Wednesday, February 10, 2010

'Algebra-for-All' Push Found to Yield Poor Results


This just in (from Education Week) --

A new study has confirmed, “Simply sticking students in courses without preparing them ahead of time for the class does not seem to work as an intervention,” said Chrys Dougherty, the author of the Arkansas and Texas analysis, published last month by the National Center for Educational Achievement, in Austin, which is owned by the test publisher ACT Inc. “It seems to work with adequately prepared students, but not for the most challenged students.”

That said, when students were given a "double-dose" of daily algebra, their test scores improved.

As the trends became evident, the school system in 2003 began requiring 9th graders who scored below the national median on standardized math tests in 8th grade to take an algebra “support” class in addition to a regular algebra class. Students who scored higher continued to take a single period of algebra.

For the Chicago consortium’s study, the researchers compared outcomes for students just above and below the cutoff for the “double dose” classes.

Worried about the potential for reintroducing tracking, the district also provided professional-development workshops and other resources to the teachers of the support classes, according to Ms. Allensworth.

“Because teachers had more time and resources, the instructional quality in those classes improved quite a bit,” she said. “But the classes ended up concentrating more students with attendance and behavioral problems.”

In the end, the study found, failure rates increased for both the targeted students and for their peers in single-period algebra classes. On the other hand, algebra test scores rose substantially for the students in the double-dose classes.

“The district thought [the double-dose initiative] was a failure because it did not improve pass rates, but our analysis showed that test scores improved a lot,” Ms. Allensworth said. ...

Tom Loveless, the author of the report from the Washington-based Brookings Institution on “misplaced” math students in algebra, said the issue is even more complex.

“No one has figured out how to teach algebra to kids who are seven or eight years behind before they get to algebra, and teach it all in one year,” said Mr. Loveless, who favors interventions for struggling students at even earlier ages.

Nationwide, research findings may diverge because testing content varies—the TIMSS test has more algebra content than many state exams taken by 8th graders—and because course content varies from classroom to classroom.

“If you take what’s called algebra class, and you look at the actual distribution of allocated time, you find that many of those teachers spend a very large portion of that year on basic arithmetic,” said Mr. Schmidt, who is a distinguished university professor of education at Michigan State’s East Lansing campus. His research on U.S. classrooms has found, in fact, that nearly a third of students studying algebra are using arithmetic books in their classes.

Likewise, Mr. Loveless’ study found that “misplaced” students tended to attend large urban schools where their teachers were more likely to have less than five years of experience, less likely to hold a regular teaching certificate, and less likely to have majored in math than teachers of typical 8th grade algebra students.

“It may well have more to do with whether students have been given adequate opportunities to learn this stuff,” Mr. Schmidt said of the disappointing findings that have emerged from some studies.

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

From my quick read, the results seem equivocal - several studies found that having all kids take Algebra in 8th grade and go through Alg II did not make any difference in their readiness for college. However, a study of schools in Chicago found that there was a benefit, but the kids had to be adequately prepared and those whose testing showed they had "iffy" skills did better with additional support while they took Algebra I. The other finding was that having all kids take Algebra I meant that the classes had mixed ability levels, and this seemed to work against the kids who were most ready to grasp the material - they got bored.

Anonymous said...

“No one has figured out how to teach algebra to kids who are seven or eight years behind before they get to algebra, and teach it all in one year,”

That would seem to be evident. Did it really take a PhD in education to figure that out. Did anyone really think a teacher could bootstrap a student up who is seven years behind. Math is not a horizontal subject; rather it is a the only truly vertical subject. That is to say it builds each year on what has been learned from the year before. For example, it is impossible to division unless you have mastered subtraction (since division is repeated subtraction,) and you cannot learn multiplication without learning addition (same general principal).

"...“misplaced” students tended to attend large urban schools where their teachers were more likely to have less than five years of experience, less likely to hold a regular teaching certificate, and less likely to have majored in math than teachers of typical 8th grade algebra students."

