Why Michigan Focal Points?


Coherent Curriculum Since the development of the mathematics GLCE and their subsequent core designation, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics published their “Curriculum Focal Points: A Quest for Coherence”. In that document, NCTM identified “the most important mathematical topics for each grade level. They comprise related ideas, concepts, skills, and procedures that form the foundation for understanding and lasting learning”[NCTM]; in other words the Focal Points represent the instructional goals at each grade level, whereas Michigan’s GLCE represent the assessment goals. However, too often, teachers and schools treat the GLCE as a checklist of things to be done, instead of looking at them as the assessable outcomes of a good curriculum. They often treat each expectation with the same weight or look at all the assessment technicalities that might be associated with that expectation (i.e. which units of measure are fair game, which shapes should students know, double digit or three digit numbers, etc) instead of focusing on the good curriculum that enables success with the expectations regardless of the units, shapes or numbers.

MEAP Development

Currently the mathematics grade level content expectations (GLCE) for grades 2nd thru 7th have the following designations:
Core: GLCE currently taught at grade level; assessed with 2 items/expectation
Extended Core: Supportive, enabling or prerequisite to Core expectations; assessed by sampling ½ the expectations with 1 test item/per expectation.
Future Core: More rigorous GLCE and do not count toward school or student scores
NASL: Not assessed at the state level

Beginning with the October 2009 administration of the MEAP, the future core expectations are scheduled to count toward school & student scores. Since the MEAP office will begin developing these tests soon, conversion of the future core to either core or extended core needs to occur. Furthermore, given the constraints to test length imposed by the need to administer the test in one day, the number of core items needs to be limited to 20 at each grade level.
Preliminary alignment of our GLCE to the NCTM Focal Points shows that if we want coherent, in-depth instruction that supports MEAP performance then clearly some expectations are more important than others. For instance, in second grade it becomes apparent that good instruction around the concepts of addition and subtraction as well as place value is vital to success not only with the 2nd grade MEAP but is foundational to subsequent mathematical understandings. However, a look at the expectations that are currently identified as core for 2nd grade, show that that quite a few that deal with addition and subtraction have been missed and are identified as extended or future.

More on Core vs. Extended Expectations

In the past extended core met an expectation was similar to a core but was of smaller grain size or focused on a subset of the core or was and extension of core expectations from a another grade. Now we are changing our definitions somewhat. Proposed core expectation must linked to a focal point and deserves 2 assessment items. An extended expectation may also be linked to a focal point but it does not warrant 2 assessment items. It may be linked to a focal point to more clearly show the coherence between the topics and emphasize that they too fall out of the good instruction around the focal point. All expectations not linked to a focal point are considered extended. They may be connected to a focal point in the same grade level or another grade level but the connections are more like extensions of the instructional focus at that grade level or at another grade level. They may also be foundational to more sophisticated understanding but in of themselves don't need to be tested with 2 items. Finally, they may be connected to social studies or science content and are better tested in those contexts. Once the focal points are finalized we will work to make the connections more visible.

Important!

Please note that we would not be changing anything about the GLCE except their core designations. This is something that has to be done anyway, given the scheduled incorporation of the future core into the MEAP. The development of the Michigan Mathematics Focal Points would ensure that the MEAP more accurately reflects the curriculum that needs to be in place for all students to become mathematically literate.

Draft documents