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What Works In Education: Scientific Evidence Gets Ignored 440

Posted by timothy
from the pretty-obvious-isn't-it? dept.
nbauman writes "According to Gina Kolata in the New York Times, The Institute of Education Sciences in the Department of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, has supported 175 randomized controlled studies, like the studies used in medicine, to find out what works and doesn't work, which are reported in the What Works Clearinghouse. Surprisingly, the choice of instructional materials — textbooks, curriculum guides, homework, quizzes — can affect achievement as much as teachers; poor materials have as much effect as a bad teacher, and good materials can offset a bad teacher's deficiencies. One popular math textbook was superior to 3 competitors. A popular computer-assisted math program had no benefit. Most educators, including principals and superintendents, don't know the data exists. 42% of school districts had never heard of the clearinghouse. Up to 90% of programs that seemed promising in small studies had no effect or made achievement scores worse. For example a program to increase 7th-grade math teachers' understanding of math increased their understanding but had no effect on student achievement. Upward Bound had no effect."
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What Works In Education: Scientific Evidence Gets Ignored

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  • No shocker there (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hedwards (940851) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @10:57AM (#44746459)

    I've yet to see a competently written math book. Most of them are written by and for people with PhDs in mathematics. They'll show one example, fail miserably to explain what they did in any clear way, then later they will refer back to it as what they did in example 3. And the student is expected to be able to figure out what they did. Sure, given sufficient time, a student could reverse engineer the problem, but it's also trendy for teachers to hand out way too many problems as homework, without permitting the students time to understand.

    I remember when I was in middle school and high school, the schools were using "integrated math." Which is to say we didn't have algebra, geometry or trig, we had all of them at once and we would start over again the next year. The problem is that just as we were beginning to grasp one of them, we'd move onto the next subject, and the next year, we'd have to start over as we hadn't mastered the material the last time we saw it.

    • Re:No shocker there (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Cid Highwind (9258) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @11:06AM (#44746555) Homepage

      I remember when I was in middle school and high school, the schools were using "integrated math." Which is to say we didn't have algebra, geometry or trig, we had all of them at once and we would start over again the next year.

      It's even better when you have to move to a different school district halfway through that program. Having half of a geometry or trig course under your belt is not going to make being dropped into the middle of advanced algebra suck any less.

    • Re:No shocker there (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @11:33AM (#44746823)

      I've yet to see a competently written math book. Most of them are written by and for people with PhDs in mathematics.

      Sounds about right - as a programmer, I've always been appalled by how math is taught. If we taught programming the way we taught math, every program would be unmaintainable. Think about it:

      - One letter identifiers for everything. Algebra teaches you to always use x, y, z for variable names. Calculus teaches you to do it for function names. If you run out of those, use greek letters, or just start making up symbols.
      - Everything is named after who discovered it, not what it does. Pythagoras's theorem, Newton's method, L'hopital's theorem, Cartesian co-ordinates, Euler's number...
      - Formulas are always crammed into a single line, without being spaced out. And without any in-line comments. You're forced to try and understand the entire formula in one shot, rather than piece by piece.

      MatLab is a perfect example of why mathematicians shouldn't program. You can look at the source to certain functions (like calculating Euler's number) to see this in action.

      • by TheSync (5291)

        Everything is named after who discovered it, not what it does. Pythagoras's theorem, Newton's method, L'hopital's theorem, Cartesian co-ordinates, Euler's number...

        This is the worst part of mathematics for me. I think we need to have a revolution and start calling things like a "Banach Space" a "complete normed vector space".

        Euler's number is, of course, the base of the "natural logarithm".

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Everything is named after who discovered it, not what it does. Pythagoras's theorem, Newton's method, L'hopital's theorem, Cartesian co-ordinates, Euler's number...

        Fun fact: much of it isn't. L'Hospital is a particularly funny example because "his" method was actually invented by someone else (he paid the guy for credit to all his discoveries) while he himself discovered things that were then named after other people.

