Monday, July 16, 2007

Pointless Pre-Test

I am quite curious. So is my seven year old. He's always game for something challenging so I decided to have him take the Everyday Math pre-tests on the University of Chicago website. He's going into second grade so we started there.

I am assuming, of course, that a pre-test covers topics that will be taught during the year so that a post-test can be given at the end of the year to measure learning and growth. I hope I'm wrong. I really do. The results were depressing.

He took the second grade pre-test and scored 100% in short order and with no fuss. He asked for the next one, so I obliged. Third grade pre-test completed with another score of 100%. I haven't given him the fourth grade test yet (though he asked) because I'm wondering what good will really come of it.

It's frustrating, actually. It means he's going to have to sit through an entire year of Everyday Math that covers topics that he already understands. I am saddened by this waste of learning opportunity and the lack of recourse to bring about change. Our district has chosen Everyday Math and despite all the talk about differentiation and meeting the needs of every learner, my son is doomed to boredom in mathematics during school hours from September through June.

He's finishing up Singapore Math 2B soon, and will likely finish Singapore 3A/3B before the end of the school year. But this huge disparity between what he is learning in math class and what he is learning at home is only certain to grow wider. Lots of children like him won't be challenged in math this year because the school doesn't consider it a priority to make the effort to challenge them and teach to their potential. What a collosal waste of talent.

The result of my pre-test experiment was what I had expected it to be. Absolutely pointless.


SusanS said...

Hmmm. You're going to have to do some advocating next year. I'd hang onto those pretests to show the teachers and principal.

I don't know what your gifted ed situation is, but if you have one in place it's probably better than nothing.

Has your district ever dealt with acceleration for some kids?

Something needs to be done or you are truly going to have one miserable (and possibly acting out) kid.

concernedCTparent said...

No gifted ed at all. It was eliminated some years ago.

I suspected as much and I believe the teachers did as well but the school is very anti-acceleration. I had never thought to pre-test before though and this may be the missing piece. I also have the same situation with my 9 year old. Looks like another interesting year.

The "acting out" is certainly a possibility (especially with a 7 years old boy).

I fear the "tuning out" even more so.

Tony said...

It may not be too early to get your kids into peer tutoring. One of the advantages of lumping all the kids together is that it gives the accelerated kids a chance to be teachers themselves. The may get a lot of challenge/fulfillment out of it, and they will also become even more clear on the concepts themselves.

Just another way to turn lemons into lemonade.

concernedCTparent said...

Didn't respond to the peer tutoring suggestion early on because I wanted to avoid a knee-jerk reaction. While in first grade my son did "peer tutor" and was generally the go-to guy for new students, students who needed a little help and also the trips to the office and random errands. Meanwhile, he truly had no "peer" of his own. Is this really fair to him?

Yes, it reinforces his own math understanding by teaching but for the most part, is this really challenging him to his personal capabilities. I honestly don't think so.

As a parent I'm truly tired of schools being so concerned about reaching proficiency that they forget the need to reach potential. There is quite a difference between the two and it makes all the difference in the world to my child.

LynnG said...

What you need is Flexible Ability Grouping.

A critical mass of students in at least one section that is ready to move at a faster pace.

Good luck. Here in Conn., as you know, there is no requirement that school districts teach kids at their own level. But a faster paced classroom is possible with flexible ability grouping. It takes time, you won't succeed this year, but over time, most teachers, and even an administrator can be convinced.

SF Mom of One said...

I am also frustrated by slow, lock-step progress in elementary school math curriculum. But I don't think the textbook series choice is the problem. IN San Francisco, they use pretty much the polar oppositive of Everyday Math. My daughter spends way too much time doing pages of drill on addition and subtraction when by 4th grade, her early algebra skills should be developing. She performs just fine on tests, but gets bored with repetitive practice and stops paying attention.

I haven't pushed this as much as I could. I feel for teachers trying to differentiate instruction for kids at such very different levels. I keep her stimulated at home, often with advanced conceptual work.

concernedCTparent said...

I'm suprised anyone does drills to that extent anymore but by fourth grade I would expect that any computational practice would be multiplication and division. Sounds like your daughter is ready for more and she should certainly be honing skills that will prepare her for success in algebra like fractions, for example.

I used to trust that my children's needs were being met at school and thought volunteering in the classroom and supporting my child at home was enough. I don't feel that way anymore. This is your daughter's opportunity to excel in 4th grade and everyday counts. Help her reach her potential. Schools and teachers are too overwhelmed in most cases to take on this role for every child. It's really up to you to do what's best for her.

SF Mom of One said...

