# All Students Can Learn And Should Be Presented The Opportunity To Learn

The current reform movement in the ** United States** began in the 1990s and has manifested itself as a standards movement. It is a movement to establish state and national frameworks, to which local school districts are encouraged to link their efforts to implement local standards. The linchpin that holds together the standards framework is that they are rigorous; voluntary, in that states and localities decide whether or not to use them; and flexible, in that states and localities can decide which strategies are best for their own

**.**

*schools*

Today, virtually every state in the nation has gone about the business of articulating standards, revising curricular offerings, and developing assessments to measure whether the standards are being met. At the national level, initiatives by the federal government and national organizations have been joined in an effort to produce a comprehensive and coherent standards movement. Currently, many national professional organizations have developed or are in the process of developing national standards for their particular subject areas. States have connected to these efforts on numerous fronts.

The current movement has focused primarily on three types of standards: 1) content or curriculum standards; 2) performance or accountability standards; and 3) capacity or delivery standards (also referred to as opportunity-to-learn standards). The three types of standards are linked – one will not succeed without the other two.

The purpose of this paper is four-fold: First, we define “students of diverse needs and cultures” and the “standards movement.” Second, we address specific initiatives of current reform efforts in progress in mathematics and science education. Third, we discuss critical issues related to the successful implementation of mathematics and science standards (i.e., teachers professional development, technological advancements, opportunity-to-learn standards, school organization, and assessments.) Fourth, we suggest references to be used as curriculum materials, how-to articles of use to teachers in the classroom, and seminal research and philosophical ** literature** related to mathematics and science reform initiatives.

Who Are Students of Diverse Needs and Cultures?

American society has haltingly come to understand itself as being culturally diverse and pluralistic. Schools, public schools in particular, mirror what our society will look like in the 21st Century. The culture of schools and the capacity of teachers to implement standards and other initiatives are indispensable elements in the effort to reform *mathematics and science education.*

We define diversity to include race, ethnicity, gender, regionalism, religion, socio-economic status or class, and exceptionalities (i.e., gifted and talented or students with learning, emotional, or physical disabilities). Culture is defined as encompassing all that we are. Culture is the confluence of language, beliefs, values, traditions, and behaviors that permeates our lives.

Nowhere is that cultural diversity more vividly reflected than in the nation’s schools. About 42% of public-school students are identified as representing racial or language minority groups. Contrary to popular belief, however, increased language and racial diversity is not unique to any particular region of the country. Diversity in race, language, and ethnicity occurs in small towns and rural counties as well as urban areas throughout the nation. The question often arises as to how will we educate students with such diverse needs and cultures?

Equity and Excellence for All Students

Our nation entered the 1990s with twin goals for education reform. The first goal was to restructure schools in ways that enhance their effectiveness; the second goal was to create curricula and instructional approaches that would help all students attain world-class levels of achievement. The intent was to ensure that all students, including those who were educationally, socially, or economically disadvantaged, would have equal opportunities to meet *higher academic standards.*

The last ten years have brought about much discussion of the state of mathematics achievement in American schools. Because mathematical achievement and competence had drastically diminished, educators across the country agreed that a change was necessary – a change that would revolutionize the teaching and learning of mathematics. Discontent was prevalent when the education community attempted to change the mathematics content taught and called it the “new math.” Disappointed with the results, back to “basics” was encouraged, particularly because educators felt that emphasis on more abstract mathematical structures was a mistake. Change came about so slowly that educators across America, after expressing concern for so long, reached a consensus that efforts needed to be aggressively pursued. New publications established a framework to guide the reform of school mathematics and will provide new directions in both content and pedagogy.

Development of the **Mathematics** Standards

The mathematical expectations for new employees have changed and so must the knowledge base of students. The Standards outlined a new knowledge base designed to prepare students to be able to set up problems with the appropriate operations, demonstrate a variety of techniques to approach and work on problems, have the ability to work with others on problems, and demonstrate the ability to see the applicability of mathematical ideas to common and complex problems. Students must also be prepared to work in open problem situations, since most real world problems are not well formulated.

