kitchen table math, the sequel: Steve H on collecting & correcting

Friday, February 15, 2008

Steve H on collecting & correcting

"He needs to collect and correct the homework and have them re-do the problems they missed. That's what works."

I agree 100%. It's astounding that math teachers don't collect homework. It's lazy and THEY KNOW they should do it. Waiting for the test to figure out what areas need work is TOO LATE! I ALWAYS collected and went over each paper carefully. I would give a check plus, a check, or a check minus for each homework based on effort. But it was MY job to see what the issues were each day. I would then be prepared to make the most of the time allocated for reviewing the homework. I would NEVER just "go over" the homework. That's lazy teaching. I don't care how many problems that adds up to. That's their job!!!!


"...the onus falls upon him or her to 'seek extra help.'"

OK. Mark the problems you get wrong on the homework and ask for extra help. Does the school require the teacher to provide extra help after school? Does some other group or person do the job? I can't imagine (probably I'm wrong) that the school would allow a teacher to avoid providing extra help, but then make big bucks tutoring. That's unethical.

I suppose that if you pay for tutoring it's OK, but if you ask for too much free "extra help" that means you shouldn't be in the class.

Generally, I didn't like to call students up to the board. It is extrordinarily stressful for many students and it takes time. It would be nice to have some mechanism to get them to prepare more each day, but I liked to give weekly quick quizzes. Students pay attention to quizzes much more than homework.

I never thought of my (college) classes as a tool to build character, love of learning, or to develop their self-learning skills. My goal was to get them to learn the material as easily as possible. It wasn't a game. There were no trick questions. If I wanted them to know something, I would teach it to them and they would see it in their homework. I would cover the material in class, they would do it for homework, I would collect and grade the homework, I would review the problems in the NEXT class, they knew my office hours, and I tested them on exactly what was in the homework. I told them that I was on their side and that I wanted them to succeed.

All teachers should be required to provide "office" hours for extra help. Our school has a "late bus" that leaves one hour later. Children can tell their parents that they will take the late bus and go for extra help. It's quick and simple, with no complex need to arrange something. I had certain students coming in all of the time for extra help. It was no big deal.


I am now extremely skeptical of Extra Help because of our experience here: a public school district in which the provision of Extra Help (specified in the union contract no doubt) is viewed as the solution to all teaching and learning problems across the board.

Extra Help, at the middle school (and the high school, I gather), is the answer. If the student "doesn't understand," he must be "proactive in seeking extra help." It's up to him.

The school, however, apparently does not need to be proactive in improving classroom instruction.

No word on what happens when the student dutifully shows up for Extra Help and still doesn't understand. Apparently the reasoning is that while classroom instruction leaves students not understanding material, Extra Help is 100% effective.


the teacher is great; school culture is not

C's teacher this year is terrific: C. is actually making up for lost time, I think, and that is extraordinary. I'm in a position to know just how difficult it is to regain lost ground because I accelerated C. nearly 3 years ago when I decided he should be in a position to take algebra in 8th grade. It is very difficult - and to do it in a classroom setting is miraculous.

What makes this teacher so good, I think, are 3 things:

  • he's a positive, upbeat guy who has terrific rapport with the kids: they are learning in an "emotionally safe" environment
  • his classroom presentations are probably very good (haven't seen one, but that's the impression I get from C.)
  • his homework assignments are brilliant - every homework assignment is "shuffled"; every assignment includes problems from many previous lessons; no skill left behind!
Given the way this year is going, I am extremely glad we hung in there.

C. is learning and he's learning well.

BUT he wouldn't be learning if I weren't collecting and correcting the homework. I am functioning as the course T.A. The math chair, in issuing her no answers for parents edict, has gone out of her way to make it as difficult as possible for me to do what I need to do to make sure my kid learns math.

The school needs to establish a policy that homework is collected and corrected, and if the school is not going to do that, the school needs to make it possible for parents to perform this function.


in the TIMES

Every advertisement my district runs in the TIMES employment section sports the following boilerplate:

We are seeking highly qualified, professional educators to join this outstanding and innovative district in southern Westchester....the Irvington School District is committed to excellence for ALL students, welcoming parental involvement, and dedicated to ongoing professional development.

58 comments:

Matthew K. Tabor said...

This is a bit out of date - it's from the 1997 Collective Bargaining Agreement between IUFSD and the Irvington Faculty Association - but I seriously doubt that the language is any different in the current contract:

"... the teacher's workday will not exceed seven (7) hours fifteen (15) minutes, including lunch but exclusive of after school meetings. In addition, the Board and the teachers recognize that teachers have a responsibility to remain beyond the conclusion of classes in order to be available to meet with students."

