Monday, August 27, 2007

Is it socially acceptable to be math illiterate?

According to a report in the Dallas Morning News (Saturday, June 30, 2007), when it comes to TAKS math scores, Texas faces a curious inequality.

As I am sure you can predict, passing rates on the math standardized test are much greater in elementary school than in middle or high school. Scores hit their lowest point in ninth grade, bottom out for a year only to rebound on the 11th-grade exam, just in time for students to graduate. Keep in mind, high schools are rated for AYP (federal accountability) in math based on the performance of their 10th graders in math and reading. Seems kind of backwards, that we base a schools academic rating for federal accountability on the performance of its hormonal and often apathetic 10th graders. (I mean that with love!)

Once again, the recently released 2007 scores on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) proves this to be the case. In fourth grade, 88 percent of North Texas students pass the math TAKS. But in ninth grade, only 68 percent pass the test. That rises to 83 percent in 11th grade. (You have seen your childs' TAKS scores haven't you?)

The good news is that math scores (along with reading, writing, social studies and science) are mostly up from last year. But despite that improvement, the math slump persists.

This year's results reflect another historic trend: the strong link between student achievement and family income, across subjects and grade levels. Districts with greater proportions of poor students – many of whom are black or Hispanic – tend to have lower TAKS scores because of the academic challenges that poverty brings. Children who are learning English or are in special education also tend to struggle.

But you should also know, middle class black children still don't perform as well as poor white children. (Money are kids are being left behind!) This should cause you to question as a parent or a student why are black children still struggling when economics is not an issue.

In case you were not aware, math and reading are the only subjects tested in every grade, so it's easy to track progress, or lack thereof, from elementary school through graduation.

Although reading scores fluctuate, they don't take the same ninth-grade nose dive that math scores do.

Here is some information from the Dallas Morning News (Saturday, June 30, 2007) on a few districts in the DFW area:

  • Math scores plunged the deepest in the Lancaster school district, from 71 percent passing in fourth grade to just 32 percent in ninth grade.
  • In Dallas, passing rates for those grades fell from 76 percent to 41 percent.
  • Even higher-achieving districts, with few or no students held back in ninth grade, saw math performance tumble.
  • McKinney's passing rates fell from 95 percent in fourth grade to 77 percent in ninth grade.
  • In Allen, math scores sank in just a year, from 92 percent in eighth grade to 83 percent in ninth.
  • Local schools also had similar drops in science, though it's tested only in grades five, eight, 10 and 11.

It seems that there is not as much uproar when students are failing math. Would the reaction be different if we saw such a decline in reading scores? Many would argue that it is socially acceptable to be 'math illiterate' but not illiterate. How often have you as a parent or student admitted aloud " I can't do math to save my life!" But would you admit it if you couldn't read?

If you have not checked the rating for your child's school and you live in Texas, click the link below and fill in the name of the school to access the information!


Poor performance in math did not subtract from my future!

Is your child attending a low performing school? Were you notified of a school choice option?

It is required by law that parents receive notification no later than the first day of school. In Texas, public schools have a mandatory start date of August 27, 2007 which is today! Here is some additional information for parents who may have children attending a school that has missed AYP (adequate yearly progress). I hope this offers some clarification on what your options are for selecting another school for your son or daughter.

Schools of Choice
Which campuses may be offered to students as transfer options?

Except in the situations described in items E-9 and E-12, students must be given the option to transfer to other public school campuses, which may be campus charter schools, within the LEA (local education agency). The choices made available to students may not include campuses identified for improvement (or corrective action or restructuring) under Title I or identified by the State as persistently dangerous.

Open-enrollment charter schools that fall within the boundaries of an LEA, but are not authorized by the LEA, may also be included as transfer options, in coordination and with the agreement of the individual charter school. The public schools from which students may choose may be, but are not required to be, public schools that operate Title I programs [34 C.F.R Section 200.44(a)(3)].

May an LEA (local education agency) provide eligible students with an option to transfer to campuses outside of the district?