Also critical to the development of the ** student’s knowledge** base is belief in the utility and value of mathematics. Therefore, the goals for students must reflect the importance of mathematical literacy. Towards this end, the Standards purport two general goals for all students: that they (1) learn to value mathematics; (2) become confident in their ability to do mathematics. To accomplish these worthy goals, educators must themselves view mathematics more comprehensively and learn more about how to teach and assess differently to assure that their classrooms become active

**communities.**

*learning*

Across grade levels, teachers are expected to teach for understanding as they emphasize areas such as reasoning inductively and deductively; making connections between mathematics and other content areas; preparing students to critically read, interpret, and analyze charts, graphs, tables, and statistics; establishing relationships; working cooperatively; and ** solving problems.** While increasing emphasis in some areas, other areas such as extensive skill drills, viewing the teacher as the authority, questioning that requires little or no thinking or reasoning, memorizing formulas, and rote memorization should receive less attention according to the Standards.

Standards and Professional Development

School reformers envision all students possessing mathematical power, which requires that the learning environment be conducive to risk taking, experimentation, non-threatening communication, and cooperative activities. To facilitate these types of classroom surroundings, teachers must be prepared to:

– select mathematical tasks that engage students’ interests, skill levels, and past experiences;

– provide mathematical content with appropriate practical applications generated with the students as partners in the planning process where possible; and

– use and promote the use of technology in and out of the classroom.

For example, in a survey of mathematics teachers about standards and practices, problems reported by teachers included limited knowledge of the Standards, current teaching methodologies, and mathematics content.

** Educators **are cognizant that learning new practices while simultaneously unlearning old practices is a difficult task that must be supported by school administrators, school systems, parents, and students. A commitment from all participants in the

**process is mandatory if teachers are to have the opportunity to reflect critically on their practice and to restructure their attitudes and views about content, pedagogy, and diverse student populations with whom they interact daily.**

*teaching and learning*

If reform in teaching and learning mathematics is to be successful, attention must be given to existing practices of mathematics teachers. As the view of learning mathematics changes, so must the practice of teaching mathematics.

The constructivist’s view of learning mathematics has been commonly accepted by researchers and mathematics ** educators **alike. To move teachers away from the lecture mode to a more interactive, hands-on mode of teaching using manipulatives and computers, teachers must become involved in ongoing, effective professional development activities that encapsulate the following:

– They must engage ** teachers** in concrete tasks of teaching, assessment, observation, and reflection that illuminate the processes of learning and development.

– They must be collaborative, involving a sharing of knowledge among educators and a focus on teachers’ communities of practice rather than on individual teachers.

– They must be connected to and derived from teacher’s work with their students.

Technological Advancements

The changes in mathematical knowledge and growth are due, in large part, to increased use of computers, calculators, and telecommunication technologies. However, there is a technological gap between the vast changes in the workplace and the changes that have taken place in schools.

We are and have been in a golden age of mathematical production with more than half of the content having been created since World War II. To keep pace with the expansion of knowledge, the integration of the use of computers and calculators into instructional procedures became the hallmark of innovative teaching in many classrooms across the country.

Although the Standards encourage extensive use of calculators and computers, school systems must work diligently to assure that all students have full access to available technology. Often, in affluent urban or suburban schools that have elaborately furnished computer labs with the latest equipment, the hardware and software far outpace other schools in less affluent areas within the same school district.

While the use of technology is essential for students, it is equally essential for teachers to be prepared to ** integrate technology** into their instructional plans and their professional development program. In response to a feeling of isolation, many educators use technology to communicate with other educators both locally and nationally. With a sense of empowerment, teachers in rural, suburban, and urban areas can assess various forms of technology during the lesson planning process. In addition to enhancing the teaching and learning process, teachers must use the Internet for professional development and to remain current in their discipline.

