A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Bar none, this bar is high

This seems interesting:
The math tests students take under the No Child Left Behind law are harder than the reading exams, a study finds.

States design tests for their students in both subjects in grades three through eight and once in high school.

By 2014, all students are supposed to reach the proficiency mark on those tests, which generally means they are working at their grade level.

What kids have to show they can do to be labeled proficient in math is typically harder in most states than what they have to do to in reading, according to a study released Thursday by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a Washington-based education think tank.

The findings come a little more than a week after the federal government reported students have been making much more progress in math than in reading in recent years.

Michael Petrilli, the think tank's vice president for policy, said it makes sense that students' math skills are improving if there are high expectations of them in that subject.

"If the bar is higher, you've got to work a lot harder," he said.

So what makes a test harder? Is it harder because there is less knowledge and understanding? If you live in a school district like mine, you've seen the powers-that-be go through math programs the way Britney goes through rehab.

Personally, I think what makes reading the hardest for many of my students starts with a basic lack of vocabulary, and let's not even talk about how many kids claim that they "just can't spell" to the point that words are unrecognizable. The I watch my honors students pull out calculators to figure out multiples of five, and I despair all over again.

Let's face it, when you have to THINK about simple multiplication facts when you're seventeen, I imagine math tests WOULD seem pretty darn difficult.



At 10/5/07, 5:24 AM, Blogger Shan said...

I agree with you that many schools rush through math. I may write 25/50 on a paper and a kid will ask me what percentage that is. That scares me. I am not sure what the solution is unless the nation revamps its entire math education program...and I am sure many people woul looooove that.

At 10/5/07, 3:21 PM, Blogger graycie said...

I'm not sure you can say that a math test at any given grade level is harder or easier than a reading test. It seems to me that it's comparing apples and oranges.

At 10/5/07, 5:30 PM, Blogger MsWhite said...

I'm not a fan of the "drill and kill" method of teaching, but I do have to wonder why we've abandoned tried and true methods like memorizing multiplication tables.

As for comparing the two tests, I agree that it's not valid. I would also offer that there are far more children who have significant reading disabilities that impact their performance on these tests than there are children with mathematics deficits. Raising the bar is one thing; beating them over the head with it is something else entirely.

At 10/5/07, 7:36 PM, Blogger Mrs. Ewing said...

Unless memorization of multiplication tables are part of what's included on the state testing, we can say good-bye to the kids of yesteryear who knew the multiplication facts "backwards and forwards". It's hard for teachers to sacrifice precious class time to teach something that's not going to be on the state test - even when it's a desperately needed skill. I teach 5th grade and can barely cover the state assessed objectives, let alone try to ensure that the kids who don't know their basic math facts somehow get those too. This year's class: the kids who don't know them vastly outnumber the ones who do. But......I'll guess I'll try to do it again this year, too. lol

At 10/5/07, 8:43 PM, Blogger Rita said...

My district supplements Chicago Math with having the kids memorize their tables. My daughter had a hard time doing it because of her ld (we're talking a couple of years of drill), but she did it. Our district generally stacks up pretty well in the state assessment in Math. Less well in Comm Arts (sigh). But now that the GLE's are the CLE's, and the MAP is now the EOC at the high school level, that will solve all our problems, right? How much are they paying those people at DESE anyway?

At 10/7/07, 3:25 PM, Blogger QuakerDave said...

Could we agree to start with banning calculators, at least up through geometry?

I'm not a math guy - that's why I married a CPA, amongst other reasons - but if you take that thing away from most kids, you seem to have aputated a limb.

At 10/8/07, 9:34 PM, Blogger Mister Teacher said...

The problem is that every test (at least here in Dallas) IS a reading test. . .it's just that some of them have a math bent, science bent, etc. They're not true tests of math and science ability as much as they are reading and comprehension ability.
At least in 3rd grade, we can read the math questions to them, if they ask for assistance...

At 10/12/07, 8:13 AM, Blogger rebecca said...

Apples and oranges. I think the real basis of this is that the miniscule improvement on reading tests since NCLB came into play was a teensy bit higher than the negligible improvement on the math tests, and the desperate desire to claim that NCLB has been useful is causing folks to clutch at straws.
I may sound a little cross here, I realize.


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