Friday, July 17, 2009

Accumulated Damage :
Out of sight and Out of mind

Words from Dave Orbits:

“Is it reasonable to expect that kids who have never met a math benchmark in grades 1-8 will miraculously pass the WASL or any other type of high standards exam?”

These delusions are simply astonishing. Our education system is not doing the kid any favors when he/she is promoted without any intervention. Not until years later will the kids realize they were really cheated (along with society at large). This is shameful on the part of the adults. We need to have students achieve minimum required subject goals every year or either hold them back or require summer remediation to get them to minimum grade level. Doing this at an early age would do really good things for the kid who needs that extra help. Additionally it would help give him/her some motivational kick and let the parents know the kid is having some problems with the subject(s) …

The negative effects of sweeping low achievement under the rug are just so profound for both the student’s future success in school and career options that it makes you wonder how the educrats, the “experts” in educating the child, the stewards of our public education system, could ever allow this to occur? Perhaps it is a natural human tendency to not want to inflict or experience pain that makes us err on the side of wishful thinking hoping for a magic pill to make everything better. Meanwhile social promotion just kicks the kid down the road while the damage accumulates where it’s out of sight, out of mind.


Anonymous said...

This is sort of off-topic, but I read massively and I see so many parallels between education and the economy and what could be generally called massive consumer fraud that some countries would declare these 'laxatives of truth' treasonable.

This piece of news has crossed my table several times in the last two days. So I believe I have loated the source.

"In its current issue, HSL reports rumors that "Some U.S. embassies worldwide are being advised to purchase massive amounts of local currencies; enough to last them a year. Some embassies are being sent enormous amounts of U.S. cash to purchase currencies from those governments, quietly. But not pound sterling. Inside the State Dept., there is a sense of sadness and foreboding that 'something' is about to happen ... within 180 days, but could be 120-150 days."

Yes, yes, it's paranoid. But paranoids have enemies -- and the Crash of 2008 really did happen.

HSL's suspicion: "Another FDR-style 'bank holiday' of indefinite length, perhaps soon, to let the insiders sort out the bank mess, which (despite their rosy propaganda campaign) is getting more out of their control every day. Insiders want to impose new bank rules. Widespread nationalization could result, already underway. It could also lead to a formal U.S. dollar devaluation, as FDR did by revaluing gold (and then confiscating it)."

In education-ease, I would translate the last sentence to read:

""Another Bush-style 'No Child Left Behind' deferment of indefinite length, perhaps soon, to let the insiders sort out the education mess, which (despite their rosy propaganda campaign) is getting more out of their control every day.

Insiders want to impose new school rules. Widespread nationalization could result, already underway (national standards).

It could also lead to a formal raising the level of achievement, as governors did by lowering the standardized test score threshold (and 'winging' it)."

Anonymous said...

People do not need authoritarian rulers to govern; only a government of laws.

dan dempsey said...

Very perceptive.

I have seen the enemy and it is us.

Sudhakar Kudva said...

A massive devaluation of the dollar, followed by hyperinflation is one of the scenarios predicted by many economists as a logical progression of the current economic condition.

Consider these facts:

1. Our total debt - Government, Business, and Individual - is over 50 Trillion dollars, more than 3 times our GDP. I am guessing US treasury will very much like to just print money to pay off the debt, because we do not make many things that people want to buy any more. This supports the case for more money chasing fewer goods and services, leading to .... inflation. China, one of the biggest creditors to the US treasury, has already asked for a substitute for the dollar as an international standard. That should tell us that something.

2. Our unfunded obligations to Social Security, Medicare and projected growth in future federal debt is expected to grow to over 50 trillion in less than 10 years. Again, I am guessing the treasury would very much like to just print money to pay off the obligations. If I am receiving social security, for example, I would still get my $750 a month, but a loaf of bread will cost, say, $50 by that time. That will make the current recession seem like a picnic in the park.

