Monday, December 31, 2012

Favorite Comments of '12: Anonymous and Deirdre Mundy

On When the school yard enters the classroom

Anonymous said...

From an articletoday on Schoolbook, (an education news website from WYNC)about a program where high school students read aloud to each other:

"“People in high ability groups carry this inflated sense of smartness,” she explained. But when the high achievers have to help those students who aren’t as comfortable in school, she said, they often realize those students have other strengths. “That usually outshines what people who are bookish bring to the table. The playing field is totally evened.”
It's all about evening the playing field.

Deirdre Mundysaid...
In fifth grade they had the high ability students read aloud to the kids at the bottom of the class and then 'team up' to take tests and write papers on Dear Mr. Henshaw.

As a 10 year old I learned that:
1. Some kids are too dumb to get Beverly Cleary, even when read allowed.
2. You can't let those kids jeopardize your chance for an 'A'
3. Therefore it's better to do all the work yourself and put their name on it too so that you can survive the project.
4. The teacher really, really liked working on her nails. Which she got to do ALOT, since this 'project' allowed her to dissolve reading groups and basically act as a babysitter.

Luckily, for Math the same teacher was willing to leave me in the corner with an Apple IIe... I got really good at Oregon Trail.

Johnny needs to get to leave and go to the library for Math and work at his own rate. 'Group work' helps no one.

Favorite Comments of '12: AmyP, cranberry, Leigh Lieberman, and Anonymous

On Why Johnny can’t do math

AmyP said...

If the kid is going to be used as a math tutor, he deserves a prorated salary (which should offset the cost of getting his math elsewhere).

Also--kids tend to hate know-it-all smart kids, and being a quasi-teacher will make it very difficult for this child to be treated as a peer by his classmates. What a social death warrant this plan is! Do these people know nothing about tween social dynamicsAnonymous said...
This is my kid. I have asked for years for some research data that this kind of group activity promotes social skills development and the school has never provided it. I eventually did the lit search myself and found out that there really isn't any, although there is some anecdotal information about these kinds of small group activities without teacher supervision promotes bullying. When you try to talk about it with school administration what you get back is a combination of ethereal edutheory, wishful thinking and happy talk.

cranberry said...
Amy P, I don't think the principal really believes what he/she states. It's just the politically acceptable line. "Yes, your kid is smart, but working with others will develop his social skills. Working in groups with others teaches valuable communication skills and social understanding."

Blech. What it really teaches?

1) The teachers don't care. They might care, but they don't act on it, which in a child's honest estimation is the same thing.

2) The teachers set you up for social bullying, then walk away.

3) Any complaint will label you a "whiner" in the teacher's eyes, and a "tattletale" in the other group members' eyes. I suppose that's "social skills," but cynicism and a distrust of others and the entire system is too high a price to pay, IMHO.

My eldest child had to deal with groups which spent much of the class period debating whether they should put their names on the top of the paper. In middle school.

One of my kids has a wonderful time in group discussion of math. It's called Math Club, or Math Team. His advanced math class also had a wonderful time making up challenging problems for each other. Here's the rub: the ability range and range of interest in math were much narrower than permitted in a heterogeneous, mainstreamed, classroom.
Leigh Lieberman said...
When it became clear that the school was more interested in using my mathematically hot kids to compensate for the lack of mathematically qualified elementary school teachers and/or ability grouped classes, I settled for
“How much work could it possibly be for the school to just let him sit in the back of the room and do a certain number of pages every day?”
AmyP said...
There's a fantastic place available to learn social skills. It's called a "social skills class."

One of the many ironies of Johnny's situation is that his math teacher probably isn't qualified to lead a social skills group.

Anonymous said...

The vogue of constructivist math and group work has made it much worse than it used to be for smart kids under the desk squadron - memorization regime of old. And it was bad enough then. The gap between the kids who (against all odds) actually learn math and the rest of them is greater, and the opportunities for bullying and ridicule are enhanced by having the bullies lead the class. It's enough to make one wistful for the dunce cap.

Favorite Comments of '12: Auntie Ann

On Math problems of the week: 4th grade Investigations vs. Singapore Math

Auntie Ann said...