Yes. In fact, the law states that if all public school campuses within an LEA to which a child may transfer are identified for school improvement, corrective action, or restructuring, the LEA must, to the extent practicable, establish a cooperative agreement with other LEAs in the area that are willing to accept its students as transfers. In addition, LEAs that are not in this situation may want to include inter-district transfers in their plans, in order to broaden the range of student choices or mitigate capacity concerns in the district, or both.

What if providing the option to transfer to another campus within the district is not possible?

A number of LEAs may have no campuses available to which students can transfer. This situation might occur when all campuses at a grade level are in school improvement or when the LEA has only a single campus at that grade level. It may also occur in rural areas where an LEA’s campuses are so remote from another that choice is impracticable. For example, if the only other elementary school is over 50 miles away, then choice is likely impracticable. On the other hand, if other potential elementary school choices are located outside an LEA-defined attendance zone or internal boundary, these LEA defined boundaries may not be used to prevent student transfers.

In these cases, the LEA must, to the extent practicable, enter into cooperative agreements with other LEAs in the area
(or with open-enrollment charter schools in the State) that can accept its students as transfers [Section 1116(b)(11)]. The LEA may also wish to offer supplemental services or other campus reform strategies to students attending campuses in their first stage of improvement who cannot be given the opportunity to change campuses [34 C.F.R. Section 200.44(h)(2)].

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Sleep Deprivation Leads to Poor Academic Performance

As students are getting back on schedule and preparing for the school year, I feel that it is important that parents understand the importance of routine and sleep for academic success. This is Part 1 of a multi-part series of things you should consider as you prepare your child for a successful year!

How much sleep does your son or daughter need?

7-12 Years Old : 10 - 11 hours per day
At these ages, with social, school, and family activities, bedtimes gradually become later and later, with most 12-years-olds going to bed at about 9 p.m. There is still a wide range of bedtimes, from 7:30 - 10 p.m., as well as total sleep times, from 9 - 12 hours, although the average is only 9 ½ hours.

Sleep needs do not decrease and remain vitally important to your child's health, development, and well-being. Without the proper amount of sleep, your child will become increasingly sleepy during the day. Those children with a history of sleep problems see them persist. They do not "outgrow them."

In his book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, Marc Weissbluth, MD, sums up what you may find in children who routinely do not get the sleep they need, with a bit of a Catch 22: "School achievement difficulties were found more often among poor sleepers compared to good sleepers.... Young children who have difficulty sleeping become older children with more academic problems. But children who are academically successful risk not getting the sleep they need!"

12-18 Years Old : 8 ¼ - 9 ½ hours per day
Sleep needs remain just as vital to health and well-being for teenagers as when they were younger. It turns out that many teenagers over 15 actually need more sleep than in previous years. Now, however, social pressures conspire against getting the proper amount and quality of sleep.

Teens are not getting the sleep they once did, and many have difficulty falling asleep and frequently wake up at night. This is not normal, and all this is taking a toll. Sleep deprivation is associated with mood changes and behavioral problems, including conduct disorders and inattention.

One study of U.S. high school students found that 13% were chronically sleep-deprived. Other international studies confirm the global nature of this problem. Not getting enough sleep and not sleeping well is not OK.

SOURCES: Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. A step-by-step program for a good night's sleep, March Weissbluth, MD. 1999. Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems, Richard Ferber, MD, 1985. Sleeping Through the Night, How Infants, Toddlers and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night's Sleep, Jodi Mindell, PhD, 1997.

Monday, August 13, 2007

AP or Dual Credit $aves you money on college while $till attending high school!

Here is a good question that comes up quite often. Parents really need to be pursuing one or the other. Think about....You can save 2 years on your total college bill by making sure your son or daughter is taking AP or Dual Credit while still in high school!! $$$$

Question: I am a concerned Aunt wanting to prepare my niece for college. She will be in the 10th grade this school year and I know this is a critical year for her. I asked her yesterday about getting AP courses and she said the teachers pick which students get to take those classes. I know she has the grades to be in one but she may not have the relationship with her teachers to be chosen.