Our leaders have made a career out of feeding platitudes to the public, while catering to special interests, be they big business lobbies, or union lobbies. When the ship is sinking, the rats jump ship first. I think that has been happening for the last few years, and will continue to happen before the majority will realize that they have been had.

Anonymous said...

"If governments would permit private individuals or banks to mint gold coins and to issue gold certificates, a dual currency system could come into existence that could eventually permit a smooth transition back to a sound gold currency." - Henry Hazlitt

The parallel in education are charter schools. But you can see there are some inherent weaknesses. Charter schools are gambles and they should not be trying to reproduce structurally what public schools have done poorly already.

Their charter is finite - a public school continues with or without successes. It is a bureacratic jumble of social complexity.

I don't understand school official's reluctance toward adopting Singapore Math. It makes the most sense.

Anonymous said...

Insiders know fully well what they are doing to public education - they've made it profitable for themselves. Reform is not a mistake.

Gigi said...

It used to be that textbooks had unit tests, chapter tests, mid-book tests and final tests. With review questions for each chapter and unit. If students couldn't pass the tests, they did not move on. Now, as a student teacher, I see that students are not tested at all. There are not chapter, unit, mid-year or end of year tests in grade school at all. NONE. And very little work is graded on a percentage of correct answers.

Anonymous said...

The content in math instruction has dramatically changed and so have the students, but not the classroom nor the institutions that support it. Its better to put human faces on the teachers and students because they are being scapegoated for a crisis they did not create.

Anonymous said...

Grading students by percentages is impractical and probably leads to two standards anyway. Truthfully, we would have far more failures in school, if all teachers actually graded students on percentages of correct answers given. Only 60% of the students currently graduate on time.

In my case, my classrooms are already filled with students retaking a two-year extended algebra class - some for the third time.

Yes, I will never run out of students to teach, but is it really necessary or wise or just to set a bar where the majority of students will never hurdle - especially given the dismal standards of math reform.

What have students learned? That public education didn't work for them? It is not likely those young adults will go somewhere else - they will stay in your community and someone will have to care and provide for them.

The problem with delinquentism in Washington State has been exceptionally bad. One problem is your state lacks good alternative programs. It also means your communities and teachers lack a certain cultural sensitivity that is needed to address the problem in a larger context.

Gigi said...

Students used to have to meet these hurdles every year - so that by the time they got to your Algebra class, the majority were ready to meet your class' hurdles. What I am talking about is what is happening during the younger years.

This new-new math that the schools I have been in are using - like Investigations - have lessons where the teacher has the students discover algorhithms on their own - rather than ever teach them one. If students don't get it this year, then hopefully they might get it next year. But they are never graded on what they know - just on how hard they work on trying to know. Great - so by the time they get to your Algebra class, you have students who can't multiply and who don't get how to subtract large numbers. And you wonder why they fail your class? Of course they have no hope of figuring it all out in Algebra if they were never required to learn the basics before.

People used to have to pass tests in order to pass a grade. We have NO tests other than state tests every few years now - that is dumb. The only test I have seen given in the third grade is a spelling test on words that should have been covered in the second grade. And it doesn't matter whether the children pass or fail this test - they move on to the next set of words together. Dumb. No mastery is ever expected.

There are no math standards, no grammar standards, no writing standards in the coursework - it is all student discovery. That is fine for G&T kids - but what about kids who aren't little Pythagoruses or Einsteins? We never teach them the basics. And then we wonder why they go on to fail algebra multiple times. This is not how it used to be. You must be too young to remember.

Try to find an older person who can't subtract or multiply without a calculator who isn't mentally handicapped in some way. Good luck finding them. There is a reason for this. There used to be expectations of mastery and basic skills used to be taught.

Anonymous said...

'People used to have to pass tests to pass a grade."

I have to disagree. There was far more social promotion than there were standards a few decades ago. There was a different emphasis in teaching - I would differentiate between a 'communal' sense versus the more current academic sense.