The full 1997 CBA is available here:

http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/perbcontracts/716/

SteveH said...

It's nice for a school to provide extra help or free tutors after school, but that's no excuse for ignoring teacher or curriculum problems.

Kristen said...

I'm a high school math teacher, and I don't collect and check homework. I have over 100 students, and if I graded everyone's homework I would be days behind the in-class instruction (and I would never be able to spend time with my own kids). I check to make sure they made the effort and tried the assignment while they check their answers, and we go over every single problem that is asked. I think it's ridiculous to expect teachers to grade every single problem. As for extra help, there is a math teacher available every period of the day (for free) for help, and I stay after school every day for over an hour as part of my schedule to help kids with assignments.

How can you assume that it's a "teacher problem" when something isn't understood in class?

Tracy said...

If you have too many students to grade every single problem by hand, perhaps you could ask more problems orally? That's faster, for both you and the students.

How can you assume that it's a "teacher problem" when something isn't understood in class?

Not necessarily a teacher problem, but I think it is fair to assume that there's a school problem when something isn't understood in class, once explanations such as deafness or epilepsy have been ruled out.
Schools are staffed with people who are paid to educate young children. The principal and experienced teachers at a school have seen hundreds of students over the years. The professors at education schools should be integrating the experience from thousands of kids. Meanwhile, the average kid will be encountering 8th grade (or whatever) for the very first time in their life. And the kids who have been held back are the ones who already failed once at 8th grade.

The school has the experience, the funding and the training. Plus they are paid to educate. The child is new to the whole thing. How is a child meant to figure out what they are doing wrong?

And I intensely admire teachers and schools who identify cases of deafness and epilepsy and other physical disorders that do stop a child from learning.

Catherine Johnson said...

How can you assume that it's a "teacher problem" when something isn't understood in class?

I wouldn't assume it if we had just one student "not understanding." (Often the problem isn't understanding - it's practice.)

When you have many, many students being tutored, there's a problem in the class.

AND: let me say, again, that this teacher is terrific.

BUT we have a major problem with homework.

Catherine Johnson said...

The simple solution is to assign the odd-numbered problems in the book. The answers are in the back; kids can check their work and re-do.

The teacher's reason for not doing this is that he's selecting problems for specific reasons.

His homework assignments are fantastic, so I don't dispute his reasons - in which case the school should simply Xerox the answer key and send it home with the kids.

The former department chair did this.

When she taught this course she Xeroxed the answer key and sent it home with the kids. That way they could check their work and re-do.

When she retired the new math chair told C's teacher he could not provide kids with the answer key.

We talked to the principal, who said it would be a violation of copyright law to Xerox the answers.

That turns out to be wrong; I asked the COOG guy about it.

When the school purchases materials, making Xeroxed copies for student use is the same thing, legally, as lending books from a library.

The school could provide kids and/or parents with the answer key.

The school used to provide kids and/or parents with the answer key.

Now the school refuses.

Catherine Johnson said...

The school has the experience, the funding and the training. Plus they are paid to educate. The child is new to the whole thing. How is a child meant to figure out what they are doing wrong?

That is so well put!

Kids don't know what they don't know.

Most adults don't know, either.

If you put me in an astrophysics class and told me to ask the professor questions until I learned the material I wouldn't be learning astrophysics.

Of course, I wouldn't be learning astrophysics anyway, but that's another story.

Catherine Johnson said...

In any case, there really isn't a problem with understanding. As far as I can tell, this math teacher explains things extremely well.

The problem is with doing.

This is more fall-out from ed schools. Our district is completely focused on "understanding."

We've been told repeatedly that understanding is the goal of math instruction (not by this teacher).

However, the kids are tested on actually doing the problems, not understanding them when they listen to a good presentation in class.

SteveH said...

"I check to make sure they made the effort and tried the assignment while they check their answers, and we go over every single problem that is asked."

Do you collect the homework? You should. I did. I didn't grade each problem, but I saw what the issues were myself on a daily basis and I gave each homework a check/plus/minus effort grade. If you don't collect the homework and grade it somehow, then students don't have any incentive to do it in the first place. When I went over problems in class, I didn't have to rely on students to ask questions. Few do.


"How can you assume that it's a "teacher problem" when something isn't understood in class?"

