kitchen table math, the sequel: Revolutionizing Math at the School of the Future

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Revolutionizing Math at the School of the Future

(Cross-posted at Out in Left Field)

A front page article in Monday's Local News section of the Philadelphia Inquirer profiles a math class at Philadelphia's Microsoft-funded High School of the Future, whose teacher, Thomas Gaffey, placed second in Microsoft's U.S. Innovative Education Forum and was a semi-finalist in its Worldwide Innovative Education Forum. In Gaffey's ninth-grade algebra class there are:
No textbooks, no paper, no chalk, no desks, and no assigned seats.

Instead, students use laptops while sitting in rolling chairs at trapezoidal tables spaced out in hexagonal classrooms.
Just how newsworthy this sounds to you depends on whether you think chair mobility and table shape have a big influence on learning, on whether you've been following current trends in education over the last 50 years, and on how unusual you think it is for a teacher to "encourage his students to find answers to their own questions" and engage with them in exchanges like these:
"Is this an obtuse triangle?" one student asks.

"Well, what can you tell me about an obtuse triangle?" Gaffey replies.

"One of the angles has to be more than 90 degrees," the student answers.

"Are any of the angles here like that?"

"Yeah. Oh, I get it now!"
As the Inquirer explains:
This snippet of student-driven discussion is a glimpse of the style and approach that have earned Gaffey national and international recognition.
Student-driven? Who's asking most of the questions? But I'm splitting hairs here. What I should be asking is: Why does this kind of exchange warrant international recognition?

To fair, it wasn't this, specifically, that earned Gaffey his honors. Rather:
Les Foltos, one of the judges who reviewed Gaffey's work, was impressed by his emphasis on "actively engaging students in solving real-world problems." As Gaffey puts it, "If we want to teach math to learners, we should teach math how it is actually used. It doesn't matter how much you know. It matters what you can do."
Ah yes, "real world problems." Again, only if you've been out of touch with the last half century of educational reform, and with today's Reform Math in particular, will this strike you as revolutionary. Here is Gaffy's version of real world math:
In his classroom on a recent Tuesday, Gaffey's challenge to his "learners" - as students in the Parkside public school are called - was to estimate Earth's land area.

To solve the problem, the class first covered basic concepts about area and polygons - shapes with three or more straight sides.

Gaffey then asked, "If a shape has four sides, is it always a polygon?"

Learners who answered yes (the wrong answer) were asked to redefine what a polygon is, while those who answered no were asked to draw a four-sided shape that was not a polygon on the class "smart board."

Gaffey drew a shape with three straight sides and one curved side.

"Is this a polygon?" he asked.

"No," the class responded.
The class drew lines through each of the continents, chopping them up into complex polygons, then simple polygons.

The final phase was to derive formulas for the areas of the simple polygons, and add up the areas.
This sort of problem is not particularly new, as a quick survey through now-standard textbooks like Everyday Math and the Interactive Math Program makes clear. And it's been around long enough to have garnered some serious criticism--specifically in what Barry Garelick calls its "just in time" approach to teaching.

Among other things, "just in time" often means serious delay. For example, one would hope that students would already know the formulas for the areas of simple polygons, and how to derive them, well before they hit 9th grade.

But because so many students are so far behind where they should be, there is one thing in which I and Gaffey are in whole-hearted agreement. In Gaffey's words, as cited by the Inquirer:

"Math education, more than any other subject, is in need of drastic reform."


Laura said...

This is 9th grade Algebra by Microsoft? Okay.... My homeschooled daughter was doing this in 5th grade (Math by Saxon) while sitting at an oval kitchen table on a plain old wooden four-legged chair (no wheels, thank-you). We only use books and paper, no calculator or computers for regular math lessons. We do supplement with these things for fun lessons occasionally.

Crimson Wife said...

I suspect that Mr. Gaffey would agree that his students are far behind where they should be in math. But he has no control over the fact that they're showing up in his 9th grade classroom unprepared for actual high school level math. So long as we continue to pass kids along to high school who haven't mastered arithmetic & pre-algebra, it's going to keep happening.

SteveH said...