Only a few decades ago, communities were far more isolated than they are today and I would say there is currently a greater disparity of income. There are far more working class poor who are not making it by any measure. It is far easier to feel alienated and isolate oneself, than a few decades ago.

Schools had vocational tracks - that is not the same as an academic track. Many of us parents remember study halls, business typing, ag and auto shop.

We have 'less' social promotion' than years ago because of academic standards. Fewer students are graduating from high school, not more. Moreover, fewer hs graduates are prepared for college or work. That is the result of poor textbooks, not poor teachers.

Teachers tend to be more qualified than they were years ago - some are perhaps 'over-qualified' in the sense that they seem out of touch with students and their parents.

Anonymous said...

When and if the US were ever forced to stop its inflationary policies (no more buyers for issued debt) then it would make sense to reinstate gold as a standard in order to devalue foreign-owned debt and stabilize prices. The best measure of inflation will be oil and metal prices going through the roof.

This would force Americans to save more and buy only US goods. Banks could then resume their business of lending money, so we could 'grow' the economy. Real estate is suffering from an acute case of illiquidity.

Walmart recently issued a bond denominated in Chinese Yuan. Obviously, this is an international economy and the US is out of step with everyone else. Either Americans take steps to be a part of the world or we will inflate ourselves with our currency right out of a democracy.

Education has a similiar problem. It is absurd and makes little sense to do evaluation and research on student achievement, when obviously there is none. Colleges and students cannot afford to take remedial math at a four year college. There will be huge cutbacks in teachers - fewer students will be enrolling in college. Lawless educators will have society paying for their mistakes for many years to come. A huge waste of time and money.

Gigi said...

There did not used to be more social promotion than now - after first grade, NO ONE is held back anymore. And to be held back in the first grade, today - you have to have failed big - for example, you would have to not know the sounds of the alphabet or be completely incapable of reading three letter words. After first grade, those students who could read three letter words but who certainly were not at benchmark when they are allowed to go on to 2nd grade - those students just fall behind more and more for the most part. And they never fail a grade no matter how little they know. This did not used to happen. Children did get held back. At least in the districts I went to as late as the 70s and 80s. This is no longer the case. Social promotion was unheard of prior to the 60s for the most part - which is when our education system started adopting New Math and Reform this and reform that....none of which has been shown to work. It is all constructivist crap. It has failed our students.

I do not deny that our system has left many more people struggling with less time to spend with their children or to care about education. But when our school system just passes all kids along and don't tell the parents that their children have learned nothing - what have we done for these kids? I know a boy who just received an "A" in pre-Calculus and took a test to place into pre-Calculus at the community college. He did not do well enough to take this class - yet he got an "A" in this class at the high school. He thought he was set to go. He was lied to. He obviously did not learn enough to get an "A" in pre-Calculus nor the "A" he got in Algebra II the year before. What favors did the school give him by having such low expectations for him? Now he is not prepared for college and needs remedial classes - a kid on the accelerated math track at his high school! My brother is a college professor of engineering and he sees this kind of stuff all of the time. He did not see anywhere near the ignorance levels ten years ago. He finds himself teaching basic algebra concepts to kids in his freshmen engineering classes. Something is going seriously wrong. And I say, it absolutely has to do with these new constructivist curriculums where we never expect kids to master anything. We never test them to see if they are learning anything. Maybe this isn't the case at your schools, but it is at those in my state.

As to the Algebra teacher who doesn't want to test kids on the content and then say that less than 60% is an F because too many kids would fail if he went on percentages - those kids have already failed - they do not know 60% of the material you taught. Whether you give them the F now or they need remedial classes at the community college - they failed because they didn't learn the material. You are lying to them and their parents by passing them.

Anonymous said...

Constructivism is not to blame for kids not learning, textbooks are the reason. If you disagree then you should explain what you mean by constructivism. Pedagogy is the excuse reformers make for their stupid textbooks.

There is more than one standard being used in school. The WASL is a 7th grade standards-based test, but passing the WASL does not mean students are prepared for college. The SAT remains the best method for predicting student success in college.

