kitchen table math, the sequel: 5/3/09 - 5/10/09

Friday, May 8, 2009

Switched on Mom has a blog!

You probably all knew that.

This is exciting.
Two MCPS officials gave the presentation and led off with one of those painful “warm-up” exercises where they 1) offer a statement like “Most parents want their children to have the opportunity to go to college,” 2) ask those gathered to raise their “Agree” or “Disagree” card–and then 3) have the participants share why they said what they did.


“This is more than an information campaign,” the MCPS official intoned, “this is about advocacy.” Roll tape/DVD of the “Seven Keys to College Readiness” – “a pathway identified by MCPS that will increase the likelihood of students being ready for college and earning a degree.” (The video is on the Keys homepage.)

Next the presenter shared a cautionary tale from his own family, of a nephew who was getting A’s and B’s in elementary and middle school but got off track in high school. He should have tried AP classes but didn’t. He didn’t graduate on time with his class, so Uncle MCPS had him move in and he was now taking remedial classes at Montgomery College on his own dime. Tough stuff. But it went further. Uncle MCPS persuaded the kid to tell his story to the camera and to us directly. Roll tape again. “If there had been a better relationship between my parents and the school, I would have done better,” the student said. Ouch.

Sobering Seven Keys Meeting

A better relationship?

Steve H on "language arts"

My son is now in 7th grade and I still don't know what goes on in Reading and Language Arts.

This area gets double the time now. Reading is a full course and LA is a full course. He reads books (all of the same genre - He never gets any history or biography books) but there is not a lot of writing going on. One time, he had to do a board game for a book. That would be his third so far in his school career. One time, he was allowed to do a web page about a book. My son can create a video and upload it to YouTube in minutes (self-taught). What he really needs is more help in writing.

Everything I see about schools screams low expectations.

Twenty-first century skills are vocational. What kids need are knowledge and skills that have passed the test of time; reading, math, history, and critical analysis and writing.

Three board games.


That's a lot of board games.

the high school vanishes

Lucy Calkins, Lucy Calkins, part 3

Becky does Cargo Cult Lucy (you may have to hit refresh a couple of times)

5 figures

nice work if you can get it (contracts here)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Everyday Math, an implementation

Saint Paul public schools use Everyday Math for their curriculum in all elementary schools, regardless of type of school, including "city wide", magnets, or any flavor of "type" attached, be they self-designated Montessori, Core Knowledge, IB, or any other supposed program. I've been trying to understand how Everyday Math is implemented.

Recently, I was able to find a great number of resources on the Saint Paul public web site, including standards, frameworks, tools, curriculum planners, worksheets and other items that the district uses to support its teachers, coaches, admins with EM. I found these illuminating, if not encouraging. Perhaps they will enlighten others whose schools use Everyday Math as well.

Here is the K-6 Framework document for Mathematics. It sets out the overarching vision the district has and lists the standards they say they implement. It's a confusing document, poorly organized. I've excerpted some of it below, but to get a feel for it, it's best to read it.

The framework doc mentions that SPPS has been working with an organization called Institute for Learning, IFL, at the University of Pittsburgh. They help with the planning and execution of the curriculum. (anyone have an opinion of IFL?) The framework says "These principles guide not only administrative leadership, but curriculum, instruction, and assessment in an authentic standards-based model." Some of the IFL's nine principles of learning are excerpted below, mostly the lowlights. (I love how they service-marked one of them--AccountableTalkSM!

1. Organizing for Effort
An effort-based school replaces the assumption that aptitude determines what and how much students learn with the assumption that sustained and directed effort can yield high achievement for all students. Everything is organized to evoke and support this effort, to send the message that effort is expected and that tough problems yield to sustained work. High minimum standards are set and assessments are geared to the standards.All students are taught a rigorous curriculum, matched to the standards, along with as much time and expert instruction as they need to meet or exceed expectations.


5. Academic Rigor in a Thinking Curriculum
Thinking and problem solving will be the "new basics" of the 21st century. But the common idea that we can teach thinking without a solid foundation of knowledge must be abandoned. So must the idea that we can teach knowledge without engaging students in thinking. Knowledge and thinking are intimately joined. This implies a curriculum organized around major concepts that students are expected to know deeply. Teaching must engage students in active reasoning about these concepts. In every subject, at every grade level, instruction and learning must include commitment to a knowledge core, high thinking demand, and active use of knowledge.