    • by JWW (79176)

      My son's pre-calculus book was exactly like this.

      Also, when he was studying for his final, I explained a concept that was key to the course to him and he finally got what the concept was about and how to use it and visualize it. The teacher had never discussed it in that manner and had basically just dropped it on the kids to figure out themselves. I was kicking myself for not discussing it in detail earlier, but I had assumed that the teacher would present the concept in a logical, clear and concise mann

      • by rwa2 (4391) *

        This. If there's one thing I learned from my AP Chemistry teacher, it was to pay attention and learn from the textbook. Classroom instruction was for review and socializing the concepts, but if I didn't have an inkling of what was going on in advance of the lecture for labs, I would be totally lost.

        Teachers are there to help keep pace and entertain the occasional question... but you can't and shouldn't expect them to spoon feed everything to you and your kin. Yes, perhaps sometimes you might get lucky a

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by operagost (62405)
          I pay an awful lot of tax money (and have no kids in school, BTW) for the school district to hire a bunch of test proctors. Yes, I actually expect teachers to teach in grade school and high school! Keeping pace and entertaining the occasional question is for ADULT STUDENTS IN COLLEGE.
          • by Shadow of Eternity (795165) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @03:30PM (#44749675)

            No it's fucking not. We don't pay thousands upon thousands of dollars for an infrequently consulted FAQ. A professor's job is to teach undergraduates a significant and deep understanding of the material, and a graduate professor's job is to expand on that to the point that their students become *producers* of knowledge rather than consumers.

    • by MobyDisk (75490) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @12:10PM (#44747161) Homepage

      Obligatory XKCD:
      http://xkcd.com/1201/ [xkcd.com]
      For those not sure why this is appropriate: the hypothetical teacher explains the rule, but not how to apply the rule or what use it is. We have all had professors like this. It is why teaching is a whole separate skill from the trade itself.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Sure, given sufficient time, a student could reverse engineer the problem, but it's also trendy for teachers to hand out way too many problems as homework, without permitting the students time to understand.

      Teachers use rote repetition to make up for actual learning. It's easier for a kid to apply the same pattern 20 times on a sheet of problems than it is for them to sit and think and "reverse engineer" one problem. But that time spent thinking about one problem teaches the kid far more than they could e

      • by hedwards (940851)

        If you have a good textbook, and a bad teacher, the students can learn anyways. If you have a bad textbook and a good teacher, good luck with that. A teacher gets like 5 hours a week with students, and usually no more. Also, that's with the entire class, so answering individual questions is limited by time. Compare that with the time students spend outside of class studying and you'll see what I mean.

        Bottom line is that in the long run, students are going to spend far more time learning outside of school th

    • I've yet to see a competently written math book. Most of them are written by and for people with PhDs in mathematics.

      Indeed. One problem with math PhDs is that they want to rigorously prove everything before they use it. So high school students endure weeks of theorems and proofs before they see any practical applications. So it all seems pointless, and they tune out. It is much better to show why you want to learn trig/calculus/whatever by showing the practical uses, and only later go back to the theory. Or even better, just skip the theory. As long as the math works, who really gives a crap about the theoretical u

    • You forgot the worst part. Teachers that work through the exact three examples in the start of the chapter which are absolutely nothing like the other sixty you'll have to finish in the next 40 minutes and the *HUNDRED* you'll be assigned for homework. My highschool used to, and probably still does, assert that students should expect a MINIMUM of three hours of homework per course.

      Apparently they flunked their own math classes because with six classes a day that worked out to 18 hours of homework for a scho

  • by hduff (570443) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {ffudtyoh}> on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @10:57AM (#44746461) Homepage Journal

    Studies prove it, yet it continues to be funded with scarce dollars.

    • by Brett Buck (811747) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @11:08AM (#44746565)

      "Scarce dollars"? There has been literally trillions of dollars poured into public education over the past 50 years, An absolutely insane amount of money is still being spent - but the quality continues to decline. Anyone who cares about education needs to get this through their head - *money does not solve this problem*. The issue is lack of standards, lack of quality teachers, and endless ivory-tower meddling in the educational process. None of those are solved by money.

