Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Does Grade Retention Work?

The Michigan legislature is considering HB 5111, which mandates retention for 3rd graders who do not pass the state reading test, even if they are proficient in all other subjects, and HB 5144, which requires support for struggling readers and provides for alternative reading proficiency assessments, although it is contingent upon passage of HB 5111.

While at first consideration, holding kids back might seem like a good idea, this is one of those counter-intuitive issues. A vast body of research exists that shows that retention at best, has little to no lasting effect, and at worst, is a disaster for the lives of children who have been retained. Unfortunately, this policy will largely impact children who are living in poverty.

Regardless of which side of this debate you find yourself, relying on intuition isn't enough. Make sure you are well informed. If you are aware of any additional resources, please feel free to post them in the comments below.

I've compiled a number of resources on the subject of grade retention below:

Larry Ferlazzo's extensive list of resources for information on grade retention

Nancy Flanagan's most recent blog post: "The Third-Grade Crackdown Club"

My updated blog post with additional links: Keeping 3rd Graders Behind

Oakland Schools Blog includes video with Dr. Joan Firestone: Intervention Beats Retention

UPDATE: 3-26-14: John Hattie's Visible Learning: A Synthesis of over 800 Meta-analyses Relating to Acheivement, page 97, effect size of retention: -1.5 (yes, that's negative 1.5)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Keeping 3rd Graders Behind

(SEE UPDATES BELOW) In his Mlive article, Should third-grade students with reading trouble be held back? Take our poll, Brian Smith describes a proposal introduced on October 29, 2013 by Rep. Amanda Price, (R-District 89). The bill is now being considered by the education committee of the Michigan House of Representatives. House Bill 5111, creates a law that would prevent any student from enrolling in 4th grade who has not achieved a score of "proficient" on the 3rd grade Michigan reading assessment. This applies both to students currently enrolled in a public school or public school academy (charter school) as well as students new to that school. No exceptions.

This is an equity and social justice issue. Below, is the comment I posted in response:

Brian Smith--you've cited one study, I hope you will continue your research into this incredibly important issue. There are hundreds of studies that have been conducted on retention. Overall, they have found that retention is not an adequate solution, for example see this article in ASCD's, Education Leadership (March 2008) that analyzes the research literature on the subject of retention up to that date:

Not only do short-term gains quickly disappear, students who have been retained continue to struggle, have higher special education placements, are much more likely to drop out, and more than twice as likely to be minorities. The statistics show that "Black students are more than twice as likely to be held back as white students, and boys twice as likely as girls (National Center for Education Statistics, 2006)." The author concludes that "Although individual studies can be cited to support any conclusion, overall the preponderance of evidence argues that students who repeat a grade are no better off, and are sometimes worse off, than if they had been promoted with their classmates."

Other than for symbolic, political reasons, why would we do this to children when we know it doesn't adequately solve the problem? It seems to me that tax dollars that would be required to educate retained students for an additional year (that is, if they don't drop out first) would be much better spent on early interventions in Preschool to 3rd grade, where research has demonstrated it makes a real difference.

Research on early interventions/preschool:  (Hat tip to @Kyle_Mayer1 Assistant Superintendent, Instructional Services, OAISD)

HighScope Perry Preschool longitudinal study

UPDATE 11-23-13: John Hattie's meta-analysis indicates a negative 'effect size' for retention of -0.16. Check out this graphic of 138 effect sizes that impact learning and student achievement, adapted from Hattie's (2009) Visible Learning: A Synthesis of over 800 Meta-analyses Relating to Achievement
Also, check out Hattie's 2012 book, Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning

UPDATE 12-4-13: Nancy Flanagan's blog post "The Third-Grade Crackdown Club".

UPDATE 1-20-14: Michigan lawmakers and educators continue to work on bill that would flunk 3rd graders via @MichiganRadio

UPDATE 2-21-14: Oakland Schools blog post includes video with Dr. Joan Firestone: Intervention Beats Retention

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Resources for Developing Number Sense

I just finished "How to Learn Math", my first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) with Dr. Jo Boaler, a math education specialist from Stanford University, and author of What's Math got to do With It? I'll be writing more about what I learned in future posts, but wanted to share these links first. Below are some resources that Jo shared for developing number sense from one of her graduate students, Dan Meyer

motion math
Conceptua Math
Buzz Math
ST Math
Link to Maria Anderson's blog post for more great resources
Center for Game Science

Here are a few more that I found yesterday:

