Archive for ‘high school’

March 10, 2014

High school students spend only about half the time expected by teachers on homework

by Grace

We know there is a disparity between the amount of homework teachers assign and the amount of homework students actually do.  Here are some numbers that illustrate that difference.

HOW MUCH HOMEWORK IN HIGH SCHOOL?

Harris Poll 2013 Assigned by teachers: 3.5 hours a day 
National Center for Educational Statistics 2007 Done by students: 1.4 hours a day

Admittedly, this data probably does not show fully accurate numbers.  For one thing, six years separate the times when the two different surveys were conducted.  Plus the information is self reported, so some error is likely for that reason.  Still, I’m willing to accept that it reflects what goes on in real life.

On average, students complete about half of the homework assigned by their teachers.

Or, more accurately:

On average, students spend about half the time expected by their teachers in doing their homework.

Why the difference?

Teachers cannot always accurately predict how long it will take their students to complete assigned homework.  And clearly there are slacker students who simply don’t do their school work.  Another element is the cynicism about the value of homework, sometimes prompting both parents and students to ignore some assignments.

This anonymous comment from a teacher captures some of the reasons for the cynicism felt by families.

Funny I was just thinking about this and other things we do in our school to satisfy parents who want their kids “busy” . I teach kindergarten and we give homework! We do it so the After School workers have something to do with the kids. Most of our kids don’t go straight home they go to daycare or After School so rather than have them do unrelated work we send work for them to do.

I don’t think homework is necessary and find that many teachers use it as an abdication of their own teaching. Many teachers, for example, will tell parents to practice reading sight words because their child is not learning to read in school. Right there parents are made responsible for teaching their child to read. Parents often made to feel guilty about their child not learning. This is just one example of how homework turns into school work.

I spiral the work so it’s always something the kids can do independently.

We have been told as teachers that homework is to teach self discipline but it’s really to show the parents that their kids are doing something in my school.

Some homework is just for show?

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Related: Asian-American students spend significantly more time on homework (Cost of College)

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March 7, 2014

What is the most important secret for a SAT ‘Perfect Score’?

by Grace

20140304.COCPerfectScoreProject1The Perfect Score Project: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT by my friend Debbie Stier is described as “one of the most compulsively readable guides to SAT test prep ever”.

As it climbs the charts in popularity, this book is attracting praise as “a toolbox of fresh tips”, as well as some criticism that it is the work of a “hyperprotective, status-seeking” helicopter mom.  The criticism seems to stem mainly from some selective editing in the book’s promotion, and clarification is provided over at Kitchen Table Math.  While there’s no doubt that Debbie is a very involved parent, I can attest that she does not fit the image of an overbearing, pushy mother.  In fact, she has helped me in gaining better insight into the type of supportive parenting that is instrumental in launching children to a satisfying and independent adult life.

The revamped SAT may change some details on the best ways to prepare for the test, but I believe that one of Debbie’s core messages will endure:

… if you have a solid foundation, test prep, great test prep works. if you don’t have a solid foundation, no amount of test prep can help you.

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March 6, 2014

SAT will change to look more like the ACT

by Grace

SAT changes that will take effect in 2016 were announced yesterday by College Board president David Coleman.  Changes include an optional essay and a return to the 1600-point scale.

The non-essay part of the new exam will be called “Evidence-Based Reading and Writing.”

A summary of changes is provided by the New York Times:

• Instead of arcane “SAT words” (“depreciatory,” “membranous”), the vocabulary words on the new exam will be ones commonly used in college courses, such as “synthesis” and “empirical.”

• The essay, required since 2005, will become optional. Those who choose to write an essay will be asked to read a passage and analyze how its author used evidence, reasoning and stylistic elements to build an argument.

• The guessing penalty, in which points are deducted for incorrect answers, will be eliminated.

• The overall scoring will return to the old 1600 scales, based on a top score of 800 in reading and math. The essay will have a separate score.

• Math questions will focus on three areas: linear equations; complex equations or functions; and ratios, percentages and proportional reasoning. Calculators will be permitted on only part of the math section.

• Every exam will include, in the reading and writing section, source documents from a broad range of disciplines, including science and social studies, and on some questions, students will be asked to select the quote from the text that supports the answer they have chosen.