Concerned Aunt in Dallas

Answer: The teachers may have a role in selecting who takes AP but your niece has an option to select AP as well if she scores whatever the required score is for AP classes. Her mom/dad should definitely inquire and let the teacher know of their interest and desire for her to take AP. With that being said, keep in mind that students who take AP must score a 3 or a 4 in order to receive college credit for the course. If the student scores a 1 or a 2 then she would have basically taken the course for nothing....however, if she takes Dual Credit, then as long as she passes the course she gets college credit. Ideally, a student could graduate from high school and enter college as a sophomore if they take advantage of dual credit courses while in high school. Most parents are not aware of this and not all students are "AP" material. I am not saying that is the case with your niece but she must make a 3 or 4 on the AP exam to get the credit. Dual credit courses are generally offered 'free' to students. (community colleges get reimbursed for high school students 100%) The school should also supply the textbooks for dual credit courses so it really saves the parents money on the total cost of college education. I am surprised the teacher is not encouraging AP because most teachers get a financial incentive for students who take and pass the AP exam. Rarely ever do schools push dual credit although it makes a great deal of sense.

(Always preparing)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Your child does not have to remain in a failing school!

Okay my friends and family! I have had quite a few calls/emails on this subject recently so here it is...Most states have 2 accountability systems. Texas has state accountability (TAKS) and Federal Accountability (AYP). Federal accountability is determined by the TAKS scores of a number of student groups.

As the parent/guardian of a child who is "preparing to succeed" here is what you should know:

Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) — This is the term No Child Left Behind uses to explain that your child's school has met state reading and math goals. Your school district's report card will let you know whether or not your child's school has made AYP.

Under the 2001 No Child Left Behind law, Adequate Yearly Progress, known as AYP, measures improvements made by subgroups of students, such as African American, Hispanics, LEP, Economically Disadvantage, Special Ed. and LEP in the areas of math and reading.

Public School Choice:(also known has you have a right to move your child out of a 'failing' school) No Child Left Behind allows you to transfer your child to another public school if the state says that your child's school is "in need of improvement." If the school your child attends fails to meet its AYP goal for two consecutive years, it goes into Stage 1 of school improvement. If your child's school is in this stage, you may choose to send your child to another school in the district as long as it is not in any stage of school improvement.

If all schools in your district fail to meet AYP, then you may send your child to a school in another school district including an "open enrollment" charter school. The school is legally responsible to notify parents of their AYP status in time for parents to make a decision prior to the school start date. Some districts may not make cooperative agreements with other districts which may prevent parents from exercising this option under the NCLB. However, you as the parent need to be proactive and persistent and request that the school make a cooperative agreement with another school or allow you to select your own. Additionally, they are required to either transport the child or reimburse you the cost for transporting your child. In 2006-2007, less than 10% of parents exercised their right for school choice!

Now, if your child transfers to a 'better' school, your child may stay there until he or she completes the highest grade in that school. Your sending school will provide transportation to the school you have chosen until the sending school raises its AYP rate to an acceptable level. However, if your child prefers to remain at the new school instead of going back to their home school, you are then responsible for transporting your child.

Extra Help with Learning: No Child Left Behind may also provide your child with free tutoring and extra help with schoolwork if the state says your child's school has been "in need of improvement" for at least 2 years. This extra help is often referred to as Supplemental Educational Services. Contact your child's school district to find out if your child qualifies. In 2006-07 less than 10% of parents took advantage of this offer! (What is the definition of success? When preparation meets opportunity! TAKE ADVANTAGE OF OPPORTUNITIES!!)

Supplemental Services include things like: Free Tutoring, After-school Programs, Summer School Etc. If your Title 1 School fails to reach its AYP goal for three years, your school should provide supplemental services to the children remaining there. You may choose a tutor, or other service provider, from a state approved list. The state will ensure that all providers on this list have a history of success. Children will receive these services at no cost. The district may give preference to the lowest achieving children in the lowest income families who request supplemental services. Be sure that if the school offers to provide tutoring instead of an outside entity they must appear on the state approved list.

And finally, No Child Left Behind requires schools to develop ways to get parents more involved in their child's education and in improving the school.

Have you contacted your child's school to see how you get in involved in insuring that your child succeeds?

Not a parent left behind!

Send me a reply if you have a question or a comment!

Great show today on the learning styles of African American children

No. Really, why can't he Read?