ACT: Science, math mandates fail

Requiring higher-level math and science classes doesn’t raise math and science achievement, an ACT study concludes. New graduation requirements affect lower-performing students who tend to do poorly in more advanced classes.

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  1. Of course they don’t, because unprepared kids are pushed into classes where they can’t do the real work, so the classes are not really doing the work in the course description. Last year’s countywide tests showed that pattern in Montgomery County, MD.

    The push for all kids to take those classes is based on confusion between correlation and causation. When only the brightest, most-prepared and motivated kids took upper-division math (or Latin, or debate, or 8th-grade algebra or APs), the ed world jumped on the idea that the courses caused the favorable outcomes, when they were really proxy variables for the identification of the most able, prepared and motivated kids.

  2. Momof4,

    This is 100% correct, if students do not understand the material needed to enroll in the course in the first place (the pre-reqs), it’s highly unlikely they’ll succeed when in the higher level course.

    Go back to tracking/grouping students by ability, and perhaps this nightmare could end, but I’m sure the lawsuits would start the day it was made official in a district (sigh).


  3. I’m betting that the problem, since the 60s, starts in the k-6 classrooms. In traditional math, kids had to learn the basic facts, the standard algorithms, fractions, decimals and percentages. No one pretended that it was either easy or natural and there was no “trusting the spiral”. We called it arithmetic; the term math wasn’t used until algebra. However, it was recognized that arithmetic had to be mastered (without calculators, which even my kids didn’t use until HS in the late 80s) before algebra could be learned. Today, lots of kids not only enter MS without knowing the basic facts and algorithms (let alone long division and fractions), but many enter HS without that knowledge. Of course they can’t pass the testing; they’re 3-6 years behind on their math knowledge.