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Teaching in 2020 vs. 2010: A Look Back at the Decade

As the 2010s draw to a close, teachers are left reeling from massive shifts in policy and practice that have affected their everyday work over the past decade, yet many say they're still cautiously optimistic about the direction the profession is heading.

A broad look at the last 10 years shows that the policy pendulum has swung back and forth. Teachers say they feel as if their jobs have gotten harder, as they grapple with both constantly changing education reforms—including those that affect their pay and job security—and with societal problems that have made their way into the classroom.

"There's an increasing amount of responsibility and accountability," said Freeda Pirillis, a long-time teacher who is now the coordinator for an International Baccalaureate program in Chicago. "It's almost become so burdensome and distracting to doing the job that's important."

For instance, most states toughened the way they grade their teachers thanks to federal incentives—and then walked back at least some of those teacher-evaluation reforms. The Common Core State Standards were released in 2010, the adoption of which has led to new textbooks and new teaching methods. Several states and districts implemented pay-for-performance policies, which have since largely fallen out of favor.

There are also social pressures that have influenced the day-to-day work of teachers: Teen suicide rates have increased dramatically. Social media and new technology have given new tools for teachers to transform learning, but that's also led to an increase in cyberbullying and more competition for students' attention. The opioid epidemic has ravaged school communities.

The two deadliest school shootings—Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.—happened over the past decade, leading to intense debates on how to make schools safer. Active-shooter drills have become ubiquitous in schools, and some states have passed controversial laws that allow teachers to carry guns at work.

And, perhaps as a consequence of some of these policy shifts, even getting teachers into classrooms is tough. Fewer people are enrolling in colleges of education, and states have reported persistent shortages, including in perennial areas such as special education. There's been more of an emphasis on recruiting teachers of color into a predominately white profession, but the growth has been slow.

Even so, teacher voice has increasingly become a priority. States and school districts have formalized more teacher-leadership roles, in which teachers are given the opportunity to be involved in decisionmaking without leaving the classroom. And in the last couple of years, teachers have taken leadership into their own hands—leading strikes and protests across the country, and even running for office.

'Opposing Forces'

All of this has been a whirlwind, teachers say. They're hopeful about what's next for the profession in the 2020s, but their plates have never been more full.

"A teacher's job has always been complex," said Sarah Brown Wessling, the 2010 National Teacher of the Year who teaches in Johnston, Iowa. "But I think that sometimes, there are opposing forces that teachers are trying to manage: trauma and mental health and caring for our students at the same time we are also being asked to dig into wide-ranging assessments and the way those assessments affect [our] evaluations."

Indeed, many teachers point to the increased focus on accountability, and the use of standardized test scores to get to that goal, as the biggest shift of the decade—and one that fundamentally changed how they do their jobs.

"I think the change came for teaching when we made the success of the students the teachers' responsibility instead of helping the students simply succeed," said Frances Spielhagen, a professor of education at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, N.Y. "Once you make a person's livelihood dependent on the success of someone she's trying to help succeed, it changes the focus of what you're trying to do."

According to data from the National Council on Teacher Quality, only 15 states required student-growth data in teacher evaluations in 2009. That number skyrocketed after the Obama administration offered financial incentives to states to include student test scores in their evaluation systems. By 2015, there were 43 states that required student-growth measures in their evaluation systems.

But after that year, the financial incentives ended, and the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, stripped the power to determine how states grade their teachers from the U.S. secretary of education. At the same time, states were facing implementation challenges and political backlash for their use of test scores in evaluations.

Now, 34 states require the use of student-growth measures in how they evaluate teachers, and 30 states have walked back one or more of their reforms, NCTQ data show.

Also this decade, nearly all states adopted more demanding academic standards. Teachers say they feel like teaching has become more prescriptive, and there's less room for creativity. Some say the intense focus on standardized test scores and student data has made it harder to build relationships in the classroom.

Even though ESSA lets states take new approaches to measuring student learning, not all states have taken advantage of the flexibility so far. Teachers say they haven't felt a substantive shift away from the emphasis on accountability and testing.

Justin Minkel, an Education Week opinion columnist and a veteran 2nd grade teacher at Jones Elementary School in Springdale, Ark., said teaching still feels "more and more rigid."

