kitchen table math, the sequel: who decides?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

who decides?

from Steve H :
"It's a numbers game. The argument is how many people actually have it and use it. If it's not a significant portion of the population than you can make the argument that it's a ludicrous goal to set that says we have to get every student there."

Who makes this decision and when do they make it?


"This thread poses the argument that the kids have already figured this out, long before the adults."

What, exactly, do they figure out? Do they come to the conclusion that they are just not good in math; that they don't like math? Is that really the case or is that because of bad teaching and curricula? KTM is all about fixing the problem of K-8 math and making sure that kids don't come to the wrong conclusion. It's about keeping educational doors open. Besides, up to a point, I don't care what my son likes or doesn't like. He has to do the work. I will decide which doors to close, and I will thank the school and other adults for not making that decision for me. I would also hope that they would not make that decision for kids who do not have parents who protect them from do-gooders and societal bean counters.
I agree. I have put three children through the public school system, two with autism. For all three of my kids, educators have made assumptions about what they couldn't do that were flat wrong.

Probably our worst experience of this was the public school in Los Angeles where the teacher thought Jimmy was nonverbal. We had no idea they thought that, and when we found out Ed videotaped me working with Jimmy on his flash cards.

"vacuum cleaner"

"newspaper"

After the teacher saw the video, she said, "I wish you'd told us."

34 comments:

Catherine Johnson said...

and--- as I've Commented before --- we've had the same experience with our typical child.

I finally had the insight that if we stayed in public school I would need Testing for him, too, not to establish that he "qualified" for services but to establish that he was intelligent enough to learn Earth Science.

Seriously.

farmwifetwo said...

I've put 2 with autism into the system with various results. In the end you have to prove they can learn. And there's nothing that makes me roll my eyes more than:

"He's coping"
"We didn't think he'd come ahead that far".

And the one that makes me the most frustrated


"He's doing amazing"... Why you ask?? B/c of the wars to prove to them that he (10yr old) could do amazing if someone cared enough to teach him.

Wish me luck... one more week to go and we know whether or not we got the system placement to a developmental class for the 8yr old. The teacher is absolutely amazing... and we want in BADLY!!! Intergration isn't the be all and end all when your kid isn't being taught.

Catherine Johnson said...

I'll be thinking about you.

Catherine Johnson said...

"I wish you'd told us"....looking back, that was what you call fair warning.

LynnG said...

On what basis do most teachers base their assumptions?

I don't even know what the teachers are assuming about my kids. When I know what the assumption is, I have a shot at disproving it. But its the assumptions that I don't know about that can be the most damaging.

Bostonian said...

There should be entrance standards for classes based on what children should already know if they are to learn the new material.

One cannot learn to add and subtract fractions if one cannot understand multiplication and division of whole numbers. If fractions are covered in a grade X "normal" math class, students who have not learned basic multiplication and division should not be in that class but in a class covering those basics. If they are, the teacher will not be able to focus on the new material on fractions.

I think there should be entrance exams to high school (grades 9-12). If at the end of 8th grade a kid cannot add 1/2 and 1/3, I don't think he ever will, and as a taxpayer I don't want to spend more money trying. I do want teachers in earlier grades to have covered the topic well so that all students have a fair shot at the high school entrance exam. Clear but realistic academic standards for entering high school would force middle school teachers and their students to be more serious and to adopt better curricula.

College instructor Brian Rude has an essay Fractions My Algebra Students Can't Do explaining the importance of fractions to algebra and the weak knowledge of fractions of his students . The fractions test he presents at his site could be part of a high school entrance exam.

momof4 said...

