Friday Open Thread

Attended the candidate forum at the 46th Dems last night and I'll write that up today.  Good news - there are some fine school board candidates running.  As well, people who have attended city council forums report that those candidates are getting the memo on the mayor appointing part of the board - the answer is no.  The more candidates that understand that this is not a winning policy point, the less chance it can get traction.

In horrific news, at a charter middle school in Oklahoma, kids in a science class made a music video...using dead cats as props.  It was a grotesque version of a cat food commercial.   (It's unclear if a teacher was present or allowed this.  I find it hard to believe that many kids could be in a classroom by themselves making a video at the middle school level.)

Rather cool website - Atlas Obscura. Share this one with the kids.

The Seattle International Film Festival has started.  Here's a link to the Films4Families.  Consider taking your child to a foreign film that they may not ever have a chance to see otherwise.  There's even a new film from the makers of Wallace and Gromit.  Another fun one comes from Germany, called Fiddlesticks:

A gang of rambunctious young children happen upon a book of world records and decide to cure their town of its 100% averageness once and for all. All Ages

 Guess who remembered his teacher Prince Harry.   Visiting New Zealand he spotted a teacher in the crowd that he had around the time of his mother's death.  She had been a support and comfort to him during a difficult time.

The ed feds have a department - Office of Educational Technology - and they are doing an Ed Tech Developer's tour this summer.  They are coming to Seattle on August 21st. 

In a lovely prom story, a high school quarterback in Pennsylvania, fulfilled a childhood promise to his good friend in elementary school,who has Down's Syndrome,  to take her to the prom.  

What's on your mind?


Anonymous said…
I've long been skeptical of group work for the sake of group work, and this East London high school teacher does a good job of discussing of the issues. He gives an example of how he uses group work effectively in his class. His analysis of "research" on group work reminds us we should be skeptical of the claim "research shows" when dealing with educational pedagogy.

Group Work for the Good
Unpacking the Research behind One Popular Classroom Strategy
By Tom Bennett

I wish my children's teachers would read this article and be more thoughtful in their use of group work, rather than bending every unit into some group work busywork. The devaluation of independent work and guided instruction continues to perplex me.

another reader
Susan said…
Another Reader,

I completely agree. The group projects in elementary (I don't have older kids) are a total joke. My kid learns incorrect information from classmates all the time. It's maddening. Unfortunately, it's not the teachers. At our school, it's the administration pushing the "project based learning".

It sounds great in theory, but in practice, it doesn't work and takes up lots of valuable learning time.
Linh-Co said…
Group work is especially troubling in math when students are learning new concepts and are asked to unpack the fundamentals.
Anonymous said…
Would really like to know the money behind these studies:

Anonymous said…
Does anyone know when the list of projects that were nominated last month for BTAIV will be posted (or IF they will be posted)?

-North-end Mom
Anonymous said…
I agree with Linh-Co. Working in groups to solve math problems can leave too many students behind. The discovery math people disagree with this, but the high remedial math rates in college speak for themselves.

Our sons loved Montessori group lessons when they were younger. But they did much better with direct instruction in math when they got to high school.

S parent
Q said…
Seems the author wants more judicious use of group work. Teachers need to strike a reasonable balance. Here's what he says towards the end:

" It isn’t dogma, it isn’t a panacea, and it isn’t the messiah. It’s one strategy among many. And it’s a perfectly reasonable part of a teacher’s arsenal of strategies."

Group projects certainly have their place at school.

Patrick said…
Group work means the student with the loudest voice is the teacher.
Anonymous said…
I'm guessing that the over-use of group projects in elementary and middle school might be a way to deal with the overcrowding in the classroom. The biggest problem is: the kids aren't taught how to work in groups. So, they flail around and things don't get done or get done by one person. I used to be on the Committee on Academic Conduct (aka, the cheater committee) at the UW. The primary "cheaters" sent to us were kids who worked on group projects and weren't given good guidelines. Invariably, they didn't know how to cite each other's work or whatever, so they were called cheaters for "copying." It boggled my mind every time we had to go back and tell the professors that they needed to give clearer guidelines.

