Sunday, December 09, 2007


How can I teach kids to appreciate literature and to want to write creatively when they cannot read or write a simple sentence?

How can I teach kids to solve algebra and geometry problems when they cannot understand simple arithmetic?

How can I be expected to do what eight years of education before me could not do? I am no better at teaching than the teachers that came before me. No one will ever convince me that these kids never had a good teacher. Not every teacher that came before me was bad.

I know it is politically incorrect to write what I am about to write.
I don't know how it can be determined who is capable and who is not. I just know that this disparity exists. While we are all born equal, we are not all born with equal abilities.
While I would agree that an elementary school student has not had sufficient time to reach their ceilings, many (of course not all) high school students have. It is time to face educational realistically. Giving a realistic education should be part of the NCLB law.


mathnerd said...

Thank you for saying what I have thought. I think they need to make considerations that not ALL students can perform at grade level. Here at the Jr. High our main struggle (since most to all student can and should be able to perform at grade level) is the students who have learning disabilities. We have 5 kids in our school this year with Down's Syndrom, but our district won't help the school to make exceptions to get them exempt from the tests. Those kids need life skills not to be struggling to perform at the 7th grade level. Thanks again...

17 (really 15) more years said...

By the time a child gets to middle school, it should be abundantly clear whether or not an academic or vocational high school setting is in order. Trying to force Regents exams down the throats of kids who are not good in science, or foreign language, or advanced math, is pointless, and more importantly, is frustrating to the child. Give me a vocationally trained high school graduate over a high school dropout any day.

Catherine Johnson said...

No one will ever convince me that these kids never had a good teacher. Not every teacher that came before me was bad.

What I've seen, with math, is that once a student has fallen off the "math cliff" it doesn't matter how good or bad his subsequent teachers are.

My own son fell off the math cliff in 4th grade when he had a teacher who was a lovely person but an ineffective teacher. (She wasn't given tenure.)

I retaught all of the content he'd failed to learn. I'm sure you can guess what that content was: fractions.

He is now taking algebra in the 8th grade and is doing pretty well, but if I hadn't spent the past 3 years remediating and reteaching he'd be in bad shape. (He scored in the 88th percentile on math on the ITBS in November 2006, just to give you a concrete sense of where he is.)

I'm fairly certain he'd look like a kid who is not cut out to solve algebra & geometry problems.

I don't think it's ever safe to assume that a student isn't cut out to learn algebra based on the fact that they can't understand simple arithmetic.

My strong feeling about math is that high schools need to bite the bullet and put kids who don't understand simple arithmetic in remedial classes.

If you're 15 years old and you can't do arithmetic, you should be studying arithmetic not algebra and geometry.

Catherine Johnson said...

We have 5 kids in our school this year with Down's Syndrom, but our district won't help the school to make exceptions to get them exempt from the tests.

That is ludicrous.

I have two kids with autism; they don't have to learn algebra (though it's conceivable to me that one of them might be capable of it....)

Pissedoffteacher said...

There are always exceptions to any statement. Of course there are some kids that can't learn arithmetic but can master algebra. Those kids are few and far between. How can they understand factoring, slope, etc, without basic skills. I dread teaching imaginary numbers to kids who don't understand real numbers (a unit I will be forced to teach next term)

mathnerd--making Downs syndrome kids do this stuff is cruel. We don't do that in my school (at least I don't think we do.) I'm referring to kids that have scored 1's and 0's on state assessment tests that are not in special education.

Anonymous said...

Elementary schools used to have remedial programs in both reading and math called Hi-intensity math labs. I don't know why these were taken away, but they were. I used to bring my classes to both labs and assisted the teachers. We were able to zero in on specific concepts.

Now with tests being given in January and March, the focus is on teaching to the test rather than the concept.

As an experienced teacher, and one who always took extra math workshops, I was stymied by the Trailblazers and EveryDay Math programs. Even the parents found the homework pages confusing. I however decided to pick and choose what I liked from the program and supplemented the rest. While many admins won't allow that, I was lucky to be able to use the old text with the program.

IMC Guy said...

I would agree that there's a huge difference between elementary kids and high school kids. If the kids don't get the basics in math in the elementary grades, they are going to struggle big time in high school. I know this isn't news to any of us.

JUSTICE not "just us" said...

Tackles the issues you are bringing up and some of the solutions.

Thanks for making your blog intellectually stimuliating!