Bostonian, HS entrance exams used to be common for the Catholic schools, at least into the 60s. The SSAT already exists and is in use by lots of private schools and I'd like to see it used in public schools. I'm not familiar with the specifics on the test; would you find it acceptable? I'd go even further and say that a meaningful score on the ITBS (or another serious test) should be necessary for middle school. I'd even like to see it used at the end of each year, with a real cut score for advancement. The same cut score should be used across the entire district, also, unlike what used to happen in MD with the countywide algebra and geometry tests. There could also be a test for school entrance. We've been running schools like warehouses or daycare for too long.

The problem is political, because meaningful cut scores on a serious achievement test will result in a racial/ethnic divide between the passes and the fails. I'm convinced that is a significant factor in the current curriculum and instructional choices; one has to be able to pretend that all equally capable and successful.

le radical galoisien said...

oh yeah I have my own stories

some stuck-up people in Cape Elizabeth thought me and my sister weren't native speakers of English because .... we came from Singapore, and Singapore ain't white people country!

Toss in a non-American accent and suddenly we found ourselves in ESL classes without knowing what they were for.

bky said...

But as soon as you say "... me and my sister weren't native speakers ..." it's so obvious that you are. Me say this with affection.

lgm said...

>>If at the end of 8th grade a kid cannot add 1/2 and 1/3, I don't think he ever will, and as a taxpayer I don't want to spend more money trying.

You want to blame the student? I can't in good conscience do so given that less than half of his teachers are actually competent in the subject of mathematics.
I'd rather toss the teachers and the administrators that gave the incompetents tenure.

I'd also rather give the parents the money so they can make other arrangements for learning math than be locked in to an inappropriate course. Rough estimate: $100K for 7 hrs of work per day for 185 days means the teacher is getting $77/hr. Elementary math is 3x/week for 45 minutes for 25 students so that's about $7/day per unclassified student or $1200 per year. That's enough for K12 and the family gets more than they do from the district. Of course, K12 is not accredited in my state and will never be as long as the teacher's union has enough power to enforce their near monopoly.

SteveH said...

"I do want teachers in earlier grades to have covered the topic well so that all students have a fair shot at the high school entrance exam."

Take care of that problem first and then worry about the cost of overeducating kids, unless you are bound and determined to tie the problems of education to some truth about IQ that people refuse to see.

Anonymous said...

The point about assumptions is a critical one. I remember thinking it was a one time thing with my kids, but realized later that it is ongoing and on many levels. You almost have to look for a pattern in the subtext of teacher comments to figure out what's going on.

By high school it looks more like a form of gatekeeping. And I don't think it's necessarily malevolent. But a lot of well meaning ideas aren't.

And like Lynn said, it's the assumptions that you don't know about that can do the most damage.

SusanS

Anonymous said...

"$100K for 7 hrs of work per day for 185 days means the teacher is getting $77/hr"

Do you expect the teachers to prep their classes or grade homework?

At one of my local public elementary schools, the school day begins at 8:10 and runs until 2:40 for grades 1-3, and 3:05 for grades 4-5. There is 45 minutes of lunch and 20 minutes for recess ... so I'll round this up to 1 hour of non-class time.

8:10 to 2:40 is 6½ hours. Take away the 1 hour for lunch and recess and you get 5½ hours of class time. Assuming a 7 hour day allows for 90 minutes/day to prep class and grade homework. This seems *WAY* too little to me if we want this done well.

[Also, the teachers aren't paid $100K per year in California. I think that the average is closer to $60K (plus benefits, of course)]


I, too, would be fine giving the parents the money to choose an alternative, but it isn't like the public school teachers are making $77/hour.


-Mark Roulo

le radical galoisien said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
le radical galoisien said...

as someone who dated someone with a much higher IQ than me (plus, she had an SAT score of 2390/2400), I can say I felt an IQ barrier that I never felt before. why did it all come all so easy to her? She could skip half the lectures in a class and get 100 in all the tests.

but to my discovery, a lot of it was sheer hard work. Granted, it was done two nights or the night before the exam, but actual learning was involved.

