Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Get Them Early

A University of Illinois study recently found that students who take advanced level math classes in middle school are more likely to take advanced level math classes in high school. The researchers then argue that closing the achievement gap in high school can be done by increasing the number of students taking advanced math in middle school.

But why stop there? I'll bet that the number of kids taking advanced math in middle school correlates to the level of math instruction in elementary school. This study (unless I'm missing something) just seems to be saying that the achievement gap doesn't start in high school. It seems to be saying that gaps that exist in middle school carry over into high school.

I guess it's nice to have the data to back it up, but this seems like pretty low-level stuff to me.

Similarly, another study in California found that assessing college readiness in high school, and helping those who are behind, will help reduce the need for remedial classes when those students get to college. Again, this boils down to showing the need to help kids before the problem really develops.

So why wait until the junior year of high school? Or why wait until middle school (which we now know affects how kids do in high school)? Why don't we start at the very beginning when the kids first get to school or even before that?

The best way to close the achievement gap is to prevent one from ever opening. We're going to need to start way before middle school if that's our goal.

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