Also, teachers seem to use group work as a way to "handle" kids who who are goofing off. They match the kids who are doing well/are conscientious with students that tend to goof off--as "role models." What ends up happening is that the conscientious kids are left trying to get the goof-offs to do their share of the work--which is a losing battle. This ends up burning out the conscientious kids who are basically punished for doing the work.

North End Parent
Anonymous said…
The second paragraph of North End Parent's post is EXACTLY what I have observed.

Po3 said…
I had one kid who, in middle school, found the smartest kid in the class and got into their math group.

Anonymous said…
I was astonished when my kid's middle school algebra teacher said he used group tests. They worked on the test together & then he would pull one paper from the group & grade it. I learned by the end of the year how valuable this experience was. The 'tests' were actually worth very few points, so basically called tests to encourage the kids to prepare for them. In the groups, students had to agree on the answers. They checked each others work, defended their answers, proved things. When the real test, individual, came around a few days later, the students were better prepared. My kid learned a lot from doing these group tests & still uses this strategy with study groups in college. This did not lead to any remedial math in college.

What I really object to is when a student gets a large part of their grade based on how well there group works, instead of how well they master the material. I saw plenty of that too.

-HS Parent
Anonymous said…
North-end parent-

I was going to say the same thing about the burden of slacker kids. My kid enjoys school and usually puts a good effort forth in all of their school work. I don't know what to say when I hear that they got saddled with the kid who does nothing. How am I supposed to help? This is the same student that the teacher can't get to do any work, either. My child has no power so what really are they supposed to do? I think group work typically ends up as a lesson in life isn't fair.

Group work should never be graded. It is not a good reflection of kids' work.

Anonymous said…
Q is "on fleek" as it is said by the young folk.

It is one strategy among many. Kids who lack the academic skills can and DO actively and easily hide in group learning situations. (This is a "try to" in my personal classroom, BTW.)Good teachers have a tool kit, and effective teachers have a tool belt (like Batman's utility belt), which makes the tools easier to access on the fly.

-ambidextrous teacher
Anonymous said…
What is going to happen to Seattle World School next year given that SPS ELL programs were found to be out of compliance?


Anonymous said…
Project based learning does NOT equate with group work.

Kids doing math/geometry/STEM project based learning can build a bridge out of toothpick or Popsicle sticks solo. They do not have to do that in a group.

Math should never be taught with 'group work'. Multiplication tables or calculus is not a team sport. After the direct instruction and individual work, they can play 'mathy' games together, like Yahtzee, but 'doing their work together', as is done in my kid's classroom, is bogus. I recently voiced my concerns to our child's teacher, saying we wanted our children to complete their own work, not copy or 'divide and conquer' as I have seen done. She assured me it was okay because our child is always the fastest one and so it's the other way around, the math 'partners' always copy from them.

Group work is not how kids learn foundational skills. Group work developmentally for elementary kids is totally bogus. Learning how to be in a group is important, but they do that the minute the enter the school, they dont need their academic work parcelled out via group all the time to learn how to function in a group. How to stand in line at the cafeteria, how to sit quietly and listen to others, how to play 4 square nicely, how to not disturb others when they are finished their own work, how to share space, how to respect the emotions of their classmates, how to cooperate during game playing or PE, etc. Forcing young kids to do math in a group is dogmatic.

Some group work in science or social studies as activities is ok, but then individual production of a deliverable such as a lab write up or geography summary, is an okay way to approach this. But group work has run amok.

Anonymous said…
"I'm guessing that the over-use of group projects in elementary and middle school might be a way to deal with the overcrowding in the classroom" I disagree. My two are long gone from SPS and group projects were routine in middle school and some but not too much in elementary. The district was not as crowded then as now. At that time it was dubbed cooperative learning. These were big projects that required more than a little parental input. My observation at that time was one or two kids did the majority of the work, while the rest watched. It wasn't that I thought any child was a slacker. It was more a matter of 10, 11, and 12 yr olds not knowing or understanding how to divide up the work of a big project. Group projects need tons of adult guidance. Not adults doing the work but guidance to manage it so they learn.

Anonymous said…
I suspect some teachers like group work because it reduces the amount of grading and instruction on their part. I share the low opinion of the "divide and conquer" approach.

Anonymous said…

Along with the Seattle World School, what is going to happen to MCHS - High Point (West Seattle) or MCHS - Seattle University?
Will these schools be closing?