How can you, the professional, assume that it isn't when you rely on the kids to tell you if there is a problem. You see and grade the tests. What do you do if students have major issues? By the time you get to a test, it's really difficult to go back and fix things. Perhaps eliminating homework and giving weekly quizzes would work better. Something other than monthly tests needs to push the students and inform the teacher about what is going on.

High school kids should take more responsibility, but you can't use that as a prerequisite for a good education. You have to try to structure things to prevent failure, not just leave it up to the kids.

Many students would NEVER come to my office hours. I never threw that back at them. I tried to think of ways to make it unnecessary for them to need extra help. Students hate going for extra help. It's a last resort. By then, the problem is really bad. A large use of extra help by many students implies that there is something fundamental going wrong, and it can't be blamed on the students.

Catherine Johnson said...

If you don't collect the homework and grade it somehow, then students don't have any incentive to do it in the first place.

YES!!!!

YES! YES! YES!

I do see a gender gap here. Girls will often feel they HAVE to do things they're told to do (I felt that way) in a way boys don't seem to.


When I went over problems in class, I didn't have to rely on students to ask questions. Few do.

YES

Ed says the same thing.

Ed says: You don't ask college students "Do you understand?"

They will say they do.

Very often they will be wrong.

palisadesk said...

DI procedures take a different tack. The work that students do on their own is corrected together, as a group. Thus every student is paying attention, responding when called on, and correcting every error. I can’t remember if this was my procedure or was in the DI manual, but I had them make corrections using a different colored pencil so that they could see patterns in their own mistakes as needed (and so that I could see the same things when I collected the books).

Students get group and individual points for various aspects of the “work check” which is built in to the instructional period. Like all DI sequences, it moves quickly. The teacher has had plenty of opportunities to see who understands what during the lesson, then the individual work (teacher walks about while students work) and finally the work check. The unit tests or mastery tests should produce NO surprises. After all the criterion is 100% accuracy from all students.

We in this district are not permitted to use homework for grades and students know this. We also may not keep them in after school to complete assignments or to make up work, nor may we average in zeroes or low grades for work not done. Some parents of course are happy to have us keep children in but we cannot require it. Homework is in fact considered (this is in writing somewhere) the student and family’s responsibility (I’m not arguing this SHOULD be the case, just pointing out that the reality is that in some places collecting and grading homework is in fact *not* the teacher’s job.) .

I haven’t taught middle school math at my current school, but in my last one I did – only to my own class however. I was pretty obsessive-compulsive about correcting everything and only learned from DI and other sources that in fact, students learn more if THEY correct the errors, but in an instructional context. If they do it immediately, it is even more beneficial, because they can often clarify the misunderstanding that led to the error in the first place. By the next day they will often have forgotten.

A low-tech way to monitor students’ understanding and grasp of new learning – in math, especially, but also effective in LA, science and other subjects -- is use of response cards or student response boards. Some schools apparently have the $$ to buy small whiteboards, but I learned from other teachers on my 4-8 group to go to Home Depot and get shower board cut into smaller sections (mine are about 12 X 12). Put a coat of Turtle Wax on it and you’ve got a whiteboard ready to go. Kids bring in old socks (clean, please) to use as erasers, and we use whiteboard markers or even crayons.

A feature of this that is very positive is that you can “differentiate” with a diverse group, writing different variations on a similar problem. Kids like to work on these boards (not sure what the attraction is) and you can see what further teaching is needed, and who is getting what, by having them hold their boards up on cue, or by walking around and observing as you go. It’s possible to get a widely varying group working this way (many of our math classes in middle school have kids with skills from 2nd-8th grade level).

Catherine Johnson said...

The unit tests or mastery tests should produce NO surprises. After all the criterion is 100% accuracy from all students.

YES!

Catherine Johnson said...

I was pretty obsessive-compulsive about correcting everything and only learned from DI and other sources that in fact, students learn more if THEY correct the errors, but in an instructional context. If they do it immediately, it is even more beneficial

YES!!

ABSOLUTELY!!

This is one of my biggest gripes.

GIVE THE KIDS THE ANSWER KEY.

That's what the former chair did, and she had fantastic results.

She XEROXED the answer key, for pete's sake.

The only reason I check C's answers is that I'm making sure it actually happens. Since he's working for me, not his teacher, he's more likely to blow me off.

Catherine Johnson said...

As to the white boards, absolutely. A teacher who used to comment here sometimes, and who taught in a terrific charter in CO, used white boards in this manner.

Catherine Johnson said...

The basic problem here is that no formative assessment is performed ever.

