The readings this month are:
NCTM's Position Statement on Access and Equity in Mathematics Education
AMTE's Position Statement on Equity in Mathematics Teacher Education
TODOS and NCSM's Joint Position Statement on Mathematics Education Through the Lens of Social Justice
The guiding question for this month is:
What are some common understandings amongst the three position papers?
There are clearly some common themes across the three documents. In reading, I saw many of the same terms in each. Because each document is a short introduction to such a complex topic, I found it harder to decide for myself to what degree the three papers/organizations share some common understanding about what those terms mean or what the implications are of naming these as areas of interest and concern. While I appreciate the intent to find common ground and overlapping areas of interest, I also worry that glossing over important foundational differences may lead to our professional organizations (and all of us) talking past each other.
Below, I identify what I see as some common themes along with select quotes from the three papers. At the end, I look at what I see as some interesting differences between the documents and raise some questions of my own. In particular, I wonder if "equity" is simply a tool of the educational status quo and consider what orientation has the potential to do more.
"The association of Mathematics Teacher Educators defines equity as access to high quality learning experiences..." - AMTE
"Achieving access and equity requires that all stakeholders ensure that all students have access to a challenging mathematics curriculum..." - NCTM
"Thirty years of research on curricular tracking and course taking patterns continue to show unequal distributions of resources, course taking opportunities, access to high cognitive demand tasks; and mathematics learning outcomes based on race, class, language, and culture." - TODOS/NCSM
"When access and equity have been successfully addressed, student outcomes - including achievement on a range of mathematics assessments, disposition toward mathematics, and persistence in the mathematics pipeline - transcend, and cannot be predicted by students' racial, ethnic, linguistic, gender, and socioeconomic backgrounds." - NCTM
"Create fair and holistic assessment systems for students and teachers of mathematics that provide productive and timely information on learning, and are free from high stakes pressure, static labeling of students and schools, and arbitrary sanctions." - TODOS/NCSM
"...facilitating student mathematical proficiencies that transcend textbooks and promote quantitative literacy, civic engagement, as well as individual and collective agency, is a social justice act of mathematics education." - TODOS/NCSM
"Engage teachers to reflect critically on privilege/deficit views and language about P-12 students, families, and communities..." - AMTE
"A firm commitment to this work requires that all educators operate on the belief that all students can learn." - NCTM
"In mathematics education, deficit thinking happens in at least two ways. First, is the continuous labeling of children's readiness to learn mathematics via standardized tests and other institutional tools that position and sanction specific forms of mathematics knowledge...
...Second, deficit thinking implies that students 'lack' knowledge and experiences expected by the dominant group. Deficit thinking ignores, dismisses, or casts as barriers mathematical knowledge and experiences children engage with outside of school every day." - TODOS/NCSM
"Be sensitive to the varied mathematical, dispositional, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds of P-12 students, preservice teachers, and colleagues to build upon these individuals' experiences and expertise." - AMTE
"Creating, supporting, and sustaining a culture of access and equity require being responsive to students' backgrounds, experiences, cultural perspectives, traditions, and knowledge when designing and implementing a mathematics program for its effectiveness." - NCTM
"A social justice approach to mathematics education assumes students bring knowledge and experiences from their homes and communities that can be leveraged as resources for mathematics teaching and learning. It also means broadening participation and engagement of children in light of the varied cultural, linguistic and mathematical competencies they bring to the classroom. And it means to imbue mathematical experiences with opportunities to learn multiple histories of matheamtics, analyze issues of fairness, and promote civic responsibility in their own communities and beyond."
Diversity, Privilege, and Power
"Mathematics teacher educators should have self-awareness of their own identity, experiences, and bias and proactively advocate for views that value broader perspectives and experiences among students, parents, teachers, and teacher educators as resources for mathematics teaching and learning."
"Support recruitment efforts for diversity among teachers, teacher candidates and mathematics teacher educators." - AMTE
"Census enrollment data show that non-white children are now the majority in elementary and secondary public schools. In contrast, the demographic profile of mathematics teaching, and by extension its leadership, is predominantly white and middle class. This widening difference raises questions about how a system can change if the workforce charged with the transformation does not reflect the communities it serves, or is unaware of the academic and social needs and resources of all students."
"Historically, mathematics and the perceived ability to learn mathematics have been used to educate children into different societal roles such as leadership/ruling class and labor/working class leading to segregation and separation."
"...a commitment to social justice in mathematics education is complex and challenging work. This is due, in part, because some benefit from the current system and the differentiated status associated with it. Giving up privilege is difficult, even if it is the right thing to do." - TODOS/NCSM
In general, the paper from TODOS and NCSM (and, to a lesser extent, the one from AMTE) acknowledges the ways the entanglement of culture, knowledge, race, and power play out in systems of education. There also seems to be a recognition that the policies, practices, and structures of the system itself are a significant part of the problem. The concern about achievement and participation "in the mathematics pipeline" seems to ignore that this pipeline is fueling an unjust societal status quo.
Rochelle Gutiérrez has written:
"I suggest that the new tension that threatens progress is not by the paradigm of excellence versus equity or traditional versus reform, but by one of dominant versus critical, mathematics education.
What I mean by dominant mathematics is mathematics that reflects the status quo in society, that gets valued in high-stakes testing and credentialing, that privileges a static formalism in mathematics, and that is involved in making sense of a world that favors the views and perspectives of a relatively elite group...
What I mean by critical mathematics is mathematics that squarely acknowledges the positioning of students as members of a society rife with issues of power and domination. Critical mathematics takes students' cultural identities and builds mathematics around them in ways that address social and political issues in a society, especially highlighting the perspectives of marginalized groups.
For me, the distinction between dominant and critical is not one of acquisition or application, but rather one of aligning with society (and its embedded power relations) or exposing and challenging society and its power relations."
What are your thoughts? I hope you'll think with me about this in the comments.