I just looked through the "Math Journals" for EM's 5th grade curriculum. I looked for fraction addition and subtraction problems which required finding a common denominator. I found only 65 of them in the entire year's worth of journal. And 5th is supposed to be the year that really nails down fractions.

There were places where students had to find the common denominator for two fractions, but nothing else. There were places where diagrams spelled out exactly what the kids were supposed to do, so all they had to do was count squares. There were places where kids were told to use a calculator to add fractions, and even a page where kids were supposed to use a slide rule to add fractions.

But for problems requiring multi-step fraction add/sub (ie. find the common denominator, change each fraction into one with that denominator, do the addition, then reduce the fraction to its simplest proper form): just 65 of them.

In addition nearly all of them were very simple, with denominators like: 2 & 4, 4 & 8, 3 & 6, etc. Absolutely none had a denominator larger than 10.


I assigned our 10-year-old boy a page of 40 to do yesterday, and moved on to do both multiplication and division today. He got the idea of a reciprocal quickly, and loved the idea that dividing one-half, was the same as multiplying by 2. I don't believe EM ever deals with the concept of a reciprocal, thinking it's too hard for the poor wee little things to understand.

Unfortunately, he's stuck in 5th grade EM next year with no chance to do anything else, except at home after school.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Favorite Comments of '12: Mnemosyne's Notebook

On The guide on the side: obsessed with assessment

Mnemosyne's Notebook said...

What would the teachers do with those predictions? Place bets with the High School Assessment/Gaming Commission?

"I'll bet $300 that Tommy earns no better than a C in Algebra II when he takes it 3 years from now."

Or over/under bets, "Billy will either drop out due to boredom or get an A in pre-calculus."

We could pay middle school teachers less and have the better ones supplement their incomes this way, though we'd need to come up with a system to prevent collusion with the high school teachers.

Favorite Comments of '12: Barry Garelick, TerriW, C T, and Anonymous

On Dazzled by "giftedness" Or desparate for learning?
Barry Garelick said...
Absolutely agree. From Protecting Students from Learning:

"Critics of the traditional model of education–particularly math–argue that traditional methods worked only for the gifted kids (for whom it is assumed they will learn what they need to know no matter how it is taught). And the corollary to such thinking is that students not gifted are not good enough for the traditional method. The move to homogenize skill levels in the classrooms has been entrenched now for several decades. It has come to the point now that students who have been forced through circumstances into non-honors tracks, and judged to not be able to handle the “traditional mode” of education are thus “protected” from it. And in being protected from learning they are therefore not presented with the choice to work hard—and many happily comply in a system that caters to it.

"Students who have been put on the protection-from-learning track fulfill the low expectations that have been conferred upon them. The education establishment’s view of this situation is a shrug, and—despite their justifications for the inquiry-based and student-centered approach that brings out all children’s’ “innate” knowledge of math—respond with “Maybe your child just isn’t good in math”. The admonition carries to subjects beyond math and is extended to “Maybe your child isn’t college material.” And while it is true that a “college for all” goal is unrealistic, the view that so many students somehow are lacking in cognitive ability raises serious questions. Simply put, you no longer have to be a minority to be told you may not have cognitive ability.

"There is now an in-bred resistance against ability grouping using explicit instruction. That such approaches may result in higher achievement, with more students qualifying for gifted and honors programs, is something that the education establishment has come to deny by default. What they have chosen instead is an inherent and insidious tracking system that leaves many students behind. They have eliminated the achievement gap by eliminating achievement."
TerriW said...
I'm reminded of the derisive jokes you used to hear when the Hooked On Phonics infomercials used to run 10-20 years ago, that they were for "pushy" parents trying to force giftedness on their kids, letting them get a leg up on their peers before they were taught it in school.

