27 February 2006

Educational Standards Reality Check

Setting high standards for high school math and reading can be a tall order in an inner city urban high school. Why? Two examples from the linked material illustrate the problem:

Young low-income and minority children are more likely to start school without having gained important school readiness skills, such as recognizing letters and counting...By the fourth grade, low-income students read about three grade levels behind non-poor students.

Four years of school and they are finally reading at a first grade level.


High school math instructors, meanwhile, face crowded classes of 40 or more students—some of whom do not know their multiplication tables or how to add fractions or convert percentages into decimals.

Birmingham [High School] teacher Steve Kofahl said many students don't understand that X can be an abstract variable in an equation and not just a letter of the alphabet.

Birmingham math coach Kathy De Soto said she was surprised to find something else: students who still count on their fingers.

This is elementary school math.

This is not reality for middle class families. My first grader is reading simple readers and doing multiplication. The notion that a kid with several more years of school couldn't do this is almost unthinkable. But, having talked to a middle school teacher who works in a North Denver public middle school about the issues he faces on a day to day basis, I can assure you that this level of achievement is typical in many low income neighborhoods in Denver. Even if the teacher is phenomenal, and moves every child in the class up two grade levels in a single year during middle school, that child is almost certain to come out not proficient and several years behind grade level on the CSAPs or other measures of academic achievement.

Failing to acknowledge this reality is a recipe for failure.

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