--No GMOs
Whoa - I don't think any school is closing. That's a bit much to say.
Anonymous said…
The latest educational bandwagon is "21st Century Schools" (see TED talk by Ken Robinson). The same approach was used in the seventies with wall-less classrooms, which are coming back in style now "per" the wisdom of Sir Ken. Never mind the needs of children with sensory issues or those who need some personal space at school because they have none at home.

Many teachers using "group work" think they are on the cutting edge.
Individual work is sooo 19th Century (as Sir Ken tells us). I also suspect a lot of younger teachers were inundated with the group learning approach in college and are just teaching how they were taught. Their professor sure had a lot less papers to grade.

If done better, a lot of teaching of roles, rules and routines have to be in place and continually re-taught. I simply don't use it much for the reasons NE parent and others stated. It's helpful in science, especially, while reasoning and discussing observations,etc.

On the one hand, we have Sir Ken. On the other hand, we have reformers who are correct in stating the US is lagging in math and science, especially. As usual, US educational "experts" are interpreting these issues in the least intelligent way possible and the result is group learning (to appease the Sir Kens) and SBAC (to appease the reformers).

I don't see children in Singapore likely to get a "group" math score any time soon. I also haven't seen a group work section on SBAC or the SAT.

--enough already
Anonymous said…
Enough Already, usually you're right about most things. But this isn't right:
reformers who are correct in stating the US is lagging in math and science, especially.

Where's the evidence? Those "other" countries don't educate everyone. We do. Reformers, and others, compare the winning nations' top 5% to our whole enchilada, and "prove" our "lagging". That's a fallacy. Our economy, business, science, innovation, etc, is the real measure of success. Where is the Singaporean Steve Jobs? Uh. There isn't one. SAT doesn't predict much. And SBAC is a joke. Btw. SBAC does have group work. 8th graders were all asked to design logos for their imaginary business in the SBAC math performance task. Basically a big group project, which took about a half hour. Test to follow. Not that this fact proves anything.

Anonymous said…

I know that many Asian countries do not test all students. The American ethos of creativity and the ability to start over--even when not on the academic track--are incomparable, and likely are critical variables for the continuing creativity and ingenuity in the US. Our first class university system refines and often makes up for lost time.

Most elementary teachers do not have a strong math background (myself included) and this likely has a huge role in our lagging math achievement.

I do not, in any way, want to go into the realm of a one-size-fits-all input/output mentality of education.

However, I reluctantly admit that we have to get with it in terms of math (and by virtue of its application--science). I have been at this for a long time now and have no doubt that elementary schools, in particular, have a long way to go with math instruction.

It's pretty obvious that SBAC is a joke. I also consider most of the reform movement to be hedge fund endeavors that spread half-truths.

However, in terms of math education and achievement, the US isn't "number one" by any measure.

--enough already
Anonymous said…
Also linked in Bennett's article is Dan Willingham's debunking of teaching to learning styles.

"Teachers should focus on the content's best modality - not the student's."

The article is 10 years old, but we still have schools embracing the learning styles idea (meaning including different modalities in a lesson just to include them, not necessarily because they are the best means of conveying the particular lesson).

-another reader
Anonymous said…
Enough Already, so what about math ed? Really. Math is the new, religious orthodoxy. Who cares if students take calculus, learn how to factor polynomials, or can integrate by parts? It's great that this orthodoxy, and precise way of thinking, is offered in schools, but ridiculous that it has become a gate for all other learning. Math obsession is a cultural value, and one designed to exclude those who don't share it, and aren't in the know. Right. US might not be "number 1" in math ed, but it really doesn't matter either. The creative person will figure out the math, or figure out the required technology, to solve his/her problem. Show me the science and technology companies from Singapore? Or China? Right. They're more likely to be stealing science and technology, than developing it themselves. All the gee whiz math ed didn't yield results .

Reader (who is engineer)

Anonymous said…
@another reader:

Ah, very interesting. I hadn't thought of that--but it makes sense. Not that I think learning styles should be ignored. but to pay attention to how a subject is best learned/taught makes a lot of sense. Thank you for that distinction--food for thought.

North End Parent
Anonymous said…
You are the engineer. I am the English major and poet.

I'll take your word on math and science over mine any day, which is why I'm insecure about teaching math.