"You'd think you get to this extreme and people would push the pendulum the other way, ... but it feels like policy solutions haven't come," he said.

A 'Shot Across the Bow'

Some polls indicate that the public perception of the teaching profession has taken a hit as well. In 2009, 70 percent of Americans said they would like to have their child become a public school teacher. By 2018, just 46 percent said they wanted their child to go into teaching, citing inadequate pay and benefits, student behavior and a lack of discipline, and a perception that teaching is a thankless job.

"This is a real shot across the bow in this country around the teaching profession," said Joshua Starr, the chief executive officer of PDK International, which conducts the annual poll on Americans' attitudes toward education. "It's not seen as an attractive profession."

This year, the PDK poll found half of teachers said they've seriously considered leaving the profession in the last few years. They don't feel valued and feel like they are unfairly paid.

Even so, teachers are cautiously hopeful that the tide is turning with the Red for Ed movement, in which teachers have protested for higher wages and more school funding.

In February 2018, West Virginia teachers shut down schools across the state as they went on strike to protest changes to the statewide health insurance plan and to demand a pay raise. They were largely successful, and have been credited with lighting the match for the teacher activism that has spread across the nation like wildfire over the past two years.

Since then, teachers in Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and South Carolina have held a statewide protest or work stoppage. Teachers in Chicago, Denver, and Los Angeles have also gone on strike.

"We had to show the impact of what would happen if we were not there and walk out," said Michelle Pearson, a middle school social studies teacher near Denver, who has been teaching for nearly 30 years. "If you would have asked me 10 years ago, I never would have expected to see the Red for Ed movement in this context. ... [Now], we either move in that direction and bring our voices to the table, or the changes don't get made."

And as teachers have spoken up about their working conditions, they have been viewed with more sympathy by the media and general public—rather than being seen as the reason why kids aren't succeeding.

To illustrate that point, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, keeps a copy of the Time magazine cover from December 2008 on her desk. It portrays former Washington, D.C., Chancellor Michelle Rhee standing in a classroom, holding a broom—ready to sweep out the "bad teachers." That cover is in stark contrast to the Time covers published in 2018, which featured three teachers sharing their stories of financial distress.

"Teachers, instead of being demonized or disparaged or minimized in the fight on the behalf of kids—at least their message is [now] being lifted up and heard," Weingarten said in an interview.

Room for Optimism?

Over the past decade, enrollment in teacher-preparation programs has declined by one-third, federal data show, and completion of programs is down as well. Educators say something must be done to stop the bleeding.

"We are at this major inflection point in America with the teaching profession, and the ability to attract, retain, support, and develop educators is something that's going to require a sea change amongst policymakers and leaders," Starr said.

Still, educators say there is room for optimism about the profession. For instance, over the past decade, there's been more of a national conversation about the importance of hiring teachers of color and the need to put equity at the center of education conversations, said José Vilson, a middle school math teacher in New York City and the founder of EduColor, which is a collective of educators who advocate for racial and social justice in education.

"We've moved away from a very narrow vision of what education ought to be to actually being very thoughtful and imaginative of what the school experience can be for so many of our kids," he said.

And there's more of an emphasis on career ladders and leadership roles for teachers these days, which some educators hope is bringing more respect to the work of teaching.

Still, Pirillis in Chicago said, "this is a conversation we had 10 years ago, and we're going into 2020 and continuing to talk about elevating the profession—it feels like we still have a long way to go."

Back to School: LGBTQ+ Families In the Classroom

On August 1, 2019, I paid my last preschool tuition payment ever. My baby will be joining her big brother in elementary school as a kindergartener in just three short weeks, and you better believe that all of the mom feels are happening over here.

The difference in their maturity levels at the start of kindergarten is dramatic. Her brother was almost 6—sensitive and quiet, but an old soul. She has just turned 5, has more than her fair share of spunk and sass, and is still figuring out the world. I am a very different parent to each of them because what they need to feel safe and ready to learn is so different. But one thing is true for both: they need to feel seen and validated at school. They need to know that they can share openly about their family—a family headed by two moms in the middle of a divorce—in a way that feels normalized and unthreatening.

