06 July 2006

New News and Old News

A reporter came to hang out with our math kiddos this morning. We're grateful for the good publicity for the program and I think the students liked the attention. The teachers and I are anxious to see the finished article, which should be available in Saturday's paper. New news is good news in this case.

I was struck this morning by just how diverse the two classes of students are. I "created" the sections by grouping kids according to their WASL scores. This program is really meant to support students within a narrow range of scores and while we certainly didn't want to turn away any student in need, we had some concerns about holding back/slowing down the learning of the kids who were targeted to be there.

Student scores aren't stamped on foreheads, so none of them know the basis for their class assignments (unless they figured it out on their own---we aren't advertising this feature). They're all working through the same curriculum, albeit at different paces. Can you imagine what is readily noticeable when you enter the classrooms? One class is very pale...the other has several students of color. I'll bet you can guess which one is comprised of the higher performing students.

The teachers and I talked about this some after classes today. It's news to no one that ethnicity is an issue in achievement. Yes, we know it shouldn't be---kids are kids and tests are stringently evaluated for bias here. But the reality is simply that there is an achievement gap and we have to deal with that. Old news, I know.

I will say that this newly developed curriculum we're using and change to the instructional style for the math seminar appears to be very engaging for our lower performing group. As compared to the mighty whities in the next room, this class has a lot of energy: they talk about the problems, want help, ask questions, and really get into things---even though some of the tasks are frustrating (given their ability level). I think this bodes well for future applications.

I don't know if the reporter noticed these same things today. Her focus seemed to be on the individual perspective rather than the group dynamics. She was there to cover an event rather than provide analysis of it. I guess we'll find out on Saturday what's news to her.


graycie said...

". . . they talk about the problems, want help, ask questions, and really get into things---even though some of the tasks are frustrating (given their ability level)." Isn't this the essence of a good education? If this is what the kids are doing (whatever the standardized tests want) this is learning at its best.

The Science Goddess said...

Even if these kids don't pass the retake in August, their teacher this summer has really built their confidence in their math skills and given them a reason to have a better attitude. Even though it's unlikely most of the "low" kids will make up enough ground to pass next month, they have a "can do" belief in themselves at this point. I really hope that will help carry them further.

Stephen said...

It may just be that the kids who instantly get it don't have much to say.

My high school had high performing kids and lower... but they were all white. It wasn't segregation, really, the whole town was that way. And the neighboring towns. Busing would have been hell.

If i had to do high school over, i might have helped some of those who were having a hard time. It turns out that there is additional value to the student to have them teach their peers. You have to learn things three times as good to teach.