"Geometry, algebra, and estimation are the three fixtures of Gaffey's Project 100 course, created two years ago as an elective that supplements the core Algebra 1 class for ninth graders. Brian Cohen teaches Algebra 1 parallel with Gaffey's class. They collaborate to address weaknesses in students in this school, where over the last two years fewer than 15 percent of 11th graders were proficient in math, according to state tests."

Elective. We don't get a real view of what's going on because it's a stinking lousy article. Completely worthless.

Once again, a teacher gets kudos for trying hard while everyone overlooks the big question of how the kids got there in the first place. In our high school, the head of the math department won acclaim for creating an Algebra class with a (skill remediation) lab for ninth graders. Blame the kids. Blame traditional math.

"Mathematics is a tool that we use, and that fact is almost nonexistent in traditional math education."

And we haven't seen "traditional math" in decades. These are not STEM-ready kids, and I don't get the feeling that their goal is to fix that.

SteveH said...

Does the school have a web site that talks about its curriculum and classes? All I find is the Microsoft site which is astonishingly awful and transparent; as in a vehicle for sales.

One lesson plan I looked at (at the Microsoft site) talked about using Excel to calculate your carbon footprint. Most of the time is spent collecting data and filling in a spreadsheet.
This is a group project, of course. Do the math and CS people at Microsoft think this is the way to help these kids on a path to a career at Microsoft?

Why don't we see articles in the paper from those who teach the AP calculus-track courses? My son's Algebra II teacher doesn't talk about project-based learning or learning styes. The school isn't forcing him to change what and how he teaches. Apparently, for urban kids, people have decided that this sort of education is not appropriate for them. They don't even try to find out whether urban kids can make it onto the top track. Somehow lower expectations are described in the most glowing educational terms, like understanding, critical thinking, and 21st century skills. It's really an amazing form of bigotry or ignorance.

lgm said...

>>It's really an amazing form of bigotry or ignorance.

Yes. Took me a long time to realize that my K-12 was all rural - ie roots in the local community wanting to educate its children as best as possible, while the district I'm in now is located in a rural area but is filled with urban children - its roots and it's baord & superintendent come from the viewpoint of public education as charity for the poor which is more along the lines of 'just the minimum to make the urchins employable' rather than of excellence to strengthen and grow the community.

It could be that the remedial class mentioned is an elective because the students in it didn't fail the year before. That's done here...a student who feels that single period Alg is a struggle can move into double period without having had to fail either the prior year class or the prior year state test.

SteveH said...

What I find amazing is that the world of low expectations is filled with talk about how the methods are supposed to be better than traditional methods. At the same time, they watch millions of kids successfully preparing themselves for STEM careers with traditional math classes in high school. Integrated and hands-on math has lost the STEM battle for high school. When will they get the message? Maybe they are now reduced to getting awards only for electives.

Rather than identifying and helping willing and able urban kids get to a proper math track in high school, they treat them all the same. They fool themselves by thinking that what they are doing is somehow better. It's only better if you blame others and lower expectations. If you've given up on kids, then calculating your carbon footprint in Excel looks pretty exciting.

In some ways it's worse in our non-urban area. Full-inclusion increases the range of abilities in the standard classroom, but somehow it's supposed to be better than what we had before. They clearly know that this isn't the case for many kids. When the kids get to high school, they are separated by ability and get lots more traditional classes. Nobody ever discusses the amazing wholesale change in pedagogy between K-8 and high school.

Allison said...

-- Nobody ever discusses the amazing wholesale change in pedagogy between K-8 and high school.

Not all high schools are still anti-the K-8 pedagogy. Many use U Chicago's Algebra and Geometry books, and of course the Discovering series is in line with it too.

But interesting you mention how it isn't discussed, because I know one group where it is: the elementary teachers I know *do* mention it, and the majority of them think it is terrible.

The bulk of the elementary teachers I know believe that ability grouping is "mean", and they believe this so strongly that they advocate against ability grouping in math as far up as they can. But the junior high and above teachers have "no choice"--that's how they put it--but to ability group. The rest of the k-8 pedagogy is mostly taken for granted, so they can't quite articulate what it is they want different in the high school courses, but it's clear they feel the students are pressured by what is asked of them in high school.

Trying to get them to see that perhaps that pressure came because of a lack of mastery earlier is going to take a lot of time, and slow slow slow realizations.

