Thinking Big: Setting the K-12 Mathematics and Science Education Agenda for the 21st Century 3rd JHU Education Summit-2006 Presenter-Robert Balfanz Panelists-Leigh Abts Ralph Fessler Guy Lucas Stephen Wilson
There is a Consensus- We Need to Improve K-12 Mathematics and Science Education in the U.S.
So the Time is Right to Think Big, Consider Our Options, and Chart an Ambitious Course for Our Nation
K-12 Mathematics and Science Education in the U.S. • Works for Some Students, but not Others • Needs to be Fundamentally Re-Thought • Concerns are Overstated only Incremental Improvement is Needed
Key Facts about K-12 Mathematics and Science Education in the U.S. • The Percent of Students taking Advanced Mathematics courses in Grade 8-12 has increased substantially in past decade. Gains in Science Course Taking have been more modest. • Elementary and to Some Extent Middle Grades Mathematics and Science Achievement Has Improved in the Last Decade. High School Achievement has been Flat.
Key Facts cont. • Compared to other Nations overall U.S. performance in mathematics appears to be middle of the road. The U.S. does better in science but still not top tier. • Among top performing high school students 50% of males and 33% of females express interest in majoring in science, technology, engineering or mathematics in college. Interest drops considerably among middle performing high school students.
Key Facts cont. • Some States and Districts are having trouble finding enough Mathematics and Science Teachers. NYC is offering a $14,000 housing bonus to attract enough math and science teachers. • In some states and school districts less then half of middle school students are taught by mathematics and science teachers certified in their subject with demonstrated content knowledge
Key Fact cont. • U.S. Teachers have prose, document and quantitative literacy skills on par with doctors, lawyers and accountants but are paid much less • There is some evidence that compared to teachers in high performing nations U.S. mathematics and science teachers are less trained, less supported, and teach differently
Setting the Nation’s K-12 Mathematics and Science Agenda-Four Scenarios
Scenario 1 Accelerate and Intensify the K-12 Mathematics and Science Curriculum
U.S. K-12 Students Can Learn Much More Mathematics and Science Than They Are Currently Being Taught
Current K-12 Mathematics and Science Curriculum • Does Not Teach Students At or Near Their Capacity to Learn • Has been Haphazardly Assembled-Lacks Coherence, Focus, and Depth
Our Underachieving Mathematics and Science K-12 Curriculum • Over 90% of entering kindergartners can count to 10 and recognize the basic shapes. 57% can count past 10 and complete basic patterns. Yet these skills are commonly the main focus of mathematics instruction in kindergarten (Early Childhood Longitudinal Study). • In 8th grade, up to 50% of class time is used to review old material rather than learn new material (TIMSS Videotape Study).
Solution = National, Voluntary K-12 Mathematics and Science Scope and Sequence • Indicate What Should be Taught at Each Grade Level • Aimed Near Student’s Capacity to Learn • Coherent and Challenging
Advantages • Available evidence indicates a clear link between taking more advanced mathematics and science courses in K-12, academic achievement and college success. • Help Off-set Negative Impacts of Student and Teacher Mobility. Whatever school your are in same topics will be covered in same grade.
Advantages cont. • Allow Teacher Training to be more Focused and Specific • It Would Facilitate National Assessment. Achieving Proficiency Would Mean the Same thing in Each State.
Disadvantages • Rapid Expansion of the amount of mathematics and science taught in K-12 could lead to a teacher shortage and undermine its impact • The link between course taking and achievement may be more nuanced than is commonly believed. 12th Grade NAEP Scores have been flat as the percent of students taking Algebra II has increased 22 percentage points
Disadvantages cont. • Could be more than the nation needs with significant opportunity costs in terms of students learning other important skills.
