kitchen table math, the sequel: The 45 percent

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The 45 percent

Déjà vu:
When we talk about remedial courses, we usually talk about community colleges, where more than half of students take them, and where they pose a significant barrier to graduation for many.

But a new report from the advocacy group Education Reform Now and the advocacy publication Education Post broadens the lens. According to their analysis of state and federal higher education data, 45 percent of students who place into remedial courses come from middle- and high-income families. That describes Diaz, who attended private school in the affluent Sherman Oaks section of Los Angeles.

This was what Michael Dannenberg, a co-author of the report, calls a "whoa" moment: "realizing that students from all income backgrounds are suffering the consequences of mediocre high schools."

Taking High School Courses In College Costs Students And Families Nearly $1.5 Billion
How is this a "whoa moment"?

How is this a "whoa moment" for the co-author of a report on US education?

I blame No Child Left Behind (a law I supported and still do.) All of the language surrounding NCLB implied (and assumed) that white schools were good, black schools bad. The injustice was happening to just one category of student.

That was always wrong, but it stuck.


C T said...

It's not a "whoa" moment for you because you've been one of those contrarian parents pointing out the problems in upper and middle class schools for a long time now. Thank you for doing so.
It's a "whoa" moment for all those people who have been in denial about the poor education being offered overall by the US ed "establishment." They'll find a way to deny the problem is real, though, because they can't stand that their cherished ideas are wrong. Colleges will be blamed for having standards and offering remedial classes; when those are abolished, they'll get persecuted if they still dare to have grades, because grades would reveal that some students are still clueless. Truth will become an enemy because it hurts feelings, and then so much for lux et veritas. An education system built on illusion instead of truth will continue to lose credibility within society, and efforts will increase to avoid and defund that system.
In the meantime, the kids whose parents can't get them out or don't even realize that they need to escape/circumvent the public ed monolith will continue to get inadequate educations.

Barry Garelick said...

From the report: "Education Reform Now's agenda is to promote more rigorous standards in K-12 education, particularly the Common Core. Their contention is that students are underprepared because high schools aren't doing their jobs."

In a sense this is true but neglects to consider that high schools cannot do good work when building upon the weak foundations provided by K-8 due to the progressivist ed policies in play that think tanks like Ed Reform Now and Michael Dannenberg seem to think are just dandy.

Michael Dannenberg was key author of the report, formerely with other think tanks and also worked for Ted Kennedy on education matters. I recall when there was a roll-out in early 2007 of proposed legislation authored by Dodd and Ehler. No one remembers that bill but it was called the SPEAK act: and would authorize grants of up to $4 million each for states that adopted new math and science standards as the core of their own state content standards. The new math and science standards would be drafted by a committee.

If this is causing deja vu amongst some of you, it is probably because the SPEAK act was the predecessor of Common Core, except CC focused on math and ELA, not science. The SPEAK act never went anywhere. But at the time, it seemed like the new best thing and the room where the roll-out was being held (National Press Club) was packed. Dannenberg moderated the roll-out, extolling the bill's virtues, along with Michael Petrilli being his cute self.
Dannenberg at one point of the feel-good session said that national standards have proven to be effective--just look at how NCTM's math standards have helped. First of all, NCTM's standards were not "national standards" though many people called them that. Second of all, they were largely responsible for the proliferation of bad math teaching practices across the US.

At that point I turned to my neighbor who was a consultant for TFA, and said "That's just pure bullshit". She looked uncomfortable and looked around for an empty seat to move to, but the room was packed so she was stuck with the likes of me. Fortunately for her I kept my mouth shut for the duration of the session.

lgm said...

No surprise there. If the 3s and 4s are told to play while 1s and 2s receive instruction, of course the 3s wont turn into 4s. The 4s will continue to be afterschooled . Most 4s self study honorsAP level now, since the schools' remedial costs are so high they have nothing left to fund AP/honors/IB, much less provide a full schedule of classes for nonremedial high school students.

treehousekeeper said...

Agreeing with Barry here. The core of the problem is weak K-8 preparation. If you fix K-8, you get a long way towards fixing a slew of other problems. But for some reason American education reformers are instead always trying to fix education by "fixing" it at the ends: preschool and high school.

John Lewocz said...

As a former teacher (taught physics for 3 years and spent nearly 3 years prior to that "preparing" to teach) I'm always trying to set people straight (IMHO) on the reasons for the problems in our schools.

Almost everyone seems to think that expensive==good, private==good, suburban==relatively good, public and poor==bad.

While I was working at Fairfax County Public Schools I once attended a job fair for various expensive private schools in the DC area. I talked with the various "headmasters" of all these schools and they all believed in the "hands-on" "minds-off" nonsense that pervaded the school in which I was already teaching. The only difference was that the clients of such schools could afford a means to compensate their students while many of my poorer students could not.

froggiemommy said...

This is absolutely true. My college students are largely kids with HS averages of around 3.0-3.5, from non AP but supposedly college prep courses. They went to poor urban schools, middle class leafy schools, and Catholic schools (about half). Very few of them are ready for college. Typical of many private universities, we do not have "official" remedial courses, but many students end up taking a math course which is clearly remedial, just to get ready for college level math. They cannot write at all, and worse, they cannot read at the level of their college textbooks. It doesn't matter whether a given student came from a poor HS, a middle class HS, or a Catholic school - all are woefully underprepared.

Auntie Ann said...

Richard Whitmire has written a lot on the "9th grade bulge", which is when students are supposed to have the basics down and begin to think more conceptually and creatively. Unfortunately, the system doesn't get the basics down, and in 9th a huge number of students (disproportionately boys) flounder, are forced to repeat the grade (resulting in the bulge of students in 9th), and eventually drop out.

How 9th-Grade Gridlock Keeps Boys Out of College:

"Nationally in 2006-7, approximately 250,000 male students (12 percent of all ninth-grade boys) and 178,000 female students (9 percent of the girls) repeated ninth grade, says West. So about 72,000 more boys than girls repeated ninth grade that year.

"On the surface, holding back unprepared students seems logical. Perhaps, but the downside is the steep dropout numbers that result. In the highest-poverty school districts, as few as 15 percent of students held back in the ninth grade make it to graduation day, according to other research from Johns Hopkins"

momof4 said...

The "ninth-grade bulge" could only exist if/when the ES and MS have abdicated their responsibility to teach academics and require mastery of same before promotion and simply pass students along like a conveyor belt. Kids should never arrive in MS unable to read fluently and have a solid grasp of basic math operations/facts - and now we have kids in HS who can do neither. The rot starts at kindergarten entry; kids are not held to appropriate behavioral standards, many spec ed kids are inappropriately placed in regular classrooms, kids are not sorted/taught according to academic need and teachers are uninterested in academic content and direct instruction. What could go wrong?

John Lewocz said...

One problem is, what is "mastery?"

Here is one problem I have with the dominance of humanities people in all of education. The humanities exist because of, and for, human beings. If the humanities couldn't be understood by human beings they wouldn't exist. Is there a language that can't be mastered by average humans? Shakespeare wrote for general audiences. If they couldn't get it, he'd be out of a job and we'd be reading plays by someone who wrote stuff that people understood.

The same is not true of the physical sciences, for example. There is no law of the universe that says that physical laws need to be understood by all humans. We're not that special.

Can you imagine a bunch of subatomic particles getting together and saying "It's come to our attention that there are human teenagers out there who can't understand our interactions. Four fundamental forces? What were we thinking? Simplify, simplify, simplify."

Humanities oriented educators seem to think this. If I mentioned quantum physics in class every single kid was supposed to understand it right then and there.

This is what leads to dumbing down.