Sunday, October 5, 2008

Data Driven and Now "Developmentally Appropriate"


I was reading the thoughts of Barb Chen and I could not help but believe the next big snow job is on the way.

Clearly the education experts are the ones that know more than the general public and they will guide us forward to educational Nirvana or Valhalla. Right just like Alan Greenspan guided us to financial stability.

So in Seattle I listened to all the talk of data driven decision making as the Admin often carefully ignored all data while making decisions. Now it appears the next fogging of decision making will take place with developmentally appropriate reasoning (or lack thereof).

Developmentally appropriate is somehow going to be tied to some inate genetic timing rather than actually trying to preparation for material at a particular time based on previous learning.

If a fifth grade Everyday Math teacher says that Division is inappropriate for fifth graders she is parially correct. It is inappropriate for the vast majority of EDM fifth graders because they have not been provided and appropriate background.

Most fifth grade students in an internationally competitive curriculum like Singapore Math will find division developmentally apropriate because they have been developing mathematically.

I am including Barb's thoughts below because they certainly got me thinking.
Here are a couple of comments from my email response to the survey:

"1) See the National Mathematics Advisory Panel's report Foundations for Success, page xx, item 15. "Teachers and developers of instructional materials sometimes assume that students need to be a certain age to learn certain mathematical ideas. However, a major research finding is that what is developmentally appropriate is largely contingent on prior opportunities to learn.
Claims based on theories that children of particular ages cannot learn certain content because they are "too young," "not in the appropriate state," or "not ready" have consistently been shown to be wrong. (Barb's emphasis) Nor are claims justified that children cannot learn particular ideas because their brains are insufficiently developed, even if they possess the prerequisite knowledge for learning the ideas."I think that since the NMAP report is a meta-analysis of 16,000 studies which were vetted for scientific rigor, this pretty much says that real science does not back the theory of developmental appropriateness at all. I know this term is bandied about daily by our teachers. It is the buzzword du jour. But so was whole language, and we owe it to the kids to stick to the real scientific evidence, and not the currently popular theories about "how children learn".

2) On a practical level, "developmental appropriateness" often functions as an excuse not to teach concepts to kids who ARE capable of learning them.
A 5th grade teacher at Sacy was quoted by a parent as saying (when the parent demanded standard long division) "5th graders aren't capable of understanding division." (Barb's thought: You do not expect an infant to do pole vault, or high hurdles.)

It drives me nuts that this theory puts teachers into a mentality of "kids aren't capable". The bar just keeps getting lower and lower and I think this is a big part of the reason. If you look at the discrepancy between our curriculum and Singapore's, it suggests that Singapore's children develop faster than ours."I don't know about the rest of you folks, but I am pretty sick and tired of hearing "developmentally appropriate" cited in every other sentence when I talk with teachers, principals, and administrators. From what I've seen, I would guess that 99% of the ed community buys into it.


Anonymous said...

Yes, developmentally appropriate has turned into the new mantra. So now our test/curriculum/education experts have studied psychology, a subject they know plenty about from using constructivism in the classroom. Their wacked out list of what works is endless. The salesman will speak whatever you want to hear, but there's no guarantee you'll ever get what you paid for. "Where there's a hope there's green." Take a cue from Huey Long who said his best friends were worse than his worst enemies. Bergeson's nose has grown so long, she can't hold a mirror to her face.

MathChique said...

This isn't a new mantra. The term "developmentally appropriate" has been around at least for as long as I've been teaching (16 years) and I suspect it's at least as old as Dr. Spock.
The concept is however, as absurd as you suggest.
Then, looking at the idea from another perspective, one fifth grade student is different from another. As an example, some babies can walk at 8 months old, and others not until 15 months old. So what is the developmentally appropriate age to start walking?

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more - what I was thinking about was that this is an old idea, but it keeps recurring in different contexts. So in the argument reformers use to defend EDM's use of non-traditional algorithms, they say 'developmentally appropriate' or students need to be 'more mature' before they can learn long division. I've heard Warfield (UW) use this line of argument more recently. But I believe it is more of a greek philosophical rant borrowed from Plato, than something that can be substantiated with fact. It doesn't fly in the face of logic, especially what we know now about children.

Anonymous said...

Algorithms are tools. If the tool doesn't work as with an algorithm like partial quotients, than people get discouraged and they discard it whether it gets replaced with a new algorithm or not.

The reformers see algorithms differently - that as a child grows developmentally they replace old tools with new ones and learning numeracy is perceived as a gradual progression that plateaus, much like reading. Each child achieves to their own potential is classical Greek philosophy.

There is a substantial body of cognitive research that does not support this point of view. So how did this particular group of developmental psychologists arrive at their ideas? They read Plato.

dan dempsey said...

I like what the Mathchique had to say. Consider that Nobel Physics Laureate Richard P. Feynman did not talk until age 3, so should we have offered him an alternative program because of his delayed development?

Thank God RPF was born in 1918 and UW ed department did not get a hold of him.

Anonymous said...

Did you read the comment on Harium's blog that replaced developmentally appropriate with learning styles. Definitely fits the reformer profile for a UW math didactic guru.

A ridiculous interpretation and precisely what scared Howard Gardner away from Seattle's school politics. He saw the sins his supporters were planning and left completely embittered. If SPS is the spoil reformer's Garden of Eden, then Bergerson is its God.