Thursday, May 8th, 2014
The National Assessment of Educational Progress, an assessment that’s also called “the nation’s report card,” shows disappointing trends in the performance of American 12th graders in both math and reading skill levels. NPR has more:
It measured reading and math skills of 92,000 high school seniors in 2013 and found that reading skills of those 12th-graders have gone unchanged since the last time the test was given, in 2009, and they’re lower than those of students in 1992.
Things aren’t much better when it comes to math. While scores were slightly better than in 2005, they too have been stagnant since 2009.
Those results are unacceptable, said David Driscoll, chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees testing policy.
“Achievement at this very critical point in a student’s life must be improved to ensure success after high school,” he said.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the news troubling, particularly as high school graduation rates have reached an all-time high.
“We must reject educational stagnation in our high schools, and as a nation, we must do better for all students, especially for African-American and Latino students,” he said.
In the NAEP test, achievement is broken down into three levels: basic, proficient and advanced. “Basic” indicates partial mastery of the subject, “proficient” is grade-level performance, and “advanced” indicates superior work.
Seventy-four percent of students scored below the grade-appropriate level in math, compared with 26 percent of students who scored at or above grade level. Asian students and students whose parents went to college achieved the best math scores. Math scores for African-American students were the worst.
In reading, just 38 percent of seniors scored at or above grade level. And one-quarter of high school seniors are reading below grade level.
But that flat performance wasn’t just among students who struggled with math and reading, officials said. It also extended to the highest-performing students.
The results released Wednesday also showed that the achievement gap between white students and their black and Hispanic counterparts remained stubbornly wide, despite more than a decade of federal efforts to close it.
Image: High school student, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, May 7th, 2014
A large study of the parenting styles of Asian Americans has found that the “tiger mom” phenomenon, in which mothers infamously hold their children to high standards and enforce rigorous discipline, is real, and has a whole host of explanations. Time.com has more:
The dangerous thing about stereotypes is that they’re often built on a kernel, however small, of truth. And the ones about Asian-Americans aren’t any different – so the latest research appearing in the journal PNAS attempts to get to bottom of the stereotype of Asian-American academic prowess. Are tiger moms — so-called for their hyper-disciplining parenting and their laser-like focus on achievement and performance — to thank? Deeper financial pockets that can fund tutors and summer school? Or are Asian Americans just smarter than white kids?
So I was intrigued by how Amy Hsin and Yu Xie attempted to explain the academic advantage of Asian-Americans over whites. Hsin, from Queens College at the City University of New York, and Xie, from the University of Michigan, quickly found that higher socio-economic status and greater intellect didn’t contribute as much as some researchers have thought to the grade gap. Even recent immigrants who didn’t have much in the way of financial or social support still tended to do better in school than non-Asian students born and raised in the U.S. And from kindergarten throughout high school, Asian-American students score about the same as whites on standardized tests.
That leaves the work ethic, which Hsin and Xie found accounted for almost all of the grade gap between Asian-American and white students. And that was driven by two factors, both of which have more to do with social and cultural factors than racial ones. Among the more than 5200 Asian-American and white students from two large datasets that followed them from kindergarten into high school, Asian-American students were able to take advantage of social support systems that helped to translate their effort into success. In their communities, families are surrounded by ways to enhance education – from word-of-mouth advice about the best school districts to resources like books, videos and websites, to cram schools for after-school classes. “The Tiger Mom argument neglects these social resources and forces that sustain and reinforce the work ethic,” says Hsin.
In other words, it takes a village. It also takes a culture that may have less to do with race specifically, and more to do with broader social factors such as immigration.“ Asian-American youth are more likely to attribute intellect and academic success to effort rather than innate ability,” she says. That’s a natural outgrowth of the belief that success – in school, in work, and in life — is a meritocratic commodity; the more you put in, the more you get out. When quizzed about whether they thought math skills were innate or learned, most of the white students believed it was a skill you were born with while the Asian-Americans were more likely to think it was learned, and acquired with effort.
What is your parenting style? Take our quiz to find out!
