Former Math Teachers Defeats Their Own Argument! Comment Rescue!

Education Reform

It’s been an interesting weekend in terms of comments on the blogs.  The below was seen on Who’s Minding The Children in an article about student data.  The commenter was someone called Former HS Math Teacher.  I have no clue who this individual is, but their story is very interesting.

Story time.

While teaching, I primarily taught 11th and 12th grade (with a few 9th and 10th graders thrown in for fun). A very large number of my students were in the process of applying to college and taking the SAT. It was a pretty common topic of discussion between me and my students.

My school, which primarily served low SES students, was attempting to support students in this process as best as we possibly could. Two teachers in the school took on a much larger part in this – specifically myself and the English Department chair. We did everything that we could for our students in this regard. We built an SAT prep curriculum for our students, tutored them after school daily, reminded them of every deadline, helped them navigate choices for colleges, among tens of other things. We took the concept of in loco parentis about as far as it can be taken, at least in regards to the college application process.

Many of our students were extremely disappointed throughout the process, especially with their SAT scores. Their in school success was not correlating to success on the SAT or in college applications.

“I’m a straight A student! Why can’t I pass the SAT?”

Of the 350 juniors who took the SAT that year, there were only 3 that achieved a score above a 1550 (largely considered the college-ready score).

I find myself needing to make the following statements so that I don’t get entireIy torn apart:
I have no personal interest in the pro-reform movement. I find myself generally neutral towards it.
I believe that a strong public education system is important for the health of a community (and vice versa).
I believe that teachers must be empowered to make decisions about their students.
I believe that curriculum should not be limited to a textbook.
I believe that using test data punitively for schools and teachers is degrading to the profession.

Given all of those qualifiers, though, I do believe that there is importance in our students taking standardized tests. While the trend on your blog and many like them is to utterly disagree with absolutely everything that DEDOE and Mark Murphy state, there is value in the claim that, “Test scores provide invaluable information to help improve schools.”

In the case of my students, had we had data that was appropriately aligned to college-readiness information, teachers would have been able to adjust their formative and summative assessments appropriately. We could have appropriately adjusted our curriculum so that students received grades more indicative of how they were performing relative to their peers across the country. In this case, DCAS was not an aligned test and did not provide teachers with the information that they needed. (Slight tangent – throughout the state, students who received a 4 or higher on the math portion of the DCAS only had about a 50% chance of receiving a 500 or higher on the math portion of the SAT. Had it been an aligned test, then students receiving a 3 or 4 would have had a near 100% chance of receiving a 1550 or higher).

While we might believe that SBAC or PARCC is overbearing on students, standardized tests are not as terrible as you might believe. The information they provide schools can be quite valuable. While it may not provide information as immediately as we would like, when used appropriately they can provide teachers with a metric for how students are performing in a classroom as compared to a college-readiness benchmark. It also helps students’ future teachers with gaining background on their incoming students.

As an aside, I’m not sure how bringing up all of the data that teachers have access to is helpful. Should teachers not have access to this data? Also, I’m unsure of your background as it relates to teaching, but school employees only have access to the data that they might need to perform their job. For example, I did not have access to IEPs and 504s of students who were not my own (as is the law).

I took the SAT in high school.  I was average, not too far below, not high enough to get into Harvard.  But this teacher only had three out of 350 students pass based on the state score of “proficiency”.  And they were a math teacher.  I’m not sure what the timeline is on this, but if I took a guess, it would have to be in the past 15-20 years which would put us in the era of “new” math.  While new math has it’s proponents and opponents, based on this story, I would have to wonder how all these latest “reforms” in education work out for the students.  It seems like they are the ones that suffer the most.  Yes, this was a low-income school.  But maybe the problem isn’t the curriculum.  Maybe it isn’t the teachers.  Maybe it’s the low-income.  Depending on the city or state, this could mean many things.

This teacher obviously saw a troubling trend with students at their school so they decided to implement a plan, along with an English teacher, to get the students scores up.  Only 3 out of 350 made the mark.  How many did so the year before and the year after? Without that information, it’s kind of like throwing darts in the dark and hoping you hit your target.  Did the students do poorly in spite of the educational tinkering by the math and English teacher or because of it?  If anything, this post proves to me that if you mess with education curriculum too much it can have disastrous results.

2 thoughts on “Former Math Teachers Defeats Their Own Argument! Comment Rescue!

  1. You know, I saw that, and I posted this in response:

    Here’s an idea: Why don’t we allow the high school students decide if they *want* to follow the “college and career ready” track? If they do want to follow that track or are being pushed by their parents to follow it, then it is available to them, if their classroom school performance deems them as capable of it. Then, they can practice testing to their hearts desire!

    Even if students do not want to follow the “college and career ready” testing track, but decide they would like to go to college, that is ALWAYS available to them. Take a look here:

    I did not have to take the SAT or ACT, or any college placement test in order to obtain both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. I didn’t attend an Ivy League school; however, my colleges are nothing to laugh at, either. 😉


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