• Every exam will include a reading passage from either one of the nation’s “founding documents,” such as the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, or from one of the important discussions of such texts, such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

Khan Academy will offer free test preparation materials online.

During the transition more students will take the ACT.
As the parent of a teenager, I foresee more students shifting their focus to the ACT until after the new SAT has been in use for a couple of years.  That trend is already in place, and few students will want to rely on the new SAT as the sole test to use in the college application process.

Related:  SAT scores indicate ‘most freshmen aren’t academically prepared for college’ (Cost of College)

February 27, 2014

Ready or not, K-12 is moving to increased online instruction

by Grace

It can be argued that K-12 online instruction in and of itself is no better or worse than traditional teaching.  Sometimes it works well, and sometimes it fails miserably.

In any case, the education industry is eagerly embracing online methods in yet another attempt to “innovate” K-12 education.

 … by the year 2019 half of all classes for grades K-12 will be taught online.

That’s the prediction from Clayton Christensen, author of Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Transform the Way the World Learns.  I will not be surprised to see this come true.

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There is very little good research on K-12 online learning.

… the results of meta-analyses of K-12 studies do not show a decided edge for students taking online courses or in virtual full-time schools performing even marginally above students who are in teacher-led classrooms.  More striking, however, is that only a few studies of virtual instruction in K-12 schools meet the minimum quality threshold for design, sampling, and methodologies….

Online instruction fills a need and is effective for some K-12 students.

“Some kids don’t have the discipline to sit down at a computer every day and do schoolwork with no one looking over their shoulder. … But for the right kid, the online approach offers benefits that traditional school doesn’t.”

Those benefits include flexibility and efficiency. Taking all or a few classes online gives students more opportunities than ever before. They have more opportunities to work while in school, gaining valuable job experience that economists show increases their ability to move up the ladder later in life. They can chase serious interests like athletics, music, or volunteering, and spend more time in the real world than preparing for it.

Any combination of lousy administration, inept teachers, and poor curriculum will produce poor results whether online or traditional methods are used.

Here are letters from Manhattan’s Murry Bergtraum high school students defending their fraudulent blended-learning program where one “social-studies teacher had a roster of 475 students in all grades and subjects”.

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A junior wrote that the program “made it less challenging and more understandable. We watched a video, answer a few questions, and took an online quiz/test. It was simple, and reasonable.” This helped him score 85 in chemistry, he said.

But professors at CUNY — where nearly 80 percent of New York City grads who attend must take remedial classes in math, reading or writing — said online instruction often leaves students ill-prepared.

No kidding.

February 17, 2014

More students taking AP exams

by Grace

More high school students are taking AP exams, but the passing rate is lower.

  • 33.2 percent of public high school graduates in the class of 2013 took an AP Exam, compared to 18.9 percent of graduates in the class of 2003.
  • 20.1 percent of public high school graduates in the class of 2013 earned a 3 or higher on an AP Exam, compared to 12.2 percent of graduates in the class of 2003.

The goal of the AP program is to promote both equity and excellence in education.  This means increasing access to AP course work while also increasing the percentage of students earning scores of 3 or higher.

As would be expected, as more AP exams are taken passing rate has dropped.

2003:  61%  of AP exams had scores of 3 or higher
2013:  43%  of AP exams had scores of 3 or higher

These figures exclude those students who take AP courses but do not sit for the exam.  Not all schools follow the policy at our local high school, which requires students who take an AP course to also take the AP exam.

A campaign to help increase AP enrollment among academically prepared minority students

“All In” Campaign: Despite significant progress, African American, Hispanic/Latino, and American Indian/Alaska Native students who show AP potential through the PSAT/NMSQT still typically enrolled in AP classes at lower rates than white and Asian students.

In order to help academically prepared but underserved students access the AP course work for which they are ready, the College Board is currently developing an “All In” campaign, a coordinated effort among College Board members to ensure that 100 percent of underserved students who have demonstrated the potential to succeed in AP take at least one AP course.

Related:  A glossary of high school standardized tests (Cost of College)

January 20, 2014

Early college high school may save money and improve graduation rates

by Grace

Early college high schools are small schools designed so that students can earn both a high school diploma and an Associate’s degree or up to two years of credit toward a Bachelor’s degree. Early college high schools have the potential to improve high school graduation rates and better prepare all students for high-skill careers by engaging them in a rigorous, college preparatory curriculum and compressing the number of years to a college degree.