Catherine Johnson said...

Apparently this is one of the things the middle school is "talking about" and the administration is "bringing in" Scott Foresman formative assessment or something of that nature ... but meanwhile here we are 3 years later (I've been talking about formative assessment since we got to the middle school) and we have no formative assessment.

What we have is constant grading & grades.

Independent George said...

Why isn't grading outsourced?

It won't work in every subject, but math is a 'clean' enough subject that it could work. As long as the teacher provides a decent answer key and grading criteria, why not hire a local grad student for $12/hour to do the grading? (I'm assuming most local schools don't have the IT infrastructure to scan & send it assignments to India, but that can be done in the future). The student gets answers, the teacher gets a diagnostic, and the grader gets cash. Everybody wins.

Catherine Johnson said...

I'm way ahead of you on that one.

I think the writing assessment needs to be outsourced right away.

With the math homework, palisadesk is right: the kids need a way to correct their own homework AND THEN RE-DO.

The teacher needs to oversee this system and make sure the kids actually do correct their homework.

SteveH said...

My son says they just got a SMART Board in their math class and were using it to calculate mean, median, and mode - measures of central tendencies. The kids went up to the board to enter how many siblings they had. I guess this is not the kind of board work you're talking about.

I'll have to look up the details, but one homework problem showed a list of employees of a company and the hourly wage they were making. The question was which value (mode, median, or mean) would give a job applicant the best impression of the company. In other words, the book was trying to teach students how to use statistics to lie.

Catherine Johnson said...

That sounds very interactive!

Catherine Johnson said...

That sounds very interactive!

vantilburgindo said...

SteveH said, "High school kids should take more responsibility, but you can't use that as a prerequisite for a good education. You have to try to structure things to prevent failure, not just leave it up to the kids."

Thank you, thank you, thank you. We had parent-teacher conferences yesterday for our middle-school boy, and the "needs to take responsibility for his own learning" meme was all we heard.

I hope you don't mind, but I totally lifted your line in an email I just fired off to the principal and all our son's teachers as a post-conference follow up.

It's hard to imagine how professional educators could believe that it's okay to abandon the kids who lack the executive function to take full responsibility for their own education. But that's what's happening to our son....

Cheryl vT

Tex said...

Cheryl -- We just had a similar experience with our 10th grader.

The math teacher doesn’t have time to correct homework and my son is not going to him for extra help. I asked the teacher, “What has helped other kids like my son? He agreed to talk to him and to encourage him to go for extra help.

In my dreams, I would not have had to ask the teacher. The reality is that in an honors math class a kid’s grades start to drop and the teacher does nothing. Oh, I forgot, the teacher did put in some CYA canned comments on his report card.

This is a high school where the guidance counselor advised us not to talk to my son’s teachers about his declining performance because he would be “mortified” and because “what are you going to do when he goes to college?”

Our school wants the parents of a 16-year-old boy to butt out because he needs to take responsibility for his own learning.

SteveH said...

You have to try to structure things to prevent failure, not just leave it up to the kids.


In my after school SSAT class, the kids talk more because I'm not a real teacher. They are really struggling with this take responsibility for your own learning thing. My impression is that the boys are more clueless than the girls. It seems that all of a sudden in 7th grade (at our school) they are hit with this after 6 years of developmentally-appropriate, spiral mastery, Crayolla, play learning. Six years of "don't worry", followed by "you're on your own".

The honor roll (3 levels! It's more meaningful to see who ISN'T on the list.) just came out for the second semester. As usual, it's dominated by girls, but that doesn't mean that it was easy for them. I think that boys generally don't care as much (maybe not clueless).

My wife says that my positions sometimes come across as harsh or strident and that they would never work with our school. I tell her that I'm talking to her, not the school. I do that at KTM too.

Actually, I'm somewhat of a wimp when it comes to my son's school. I think they know my position a little bit, but I never make a big deal about it. I probably should.

The latest is our state testing. My son achieved "Proficient" for the reading/comprehension section. His vocabulary part was almost perfect, but his raw score for reading comprehension was something like 12 out of 21 possible points. This ended up high on the proficiency scale! OK, but the sample problems on the web site seem easy and it makes me wonder why he only got a raw score of 57%.

These are the same sort of reading comprehension questions I go over in my after-school SSAT class. The students act like they've NEVER seen this sort of thing before. They haven't. My son hasn't, but the state test is filled with them. I tell the kids that it's kind of like technical or competitive reading. Some of the comprehension questions require a lot more than a fact for an answer. They have to concentrate and practice.