Now I realize that it was increasingly no longer being taught that way in school and it was filling a legitimate hole in the market.
C T said...
My mother, who had been an elementary school teacher, taught us all how to read at home using phonics before we could be confused by the schools' problematic methods. Thirty years ago, as a result of my being a good reader in first grade, they sent me to the second grade classroom for the reading part of the day. They also put me in the gifted pull-out program, where I remember doing projects (erosion study, making my own filmstrip by drawing pictures on a filmstrip with colored pencils, etc.) but not more challenging academics.
I read a lot on gifted education now to make sure that I'm addressing my children's varied needs, and looking back I don't think I was actually "gifted". I was certainly no creative genius. Rather, I was a bright child who'd been educated well and early, which gave me a leg up over others throughout my whole school career. My mother focused far more on finding appropriately-challenging, seriously academic environments for us children than on getting us into GATE programs; I think she perceived such programs as time wasters. (Besides, she had my IQ test results and knew I likely wasn't a genius. I found them in her dresser drawer in high school and wasn't surprised to see that MENSA wouldn't be recruiting me anytime soon.)
Given the bell-curve nature of IQ scores, there must be a large population of kids out there like those in my family--bright and in need of challenging educations to meet their potential, but not the creative geniuses that GATE pull-outs nominally cater to. What are good parents supposed to do? How do we get something beyond "proficiency-level" academics for advanced students without a gifted label?
My personal solution is to teach my children academics at home in the morning and send them to school for projects, PE, and friend-time in the afternoon, but parents should not have to homeschool. Schools should meet the need for advanced academics when it arises instead of boring children and wasting their time.
Anonymous said...
Here in LA children can be tested by a school psychologist for entry into the gifted program as early as second grade. Really, any kid from a family with educated, English-speaking parents can pass this test, and these are generally the only parents who ask that their kids be tested, so the system works to segregate these kids from the rest of the school population, and these kids are often white and Asian.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Favorite Comments of '12: 1crosbycat, Paul Bruno, Rivka, Thalia and ChemProf Anonymous

On Modern bullies

1crosbycat said...
Really good post! I find it very ironic that so many teachers are getting higher degrees, then delegating their jobs to the group or to parents as in our whole languge guided reading program.

I think that one of the other reasons bullying is so widespread now is that adults condone it in some forms, even when they observe it. I am in the middle of an argument with a local school insider who thinks social exclusion is ok, just human nature, no big deal. My own kids have experienced times when a group of popular kids will pretend to be friendly and then deliberately exclude the nerds who want to join in their games (and the situation I am arguing over is with girls who exclude another girl at school and in Girl Scouts). If the adult in charge did something to interrupt the bullying and make life unpleasant for the instigators (sitting out, writing assignment, go inside, chores, stop game etc) to show this matters and is unacceptable (but please don't tell the bullies how effective their bullying is at huting other kids - i think it just encourages them to keep doing it).
Paul Bruno said...
You're spot-on about a lot of "anti-bullying" measures and group work. While they're not usually marketed as "anti-bullying" specifically, a lot of "student-centered", social-emotional curriculum intended to help students get along backfires in the same way. Two years ago my school tried to implement "restorative justice", which consisted in part of having a class once a week where everybody sat in a big circle, the teacher "facilitated", and the students took turns contributing to the conversation (or "passing" on the opportunity to do so).

In theory this was supposed to be a democratizing way to give everybody a voice. In practice, because the teacher was providing less structure, the already-existing social hierarchies and tensions were exacerbated. A few kids totally dominated (which some teachers managed to interpret as "meaningful dialogue"), but most kids declined to put themselves out there by participating.

The idea that you are likely to be able to solve social problems between students by giving student interactions less structure is...dubious.

Re: ASD, though, I'm more persuaded by the evidence for diagnostic substitution theories than assortive mating theories, e.g.:
Anonymous said...
I think that the deliberately heterogeneous, in both academic and social/emotional areas, classrooms and the forced groupwork within them have widened the opportunities for all kinds of undesirable behavior -from shunning to bullying. Forcing very different kids into close proximity and requiring constant interaction among them is a recipe for frustration, which can pop out in all kinds of negative behaviors, particularly in an environment that has been stressing self-esteem over self-control for decades.