I am not an expert in math, to put it mildly. Sadly, so are few (or none) of my elementary colleagues.

My experience as a student (who kind of checked out of school after seventh grade until college) was that I could make up for all subjects EXCEPT for math by creativity and application. Since math builds on itself, it was very, very hard for me to make up for lost time.

--enough already
Anonymous said…
@ reader (engineer), I don't see how math has become "a gate for all other learning." With the exception of a few science classes, I don't think math level impacts placement or eligibility for other middle or high school classes. Same in college--where you see a lot of kids needing remedial math but still able to take other classes for credit in the meantime. How is math a "gate"?

Anonymous said…
STEM has definitely become the educational religion. You can call it a "gate" or whatever, but there is no doubt that it is now the be-all/end-all. Case in point--"informational" or expository text is even the priority of Common Core reading.

Sputnik is the most recent analogy for the fear/emphasis.

STEM (M for Mathematics) is all encompassing, make no mistake about it.

Reader makes an excellent point about its role in exclusion. However, it takes someone with mastery to be privileged to make such an astute observation.

--enough already
"STEM has definitely become the educational religion."

At least in the ed reform world. It's like the magic bean for education (as if all kids would be going that direction anyway).

Here's the thing I know is that all the jobs in the next 25 years are not going to STEM jobs. And to lead kids to a place that they don't want to necessarily go is not what education is for.

What's funny is that as the U.S. runs to STEM, China and other countries are wondering how the heck they can be more innovative (and drive the free-thinking that brings innovation).

There has to be a middle ground.
Anonymous said…
STEM is not just "in the ed reform world." For those of us actually in the trenches (some of us who have been here proudly for many years), it's a pervasive daily reality.

US education hasn't been grounded in reality from my experience (as both student and now veteran teacher) since I started first grade many years ago.

It's all about swinging pendulums--reactive extremes that keep reinventing the wheel but resisting progress and evolution.

That's where teachers matter. Some teachers go forward and make progress DESPITE the inanity and armchair quarterbacking that some of you like to do on this blog--from your safe remotes and coffee.

--enough already
Josh Hayes said…
I'll put in a mild disagreement on the "modalities" discussion. When I teach (for instance) cellular respiration, some kids will get it quite well just from the equation on the board, but a number of other kids are befuddled by that approach -- give them a molecular model kit, however, and work through the process, and presto, they get it. The first batch of kids STILL get it. Frankly, I think the modeling shtick is the best way to learn it, but it's also time-consuming. The upshot is, you can teach the same stuff more quickly to some kids by just staying symbolic, but a lot of kids really need something physical to ground it in.

In my experience, anyway. YMMV. And I agree that hauling out manipulables for every lesson often makes no sense; really it comes down to this: do what works. Don't waste time on stuff that doesn't help anybody learn.
Anonymous said…
If STEM is the educational religion, why do we have so few STEM schools? And why is it so hard to find a good math curriculum, or a good math teacher, or a school that offers a lot of advanced math options? Or many computer science or engineering options? Or a good science curriculum?

Maybe it's religious belief rather than actual practice?

I'm not saying I want more STEM schools, but my kids sure would have benefitted from higher quality math and science instruction, and would have enjoyed some more tech and engineering options along the way. I also would have liked to see better humanities instruction and options, too.

Anonymous said…
Exactly HF!!!

I am still scratching my head over Math in Focus. I've never used a more "wordy" math curriculum. It's been very difficult for my students (and super confusing to parents) and it's not because the content is hard- the lessons/workbooks are the problem. The lessons are chopped up in a way that makes easy math seem very difficult. There are often 5 different directions/problems on a single workbook page (in 1st grade). Our non-readers and ELL students can't do anything independently in their workbook. I used to differentiate well, but with MIF, I spend a great deal of time running around the room trying to read each problem to students as they come to them. Many workbook pages have succeeded in UN-teaching they are so confusing. I have yet to meet a teacher who doesn't hate it. MIF is NOT Singapore Math! I never thought I'd say this, but I really miss EDM.

Anonymous said…
Copied rom the other blog, I know this was discussed here a while ago to in relation to the potentially difficulty some would have getting to the only testing times - sounds like there were more problems with it- read on….

