Monday, April 22, 2013

Math Teachers Strive to Core to At-Risk Students

Math Teachers Strive to Bring Core to At-Risk Students
Education Week Teacher
Published Online March 13, 2013

These math teachers are practicing the prevention of Learning Barrier #4 – Missing Foundational Knowledge or Too Steep a Gradient; and I applaud them!

The learning of any subject requires the correct sequence of the development of knowledge or skill.  Earlier pieces of information are necessary for the later understanding of the advanced steps.

These teachers are breaking down each concept into its basic, foundational pieces and introducing each piece to their students in a methodical, gradient fashion.  This allows the student to learn and digest each piece before the next level of knowledge is given.

Parents – these are all methods you can use to help your children with their homework.

The Common Core State Standards for mathematics are now being introduced in schools across the country.  While many accomplished math teachers are enthusiastic about the standards' emphasis on mathematical reasoning and strategic expertise over rote computation, some say the transition to the new framework poses daunting challenges for students who are already behind in math.

Some math educators are taking steps to refine their practices and adopt creative methods to help at-risk and struggling students make the shift to the new instructional paradigm.

One approach commonly cited by teachers is to maintain the common core’s emphasis on abstract reasoning and conceptual understanding while using word problems that require less advanced math skills.

Similarly, Todd Rackowitz "focuses on problems that don't involve complex computation at first."

"You have to help kids understand how to justify solutions through discussion, interaction, and close guidance.”  When his students are struggling with a problem or new concept, Arcos said he demonstrates how to work through similar problems and discusses his reasoning with them.

Justin Minkel said he also makes an effort to give his students problems that have "practical applicability" to the real world. He noted that he has had success in having his students use what they were learning in math in an economics unit that involved determining the costs of materials for a building project against a budget.  Such activities can help students "make sense of problems and begin thinking about the ways math relates to their own lives.”

I rescue failing students by remedying the Barriers to Learning



Sunday, April 14, 2013

It's Not the Test That Made Them Cheat

It's Not the Test That Made Them Cheat
Education Week    Published Online April 9, 2013
By Michael J. Feuer

News came down about the indictment of the former Atlanta schools chief Beverly Hall and 35 other current and former officials for their alleged roles in a massive cheating scandal that has rocked the city for the past three years.

There is nothing good to say about cheating on tests.  However, some of the reactions to the scandal have been surprising.  The most troubling response comes from people opposed to standardized testing generally and to current federal policy specifically.  They somewhat gleefully use this sorry episode as the ultimate smoking gun, the perfect we-told-you-so case that clinches their claims about the evils of testing, and the entire reform movement.

William Ayers, an education professor emeritus from the University of Illinois at Chicago, posted, “the Atlanta story proves that teaching toward a simple standardized measure and relentlessly applying state-administered tests to determine the outcome both incentivizes cheating and is a worthless proxy for learning.  The road to the massive cheating scandal in Atlanta runs right through the White House.”

Mr. Feuer has several problems with that logic.

First, shifting the blame for egregious mischief away from the perpetrators and onto the system strikes me as morally and politically bankrupt. Here’s an analogy to consider: Do we react to the worst instances of tax evasion by condemning the concept of taxation rather than by prosecuting the evaders? I assume that Mr. Ayers would not call for abolition of the graduated income tax as a way to finance public goods and redistribute wealth just because the system has its imperfections and because some people lie on their tax returns. Shall we excuse individual or group criminality because certain social institutions create pressures for greed and misconduct? Banking executives accused of fraud will be delighted.

Second, pinning the responsibility for the Atlanta disaster on the White House is an extravagant example of misdirected blame. Maybe current federal policies lead to unwanted outcomes, such as narrowing of the curriculum and teaching to the test, but that’s a far cry from the outright fraud of the sort listed in the Atlanta indictment.  In any case, there’s no evidence that federal policy causes cheating, or that “cheating is inevitable.”

Third, indicting testing, rather than cheating, undermines the possibility for reform in the design and uses of tests.

What’s often ignored in the popular frenzy against testing is that tests can help gauge individual learning, give teachers additional information about their students’ progress, provide objective indicators of student achievement, and expose inequalities in the allocation of educational resources.

Read all of Michael Feuer’s excellent article at

I rescue failing students by remedying the Barriers to Learning

Sunday, April 7, 2013

RI Students Gaining "Badges", Credits Outside School

RI Students Gaining “Badges”, Credits Outside School
Published Online: February 5, 2013
Published in Print: February 6, 2013,
Education Week

What Providence, RI is doing in their high schools is a perfect example of recognizing that students (people in general) learn in different ways.  Each person has their own personal method of learning, which may not be sitting in a chair and listening to a lecture.  I know that I am an active, experiential learner, sitting still and paying attention was hard.

“Providence district is allowing students to engage in for-credit, badge-earning learning experiences outside school. Examples range from developing and pitching business plans to local venture capital firms to learning how to make Android phone applications at Brown University.”

"But good learning is learning that is relevant and rigorous that takes place in and outside of school,"

"Digital badges are designed to recognize learning that happens anytime, anywhere," said Mr. Ewens, adding that badges can have a powerful impact on students themselves, helping them take greater "ownership" of their learning.

“The district hopes eventually to use the badges to help students gain credit within classes for relevant work outside the classroom that reflects mastery of academic content.”

“Rhode Island, like some other states, has high school students gain credits for showing proficiency in academic courses needed for graduation, rather than by the amount of time they take to complete a course, known as "seat time." Increasing numbers of states are moving to such "competency-based education" models, in which schools want students to demonstrate knowledge of subject material in new ways to show they have mastered it to move forward.”

Let’s all applaud the strides Providence is taking in making school and learning relevant and useful for their students.

If this is something you want for your child, contact Providence After School Alliance, a non-profit organization that collaborated with the Providence School District.

I rescue failing students by remedying the Barriers to Learning

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

New Argument Against Vouchers

New Argument Against Vouchers: Your Kid Might Have to Ride the Bus
Posted: 02 Apr 2013 11:08 AM PDT  by Mike Antonucci
NEA president Dennis Van Roekel appeared on PBS Newshour in the wake of the Indiana Supreme Court decision to debate “Should Public Money Be Used for Private Schools?
It went routinely along the lines of the usual talking points, until the end, when Van Roekel was asked:
All right, Dennis, what about the idea that we have this system where G.I. Bills, Pell Grants, and for post-secondary education, we’re taking taxpayer money and distributing it through people to whatever school that they’re interested in? Why is it so different for primary and high school education and kindergarten?
To which he replied:
I think post-secondary education, college and university, I think you have to put that into a different category than K-12 education, because then you’re choosing between a career or college and specialized training. That definitely makes sense. But for young children, they shouldn’t have to be bussed somewhere. It should be in their neighborhood.
Van Roekel then went on for a few sentences about teachers teaching out of their area of expertise and how he was a math teacher – which means he is very familiar with tangents.
I’m sure Van Roekel is aware that an awful lot of K-12 public school students are riding the bus to school right now, particularly since his union represents tens of thousands of school bus drivers. So let’s play that popular game “What He Really Meant Was…”
You can start off by saying “What He Really Meant Was… neighborhood public schools should be improved so parents won’t have to send their kids to a voucher school out of their neighborhood.” Then I’ll say, “What He Really Meant Was… we should have voucher schools in every neighborhood.”
It’s fun! See how many interpretations you can come up with.

See more of Mike's posts at: