The Achievement Gap and Middle School Math

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap

Is anyone familiar with the kids’ book The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Pinkwater?
The main character lives on a very boring, uniform street. One day, a bird drops some paint on the roof of his house. Instead of painting over it, he supplements the Big Orange Splot on his roof with lots of other beautiful artwork all over his house and yard.  His neighbors, one by one, become persuaded to take similar steps to make their own houses “look like all their dreams.”
I think this story provides a useful lens through which to view current efforts at education reform. Here is an allegory of the current education reform movement through the perspective of The Big Orange Splot: The Education System Needs a Seagull Carrying a Bucket of Paint

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I recently read a post by a teacher who was concerned about the Common Core’s apparent focus on making sure that kids are understanding the math they are learning, as opposed to simply being able to just calculate correctly right away. I have a strongly differing interpretation of a story she shares about her son…

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I currently serve with City Year and I taught as part of TFA last year. On my way to the airport for winter break, I saw public recruitment advertisements both for TFA and for City Year. The City Year ad was on the public bus I took to the airport. The TFA ad was glued…

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It is very frustrating to me that many students (and an apparently-increasing number of administrators, politicians, text book authors, and even teachers) seem to think that the most effective way to learn math is to have students practice problems that are the same as problems that the teacher has already shown the class how to…

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TFA has gotten pretty good at using student data to inform instruction and track progress of students and teachers. (Sometimes I think TFA doesn’t always track exactly the right things, but that’s a topic for another day!) I’ve recently been thinking about broadening the use of this student data beyond the typical “Oh, <student 1>…

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I’ve recently been learning more about loan amortization. When you make a fixed monthly payment on a loan (say, a mortgage), at first most of the money in each payment just covers interest and very little actually goes towards paying off the principal. Towards the end of the loan period, most of each month’s payment…

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I have recently been thinking about the implications of repeating academic course content again in future courses. I have been thinking about this in two contexts: 1. A curriculum purposefully designed to cycle back through topics or skills students have seen in previous courses. 2. When a college student ends up in an intro class…

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Aug 08 2012

Is Algebra Necessary?

There was a recent piece in the New York times asking Is Algebra Necessary?   Here is my response: http://havingneweyes.com/2012/08/07/is-algebra-necessary/

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Jul 28 2012

Next year

Instead of returning to my placement school for next year, I will be joining City Year Orlando (more on that later). Instead of renewing my contract for next year, which usually happens pretty much automatically, I was told by my school that I could reapply as a new applicant to the district and find out…

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Feb 23 2012

Things that happened today

1. I am observing a teacher at another school as part of my certification program. I am scheduled to go visit the other school next Wednesday. This afternoon, I was told that the district-wide math interim test would be next Wednesday, also. Not only is this one week before the end of the quarter, but…

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Closing the achievement gap with middle school math


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