SteveH said...

What I don't see are high schools where the AP Calculus track disappears in favor of an integrated sequence. Some high schools in our area (not ours) offer two tracks, a traditional math sequence and something called the "Interactive Math Program" (IMP) sequence. No serious math student planning for a STEM career takes IMP. They know this. Parents know about AP. It may not be perfect, but nobody will stake their STEM future on the snake oil of IMP.

"But the junior high and above teachers have "no choice"--that's how they put it--but to ability group."

I've talked to some K-6 teachers who admit (privately, mostly) that the more able kids don't get what they need, especially with full inclusion. It seems that it's not a question open for debate in most schools. In the parent-teacher meetings I have been in, the school administrators and teachers are all very careful about what they talk about. The last thing they want is to open up the debate to parents and the community. Years ago, I was supposed to be on a citizen's curriculum committee. It never met because the schools made it clear that they were in charge of that area.

I have also heard about big complaints from high school math teachers about the lack of basic skills of freshmen. For some reason, this never gets officially documented and fed back to the K-8 schools. Nobody want to talk about it because it involves telling teachers that some of their fundamental beliefs are wrong. At best, it gets translated into something about how kids need to take responsibility for their own learning. This often translates into motivation, and motivation translates into low expectation, time wasting, hands-on learning.

lgm said...

"But the junior high and above teachers have "no choice"--that's how they put it--but to ability group."

This depends on your district. Grouping here after 6th is by state exam results - 1&2s go into double period math classes for 7th through Alg I, 3&4s do not. Disruptors go to alternative or homebound. Some 3s&4s go into an accel class for 7th, which compresses 7th and 8th into one year and allows 8th gr algebra. Accel classes are not honors classes - 8th grade algebra doesn't go any deeper than 9th gen ed algebra and there's no gpa boost. Geometry is back to full inclusion.

The people attacking accel classes have dropped the 'unfair' argument they successfully used for eliminating IB/AP and are using the 'undersubscribed' argument against 8th Alg I. State law says there has to be an accel class though so they are stymied. I wouldn't be surprised is they are trying behind scenes to get the accel class to be Foreign Language instead of Math.

>>it gets translated into something about how kids need to take responsibility for their own learning.

That means showing up every day, not disrupting, participating in class, and doing the homework.

For serious students, it means buying and using a Regents' Review book for each math course. They have the missing material and the sequencing is logical and complete. It may also mean hiring a tutor..a moonlighter from the math dept of course. Anyone that really wants to accelerate can use JHU CTY - guidance mails that info home to eligible students - or they can pick the provider of their choice.

>>Trying to get them to see that perhaps that pressure came because of a lack of mastery earlier is going to take a lot of time

They beleive in the 'math gene'.

SteveH said...

I guess what interests me the most is that those who push discovery math, hands-on learning, and trust-the-spiral think that their methods are better. They apparently don't see the lower expectations. They do see the best kids go onto the AP calculus track. Some high schools offer alternatives like IMP or Core-Plus, but the best kids don't go there.

If you look at the different textbooks offered by publishers, it's clear that the hands-on, real world versions of the same course cover less material and expect less. Schools know this. There really is no argument here, so why do we keep seeing articles about how discovery math and hands-on learning are supposed to be better for kids?

There are two different things here; expectations and approach. I could come up with a discovery approach that is rigorous, but it would be very different from what schools are doing. Talk of discovery, understanding, problem solving, and real world are just covers for low expectations. They know this. If they don't, then it's really quite ironic, since they are the ones pushing critical thinking.

All of this is nothing new, so why are we still fighting this battle? The article above is one I might have seen 10 years ago.

What I would like to see are some sort of high-level standards for K-6. I want schools to show that mere proficiency on state tests is not enough. They have the data to show what test scores were obtained by kids who ended up in honors classes in high school. They can show the 6th grade test that determines if the student will get algebra in 8th grade. They can show what state test math scores these kids have.

It's like a big PR game. They have enough trouble getting kids over the low end cutoff. It benefits them to have people think that this sort of education is better than it is. They then point to the kids at the top end to show that they are not holding them back, but they know that something else is going on at home or with tutors.