Commitment to a Knowledge Core
�� An articulated curriculum that avoids needless repetition and progressively deepens understanding of core concepts.
�� Curriculum and instruction organized around major concepts.
�� Teaching and assessment focus on mastery of core concepts.
High Thinking Demand
�� Students expected to raise questions, to solve problems, to reason.
�� Challenging assignments in every subject.
�� Extended projects.
�� Explanations and justification expected.
�� Reflection on learning strategies.
Active Use of Knowledge
�� Synthesize several sources of information
�� Test understanding by applying and discussingconcepts.
�� Apply prior knowledge.
�� Interpret texts and construct solutions.

6. Accountable TalkSM
Talking with others about ideas and work is fundamental to learning. But not all talk sustains learning. For classroom talk to promote learning it must be accountable to the learning community, to accurate and appropriate knowledge, and to rigorous thinking.Accountable TalkSM seriously responds to and further develops what others in the group have said. It puts forth and demands knowledge that is accurate and relevant to the issue under discussion. Accountable TalkSM uses evidence appropriate to the discipline (e.g., proofs in mathematics, datafrom investigations in science, textual details in literature, documentary sources in history) and follows established norms of good reasoning.Teachers should intentionally create
the norms and skills of Accountable TalkSM in their classrooms.

Accountability to the Learning Community
�� Students actively participate in classroom talk.
�� Listen attentively.
�� Elaborate and build on each other's ideas.
�� Work to clarify or expand a proposition.
Accountability to Knowledge
�� Specific and accurate knowledge.
�� Appropriate evidence for claims and arguments.
�� Commitment to getting it right.
Accountability to Rigorous Thinking
�� Synthesize several sources of information.
�� Construct explanations and test understanding ofconcepts.
�� Formulate conjectures and hypotheses.
�� Employ generally accepted standards of reasoning.
�� Challenge the quality of evidence and reasoning.

7. Socializing Intelligence
Intelligence is much more than an innate ability to think quickly and stockpile bits of knowledge. Intelligence is a set of problem-solving and reasoning capabilities along with the habits of mind that lead one to use those capabilities regularly. Intelligence is equally a set of beliefs about one's right and obligation to understand and make sense of the world, and one's capacity to figure things out over time. Intelligent habits of mind are learned through the daily expectations placed on the learner. By calling on students to use the skills of intelligent thinking—and by holding them responsible for doing so—educators can "teach" intelligence. This is what teachers normally do with students they expect much from; it should be standard practice with all students.
�� I have the right and obligation to understand and make things work.
�� Problems can be analyzed and I am capable of that analysis.
�� A toolkit of problem-analysis skills (meta-cognitive strategies) and good intuition about when to use them.
�� Knowing how to ask questions, seek help, and get enough information to solve problems.


Eventually, they do get to the actual standards. Leaving aside whether NCTM or Minnesota standards are any good for now, you can read the standards, and then read what the framework says they need to do for instruction, and you'll see that it never says anything that would actually meet the standard.

Here's an example: For First Grade, the standard says (some pieces left out):

Teachers will:
�� Establish daily 60 minutes—or more—mathematics lessons.
�� Spend 35–40 minutes teaching Part 1 of the lesson,15–20 minutes on Part 2 (the practice and review), and 5 minutes on the closing.
�� Ensure that all students receive Part 1 of the lesson (no pull-outs).
�� Teach math to a heterogeneous group of students. Ability grouping is not recommended for Part 1 of the lesson.
�� Provide Flexible Group Lessons/Activities daily.
During Part 2, at least one or two flexible group lessons that are 5–7 minutes in length,are offered to a small group of students needing extra time/practice to learn an expected Secure skill/standard. (Pull-outs for support services could occur during Part 2 of the lesson.)

