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Teachers who helped raise DC scores--please tell us how

A frequent contributor to this blog, known as efavorite, has made an interesting suggestion:
"Here's a hot idea for an article for you -- interview some of those 4th and 8th grade teachers to find out exactly what they've been doing to cause this continuing improvement in math scores over the years. Look especially at vet teachers who have been around through several superintendent changes. They will have a good historical perspective."
You saw our front page story Wednesday on the score increases. Great teachers did excellent work. But how? If you are one of those DC math teachers of any elementary or middle school grade (all of you contribute to long term achievement) please post a comment here. If you know any DC math teachers, please send this post to them. You can be as detailed as you like. This is a blog where people want to learn, not just vent.

By Jay Mathews  | December 9, 2009; 4:57 PM ET
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags:  D.C. math scores, D.C. math teachers  
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Isn't it possible that the population changed? I'd eliminate that possibility and a few others before I assumed that teaching had raised test scores.

Posted by: Cal_Lanier | December 9, 2009 11:55 PM | Report abuse

Jay - I'm delighted that you're doing this. Don't forget recently retired math teachers. As I mentioned on the earlier blog, "They will have seen a lot of superintendents come and go and they won’t feel restricted or be afraid of repercussions."

If you don't get a big response here, I hope you do some reporting on your own.

As cal_lanier suggested, perhaps the population changed. That's something teachers would notice, even if anecdotally. Maybe they think smaller class size or better discipline played a part. As you know - I, along with many others, don't think good teaching is all that accounts for academic improvement.

If I had known you were going to use my actual words to reach out to math teachers, I would have refined them to say “…find out exactly what they've been doing AND WHAT OTHER FACTORS THEY THINK MAY HAVE caused this continuing improvement in math scores over the years.”

Posted by: efavorite | December 10, 2009 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Jay I just found interesting info on the latest DC math scores on this blog

It's done by a retired DCPS math teacher. (Explained in his first post on 11/1/09) It's full of charts and graphs. Check it out.

Posted by: efavorite | December 10, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse


Look at 8th grade which is by far the most important data because it tells more about comprehension over time. Like Duncan just told Ed Week, you don't get a career based on 3rd grade (or 4th) scores.

The growth was in the 90th perecntile scores. Scores were flat for for low-income students and had a statistically insignificant decline for Blacks in DC. So maybe the improvement comes from gentrification....

This is consistent with the larger pattern where NCLB produced some gains in Math even in middle school. That makes sense; a decade ago how many elementary teachers were there with a background in math. So the professional devlopment should produce increases. Until you produce gains in reading and high school performance especially for poor children of color, then you have to say that data-driven accountability hasn't been worth the opportunity costs.

And think of the economic boom they had in DC and NYC during those years. Until they show gains that persist during down years, the lessons aren't applicable for schools that don't have "more money than God."

Posted by: johnt4853 | December 10, 2009 6:37 PM | Report abuse

What a great topic. I am glad you broadened your lense beyond 4th and 8th grade math teachers.

As an elementary classroom teacher, I teach all subjects. Once again, my students arrived 2 - 3 grade levels below grade level in reading and math. I spent the first 6 weeks teaching the high frequency Dolch reading words. There was a dramatic rise in my students' math scores, but reading still lags. My point is, students cannot answer questions they cannot read. These are INCREDIBLY intelligent children who are managing households and raising children. My students have now worked their way from pre-primer reading levels to Grade Two in just 3 months. We will soon move on to the Third Grade Reading Vocabulary Words.

It is child abuse to give a child a textbook (AND TESTS!!!!!!) they cannot read.


Posted by: mrpozzi | December 11, 2009 3:34 AM | Report abuse

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