Editor’s Letter—Vol. 28, No. 3

Dear CHANCE Colleagues,

Interest in the discipline of statistics and the analysis of data is booming. The amount of information collected in our increasingly data-centered society is staggering. Statistical expertise is more valuable than ever, with society and employers clamoring for graduates with the ability to blend knowledge of statistics, data management, computing, and visualization to help make better decisions. Statisticians have become so important to so many fields that demand for their skills is leading to strong job growth. But with the opportunities come challenges—and even threats for statistics as a discipline. What does the future hold? What do we need to be addressing to ensure that statistics remains a vibrant choice for our students?

In this two-part (September and November 2015) special issue of CHANCE, guest edited by Nicholas Horton (Amherst College) and Xiao-Li Meng (Harvard University), we focus on the teaching of statistics and related disciplines before college. Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times recently noted that statistical literacy should be part of every citizen’s tool kit, which nicely updates the widely-cited H.G. Wells quote, “Statistical thinking will one day be as necessary for efficient citizenship as the ability to read and write.” In practical terms, it’s necessary that every student reading the newspaper should know what arguments are scientifically and statistically sound in this era of increasingly sophisticated (and sometimes confusing) information.

Dramatic increases in the enrollments in Advanced Placement (AP) Statistics as well as increased focus on statistics in the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics have raised the prominence of statistics in U.S. high schools. At the same time, many students are still using calculators to undertake their analyses (a workflow divorced from statistical practice), and new courses have emerged with a focus on data and information (e.g., the new AP Computer Science Principles course; see sidebar in “The AP Statistics Curriculum: Past, Present, and Future”).

To begin the issue, noted educator Zalman Usiskin describes the relationship between statistics and other subjects in the K-12 curriculum. A sidebar by Kathy Hall describes an innovative teacher training program in Oregon. Anna Bargagliotti and Christine Franklin outline the SET (Statistics Education of Teachers) framework to prepare K-12 teachers to teach statistics, with a sidebar on the innovative LOCUS (Levels of Conceptual Understanding in Statistics) project.

Experienced AP Statistics question leader Daren Starnes provides an insider’s guide to holistic grading in the context of a free response question. To provide an international perspective, Anna Martin highlights achievement standards for statistics in New Zealand (with a full set of grading rubrics as supplemental material). Ben Hedrick of the College Board provides a history and glimpse of the future for the fast-growing AP Statistics course.

Andrew Zieffler and Mike Huberty share the experience of teaching an innovative curriculum (“Catalyst for Change”) in high schools, while Kay Endriss leads the reader through a choose-your-own-adventure guide to data surfing.

In the “Taking a Chance in the Classroom” column, Hollylynne Lee and Dalene Stangl discuss professional development MOOCs for teachers of statistics in K-12.

We are particularly appreciative of the work of the following peer reviewers: Anna Bargagliotti, Kyle Barriger, Andrew Bray, Al Coons, William Finzer, Joel Greenhouse, Katherine Halvorsen, Sharon Hessney, Ananda Jayawardhana, Elizabeth Johnson, Nicola Justice, Sandra Madden, Eric Marland, Steve Miller, Valerie Nazzaro, Rebecca Nichols, Chris Olsen, Michael Parzen, Roxy Peck, Bethany White, and Jeffrey Witmer.

Students and teachers are open to the possibilities of integrating statistics more closely into pre-college studies. I hope that this provocative set of articles helps to encourage more statisticians to be involved with education at the K-12 level.

Scott Evans

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