When my son started kindergarten three years ago, his story was different. He had two married moms, which felt like a challenging enough scenario to describe to classroom of thirty kids. My daughter has the added challenge of trying to explain same-sex relationships and divorce at the tender age of 5. But for both of them, the underlying theme is that, like snowflakes, no two families are the same, and there’s no one right way to be a family. It’s estimated that less than 25% of American households are led by a married mother and father, yet that’s still the predominant image and model that children see in school in the books that they read, the images on the walls, and the examples teachers use in curriculum. For me, it feels especially critical this year to make sure that both of my children’s teachers are armed with information about all kinds of families, including queer families, single parents by choice, divorced parents, foster families, kinship care, multi-parent families, and more. Our families are unique, sure, but the reality is that even within the LGBTQ+ community, we tend to want to paint a picture of happy, perfect, two- parent headed households. We’re more than that, and we know it. We know that our community creates family in a wide range of ways that are often absent from the public discourse and certainly not discussed in public school.

So this year, I’m sending each of my children back to school with our Safe Schools Form sharing a bit about our unique family. I’m also taking the time to look through Family Equality’s Book Nook and purchase a handful of books for each of their classrooms that represents a more diverse range of what families can look like.

I know that my kids are not the only ones heading back to school this fall without a married mother and father at home. The tools we give to our children’s teachers help not only our kids, but the child who is being raised by her grandmother, the kids too embarrassed to share that they are in foster care, or the children with two moms and a known donor all co-parenting. We’ve evolved enough as a community that there’s space to talk about our differences. We’re allowed to be queer and divorced, single by choice, or in a multi-parent coparenting arrangement, because at the end of the day, the message is the same. LOVE makes a family. And regardless of your age or social/emotional learning, that concept is simple.

So as we head back to school this year, I will do my part in making sure that my kids’ school is ready for not only our family, but a range of families outside of the heteronormative-married dynamic. Will you?

Insanely useful apps for students

Homework Helpers


If you’re wondering how your classmates are studying, think Quizlet. Used by two-thirds of high school students and more than half of college students, Quizlet offers simple flashcards, games and learning tools that help you study pretty much anything, anywhere. If you need to learn a new language, study for your Biology test or prepare for the MCAT, Quizlet has you covered! (Basic Quizlet student account is free.)


Evernote is an easy-to-use app that makes it simple to jot down notes in class, make to-do lists, brainstorm ideas, take pictures of pages or sketches, organize notes and information, and share it all with your classmates or collaborate as a group. Whether it’s a big group project or keeping track of deadlines you don’t want to miss, Evernote helps you stay organized so nothing falls through the cracks. (Basic Evernote plan is free.)


High school and college can be overwhelming. In fact, most students agree that managing homework and keeping up with all your assignments can sometimes be challenging. But with iHomework, it’s easy. The app helps you keep track of all your assignments, deadlines and tasks, and plan them out so you never find yourself cramming at the last minute. You can also manage your courses and log your grades so you always have a clear picture of your academic standing. (Available on the App Store for .99)

Wolfram Alpha

Wolfram Alpha has all the answers. Simply type in a math problem, a question or formula and Wolfram Alpha will give you the answer you’re looking for, and show you exactly how it got there. Whether you need help in math, science, engineering, health or nutrition, this app makes learning, studying and discovering new information as easy as a click of a button. (Available on the App Store for $2.99)

Varsity Tutors

Varsity Tutors offers 66 mobile apps for students in a wide variety of subjects including AP Art History, Advanced Geometry, AP Biology, AP English Literature, and AP Physics, to name a few. The apps offer practice tests, quizzes, flashcards and diagnostic tests in a variety of academic and standardized test subjects. These apps are a great resource for teens that need to prepare for an upcoming exam or AP placement test. (Download on the App Store or Google Play free)

Scanner Pro

No more running to the library to scan textbook pages or documents. Now you can turn your iPhone or iPad into a portable scanner. Simply scan any paper document and Scanner Pro will save it as a clean, high-quality PDF – great for saving and storing those piles of class notes, school assignments or any other documents. (Available on the App Store for $3.99)

Productivity Apps


Studying in high school and college can be challenging. There always seems to be a mountain of distractions keeping you from staying on task. OffTime helps you disconnect from your phone and avoid distractions when you need to focus.