Intended to serve underrepresented groups; designed to “save time and money”

Since 2002, the partner organizations of the Early College High School Initiative have started or redesigned 240+ schools serving more than 75,000 students in 28 states and the District of Columbia. The schools are designed so that low-income youth, first-generation college goers, English language learners, students of color, and other young people underrepresented in higher education can simultaneously earn a high school diploma and an Associate’s degree or up to two years of credit toward a Bachelor’s degree—tuition free.

Distribution of early college high schools throughout the country

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Are early college high schools working?

Data from early college high schools are promising. First, the schools are reaching their target populations. Nationally, roughly three-fourths of the young people attending early college high schools are students of color, while nearly 60 percent report eligibility for free or reduced-priced lunch (a conservative indication of the number of students from low-income families). Most students attending early college high schools will be the first in their families to go to college. …

In 2010, 5,414 students graduated from early college high schools around the country. Their achievements far surpass those of their peers from traditional high schools serving similar populations. Preliminary data show that:

  • More than 250 early college high school graduates earned merit-based college scholarships. Four earned the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship, awarded to 1,000 high-achieving, low-income students each year.
  • 23.3% of graduates earned an Associate’s degree or technical certificate.
  • 77% of graduates went on to some form of postsecondary education: enrolled in four-year colleges (52%), two-year colleges (23%), and technical programs (2%).
  • Of 109 schools reporting data on graduates, more than half (56%) said that students had earned two or more years of college credit.
  • 80% of early college schools had a graduation rate equal to or higher than their school district (54 out of 68).
  • The average graduation rate for early colleges was 84%, compared to 76% for their school district.

Early college students are “more likely to earn a college degree than students in traditional high schools”.

Burges High School in my hometown of El Paso has just been designated an early college high school.  Demographics must have changed considerably over the last 40 years, as my memory is that Burges used to serve higher-income families.  Today almost 90% of its students are Hispanic and about 60% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

AP and dual enrollment courses are a way for students in more affluent school districts to gain college credits in high school.

November 22, 2013

Do students get too much homework, or too little feedback?

by Grace

… Tales of the homework-burdened American student have become common, but are these stories the exception or the rule?

How much homework do high school students really do?  Here are some numbers.

… The National Center for Educational Statistics found that high school students who do homework outside of school average 6.8 hours of homework per week.

The 2007 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher found that 50% of students in grades 7-12 reported doing one hour or more of homework on weekdays.

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There appears to have been little change in homework time for 17 year-olds over the last 35 years, as shown by this U.S. Employment and Training Administration (ETA) chart based on NAEP data.

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The reality is that a heavy homework load is unusual.

Based on National Education Association guidelines that homework should increase by ten minutes each school year, a high school senior should average two hours per night.  A teacher told me she believes local high school students average about three hours per night, and based on other information this sounds about right.  This puts local teens among the fewer than ten percent of American high school students who are doing three hours or more of homework each night.  Keep this in mind when you read stories like the one Karl Taro Greenfield wrote about his middle school daughter’s burdensome homework load averaging about three hours per night.

A ten-hour work day is probably fine for some teens.

Three or more hours of homework is fine for some students, those who are highly motivated and can maintain their focus on school work over a long time.  But it’s overly burdensome for most.  It seems wrongheaded and harsh to expect teens to put in ten-hour work days when many adults would find that same schedule to be onerous.  Under that scenario (7 hours of school + 3 hours of homework + 9 hours of recommended sleep = 19 hours) only five hours are left all other activities.  Meals, grooming, extracurricular activities, commuting, chores, jobs, and relaxing must all be fitted into those few hours left.  Given that sports, theater, and other activities often take up two to three hours after school, it begins to look even tighter for many kids.  And when a doctor’s appointment or other non-routine event comes up, such a schedule can be thrown all out of whack.  Yeah, three hours is too much for most kids.

My strongest objection to the hours of homework is the failure of some teachers to grade or otherwise provide meaningful feedback.

… Effective learning depends on the receipt of timely and useful feedback from teachers so that students can come to a better understanding of what they have learnt and, where appropriate, correct misunderstandings. Sometimes teachers do not provide this feedback to students; in the absence of effective teacher feedback homework is likely to be of little value to students. 