Mathematics for all students refers to students from culturally diverse backgrounds, or females as well as to students with special needs. For example, new technologies make it possible for students with disabilities to minimize the effects of their disabilities and to learn better. Motor/orthopedically impaired students may benefit from robotics, software for ** geometric** simulations, and improved access to buildings. The visually impaired can use a number of technologies to improve access to information. Hearing impaired students make use of close captioned films, computers, and electronic mail. Learning disabled students can make use of self-pacing software, motivating software, word processing, computers, and a variety of electronic media that provide visual and audio information, as well as written. The technology can be as “patient” as necessary.

Mathematics for All Students

One of the most positive aspects of the Standards is that all students can and will learn mathematics if the content is presented in a way that is meaningful and consistent with the needs, intellect, and learning style of the students. For many, this is a new notion, because it implies that all students, including those traditionally underrepresented populations, can learn mathematics.

For instance, if all students can ** learn mathematics,** the question arises why students have performed poorly. There are too many reasons to enumerate; however, one reason could be the use of old curriculum and old beliefs coupled with attitudes about proficiency. In short, the American mathematics curriculum consisted of nine years of drill in arithmetic, followed by

**taught as a beginning foreign language with word lists, memorizations, and translation. For most students, proof driven**

*algebra***was too abstract and deterred half of them from taking it, and of the half that attempted, most did not learn it. In addition, in the old curriculum, calculators and computers were not encouraged and sometimes viewed as cheating.**

*plane geometry*

The belief that all students can learn mathematics undergirds the success of many programs and projects in operation today. Using innovative curricular materials that are developed in accordance with the Standards, these programs are designed to increase understanding, participation, and output while promoting mathematical literacy. Concomitantly, many of these programs are designed specifically to address the educational needs of targeted groups within our pluralistic student population.

These projects, in conjunction with the Standards, are models worthy of replication, because they offer hope where there was little and serve as exemplars for the entire education reform era. If we are to continue in the upward spiral of improved mathematics teaching and learning, all factions of society, including business organizations, curriculum writers, textbook publishers, and the media must be committed to the idea that all students can learn and should be presented the opportunity to learn.

Not surprisingly, there is general agreement among the ** science reform** efforts and evolving state curricular frameworks. All are based on the premise that science is for all students. All are intended as an antidote to extant science curricula, notoriously crammed with arcane facts that may actually interfere with students’ learning of important underlying science principles, and thus, turn students away from science.

There is general agreement among experts about what concepts and skills are important for students to learn. To date, the major science reforms have not “approved” or “sanctioned” specific curricula, materials, or ** textbooks** series. This is not to say that there is not general agreement on science teaching methods and strategies congruent with these reform efforts. We include the following research-based strategies: Learning cycle approach, cooperative learning, analogies, wait time, concept mapping, computer simulations, microcomputer-based laboratories, systematic approaches to problem-solving, conceptual understanding in problem-solving,

**, real-life situations, and discrepant events.**

*science-technology-society*

All of the science reforms, however, have been relatively color-blind and silent as to how these changes are to be accomplished, beyond saying that the reform is intended for all students. The crucial question is: are the new improved standards with the developing curriculum frameworks at the state level all we need to bring all students to understand science well? Or, must we develop a deeper understanding of how gender, ethnicity, and social class interact in our science classrooms and schools in order to provide opportunities for all to learn? What must we do to produce teachers, curricula, materials, and school environments that effectively reach all of our diverse students, remembering that the track record for effective science for large segments of student population is either dismal or missing altogether?

** **

**Jeff C. Palmer** is a teacher, success coach, trainer, Certified Master of Web Copywriting and founder of **https://Ebookschoice.com**. Jeff is a prolific writer, Senior Research Associate and Infopreneur having written many eBooks, articles and special reports.