So, the state test requires this skill, but the school doesn't teach it. The test is created and the grading calibrated by real teachers. Does our school think that practicing is equivalent to teaching to the test? Do they think that true learning can only happen indirectly? Think of it the other way around. If you teach certain skills or facts, do you test the kids on something else to see if they can put two and two together to get five?

If they think that the indirect approach is more general and develops more well-rounded students, then why are they doing so poorly on the test? If they don't like the test, then they better tell the parents.

What is their hangup with practicing short answer reading comprehension questions? My son gets top grades in reading and language arts at his school, but gets a 57% on the state test. I can say these things here at KTM, but I have to come up with an extremely careful approach to even think about raising this issue at our school. One of my big problems is that I really don't know what goes on at the school in the classroom. They have all of the facts and I don't. I am at an EXTREME disadvantage.

The general rule is that if you want to know anything, call the teacher and set up an appointment. Great! I'll go there and it will be 20 questions, and the teacher won't like the questions.

"Why, if you like differentiated instruction, does my son have to spend hours upon hours coloring definitions of science terms if he could memorize them in minutes?"

"Do you practice reading comprehension questions just like what is on the state tests? Why not?"

That would be a fun meeting. They control the information and that puts parents on the defensive. Add to that their incredible confusion of edu-babble and you end up with parents who stay away. That's what they want.

So, the problem I have this weekend is how to raise the issue of reading comprehension with the principal (whom I like quite a bit) in a way that's constructive, when I don't know all of the facts. And I can't get the facts easily or directly without having teachers get quite defensive.

Catherine Johnson said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. We had parent-teacher conferences yesterday for our middle-school boy, and the "needs to take responsibility for his own learning" meme was all we heard.

Steve's & Palisadesk's comments have been profoundly helpful.

I'm going to get all of them "pulled up front": I also have a backlog of things from redkudu.

Ed (for passers-by: Ed is a history professor at NYU) feels and acts exactly as Steve does.

He is teaching well-prepared college freshmen, all of whom are young adults, and he holds himself responsible for their learning.

The students are responsible for doing the work.

He is responsible for crafting and structuring assignments that will enable them to succeed.

He had planned to spend yesterday writing his book.

Instead he spent half his day on his teaching of just one class because he feels his first writing assignment is too difficult.

He's been working on that assignment with his T.A.s; he's had me read and critique it twice (and, yes, in my view it is too hard).

The question is: if kids are to "take responsibility for their own learning," what is the school's responsibility?

The answer is "inputs."

The school provides teachers, books, and SMART Boards.

The rest is up to the student and his family.

Sink or swim.

SteveH said...

"Our school wants the parents of a 16-year-old boy to butt out because he needs to take responsibility for his own learning."

You can't go from developmentally-appropriate to sink or swim overnight, and sink or swim is a dangerous approach to education. If there is anything new I've learned as a parent it's that these things take much longer than I used to think. It's a fine line, but I'm not stupid. When my son was learning to ride a bicycle, I ran next to him for a long time.

Besides, the reason for a problem in class might have an easy solution. It's not helpful to let the student figure it out himself. If the issue is procrastination and not getting his homework done, then I would still take an active role in fixing the problem. Sure, he needs to do this when he gets to college, but he is not in college yet. You don't solve problems by ignoring them or thinking that the student should be able to fix it himself.

Catherine Johnson said...

Actually, I'm somewhat of a wimp when it comes to my son's school. I think they know my position a little bit, but I never make a big deal about it. I probably should.

Based in our experience here, I advise against it.

There's not too much the school can do to you when your child is in K-8.

Once your child is in high school, it's the school that grades him and it's the school that does or does not write enthusiastic letters of recommendation.

Jay Mathews' book on wealthy schools has a chapter on Mamaroneck schools, I think it was, where parents were protesting a lousy algebra teacher.

At one point the teachers collectively considered refusing to write letters of recommendation to college.

If they considered refusing to write letters of recommendation that tells me that even though they didn't follow through on that threat they probably weren't writing detailed and compelling letters of recommendation; how motivated were these teachers to sell their students to good colleges?

Catherine Johnson said...

The only solution I can see for parents who've got kids in public high schools is.... supplemental work & perhaps a summer course at Rye Country Day or in online programs like Johns Hopkins or Stanford or Northwestern.

I've GOT to get some posts up about Karen Pryor's book. I think I've learned from the book that it's possible to use the principles of learning theory to motivate a teen to "take responsibility for his learning" -- meaning take responsibility for extra learning outside the school setting.