The cool part is, you can block certain websites, apps, phone calls or text messages for any length of time so you won’t be interrupted or distracted. The app also tracks your phone usage so you’ll always know how you’re spending (or wasting) the majority of your time. (Available on the App Store for $2.99 or Google Play for free)


Wunderlist is the ultimate app to get stuff done. Whether you’re keeping up with assignments, scheduling a get together with friends for the weekend or making a college grocery list so you don’t run out of food, Wunderlist will help you manage your life and make it easy to check everything off your to-do list. Plus, you can set reminders and share your to-do list with anyone. (The basic plan is free)


Put your phone down, stay focused and plant a tree, all at the same time. It may sound silly, but Forest is actually a crazy popular app that helps students (or anyone, for that matter) focus on what’s important. Whenever you want to focus on a particular task you simply “plant a seed in the forest.” If you navigate away from the app within the next 30 minutes, the tree will wither and die. The goal is to build a beautiful forest in which each tree represents focused time. The best part is the Forest team partners with a real tree-planting organization to plant real trees on earth. (Available for $1.99 on the App Store or free on Android)


Trello makes it easy to organize any project you’re working on through fully customizable boards, which makes it great for group school projects. Separate your lists into tasks and check them off your to-do list when they’re completed to keep you organized and on track. (Free)


CoachMe is the app to have if you want to set a goal and keep it! The app helps you form a new habit, track it and get support from an online community who, like you, is trying to establish better habits. So, if you want to create a better study habit, get in shape or learn a new skill, CoachMe will help you stay on track and give you the added confidence you need to reach your goal. (Free)

Health and Fitness Apps

Nike Training Club

When you’re a student managing homework, sports, a job, your social life and everything else you have going on in your life, staying fit and healthy can be nothing short of a challenge. To keep your health on track download one of the coolest fitness apps around – Nike Training Club

The app offers more than 100 workouts so you’ll never get bored with the same old training schedule. Plus, you can customize your workouts based on intensity and duration, and every workout is mapped out so you can focus on what’s important – your workout. (Available on the App Store and Google Play for free.)


If you’re looking for a fabulous app to get a grip on your health, eating right and your calorie consumption, MyFitnessPal is the app for you. It has the largest database of foods for name-brand foods and homemade meals and it offers calorie information for foods from literally all over the world. (Now you’ll know exactly how many calories are in that junk food you’ve been eating.) Whether you’re trying to lose weight, tone up, lower your BMI or simply invest in your overall health, MyFitnessPal is the app to get you there. (Free with optional in-app purchases)


Take your fitness to a whole new level by joining more than 1 million users worldwide who use the Strong app to track their gym workouts. The app provides hundreds of built-in workout routines for legs, chest, triceps, back, and biceps, or a full body workout. What’s cool is that you can do all the workouts with step-by-step instructions or follow along with a video that shows how the exercise(s) should be done. Plus, you can chart your workouts, so you can easily keep track of your progress. (Available on the App Store and Google Play for free)

7 Minutes

This app is perfect for every on-the-go student who doesn’t have a ton of time to hit the gym. It offers a no-fuss approach to fitness with simple 7-minute workouts you can do practically anywhere without special equipment. Each workout consists of 12 high-intensity exercises in cycles of 30 seconds followed by a 10-second rest. Exercises range from jumping jacks and push-ups to planks and lunges – all designed to get your whole body moving. (Free with optional in-app purchases)

Extra Apps to Make Life Easier (And Safer)


We all know how expensive textbooks are. But before you go spending all your hard-earned money on textbooks, download the Chegg app and save big when you buy or rent textbooks. Plus, when you’re finished with the book, Chegg makes it easy to sell your book on their app. (Free)


Venmo is seriously the best digital wallet app for high school and college students. The app makes it easy to securely send money and make purchases without having to worry about carrying around cash. So, whether it’s splitting the cost of rent between your college roommates, sharing the cost of an Uber or going dutch at your favorite lunch spot, you can pay your friends or family through your Venmo account using money you have in your account or easily link it to your bank account or debit card. (Free)


With Dashlane, you’ll never forget a password ever again. The app lets you safely store all your passwords in one spot, generate unique passwords for all your accounts and safely stores all of them in the app’s digital wallet. The free version allows you to store up to 50 passwords on one device. (Free for the basic version)