It's a big lie just to protect their cherished ideas of education. They've increased the range of abilities in the classroom with full inclusion, but somehow, magically, all kids get what they need.

lgm said...

>>why do we keep seeing articles about how discovery math and hands-on learning are supposed to be better for kids?

I'm guessing it is because these methods are the concrete methods that everyone starts with before moving to pictorial. These methods are used successfully in a Montessori, no? Since the politicians and parents of this group successfully advocated for no grouping by instructional need, everyone else is forced to stay at this stage also if they choose to remain in public school.

The teachers here say they are not allowed to deviate from the plan from admin should they wish to remain employed long enough to retire.

It would be far better for someone starting out to homeschool or find a good Montessori than go into a fully included situation. Consider yourself lucky to have an AP Calc track - schools further along in the dumbbell plan don't because tracking is 'unfair'. It's gen ed all the way then off to CC.

SteveH said...

"They beleive in the 'math gene'."

It's the get-out-of-jail-free card. It also means that whatever they do is just fine by definition. If kids fail, they must not have the math gene.

We have no fairness arguments around here, especially for high school. In K-6, it's not about fairness or meanness. They just think that full inclusion is the right thing to do. This requires them to put on blinders when it comes to the needs of middle to top end students. At best, they say that it's a work in progress. I don't see anything that will ever convince them that it can't work. The only potential solution might be to separate kids, but keep them in the same classroom. Since they base the definition of "work" on the low state test cutoffs, then there is no chance of that.

The arguments about discovery, thematic, and real world learning are something else, however. In math, they know that those approaches are not best for the "math brains". In 7th grade, they immediately go into a pre-algebra class that is teacher-centered. That doesn't stop them from claiming that a real world approach is somehow better. This argument is especially annoying when you get to high school.

When reality hits them in their pedagogy, they ignore it.

SteveH said...

"Consider yourself lucky to have an AP Calc track .."

This must be location dependent. I don't see any high schools in our area that don't offer AP classes. Even in our major urban area, there might be fewer AP classes, but the best students get sent to one particular high school that offers lots of AP classes.

I feel "lucky" that our high school is good and offers many AP classes. It's hard for me to imagine a high school where they would think that tracking is "unfair". Many high schools have 4 different levels of classes.

JRL said...

The truly insidious thing is that the "reformers" accuse teachers who try to teach the necessary basic skills of having low expectations.

Teachers are told that they must not have enough belief in the kids' abilities if they go with straight forward instruction aimed at teaching the basics. If they really thought their students were capable, teachers are told, they'd only be asking "higher level questions" (and those given as examples are definitely not "higher level") and using all hands-on, let the kids figure it out and teach each other methods.

Allison said...

Steve, not every school has an AP track anymore. The richest district in the Twin Cities (minnetonka) uses IMP all the way up to AP Calc. Yes, there is still AP calc, but it's IMP til then. Guess how well that works?

The parents tried to revolt a while ago. They've not yet been successful.(Supposedly that district is moving to supplement EM with Singapore Math for its special-gifted program, we'll see.)

Here in MN, you can put your kid in college courses (for *high school credit*) starting as juniors, so some parents just pull the kids out.

kcab said...

This clearly varies by location. I think I live in a location not that far from some of the posters here (CT), yet I see things going in a different direction here. There is a clear accelerated math track that starts in 6th (even though that means busing kids to the middle school) with pre-algebra. (Entry based on a test administered by the district to all 5th graders, not state tests, perhaps because of the timing of results.) The tracking is somewhat flexible - there are kids that join that group in 7th. Once they've taken algebra I (which is supposedly taught at the same level as the honors HS course), it becomes more difficult get on that track, but there are a lot of kids that take algebra in 8th grade.

Meanwhile, down in the elementary schools they have started readiness grouping from at least 3rd on, for both math and reading/language arts. Kids become used to moving around to different classrooms. Subject acceleration is also not unusual in math at the elementary level, for kids who are beyond the groups available at their grade level. Oh - no EM here either, thank god.

The readiness (I like that term better than ability) groups have only come about in the past few years. I'm pretty sure this approach is being driven by the administration at both district and school level. (We had superintendent and principal changes a few years ago.) Have to say that I'm thankful at least some things are done right - can't say that I think everything is perfect though.

