kitchen table math, the sequel: Remediation that works (paging Paul B)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Remediation that works (paging Paul B)

Now if we could just find a way to skip having to remediate these kids and move to this model in the first place....

Chronicle of Higher Ed has a great piece on a remediation program at Cleveland State Community College in Tennessee.

The model works like this:
In spring 2008 he put in place the math "emporium model" popularized by the National Center for Academic Transformation. Instead of attending traditional lectures in basic math, elementary algebra, and intermediate algebra, remedial students come to a large computer lab where they solve math problems and, when they need help, work with on-site faculty members and tutors. Courses are arranged in weekly modules with accompanying quizzes that can be retaken until students are ready for the next step.

Via Joanne Jacobs. Read the rest!

Anyone know anything else about the National Center for Academic Transformation?


Catherine Johnson said...

wow - that's exciting.

Remedial programs usually don't work -- !

VickyS said...

More from the article:

Remedial education is a particular challenge. The K-12 system considers every student who graduates and then enrolls in college as a success — anything that happens afterward is someone else's problem. The higher-education system considers every remedial student as a product of K-12 failure, and therefore someone else's problem. The only "someone else" left is the student, dogged by the shadows of two systems that refuse to take responsibility for the educational killing zone that lies between them.

Colleges aren't wrong to observe that many high schools chronically fail to prepare college-bound students for the rigors of higher education. But that problem won't be solved anytime soon, and many colleges fail to do even obvious things like communicate their remedial placement standards to the local high schools that send them students.

Spot on!

Paul B said...

This is really a timely post. We've (my middle school team) been working on a plan for next year to address this problem head on. We proposed to split our current 100 minute core blocks into two 50 minute blocks separated by 'anything' else. Kids in middle school can not sit in one seat for 100 minutes. Hell, adults can't even do it.

We proposed further that we would use one of our newly minted blocks to remediate. We wanted a gradeless placement based on mastery testing for this block. The remaining block would be used for the proscribed curriculum. Our hope was to do DI remediation with kids having the ability to move in and out of their personal remedial block of the moment based on mastery.

We thought it to be a reasonable compromise; emporium blended with dictum. Kind of an empodictum, don't you think? Is that Latin? Sounds like it, doesn't it?

Anyway, we learned today that this proposal was emphatically shot down by our district curriculum director. The reason? Research shows that blah blah blah. Of course I'm extra positive that when I ask for the research paper on Monday (and I will be sure to do so), it will not be forthcoming.

I intend to make myself a pain in the ass on this issue for the rest of the year since if I lose the argument I will not be back to this district anyway. I can't abide the systemic child abuse that our current system imposes on my kids. If anyone in the administration spent more than the typical 5 minute safari drive-by in a classroom they would see the futility of 100 minutes of torturous, out of the zone, teaching.

Sadly, my supposition is that such observations would dramatically reduce the amount of time available for schmoozing with the consultants holding the research behind the wizard's curtain. This, of course, is not a good use of their valuable time.

Anne Dwyer said...

Ok, here's what I see from the trenches.

First, I think I see the big picture because I:
have a special ed student in pre algebra
have a daughter in regular 6th grade math
teach remedial math in college
tutor bright but struggling high school boys in math
have just finished 8 credits of graduate mathematics

I could write a whole long post, but I'd get bored in the middle and delete it. So here goes with the conclusion:
1. Certain school districts (mine) believe in good curricula and qualified teachers. (see the exception below) This combination makes all the difference in the world. The highly qualified teachers know what the students need to learn in math, and will find a way to do the direct instruction. (The exception in my district is, of course, elementary school.)
2. I have tutoring students in other districts who use good curricula but have poorly qualified teachers and students in districts with highly qualified teachers and poor curricula. The boys I am tutoring had a very solid foundation in basic math and are still struggling. The good news is a good tutor can fill in the holes quite easily.
3. As for the Cleveland State program, I'll follow this one. We have several universities in our area that use this lab method for remedial math. My experience is: they come to us for traditional classes. But my sample size is very small.
4. All of my professors at the university that I attend use the direct instruction method. They go over every proof in the book in detail (even though the proof is in the book) and they give solutions to every problem they assign.

Anne Dwyer

Paul B said...

All organizations, not just public ed, are prone to speaking out of both sides of their mouths. They often espouse missions that are at odds with the very structures that are obstacles to their stated mission. Why?

Real change is hard. People get comfortable with their offices and accoutrements and don't want them disturbed. I remember reading about a similar effect with dogs and cats. Dogs don't give a rip about their environment. Their attachment is to the pack. Cats, on the other hand, don't give a rip about their owners, being far more attached to their environment.

Administrators are cats. Good teachers are dogs.

If you wanted to really maximize a kid's potential you would have good teachers constantly analyzing student weaknesses in order to craft customized programs to advance them up the learning slope. You would deliver these customized 'remediations' in a logical, coherent program that was 100% customer (kid) focused regardless of their age, SES, hat size, or other non-academic measure.

Unfortunately, this approach is antithetical to a structure that is overwhelmingly based upon putting kids in boxes for 6.8 hours per day, 180 days per year, based on their time on the planet, in order to deliver homogeneous kool aid without regard to their status.