Circle of 6

The Circle of 6 app was originally designed for college students to promote personal safety while on and off campus, but this app has become popular across the board with families, parents, friends or virtually anyone looking to foster security. The app allows you to send your circle of six friends an instant call for help with the touch of a button. The GPS tracker marks your location on friends’ devices ensuring friends will always be able to find you in an emergency. (Available on the App Store and Google Play free)q


If there’s one must-have app for high school and college kids, it’s Uber. Whether you’re heading home from a college party on a Friday night, Ubering to your internship, or sharing an Uber with friends to a concert downtown, Uber will get you there. The app is free to download and super easy to use. Just tap in your location and where you want to go and a driver will show up at your door in minutes. Before you take Uber, read these safety tips. (Free)

Related Post: 9 Cool Apps for Teens

9 Cool Apps for Teens

Did you know that Apple’s App Store contains more than 2.2 million apps and Android users can now access more than 2.8 million apps?

The information, tools, and resources we have at our fingertips is mind-boggling. And, with so many fantastic apps to choose from, it can be hard to sift through them all to find the ones that your child may actually find useful or intriguing.

To make it easy, we’ve narrowed our list of favorites down to nine cool (and totally useful) apps for teens. While some apps in today’s post are great for giving your child a leg up on their homework or helping them find a scholarship, others are great for organizing their school work, keeping them safe on campus or just plain having fun.

So, as opposed to having your teen shoot off random text messages to friends for hours or playing mindless video games, why not turn their Smartphone into a verifiable tool where they can access information that makes their life easier, safer or more fun? If your kids are anything like mine, they’ll be pretty impressed when you give them a heads up on a cool app they didn’t know existed.


Mathway is a really cool app that provides kids with the tools they need to understand and solve their math problems. Your child can choose the math subject they’re having difficulty with (basic math, pre-algebra, algebra, trigonometry, calculus, etc.), input the math problem and Mathway will figure out the problem and walk them through the steps. Available for iOS. Free


Evernote is a great tool for students and is perhaps the most popular productivity app around, and for good reason. The app makes it easy to organize all coursework and assignments so the user can quickly find what they’re looking for. You can save projects, documents, notes, lists, web pages, photos and audio and the app also allows you to scan handwritten pages, record lectures, and manage to-do lists with reminders. Available for Android and iOS. Free Pro

As much as we’d like to believe our teens aren’t texting and driving, chances are they probably are. Help your teen avoid an accident due to texting by using the Pro app. Unlike other apps that completely block call and text messages, this app reads text messages and emails out loud in real-time and allows your child to reply to text messages and emails without ever taking their eyes off the road or their hands off the wheel. The app can also connect to Bluetooth systems. Available for iOS and Android. Free

Varsity Tutors

Varsity Tutors offers 66 mobile apps for students in a wide variety of subjects including AP Art History, Advanced Geometry, AP Biology, AP English Literature and AP Physics, to name a few. The apps offer practice tests, quizzes, flashcards and diagnostic tests in a variety of academic and standardized test subjects. These apps are a great resource for teens that need to prepare for an upcoming exam or AP placement test. Download on the App Store or Google Play. Free


Teens who like to create videos will love Magisto. Touted as the perfect app to turn everyday videos and photos into inspired stories, Magisto makes it fast and easy to share them everywhere. This powerful video editing app allows users to add music, stitch together footage, create video slideshows and easily add effects. Download on the App Store or Google Play. $2.49 per month.

Circle of 6

The Circle of 6 app was originally designed for college students to promote personal safety while on and off campus, but this app has become popular across the board with families, parents, friends or virtually anyone looking to foster security. The app allows you to send your circle of six friends an instant call for help with the touch of a button. The GPS tracker marks your location on friends’ devices, ensuring friends will always be able to find you in an emergency. Available on the App Store and Google Play. Free

Khan Academy

The Khan Academy app is a perfect tool for students. The app allows users to learn pretty much anything – for free. With over 10,000 videos and explanations in math, science, economics, history and much more, the app gives users the leg up to sharpen skills with more than 40,000 interactive Common Core-aligned practice questions complete with instant feedback and step-by-step hints. Available for iOS. Free


WolframAlpha is a Google search engine on steroids. A computational knowledge engine, WolframAlpha is an online service that answers factual queries by computing the answers from externally sourced data rather than providing a general list of documents or web pages that might contain the answer as a search engine might. The app offers detailed information about a wide variety of subjects including Units & Measures, Money & Finance, Places & Geography and People & History, to name a few. The app is a great resource for students who want quick access and detailed information about a wide variety of subjects. Available for iOS and Android. Free.