      • by Jawnn (445279) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @11:19AM (#44746667)

        "Scarce dollars"? There has been literally trillions of dollars poured into public education over the past 50 years, An absolutely insane amount of money is still being spent - but the quality continues to decline. Anyone who cares about education needs to get this through their head - *money does not solve this problem*. The issue is lack of standards, lack of quality teachers, and endless ivory-tower meddling in the educational process. None of those are solved by money.

        Yes, scarce, but that's rather beside the point of TFA. So are "quality teachers" and 'ivory-tower meddling" (whatever the fuck that is). TFA seems to make a case for spending more wisely, like buying teaching materials that actually work, or more fundamentally, becoming aware that the data to guide such purchases even exists. Such lack of awareness is inexcusable, but clearly, it is pervasive. How's about we work on that problem instead of parroting the same tired shit you hear on Faux News?

        • by bmajik (96670)

          I think you, the person you responded to, and TFA all agree: money needs to be spent more intelligently.

          What people think a thing should cost is entirely subjective; it is perfectly valid for you and the OP to disagree on if the amount of education funding is too much, to little, or just right.

          The OP is frustrated because there is a general sense that K-12 spending continues to increase, while K-12 performance continues to decline. If that isn't actually the reality, then addressing the perception is yet a

        • by MightyYar (622222)

          You are talking past one another. You are both right. He's correct that more than enough money is already being spent on education. By any measure we spend more on education than almost any other country, yet our outcomes are middling. He probably won't recognize that at least part of the problem is how the funding is disbursed... poor districts full of troubled kids get fewer dollars than rich districts full of kids who would be fine even if you didn't provide them with public education, but that should be

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I don’t want to get into a huge tangent on this topic, but rest assured there are plenty of school districts in the US that don’t have enough money. While I agree that throwing money at these districts indiscriminately won’t solve anything, it’s pretty hard to build a quality educational systems without sufficient funding. This is especially true in districts where the educational system has to contend children who have difficult home lives and parents who are themselves undereduca

      • by jythie (914043)
        Have you ever seen a school budget? While the total expenditure is large, it is spread out across a huge number of schools. Actual individual schools, unless they are in a nice wealthy white collar area, usually struggle to keep things like supplies and paychecks moving, and have difficulty with things like facility maintenance or the expansions necessary to keep pace with our increasing population. Even paying teachers for crap is not enough to keep most of the schools in the black.
    • by mi (197448)

      funded with scarce dollars.

      The per-pupil expenditures in public-schools nation-wide has quadrupled since 1961 [ed.gov]. That's adjusted to inflation — the nominal increase is nearly 30-fold. And yet, even the most Illiberal segment commentators — whom you'd expect to try hardest to defend the public schools — acknowledge [newscorpwatch.org], that mere 30% of the nation's 8th-graders qualify as "proficient" in something as basic and fundamental as reading.

      In the high-population states and locales, where one would expe

      • by fropenn (1116699)
        Have you compared the rent in DC to the rent anywhere in Kentucky? The cost of living in DC is much, much higher and as a result you would expect them to spend more on facilities and personnel. By analyzing only "average" spending, you miss the true tragedy of U.S. public education - we have some of the best public schools in the world and some of the worst. The best schools tend to be attended by the children of the wealthy (if they attend public schools), and the worst are much more likely to be attended
  • by jellomizer (103300) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @10:58AM (#44746465)

    The problem is most education professionals are not so good at understanding Math, and many really do not trust is.

    You go to any college and talk to education majors, and ask them why they didn't major in other majors, after they repeat the normal BS, about wanting to help children yadda yadda, It comes down to the fact that many of the other majors that has a clear career path requires much more Math study, and they don't like Math.