The underlying idea is that "diversity" of all kinds is highly desirable, because it will be encountered in the later workplace. It may be, but such interactions are likely to be reflective of differing hierarchical status. The handicapped bagger at the supermarket does not interact, as an equal, with the checkout supervisor and the checkout supervisor does not interact, as an equal, with the store manager, even though they may all be close in age. Expecting them all to interact eagerly and effectively, as equals, despite obvious (but unacknowledged) differences, in ES and MS is asking an awful lot. The potential for problems is significant.
Anonymous said...
I should have added that the potential problems with the current model can exist even among kids of similar ability levels, but very different personalities. The very outgoing girl that will become a sales manager is very different from the quiet introvert who will run the IT department - and forcing them into constant interaction in MS (likely to be a social minefied, anyway) is likely to be unhappy all around. I'd like to go back to the days when schools/teachers left kids alone to do their own work and chose their own peer group, without all the social engineering.
Rivka said...
A friend of mine whose kids go to public school suggested that the apparent increase in bullying may be the result of definitional spread. At her kids' school, if two little boys get into a fight or a child who is angry at a friend yells some insults, those incidents are labeled "bullying." Factors that I think of as central to the concept, such as a power imbalance, repeated attacks, or attacks for sheer amusement, are no longer considered necessary for the label.

I definitely agree that children who are socially skilled and have good impulse control can goad less skilled, less controlled children into an attack. I see that as a sibling dynamic all the time. So much so that when my daughter wails that her little brother hit her, my automatic response is "and what were you doing to him?"
Thalia said...
I agree with 1crosbycat that some adults condone bullying, and therefore don't do enough to stop it.

During my last semester of college, an education major friend and I were discussing homeschooling, and she mentioned that she thought I would have been better off in public school as a child (I was homeschooled, then attended private school for high school) because I would have been bullied for my introversion and nerdiness, so I would have learned to have more "typical" interests for a teenager.(Apparently conlanging, mythology, and Steampunk aren't normal or appropriate interests for a college student.)

I don't remember what I said to her, but to this day I'm amazed not only that she thought bullying was okay but that she thought that part of her job as a teacher was to dictate the bounds of her students' interests and hobbies.
ChemProf said...
I think a lot of teachers see it as their job to at least influence students' social choices. I got along with my fourth grade teacher, but she felt strongly that I needed to run around and socialize during recess, not read my book. It got to the point that she was checking my hands and pockets when I left the classroom (but not the lining of my coat as I had a hole in one pocket...)

My local elementary school is very proud of their anti-bullying program, but it is very clearly just organized around protecting gay or possibly gay students (it was written by the LGBTQ parent organization for one thing). Introverts need not apply.

Favorite Comments of '12: C T, Anonymouses, Auntie Ann, and Barry Garelick

On All for the good of the children--and their brave new century

C T said...
Wouldn't it be great if Scott Adams (the Dilbert cartoonist) would start in on these brain-numbing "collaborative efforts" foisted so mercilessly on little children? His recent Teamwork Means You Can't Pick the Side that's Right was great.
Anonymous said...

The questions and what my responses would have been in kindergarten, or almost any grade after that:

How is it going? (shrug)

What are you doing right now? (shrug, thinking "please go away, please go away, go away, if I sit here quietly, will you go away?")

Why did you decide to build the ramp this way? (shrug)

What is working well about your ramp? (eyes down, ignoring teacher, hoping s/he goes away)

What would you change about your ramp? (eyes down, still ignoring teacher, thinking "why won't s/he leave me alone?")

Anonymous said...
This looks like it was written by the principal at my kids school. She also insists that "researchers" are trying to write a new SAT with these same types of assessments, thinking that this will better represent "21st Century skills" and better predict who will do well in college. They plan to include things like long essays with ambiguous prompts to see if kids can think on their feet and be creative. Teachers seem to want to take achievement out of testing entirely. Why not just IQ test 5 year olds and be done with all of it?
A major problem with these sorts of assessments is that they are entirely subjective and basically allow teachers to assign any grade they wish without justification. These grading systems dramatically advantage gregarious girls and disadvantage introspective kids and boys. They are also not used evenly. A child who struggles in math class may be given class time to work on basic skills, while a child who grasps concepts easily and needs less practice may be assigned "group work" to help other students or may be assigned a worthless "authentic" project to do. The latter's grade will depend largely on his willingness to work "collaboratively". Attitude rather than aptitude. High achieving kids feel cheated, with a disconnect between their work product and their grades.
Funny how these constructivist ideas are popular in private schools and public schools in affluent neighborhoods. They act as a great grade equalizer in schools where parents expect that all of their children are above average. It also allows teachers to fudge grades for the children of Trustees or major donors. Obviously this is a motivation and achievement killer for left-brain kids.
Anonymous said...
TEachers who actually like to teach will resist this system and/or flee from it.
Auntie Ann said...
Isn't an ability to collaborate pretty innate for most non-left-brained people? It seems like they are proposing spending a massive amount of time to teach a skill most people already know.

