Friday, May 21, 2010

Stunted Progress

I kind of feel bad for the city's fourth grade teachers. Over the last 8 years, they've gotten kids to make slow, but steady progress on the NAEP reading tests. We're not talking the kind of progress you see on the state tests, but it's progress all the same. That takes a lot of hard work and dedication and they deserve to be commended for that.

But then those kids get to eighth grade and the wheels seem to fall off. According to the same set of NAEP results, the level of eighth grade success is almost exactly the same as it was in 2003.

The crazy thing about this is that today's eighth graders used to be fourth graders, where presumably they were getting better. Then a few years later, it's gone and there's no improvement. What gives?

I know there's all sorts of research and anecdotal evidence about the drop off in student success that seems to coincide with middle school. A lot of that may have to do with the transformation from sweet little kids to raging hormone monsters. But even if that's the case, it seems like we need to do something to adust for that.

As a former middle school teacher, I know it's hard. But all the fourth grade gains in the world don't matter much if they're gone in four years. Progress really only matters if it can be sustained.

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