TERC  If you click on the "Products and Publications" page, there are several dozen more links to amazing resources. I've posted the link to one of them "Mixing in Math", because it's great for parents.
Mixing in Math
Contexts for Learning
Beyond Facts & Flashcards

If you have additional resources, I invite you to post them in the comments.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Engaging Learning

Changing Paradigms: Engaging Students in New Learning Spaces & Contemporary Contexts
In our presentation at GVSU's Faculty Teaching and Learning Center's 19th Annual Fall Conference on Teaching and Learning, David Coffey and I explore the idea of engaging students in learning. Because engagement is an essential element for learning, we focus on three key questions:

What does engagement look like in our classes?
How do we support learners in engaging with our discipline?
What factors might interfere with learners' ability to engage?

Dave's part of the presentation addressed the first two key questions. Since he has blogged a number of times on engagement, I direct you to his previous blog posts, which can be accessed by clicking on this link.

I addressed the third key question, What factors might interfere with learners' ability to engage? You can find our PowerPoint presentation here, and also on FTLC Scholar Works website. I will provide links to resources throughout this post.

During fall semester 2012, I was teaching at GVSU as a visiting professor. I was teaching two math for elementary teachers courses (MTH 221 & MTH 222) and one remedial course, MTH 097, elementary algebra, for incoming freshman. The course for my doctoral program that semester, on diversity and social justice, started several weeks into the semester. Let me just say, I believe in serendipity.

I was surprised at the number of pre-service teachers in the math for elementary teachers classes who expressed their dislike for math, in fact some clearly had math anxiety. Even though I was challenging their paradigm for what it means to do, learn, and teach math, many were trying to engage with the learning. The students in the remedial algebra class, however, were down right hostile. Thankfully, in my grad class, I learned about several factors that were most likely contributing to what I was witnessing in my classes: stages of cognitive development, stereotype threat, and mindset.

The stages of cognitive development established by Piaget typically leave off at about age 12. In his seminal work during the 1960s, William Perry looked at the cognitive development of college students and identified additional stages that begin to develop around age 18. His stages distinguish students' attitudes toward knowledge (epistemology). The first stage in his scheme is defined as Dualism/Received Knowledge. Students in this stage exhibit dichotomous thinking, i.e., right or wrong, black or white, and are authority dependent.  Marcia Baxter Magolda (and others) have further refined Perry's work. This gave me some insight into my 097 students, but it was not sufficient.

Claude Steele's research on stereotype threat provided further insight. Stereotype threat is defined as the threat of being viewed through the lens of a negative stereotype, or the fear of doing something that would inadvertently confirm that stereotype. He documents his research and experience in his recent book, Whistling Vivaldi (you can also listen to an NPR podcast here). Anyone that is a member of a group for which negative stereotypes exist can be effected by stereotype threat. For example, minorities in all subject areas, women in math, and white men in sports. Minority women in math often experience double stereotype threat. My insights were expanding; my 097 class was predominantly minority women. Now I was really wishing I had known about these issues before the semester started.

That led me to the work of Carol Dweck on what she calls "mindset". People with a "fixed"mindset believe that their basic qualities, such as intelligence, are fixed and not malleable. On the other hand, people with a "growth" mindset, believe that those basic qualities, including intelligence, can be developed. Fortunately, a growth mindset can be taught and developed. Click here for an excellent graphic summarizing Dweck's mindset theory. Developing a growth mindset can help students (and adults) progress through the stages of cognitive development and significantly reduce, if not eliminate, the effects of stereotype threat. Carol Dweck's book Mindset is a must-read resource. You can listen to a brief interview of Carol Dweck here. and are excellent resources for those interested in learning more about these subjects.

I welcome your comments, shared experience, and suggestions. I will be writing more about all three of these topics in the next few weeks, so please check back for more.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

MCTM 13 Playing with the Common Core

Wonderful, flexible participants!
This week I had the opportunity to revise my presentation "Playing with the Common Core", and present it at the Michigan Council of Teachers of Mathematics Annual Conference (MCTM) in Traverse City. One of those revisions was co-presenting with my husband and GVSU mathematics educator, David Coffey.

Other revisions included changing the schema activation, refining the focus on the Standards for Mathematical Practice from the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, reducing the number of games during the activity, and adjusting the final organizing and integrating activity. And, since I just finished Thinking Collaborative's Adaptive Schools training, I added some things I learned about being a better facilitator.