Then again, maybe that's the point. Beats actually having to come up with a give-and-take lecture.
Anonymous said...
Very true, Auntie Ann. And left-brained people will not learn these skills through a program like this one.
Barry Garelick said...
It truly amazes me to see how many teachers in middle schools arrange the desks in groups of 4 in their classrooms. Kids at that age are especially distractable, and there's a lot of "free riding" that goes on. Maybe it comes down from on high, like the principal's office, that teachers have to arrange desks like that.
Anonymous said...
The reason my 2e 8th grades son's english teacher gave for not recommending him for GT english in high school was that he could not produce for his group on time (no place for extended time for writing as part of a group, I guess). BTW my reaction to the teacher would have been the same as Anonymous Ugh and I hated group projects but as a working adult it seems totally different and ok I really would rather see content beefed up.

Auntie Ann said...
As a student, your grade depends...or should depend...on your work. I think a lot of students get irked when they are in group projects, because much of their grade is outside of their control, and that there is a great deal of time wasted in discussions instead of getting the task done and actually learning something.

As an adult, the goal isn't to learn something, to improve your skills, or to get a good grade; instead, the goal is getting the job done. It is easier as an adult to accept and seek out help, to work in a group, and to break up a large project among multiple people; because there really is a unified goal: creating a salable product from which everyone gets paid.

Group projects in school take what is ultimately an individual goal--each student needs to train their own brain--and pretends that it is a group goal.

Anonymous said...
From a career working as an engineer at a defense contractor, I can see how very important 21st century skills will be taught through this curriculum.

It's entirely subjective, and up to the teacher's discretion and imagination to give a mark. Therefore those students who suck up the most and talk the most will get the highest marks regardless of learning or skills.

Fast forward twenty years and they will be management in training on the fast track to being pointy-haired bosses. They will have mastered the important twenty-first skills of sucking up, kicking down, bullying, and out-shouting (aka "collaborative skills" as assessed by distracted superiors).

Elementary school is such an important place to develop the leadership the 21st century needs.

Favorite Comments of '12: Ed, Philip, ChemProf, and Anonymous

On How to disempower the best teachers and students

Ed said...
Teaching their peers? Are they nuts!
The bullying I received when my teacher tried that because they couldn't find things for me to do.

Plus kids "love" being taught by the geek in the room.
Philip said...
Well, our association is fighting for it right now, but then again we're fighting for a lot.

I will say the flip side of that coin you're tossing around is that "gifted/talented" often turns into "highly motivated/comes from a good family." I understand people getting upset about this type of segregation as well.
ChemProf said...
OK, Philip, but what's the solution to that type of segregation? My just-turned-three-year-old can do a lot of things that my mother's low SES kindergarteners are barely mastering at the end of the year. If there aren't G/T options, then she basically sits in the corner until the other kids catch up. If I needed the babysitting, I guess I could just plan on teaching her everything after school, but that doesn't fix your problem either.

I am actually very sympathetic to the argument that schools can't make that much of a difference given the challenges in many childrens' home lives. But at some point, they have to explain why they need lots of my tax money but they won't educate my kid beyond some minimum threshold (admittedly, I am in California, where there is no money for G/T but where my local elementary school has a very well-funded anti-bullying curriculum, so I may be extra cynical). Or they need to admit that their job is only to get kids to that minimum standard, and accept that a lot of parents will opt out.
Anonymous said...
It was a big mistake to call accelerated and/or enriched education "gifted and talented." That really rubs many people the wrong way. A better idea is to just group the kids by readiness level, informally, and temporarily.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Favorite Comments of '12: Rivka, AmyP, and Corin Goodwin

On Red herring du jour: defining giftedness

Rivka said...
I've seen people argue that giftedness is "really" a set of behavioral issues and emotional overexcitabilities, and that high achievement is beside the point. Some go so far as to count high achievement against a diagnosis of giftedness, because a truly gifted child is supposedly too offbeat to get good grades.