If your teen is looking for scholarships to help offset the cost of college, Scholly may be the answer they’ve been looking for. Scholly is a robust scholarship finding platform. It was created by Christopher Gay, a 21-year-old college junior who was awarded $1.3 million in college scholarships. Understanding how difficult it is to find scholarships, Chris is now dedicated to helping other students pay for college. Available for iOS, Android, and the web. $0.99

Seattle Schools Lead Controversial Push to 'Rehumanize' Math

The Seattle school district is planning to infuse all K-12 math classes with ethnic-studies questions that encourage students to explore how math has been “appropriated” by Western culture and used in systems of power and oppression, a controversial move that puts the district at the forefront of a movement to “rehumanize” math.

The district’s proposed framework outlines strands of discussion that teachers should incorporate into their classes. One leads students into exploring math’s roots “in the ancient histories of people and empires of color.” Another asks how math and science have been used to oppress and marginalize people of color, and who holds power in a math classroom.

Another theme focuses on resistance and liberation, encouraging students to recognize the mathematical practices and contributions of their own communities, and looking at how math has been used to free people from oppression.

Seattle’s proposals land as schools all over the country are discussing the role ethnic studies should play in their curricula. In most places, if schools offer ethnic studies at all, it’s usually in a stand-alone course in high school. But increasingly, schools and districts are starting to sprinkle ethnic studies across the K-12 spectrum. Seattle is taking a highly unusual approach by weaving the field’s multicultural and political questions not just through all grade levels, but into all subjects.

Seattle’s four-page framework is still in the proposal stage. If adopted, its ideas will be included in existing math classes as part of the district’s broader effort to infuse ethnic studies into all subjects across the K-12 spectrum. Tracy Castro-Gill, Seattle’s ethnic studies director, said her team hopes to have frameworks completed in all subjects by June for board approval.

If the frameworks are approved, teachers would be expected to incorporate those ideas and questions into the math they teach beginning next fall, Castro-Gill said. No districtwide—or mandated—math/ethnic studies curriculum is planned, but groups of teachers are working with representatives of local community organizations to write instructional units for teachers to use if they wish, she said.

“Seattle is definitely on the forefront with this,” said Robert Q. Berry III, the president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. “What they’re doing follows the line of work we hope we can move forward as we think about the history of math and who contributes to that, and also about deepening students’ connection with identity and agency.”

Seattle’s framework reflects ideas and practices that NCTM has outlined in publications such as last year’s “Catalyzing Change in High School Mathematics,” Berry noted. That report argues, among other things, for renewed focus on helping students see how math affects the lives of millions, in social media algorithms, polling data, and world finance.

But what some see as leading-edge work, others view as misguided. Seattle’s proposed guidelines caused a furor on social media after Rod Dreher, an editor for The American Conservative, blogged about them on Sept. 30. In a Twitter thread dubbed #WokeMath, critics sneered at the district’s blend of math and oppression, and zeroed in on parts of the framework that ask, “How important is it to be right?” and “Who gets to say if an answer is right?”

Seattle talk-radio host Dori Monson jumped into the fray on his own blog, asking, “Did you realize when you subtracted one number from another that you were disenfranchising people by using Western math?” Liz Wheeler, a host on One America News, tweeted that Seattle “is now teaching kids as young as Kindergarten that math is racist.”

Castro-Gill said that one elementary school has been trying out some of the ideas from the new framework, but she wouldn’t name the school “because of the hate and vitriol” on social media.

‘Of Course There Are Right Answers’

She said opponents have misconstrued the proposed guidelines, especially the section about right answers.

“Of course there are right answers in math. We’re not saying there aren’t,” Castro-Gill said.

“What we’re saying is that there are many ways of reaching conclusions, and that process should include dialogue. If a student got the right answer, we should celebrate that ingenuity and intelligence instead of telling them there is only one way to get to that right answer.”

When too many black and Latino students see no place for themselves in math and science, Castro-Gill said, it’s important to be explicit about how their own cultures contribute to math and how they can use it to make their communities, and the world, better.