Provide students needing enrichment—in pairs or in a small group—activities to extend,enhance,and enrich their math learning, during all of Part 2. These activities must support the learning goals of the topic or strand of the current Everyday Math unit. If you determine they are demonstrating proficiency on the skill taught during Part 1, they may be excused from that as well. (Pullouts for support services could occur during Part 1 or 2 of the lesson.)
�� Teach, in sequence, all lessons in both Teacher Guides of Everyday Math,covering four to five lessons per week.
(Follow the pacing guide of the curriculum.)
�� Use the Everyday Math Games as part of the lesson, part of flexible groups, part of
homework, or at other review times. Students should play the games at school, up to four or five times per week.
�� Have students write their mathematical thinking/processes used to reach a solution, at least two times a week.
�� Create a classroom environment that recognizes and supports the strengths and abilities of diverse learners.
�� With students, create ongoing class charts, including vocabulary aids/graphic organizers.
�� Read Content Highlights at the beginning of each unit to support deeper mathematical knowledge and instruction.
�� Regularly analyze student work with their colleagues.
�� Provide multiple ways of presenting mathematical concepts.

�� Create a classroom environment where students take central roles in the math-talk
learning community.
This includes:
1) students listening in order to understand each other's thinking;
2) students reasoning, defending,and proving their math concepts to one another;
3) students using thelanguage of mathematics in order to engage in Math-Talk/Accountable Talk; (Refer to Principles of Learning #6.)

Read the rest of the document for more. Remember, those were for FIRST GRADE.

Other documents that shed light on how the district operates:

The Math Coaching Vision document is here. This appears to be how math coaches create accountability, at least at their quarterly coaching meetings.

Here is a document explaining what you would be seeing if you visited a District Model Classroom teaching Everyday Math.

This document is called Everyday Math Instruction Evidence . It lists standards and benchmarks of what is supposed to be happening in a classroom during instruction, presumably so the teacher or teacher evaluator can determine if such elements are occurring.

Here are some of the things they are looking for :
a. Creates a rich math classroom environment
- Number Line, Number Grid posted and used
- Student generated charts are available
- Word Wall is available for student use
- Math Literature is read by teacher to class and available to students
b. Provides Part 1, Part 2 and a Closing, including pacing
- All students participate in Part 1
- Students are placed in appropriate flexible groups, for reteaching and for enrichment
- A closing includes students sharing what they learned and/or what still confuses them
- The pacing expectations are closely followed
c. Uses open ended questions - Accountable Talk
- Encourages critical mathematical thinking
- Students use reasoning, defending, and proving skills
- Students use the language of mathematics
- Students and teacher are questioners
- Students take responsibility for their learning

Read the document for more.

Writer's Workshop

SteveH has been asking questions about how to explain what happens in classrooms, and how to relate that to what parents are told about schools, administrators, teachers, etc. He asked if teachers were even teaching, or just going through motions; if administrators have control over what teachers do in classrooms, or not, etc.

I am trying to find out just how bad the current writing curriculum mandated by the Saint Paul, MN public school district is.

The curriculum is called Writer's Workshop.

It's been difficult to find district-wide info such as syllabi, curriculum maps, on WW. Instead, I've been able to find little blurbs on the various elementary schools' own web sites--note that each school speaks differently about the same program. It seems to be a good example of the chaos that Steve is trying to wrap his head around. Here we have a curriculum which is positively abysmal in its goals, implemented district wide, yet appears to mean vastly different things inside each school and each classroom anyway.

I've included here everything I can find about the Kindergarten portion of Writer's Workshop.

All errors are in the original web pages.

from Prosperity Heights Elementary:
"Writer's Workshop
Depending on your class situation and available time, Writer's Workshop activities is a useful and meaningful extension to the current curriculum. Writer's Workshop is a teaching technique that invites sutdents to write by making the process a meaningful part of the classroom curriculum. Writing is an expected activity on a daily basis. Students are exposed to the organization and thought required to create a story or write about a favorite topic. Because they are allowed to chose the topic, students are motivated to create and complete works to read to classmates.