Regarding Algebra Readiness Test:

Big joke! Totally about rationing rigor. No other way to really think about how the District does this. Testing kids after school, like, 5pm... clearly not the most student-friendly time. But then, there is the dancing cut-score pinata!

Will someone please explain how the test has different thresholds depending on the kid?? If it is the tie-breaker test, because the kid already met one of the two benchmarks, shouldn't giving this third, most appropriate test to students that actually is about algebraic skills have ONE threshold, say, 47, like the publisher says for all students?

How can it be 50 out of 50 for Tai (she gets 49, she is denied access) but 48 out of 50 for Carlos? That makes no sense.

And, what is with the time restriction? What are they trying to prove? Shouldn't they be trying to assess if the kid know fundamentals and is rock solid in the required math skills? Isn't that what is necessary to take algebra, the requisite skills? So, why time it? Per Nunnally and Bernstein, 1984, p. 348, excessive limitation of time will cause the test results to be unreliable (in other words, the kids didn't get enough time to show what they know). Furthermore, since kids don't ever get timed tests in schools, they don't have the concept or practice of time management down to have approached this high-stakes assessment. Designed to screen them out, basically! Ratio rigor!

The District is doing a SUPERB job of rationing rigor. That seems to be their specialty, their goal. It just proves how much they don't actually care about kids or understand their needs or have any desire to support learning.

Besides, the best part is their letter had an impossible rubric, which, several 'failed' kids pointed out to the adults. Serious. No making this up. So the district changed their rubric to correct their error.

Maybe the district personnel are not qualified for algebra.

Reposted for "No Rationing!"
Anonymous said…
You know what's wonderful about Washington State? They allow part-time enrollment in schools. You can homeschool for math, or any subject, really. Rather than waste your energy with the district, you can use your energy ensuring your child gets what they need elsewhere. If rigor is your concern, then algebra taught with Discovering Algebra may not be the best option anyway.
mirmac1 said…
Josh Hayes you make a good point. Different modalities reaches students with different learning styles: visual learners, tactile learners etc. I like that it may make a subject more accessible to some.
Anonymous said…
HF, math is HUGE gate for other learning, at all levels. Let's start st the top. We have ridiculously high requirements to get out of high school, well beyond what anyone really needs. That becomes a college gate. We have tests like SBAC which are designed to fail most students in math. We have tons of remediation in high schools for math. Any student enrolled in any type of math remediation, has to forego education in other fields that would actually be more beneficial to them, and develop other talents. Starting in middle school, and often earlier, students who are weak in math, double dip math classes with math remediation classes. This practice means these students are gated away from electives, and talent development. Many high school science classes are gated unnecessarily on math, basically on moral grounds. Surely, there's plenty of chemistry and physics that can be learned without getting too bogged down in math.

Yes, math is good. I love math. My culture values it. But it's fine if you don't. Diversity is a good thing. You can still be a scientist or engineer.

Anonymous said…
We have tests like SBAC which are designed to fail most students in math.

This statement is debatable. If you had said, "We have tests like SBAC that, as designed, will fail many students in math," then I would agree. As currently designed, the tests are likely to result in low pass rates for many students. The tests are not designed, however, with the intent to create low pass rates. The tests are created to test the standards. You can debate about how well they test the standards, or whether the testing platform is appropriate, or whether the standards are good, but I take issue with the statement they are explicitly designed to fail students.

mirmac1 said…
On a different note: Claudia Rowe has an excellent piece in the Times - ‘You are more than your mistakes’

While I have many reservations about Vicki Sacco, particularly her gatekeeping and ignorance about special education, I'm glad the rate of suspensions at WSE has gone down. I was not aware of the Gates $650K grant and I watch these things pretty closely. Too bad that, as soon as the grant runs out, things will likely revert to what passes as normal. For example Cleveland stands to lose its grant funding for its Restorative Justice program. Emerson's RTTT money runs out this year; See ya!

This is SPS - run a "pilot" then just drop it to go to the next. Forget funding, where's the sustainability of purpose? We know what helps kids with trauma. When will EVERY school in SPS practice it?
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
WAIT - Algebra Readiness Test rubric was CHANGED????

To what?

We didn't get the memo! (Big surprise).

My kid had all answered questions perfect - 47/50 in 35 minutes. Kid took too long "reading" the "mini lessons" first portion of the test, and just didn't get to the last 3 math operations review questions - but got 94% of total test, all answered questions, correct.