The single most successful mom I know here, who is going to get two kids into medical school (though she's worried about the third) takes the frank position that you have your kids learn what the public school has to offer; then you supplement.

ALSO - and she's very clear on this - you hire an "academic manager." This person is a tutor, but she isn't exactly tutoring. She's keeping track of everything going on & making sure that your kids are on top of things and are as well-prepared for tests and papers as they can be.

I don't have the money to do that, and I don't want to do it in any case.

But the truth is: this mom has done a much better job than I have in terms of her kids winning good grades and building impressive reputations inside the school.

Catherine Johnson said...

It's hard to imagine how professional educators could believe that it's okay to abandon the kids who lack the executive function to take full responsibility for their own education. But that's what's happening to our son....

This is universal.

It's a terrible thing to do, and it's horrific for boys whose frontal lobe function lags girls by 1 1/2 to 2 years at this age.

Public schools treat immature executive function as a moral failing.

This is why I'm REAL sorry my kid had to go to public school in the age of character ed.

I say Let's go back to Self Esteem.

You don't hear a word about self esteem in my district.

Not one word.

Not for the kids, anyway.

Catherine Johnson said...

The math teacher doesn’t have time to correct homework and my son is not going to him for extra help.

Right.

Boys don't Seek Extra Help.

Girls apparently like to Seek Extra Help (or don't mind) - that's how they affiliate with teachers.

Boys don't want to affiliate with teachers.

Or so says Leonard Sax & others.

SteveH said...

What a choice. Self Esteem and no learning, or learning(?), but Sink or Swim. Prep schools don't do this, but their kids go to Harvard. That's perhaps giving them too much credit, but they generally don't let kids sink.

Catherine Johnson said...

As usual, it's dominated by girls, but that doesn't mean that it was easy for them. I think that boys generally don't care as much (maybe not clueless).

The girls I know pay a steep price. They are suffering.

I talked to a mom last year who had no idea what was going on in the accelerated math class. Her daughter was doing all the work and getting....either As or Bs.

Then the mom said, "Well the teacher does seem to give a lot of homework."

I said, "No she doesn't. Sometimes there are only a handful of problems."

It turned out this little girl was basically teaching herself math. She couldn't do the problems and was staying up 'til 11 or 12 pouring over the textbook trying to figure them out on her own.

I know perhaps one boy who would do that.

The only kids who can stay up til midnight trying to do their math homework at this age are kids with very high anxiety levels (which the mom revealed to me).

One of my sisters was like that. A very, very anxious kid. In 5th grade she was staying up til 10 or 11 at night trying to do the tiny amounts of homework she'd been assigned perfectly.

So, yes, girls can manage it better.

But I have yet to meet a mom who said her daughter was doing it easily and happily.

Catherine Johnson said...

Steve - I strongly recommend giving your son the ITBS. You can get it easily through Bob Young U. Costs about $40. Give it to him once a year so you can see whether he's making at least a year's worth of progress per year.

Your state ELA test may be worthless. Ours is. C. scored in the 95th percentile on reading on the ITBS; this year he scored in the 97th percentile on the ISEE, which is the most elite, most competitive, standardized test there is. His ISEE score puts him in a group of around 700 kids.

Meanwhile he scored a 3 on the state ELA test in 6th & 7th grades.

When I told the assistant superintendent about this she said that the range for a "4" on our state test (NY) is just a couple of items.

When I looked at the scale I discovered she was right.

I think I remember discovereding that C. had missed perhaps 3 questions on the ELA test & had gotten a 3. His friends who missed just 2 questions got 4s. (Something like that).

I would give him a real test and go from there.

If the ITBS tells you his reading isn't where you want it to be, I would use the Six-Way Paragraph books which I think are superb.

UNLESS PALISADESK & REDKUDU & CHERYL T & MS. TEACHER & INSTRUCTIVIST HAVE BETTER IDEAS, THAT IS.

PaulaV said...

Public schools treat immature executive function as a moral failing.

Yes, yes, yes.

I recently had my vp tell me my six-year-old son was a "goofball and needed to realize his actions would get him in trouble." (Catherine, I emailed you the rest of my saga!)

My ten-year-old son can't focus so they put him in a class with kids who need remediation.

Well, after much debate, I decided to drop the money and take my oldest to a educational psychologist. His IQ is average, but in areas of achievement he is in the superior range. He does not have a learning disability. The pyschologist remarked Kumon had really paid off. His math scores were great! Would they have been if I had left it to the school to teach him math? A resounding no.