I have a friend whose daughter was denied math acceleration, despite maxing out all of her tests with little effort, because she seemed happy enough in a regular class. She didn't complain about boredom or fail to turn in homework or show the kind of irritated noncompliance the teacher thought indicated giftedness - she just worked diligently and accurately. Hence she didn't "need" to be advanced.
AmyP said...
"She didn't complain about boredom or fail to turn in homework or show the kind of irritated noncompliance the teacher thought indicated giftedness - she just worked diligently and accurately. Hence she didn't "need" to be advanced."

Isn't that the sort of standard that would unjustly penalize girls for working hard and trying to please teachers?
Rivka said...
Amy: yes, yes it would.

Don't even get me started on the assumption that high achieving girls are just compliant hard workers, while high achieving boys have natural talent. (Yes, I have heard that said to explain away girls' better math grades.)
Corin Goodwin said...
There are so many problems with your post I truly don't know where to begin. Even your last line - "And as for what to do with that information, the only thing relevant to K12 education is to make sure that everyone is appropriately challenged in all subjects." - completely circumvents the reality of social & emotional issues involved in giftedness.

It's interesting, there are many places where you start to make a great point and then sort of veer off and undermine it. I'd suggest a couple of things:
1. Broaden your horizons. Checking with your one psychologist friend doesn't begin to address the multiple viewpoints, nor does it necessarily take into account neurological factors, additional research, etc. It's just one person's opinion.
2. If you are following one list or group, try following several. Same reason as above.
3. Do your own homework. There's a tremendous amount of new research on giftedness, and none of it supports the Multiple Intelligences theory that you seem to be a proponent of. In point of fact, you are correct that most attempts to identify giftedness have limitations - but that is partly because many of those attempts (eg. WISC) were not intended to be such, and even more so because the tools are being improperly used and interpreted by the "experts" using them.
4. Stop thinking about giftedness as strictly education-related. it's not. My first book discussed that point and the one I'm working on now takes that even further. Learning is a global activity, not just something that happens in a classroom, and being gifted has a variety of aspects (and comorbidities, dual diagnoses, and overexcitabilities) that exist in all areas of a person's life. (Note I say "person's life" because giftedness doesn't end at 18 years old.)

I think you have begun a good discussion, but it's only that - a beginning - and there is far more information available than you have apparently come into contact with.

Thanks for considering...

Katharine Beals said...
"There are so many problems with your post I truly don't know where to begin."

You might begin by citing some peer-reviewed, empirically-based articles on giftedness in reputable cognitive science journals. (As opposed to secondary sources that may or may not cite reputable primary sources).

"Checking with your one psychologist friend doesn't begin to address the multiple viewpoints."

That's why (see above) I also did a Google scholar search (for peer-reviewed cog sci articles that operationalize giftedness.) If I missed something, I invite you to send a link to it.

"None of it supports the Multiple Intelligences theory that you seem to be a proponent of."

A careful reading of this blog will reveal extreme skepticism towards MI theory. It's important not to confuse MI theory with the empirical reality that different children have different academic strengths and weaknesses, seen in the extreme, for example, in children on the autistic spectrum.

"Stop thinking about giftedness as strictly education-related."

I'm not sure where you get the impression that I think giftedness is strictly education related. I do write that "the only thing relevant to K12 education is to make sure that everyone is appropriately challenged in all subjects." In other words, when it comes to things that are related to education, I view the relevant aspects of giftedness as those that are related to education. That's nearly a tautology, however. In particular, it does not rule out the existence of other aspects of giftedness, to the extent that giftedness can be operationalized at all.

I appreciate your thoughts, but you might make a stronger case if you read this post a bit more carefully and then cited some actual research that contradicts what I've written here.

Favorite Comments of '12: Barry Garelick, Deirdre Mundy, SteveH and LynnG

On Speaking of data

Barry Garelick said...

I posted about this before, but it seems appropriate to do so again in light of what you've written above. When the National Math Advisory Panel was meeting, Sherry Fraser, one of the bigwigs of the Interactive Math Program (IMP) (which received a grant from NSF to develop it) gave testimony, part of which follows:

"How many of you remember your high school algebra? Close your eyes and imagine your algebra class. Do you see students sitting in rows, listening to a
teacher at the front of the room, writing on the chalkboard and demonstrating how to solve problems? Do you remember how boring and mindless it was? Research has shown this type of instruction to be largely ineffective. Too many mathematics classes have not prepared students to use mathematics, to be real problem-solvers, both in the math classroom and beyond as critical analyzers of their world."

