In this piece in the Huffington Post, the authors attempt to answer the question about why US performance in math is so dismal. They first state that “it is not class sizes, funding, or teacher qualifications” but rather:
It is the summer learning gap that brings down the educational outcomes for students from low-income families. Many children from low-income backgrounds do not have the financial resources to engage in academic summer programs that help them retain and expand upon their learning from the previous school year. Meanwhile, their middle- and upper-income counterparts take part in summer schools, camps, and other enrichment programs. The result is a significant achievement gap between these two groups of students over the summer break; the students from families with resources to learn even when school is not in session gain one month in math and reading each summer, while lower-income students lose at least two months in math and reading every summer vacation. By the time both of these groups reach fifth grade, the gap is about three years, and by the time they reach high school, the gap has stretched to over five years.
Although they mention class size, funding and teacher qualifications as possible contenders, which they rule out quickly, they fail to mention curriculum, text materials, and ineffective pedagogical practices. For almost three decades, math education in K-6 has fallen prey to reform math (aka progressive) ideologies that promote collaboration, group work, project/problem-based learning, student-centered and inquiry-based classrooms, as well as whatever edu-fad happens to be trending at the moment.
In the past, summer slide was not as noticeable, though I’ve heard reformers argue that that’s because in the past the first three months of every school year were devoted to re-teaching key topics from the previous year. The implication was that this does not go on now, although they fail to mention that such review built on what was learned the previous year so that students weren’t simply repeating learned material.
And since the article focuses on income disparity, do you think perhaps that outside help like tutors, and learning centers may play a role? Lower income families cannot afford these things but some higher income families tend to rely on it to ensure their children are learning what isn’t being taught with today’s rather dubious curricula.
Another reason cited by the authors is that in Asian countries, students spend on average 220 days in school compared to our 180 days. Significant, sure, but also not mentioned is the quality and effectiveness of the curricula used in Asian countries. They largely use traditional techniques despite assertions to the contrary from progressivists who insist that Asian countries are doing reform math right.
They then suggest that the US invest a “$400 voucher (or 3% additional spending per student per year for summer learning) to the 25 million students that come from households living in poverty.”
Yeah, throwing money at things always works. NSF threw $93 million in grant money in the early 90’s to develop such programs as “Investigations in Number, Data and Space”, “Everyday Math”, “Connected Math Project” and other poorly written and conceived textbooks that embodied the principles in NCTM’s 1989 math standards. That worked out well, now didn’t it?