My husband and I go back in two weeks to discuss how we can manage his stress level. My son has been very anxious at school. He is very hard on himself and is striving to fit the mold th school wants. He is failing in that regard. The principal likes those bright eyed and bushy tailed students. Many of them girls. She and the vp have made some pretty negative comments about boys. They continuously call them goofballs and unfocused.

Also, I've talked with a teacher I know and she said many of them are unhappy and simply praying they can "out last the principal."

The pychologist asked me what my options were regarding schools. Could I afford private school or have my children switched to another school?

Catherine Johnson said...

Paula - I think I emailed back - you should have it -

Catherine Johnson said...

When my son was learning to ride a bicycle, I ran next to him for a long time.

beautiful

Catherine Johnson said...

I recently had my vp tell me my six-year-old son was a "goofball and needed to realize his actions would get him in trouble."

boys will be boys, Hon

This is the cultural problem we all face, which is that for some time now "boy" has been synonymous with "bad"

This is why we don't want schools staffed exclusively by women.

Catherine Johnson said...

A P.E. teacher at the 4-5 school told the girls they could be anything they wanted when they grew up.

Told the boys, "You're not going to be professional athletes when you grow up."

Catherine Johnson said...

As far as I'm concerned, if an educational psychologist is telling you to get him out of there you need to get him out of there.

concernedCTparent said...

As far as I'm concerned, if an educational psychologist is telling you to get him out of there you need to get him out of there.

Ditto.

I didn't have an educational psychologist's opinion to go on when my daughter was in fourth grade last year. Instead, I went on pure gut feelings. "I have to get her out of there."

She is no longer anxious all the time, she's not shutting down or telling herself that she cannot accomplish something, and thankfully, she is herself again. She feels safe being herself.

This year has been a blessing. While she won't get back fourth grade, she's having a challenging, inspiring, and intellectually stimulating fifth grade experience to keep her moving forward. It has changed her life.

concernedCTparent said...

Catherine-
What is Bob Young U?

concernedCTparent said...

BJU Press Iowa Achievement Tests:

http://www.bjupress.com/services/testing/iowa.html

VickyS said...

Ditto here, too, Paula. I have moved my sons more than once b/c they were overly stressed at a particular school. Danger signals I've experienced include school refusal (2nd grader hiding under the bed--and not playing), anger, angst, apathy, being bullied, shutting down and refusing to do homework, feelings of helplessness. I have moved kids to new schools in the middle of a school year, I have pulled kids out to homeschool, once for a few months at the end of a year, once for a year that I used to accelerate a son (I was his teacher for grades 7/8--we avoided middle school almost altogether!), I have switched to a new school in the fall like a normal person, I have done it all. And, quite honestly, each and every time I have responded with my gut like this, it has been a positive move for my kids. Sometimes it has taken longer than other times to heal, but so far it has always been a positive step. They are currently in 6th and 9th and are in good places, emotionally and academically.

What's been frustrating is that I cannot seem to find an environment that succeeds with them for more than a couple of years. The public schools change like chameleons year to year--you sometimes wonder if you're going back to the same school! The private schools are hurting and make some bad admissions decisions, poisening a grade with troublemakers, or the philosophies used in the lower grades aren't successful in the upper grades, etc.

And hey Allison if you are listening--we're in the Twin Cities too! The mecca of school choice...but not necessarily of school quality!

VickyS said...

Executive function. Sink or swim.

Really, show me the research. Show me the research that says expecting kids to function like college students when they are in high school or middle school will actually help them become successful college students.

I think it does just the opposite. It is downright demoralizing for young kids to be subjected expectations they cannot meet.

It brings to mind a different, but perhaps analogous, parenting topic: attachment parenting. How do you create secure, independent adults? By meeting children's needs for love, attention, dependence when they are young...so they develop a sense of safety and security that later allows them to approach the world with confidence.

So...there *must* be different ways to --slowly, like Steve says-- edge kids toward executive function during middle and high school at a developmentally appropriate pace. Techniques other than simply expecting them to behave like short college students (taking responsibility for their own learning...). I don't know what these techniques are, but I bet the older teachers know!

Catherine Johnson said...

Really, show me the research. Show me the research that says expecting kids to function like college students when they are in high school or middle school will actually help them become successful college students.

YESSSSSSSS

When C. had just started 6th grade we had a "team meeting" at which we were told he had to take responsibility for his own learning in 6th grade because he was going to have to take responsibility for his own learning in 9th grade.