I wrote her an email and asked her for references to support her statements. Her reply:

"I'm a firm believer in people doing their own research. I'm sure you won't have any trouble finding a number of sources to confirm this. I certainly didn't."
Deirdre Mundy said...
Hmm. We were in Rows, but Mrs. Tannehaus used the overhead, not the board. And we solved problems during class too, to practice what she taught us.

And I recall it being fun. Well, some things (factoring) made us groan because they were hard, but we eventually got them, with practice and guidance.

It sounds like Fraser just didn't like math and is trying to punish the rest of us because of it!

SteveH said...
"side-by-side comparisons"

The studies that try to show improvement should provide side-by-side comparisons of before and after curricula. Our school improved using Everyday Math, but that was over MathLand, and the question is how much was the improvement, even if it was statistically significant? How good is slightly better than really bad?

In addition, the change corresponded with a new superintendent who set higher expectations of teaching because of NCLB. I think the improvement had more to do with the fact that NCLB forced the school to pay a little more attention to basic skills. The improvement probably would have happened even if they kept MathLand. In any case, most reform supporters select their curriculum and then look any few percentage points of relative improvement. They don't seem to understand that huge improvements are possible, especially with some kids, and especially if you separate the kids by willingness or ability. Why do high SES kids do so much better? Parents ensure that basic skills are mastered and many are separated and taught more at home. Instead of looking for a few relative percentage points, why not pick out some basic skills (which nobody would disagree with) and test mastery of those? As I always say, what understanding and problem solving skills make it OK to do poorly on the simple NAEP test?

In fifth grade, while my son was at a private school that used Everyday Math, they were considering moving to a new math curricula. I had discussion with a (very nice) head of curriculum and told her about Singapore Math. She had never heard of it, so I loaned her my books. In the end, she said that they were good, but "not right for our mix of kids". It was then that I realized that she thought the curriculum was too difficult. Reform math supporters are desperately trying to claim the high ground of problem solving and understanding, but at best, they are only achieving them through lower expectations, and there is no proof that it works. So much for the glories and benefits of EM. You can see these differences in a side-by-side analysis. In our public school's case, EM is all about supporting our full-inclusion model. EM supposedly works by definition because teachers are told to "trust the spiral".

In theory, you can always trade content and speed for better understanding or something. This might improve test scores at the lower end. The funny thing is that the numbers they use to look for improvement (like state tests) are more likely based on a better mastery of basic skills. Does anyone ever look at where improvement happens in these comparisons?

The big lie is that reform math is supposed to be better even for the most capable students. They never talk about how they are really lowering expectations, but covering it up with fancy talk of understanding and problem solving.

Religion might use data as "proof", but that doesn't mean that they are open to data that proves the religion false.
LynnG said...
We sat in rows. The teacher lectured. It was my favorite class. Please tell me this doesn't count as research.

FWIW, I am not a math brained person. . .I like math, and I can do math, but I am not particularly gifted at it. It's always been hard work for me, but hard work can be enjoyable. Must be that midwestern upbringing I had.

As for Fraser -- in her own way, she is also right. There have always been lousy teachers - math and otherwise -- where you could find bored students sitting in rows hating the class they were in. That is probably a function of the teacher's ability to teach and the preparation of the students before they find themselves in that room.
LynnG said...
Steve - "not right for our mix of kids" might also mean, not right for our mix of teachers, i.e., Singapore Math demands a fair competency from the teacher. For teachers with so-so math skills, a program like Everyday Math or Trail Blazers is far preferable. You don't need any mathematical knowledge to teach them. . . you just follow the script. If the kids get lost or confused and ask questions you can't answer, you can always "trust the spiral."

Barry Garelick said...
My point in posting the story about Fraser is that when asked to provide the research that she said "shows" what she claimed, she told me to look it up myself.

Lynne G is correct. Traditional math done poorly doesn't mean it can't be done properly and effectively.

Favorite Comments of '12: LynnG, gasstationwithoutpumps, ChemProf, and Barry Garelick

On Buzzwords for Jobs

LynnG said...

