Only 39 percent of fourth graders and 34 percent of eighth graders test as “proficient” on the NAEP exam. The NY Times’ Room for Debate blog asks researchers and advocates how to improve math scores.
Education Professor Bruce Fuller says the flat scores show NAEP has failed.
Lance T. Izumi of Pacific Research Institute warns, “Don’t shoot the messenger.”
Holly Tsakiris Horrigan, a parent of public school children, says the problem is with trendy but “nonsensical” math curricula, not with testing.
These curricula substitute writing, drawing and calculator usage for solid math content, leaving children unprepared for more advanced math topics.
Affluent parents send their children to tutoring centers to learn what’s not taught in school, she writes. But most parents can’t afford that.
Barry Garelick of U.S. Coalition for World Class Math agrees that students need to learn math content.
Students don’t need skills-free math and “real world” problems, they need to learn the skills and concepts necessary to solve challenging problems.
Richard Bisk, math professor and adviser to the Massachusetts Education Department, calls for giving students “a firm foundation” starting in the elementary grades.
. . . a substantial improvement in elementary teachers’ knowledge of mathematics; a more focused curriculum that emphasize core concepts and skills; and more challenging textbooks that teach for mastery and not just exposure.
NAEP scores tell us nothing about what policies work, argues Cato’s Neil McCluskey. He provides a lesson in how to read the numbers in very different ways.
For advanced statistical hokum, by the way, Gotham Schools explains how New York City counts class sizes: If one teacher is teaching 37 students in the same room at the same time, pretend they’re in two not-so-large classes. See? You can use math in real life!