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Showing posts from April, 2015

The Challenge of Educating Poor Students - Part 3

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American Public Schools face many and varied challenges.  Funding, equity, and public support to name a few.  On the top of this list of challenges, I would include: The Achievement of Poor Students.

       It is easy to understand the underpinnings of this problem, and yet it is extremely complex to succeed in overcoming this problem.  The problem stems from two indisputable facts:

Poor students consistently demonstrate lower achievement than their non-poor peers.The proportion of poor students in our nation's public schools is over 50% and is growing.


       I will examine this challenge from three perspectives:

Poor students who have succeeded in our schoolsUnderstanding the special and different needs of poor students Expert advice on successfully educating poor students --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The Challenge of Educating Poor Students - Part 2
Expert Advise on Successfully Educating Poor Students

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The Challenge of Educating Poor Students - Part 2

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American Public Schools face many and varied challenges.  Funding, equity, and public support to name a few.  On the top of this list of challenges, I would include: The Achievement of Poor Students.

       It is easy to understand the underpinnings of this problem, and yet it is extremely complex to succeed in overcoming this problem.  The problem stems from two indisputable facts:

Poor students consistently demonstrate lower achievement than their non-poor peers.The proportion of poor students in our nation's public schools is over 50% and is growing.


       I will examine this challenge from three perspectives:

Poor students who have succeeded in our schoolsUnderstanding the special and different needs of poor students Expert advice on successfully educating poor students --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The Challenge of Educating Poor Students - Part 2
Understanding the Special and Different Needs of Poor St…

The Challenge of Educating Poor Students - Part 1

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American Public Schools face many and varied challenges.  Funding, equity, and public support to name a few.  On the top of this list of challenges, I would include: The Achievement of Poor Students.

       It is easy to understand the underpinnings of this problem, and yet it is extremely complex to succeed in overcoming this problem.  The problem stems from two indisputable facts:

Poor students consistently demonstrate lower achievement than their non-poor peers.The proportion of poor students in our nation's public schools is over 50% and is growing.


       I will examine this challenge from three perspectives:

Poor students who have succeeded in our schoolsUnderstanding the special and different needs of poor students Expert advice on successfully educating poor students --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The Challenge of Educating Poor Students - Part 1
Poor students who have succeeded in our schools
       …

I Shouldn't Be Here - Again

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In preparation for my three-part series on the urgent need to improve the achievement of poor students in America's public schools, I am re-printing a blog post that I wrote in January 2014.

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I Shouldn't Be Here      I am enjoying my 26th year working in education this year.  In that time I've been a middle and high school mathematics teacher, a high school mathematics chairperson and a district teacher specialist.  I've worked in the research and accountability office and I am now a supervisor of secondary mathematics--overseeing the mathematics program for 20,000+ students in my school district.  Still, had things worked out the way they were "supposed" to, I should have never done any of this.
     You see, I grew up in a lower-middle income family--which is an overtly nice and formal way to put it.  I have a brother and two sisters.  I was among the first generation to benefit from …

Learning is not Pass/Fail

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Years ago I worked with a colleague in the research office of a major school system.  He always tried to find a way to make research and statistics understandable to the average person.  He once talked about the infamous College Acceptance Letter.  I'm not sure if this is still true today, but years ago you would apply to multiple colleges and then you would wait and wait and wait for a letter from these colleges that would tell you whether or not you have been accepted.  When the letter arrived, you would open it and there would be one or two paragraphs of "welcome" and "thank you" messages.  And, finally, somewhere halfway down the page you would get to the part that you really wanted to know:  Accepted or Not Accepted.

       My colleague suggested that the most important information in such a letter should come in the very beginning and the other stuff can be written farther down in the letter.  Better yet, he suggested, they should just send a lett…

Poverty Should Not be a Barrier to Education

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The Statue of Liberty quote (written by Emma Lazarus) says it well:

Give me your tired, your poor,  Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,  The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:  I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
       At the turn of the 20th century, the golden door was the gateway to America for many people from Europe and other far-off lands.  Today, (I contend) this golden door is our nation's public schools.  We accept all students and we teach all students.  But when we look at the achievement of our students, we see two distinct groups:  poor students (who now make up a majority of our public school students) and non-poor students.

       I just read a great article in the April 2015 issue of District Administration (by Tim Goral) that talks about confronting the crisis of educating low-income students in our public schools.  I'm calling it a "crisis" because of the following two facts:

Low-…

We Want Students To FINISH College

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The importance of a college education is well established.  People understand that a college education will increase the likelihood of entering into a satisfying profession and earning a higher income.  Indeed, college enrollment has risen significantly over the past 15 years.  In 2011, 21 million people attended U.S. colleges compared to only 15.9 million in 2001.

       We have won the battle of convincing students of the value of going to college.  But our goal isn't really for more students to "go" to college; our goal should really be for more students to "graduate" from college.  On that metric we are still far from claiming victory.



       Rates vary depending on the source of the information, but overall it is fair to say that merely getting accepted to college is absolutely not a guarantee of graduating from college.  In fact, many colleges have such a terrible graduation rate among students that have been attending for four years that they pref…

No More Worksheets!

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Here is a very simple test to determine the effectiveness of your child's mathematics teacher...

Question 1: Does you your child's mathematics teacher assign a lot of worksheets for homework and classwork?

If the answer is YES - Not a very effective teacher.
If the answer is NO - Likely to be a more effective teachers.



       This idea is a major shift in thinking for a lot of people--both for teachers and for non-teacher-parents alike.  Some would say, "How can you say worksheets are bad?"  Or, "I used worksheets when I was in school and I turned out fine."  And the internet is certainly full of sites with pre-made worksheets that are frequently downloaded and used by teachers.  So (I guess) the next argument is, "If so many teachers are still using worksheets, then why are they so bad?"  Here's why:

#1: We want students to understand the mathematics that they are learning.  Worksheets tend to encourage students to blindly follow procedure…

Learning, Smoking, and The Long Arc of Change

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When I think about the huge job of improving education outcomes among our students (especially our poor students) in America, I think about the amazing turn-around in behavior about smoking over my lifetime.

       It is nothing short of a modern-day miracle that smoking has declined so dramatically in the United States over the past 50 years.  In 1965, 42.4% of U.S. adults were smokers.  By 2003, that number was cut in half and in 2013 we were down to 17.8%.  And, of course, our population has risen quite a bit over this timeframe from 194 million people in 1965 to over 320 million people today.

       No one in the United States in 1965 would have ever believed that Americans would give up their love for smoking so dramatically.  Even with today's relatively low rates of smoking, nearly 70% of current smokers want to stop smoking.  It is nothing short of amazing the way this addictive behavior has changed in the United States in just a couple of generations.

       I beli…