I copied her style and found my grades to skyrocket.

so I remain more or less convinced that for anything less than superb feats of photographic memory, sheer exercise can overcome any barrier. Familiarity can open up new "memory structures" ... think of it as creating a new generic datatype in a Java applet.

I turned from someone struggling with organic chemistry to someone who is now absolutely fluent in it and researches random compounds and their syntheses in his spare time. Now, internalising (and understanding) large sets of reactions and compounds is super-easy, whereas it was previously difficult. Familiarity and confidence (tying stuff to a framework you already know) is really half the story.

I'm convinced that half the secret of those autistic savants who perform impressive calculations or amazing feats of memory is that they were simply so dedicated (since they liked to do the same thing over and over again) that a familiar and efficient routine developed in their mind.

After all, calculating the digits of pi is a relatively simple task, with an algorithm that AFAIK works in linear time. Reading them off to a computer is simpler. Create the appropriate structure to store them out of familiarity, and tada, you can recite a million digits of pi.

lgm said...

Teachers in my area range from 55-120K base salary, with medical costing the district 20K. We're top heavy in vets. District hasn't published figures for rest of compensation.

scan seethroughny.net to see how your contract differs from typical nyers and to see what public school teachers do make. (remember part timers are listed too if you see lower salaries) We start at 55K for full timers - high cost of living area.

Consider that teachers in districts like mine are under orders to work to clock. Elementary here is in session for 6hours daily. Teachers must report 15 min prior and cannot leave until 15 minutes after (there is no teaching at this time, although there may be a meeting). There is a staff mtg weekly. Call it a 40 hr week even though it's 35 by contract. We have classroom instruction possible for 4.25 hours daily. Remaining classroom teacher's time is : teaming 45 min; prep 75 min (30 min while students are at lunch, 45 min while at special). Any mtgs are done during contracted time while a sub, sped teacher, or a para has the class. The majority of homework is not corrected by the teacher - it's swap with the guy next to you or correct your own or a para's job to mark (while teacher is lecturing). The major assessments are done by the teacher about every four weeks and don't take more than the prep time to mark. Statistics are done and discussed in team time. Photocopying is done by a central facility. Remediation is done by referral to a specialist.There is a para in each class to help the teacher; some studetns have 1:1 aides; included sped classes have a full time sped teacher as well as classroom teacher.



I'm fine with cutting the $ estimate down to the newest teachers' salary level, even though it's a huge underestimate as it doesn't include the para or the math specialist or the cost of anyone's nonsalary compensation. That's 55K. At 40 hr/week, that's $35/hr - still more than enough to pay for K12, which will give daily coherent instruction in math and teacher assistance. At $600 yearly though, it's not quite enough for accredited distance learning.


How much prep time do you think IS enough to deliver a comprehensive complete coherent curriculum, should the teacher rather than the curriculum director choose what is to be taught weekly?

Anonymous said...

"How much prep time do you think IS enough to deliver a comprehensive complete coherent curriculum, should the teacher rather than the curriculum director choose what is to be taught weekly?"

The short answer is, "I don't know."

A slightly longer answer would be for me to consider some related work I have done and try to make a guess.


So ... I edited one column for an on-line trade magazine for 18 months. My job was to pick out the best article ideas from the submitted ones and then work with the authors (who were pretty much full-time programmers, not writers) to make the article readable. I would estimate that it took me about 30-45 minutes per article to critique/correct/mark-up. A typical article would run about five pages.

Next ... I put together (and delivered) a one-week training program for the Java programming language for my employer a number of years ago. [aside: we *were* going to use an outside training firm ... but the quote was $23K for the week, and my department didn't have the budget] I spent two weeks, pretty much full time, putting together the training material (and the class went very well :-)).

Last ... my wife and I homeschool our 9-year-old. I don't spend a *lot* of time prepping, but do spend some time thinking about the mistakes he has made and how to correct them. I also spend time thinking about how to present the next step of whatever we are doing.