    Sure we have a few educators like Math and Science teachers who get it, but they are the minority, and the ones who seems to get promoted to positions where they can make decisions, are usually History and English teachers. So they don't know about this research is because they are not looking for it, and they really don't want to find it, because the numbers may contradict what you opinion is, and no one likes that.

    We have the State and Unions fighting over these details and little focus on what works.

    • If you are smart enough to master master, and real science, then couldn't you earn about 3X as much as a teacher?

    • It comes down to the fact that many of the other majors that has a clear career path requires much more Math study, and they don't like Math.

      Well, as Mr. Mackey [wikipedia.org] would say, "Math is hard - M'kay."

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @11:00AM (#44746491)

    I took a quick look at the materials they're publishing, and if you can read a vulnerability report, you can read these. (e.g., http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/pdf/practice_guides/mps_pg_052212.pdf#page=16 [ed.gov])

  • ... from the very moment that a parent will give a phone or a pad or anything of that sort to a very young kid, convinced that interacting with it will help the kid to develop the brain in a way that will help him/her during life. VERY FEW are aware that such early interaction does exactly the opposite to the brain: since a vry early stage it deeply plants reflexes of the form "solution to problem is ready. Click click click found!".

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      Yeah and TV rots your brain.

      Coma on back when you have real scientific information to back up your wild statement.

  • This is sad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Murdoch5 (1563847) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @11:07AM (#44746563)
    Again for the Nth time I'm going to fall back on my personal education experience.

    I had horrible teachers growing up, when I say horrible, all but one of them was even worth her paycheck . An elementary school teacher should be an expert in all areas that they teach.

    In my elementary school ( 1992 - 2000 ) we had one teacher for the entire day, that teacher did math, history, english and etc.... For the school system to effectively work what you need is for that teacher to be an expert in all of those subjects, an expert to the point that they don't require a textbook. The textbook is for the students to assist and supplement the information from the teacher, NOT for the teacher to use as a coverup for not knowing the subject.

    So often we as students were told to close the textbooks and just understand the material well a lazy teacher sat at the front of the room and simply just read from it. A big secret to good education is that the teacher should never be doing the students job, reading from a textbook simple means that the teacher is only as qualified as the student and not really doing his / her job.

    This post talks about the materials that the students can use to assist in there education. Well in my school we had the resources but the teachers and support staff just weren't trained on how to deploy and use the materials. The computer lab was off limits because ALL of the teachers had no clue how to really use them, the science lab was closed because the teachers and staff didn't know how to setup or use the equipment.

    This is my problem with the school system, it's setup to protect the teachers and it leaves the students on the side of the road. I pointed this out in my school several times when I was there and every time I was given an excuse, "The teachers work very hard and it's not there job" or "The government wants us to teach this way so we are". It's sad and horrible, the school system ( in Canada ) is in the shitter. I have little cousins right now and from what they tell me the system hasn't changed.

    So what's my point? Well here is the big secret to making the education system work, HIRE QUALIFIED TEACHERS AND GET THE RIGHT MATERIAL IN PLACE!!!!!! That's it, it hasn't happened yet at least from what I've seen and been through. Simple answer to a not complicated question.

    To any teacher that doesn't fit into what I just explained I don't want to bash you. I know good teachers and good school exist, they do and they are great, just the majority of the system is broke and that shouldn't make the good few look bad.
    • You don't need a PhD in math to teach 10th grade geometry. I'm not in the education mix, but I doubt that's our problem.

      • by jedidiah (1196)

        > You don't need a PhD in math to teach 10th grade geometry. I'm not in the education mix, but I doubt that's our problem.

        Nobody is talking about a PhD. We're talking about COMPETENCE and you are trying to throw out the notion of a PhD as a red herring.

        It should not take a PhD. Although an overqualified teacher is likely going to be the only one that can manage. There is a wide skill gap driven by general anti-intellectualism in this country. Teachers suffer from it as much as anyone else (perhaps more s

      • by JWW (79176)

        No, but to the point of the GP. Elementary school teachers should be experts in the subjects they teach at the grade level they teach. They don't need a math PhD to teach 3rd grade math.

