Archive for the 'math' Category

17th 2014
Jeffco Middle School STEM Discussion Makes Me Scratch My Head

Posted under Education Politics & math & Middle School & Parents & School Board & School Choice & Sciences & Suburban Schools

Last night little Eddie was able to drop in on a school board meeting for what was until recently the largest school district in Colorado. That’s right. The Jeffco Board of Education took the show out into the community, coming to the people and giving residents a chance to sign up online to make public comments. (Apparently, this is all a new thing.)

So it was kind of funny to hear a couple of the commenters complain that the school board wasn’t being transparent enough because they increased transparency. I may be pretty smart, but some things are hard for me to get.

Part of the reason for the big crowd at the Arvada High School auditorium was a debate about adding sixth grade to Deer Creek Middle School as part of an expanded STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) program. Now I don’t necessarily have an opinion on this course of action, but the way it’s been handled sends up red warning flags. Continue Reading »


3rd 2013
Bad News for U.S. School Performance; How to Fix “Leaning Tower of PISA”?

Posted under Foreign Countries & Grades and Standards & Innovation and Reform & learning & math & reading & Research & Sciences

Today is PISA Day, and I’m not referring to pepperoni pies or unusual Italian landmarks. The 2012 results from the Program for International Student Assessment are in, and it doesn’t look pretty for the good old USA. At least not on the surface.

First, let’s take a quick trip back to September, when I brought your attention to the unsettling book Endangering Prosperity and pointed out that America needs to take a different path to improve unimpressive math test scores. That was when our nation’s 15-year-olds scored a sub-par 487 on the PISA: Continue Reading »

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16th 2013
The U.S. Needs a Different Path to Improve Our Unimpressive Math Scores

Posted under Grades and Standards & Just For Fun & learning & math & Research

Sometimes it’s good to step back and take a look at the big picture. That’s as true in the discussions about education reform as it is anywhere. A brand-new, 6-minute video does just that, but in a clever and lighthearted manner:

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17th 2012
Ridgeview Classical Continues Exceptional Approach in Pursuit of Excellence

Posted under Grades and Standards & High School & Independence Institute & learning & math & Parents & PPC & Public Charter Schools & School Choice & Suburban Schools & Teachers

Recently I told you about my Education Policy Center friends’ visit to Liberty Common High School in Fort Collins — which principal just so happens to be outgoing State Board of Education chair Bob Schaffer (whose farewell dinner earned a nice tribute in the Colorado Statesman). Well, if you’re going to make the 2-hour round trip from Denver, does it not make more sense to visit two great schools in one fell swoop?

I might say visiting Ridgeview Classical Academy — a rigorous K-12 charter school — was a no-brainer. But the truth is you need all the brains you can get to succeed there. Talk about a place where knowledge, intellectual curiosity, and academic work are neither repressed nor scorned, but embraced by students as part of the school culture? How many other high schools you know would see as the norm three sophomore-level students solving advanced geometry proofs as an elective activity? Continue Reading »

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12th 2012
Are Colo. School Districts Really Doing Better on New Global Report Card?

Posted under Grades and Standards & Independence Institute & learning & math & PPC & Research & Sciences

When confronted with the question of how well our schools are doing, too often we lack the full context needed to compare and understand what knowledge and skills students are acquiring to be strong citizens, competent workers, and trailblazing entrepreneurs for the next generation. Last year I told you about the Global Report Card, which found an effective way to compare the performance of school districts across America with national and international benchmarks.

This week the George W. Bush Institute launched GRC version 2.0 with fresh data from 2009. Taking a look at the data, Atlantic senior editor Jennie Rothenberg Gritz asks “How Does Your Child’s School Rank Against the Rest of the World?” She examines a couple districts as an example to frame the question: Continue Reading »

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1st 2012
Don’t Ask to “Show Me” Why K-12 Education Needs Differential Teacher Pay

Posted under Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & math & PPC & Research & School Board & Sciences & Teachers

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you probably are well aware of the numerous flaws in the way our K-12 education system pays teachers. Most of the flaws emanate from the single salary schedule, which the vast majority of school districts use. Pay is differentiated almost exclusively by seniority and academic credentials, factors that have very little or no impact on meeting student learning needs.