DeKalb cannot balance it's budget on the backs of it's teachers (soon the imbalance will be more people outside the classroom than inside the classroom - it's about 50 - 50 right now). We need to attract competent teachers and keep them.

The BOE needs to look at cutting, consolidating and outsourcing all DeKalb Schools jobs except teachers who teach in the classroom. Those are the only people who will make a difference with our students.

FIRE THE FIVE said...

"The BOE needs to look at cutting, consolidating and outsourcing all DeKalb Schools jobs except teachers who teach in the classroom. Those are the only people who will make a difference with our students."

Here! Here! I completely agree!

Problem is, the BOE you currently have will never do it. Ever.

Time to change the BOE, folks. Five seats are up for election this November. Time to FIRE the FIVE do nothing board members. Time to HIRE some new board members who do the right thing.

Anonymous said...

Just to be clear...

As insightful as this study may be, how does it apply to Dekalb County School's current Math Curriculum?.....it doesn't.

When I joined DCSS ten years ago as a High School Math Teacher, there were two courses below the level of Algebra I. Two years later, both of those courses were scrapped and an alternative 2-yr. Algebra I course was implemented.(we were still offering a regular Algebra I class as well). This 2-yr course was also scrapped two years later without a replacement. At this point (I think the year was 2003), most 9th graders entered high school taking Algebra I (and there was no block scheduling).Then the push began to put Algebra I in the middle school..... (Note: It is normal for a middle school teacher to be Middle School Certified without being MATH certified - which has helped to filter low skilled students into high school math courses.).......Geometry then replaced Alg. I as the entry course for 9th graders and the traditional 6/7 period day gave way to block scheduling for most schools.

Math in our high schools has since changed once again - as I am sure most readers of this blog are aware of the current Math I, II, III program implemented by the state BOE.

We are not able to retain consistency in such a critical area of learning.No wonder that parents, students, AND teachers are both confused and Frustrated when it comes to teaching new curricula and maintaining low failure rates. All of this at the expense of passing along students who have not mastered the material.

What exactly are we doing in Dekalb County Schools?

Anonymous said...

The following Board members MUST be defeated in November:

Zepora Roberts - District 7
Jim Redovian - District 1
Sarah Copeland-Wood - District 3
Jay Cunningham - District 5
Gene Walker - District 9

We need new representation in Districts 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9.

Anonymous said...

The following Board members MUST be defeated in November:

Zepora Roberts - District 7
Jim Redovian - District 1
Sarah Copeland-Wood - District 3
Jay Cunningham - District 5
Gene Walker - District 9

We need new representation in Districts 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9


Unless there are quality candidates, then what's the point? I hear lots of talk about replacing board members, but nothing about candidates. Who is running?

I REALLY like Redovian, BTW. I don't think District 1 will do any better than him.

Anonymous said...

A vote for Zepora Roberts, Jim Redovian, Sarah Copeland-Wood, Jay Cunningham and/or Gene Walker is a vote to keep things the same. It's a vote to maintain the status quo.

Fire the Five said...

Voting for the incumbant because "there's not a better alternative" is precisely how Crawford Lewis got his contract extended, his expense account increased and his pay raised!!!

It's this type of thinking that's gotten DCSS into the mess it's in.

Busner said...

"I don't think District 1 will do any better than him."

Wow.

I live in District 1. My children and their friends attend schools in District 1. And I've seen first hand how Crawford Lewis and this Board of Education have neglected, ignored and marginalized our schools.

I refuse to accept the cynical notion that we in District 1 can't do better than a board member who's in lock step with Crawford Lewis.

We can do better. As citizens we should do better. And, come November, we will do better.

Anonymous said...

My child's PTA just blasted this out to all the parents on their listserv.

How to learn about DCSS budget issues

As many of you know, the DeKalb County School System is facing a $56 million deficit for the upcoming school year. As reported on the AJC's web site, to address the deficit, our Board of Education is considering the following:

Teacher/staff/administrator salaries reduced through % reduction or furlough days.