Now this has been backed up all the way to 4th grade. Fourth grade kids are supposed to take responsibility for their academic lives. If they have a problem, they are supposed to address it with their teacher, not have their mom do it.

Self-advocacy at age 9.

Makes sense to me.

Catherine Johnson said...

One of the many things that gets to me about ed schoolery is the constant illogic.

By this reasoning, why don't we have them start driving cars at age 13 because they're going to have to drive cars at age 16.

Or let's have them start drinking responsibly at age 14 because they'll have to drink responsibly at age 18.

Meanwhile my school cites "maturity" as a reason to keep talented kids out of accelerated courses.

Catherine Johnson said...

Bob Young.

Good grief.

I meant Bob Jones.

BJU

Very easy process. $40.

Catherine Johnson said...

attachment parenting. How do you create secure, independent adults? By meeting children's needs for love, attention, dependence when they are young...so they develop a sense of safety and security that later allows them to approach the world with confidence

exactly

Catherine Johnson said...

I don't think you can teach executive function - or, at least, you can't teach frontal lobe development.

I suspect that the frontal lobes develop when they develop.

What you can teach are the behaviors involved in "taking responsibility of your own learning."

These behaviors ARE behaviors, not character traits.

They can be taught; they can be learned.

That means breaking these skills down into their component parts, teaching each one in sequence, "chaining" the behaviors (Pryor is great on this), and reinforcing straight through.

Also - I believe this - "taking responsibility for your own learning" isn't exactly easy or natural.

Procrastination is natural (remember: chickens procrastinate).

So this question goes well beyond simply learning your multiplication tables.

Self-management is a lifelong challenge for many people - possibly for all people depending on the area.

Catherine Johnson said...

To tell middle school kids: you have to manage yourselves, take responsibility, and never procrastinate is ludicrous.

It is a guaranteed recipe for failure for most kids.

palisadesk said...

Ken De Rosa suggested this article by Michael Crichton on complex systems:Complexity Theory

It's about environmental management, but this snippet seemed a propos of this discussion:

One complex system that most people have dealt with is a child. If so, you've probably experienced that when you give the child an instruction, you can never be certain what response you will get. Especially if the child is a teenager. And similarly, you can’t be certain that an identical interaction on another day won’t lead to spectacularly different results.



If you have a teenager, or if you invest in the stock market, you know very well that a complex system cannot be controlled, it can only be managed. Because responses cannot be predicted, the system can only be observed and responded to. The system may resist attempts to change its state. It may show resiliency. Or fragility. Or both.



An important feature of complex systems is that we don’t know how they work. We don’t understand them except in a general way; we simply interact with them. Whenever we think we understand them, we learn we don’t. Sometimes spectacularly.

SteveH said...

"If the ITBS tells you his reading isn't where you want it to be, I would use the Six-Way Paragraph books which I think are superb."

Thank you Catherine. I will do that.

palisadesk said...

What are the titles/authors of the Six-Way paragraph books?

I can't find anything on Google.

concernedCTparent said...

Six-Way Paragraphs by Walter Pauk

You can find them on Amazon along with a couple of reviews. Here's a descriptin from Powell's:

http://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/biblio?inkey=4-9780844221236-1

Anonymous said...

They might be at EPS Publishing. The Paragraph Books are there, too.

I have both the high school and middle school ones. They're short and sweet. Great for after-schoolers.

Susan

Catherine Johnson said...

STEVE - if you're still around. I'm very keen on Six-Way Paragraphs in the Content Areas.

Here's sample passage a from the middle grades book, which may be a little too easy for your son. (I can't remember if this is one of the easier passages. I think the passages grow more difficult as you go along.)

I'll be interested to hear what teachers think of these passages. They all seem like little gems to me.

I think I copied one of the Content passages last summer to use with C. - will post that later.

After each passage the student answers multiple choice questions about the main idea, the subject matter, supporting details, conclusion, "clarifying devices," and vocabulary in context.

I have NO idea how to teach reading comprehension....but if you can do it by having kids read a lot of well-written, content-rich short passages designed to teach comprehension then these are the books.

Anonymous said...

My son's a 7th grader and we use the advanced level. We started with the middle lever, but it seemed too easy for him.

If you have a good middle school reader, I think the advanced level is fine.

SusanS

Catherine Johnson said...

Definitely.

I started with the middle level (I think) back when C. was in 6th grade & it was too easy.

He's a good reader, though. I wouldn't call the books simple or dumbed-down.