Oh yeah, multiplication and division, too. And fractions. The point is too much pointless drill, wasting precious time. I agree, now's her time. By early algebra, I mean writing mathematics in "complete sentences" , using variables as appropriate, finding patterns and expressing them rigorously, intepreting graphs--for example, how the shape shows the relationship between the variables represented on the x and y axis, making mathematical arguments about, say, parity. This is the stuff we do at home.

I meant I don't push it at school. The teacher is following her state-prescribed pacing chart. She is under enough pressure. I work on making sure they are also getting some arts in the program.

concernedCTparent said...

Once you've achieved mastery (accuracy + speed) continuing to drill is certainly not a good use of time. Students should be allowed to progress according to ability because it keeps them challenged and in most cases the challenge keeps them interested. Sounds like you've got the bases covered at home though. You might consider doing some challenging word problems (Singapore Math's are really good). She might find this a fun way to put all that mastery into practice.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you should let the school teach age appropriate material instead of pushing your child ahead at home.Obviously you are one of those parents trying to accelerate your child at home (Singapore Math) Or, if you think you can do a better job, homeschool.

concernedCTparent said...

1. Clearly, what is taught at school is not age appropriate for my son. Where a child is academically has very little to do with age. Some are advanced, some on target, some behind. Some learn quickly, some meet expectations for learning, others need more time. That's appropriate and it's supposed to be addressed by differentiation. The reality in the classroom, however, is very different. When it comes to math, Everyday Math is meeting the needs of very few.

2. The only obvious thing about Singapore Math is that it has nothing to do with pushing my child. It has everything to do with teaching my child what he needs to know. It has everything to do with good curricula as defined by the National Math Panel. It has everything to do with setting the bar high. It is precisely everything that Everyday Math is not.

3. I do think I can do a better job. In fact, I just finished a wonderful year of homeschooling my fifth grader. She's now ready to tackle Algebra I. That would never have happened at school. As a result, I'm now homeschooling my son and youngest child as well.

I'm obviously one of those parents. You know, the ones that want the very best for their child and don't want to wait for the schools to figure it out. My kids just can't wait that long.

eastCTmom said...

I completely agree with you about: "I'm obviously one of those parents. You know, the ones that want the very best for their child and don't want to wait for the schools to figure it out. My kids just can't wait that long."

I have a son who will be 5 in Decemeber. We decided to wait and have him enter Kindergaten next year. I was started looking at our school's curriculum thinking maybe I can start teaching him some math program and saw that Everday Mathematics will be taught, yikes. I was thinking of Singapore Math (Early Bird STD Ed.), RightStart or possibly DK Math Made Easy. I want him to be able to love and understand Math and not hate and be confused by it. I'm curious about what curriculum you use with your children with homeschooling or other math sources you have found successful.

concernedCTparent said...

Hi EastCTmom!

I can't say enough good things about Singapore Math. If you start your son with Earlybird you will be repayed ten-fold for every moment you spend working on math using the Singapore Math curriculum. All three of my children do Singapore Math (the youngest just turned 6). My ten year old does Saxon Math (pre-algebra) as well and will be ready for Algebra I by the fall.

Singapore is really the complete package, though. The only thing you'll need to work outside of that program (when your son is at that stage of the program) are basic math fact fluency. That just comes with time and practice. For that, you'll have to be the judge of what's best for your son. It might be a software program that does random math fact drills, timed worksheets that focus on fluency with math facts (speed + accuracy = mastery), or even old-fashioned flash cards. Developing that fluency is vital to moving through Singapore Math smoothly at the higher levels.

I do like the way Saxon does the math fact drills daily and builds mastery through spaced repetition, but the honest truth is that if your child is mastering the Singapore Math material you are leagues ahead of anything that is going on in Everyday Math. If you do decide to supplement, I would consider Singapore Math more than enough. You don't want overkill either.

The other biggie is reading. Teach your child to read before he enters kindergarten. Use a good phonics based reading program. My youngest worked through the 100 Easy Lesson's (Engelmann) and also Headsprout (computer). The older two were taught using Hooked on Phonics. Whichever program you choose (as long as it's phonics based and NOT whole language* or balanced literacy*) will set your son up for success in the long term. This is another one of those time investments that pays off big.

Best of luck to you and your son. It sure sounds like you're off to a running start.

*If your district has bought into Everyday Math like mine has, chances are they've bought into whole language or balanced literacy as well. Buyer Beware!

concernedCTparent said...

Oh yes, eastCTmom... One more thing! One of my favorite resources is Susan Wise Bauer's The Well Trained Mind. It's truly exceptional and full of wonderful recommendations for each grade level that you may find very useful. It's perhaps my most vital homeschooling reference book and it has great suggestions for afterschooling or supplementing your child's education as well.