Pre-K eliminated at all but Title I schools.

Music, Art, and PE teachers shared among schools.

Fernbank Science Center programs reduced

No ITBS or COGAT for 1st grade.

High school summer school only online.

DCSS central office staff reduced

Non-high achiever magnets (science, math, etc.) eliminated.

Montessori eliminated.

For those parents who would like to learn more about how our Board of Education plans to handle these issues and to provide input to the Board, its remaining budget meetings are:

Thur., Feb. 11, 2010 10:30 am BOE Budget Work Session Freeman Administrative Center 3770 North Decatur Road Decatur, Georgia 30032

Wednesday, April 21, 2010 6:00 pm Public Budget Hearing William Bradley Bryant Center 2652 Lawrenceville Highway Decatur, Georgia 30033

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 6:00 pm Public Budget Hearing William Bradley Bryant Center 2652 Lawrenceville Highway Decatur, Georgia 30033

Monday, May 10, 2010 6:00 pm Final Adoption of Budget FY2011 Freeman Administrative Center 3770 North Decatur Road Decatur, Georgia 3003

Finally, additional information about the proposed budget cuts and the concerns of other DeKalb County parents may be found at two parent-generated sites:

http://www.dekalbparentsareunited.com/

http://www.dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/

Also, the DeKalb County Superintendent's budget information may be found at:

http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/superintendent/fy2011- budget.html

Anonymous said...

Really liking someone is great but not a good criteria for electing someone to the school board.
Look at the current situation and understand that the existing board let things get to this point.
If one of the current school members was a friend of mine I would have an honest discussion with them and suggest they really take a hard look at whether to run again.

Cerebration said...

Thanks for sharing that Anon, 9:30 AM. Also, thank the PTA for the plug! We all must do our best to keep the public as informed as we can.

I hope someone is attending the budget meeting right now and will report what is discussed back here on the budget thread. I have an easy to click link to the budget post on the right hand column.

Cerebration said...

I don't know, but I suspect that the math (and science) is partly responsible for the high dropout rate in DeKalb. I'm not sure what method the system uses to track graduation rates, however, I think it is deeply flawed. I am under the impression that they simply count how many students begin their senior year and how many are awarded a certificate of graduation that year. They are not tracking across all four years of high school.

For example, I know for a fact that the current graduating class at Lakeside began as a class of 525 freshmen. Now, they are predicting less than 300 graduates for this class, who are now seniors. Let's see what Lakeside publishes as their official graduation rate - I'll bet it's well over 80%. But in actuality - they lost over 225 students over four years. Where did they go? Does ANYONE know?

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Cere! The PTA promoting your blog is GREAT!

I agree with Anon at 9:33. If my friend, sibling, neighbor were a current Board member I'd feel compelled to have a "heart to heart" with them about running for re-election.

Given the current state of affairs, I'd be very curious as to why a current board member would even consider running for re-election.

Anonymous said...

I hope other PTAs pass out information regarding this blog as well as the other weblinks mentioned Anonymous 9:30 am post.

Square Peg said...

Cere, they didn't go anywhere. A lot of those 225 "missing" freshmen must be repeaters. Countywide, there are consistently a lot more 9th graders than 8th graders. Students get stuck in 9th grade and spend 2 years there, so they get counted twice as freshmen. It is not just our county - the statewide data also has a 9th grade bulge. Yes, there is a dropout problem (and it looks like it's largely between 10th and 11th, when students are older) but it is not nearly as bad as it looks from the 9th grade numbers.

Go to the GA DOE "K-12 Report Card" site and look at "Enrollment by Demographics."

http://gaosa.org/FindASchool.aspx?PageReq=106&FromSection=report&CountyId=ALL&SY=2009

Cerebration said...