    • Re:This is sad (Score:5, Interesting)

      by multimediavt (965608) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @11:48AM (#44746979)
      I went through grade school from 1977-1985. Most of that was spent in San Jose, California as Silicon Valley exploded. I had great teachers and an amazing Gifted and Talented education program. The teachers were completely versed in all the subjects they taught: history, English, math, sciences. They were paid poorly and some had second jobs. The school system was ok, but this was before most of the budget cuts that happened under Reagan. In 1983 we moved to Virginia where the system didn't know what to do with me (I was doing math and english a level higher than everyone else in this system) and as a result I had to take sixth grade math and English again. That really tilted the scales of me ever liking the Virginia educational system. It was funded better, but did less with it as you saw 15 years later with your experience. The good teachers dried up in k-12 because they could stay in school as long or a little longer and become university or college professors, or become researchers or consultants. All these vocations pay better and have better benefits, so as the k-12 budgets get cut less qualified people want those jobs. So, the downward spiral begins. When the measure of life is done in currency this problem with k-12 education shall remain. The good, qualified teachers that are in the system today are not there for the money. Hopefully, they have well paid spouses or enjoy a meager life doing what they love. These people are few and far between, however.
    • Re:This is sad (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Notabadguy (961343) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @12:08PM (#44747139)

      My college experience was USMA (West Point).

      Most faculty at military academies are also military officers. My freshman year, my instructor both looked and sounded like Major Payne.

      Epic instructing example #1: (Read the instructor lines in Major Payne's voice)

      The entire classroom is instructed to take to the chalk boards and work out a problem. Our instructor left the room to give us time to work on it. He returned 10 minutes later (everyone was stuck - no one had solved it). He addressed me.
      Instructor: "Cadet! What is the answer?"
      Me: "Sir, I do not know!"
      Instructor: "Well, if you DID know the answer, what would it be?"
      Me: "Sir, I do not know!"
      Instructor: "You have all failed me! Class dismissed."

      No answer, no walk-through...he didn't know either. I went to his office at the end of the day with my textbook, because I couldn't follow the logic in one of the example problems in the text-book.

      Me: "Sir, I am stuck on this example problem. I don't understand the progress from Step B. to Step C.:
      Instructor: "Read it again!"
      Me: *reads again* "Sir, I still don't understand how to get from B. to C."
      Instructor: "Read it again!"
      Me: "Sir, I have read it again, and don't understand it!"
      Instructor: "Then you have failed me! Your personal failure train is now departing my office! Chugga-chugga chugga-chugga Wooo wooooooooo!"

      The highest grade in my class at mid-terms was a D, which is failing at West Point. I passed with a B- by spending my free period sitting in the back of the class of another instructor teaching the same material, and soliciting that instructor's help during lunch and after classes to understand the material.

  • by DavidHumus (725117) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @11:14AM (#44746611)

    One piece of evidence that's been around for quite a while is that smaller classes are better. However, this translates directly into higher costs, so there's a lot of incentive to ignore this.

    • by walterbyrd (182728) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @11:25AM (#44746725)

      For example: Korea has huge class sizes, and they kick our ass in math and science.

      Propaganda from teacher's unions always say to just, randomly, throw money at the problem.

      • by wickerprints (1094741) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @11:56AM (#44747035)

        I personally have had teaching experience in the US at the high school level, and as an Asian-American, I don't think it's BS. Korea is a different country with very different cultural attitudes towards the value of learning, parental responsibility for child rearing, and the importance of fostering individuality rather than collective standards of behavior, compared to the US. Therefore, educational and classroom models that apply in Korea may not apply in the US, and vice versa. You cannot assume that just because a different model exists and is successful, that other models must be intrinsically flawed.