So ... I assume a class of 20 elementary school students (may be low, but still). I further assume that the primary subjects are (a) math, (b)penmanship/writing, (c) reading, and (d) history. I'll also assume that we can do some overlap ... so we *read* for history and we can write for it, too.

I'll assume 10-20ish math problems/day and ½ page of penmanship/writing per day.

I'm guessing that I can correct the math at 1-2 min/student, with the correction including taking notes on where the student is stuggling (isn't carrying when needed, it adding fractions consistently wrong, whatever). This works out to maybe 30 minutes/day. Penmanship/writing I would expect to take longer ... maybe 3-5 minutes/student (correct spelling and grammar ... pay attention to which letters the kid is having troubles printing). So ... 20×4 = 80 minutes/day.

So I'm getting close to 2 hrs/day just to correct homework.

How much time to *prepare* the class, including the homework? And including setting up science experiments/demonstrations? And refreshing on what will be presented the next day in math and history and ... ? Maybe one hour?? or more??

I realize that after one has taught a class for several years, the prep work drops (at least a bit), but it isn't uncommon for teachers to switch grades every few years.

So ... I'm getting something close to 2 hours/day to correct homework and a minimum of 1 hour/day to prep for the next day. If the class has more than 20 kids, this time goes up.

-Mark Roulo

Anonymous said...

"The majority of homework is not corrected by the teacher - it's swap with the guy next to you or correct your own or a para's job to mark (while teacher is lecturing)."

I can believe this, but this is the sort of thing that helps to explain how my wife and I spend only 2-3 hours/day with my son doing academics. One of us looks over every math problem he does and we care not just about whether he got the answer correct or not, but *why* he got the wrong answers wrong (if he did). Sometimes I even care about how he got the right answer, because sometimes his approach worked for the problem in question, but won't work in general.

Telling me that he got 80% of his "adding mixed fractions" correct isn't enough (for what I'm trying to accomplish, at least). Same deal for reading and penmanship and geography.

This adds up, by the way, to much more than 5-6 minutes/day of "correcting homework."

I don't want this to sound like a knock on teachers, because it isn't meant to be ... I have a hard time seeing how *any* traditional school system can provide the level of oversight and feedback that I can ... the hours just aren't there. Which is one reason that my wife and I homeschool.


-Mark Roulo

Anonymous said...

"I'm fine with cutting the $ estimate down to the newest teachers' salary level, even though it's a huge underestimate as it doesn't include the para or the math specialist or the cost of anyone's nonsalary compensation."

I'm actually quite comfortable with $77/hour as the all-in salary cost to the school to deliver one hour of teacher time. As you say, we also have specialists and other teacher-ish support staff to pay.

I just don't think it is correct to claim that teachers make, on average, $77/hour.

So ... salary cost to the school per hour of teacher instruction of $77/hour, sure.

And yes, this does seem quite high.

I have a crude breakdown of where the money in my district goes, if you care for it. Some of these costs K12 does not have. Some of these costs are things we didn't pay for 30 years ago. And some of these costs are just crazy.


-Mark Roulo

le radical galoisien said...

a simple solution would be to get more senior students to function as TAs in schools, right?

Redkudu said...

>>I realize that after one has taught a class for several years, the prep work drops (at least a bit), but it isn't uncommon for teachers to switch grades every few years.<<

Or every year. In 11 years of teaching I haven't yet had 1 year where I didn't teach a) something new, or b) something I hadn't taught for a couple of years and used different materials for than the school I was in at the time.

lgm said...

>>I just don't think it is correct to claim that teachers make, on average, $77/hour.

I"m not. I'm rough estimating the cost of elementary math instruction, based on my particular situation. I don't have enough data - and never will since the district won't break it down - to figure out what the true cost of instruction is. It doesn't matter b/c it's all wasted money, since the objective of teaching each child grade level mathematics in the classroom was not accomplished.





