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!

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Great show today on the learning styles of African American children

No. Really, why can't he Read?