        Look at what American kids are like, and compare that with Korean kids. You will find they hold very different notions of acceptable social behavior. You'll also find that Korean students are FAR more respectful to their teachers, not necessarily because Korean teachers are more knowledgeable or strict or experienced, but because Korean society as a whole places much more value on the educational process. The parents drill it into their kids, and the kids see the evidence of what constitutes a successful future in how their society rewards those who emerge at the top with respect to higher education. This is also true of China, Japan, and Singapore, among other Asian (and non-Asian) nations.

        Take a Korean teacher and put them in front of a class of 30 American students, and see how long their pedagogical and disciplinary model lasts. American students know that they can't be punished and ultimately can't be held accountable for their own bad behavior--the worst that can happen is their parents have to discipline them at home, and how many American parents, with their own lack of self-control, really have what it takes to do that?

        • When this was brought up, I remembered the issues in Korean aviation that were found to be partially caused by co-pilots and other crew not pointing out problems to the captain because their society is so respectful to authority.

          While that's not a great way to run a cockpit, it seems like it would make the schools perfect.

          I am sure we've got a lot of teachers and corporate officials that would love it if our schools created scores of compliant automatons, but I am not sure I would want my kid to be one.l\

        • Put American kids in a Korean class .... and watch them suffer!

          If your teachers cannot discipline you and your parents don't and don't push you in a subject then you have no motivation to do well ...In Korea you are pushed by parents, teachers, and classmates to excel ...it's cool to be good at maths, it's not cool to be a slacker ...

  • Now I have that "Pina Colada" song stuck in my head.

  • by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @11:17AM (#44746637) Homepage
    Very often every system in education becomes hijacked by some interest group. Textbooks are a great example. Looking through my daughters' very expensive textbooks I can see that the science and math textbooks were written by non mathematician/scientists. One of my favorite questions went something like Jamal has 5 candies that are 5 different flavours; how can he distribute them among his 5 friends? Write all the ways. WHAT? Or just the usual questions that are missing some element such as you have a triangle that is 2 units on the bottom side and 3 units high. How long is the remaining side? But there is no picture of the triangle. Is this a right-triangle. Are they talking about the hypotenuse? And then one of the best. A grade 10 math textbook with a section on parabolas. My daughter was assigned the usual questions 1-20 at the end of the chapter. I don't quite remember how to find the vertex or some such so I leaf through the textbook to find out how. All it does is define the parabola and give some examples of how they can be used for things like flashlight reflectors. But absolutely no math involving the parabolas. None. Lots of parabola questions but no math. This was not some kind of workbook but a textbook where they had just been sloppy.

    Then there is the technology. They are so lost. So so so lost. They have just grasp at technology. The usual result is that they buy big systems where moodle would be fine. But at no point do they really leverage the technology much. A great example is both of my daughters' schools have robocalls to tell me about things like vaccinations, school trips, etc. This is very annoying in that the calls usually waste most of the call telling me things that I don't care about. The worst part is that the critical bits are at the end. So I hear about things like congratulations to some student for winning a sack race in Kalamazoo and then in the end learn that some critical form needs to be turned in by 9am the next morning. Hello please use at least email. Maybe a website? The 20th century is calling and wants their robocaller back! I wonder how much they pay for this service?

    But there is a wonderfully effective way to use computers in education. You look at student's marks. You then look at the pattern of the marks as the student's pass through various teachers. I am not talking about standardized tests but just comparing the marks of various students in the same classrooms. The key being that you can see that when a batch of students hits a truly great or terrible teacher that their marks will thrive or suffer for years to come. Bad teachers are like boulders in the stream; they result in much turbulence and waves far beyond their position in the time stream. Both of my daughters hit the same terrible math teacher. I tutored both of them past this disaster of a teacher but many of their co-students may have lost any hope at a career in STEM as their grade 10 math would then suck with little time left to recover to the point where they could leave HS with a good mark in Pre-cal let alone Calculus.
    • by JWW (79176) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @11:53AM (#44747019)

      But there is a wonderfully effective way to use computers in education. You look at student's marks. You then look at the pattern of the marks as the student's pass through various teachers.