It's hard to generalize from anything going on at a place like Olin to what K-12 schools should be doing. I've been to Olin several times on college visits -- it is a fascinating and unique college and I don't doubt for a minute that they are getting spectacular results. . . but.

But Olin is highly, highly selective -- it admits less than 10% of all applicants. Students entering Olin are the absolute cream of the cream -- they are highly motivated and extremely bright. Their project-based learning works because of several things - highly motivated, very bright, extremely well-prepared students working in very small classes on state of the art equipment with a world-class faculty on problems that actually are "real world" not make-believe real world.

For example, one project that students worked on was designing a consumer grill cover that stayed cool during use. Many of the engineering projects created at Olin have been commercially successful.

What drives me crazy about people like Tony Wagner is his very selective use of facts to serve his own purpose. Olin wouldn't be able to do what it does if it took all comers regardless of their preparation or motivation.
I don't think that there is any question that the MIT Media Lab is highly innovative. But they start with a very select group (MIT students) and select even further for the most innovative. It isn't clear whether they *teach* how to be innovative, even if they succeed at *being* innovative.

ChemProf said...
Yeah, my college (Harvey Mudd) had clinic for engineering and a research requirement for science majors. They were great experiences, but we were really well prepared, highly qualified students who were juniors and seniors (so had already done two years of more typical classroom work). Trying to expand that to everyone without the classroom work isn't going to do it.
Domain knowledge plays a big role as the above comments point out. WHen domain knowledge is limited as is typical with novices, then the success of programs like these are apt to be in the imaginations of the people running them.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Favorite comments of '12: 1crosbycat, Deirdre Mundy, LEX, and Mrsh

On Miraculous recoveries from Asperger's Syndrome

1crosbycat said...
I think you are on to something - it is the new nature of schools that causes Asperger's to be a "disability" in the school setting, rather than an academic advantage (for at least some of these kids). The group work/ class participation aspects are bad enough, but one trend that really bothers me it that schools deliberately mix up the kids classes from year to year to discourage close friendships in favor of many acquaintances. My kids never got inot classes with their friends from one year to the next. But every year the form for parent input for next year class placement says that friend requests will not be honored (so why have the form?), but I didn't really think about it until reading an article (maybe from this blog?). Just another way to disadvantage the socially awkward child. htp://

We took our kid out of public school in favor of a very small traditional school and a lot of his symptoms are fading (the worst ones like aggression and yelling - he is still buggy on his ever expanding obsessive interests). So is the "cure" for Asp. leaving public school? Could save the government a lot of money...

Deirdre Mundy said...
He's definitely onto something. I went to the U of C--the joke was that you could tell a U of C extrovert because he looked at the OTHER person's shoes when he talked.

I've often commented that about 75% of my college friends could probably get an 'autism spectrum' diagnosis if they tried. And many were socially awkward rejects in High School and had fulfilling social lives in college because they could find friends with similar interests and similar levels of social skills.

Is something really a disability when the answer is "go to a top tier school and find friends in your major??"

LEX said...
Schools pathologizing a point on the human bell curve? Certainly not! Schools contributing to a perceived problem until it becomes diagnosable? It can't be! Seriously, this same tale could be told about dyslexia or ADHD just as readily. One repercussion of insisting that all children become readers and writers at the age of 5 or 6 is that some of them will come up short. Couple this with classrooms where teachers know lots about children's literature but little to nothing about the writing system, and a whole lot of kids get left in the dust. Hmm. There simply *must* be something wrong with them.

Mrsh said...
Being very smart in today's schools IS not if far more important to be popular and lose your REAL identity by "melting in" with other people your age. Individuality is dead...I shudder to think that the great scientists, composers, artists, inventors,mathematicians, of yesterday would have FAILED in today's school systems!

We home school our quirky left-brained 5 year old, who reads and comprehends at 6th grade level, does math equations (gasp he CARRIES and BORROWS, I can't even understand the new way they do math today lol) He is fascinated by tape measures...he is loving, kind, and HAPPY, even though he doesn't express himself in touchy-feely prose.

I wished we lived in a time when individuality were valued again...being an individual does NOT mean you are anti social, just that your individuality is respected, rather than being part of the herd.

By today's standards, both my husband and I would have been labeled Aspergers...just because we are researchers, inventors and COLLABORATE with others well.