Should We Have our K-12 Students Study More Mathematics and Science in the 21st Century? • Yes • No • Some But Not All Students
Should the Nation Have K-12 Mathematics and Science Scope and Sequence Which States Which Topics are Taught in Each Grade? • Yes • No
Can All Students Study Algebra and Geometry in 7th and 8th Grade? • Yes • No • We do not Know
Thoughts from the Panelists • Leigh Abts • Guy Lucas
Scenario 2 Develop New and Improved K-12 Mathematics and Science Instructional Materials
Its What Students Learn in their Mathematics and Science Course that Matters, Not How many Courses they Take • Good Instruction Leads to High Achievement • Teachers Need Better Instructional Tools • Its only in the past decade that the Learning/Mind Sciences have become advanced enough to offer practical guidance to classroom instruction.
Focus of Reform in 21st Century Should be on Creating Instructional Materials Which Are Based on Science, Improved through Teacher Input, and Proven to Work
8 Steps to Better Instructional Materials • Federal R and D effort to develop a coherent set of model instructional materials for k-12 mathematics and science at the lesson level • Create instructional materials which develop factual knowledge, procedural fluency, conceptual understanding, and application ability • Base on Findings from the Learning/Mind Sciences
8 Steps cont. • Improve via Field Testing and Refinement by Teachers (National Lesson Study) • Verify that They Lead to Improved Achievement in a Diversity of Classrooms through Randomized Field Trials • Start with Key Anchor Topics. If Successful Expand to Complete Grade Level Curriculums. • Distribute On-Line (for free?) • Continually update
Advantages • Instructional materials become scientifically based and classroom verified • Enable teachers to focus on how to teach lessons well, rather than what to teach • Provides a means to continually incorporate new learning into the instructional materials • All teachers/classrooms have equal access to high quality materials
Disadvantages • Instruction is contested terrain. Might not reach consensus on what key lessons and units are • May turn out to be difficult to translate findings from learning/mind sciences into lessons teachers find useful, useable, and effective • Local control of instruction is deeply rooted in U.S. Even if good the materials might not be widely used.
Should We Launch a Large Scale Federal R and D Effort to Develop Better K-12 Mathematics and Science Instructional Materials? • Yes • No This is Not an Appropriate Role for the Federal Government • Nice Vision but Would not Work in Practice
Should the Instructional Materials be On-Line and Given Away for Free? • Yes • No
Thoughts from the Panelists • Stephen Wilson • Leigh Abts
Scenario 3 Close the Achievement Gap
Math and Science Achievement in the U.S. is Intensely Correlated with Opportunity to Learn and Zip Code
The Achievement Gap • Students who take rigorous courses, live in affluent neighborhoods, attend schools where few students live in poverty, and attend selective colleges typically perform at or near first in the world levels • Students who do not have access to rigorous courses, are taught by less experience and skilled teachers, and attend schools in which most students live in poverty typically perform near the bottom in international comparisons
4 Key Steps to Closing the K-12 Mathematics and Science Achievement Gap
Transform the High Poverty Schools Where the Achievement Gap becomes an Achievement Chasm • About 15% of the Nation’s High Schools Produce Half its Dropouts • Don’t Wait for NCLB to Identify Failing Schools. Fix these High Schools and the Middle Grade and Elementary Schools which Feed Them
Provide Sustained Extra Help for Students with Below Grade Level Skills and Knowledge • Acknowledge that Some Students will need Continual Extra Help. Intervention at any One Level will not Guarantee Success at the Next. • Put Particular Focus on Key Transition Grades-K-1, 3rd, 6th, 9th, 12th. Strive to have all students leave these grades on grade level
Close Teacher Quality and Funding Gaps • High Poverty Schools Must Have Strong Teachers. Provide Incentives to Teach and Stay in these Schools. • Acknowledge that Schools that Face Higher Degrees of Educational Challenge Need Additional Resources to Meet Them
Find the Best Way to Provide Extra Help and Extra Resources • Conduct Large Scale Tennessee Class Size Type Studies to determine the cost/benefits of a longer school day vs longer school week vs longer school year and the best ways to use this extra time • Compare to cost/benefits of reduced class size for all vs targeted class size reduction and very small classes (n=10) for struggling students
Advantages • Recognizes that student achievement is in large part driven by the quality of schools they attend and that school quality is often linked with income in the U.S. • Focusing Efforts and Supports on Struggling Students will Enable U.S. to Raise Standards for All without Leaving Large Numbers of Students Behind