For Kindergarten stduents, whose skills will greatly vary, the goal is to move pre-emergent readers into the writing process by eliciting a story from a drawing, and encouraging the student to move from drawing to writing by guiding the student in the use of phonetics to sound out words. Ideally, students become enamored by the power of their words, and will strive for the independence of fluency. Writer's Workshop can be paired with reading activities to create a powerful motivating tool when teaching literacy. "

From Webster Magnet Elementary:

Writer's Workshop

We are writers! During Writer's Workshop we write, write, write! By the end of kindergarten we will be independent writers using sound spelling and standard spelling to communicate our ideas. We will record our thoughts with labels and sentences. Some of the concepts we focus on in Writer's Workshop are: directionality of print, using letter sounds to write words, using word wall words and environmental print in our written work, the difference between letters, words and sentences and using spaces between words. We know our ideas and stories are valuable and enjoy sharing them with others!

from Randolph Heights (note this applies to their whole program, rather than focusing just on Kindergarten:

Writers Workshop

Randolph Heights is implementing a new writing curriculum - "Writer's Workshop". During Writer's Workshop, students learn about the techniques that authors use to make writing effective.

Each workshop session begins with a mini lesson presented by the teacher. Lessons may be on skills or the craft of writing. Grammar skills suich as subject-verb agreement, capitalization, paragraphing and punctuation are developed during mini lessons. Students are also taught about the writing process - drafting, revising, and editing - during mini lessons.

The next step in Writer's Workshop is planning and drafting. This is when the students are writing in their notebooks. Writing assignments are generated by the mini lessons on skills and craft.

During planning and drafting time, while students are working on writing, the teacher meets individually with students. This time is used to assess progress ona written work and to reteach/review skills taught in mini lessons.

During the last 5 - 10 minutes of Writer's Workshop, students gather together to share their writing with the entire group or to bring closure to the lesson.

This is my personal favorite, which appears on the Crossroads Elementary website, but appears to be a draft document (that I cannot find anywhere else on the spps web site) of Saint Paul Public Schools' Project for Academic Excellence:

Launching Writer's Workshop: Living the Writerly Life
The Literacy Initiative of the Project for Academic Excellence is guided by two sets of standards for what students should know and be able to do: the Minnesota Standards and the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) Standards. In this first unit of study of the year, Writer's Workshop addresses the NCEE Kindergarten Writing Standard 1: Habits and Processes of Writing Standard.

Students will:
* Write daily.
* Generate content and topics for writing.
* Write without resistance when given the time, place and materials.
* Use whatever means are at hand to communicate and make meaning: drawings, letter strings, scribbles, letter approximations and other graphic representations, as well as gestures, intonations and role-played voices.
* Make an effort to reread their own writing and listen to that of others, showing attentiveness to meaning by, for example, asking for more information or laughing.

The teaching objectives of this unit are based largely on the Habits and Processes Standard. As such, they are only begun in this unit and continued throughout the year.

Students will:
* View themselves as confident and competent writers.
* Develop the habits, fluency, and stamina of writers by writing daily, including recording oral stories.
* Develop an understanding that ideas for writing come from many sources, including oral stories that can be remembered, told, and written down.
* Generate their own topics by choosing an idea from their own oral stories or writing folders to work on over the course of a few days.
* Understand the steps of the writing process from collecting entries through publication.
* Reflect on the quality of their writing.
* Practice the rituals and routines of the Writer's Workshop - ways of working independently, productively, and resourcefully in a workshop environment.
* Listen to stories read aloud as a way to develop an understanding that they will be writing stories like their favorite authors.

This is bad enoughm ut it doesn't really say what's happening in a classroom--it could all be perfect teaching of writing for all this says.

So what does happen in a classroom?

I was able to find this link, pointing to a 4th grade class at Galthier Magnet Elementary, pointing to a page for the use of Writer's Workshop. The page says:

Writer's Workshop

Here you will be able to receive help on our current theme in the workshop.

Click on this link to review the what's on our SMARTBOARD for the realistic fiction unit!

Ah, a SMARTBOARD. So shall we see that SMARTBOARD presentation? Read it and weep.

Here is the movie.
This is apparently classroom instruction on how to write realistic fiction for fourth graders.
My favorite part is the end where we see a note to parents saying they need to help their child do their writing homework, including using the "editing checklist" to check their work.

