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Math Curriculum Weaker for Low Income Students
posted by: Melissa | September 30, 2015, 08:07 PM   


Eliminating the achievement gap is a top education priority. While the existence of an achievement gap between poor students and their more wealthy peers has been shown to exist, what’s not always clear is the reason behind the persistence of that gap. Undoubtedly, poverty itself plays a roll, but there are also other factors that serve to widen and deepen this gap for students across America.


Recently, the Washington Post reported about a study that highlighted one such disparity. This study analyzed the difference in test scores between low-income and higher-income students and then looked for the factors contributing to the difference in math scores. The researchers were able to isolate low-quality math curriculum as one of the leading determinations in math scores, and were able to estimate about 40% of the achievement gap was due to math curriculum. Furthermore, this trend seems to be worldwide, not just isolated in the United States.


Experts have known about this issue for several years. ASCD documented the attempt to create a more rigorous math curriculum for low-SES students, and documented the reasons that this attempt ultimately failed all the way back in 2007.


There’s also anecdotal evidence about the gains that can be made when math instruction is made more rigorous. Jaime Escalante’s attempts and to do just that were memorialized in the movie Stand and Deliver, although the movie condenses the time frame that these changes occurred in (the process actually took longer than a decade). Many charter schools, which do not have to battle with entrenched bureaucracy, are also increasing math standards. Success Academies in New York City not only have a more rigorous math curriculum, they also give every student classes in Chess. Unsurprisingly, they’ve seen tremendous gains in student outcomes among the poorest students.


While the Common Core State Standards were an attempt to equalize mathematics instruction, they are still on the receiving end of considerable push back in many states as some critics claim that they are a weakening of math standards. Plus, the standards themselves are sometimes poorly implemented in districts where not enough time has been spent on training teachers and reworking curriculums.


As with many topics in education, it is clear that change is needed, but how to best implement that change remains unclear.

Do you think weak curriculum is to blame?
Comment below.


Comments (2)Add Comment
This isn't a problem in my classroom!
written by Michael DeFronzo, November 01, 2015

My students are learning more and more. The Utah Core (99.9% Common Core) Math Standards are rigorous. I use the free textbooks written by teachers in 'Utah Utah Middle School Math Project' 'Mathematics Vision Project' MVP. You can google these and find a free online book. UMSMP has an editable version online in Word. Both are available as PDF files. The Curriculum needs to be supplemented when students show (through formative assessments) that they missed something, or in the areas where MVP falls short.
My students test scores have been going higher and higher. 8th graders are immersed in linear functions and slope. Ninth graders go deep into geometric progressions and exponential functions.
I really think the teachers, schools, districts, just need more training. Put more autonomy back in the teachers classroom and watch what they can do.
What is the REAL trouble with math education
written by Kevin, Puyallup Washington, October 28, 2015

I believe, based on watching a steady decline in performance capability of most students in my courses over the last decade, the basal cause for most of the struggle is due to lack of simple consistency. Now as to what causes that scenario, the answer is far more expansive and equally elusive. From my perspective as an active classroom educator, I have found a few key culprits. First and the most likely to win the title as lead element has been the willingness of public school districts to 'chase the ghost' as they keep trying new approaches to solve the question of how to teach math better every few years. The impact of this ill-fated approach, at least here locally, is that the teachers gain no expertise in the pedagogy for the programs year after year. It is also an underlying issue that many Elementary Teachers lack strengths in mathematics teaching skills and/or support to gain those critical skills. More of a shame is that the young learners rarely gain any traction in their own math understanding because the path keeps moving and no one really knows how to help them get back on track. Then the futile policy of social promotion kicks them on to the next grade level only because they have another birthday, not because they have gained any ability to demonstrate successful mastery of the required skills.
Next in the line of challenges is the general misconception of the greater public (parents and non-parents) that math does not really matter to the success of our next generation. The claim that "I did not understand math when I was in school so my kids don't need it either" is simply equal parts ridiculous and dangerous, and at the same time more and more invasive in today's society here in America.
I do not have the answer, I do not believe there is just one. If there was we would all be using it right now! However the only way to create change on the scale that this country needs in regards to math education must rest with effective leadership willing to take charge and see the objective and hold true to the course until the program finds its path towards success for our next generation and beyond.
Good luck and Godspeed to all those who keep fighting the good fight to help learners understand more about math, because it really is important in the long run of a person's life time!

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