Could small tweaks reap big rewards in math education?

The Boston Globe – Kevin Hartnett

” Math education in the United States is a subject of constant anxiety. Our country’s future feels imperiled when our students land in the middle of the pack on international standardized tests, behind many Asian countries, most of Western Europe, and the likes of Slovenia and Latvia. There’s also personal angst, each time a kid throws down his pencil and concludes he’s just not meant for arithmetic. A wholesale revision of the way we teach math is a tempting idea, either in the form of a fully rebooted curriculum or in dramatic changes to teacher training. This explains some of the recent popularity in the United States of Singapore math, for instance. But maybe there’s another way.”(more)

Bring back bilingual education for Boston schools

The Boston Globe – Editorial

“When it comes to educating the surging immigrant population in Boston, many in educational and political circles ignore the evidence of failure all around them. The achievement gap for so-called English-language learners — students enrolled in school but without English proficiency — promises to haunt Boston for a generation unless the ineffective and highly unsuccessful English immersion mandate is reversed. The Boston Public Schools continue to watch these students fall through the cracks. Their dropout rates are consistently higher, and they have among the lowest MCAS scores in the city. Saving more of these students from a life without meaningful educational achievement stands as one of the signal challenges for new superintendent Tommy Chang.”(more)

For many, remedial math not a solution

The Boston Globe – Laura Krantz

“Nearly two-thirds of all community college students and nearly a quarter of those at state universities in Massachusetts test into remedial math classes, according to a 2013 study by the state Department of Higher Education. Of those who take remedial courses, according to the data, only 1 in 5 goes on to complete a college-level math class and many never earn degrees. State officials call this the Bermuda Triangle of remedial math — where students struggle to pass and often give up — and consider it one of the most pressing issues facing public higher education today. “If we don’t get this right, nothing else is going to really work. We’re just going to continue to lose students at an incredible pace,” said Carlos Santiago, who started Wednesday as commissioner of higher education, replacing retiring commissioner Richard Freeland. To reverse the trend, state education officials last fall launched a period of experimentation, giving colleges and universities latitude to try new approaches to help students succeed. Eighteen campuses are participating, and so far, results are promising. In the next two years they hope to find a solution to apply statewide.”(more)

Changing how teachers are taught: a bid to transform education

The Christian Science Monitor – Amanda Paulson

“When Jeffrey Chiusano starts his job as a high school physics teacher in the fall, he’ll be doing so with a full year of teaching already under his belt. His teacher license and degree were largely earned in a high school classroom, in a yearlong residency in which he could dissect with his professors and his mentor the experiences he had in creating lesson plans and working with students. The mentorship will continue for his first few years on the job. “It’s easy to read it in a book, but it’s a lot different when you get up in front of 20 students to put in place what you learned,” Mr. Chiusano says. His experience is emblematic of a new approach to teacher preparation that top education reformers say is the direction in which the field should be headed. That emphasis on lengthy classroom experience and mentorship, rather than seat time and textbooks, is needed, they say, given how inadequate the vast majority of education schools are when it comes to preparing teachers for their careers.”(more)

How one Massachusetts town turned around early reading program

The Christian Science Monitor – Stacy Teicher Khadaroo

“When Carlos entered Kristen Reidy’s first-grade class at the Salemwood School in Malden, Mass., nearly five years ago, his reading scores put him in the “at risk” category. He missed his dad, who was still in the family’s home country in Central America, and he “could get into some behavior problems if you didn’t have the right mitts to catch him and let him know you believe in him,” Ms. Reidy says. By the end of first grade, Carlos (not his real name) had become one of the top readers, and Reidy, now his fifth-grade teacher, has watched him become “empowered” by reading. When he chose Pam Muñoz Ryan’s award-winning “Esperanza Rising” – about a girl from Mexico who loses her wealthy father and has to work in a field in California – “he sat there one day and just was crying, going, ‘This is amazing.’… He has fallen so in love with literature,” Reidy says. He went home and made his mother read the book, too.”(more)

Teacher Licensing Reform and the “Massachusetts Education Miracle”

Education Next – Sandra Stotsky

“Most governors, state commissioners of education, state boards of education, and Chambers of Commerce seem to have an unshakable confidence in Common Core’s standards as the silver bullet that will make all K-12 students college and career ready. This confidence is remarkable for two reasons. First, Common Core’s standards are vastly different from those in the one state—Massachusetts—whose pre-Common Core standards led to greatly increased student achievement in reading, mathematics, and science in its common public schools and in its vocational/technical high schools. Second, it is not at all clear that the Bay State’s standards, however superior they were to Common Core’s, were the decisive factor responsible for the “Massachusetts education miracle.” The gains were deservedly noteworthy, putting the Bay State in first place on five consecutive National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests in both grade 4 and grade 8, in both reading and mathematics, and from 2005 to 2013. Moreover, international tests confirmed these gains. Bay State students were in a first-place tie in grade 8 science and among the top countries in grade 8 mathematics on Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) in 2007 and 2011 (the state had entered as a separate country). In addition, most Bay State regional vocational/technical high schools (all with grades 9-12) now have high pass rates in mathematics and English on the state’s high school tests, an attrition rate that is close to zero, and long waiting lists.”(more)