Seattle’s new math framework grew out of a 2017 community campaign, led by the NAACP, for more attention to ethnic studies. Its work to blend math and ethnic studies draws on conversations that have been unfolding for decades in the field of ethnomathematics, which focuses on cultural links to math, and in a movement known as “rehumanizing math.”

Ethnomathematics, which studies the intersection of math and culture, took shape in the late 1970s, introduced by Brazilian math professor Ubiratàn D’Ambrosio. Leading thinkers in the field now include Linda Furuto at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and Filiberto Barajas-López at the University of Washington’s school of education in Seattle.

More recently, some scholars, most prominently Rochelle Gutiérrez at the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign, have begun advocating for a “rehumanizing” of mathematics, which places dynamics such as race and oppression at the center of conversations about math and culture.

Gutiérrez noted that math organizations that focus on the preparation and oversight of math teachers back key concepts that appear in Seattle’s proposed guidelines. The Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators’ standards for teacher preparation, (199 page PDF) for instance, say new math teachers should “understand the roles of power, privilege, and oppression in the history of mathematics education.”

“Math education has been very focused on access and closing the achievement gap, around grit and growth mindset. Those ideas are centered around individuals, and ways of thinking they need to adopt. We haven’t focused enough on identity or systems of power,” Gutiérrez said.

“Students should be able to see themselves in the curriculum, recognize math as a tool for making their lives better, and question what math is, and the purpose of math,” she said.

Expanding Inquiry Into the Purpose of Math

A top official at one math organization agreed to talk only anonymously about the new framework to avoid becoming part of the controversy. Starting the conversation with a sigh, he said it’s too bad that Seattle blended important ideas with highly controversial ones.

“We all want students of color to be included, believe they can learn math, and see themselves as mathematicians,” he said. “It’s important for them to learn about great contributions to mathematics from all cultures—Indian and Chinese and Babylonian.

“But you don’t need to talk about liberation and oppression and how Western mathematics has somehow taken over. It just turns people off and makes the goal of being inclusive that much tougher.”

Other leaders in math education welcomed Seattle’s push to incorporate political and cultural questions into math, and some said they’d been including similar questions in their teaching for years.

Berry, of the NCTM, recalls an exercise he did with aspiring math teachers when he taught at the University of Virginia. Berry gave his students a drawing of a square. One half was filled with red dots, and the other half with blue dots. Students had to find various ways of dividing the space, some structured to let the red dots win, and others to let the blue dots win.

“It was a lesson in gerrymandering,” Berry said. “It showed how we can create structures with geometry to get the outcomes we want politically. We can construct them for advantage or disadvantage.”

Peggy Brookins, the president and CEO of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, said she got pushback to culturally sensitive strategies as a high school math teacher in the mid 1980s.

Capitalizing on her school’s location near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Brookins linked her lessons to the astronauts’ work. As her students studied exponents and the power of 10, she had them calculate the speed at which rockets left Earth’s orbit, and led a discussion of how astronauts of color had struggled to find roles in NASA’s programs.

“My principal came and asked me to step outside,” recalled Brookins. “He said a parent had called and said he didn’t send his daughter to school to learn about black people.”

Her principal backed her up, telling the angry parent that there were many private schools in town if he wished to transfer his daughter. But the experience stuck with Brookins.

“I get what Seattle’s doing. I get where they’re coming from,” she said. “People need to realize culturally responsive pedagogy in ways they haven’t historically.”

Understanding Ethnomathematics

Seattle’s proposed framework blending math and ethnic studies emerged from ongoing conversations in the field of ethnomathematics, and from a newer push to “rehumanize” math. Here is a sampling of articles and books often cited as good primers on those ideas.

Source: Education Week

35 Fun (and Funny) Texts to Send Your Teen

According to the Urban Dictionary, texting is something teens do that their parents hate, but they can’t stop doing.

It’s true. Every time I tried to have a face-to-face conversation with my kids, their nose was always plastered to their phones. No eye contact. No genuine communication. No real interaction.

It was frustrating, to say the least, which is why I decided that if I can’t beat ’em, I might as well join ’em.

Rather than feeling left out of my kids’ lives, I started texting them every day simply as a way to stay in touch and let them know I was thinking of them. At first, they were baffled, then they were annoyed (I wasn’t surprised), but now they actually like it. And, the best perk of all? It strengthened our relationship, big time!