Two important ways that homework can enhance learning are by offering deliberate practice and formative assessment.  But when a student’s work is not evaluated by the teacher, neither is likely to occur.  Students quoted in Fires in the Mind by Kathleen Cushman shed more light on this.

Without an explicit teacher response, Kristian said, her homework did not seem like deliberate practice.
I really want the teacher to evaluate it, so I can know what I’m doing wrong. From there, she can go over what we need, and maybe create another homework assignment to explore something that we didn’t get. – kristian

And unless a teacher intervened, said Christina, practicing something wrong in a homework assignment could be worse than not practicing it at all.
Until you understand what you’re doing wrong and how you can change it, you’re just going to continually do it wrong and think that you’re doing it right. – christina

One reason for hiring a tutor is to grade homework when teachers “don’t have time” to do it.  That just seems wrong to me.

Related:  The Homework Wars:  How much is too much?  (The Atlantic)

November 8, 2013

Dumbing down algebra in high school leads to remedial classes in college

by Grace

Passing Algebra II in high school used to be a reliable indicator of college readiness, but not anymore.

… taking and successfully completing an Algebra II course, which once certified high school students’ mastery of advanced topics in algebra and solid preparation for college-level mathematics, no longer means what it once did.  The credentialing integrity of Algebra II has weakened.

This is the conclusion reached by Tom Loveless in his recently released Brookings report, The Algebra Imperative: Assessing Algebra in a National and International Context.

Pushing more students to take higher level math courses has resulted in an increase in students completing Algebra II.

Percentage of 17 Year-Olds who Completed Second Year Algebra (1986-2012)
1986 —– 44%
2012 —– 76%

Look what happened to test scores over the same period.

 NAEP Math, 17 Year-Olds who have Completed Second Year Algebra (1986-2012)

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Research indicates too many unprepared students are being pushed to take advanced math.

Foundational problems begin in elementary school, and by middle school many poorly prepared students are enrolled in Algebra I.  California recently abandoned its ill-advised experiment of requiring algebra for all eighth-graders after finding that aggressively pushing low achievers into higher-level middle school math courses hurt their likelihood of math success in high school.

In the end, the transition to college unmasks the charade….

Students graduate high school unprepared for college-level math.

… students are taking advanced, college-prep courses, passing them with good grades, and yet do not know the advanced subject matter signified by the titles of the courses they have taken….

The 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) High School Transcript Study (HSTS) found that high school graduates in 2005 earned more mathematics credits, took higher level mathematics courses, and obtained higher grades in mathematics courses than in 1990. The report also noted that these improvements in students’ academic records were not reflected in twelfth-grade NAEP mathematics and science scores. Why are improvements in student coursetaking not reflected in academic performance, such as higher NAEP scores?

“Counterfeit” math courses hurt students and waste resources.

The researchers found that course titles often don’t mean what they say.  NCES Commissioner Jack Buckley summarized the study’s main finding in an interview with Education Week, “We found that there is very little truth in labeling for high school Algebra I and Geometry courses.”[iii]

As unprepared students flow through a series of counterfeit courses, the entire curricular system is corrupted.  Algebra II teachers are expected to teach mathematics to students who passed Algebra I with good grades but who, in reality, have not mastered elementary grade concepts that are fundamental to understanding algebra.  Parents get false signals about how well their sons and daughters are prepared for college.   Schools misallocate resources dedicated to remedial programs by assuming that students know material that they, in fact, do not know.

It is estimated that half of four-year college freshman take remedial classes.

In the end, the transition to college unmasks the charade.  In California, the California State University System draws students from the top one-third of graduating seniors.  In 2012, about 30% of entering freshmen taking the Entry Level Math test failed the exam and were placed in remedial math classes, despite earning a mean GPA of 3.15 in college prep high school programs.  That doesn’t make sense.  Good grades in tough courses, yet remediation was needed.

The problem is not confined to California.  Nor is it limited to mathematics.  A report from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education (NCPPHE) estimates that about half of all four-year college freshmen must take remedial classes….

More testing could help?  Loveless suggests that having high school students take Algebra I and II computerized adaptive tests, which permit “accurate assessments at varying levels while lessening test burden from excessive questions”, could be a way to begin to restore the “credentialing integrity” of these college prep courses.

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November 7, 2013

Schools can raise achievement levels by assigning more nonfiction reading

by Grace

Reading ability is largely synonymous with content knowledge.