Different Planets

I went to a gathering of top state educators this evening. (Maybe someday I can give more details. I have a number of funny anecdotes.) There was no particular agenda or goals. Everyone just got to talk. I realized that I couldn't talk about anything. I felt like I was at a party where everyone wanted to talk about politics or religion. I clam right up in those situations. I was thinking that they were all so darned sure of themselves. I realized that I felt this same way at many of the school parent-teacher meetings I've attended. They are on a different planet. It's like when one of my brother-in-laws starts talking about politics (or Buddhism). The conversation is one-directional by definition. I contrast this with the bi-directional conversations I have with another brother-in-law. We have interesting conversations about everything, and it's not because we agree.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

which picture doesn't belong?

and why?
Now that the School District has admitted that they have no copyright on the information and pictures posted on their website, we are again able to take this public information, gathered, processed, and presented with public funds and post them on the Valhalla Voice.

Here are six pictures from Valhalla's website. Today's question is:

"Which doesn't belong and why?"

The answer is the cow of course. Not because there is no cow in Valhalla, but because there was a cow in Valhalla.

Is it getting to be time to put the public school system out of its misery?

Grade Reversal?

I'm collecting anecdotes!

Specifically about cases in which smart students are getting lower grades than their classmates. 

Perhaps they aren't explaining their answers to math problems.

Perhaps they don't do well with the arts & crafts/"creativity" components of English and social studies assignments.

Perhaps they don't cooperate well in group assignments.

Perhaps they participate insufficiently in class discussions.

Perhaps their classrooms are too cluttered and chaotic for them to concentrate.

Perhaps they are overwhelmed by big, interdisciplinary projects and multi-step directions.

Perhaps they are too uninspired to "go that extra mile" that top grades require.

And perhaps the actual academic requirements in math, science, writing, etc., are so low that they have no way to exhibit their strengths.

Whatever your child's/students story is, please share it here.

(Cross-posted at Out In Left Field)

Why Students Don't Like School

first review

Am going to get a review up on Amazon -- you all should, too!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Feliz Cinco de Mayo

Enjoy celebrating Mexican-style; but, please don't call it "Mexican Independence Day" which it is not. Cinco de Mayo is the celebration of the battle of Puebla where an outnumbered Mexican army defeated the French forces on May 5, 1862. It's actually a bigger deal in the U.S. than it is anywhere but in Puebla, Mexico, perhaps.

It doesn't make the chips, guacamole and margaritas any less fun though. Have a good one!


Teacher and Teaching by Richard Henry Tierney, S.J.

Google Books has a pdf file of the book available for downloading.

'switched on Mom' says they're rolling out initiatives down Montgomery County way

"Once a child is identified as being three years behind it shouldn't matter whether they are purple, from the planet Ork; they need placement that is appropriate to get them back on track. Anything less is just child abuse disguised as political correctness."

And yet where I live (Montgomery County, MD) the drive is precisely toward heterogeneous classrooms, and away from homogeneous grouping. They they are rolling out something called The Seven Keys to College Readiness. Benchmarks are being set that are unrealistic for some students, and too low for others. Advocates who call for more homogeneous grouping and a differentiated gifted curriculum are painted as elitists and even racists.

Elitists and racists, no doubt. Parents are stinkers.

Still and all, it could always be worse (and, if experience is a guide, it will be). At least the concept of college readiness has caught the attention of the folks running Montgomery schools.

Unlike here. The folks running my own district (per pupil spending: $26,718) will have no truck with college readiness.

Last fall I asked the administration to include "college preparation" on the new 21-page Strategic Plan.

They said no.

Actually, they didn't even say 'no.' What they said was:
The strategic plan does not have specific mention of college readiness or international benchmarks. However, as a practice we are reviewing the Standards for Success—which you know is based on University preparedness.

Yes, indeed, I do know. I happen to own the book. Also, I possess all of the pdf file downloads that comprise the book, and I know where to find them on my hard drive. Ed read the history standards & says they are sound.*

So this is a terrific resource, and we can all sleep soundly at night knowing it is being "reviewed." But it's not on the Plan.

You can find all of the Standards for Success material here. (Click on "ordering information" for pdf files.) College work samples in English, Mathematics, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, and Second Languages here.