Image: Asian mom and daughter, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, March 13th, 2014
Children who use hand gestures during a math lesson have been found to grasp and retain a greater amount of information than children who do not. The findings, from researchers at the University of Chicago, looked at ways in which children could use “abstract gestures,” as opposed to, say, counting numbers on their fingers, to improve math learning. More on the study from the university:
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The researchers taught third-grade children a strategy for solving one type of mathematical equivalence problem, for example, 4 + 2 + 6 = ____ + 6. They then tested the students on similar mathematical equivalence problems to determine how well they understood the underlying principle.
The researchers randomly assigned 90 children to conditions in which they learned using different kinds of physical interaction with the material. In one group, children picked up magnetic number tiles and put them in the proper place in the formula. For example, for the problem 4 + 2 + 6 = ___ + 6, they picked up the 4 and 2 and placed them on a magnetic whiteboard. Another group mimed that action without actually touching the tiles, and a third group was taught to use abstract gestures with their hands to solve the equations. In the abstract gesture group, children were taught to produce a V-point gesture with their fingers under two of the numbers, metaphorically grouping them, followed by pointing a finger at the blank in the equation.
The children were tested before and after solving each problem in the lesson, including problems that required children to generalize beyond what they had learned in grouping the numbers. For example, they were given problems that were similar to the original one, but had different numbers on both sides of the equation.
Children in all three groups learned the problems they had been taught during the lesson. But only children who gestured during the lesson were successful on the generalization problems.
“Abstract gesture was most effective in encouraging learners to generalize the knowledge they had gained during instruction, action least effective, and concrete gesture somewhere in between,” said senior author Susan Goldin-Meadow, the Beardsley Ruml Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology. “Our findings provide the first evidence that gesture not only supports learning a task at hand but, more importantly, leads to generalization beyond the task. Children appear to learn underlying principles from their actions only insofar as those actions can be interpreted symbolically.”
Download our free worksheets to help your little ones start learning to count!
Image: Magnetic numbers, via Shutterstock
Friday, March 7th, 2014
Kids between the ages of 4 and 6 may have an innate ability to solve algebra problems long before they have had a single math class, according to new research from Johns Hopkins University.
“These very young children, some of whom are just learning to count, and few of whom have even gone to school yet, are doing basic algebra and with little effort,” post-doctoral fellow Melissa Kibbe, the study’s author, said in a statement. “They do it by using what we call their ‘Approximate Number System:’ their gut-level, inborn sense of quantity and number.”
The “Approximate Number System,” or ANS, is also called “number sense,” and describes humans’ and animals’ ability to quickly size up the quantity of objects in their everyday environments. Humans and a host of other animals are born with this ability and it’s probably an evolutionary adaptation to help human and animal ancestors survive in the wild, scientists say.
Previous research has revealed some interesting facts about number sense, including that adolescents with better math abilities also had superior number sense when they were preschoolers, and that number sense peaks at age 35.
Image: Child counting, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, December 4th, 2013
American teenagers are continuing to slip in the rankings of high school achievement internationally, according to the results of the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). Americans were found to be roughly average in science and reading, but below the international average in math. NBC News has more:
Vietnam, which had its students take part in the exam for the first time, had a higher average score in math and science than the United States. Students in Shanghai — China’s largest city with upwards of 20 million people — ranked best in the world, according to the test results. Students in East Asian countries and provinces came out on top, nabbing seven of the top 10 places across all three subjects.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan characterized the flat scores as a “picture of educational stagnation.”
“We must invest in early education, raise academic standards, make college affordable, and do more to recruit and retain top-notch educators,” Duncan said.
Roughly half a million students in 65 nations and educational systems representing 80 percent of the global economy took part in the 2012 edition of PISA, which is coordinated by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD.
The numbers are even more sobering when compared among only the 34 OECD countries. The United States ranked 26th in math — trailing nations such as the Slovakia, Portugal and Russia.
The exam, which has been administered every three years to 15-year-olds, is designed to gauge how students use the material they have learned inside and outside the classroom to solve problems.
U.S. scores on the PISA have stayed relatively flat since testing began in 2000. And meanwhile, students in countries like Ireland and Poland have demonstrated marked improvement — even surpassing U.S. students, according to the results.
Top Talkers: Teenagers are making no progress on international achievement exams, the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment results show. Jon Meacham, Julie Pace and Mike Barnicle discuss.
“It’s hard to get excited about standing still while others around you are improving, so I don’t want to be too positive,” Jack Buckley, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, told the Associated Press.
Image: Students taking a test, via Shutterstock
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