Posts tagged ‘achievement gap’

December 12, 2014

‘it’s mostly facts that end up separating rich kids from poor kids’

by Grace

By teaching them “facts”, schools can make a difference in helping bring kids out of poverty.

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Facts, background knowledge, and content knowledge are all education-related terms that can be used interchangeably, and can be defined this way:

… the facts, concepts, theories, and principles that are taught and learned, rather than to related skills—such as reading, writing, or researching—that students also learn in academic courses.

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When it comes down to it, E.D. Hirsch would argue that it’s mostly facts that end up separating rich kids from poor kids.

He says its facts like the meaning of “common denominator” or understanding what an “ombudsman” does or knowing who Geronimo was that offer many middle- and upper-class students—who learned the terms at home and in their community—a clear advantage in life, while their poorer peers often miss out on absorbing this basic cultural knowledge.

“Facts are what you need to read properly, and to learn more, and to communicate,” says Hirsch, author, founder of the Core Knowledge Foundation and professor emeritus of education and humanities at the University of Virginia.

In 1987, Hirsch wrote the book on teaching facts:  Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know.  It was hailed as innovative, but also criticized as being “elitist, Eurocentric and focused too heavily on rote memorization”.

Now, at 86, he’s seeing the teaching philosophies he’s championed for nearly 30 years becoming a basis for curriculum changes in schools across America.

Common Core Standards

The standards don’t dictate specifically what facts kids learn, but they do guide what students should generally be able to do in math and language arts, such as “establish a base of knowledge across a wide range of subject matter by engaging with works of quality and substance.”

Reading comprehension is dependent on background knowledge.

“There’s an enormous amount of data showing that background knowledge is absolutely vital to reading comprehension,” says Dan Willingham, a U.Va. psychology professor who says Hirsch’s concepts fall in line with current research on how the human brain learns. “Your understanding of text is dependent on what you already know about it.”

The new standards are promising, but success depends on proper implementation.

As for how Common Core standards might change what students learn in schools, Hirsch says he’ll reserve any enthusiasm for when he sees how the standards are put into place.

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Carrie Madren, “The Facts of the Matter”, University of Virginia Magazine, Winter 2014.

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)

December 12, 2012

Quick Links – online AP courses; no guilt about younger generation’s national debt burden; smartphones probably don’t improve academic achievement

by Grace

»»»  Low-income high schools in New York will get access to ‘online and blended” AP courses

BUFFALO — High school students in Yonkers and 16 other poor districts will have better access to advanced placement coursesunder a program featuring virtual classrooms.

The state Education Department this week said $17.3 million in federal Race to the Top Funds will be distributed to 17 districts or consortia of districts under the state’s Virtual Advanced Placement Program.

Education Commissioner John King says low-income students don’t always get the chance to take AP courses, which give students a leg up in their college applications. The 18-month grants will fund the development of online and blended courses that combine online and traditional classroom instruction.

Other districts receiving funding include New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, Niagara Falls, Huntington and South Huntington.

Yonkers schools get virtual learning grants (lohud.com)


»»»  A baby boomer is feeling less guilty about leaving the younger generation with so much debt because, hey, it’s what the kids voted for.

From a  “50-something, white, conservative” Republican’s letter to the editor of Barron’s:

As reported by the national exit poll conducted by Edison Research, Americans aged 18 to 29 voted 60% to 36% for Barack Obama. Prior to Obama’s re-election, I believed that it was morally wrong for my generation to pass a crushing national debt on to the next one.

The debt will top $20 trillion before Obama moves out of the White House, and it will include spiraling retirement-related costs that the administration has shown zero interest in bringing under control, largely driven by baby boomers piling into the Social Security and Medicare systems.

With the president’s electoral crushing of Mitt Romney, my overriding sense of morality and guilt have vanished. Thank you, kids!


»»»  Hispanic and African-American students lag behind white students in academic achievement, but surpass them in using smartphones for homework.

That’s my takeaway from an article informing us that 1 in 3 middle-schoolers uses smart phones for homework.  Nowhere in the article was there any mention that using these digital devices actually improves academic achievement.

The national survey of 1,000 students in Grades 6 through 8 found that:

  • 39 percent use smartphones for homework.
  • 26 percent use smartphones at least weekly for homework.
  • 31 percent use tablets for homework.
  • 29 percent of those with household incomes under $25,000 use smartphones for homework.
  • Hispanics and African-Americans are more likely than whites to use smartphones for homework, at 49 percent, 42 percent, and 36 percent, respectively.
July 1, 2011

Minority children watch more TV

by Grace

Minority youth aged 8 to 18 consume an average of 13 hours of media content a day — about 4-1/2 hours more than their white counterparts, according to a Northwestern University report, the first national study to focus exclusively on children’s media use by race and ethnicity.

Minority Report:  The Crucial Stats

  • Minority youth spend 3 hours and 7 minutes per day watching TV, playing games and listening to music on their mobiles – about 1.5 hours more each day than white kids
  • Black and Hispanic children watch more than three hours TV on traditional sets every day, while whites and Asians watch more than two hours
  • Black and Hispanic youth are more likely to have TV sets in their bedrooms – 84 per cent of blacks, 77 per cent of Hispanics, compared to 64 per cent of whites and Asians
  • 78 per cent of black youth, 67 percent of Hispanic, 58 per cent of white and 55 per cent of Asian eight to 18-year-olds say the TV is ‘usually’ on during home meals
  • Black children under 6 are twice as likely to have a TV in their bedroom as whites, and more than twice as likely to go to sleep with the TV on
  • Asian youth spend nearly three hours a day on recreational computer use – compared to 1:49 for Hispanics, nearly 1.24 for blacks and 1:17 for whites

Years ago, I was shocked to learn that most of my son’s elementary school friends had TVs in their bedrooms.  But then I fell victim to the trend and soon joined the TV-in-the-bedroom crowd.

Related:  Achievement Gaps How Black and White Students in Public Schools Perform in Mathematics and Reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress

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