Once children learn to decode words and sentences, however, their reading ability becomes largely synonymous with their content knowledge. As Hirsch has shown, it’s knowledge about the world—history, geography, science, art, music, literature, and more—that allows students to make sense of what they are reading. Absent that capacity to “make sense” of those sentences and paragraphs—and articles, stories, and books—they will never be fluent readers and will never do well on assessments of English language arts.

Michael Petrilli makes this point that Knowledge is Power, recommending that if there were one thing New York City schools could do to shrink achievement gaps, it would be to “boost kids’ knowledge”.

New York City can be proud of the progress detailed in the new analysis by Douglas Ready, Thomas Hatch, et al., especially when it comes to big gains in its high school graduation rate. But stubborn achievement gaps—and sky-high failure rates—persist. What should Gotham’s next mayor do to attack these?

At the risk of sounding silver-bullet-ish, let me propose one obvious candidate: boost kids’ knowledge. While that may seem obvious, a focus on building students’ actual nuts-and-bolts, foundational knowledge, especially in the early grades, would be nothing short of revolutionary.

Knowledge is crucial to academic success.

As E.D. Hirsch Jr. has been explaining for thirty years, America’s education system has had an irrational allergy to knowledge at least since the days of John Dewey. Yet the careful, purposeful, systemic development of knowledge is almost surely the antidote to students’ reading failures—and the key to their future success.

The Core Knowledge Foundation has an English language arts curriculum that aligns with Common Core Standards, available for use by all New York schools.

What New York City needs, then, is an all-hands-on-deck crusade to infuse content into the elementary school curriculum. Thankfully, it need not start from scratch. Hirsch’s own Core Knowledge Foundation has been developing a top-notch English language arts curriculum that is showing tremendous results in a New York City pilot program. It is also being rolled out as part of New York State’s voluntary Common Core–aligned curriculum. This positions Gotham to be the epicenter of a new revolution in knowledge and, thereby, in reading—but only if educators seize the opportunity.

The recommended reading includes more “informational” texts and fewer “literary” ones.

A quick glance at the curriculum text list shows a higher percentage of nonfiction reading than that of my own children’s school experience.  It is consistent with new CCS guidelines that informational texts should comprise approximately 50-70% of assigned reading across all courses.  From the perspective of a parent with a child in high school, it is particularly interesting to contrast the 11th grade recommended texts with the all-fiction reading list from our local high school’s junior English class.  One English teacher has told parents she “allows” students in her class to select nonfiction for their independent reading requirements.

It’s not only the urban schools that would benefit from more informational reading.  I’ll be happy to see affluent suburban schools like mine make the move to more reading assignments that can “boost kids’ knowledge”.

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October 18, 2013

Are anti-bullying programs just feel-good attempts to solve a serious problem?

by Grace

Anti-bullying programs don’t work.  In fact, they increase the odds of being a bullying victim.

Anti-bullying programs that are now commonplace in schools may be having the opposite of their intended effect, according to new research from the University of Texas, Arlington.

In a study published in the Journal of Criminology on Thursday, a team of researchers found that students at schools with anti-bullying initiatives are actually more likely to be victims of bullying than students who attend schools without such programs.

Speculation about the reasons anti-bullying programs don’t work:

  • Bullies are able to learn how better to escape detection.
  • Educational programs increase the reporting of incidents.
  • Knowledge simply does not translate to prevention, and more sophisticated programs are needed

Schools use many programs that “lack solid evidence about their effectiveness“.

Among many educators, ‘personal anecdote trumps data’.

… Too often, they are swayed by marketing or anecdotes or the latest fad. And “invariably,” he added, “folks trying to sell a program will say there is evidence behind it,” even though that evidence is far from rigorous.

While Rachel’s Challenge and DARE both engage students, they don’t reduce bullying and drug abuse.

I once challenged the use of Rachel’s Challenge, an anti-bullying program, in our local schools.  When I questioned why the school was spending time and money on an anti-bullying program that could only offer “anecdotal” evidence of its efficacy, I was met with protests that it engaged many students and moved them to tears with its stories.

Another feel-good program is DARE, which aims to prevent drug abuse and violence,  Local teachers have acknowledged there is no data showing it works.  Again, their defense is that it engages students.

Related:  ‘Schools of education focus on fads, not knowledge and skills’ (Cost of College)

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