SteveH said...

It actually looks like Minnetonka is one of the few that doesn't use something like IMP. Perhaps they just changed that.

"Minnetonka High School is one of the few high schools in the west metro area offering a traditional High School Math sequence including:

Advanced Algebra (Trigonometry)

They also have an IB program. My niece was in an IB program in Michigan, but I don't see IB here in New England.

In any case, I guess I should be happier because it sounds worse elsewhere. Parents drove out CMP in our middle school, but pushing the change further into the lower grades looks almost impossible.

Anonymous said...

I'll teach middle school math in my district again when they drive CMP out of our middle scbools and something better in. I'm not holding my breath though.

They redid the elementary school curriculum into a mish-mash of EM and a traditional-ish text book enVision. But the daily lessons look like something created by committee. A big committee with people trying to impress each other with their conceptual knowledge. While they're always complaining about an inch deep, mile wide, this new curriculum is certainly that. It requires you to hop around in that puddle from one topic to the next. It puts three big concepts into one day and then goes on to something virtually unrelated the very next day. Oy.

Crimson Wife said...

The high school my kids are zoned for does not offer *ANY* honors/AP classes until 11th grade. And unbelievably, even the allegedly "best" high school in the district- the one that families pay over a million dollars for a house just to live within its zone -doesn't offer honors classes until 11th.

Which is precisely why we bought a home in a cheaper neighborhood so that we can save up for prep school...

SteveH said...

In our high school, it would be difficult to get to any AP class before your junior year. You would have to have special permission. Also, honors classes depend on the high school. A few years ago, our high school decided to go from 4 tiers to 3 tiers. We now have general, college prep, and honors categories, with AP classes lumped in with the honors group even though they are weighted higher.

The general category (they sometimes refer to as the Success Academy!) contains all of the kids who are at least one year behind, academically. These are the kids they work with to just get them over the minimum state cutoff. The eliminated tier contained many kids who put in minimal effort and just showed up. They are now pushed up into the college prep tier even if they have no interest in going to college. Ironically, this made a college prep course a place you didn't want to be if you wanted to go to something other than a community college.

In middle school, teachers decide your fate in terms of which level you will get for each course in high school. About twenty-five percent of the kids get into all honors classes. That is a huge number if you think that honors should really mean honors. Of course it doesn't. I think that some kids are scared away from honors because the guidance counselors claim that there will be so much more work. I don't see it with my son. So, honors is now the old college prep.

It's difficult to judge high schools. I've been looking at a lot of high school web sites lately and you can get a little bit of a feel for each, especially if they have their class catalog and student handbook online.

In larger schools, it's easier to separate kids by ability and to offer more courses and activities. I also notice that in some of the most expensive places to live, with the best high school scores, the high school doesn't look so great. They are usually in towns where the total size of the high school is less than 500.

Crimson Wife said...

I'm not buying the "size is destiny" argument.

My alma mater (a government-run school) had 65 kids in my graduating class but we still had an honors track starting in 5th grade for math & English and 7th grade for the other subjects. Students had to score in a certain percentile on the CAT in order to be placed into the honors track (I forget the precise cutoff but it was ~87-88th).

The school my kids are zoned for, by contrast, has over 2000 kids but heterogeneous courses until 11th.

SteveH said...

I'm not selling it. Size is just one variable. Culture is another. I've seen size interfere with culture. Schools won't separate kids if it creates classes that are too small. AP classes are eliminated, or they might appear in the catalog, but rarely taught.

Size means more money and it can be concentrated in one end or the other. One of the issues at our high school is to keep too much money from flowing to the low end with the assumption that the best students will do OK. In a survey to high school parents, I responded that many of the problems at the low end start in K-8, and that is where they should be solved. High schools must know that they are being sent kids who are perfectly able to master the basics on the state tests. Somehow, high schools are supposed to fix all of these problems. Does anyone ever hear about high schools pushing back?

Hainish said...

Does anyone ever hear about high schools pushing back?

No. And it's too bad, because that is one of the things high schools _could_ do with a high degree of perceived legitimacy.