Universities Push to Influence State Tests for High School Students
Understanding University Success
review of College Knowledge by David Conley

* for passersby: Ed is a historian

Monday, May 4, 2009

class size in Kenya

In our sample of schools in western Kenya, for example, the median first grade class in 2005 (two years after the introduction of free primary education, and prior to the class size reduction program we exploit here) had 74 students; average class size was 83; and 28 percent of first grade classes had more than 100 students. These classes are also very heterogeneous: Many of the new students are first generation learners and have not attended preschools (which are neither free nor compulsory in Kenya). Students differ vastly in age, school preparedness, and support at home. These challenges are not unique to Kenya. They confront many developing countries where school enrollment has risen sharply in recent years: understanding the roles of tracking and peer effects in this context is thus particularly important.

Peer Effects and the Impact of Tracking: Evidence from a Randomized Evaluation in Kenya (pdf file) Esther Duflo1, Pascaline Dupas2, and Michael Kremer3, 4
NBER abstract

tracking: first controlled experiment


...This paper provides experimental evidence on the impact of tracking primary school students by initial achievement....One hundred and twenty one primary schools which all had a single grade one class received funds to hire an extra teacher to split that class into two sections. In 60 randomly selected schools, students were randomly assigned to sections. In the remaining 61 schools, students were ranked by prior achievement (measured by their first term grades), and the top and bottom halves of the class were assigned to different sections. After 18 months, students in tracking schools scored 0.14 standard deviations higher than students in non-tracking schools, and this effect persisted one year after the program ended. Furthermore, students at all levels of the distribution benefited from tracking. A regression discontinuity analysis shows that in tracking schools scores of students near the median of the pre-test distribution score are independent of whether they were assigned to the top or bottom section. In contrast, in non-tracking schools we find that on average, students benefit from having academically stronger peers. This suggests that tracking was beneficial because it helped teachers focus their teaching to a level appropriate to most students in the class.


This paper provides experimental evidence that students at all level of the initial achievement spectrum benefited from being tracked into classes by initial achievement. Despite the critical importance of this issue for the educational policy both in developed and developing countries, there is surprisingly little rigorous evidence addressing it, and to our knowledge this paper provides the first experimental evaluation of the impact of tracking in any context.

After 18 months, the point estimates suggest that the average score of a student in a tracking school is 0.14 standard deviations higher than that of a student in a non-tracking school. These effects are persistent. One year after the program ended, students in tracking schools performed 0.16 standard deviations higher than those in non-tracking schools....students who were very close to the 50th percentile of the initial rank distribution within their school scored similarly at the end line whether they were assigned to the top or bottom section. In each case, they did much better than their counterparts in non-tracked schools.

Peer Effects and the Impact of Tracking: Evidence from a Randomized Evaluation in Kenya (pdf file) Esther Duflo1, Pascaline Dupas2, and Michael Kremer3, 4
NBER abstract

This will have no effect whatsoever on the folks running our public schools.

stagnation at the top - Fordham report
Tracking: Can It Benefit Low Achieving Children?
Linda Valli on tracking in 5 Catholic high schools, 1
Linda Valli on tracking in 5 Catholic high schools, 2
"school commitment" in Valli's study of tracking in Catholic high schools

7th grade depression starts in 1st grade

ability grouping in Singapore
characteristics of schools where SAT scores did not decline
The Other Crisis in American Education by Daniel Singal
Hiding in Plain Sight: grouping & the achievement gap
tracking: first random-assignment study

SAT equivalence tables
SAT I Individual Score Equivalents
SAT I Mean Score Equivalents

chickens have come home to roost
the deathless meme of the high performing school
Allison on the naturals


candidate statements

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Hiding in Plain Sight

On April 28th NAEP results for 2008 were released. Sam Dillon has an article in the NY Times where he uses these results to bludgeon NCLB for failing to close the black/white achievement gap.

Between 2004 and last year, scores for young minority students increased, but so did those of white students, leaving the achievement gap stubbornly wide, despite President George W Bush’s frequent assertions that the No Child law was having a dramatic effect.

The article provides some great graphs that show black/white children's scores for reading and math for the last 37 years. Interestingly, the graphs show steady improvements for both subjects and both demographics that Dillon ignores. James Taranto has a provocative response questioning whether Dillon would have been happier had the data shown static white achievement and increasing black achievement.

