Math gains show curriculum matters

If bad teachers are the problem, why are kids gaining in math? asks cognitive scientist Dan Willingham. His answer:  Higher standards backed by stronger curricula.

While reading scores have been flat for 20 years, math scores are up significantly. That’s true for fourth graders, who have the same teachers for reading and math.

States that aligned standards, assessments and accountability show the largest math gains, he writes.

Still, high standards are likely necessary but not sufficient to move student achievement. Standards set the goals, but they don’t tell you how to get there. For that, you need a curriculum. It may be that developing a curriculum to meet standards is easier in mathematics than in English; there is little controversy as to the subject matter to be covered, and the order in which one ought to tackle subjects is more obvious.

While we need “a more sensible method to usher hapless teachers out of the profession” and better teacher training, we also need to focus on curriculum design, Willingham writes.

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