I understand that thing about the 9th grade repeaters - however - we are still missing hundreds of students. The size of the total school population doesn't change, even though we continue to take in over 500 new freshmen every year. My issue is that the graduation rates are still not accurate - how do you KNOW for certain that these students are still in the building? You don't. You can't. The system is not really putting out the effort to track students. It's almost a "don't ask don't tell" attitude. Our school system - in reality - is putting thousands of "citizens" out into the public every year who are uneducated and unqualified to earn a decent income. They spend more time discussing the lighting for their own tv appearances than actually tracking how students (other than college-bound) are faring.

Anonymous said...

Cere, that may be the most important comment in the histroy of this blog:

"They spend more time discussing the lighting for their own tv appearances than actually tracking how students (other than college-bound) are faring."

We have a superintendent who was whining like a toddler about how he MUST have $300k for fancy lights at his fancy new Mountain Industrial Complex. And every BOE member voted for it except Redovian with little discussion.

Crawford Lewis is incapable of focusing on the important matters, like tracking 9th graders throughout high school and fiiguring out why and when so many drop out. He is more concerned about filling up his DCSS take home vehicle with free gas. Our BOE is still more focused on the schools only in their district, and can't think system-wide.

DCSS is a mess, plain and simple, and needs a new BOE and a complete dismissal if its upper management, and that's you Crawford, Gloria Talley, Ron Ramsey, Bob Moseley, Marcus Turk, David Guillory, etc.

Square Peg said...

Just for fun:

The Lakeside data for 2007-2008 looks alarming: 580 freshmen and 380 sophomores. But let's follow the class as it goes through Henderson and Lakeside, using fall semester data.

2006-2007: 441 8th graders at Henderson

2007-2008: 561 9th graders at Lakeside. Where did those 120 new students come from? One answer is to look at where the previous year's freshmen did or didn't go. There were 453 Lakeside freshmen in 2006-2007, but only 337 became Lakeside sophomores in 2007-2008. The difference is 116, which almost exactly corresponds to the amount by which the 2007-2008 freshman class grew. From the numbers it looks like a lot of the 120 "new" students must be repeaters.

2008-2009: 444 10th graders at Lakeside. Almost the same as the 441 8th graders at Henderson 2 years previously. The class size is back to normal.

Square Peg said...

Oops, I made transcription errors in 1st paragraph. Should have said 561 freshmen and 337 sophomores at Lakeside in 2007-2008. I think all the other numbers are correct.

Square Peg said...

And I should have said "spring semester data," not fall. Will quit now while I'm behind.

Cerebration said...

True enough - but that's still a 'guess' - and in fact, we will lose at least another 100 before graduation. The class will only graduate 300 students tops. This is consistent.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anon at 11:37

"DCSS is a mess, plain and simple, and needs a new BOE and a complete dismissal if its upper management, and that's you Crawford, Gloria Talley, Ron Ramsey, Bob Moseley, Marcus Turk, David Guillory, etc."

And it starts with the BOE.

Square Peg said...

Cere, I only read your 11:31 and 12:12 comments after writing my previous posts. I agree about the opacity of published data as far as tracking students' dropout and failure rates goes.

Can anybody get a breakdown how many freshmen are really new and how many are repeaters? The schools must know this, even if they don't publish the count.

And arrgh, I found another mistake. I should have said 392 8th graders at Henderson in 2006-2007. So a class of 392 8th graders in spring 2006-2007 grew to 444 10th graders two years later. The net increase of 52 students would be transfers, former private school students, etc.

Anonymous said...

But then we have McChesney and Womack (terms end 2012). How many of the five will we need to replace with non-koolaid-drinkers to effectively negate them?

Square Peg said...

Cere, the pattern of 9th grade retention and dropouts we observe at Lakeside is a national problem, so it won't be easy to fix.

Found a national study tracking the class of 2008. I hope I didn't make any mistakes reading these approximate numbers from the bar graph (figure 1 on page 8 of
http://www.every1graduates.org/PDFs/StillFreshman.pdf)

8th grade: about 3.8 million
9th grade: 4.3M
10th grade: 3.8M
11th grade: 3.6M
12th grade: 3.3M
Diplomas: 2.8M

Appalling!

