(BPT) – The recent release of results from PISA — an international assessment of 15-year-old students — serve to put all of us on notice: our young people can no longer afford for us to be comfortable with the harmful stereotype that it’s OK to be bad at math.
The historic decline comes on the heels of data from the Nation’s Report Card showing that thirteen-year-olds posted the largest decline ever in math.
“Mathematical understanding lays the foundation for the problem-solving skills and analytical thinking that are critical for workplace success,” says Jim Cowen, executive director of the Collaborative for Student Success. “Unfortunately, as a country, we’re far too comfortable shrugging off poor math skills. We give each other permission to “not be a math person” while we would never give permission to “not be a reading person.”
Instead of dwelling on the challenges unveiled in this year’s PISA data, the results can serve as a bridge to a larger, solution-driven conversation about influencing positive change. Advocates are committed to raising awareness of exemplar state actions, spotlighting key investments that are moving the needle, and amplifying the voices of educators along with the classroom practices they know are working.
“Today’s students are the workforce of the future, and American businesses cannot compete on the global stage if our students continue to fall behind in the fundamental skills of reading, science, and math,” says Caitlin Codella Low, Vice President of Policy and Programs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. “We’re encouraged that states ranging from Alabama to Colorado have demonstrated what a strategic vision for improving math, in particular, should look like, and districts across the country can learn from the historic investments of the last few years so that we are funding what works to prepare the future workforce.”
States and districts need to implement comprehensive approaches to investing in and supporting math achievement. Policymakers need to fund targeted interventions for students who are not catching up and implement strategies like math tutoring and extending learning.
“State Teachers of the Year and Finalists bring expansive subject matter expertise, knowledge of leading K-12 practices and policies, and an ability to relate to teachers and communities to inspire actions that ensure all students are prepared for success in college, career, and life,” says Scott Meltzer, President and CEO at the National Network of State Teachers of the Year. “For all teachers, the latest PISA results in math and reading should underscore the importance of their tireless work to reach students and bring parents, caregivers, and families along in the learning process.”
District leaders and school board members can review their math curriculum and professional learning to make sure it is high quality. School board members also have a responsibility to determine whether the investments they are making in math and other recovery strategies are having an impact. Families can work with teachers to do their part as well. Despite continuous reports of sliding performance, such as these PISA results, most parents do not know that their children are below grade level in math. According to new research from Gallup and the parent advocacy group Learning Heroes, nearly 9 in 10 parents believe their child is performing at grade level, largely because the report card shows all A’s and B’s. This is a key part of the solution: parents must engage with teachers to understand their child’s academic performance, and not rely only on report card grades.
We can — and must — become a society that believes every child can be good at math.
To learn more, visit: EduProgress.org/Math.