      What?!!! That would allow you to actually truly measure teacher performance and effectiveness. It would make bad teachers absolutely impossible to miss.

      WE CAN'T HAVE THAT NOW CAN WE???

    • by MobyDisk (75490)

      But there is a wonderfully effective way to use computers in education. You look at student's marks.

      It's a trap! Actually, research is quite divided on how much teacher performance correlates to student grades. It's not simple at all! That is the kind of thing this web site is there for. To educate teachers about these kinds of tricky correlations.

      At the very least, if one is to use student marks to evaluate a teacher, you must first control for other factors. Take your example: The 8th grade middle-school math teacher stunk. So the next year, the 9th grade high-school math teacher looks bad because

    • by Gryle (933382)
      I agree with most of what you say, but I do want to point out that robocallers are still the most effective means of direct communication with parents in low-income / below-the-poverty-line neighborhoods. In college I volunteered my Saturdays working with kids in a particularly poor neighborhood of the city.* Every household had at least one cellphone with a basic plan (calls and text messages, no Internet access) so parents could either get in contact with their employer or go job-hunting, but most househo
  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @11:18AM (#44746661)

    He talked about a very successful text that all the teachers loved. The thing I remember most was each section ended with 20 question, but only TWO were on the current chapter. The other 18 were review. The idea was to reinforce knowledge and not turn learning into a cram-and-forget cycle. He'd also talked about a text-selection process that had started a cycle of dumbing down content to make students look smarter. In the Google age, it might be possible to track down that book. Heck, it might be possible to track down *him*.

    • by istartedi (132515) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @11:29AM (#44746779) Journal

      When I was struggling with calculus my first year, and a lot of concepts hadn't gelled, I had an idea. I decided to go to the library and see if there were any better calculus texts. I found Calculus Made Easy [amazon.com] and believe it or not, it actually made good on its promise. I aced my first semester calculus exam, with much thanks to that book. The biggest take-away was that they actually showed the relationship between summations, limits, and integrals. All of that material had been covered by other texts, and by teachers of course; but they had never related it. The "genius" of the invention of calculus was in that relationship, not just a bunch of dry examples of limits, series, and integrals.

      And yes, this was actually more than 20 years ago. The copy I read was dug from the depths of the multi-story engineering library stacks at UVa, and even then it was an old copy. Now you can probably download it...

      • by NJRoadfan (1254248) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @11:52AM (#44747017)
        I can see why it was buried. You wouldn't want students finding out about a textbook that is only $17! There is no profit in that.
        • by istartedi (132515)

          You wouldn't want students finding out about a textbook that is only $17!

          Actually, the version I read was the original which is now in the public domain. According to Wiki it's available as a free download from Gutenberg. It's British so the language was a bit odd in some places. Its approach to calculus was enlightening though, so things like that didn't get in the way and it was actually kind of charming.

          The $17 is probably worth it if you're an American who doesn't like to infer meaning and/or work

      • by TheSync (5291)

        My high school calculus teacher and physics teacher got together and taught calculus in synchrony with physics, so that as we learned the calculus, we then learned the real applications of it in physics. That was pretty awesome!

    • The value of rote learning in mathematics is completely lost upon American educators, primarily because they believe learning by repetition is too boring and tedious for American kids, who have grown up in a society of "easy everything"--easy food, easy entertainment, easy computers.

      But if you take a careful and honest look at how mathematics is learned, and investigate which pedagogical models of mathematics are most successful, you will find that repetition is by far what works the best. It's not this "i

  • by PPH (736903) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @11:19AM (#44746665)

    ... if competing private schools [slashdot.org] advertise their curriculum, including the 'What Works Warehouse' scores of their teaching materials relative to the public school offerings.