I used to text my kids strictly as a means of communicating important information including things like “don’t forget you have practice tonight,” “You need to take the garbage out when you get home from school,” “What time do I have to pick you up from your friend’s house tonight?” or “Is there a reason you dumped all your t-shirts on your bedroom floor?”

Of course, I still use texting to get the lowdown on their schedule and pass along information I need them to know, but now I make sure I include plenty of fun, lighthearted, supportive “I just want you to know I’m thinking of you” texts so they know I’m never far away if they need me.

If you’re looking for a way to fortify your relationship with your teen, try bridging the gap with these 35 fun, heartfelt and supportive texts (many of which I’ve sent my kids before) to put a smile on their face.

1. Your dad and I want you to know that even though you growled at us this morning we think you’re amazing! (Apology accepted, by the way.)

2. I’m headed to the grocery store; do you want anything special for dinner? Chef mom at your service!

3. Remember, honey. Don’t take life too seriously… you’ll never get out alive.

4. Stop worrying so much. Smile! Have fun! Keep life in perspective! Don’t allow anyone to bring you down! Just be YOU!

5. I tripped over the pile of clothes on your bedroom floor, hit my head and I’m in the emergency room with a concussion. (JK… I cleaned your room and now I’m headed to the hospital for a tetanus shot.)

6. I think you went a little heavy on the Axe Body Spray this morning. The dog is under the couch and I have to wear a face mask. For future reference, keep it under 100 squirts.

7. I know you woke up in a crummy mood. Actually, so did I. But I decided to suck it up and treat everyone nice… you should try it sometime! Have an awesome day at school!

8. You and me: mani/pedis, Saturday, you name the nail salon, lunch afterward. No arguing allowed. Just laughing. Put it on your calendar. Love, Mom

9. I know you’re all grown up and independent and all, but I want you to know I put a few pieces of candy in your lunch today because no matter how grown-up you are, you’ll always be my little sweetie.

10. I’m SO proud of you! Now go get ’em, babe!

11. Don’t forget, you can always use me as an excuse (that’s what I’m here for).

12. I LOVE YOU! (Never forget that… EVER!)

13. Good luck on your test! You got this! (Remember, your grades will NEVER define you!)

14. YOU are the reason my life is so full and wonderfully blessed. I love you with all my heart.

15. Just in case you were wondering MOM doesn’t stand for Made Of Money. (Ask Dad – he’s a pushover.)

16. That was a really great conversation we had this morning. (JK, just wishful thinking on my part.)

17. Of all the kids in the world, I’m SO lucky to have you!

18. Good morning beautiful! XOXO Love, your imaginary boyfriend.

19. I hope you know that no matter what, I’ll always be here for you.

20. I’m so proud of how hard you’ve been working. I know it’s going to pay off!

21. Just remember, you are BRAVER than you believe, STRONGER than you imagine, SMARTER than you think and LOVED far more than you’ll ever know. Love you, MOM XOXO

22. I bought you a surprise today. It’s bigger than an iPhone and smaller than a car… you’ll never guess what it is.

23. I know you have a hard day ahead of you today. What can I do to make your day easier?

24. I LOVE being your mom (dad).

25. Sorry I didn’t text you back right away. Sucks, doesn’t it? Watcha need, babe?

26. I know I don’t fully understand what you’re going through right now, but I want you to know that I’m always willing to listen and I’ll always be here for you.

27. I’m just curious. What would it take for you to clean your room? How ’bout a bribe???

28. I know it’s been a crummy week. Let’s do something crazy this weekend!!

29. I went into your bedroom and took out 5 cups, 4 plates, 2 spoons, and a bowl. It was kinda like taking a trip to Ikea only I didn’t have to drive there and I saved a ton of money.

30. Definition of HAMPER: A place to put dirty laundry (just in case you forgot).

31. Whatever you choose to do, I’ll always be your biggest cheerleader!

32. Just remember, I have spies everywhere, so if you do anything stupid tonight, I WILL find out. I love you! Come home safe, PLEASE!

33. You are capable of anything you set your mind to! Don’t doubt yourself!

34. I know things are hard right now, but nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. It’s the “hard” that makes it so great. Keep going… you’ve got this!

35. We all need a break. Let’s take a trip this weekend. Any ideas?