Students taught with reform "exemplary" textbooks are not prepared for science or college-level math classes. They will have to take remedial classes after high school.

In order to not have social promotion there would have to be one curriculum and promotion would be based on matriculation or passing an exit examination.

Most countries have students matriculate because it is a better use of resources. In the US, the track or school you attend is primarily based on family income, not ability.

We fail more students today, than years ago - schools don't publicize their failures. If a student doesn't finish out the school year, they don't count. Also, we have more alternative programs than years ago, but this has not been an improvement - it has created another level of failure that is not visible to most of the public.

Programs that drop the majority of their students should not be allowed to exist. A 5% graduation rate is not making a positive contribution to society.

Anonymous said...

Currently, a US child has a greater chance of finishing school with less education than their parents. And the older a child immigrates to the US, the greater their chance of going to college. You cannot argue for better pedagogy, until schools have adopted curriculum of the same caliber used as Singapore textbooks.

Gigi said...

The textbooks are so poor because they follow the pedagogy recommended in constructivist thinking.

I find it hard to believe that you are disagreeing with me, since I agree with you. Textbooks are a large part of the curriculum used. I have been saying that the curriculum choices are poor this whole time. But so is the attitude of many teachers who, at least at the elementary levels, largely support these textbooks with their reform, constructivist information (or lack thereof).

We have to fail more children today at the end of school because we have taught them so very little all along. That is what I have been saying in my posts. Of course we fail more children in high school because we never taught them enough in grade school to begin with. But we do not hold more children back in the early years when they need to be held back either. We pass them along until they fail high school ultimately. And that is the path most teachers in elementary school believe in - just pass them along rather than hurt anyone's self esteem. Such nonsense. Kids know very early on that there is no consequence for lack of effort - most third graders have already figured this out - they know they will not be held back or failed no matter how little they learn and really how little effort they put in. There is no consequence for not doing your homework or failing your spelling test. No consequence at all other than you might get a 2 or 3 rather than a 4 on your report card.

I agree that there are different kinds of tests and that the SAT is a far more important test than the WASL ever was. I am not talking about high stakes tests (though if we want a high stakes test in the younger years for accountability we should adopt a more national test like the Iowa Test of Basic Skills so we can at least measure our results against a larger pool of students to see where our kids really stand. This test is also far closer in format to the SAT anyway.

The tests I have been talking about are in class tests on material to make sure that kids have learned the information we are teaching. I am talking about quizzes and pop quizzes to make sure kids are doing their reading assignments. I am talking about grading homework and having that grade count. The best private schools typically have this level of rigor - and they have it for a reason - it has always worked to make sure kids are putting in the effort and learning the material they need to move on to the next grade and develop the study skills and habits required for college and success in life.

Of course we need to change curriculum first. But you have to get the teachers on board with this idea. The teachers I have met at the elementary levels love discovery math like TERC Investigations. They buy the idea that children must construct their own knowledge rather than the idea that the teacher must first teach concepts. Until teachers reject this nonsense, believe me, it will be hard to get this junk out of our schools. Textbooks and all.

Anonymous said...

"The teachers I have met at the elementary levels love discovery math like TERC Investigations."

I would have to disagree with you here. Either teachers 'love' TERC Investigations or they don't work. Elementary teachers are also curriculum experts in the sense of teaching reading and integrating disciplines with art and social studies. I've seen great things done to improve literacy, but they have less power over math and science curriculum. Secondary teachers have even less control.

I have a large group of high schoolers (both private and public) now who have never been successful in math and could hardly simplify a fraction. They were taught with traditional textbooks and not any better than students I had in Washington that were taught with Investigations. I do know that taking algebra for two years is not going to improve the math skills of these students.

I teach without worksheets or textbooks and my students seldom use pencils. We use Marcy Cook materials for the first semester students are with me. I have a very good success rate in terms of getting students prepared for passing the math CAHSEE. That doesn't mean they will finish with a hs diploma.