Why can’t we differentiate pay based on instructional specialty, how hard it is to find someone qualified to teach in a particular area? A new report by James Shuls of the Show-Me Institute sheds some interesting light on the need for that commonsense approach. Missouri has far more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) jobs available than non-STEM jobs, so shouldn’t there be a premium for people who are qualified in those areas? Continue Reading »

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26th 2012
Colorado Initiative’s Early Success Raises the Math and Science Bar (Gulp)

Posted under Grades and Standards & High School & math & PPC & Sciences & Teachers

I occasionally get accused of being some kind of verbal prodigy. Less often do I get asked about my math and science skills. And frankly, it’s fine with me not to go there. But I get the scope of the problem associated with not enough students qualified and ready for careers in science, math and engineering. And so does the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI), which I told you about last December.

The difference is NMSI is doing something about it — something remarkable and effective, something that has begun taking off in Colorado, as their new 4-minute video shares: Continue Reading »

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29th 2012
Teachers or Union Politics? A (Brief) Colorado Tale of Two Recognitions

Posted under Education Politics & Elementary School & math & PPC & Teachers

Have you ever played the “one of these things is not like the other” game with only two things? The results usually are neither too difficult nor surprising. But playing a quick game, like we’re about to do, can still be informative in its own way.

Okay, let’s go. The first item comes compliments of the Colorado Springs Gazette‘s Kristina Iodice, who shares the good news that Falcon 49 elementary teacher Melanie Dolifka has been nominated as a finalist for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. Congrats to Ms. Dolifka, one of the brightest stars in an innovative non-union district, for the great honor!

The second item comes from a new Colorado Watchdog story: Continue Reading »

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14th 2012
Winters Just Made It Even Harder to Argue with Florida’s Education Success

Posted under Early Childhood & Grades and Standards & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & math & PPC & reading & Research & School Accountability & School Choice

Last time I wrote about Florida, it was touting their “silver medal” among the 50 states for growing student achievement in the past 15 years. The Harvard study that handed out the imaginary awards analyzed how much progress 4th-grade and 8th-grade students have made on the national NAEP test.

Second place out of 50? Not too shabby. But how valid is it? Some critics have said the remarkable gains Florida 4th-graders have achieved, particularly in reading, are dramatically overblown because of their student retention policy. Since 2003 most of the state’s 3rd-graders who have failed to demonstrate reading proficiency have been held back, of course the test results for the smaller pool of 4th-grade pupils is going to look better. End of story, right?

Not so fast. A recent Independence Institute guest speaker has gone behind the numbers to figure out just how much the retention policy can explain away Florida’s remarkable gains. In a newly published analysis for Education Next, Manhattan Institute senior fellow Marcus Winters finds the truth lies between the two claims, but closer to those made by Florida’s boosters than those made by its critics: Continue Reading »

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26th 2012
Harvard Study Puts Three States on Medal Stand for Boosting K-12 Achievement

Posted under Grades and Standards & International & learning & math & PPC & Public Charter Schools & reading & Research & Sciences

The latest edition of the Olympic Games is almost here (who else do you know who gets to live through two different Summer Olympics at age 5?), so what better time to hand out some figurative medals to states for K-12 student learning success? A new Harvard study by Eric Hanushek, Paul Peterson, and Ludger Woessmann sheds some helpful light on trends in Achievement Growth among nations and states.

The authors examine gold-standard test results of 4th and 8th graders to see where the United States’ progress from 1995 to 2009 ranks among 49 nations and how 41 individual U.S. states with enough data stack up against each other from 1992 to 2011. The good news? American students cumulatively picked up nearly a year’s worth of additional skills learned in math, science and reading, with stronger gains at the earlier grade level. The not-so-good news is we’re stuck in the middle of the pack:

Students in three countries–Latvia, Chile, and Brazil–improved at an annual rate of 4 percent of a std. dev., and students in another eight countries–Portugal, Hong Kong, Germany, Poland, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Colombia, and Lithuania–were making gains at twice the rate of students in the United States. By the previous rule of thumb, gains made by students in these 11 countries are estimated to be at least two years’ worth of learning. Another 13 countries also appeared to be doing better than the U.S.

I guess you could sum up American educational progress over the past 15 years with the word so-so. But the more fascinating part of the report to me is the comparison of 41 states who have participated in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) since it started in 1992. The authors of the Harvard report seized the Olympic spirit and handed out “medals” to the three states that have shown the biggest learning gains over the past two decades. And they are: Continue Reading »

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