shortens my list or increases my effectiveness as I tackle my list.

Take a minute and try out one of the above suggested technology applications.  Ask yourself, “How could I apply this technology to improve my practice? 

Share your teacher tech tips below, and perhaps you can stop the head spin of a fellow educator!


Teachers: Do You Have GAS?

Written by Werner Garciano

Nothing can be better when you can combine the things you love. An Oreo cookie is good by itself. So is a cold glass of milk. But when you put them together, you have devoured a whole package of Oreos and a gallon of milk. Watching your school’s team win is good. So is watching your rival school lose a contest. But there is no better euphoria than when your school hands your rival a painful defeat. Ask any Bruin how they felt when they knocked the Trojans down a notch or two back in November.

So imagine my glee when saber metrics started to take hold in baseball. My two loves: math and baseball converged to make us math people valuable to general managers. You can use statistical analysis to quantify a player’s value in a multitude of ways. Instead of batting averages, RBIs and ERAs, you can use On Base Percentage (OBP), Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and Walks plus Hits per Innings Pitched (WHIP).

Can we have a metric that boils a teacher’s performance down to one number or a set of numbers? How about a statistic called GAS, short for Gains Above Substitute? This statistic would measure the learning gains a teacher helps students achieve versus if they had a substitute teacher. Then teachers can ask each other at faculty meetings, "Do you have GAS?" or "Is your GAS getting any better?"

Or perhaps SOL for Student Outcomes and Learning? I wouldn’t be the first to use this acronym as the state of Virginia beat me to it with their Standards of Learning.

I poke fun with my acronyms because it is a challenge to build an evaluation system that everyone can agree on. Districts struggle and debate with teachers and their unions on the best way to evaluate teacher performance. Los Angeles Unified reached an agreement with their teachers on an evaluation system that uses a mix of student test scores, teacher observations, and school level data. But this agreement did not come without heated debate between the district and the union. Even the LA Times jumped into the mix with their Value Added Analysis.

What does your district use to evaluate your performance? Join the conversation with interesting acronyms for possible evaluation systems.


Uncertainty and the Common Core

Written by Tim Pope

This entry is Part 2 in a three-part series.  Part 1: Too Much Uncertainty in Math Education is Cause for Concern

From working our booth at math conferences to sales meetings to PD workshops, I have had the opportunity to observe the emergence of understanding of the Common Core.  A couple of months ago, I did a workshop on the Math Practice standards for a group of middle school teachers.  By the end of the day, the tension was palpable as the teachers faced the reality that their current instructional practices would no longer be adequate surmount the challenges of CCSS; as a result, they faced  the uncertainty of how moving toward more inquiry-based strategies would affect their classroom.  I have also met with several groups of teachers who have never considered inquiry-based materials who have now come to look more closely at our materials. 

As teachers develop a better understanding of these standards, uncertainty continues to grow.

  • What makes instructional materials truly aligned to the Common Core?  Every teacher is besieged with emails and vendor booths at conferences that scream alignment to the Common Core.  How do I determine if materials align not only to the content standards but to the Math Practices?
  • Will my students still learn the required skills with a new approach to instruction?
  • How will our special needs students respond to new standards that require analytical ability traditionally seen in honors-type classes?
  • How will my students’ parents respond to instruction and instructional materials that look nothing like they used in school?
  • How do I handle classroom management when students are now required to engage with each other in mathematical discourse?

Any doubt I might have had that uncertainty around the new assessments is at a fever pitch was erased a few months ago when PARCC released their first sample assessment items and traffic to their website was so intense their servers crashed.  Everyone is looking for the latest updates and hints as to what we should expect next year when the tests are released.  Among the many questions I have heard as teachers and leaders struggle to find certainty:

  • Will the new assessments test the Math Practice standards?  How?
  • Will we have the technology infrastructure that will be required?
  • How will the open-ended tasks be graded?
  • Which standards will be tested at which high school grade?

There is good news.  Many organizations, foundations, and schools have developed tools to help build certainty.  The Progressions documents provide clear guidance on how the standards intend students to build mastery from year to year.  The Mathematics Assessment Project and the Dana Center at the University of Texas offer model tasks and assessments to help teachers make the connection between the new standards and instruction.  Finally, I recommend using the Publisher’s Criteria from the Common Core to guide your review of instructional materials.