Luckily, my worst fears--that no one would attend our session, the desks in the room would be the old fashioned slanted type, and that Dave would talk too long--did not come to pass. Instead, we planned for 30 participants and had 70+ in a room designed for about 32! We made some on-the-spot adjustments and were so thankful that our participants were all extremely flexible and understanding. I thank all of you again.

Here is the link to my Dropbox folder for this presentation. Directions for all three games are in the folder, as well as my PowerPoint slides, CCSSM Content Standards for K-2 and the CCSSM Standards for Mathematical Practice. Several of the game items used in the session are copyrighted and therefore are not in the folder. Links for additional games can be found in my original post Playing With the Common Core. If you have any questions about any of the games, please contact me directly via email.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Playing With the Common Core

AL Abacus for Race to 100

This past Saturday, I presented at Math In Action 2013. This conference for K-12 mathematics teachers is hosted every February by Grand Valley State University.  My one hour session (view my PowerPoint presentation here) was Playing With the Common Core. Here's the outline of my lesson plan for the session: 

Objective: The learner will explore using strategic early number sense games as a context for intentional instruction.

Schema Activation:  (10 min) The role of context in intentional instruction. Read aloud the first page of Grandma Eudora's T-Shirt Factory from Contexts for Learning Mathematics. Briefly highlight within the story contexts for the 5 & 10 structures, use of a "T-chart" as a place value mat, and finally composing and decomposing two-digit numbers. Participants turn and talk about the role of context in instruction.

Focus:  (10 min) Review the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM) Content Standards & CCSSM Standards for Mathematical Practice (SMP) for grades K - 2, with emphasis on the SMP.

Activity: (20 min) Session participants explore and play the following Early Number Sense Games. Click on the link for a materials list.
Reflection: (20 min)  Reflect on the games you played and write your own scenario anchored in the context of one of the games you played. Special focus on the Standards for Mathematical Practice.

Don't leave learning to chance--you can center your instruction by setting up a scenario around a game that has been a common shared experience by the students in your classroom. This can be done with individual students, in a small group for intervention, within your mathematics workshop, or even whole group. Examples:
  • Race to 100: (Content Std: Count by 10 from any number; SMP: Mathematical structure) "Remember when we were playing Race to 100? Let's say I'm on 14. What if I rolled three tens in a row? Where would I land at the end of each turn?"
  • Part-Whole Bingo: (Content Std: composing & decomposing numbers; SMP: Problem Solving) "What if I just rolled a seven and all of the towers with seven are filled? What could I do to be sure to use all seven of my cubes?"
From a teacher perspective, write a short narrative scenario that you can use in your classroom related to both a CCSSM Content Standard, and more importantly, one or more of the Standards for Mathematical Practice that is anchored in the game(s) you explored.

                                                                *   *   *   *   *  

Friday, February 8, 2013

Early Number Sense

One in five adults in the United States is functionally innumerate; they do not possess the mathematical competencies needed for many modern jobs.  (Geary,  Hoard, Nugent, & Bailey,  2013).
In the three sections of MTH 222, Mathematics for Elementary Teachers II, that I'm teaching this semester at Grand Valley State University, my students are learning about research-based games that help elementary students develop number sense and gain a conceptual understanding of place value. An article in the Education Week blog Inside School Research features the results of a longitudinal study published in the current edition of the online journal, PLoS ONE. The study found that number sense is a better predictor of students' later math achievement than counting or other speed-based measures. The authors go on to conclude that "first grade number system knowledge predicts seventh grade functional numeracy" (Geary et al., 2013). As teachers, we must be prepared to assess and evaluate our student's early number sense. And, more importantly, provide appropriate intervention experiences that immerse our students in rich experiences that expand their early understandings of the relationships between numbers.

So, tonight I was doing a Google search for games that promote number sense--in particular a game called Part-Whole Bingo from Contexts for Learning Mathematics Investigating Number Sense, Addition and Subtraction. I came across a blog post I wrote on 'Mrs. Coffey's Classroom Blog' a few years ago when I was teaching 1st grade at Edgewood Elementary school at Fruitport Community Schools. What a wonderful surprise!

Here is the photo I posted on that blog on February 26, 2010.

I'll be using this game, as well as a few others, in my presentation at the  Math In Action 2013 Conference this Saturday at GVSU and introducing it to my pre-service teachers in class next week.

Geary DC, Hoard MK, Nugent L, Bailey DH (2013) Adolescents’ Functional Numeracy Is Predicted by Their School Entry Number System Knowledge. PLoS ONE 8(1): e54651. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054651