It's reasonable to expect incoming high school freshmen to have a certain set of skills under their belts. They can be sent back to the middle school if they don't, and be remediated on the middle school's budget.

momof4 said...

The colleges should be pushing back at the high schools, the high schools should be pushing back at the middle schools and the middle schools should be pushing back at the elementary schools. Elementary schools are the start of the problem and that's where the fix needs to start; stricter conduct policies, better admin support, more realistic class groupings (including a serious look at full inclusion and differentiated instruction) better curriculum choices and better (and more efficient) instructional methods. The bettter choices need to be applied to middle school as well, so that high school entrants should be ready for high school work.
There's a reason that private schools require testing prior to admission and often require new students to attend summer school or repeat a year.

Crimson Wife said...

I'm all in favor of a rigorous "exit exam" at the end of each stage of schooling (primary, elementary, jr. high, and sr. high). Students don't move on to the next level without passing. The problem is there isn't the political will to implement them, particularly in a large district like mine that has a very diverse population. The administration would rather pass along kids who are unprepared for the next stage than get accused of racism, classism, etc. if certain groups are disproportionately retained.

Allison said...

Similarly, employers, empcolleges and universities could have been pushing back all this time on k-12. Instead, employers decided it was cheaper and easier to lobby for more h-1b visas, and colleges and universities decided it was easier to take in international students.

They acted, and continue to act, with short term interest in mind. But the house of cards is falling in on them, too.

lgm said...

>>The administration would rather pass along kids who are unprepared for the next stage than get accused of racism, classism, etc. if certain groups are disproportionately retained.

Exactly. We need a shift in thinking - instead of the supporters of the unprepared children going for "No Child Gets Ahead of those with the favored attribute" we need to shift to the sped viewpoint of testing each child and starting at the instructional level needed, then progressing at pace needed.

Those that are behind can have the option of staying a few more years and learning over the summer. We do this already for sped, so it won't be hard to extend this option to children that are neglected. The caveat has to be that attendance and behavior are appropriate. This would be much less costly than the current scenario.

momof4 said...

Crimson Wife is right - unfortunately - about the lack of political tolerance for exams for advancement to the next level. A group of Chicago parents have a current lawsuit against the district because too many black and Hispanic kids are failing the advancement exams at grades 3,6 and 8. The entitlement mentality refuses to recognize the value of effort and academic achievement.

Crimson Wife said...

I took swimming lessons for years growing up and struggled to pass certain levels (mostly because I was extremely scrawny and sank until I started hitting puberty and finally had enough body fat to float). Frequently, I was the oldest kid in the class. Nobody protested that this was bad for my self-esteem and that the instructor should just pass me along to the next level without the necessary skills. Why should academics be any different?

Anonymous said...

Because academics reflect on intellect, and no one argues that you can be a good, successful person and also have a very low intellect.

Now, some people do have low intellects, and I would argue that people of low intellect can and do perform noble work that is an important part of our society. But don't claim that saying someone has low athletic ability and saying that they have low intellectual ability are anything like the same kind of judgment.

Knowledge Based Science said...

Actually, the Chicago parents filing the lawsuit have a point.

If students are being retained because they can't pass an exam based on the EM curriculum, then I'm with them. A recurring theme of this blog is that, for students to really be successful with the current style of math teaching, they actually need tutoring and extra help outside of school. It sounds like the CPS retention policy is hurting students who don't get that extra help (which is going to be a function of SES and, in this country, race).

So, yes, the pushback against the CPS retention policy isn't a lack of political tolerance for advancement exams. It's a lack of political tolerance for an unfair curriculum and assessment.

- Hainish

momof4 said...

I just read the article from the above link and PURE specifically rejects a "high-stakes test" in favor of a combination of other assessments, including attendance, grades and a portfoli (the latter two are very easy to inflate). I did not see any specific statements regarding curriculum, although there was a demand for early intervention (which I support), rather than waiting until 3rd grade. There was also a specific rejection of retention because it is "too harmful". Curriculum and instruction do not appear to be a big part of the PURE agenda, although I do think that both are a big part of the problem, along with teachers who do not know enough content (math, phonics, grammar, composition and the disciplines) and effective ways to teach it (Direct Instruction, teacher-centered instruction).

lgm said...