And didn't get admitted to algebra due to 4th grade MSP score being one cut off too low. (5th grade MAP was way way over required - I assumed going in that the standardized tests were just another "gate" and the in or out would be based on the Albegra readiness test - silly me)

And yes, there were kids for whom a 50/50 was insufficient b/c they're 4th grade MSP was low (due to goofing off and external factors - they were in 4th grade!)


But if the cutoff has changed - can someone point me to where the info is?

Signed: No rationing
Anonymous said…
And re the part-time homeschooling of math:

1. people work.

2. I've done the part-time homeschooling, twice in fact, and it's a freaking lot of work - in addition to #1 above!

3. My kid who needs rigorous math is at the edge of what I can do. I can 'do' the math, and grade it, but teaching it is more complex and requires a stronger understanding at the level the kid is at than I currently have, almost 30 years out of high school (and I was a state-wide math contest winner back in the day, but that day was in the Reagan administration, so skills, they are rusty.) Just say "homeschool it" is only a solution for a very narrow band of people.

That said, we probably will homeschool but we're lucky enough that we will probably find someone to pay - we can - but that is hardly a solution to the debacle that is the algebra readiness test and its rubric, and to the overall gatekeeping/ration rigor mentality of SPS.

Why not let everyone with a score over 45 = 90% or even 42 = 85% take algebra, sink or swim, and see how they do? What's wrong with that? It raises the bar!

Or why not just allow schools to pick a strong prealgebra curriculum and put all the kids who didn't make the supposed cut off into that instead of into CMP 3?

Signed: no rationing

(captcha asked me to select drinks - booze and coffee, just what I need!)
Anonymous said…
Your comments are very provacative. I'm thinking there are good reasons for using math proficiency as a gate.
For example, the volume of cone example. A student has the memorization option or the reasoning option. In other words, building on basic math facts like area of a triangle and area of a circle extrapolating to cones. That is something we want to teach kids how to do for its own intrinsic value. How else can they learn to think like that except with math?
Now your pOint is that few will use these skills later in life, but the basic processes of deduction and reasoning are essential and powerful tools for any lifestyle or occupation. By your reasoning, engineers need not understand biology or literature.
I think history and common sense show that a well- rounded education is best, that engineers need to understand Achebe and lit. majors need to understand geometry, if not calculus.
Einstein would not have been who he was without his music and his other non-scientific interests and skills, and I dare say the great literary figures all had interests and training outside of literature.

Gate keeping is really another matter entirely and it's not just math that keeps poor people out of college. The whole deck, from day one is stacked to favor the privileged class. Somebody's got to do the dirty jobs and those who have even some limited power want to make sure it isn't their kids, so the opportunities are made easier for those who know the ropes and the whole system develops a self-perpetuating aspect.

Anonymous said…
@No Ration

So your kid missed 4th grade MSP by just 1 question, but did get 250+ on the 5th grade MAP -- what score did he/she need for algebra, since he/she got 47/50 on the algebra readiness test? 48? 49? Perfect 50? The publisher says 47.

2 years ago, the 5th grade math MAP at 250+ would alone have sufficed as enterance.

Ironic that everyone else is allowed to opt up 1 course no matter how unqualified they are, but your kid, who missed 1 question in 4th grade is barred.

I suppose barring your kids helps close the achievement gap. Maybe that's the purpose of the rationing.

Anonymous said…
No ration
We get it, please stop the rant. Talk to the folks downtown. From my middle school,principal and from students I personally know taking Algebra II as 8th graders, there is a lack of mastery which will hurt them as they go into per-calc as freshpeersons in HS.
If your child is so gifted, apply to the Robison program and skip high school, I think you can get into it as early as 7th grade, maybe 6 th. Algebra in 7 th is not going to adversely made the many kids and, there are lots of other things to learn in middle school.E
If you need sympathetic ears or to post to people who actually have kids accelerated to Algebra in 6th grade, go to the HCC blog, please.,it's just not that interesting to hear you keep harping about your child and the district keeping them down.