So minority kids are doing better than before. But because white kids are also doing better, and therefore the "gap" remains, the Times suggests the law is a failure. By this measure, it would have been better to pass a law that only benefits minorities than one that benefits everyone.

To be fair, closing the racial gap was one of the stated goals of No Child Left Behind. But what a strange, uncritical attitude the Times has toward the federal government when it reports with a straight face that the law is a failure because it seems to have helped children of all races, rather than observing that this calls into question whether the goal made any sense in the first place.


It made me think of a more problematic question. The graphs show a gap that's been pretty stubborn for 37 years and although the article was written to criticize NCLB as ineffective law since it hasn't closed the gap it was written to address, there's a bigger story here. The only significant gap reduction follows school desegregation and then, essentially nothing. In fact you could use the graphs to make a pretty good case that the last 37 years have seen nothing but improvement in math while in reading, NCLB seems to have reversed a bit of white decline and black stagnation. The real question to ponder here is why the gap seems immune to change.

You certainly can't claim there hasn't been a lot of effort expended in trying to close the gap. I would argue that much of the curricular turmoil of the last two generations is driven in large part by these very attempts. Federal and state involvement in local schools has also been accelerated by this effort. The evidence says that pushing on teacher quality, curriculum, administration, pedagogy, unions, pay, charters, vouchers, and everything else in the kitchen sink has accomplished little by way of closing the gap.

The gap represents about a three year difference in grade level. Could it be that having classrooms populated with kids exhibiting this gap, being fed a curriculum designed for the median student in the room is a problem? The one thing I've never seen addressed (except in very limited settings) is this curricular mismatch.

The graphics lay it out starkly. These are two completely different sets of kids. Three years difference is huge. Keeping them together in the name of racial equality or equal access is never going to close the gap. Everything we've done is piddling on the edges of a conflagration. If you really mean to close the gap then that educational goal has to stand in line ahead of our social goals until it's fixed, doesn't it?

Could it be that the slopes we see on these graphs are due to all the piddling around the edges while the gap is due to ignoring the obvious need to provide appropriate curricula? Could it be true that the shallow slope is an artifact of having an inappropriate mix in the classroom. And finally, would the slopes of both demographics improve with more appropriate placement?

Once a child is identified as being three years behind it shouldn't matter whether they are purple, from the planet Ork; they need placement that is appropriate to get them back on track. Anything less is just child abuse disguised as political correctness.

stagnation at the top - Fordham report
Tracking: Can It Benefit Low Achieving Children?
Linda Valli on tracking in 5 Catholic high schools, 1
Linda Valli on tracking in 5 Catholic high schools, 2
"school commitment" in Valli's study of tracking in Catholic high schools

7th grade depression starts in 1st grade

ability grouping in Singapore
characteristics of schools where SAT scores did not decline
The Other Crisis in American Education by Daniel Singal
Hiding in Plain Sight: grouping & the achievement gap
tracking: first random-assignment study

SAT equivalence tables
SAT I Individual Score Equivalents
SAT I Mean Score Equivalents

chickens have come home to roost
the deathless meme of the high performing school
Allison on the naturals


Irvington Union Free School District

2000-2001: $25,124,756.00 (enrollment: 1744)
2008-2009: $50,583,424.00 (enrollment: 1888)

only one child

I realize that you have an entire school system to worry about and that I am focused only on one child. However, after many years of experience with education, I have become convinced that a large percentage of children with real potential are brushed aside and discouraged by education systems that concentrate on the system rather than the needs of each child. The converse is also true. Where the needs of each child are understood and accommodated, schools succeed. I have experienced it personally.

a Grandfather takes a stand

a grandfather takes a stand...

...for his Grandchildren's Education

how to improve your child's public school education

to do

STEM Education

Is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics) education anything other than a NSF-funded way to get more Smart Boards in schools?

Not happy with redefining mathematics, it sounds like K-12 education is trying to redefine the educational needs of all scientific fields. However, they don't seem to understand the difference between science and technology; what is taught in college and what is taught in a technical school. The difference is math. The difference is theory versus hands-on skills. Students at colleges of engineering don't get degrees in "technology". It's engineering.