I was taught that the process of learning is 'constructivism'.

Math reform is a subset of constructivism, however, so are traditional approaches which parallel reading primers. Both approaches have pluses and minuses - but I consider both to be extreme examples of one type of pedagogy.

Most math reform pedagogy is the reverse of 'situated problem solving'. It is the curriculum writers' response to social research done by researchers, like Lave, done in 'natural' settings where learning does occur. One difficulty being that classrooms are artificial environments for children.

Instead, classrooms create social hierarchies that mimic work environments. One reform argument for promoting discovery, group learning is the creation of classroom environments for training 'future' managers. This is not addressing the needs of most 'working class' children, who need direct, explicit, constantly self-reinforcing instruction. The more they are encouraged to talk and think in constructive ways, the better they will master the curriculum.

Gigi said...

You complain that kids in your classes don't even know how to simplify fractions and yet you refuse to believe this might have to do with the FACT that curriculums such as TERC Investigations specifically DO NOT teach students how to do this???

Do you see your lack of logic here?

As to your contention that teachers had more say about literacy curriculum? Please. Most teachers balked at phonics instruction at first as they had been taught that whole language was the superior way to teach reading in teacher education programs. Much the same as they have been taught that discovery math is the only way for students to learn math and "internalize" it. This is slowly changing in education programs now. As a matter of fact, I don't know of any reputable teacher education program today that has held on to the idea that whole language is an effective way to teach reading. Thank heaven.

As phonics is proving to be superior for young students in learning reading - so will direct instruction prove to be superior for teaching math to students. Direct instruction works. Discovery learning is an important component - but not the central method of learning. Teaching is critical - teaching is NOT an integral part of constructivist math curriculum. Neither is extensive practice. You can't become proficient at math without extensive instruction and practice anymore than you can become proficient at playing piano without instruction and practice. Simple as that.

How we somehow moved away from this concept is beyond me. But we have - much to the detriment of our students.

You can choose to keep passing students who don't know enough material to seriously pass your class and thereby mislead them and their parents, and you can keep supporting discovery, constructivist math - but if you do, do not be surprised that your students haven't been taught how to simplify fractions - IT IS NOT TAUGHT in TERC Investigations.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you read everything that I wrote. Differentiating between Math instruction styles is closer to language instructional styles. I'm not complaining, but you cannot proceed to teach algebra with a classroom knowing that students don't understand fractions (Most teachers do.)

Anonymous said...

Constructivism has very little to do with whole language. Most teachers would have great difficulty describing either. While whole language might be a method used to teach reading, constructivism is used to describe any process that involves learning.

Math reformists label themselves as constructivists in order to gain more acceptance in the academic world. It is unlikely that any of them has ever bothered to study constructivism in very great detail (graduate level).

The best examples of self-guided curriculum would be Core Plus, Everyday, and IMP. Both claim to be constructivist, but that is very misleading. I wouldn't bother using fancy titles to disguise the truth - crap is crap.

Anonymous said...

Americans have a difficult time imagining other types of classrooms, other than what they teach in. Imagine what a room without calculators, textbooks, paper, pencils or worksheets. Yet these kids outperform their English-speaking peers in the same school. Eventually, these materials will be adopted in mainstream classrooms all over the US. One reason, children can correct their answers more quickly when they don't have to write answers on paper.

One reason Canada's and Finland's PISA results were up significantly, was because they changed their classrooms models for language acquisition and adopted models more aligned to Asian methods. These methods are superior to the US - starting with the textbooks. Asian school systems are far more sensitive to language issues in the classroom and tolerant than their English-speaking counterparts.

Anonymous said...

The textbook adoption process in the US is flawed. And most of the success in education is hype.

Where else, but in Washington would kids be asked $20,000 questions like - What's the difference between an oak tree and a dolphin?

Taxpayers (and their children) are paying for bunk and sock robbers, like Pearson, are getting filthy rich.