>>How much time to *prepare* the class, including the homework? And including setting up science experiments/demonstrations? And refreshing on what will be presented the next day in math and history and ... ? Maybe one hour?? or more??

Science setups are prepackaged for elementary. There's no set up other than directing a child to open the box and start passing out kits. One would hope a newbie would try it for themselves before attempting to teach the experiment though. And I do know that sadly some instructors do not know how to teach the parallel circuit and will need extra prep time to teach it to themselves first. Pretty much every topic that the teacher didn't learn to mastery during his own education is going to take time to prepare for.

Anonymous said...

Science setups are prepackaged for elementary. There's no set up other than directing a child to open the box and start passing out kits.

For various reasons I've taught in 7 different schools. Not one of those schools had prepackaged science experiments.

Also, starting teacher salaries where I live are in the $33,000 range, with salaries topping out at about $65,000. Different states and school districts have differing amounts of resources: money, aides, etc. In Oregon all school money comes from the state. Local property taxes don't pay for schools. Schools get only $6000 to educate a student for a year - nowhere near the $21,000 (or is it more) that Catherine's schools get per pupil.

Be careful not to assume that what's true in your district is true in all districts throughout the country.

K9Sasha

Laura M. said...

In Oregon all school money comes from the state.

I didn't know that. I'd love to have your opinion about how that works out, overall.

Laura M. said...

In Oregon all school money comes from the state.

I didn't know that. I'd love to have your opinion about how that works out, overall.

Allison said...

It's true in CA, too. And it works out as well as the rest of CA's finances.

ChemProf said...

Allison's right. It is based on the idea that it is unfair that richer districts have more money to spend than poorer ones, so all money goes to the state and is then redistributed. Of course, in richer districts, this just means that schools do fundraising individually to pay for extras.

Laura M. said...

And it works out as well as the rest of CA's finances.
Meaning . . . it doesn't fix the problems in the poorer districts and just handicaps the richer districts? So, no positive effect on being more pragmatic about budgeting, then I guess.

Of course, in richer districts, this just means that schools do fundraising individually to pay for extras.

Is that in itself bad thing, though? I'm wondering what that means in practice.

lgm said...

In practice here, when a group fundraises for a public school club activity or sport, they offer fee waivers and free equipment to the free/red lunch students. When the district stops offering free college prep classes and forces everyone to dual enroll, it's the same. There is money for the free/red lunch pop for the course costs. There is also money for the AP exam fees. The working families in the middle are the ones who have to make the hard choices.

K9 our prepackaged kits are part of cost reduction effort years ago. They are stored in a county centralized facility and each school decides when to use what kit when. Shared services are big here.

Laura M. said...

I think my comment didn't make it up.

I'm shocked that college prep isn't offered for free. Are you saying the public school offers college prep but charges for anyone above a free lunch (I don't know what red lunch is--reduced?) income threshold?

How is that legal?

ChemProf said...

Dual enrolling is when you take the course at a community college for high school credit. To save money, some schools don't offer advanced college prep courses any more but let students dual enroll, which costs money unless you qualify for a fee waiver.

I don't see a problem with raising money for schools in wealthier districts, it just means that the goal of equity is never met despite running everything through the state (and remember, whenever you run money through the state, some of the funding goes for administering the transfers).

Laura M. said...

Wow, that's so interesting to know about the dual enrolling. I had no idea that happened.

Regarding that practice and the fund raising, on the one hand, I do think individual communities should be able to choose where to concentrate their resources. But if in practice, that means some kids are getting greater access to resources that make a difference in college readiness and for college admissions, that does seem like a problem. No idea how to solve the problem, though.

lgm said...

Laura,

How does pay to play for sports and band work in Oregon? Are there waivers?

Laura M. said...

Hmm, I guess this comment actually did disappear (though all I had to say was that it was K9Sasha who talked about Oregon, though I would also like to know the answer to your question, lgm).