  • sounds like classic federal government
    have a site full of good info but don't tell anyone about it so no one knows about it

  • I don't think they are refering to the same thing but I had a couple courses with required Math software assignments. Now learning Matlab was valuable, but I spent the courses learning the quirks of the software rather than the material and the lack of that material has been harmful. Without a teacher who can walk you through the software to get at the material, math software can be as much of a distraction as a help.
    • I have a copy of MATLAB somewhere. I used it in Calculus class for a grand total of one assignment. It appeared to be a "check mark" requirement of some sort like "hey we used technology in this course". It was also surprising though, since the Math department at this University hated calculators.
  • "For example a program to increase 7th-grade math teachers' understanding of math increased their understanding but had no effect on student achievement."
    Well if achievement is measured in grades received for that course, well of course not. They all have bell curves to maintain and everyone must still pass. If a teacher gets better at teaching, they will teach better and grade harder.

  • by Jamori (725303)
    Since the summary is full of links not-to-TFA, this might be useful:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/03/science/applying-new-rigor-in-studying-education.html?pagewanted=all [nytimes.com]
  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @11:34AM (#44746831) Homepage

    Richard Feynman's story on textbooks was eye-opening: http://www.textbookleague.org/103feyn.htm [textbookleague.org]
    (Thanks BobTree [slashdot.org])

  • From the quick scan of the linked page, it seems that the leading math textbook was used to teach for an additional hour each week. It doesn't seem to me that all things were kept equal.
    Secondly, it has been a constant source of frustration how "locked in" K-12 schools seem to be over math tuition. They will not deviate from what is "on grade" at any cost, the system seems to be set up entirely for the convenience of the teachers without regard for the students. If a student is doing well, they may consider
  • Educational standards are a mess because you have trends that are butting heads. Today's educational standards are largely dictated by political correctness, politics and avoiding anything that could be considered a legacy way of doing things. The result is that educators are loathe to take anything away from teaching their politically correct platforms. The second trend is standardized testing, intended to make sure that kids are actually being taught real world skills like reading, writing and arithmetic.

  • If you want your kids to be highly educated. Either put them in private school or home school them.

    Cue the low IQ morons that claim that social interaction skills are more important than actually having an education.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Yes, if you want your kids to be both ignorant and socially retarded, then please homeschool them.

      While I will agree some home schooled kids receive a good level education, considering that it also requires significant discipline from the parents usually home schooled children come from families of highly opinionated and socially maladjusted adults that are simply pushing their own narrow minded views of life on their children.

      For instance a religious parent is going to skip over the bits of "science" that

  • Variable students (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gurps_npc (621217) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @11:43AM (#44746931) Homepage
    Part of the problem is that what works for one student doesn't always work for another.

    You can't expect a child with dyslexia to learn from the same program that works for an excellent reader. Less serious learning issues have similar effect.

    One thing I never understood is why we don't have a public boarding school option for those kids whose parents clearly are the problem.

    If your parents are homeless, drug addicts, or convicted felons, you have about a 50% drop out rate. If we just offered them public boarding schools, we could save those kids - at far less cost over the long term than what those drop outs will end up costing the government.

    Boarding schools can go for as low as $25k / year, vs regular schools at half that while a year in prison costs over $100k If just save just one out of 8 of those kids from a life of prison, we come out ahead.

    • *All* sides of this debate seem to want to treat students as a commodity. This is a key problem that ALWAYS gets ignored.

  • Maybe they should use their own methods. Maybe they should do studies on how to get teachers to learn what does and doesn't work. It seems like an awfully ironic problem for them to have.

  • Find teachers who love to teach and can evangelize their subject. Keep them happy at work by paying more and give them nicer working conditions.

    Kids will respond.

    • This is predicated on not treating a school as if it was a factory.

      This is a problem no one wants to talk about...

  • This is why my wife quit education. She was a teacher. She left and got a PhD in education, became a prof and did some of the research that is widely ignored. What's the point of going to the trouble of doing education research if the results are going to be ignored.

    Now she has a yarn store and teaches math part time at the local college because it's fun.

  • It's either about money, or pushing a religious worldview that supports a particular political party, which favors those with money. Any actual benefit to education is either coincidental, accidental, or both.

If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

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