Mah. It's more than unfair curriculum and assessment. It's unfair expectations. This crowd beleives the grade level expectations are impossible - so high that the average nonclassified child can't meet them no matter what curriculum is used. In their viewpoint, the only reason some children are successful is because they have extra resources that are being withheld from most children - their political pressure here has resulted in abolishing G&T and flexible grouping by instructional need. They beleive G&T class or the 'high group' gave those children extra skills that were withheld from their children, not that G&T was there b/c the children figured out those skills for themselves. They view their children as capable, but discriminated against. Or at least the vocal crowd up here does. No one wants to admit that their child is behind the game due to their family or cultural's all a disability of some kind, or discrimination against race/class/income or bad teaching.

Instead of pushing kids on who don't have skills and calling it 'fairness', they'd be better off asking for bridge grades, similar to the current Transitional First concept in addition to the already existing extra help programs (which clearly even with preK's low class sizes and specialist help can't make up for early childhood neglect in the space of a year). Transitional or Bridge classes are an extra year with curriculum targeted to make up academic deficiencies so the student can go on in the regular curriculum. We have them in our high school now, to help students move on to Geometry and Alg II. And that's after offering rTi throughout preK-5, double period math in 6-Alg, afterschool help sessions, and having a math teacher on duty every study hall. We don't have Everyday Math either - we have a Houghton Mifflin direct instruction type of program. It's time to admit that the effects of neglect and poor attendance can't be solved by Grade 3even with early childhood centers. These children need a face saving alternative..possibly a real summer semester instead of a half day of summer school with placements done by instructional need instead of age.

Knowledge Based Science said...

momof4, I'm glad your read the article yourself. I never said that PURE agrees with every statement I might make about math curriculum. I said that I support them because of what I know about CPS and about EM.

lgm, I tried searching for news articles in which PURE opposes those programs, but could not find any.

... their child is behind the game due to their family or cultural's all [...] discrimination against race/class/income or bad teaching.

If I, as a student, am "behind the game" because my parents don't speak English and have only a grade school education and cannot help me with my numerous arts and crafts projects, then it _is_ discrimination, by definition.

I agree, there are many forms of remediation other than retention. Some research has shown retention to be harmful. I think it needs to be there as an option but used sparingly. At worst, it's more costly than the alternatives.

lgm said...

KBS, it's not ethical for parents to be doing the student's homework, so it's not discriminatio since it shouldn't be happening. If they are being expected to supply material, then someone needs to speak up - that practice has been banned for years here, as well as the wasting of food by using it as a project component. Tip off a reporter if you can't get it done in the board mtg.

As far as academic help, what major urban district does not have rTi or double period classes, and mandated remedial support for nonclassified students? Chicago went to double period in '97.

Where do you think the resource reallocation that PURE is advocating is going to come from? Reallocate means someone is going to lose...and history is showing the loser is the above grade level child. See Genius Denied and papers such as the one referred to here:

Knowledge Based Science said...

lgm, I am quite familiar with gifted/talented issues. I've read Genius denied. I don't agree with all the things listed below, but I don't see gifted/talented in the following:

"PURE specifically asks for Chicago Public Schools to redirect money spent on existing retention/remediation programs to these areas instead:

* test for learning disabilities and other problems well before 3rd grade
* develop Student Learning Plans for all children showing signs of difficulty
* bring back successful, proven Child-Parent Centers that helped low-income families with preparing very young children to enter school
* make class sizes smaller/bring in more specialists"

You obviously have a bone to pick with PURE, but it's not particularly relevant here.

What I'm talking about is direct instruction, Singapore math, etc. vs. the "reform" math that asks parents to drill a child in the times tables and asks students to write about who helped them at home.

And this

it's not ethical for parents to be doing the student's homework, so it's not discrimination since it shouldn't be happening.

shows me you aren't reading very carefully and/or haven't been paying attention.

I think I'm done taking you seriously. Regards.

- Hainish

lgm said...

I agree. When one side of the debate stoops to personal attack, the discussion is over.

I will not give up the debate locally. I'm done with watching reverse discrimination. The advocation needs to be for ALL students to receive appropriate instruction. No one should be sitting in more than one study hall because resources have been reallocated resultling in no appropriate classes for them to take.