Found it from Maureen Downey's blog
http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2009/10/28/still-freshmen-study-looks-at-ninth-grade-repeaters/

Anonymous said...

You know... not to sound too callous, but is it really that much of a sin that there are some children who don't graduate from high school? A 80% graduation rate at a public school is reasonable. Yes, in a perfect world, every child would finish school-- college, even. However, the reality is that our economy depends on having a certain number of undereducated people to wash our cars and flip our burgers. Capitalism would crumble without it.

All we can do is give children every chance to get an education IF they want it. I think NCLB does more harm than good with its promotion of the idea that EVERY child MUST graduate, and every child SHOULD go to college. That's just not reality. There has to be an underclass for the American way of life to function.

Anonymous said...

"However, the reality is that our economy depends on having a certain number of undereducated people to wash our cars and flip our burgers. Capitalism would crumble without it."

Some countries like Japan for example have a literacy rate of over 90%. Most European countries have a higher literacy rate than ours. We think we'll never become a 3rd world country, but the might of the U.S. lies in our middle class, not our upper class. It's really hard to be middle class without a high school diploma.

Now I'm in my 60s so I remember when all of the men on my street worked at one of the 4 plants in my town, many of them didn't have diplomas, the wives stayed home, the kids were fed and clothed and some even went to college.

Those jobs are gone and so are those days. I think it's awfully hard to feed and clothe your family even if both parents work if they're flipping burgers and washing cars today.

So I do think the high school dropout rate is very important. As for NCLB, I think that's a very simplistic model that tries to mimic the business world. It creates a free market model whereby the best teachers will be encouraged to take their skills to the best schools.

Cerebration said...

Anon, 3:09 PM, I don't disagree that 80% graduation rate isn't 'bad'... but what I am saying is that we don't know if that really is the rate - no one is tracking students very well all through high school. Colleges can tell you how many students graduate within 4, 5 or 6 years - why can't we do the same for high school?

And NCLB really has made a mess of things. There is nothing in the world wrong with aiming for a vocation rather than college - and as a society we should be providing opportunities for young people to aspire to a decent job after high school as they so choose. Yes, there are always going to be people flipping burgers - but we seem to only graduate college-bound OR burger flippers. And many of the burger flippers can't even seem to count your change properly.

We are failing to educate a huge number of people in our society so that they can perform well as decent jobs (trades) and responsibly raise their own families as they contribute to society as a whole. (And yes, this is a national problem, but I would go so far as to say that it's more pronounced in the south, where the middle class is very weak.)

Fire the Five said...

Anon at 1:18

ALL FIVE OF THEM. ALL FIVE.

When you clean your house, you sweep the entire floor, not just part of it. Time to clean house. Time to sweep ALL FIVE of them out.

Anonymous said...

Here is the link to the DeKalb BOE. Click on each member's picture and email them your thoughts on the budget:
http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/board/members/

We need to fill their mailboxes.

Anonymous said...

So, only when it comes out in an education journal will anyone pay attention. From the outset of this moronic approach teachers have tried to tell the BOE and anyone who would listen that you cannot successfully teach Algebra to a child who cannot do simple operations with whole numbers and fractions.
A little investigation of the classrooms in which this little experiment was in progress with unprepared students would have made it quite clear that you can name the class Algebra, but that is definitely NOT what is being taught.

Anonymous said...

Hey---We heard of this logic already...

Put every high school student in a AP class! Why? "Research" tells us that the successful college freshman has taken at least 2 AP courses in high school!

It follows that if all students take AP classes, they will be successful in college!

Cerebration said...

I do remember when Johnny Brown implemented the Alg 1 in 8th grade - and all students completing at least through Alg 2 - the reason was because people who took Alg 2 in high school made more money in their jobs. Isn't that the most flawed reasoning ever?