Thanks ,

Pickle Juice
Anonymous said…
To further expound on gate- keeping. On reflecting, math can be an effective gatekeeper to the underclasses as middle class parents have the resources for tutoring.
The whole idea, if you take classic class-based view, is that society needs lots of low-paid workers and lots of service workers.
Free market capitalism, in its purest form down to democratic socialism, finds a way to stratify the population and steer people into work commensurate with their abilities.
It's just. way easier to cheat and game the system in our country than say in France.
Much more meritocratic in Europe. Free universities with entrance based in tests. Much more a level field.
Also pay disparity is much, much less in Europe. Food service is a reasonable occupation and can provide a decent retirement, as pensions and benefits are state- provided.
Here, things are more lasses-faire and it's easy to be poor and hard to get out of it.
I don't believe math is the problem as much as an unfair system that rewards pre-existing privilege.

Anonymous said…
I get it. Math is interesting, and can be sequenced. I like it. Yes, it's nice to have. But "must" have? That's arbitrary beyond a certain point. We decided arbitrarily to gate keep using math, with the fig leaves of science, technology, stem. We could just as easily be music, or rapping. If we had remedial music as high school grad requirements, or if people had music SBACs to pass, we'd all agree it was ridiculous. We need to broaden choice and experience, not restrict it.


Anonymous said…
Ok, Reader, so what is important? If kids shouldn't need to learn a basic amount of math to graduate, what do they need? Do they really need to be able to read literature or write essays? Know history? There are lots of jobs that don't require a basic level of knowledge in any of those, right? Should we just say "take whatever classes you like, and that'll probably be good enough for whatever you end up doing"?

Re: the gate, yes, we have math requirements for graduation. I disagree that these are "ridiculously high" though, or that it prevents all other learning. The SBAC might be a challenging test, and there may well be some standards that aren't really important in the big scheme of things--but students can likely miss a whole lot of questions on the various math tests and still "pass." The SBAC "college ready" level, remember, is not going to be the same as what the state requires for graduation.

And the idea that our math requirements go "well beyond what anyone really needs" is untrue. Many professions require advanced math skills, and many more require at least basic math skills. Making good economic decisions throughout life also requires some basic understanding of math. Many people don't like math, but that doesn't mean it's not useful--even to those not working in math-related fields.

Any student enrolled in any type of math remediation, has to forego education in other fields that would actually be more beneficial to them, and develop other talents.

It's not like they don't get to take any other classes. Are you thinking of vocational classes? If so, since the vocational track students don't need the same college prep classes, they should have time in their schedules--even with doubling up in math--since they don't need as many years of some of the core classes. Math remediation does not prohibit education in other fields.

I'm really trying to understand your position. It seems to be that it's unfair to make kids--even very young kids--take remedial math classes or math support classes if that means they spend extra time on math instead of something more fun, since not everyone values math. To me, however, it would seem a shame to NOT try to help them learn math while they're still in school. They are kids, and do not know yet what they'll want to do, what interests they'll have later, what sort of opportunities they want to pursue, what type of future they want. To just give up on them when they're young and say "hey, you're not very good at or very interested in math, so let's just not worry about it!" seems like it does them a HUGE disservice, impacting their futures. As long as basic math skills and the type of critical thinking they require are still valued by society--and I don't foresee this changing anytime soon--I think we owe it to kids to try to give them a leg up. It isn't about training everyone to be a scientist or an engineer or a mathematician.

Finally, on the issue of high school science classed and math prerequisites I see this as an issue of rigor, not morality. Sure you can have basic science classes that are not math-dependent. Those would be easier classes. More rigorous science classes in some fields, however, DO require advanced math. We could modify the high school course offerings so that there are "lite" versions of some of those mathy science classes-- (i.e., "Physics for Non-Science Majors"). But let the kids who CAN do the math still have their shot at a more comprehensive, rigorous science class. If you want to make the case that, on moral grounds, we should offer both types of classes, I'm all for it. But not if the morality argument is that we should just "simplify" the current classes. Many classes are already too lacking in rigor as it is.

Anonymous said…
Rather than relax the math requirements, I think we'd be way better off if we strengthened math instruction in this country--particularly at the elementary school level. If kids get a solid foundation early--taught be teachers who really understand math, and who can help them to really learn it--most won't have any trouble learning algebra when the time comes. Algebra may be a huge obstacle for a lot of kids, but I think it's only because of the poor math instruction and lack of mastery that happens in earlier years. I don't believe that math is inherently "too hard" for many people.

Anonymous said…
I get @no rationing's frustration. I will tag onto Pickle Juice's comments, but hopefully in a more constructive manner.

I would agree that Algebra 2 as delivered in middle school (with the exception of a teacher that is now retiring...) is unlikely to be as challenging or comprehensive as an honors level Algebra 2 class taken in high school. Your child may take a class called Algebra 2, but may not be as prepared for upper level math as those that take Algebra 2 in high school. It's kind of the same with Biology in 8th grade.

If your child is so gifted, apply to the Robison program and skip high school

I disagree with this suggestion. A child wanting to accelerate 1 year on the APP math pathway does not necessarily mean they are a good fit for the Robinson program. The district allows this level of acceleration (yeah, you have to meet the latest placement matrix) and there are still high school math classes available, without having to do early entry.

-sympathetic ear
Anonymous said…
HF. My position is simple. Study mostly what you want to know about. Sure, plenty of math should be available. Nope. No gating. You are wrong about rigor. Rigor needs to be internally generated, and that internal generation is what students need to learn. Whatever happened to "lifelong learning"? "Love of learning"? "Critical thinking"? Excluding students some students from science (because they lack math skills) - doesn't make other students smarter, and it doesn't make any class "more rigorous". Exclusion = less. You never know who will have the next great idea. Classes need to be differentiated to address the needs of all students. If you want to (and can) derive all the math you need for physics, great! Who is stopping you? If you can't, then there's still plenty to learn. You can study incredibly "mathy" fields, and learn all the math you need. Need should drive the content... not a witless adherence to standards.

Standards are the death knell of our system. Mindless conformity. Where have these "high standards" worked? Not in Japan - that is for sure. All the wonderful math-ed has not produced resourceful or creative students. And while European educational tracking might produce slightly better results, it's only better because the social safety net makes up for the failings of their heavily tracked educational system. We do not have a similar safety net (similar to European), and therefore we can not afford the ill effects of standards based education, with it's emphasis on exclusion and conformity.

Lynn said…
HF - Kids who are required to take double math periods for remediation lose access to an elective. A student in high school in a math support class can take either a world language or music or art or PE. Other students can take two of those.

Reader - Kids can't create rigor in a low-level science class. They're not allowed to create their own curriculum and study different topics in more depth in the classroom. Teaching science at a slower pace and covering fewer topics does make a class less rigorous and cheats those who are ready for more.
Anonymous said…
Lynn, I was talking overall terms. If you look at the sample 4-yr schedules for students planning to graduate HS/attend community college vs those planning to go a selective university, the former have room for many more electives since they don't need four years of rigorous coursework. So if they have to double up on math once or twice to get up to speed, it's not going to prevent them from learning what they want. Maybe they can't take four years worth of a foreign language or something, but other than that it seems they actually have decent flexibility.

Anonymous said…
Lynne, kids can always create their own rigor. It's really the only rigor there is. Nobody is stopping your kid from reading, investigating, finding sophisticated software, or taking initiative. Those are the real 21st century skills. Memorizing formulas for the volume of a cone. Not so much.

Anonymous said…
So what are you saying, Reader? That kids who actually want a challenge should stay home and teach themselves, or that they should sit through boring , low- level classes, do all the associated busy work and homework, etc., and then in theirs pare time take on the task of educating themselves?

Anonymous said…
Hmm...what @Reader describes (learning and finding challenge outside of school) is what my child is forced to do because such beliefs are not unique to Reader. Since most of my child's teachers don't give homework (what's up with that?), there is still some time to squeeze in what should have been taught in school. You know what? I resent playing the role of part-time teacher and my child does not consider school a place of learning. It's very backwards.

Students go to school to learn. They all benefit from guided instruction and coverage of a broad range of topics that they wouldn't necessarily seek out on their own, including the formula for a cone. It's cool when you find out the volume of a sphere is 2/3 the volume of a cylinder the height and width of the sphere, and a cone is 1/3. They are somehow connected. It's what helps me remember the formula some decades after I learned it.

"Sparks" come from being exposed to a wide body of knowledge and experiences. This is opposed to what I'd call the spontaneous combustion philosophy of education that inspiration somehow sparks out of nothing.


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