Do you think building and operating a really expensive mockup of a NASA space center and mission launch control in one of our schools is a great educational idea? Well, as the Courier-Journal reports today in “Challenger Learning Center ‘on hold’ by JCPS,” the Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) did exactly that. Inevitably, this costly idea has now failed to successfully launch in what is a spectacular example of lousy bang-for-the-buck planning.
Sounds much like the Common Core controversy here in the US
A scathing report from Canada’s C.D. Howe Institute calls into serious question some of the very same math instruction techniques that Common Core State Standards have brought to schools around the US, including Kentucky.
Canada’s National Post reports that the new report says a math instruction approach known as “Discovery Learning” has set Canadian students back in international testing.
Anna Stokke from the University of Winnipeg’s department of mathematics and statistics wrote the report. She says:
“You know what’s the worst kind of instruction? The kind of instruction that makes kids feel stupid. And that’s what a lot of that discovery stuff does.”
Discovery Learning approaches, as the report describes them, sound exactly like things being pushed as a result of Common Core. Researcher Stokke’s report says the Discovery Learning approach includes:
• minimal guidance from the teacher and few explicit teacher explanations;
• open-ended problems with multiple solutions (Example: The answer to my question is 37. What might my question be?);
• frequent use of hands-on materials such as blocks, fraction strips and algebra tiles or drawing pictures to solve problems;
• use of multiple, preferably student-invented, strategies;
• minimal worksheet practice or written symbolic work;
• memorization of math facts is deprioritized;
• standard methods such as column addition or long division are downplayed;
• a top-down approach in which students work on complex problems, even though foundational skills might not be present.
Herein lies trouble. The National Post says that with Discovery Learning approaches:
“…students’ working memories get overwhelmed if they don’t know their times tables and can’t quickly put a standard algorithm to work to solve a more complex problem, both features of what’s known as ‘direct instruction.’ Key operations, such as addition and subtraction of fractions, are overly delayed until the middle school years, just as students need that facility to tackle algebra.”
That’s clearly bad, but here is a real eye-catcher direct from the report:
“A particularly disturbing finding, from a number of studies, is that low-aptitude students perform worse on post-test measures after receiving discovery based instruction than they do on pre-test measures. In other words, discovery-based instruction might result in learning losses and widen the gap between low- and high-performing students.”
Did you catch that? Researcher Stokke says that using techniques being pushed by Common Core supporters could INCREASE achievement gaps. Folks in Lexington, take note.
So, these Common Core like approaches have been in use in Canada for a decade and that nation’s test performance is falling. And, research shows the approaches are not optimal. That’s not a great confidence builder for Common Core’s similar math approaches here in the USA.
It was one of the major arguments used to support passage of the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 (KERA) – Kentucky’s education system would deal with chronic achievement gaps under the banner “All Kids Can Learn.”
Sadly, a quarter of a century later, the failure of that KERA promise is far too evident in many ways. One of the most recent examples is a lament in a State Journal article from the state capitol region of Kentucky that minority students are “suffering from widening achievement gaps.”
The State Journal points out that minorities are seriously under-represented in the state’s teachers’ corps and the situation is actually getting worse due to a shortage of qualified minority personnel.
Unfortunately, this isn’t news. We’ve pointed before to many examples for Kentucky like this one that racial achievement gaps have decayed since KERA came along.
If KERA had kept its promise, this would not be happening. But, it is happening, and that is why we at the Bluegrass Institute are anxious to try some new things like charter schools and other school choice options that could benefit minority kids who clearly are not being served well in Kentucky’s traditional public schools and therefore are more and more unlikely to become teachers in the state’s educational system.
We’ve written a ton of articles over the years about the expensive, environmentally unfriendly, and largely ineffective busing-for-integration effort that is still going on in Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) (just search our blog using “busing Jefferson County” in the search window).
But, it looks like citizens of Kentucky’s biggest city just love to bang their head against the busing wall.
So, a new WAVE3.COM article about continuing violence on the buses is no surprise to us.
What is a surprise is the low learning curve about things that just don’t work for schools in Jefferson County. The Supreme Court figured out that busing wasn’t getting the job done years ago and dropped the mandate to bus for integration in Louisville.
Louisvillians keep on doing it to themselves, anyway, never seeming to realize that moving a black child to a school with better test scores for whites provides no guarantee that the black child will get the same education. In fact, that black child might not even wind up in the same classroom with the whites.
The WAVE3 article says that fights on Louisville’s school buses are down from 269 two years ago to 172 last year.
But, the article also says that John Stovall, president of Teamsters Local 783, the union that represents bus drivers, claims, “When some bus drivers report fights to the principal, who is the only one with the power to suspend a child from the bus, the incident is sometimes swept under the rug.” So, who knows what the real fight numbers are?
In any event, one fight is too many, but having something on the order of several hundred fights a year signals problems.
When you couple the bus violence with the evidence we assembled a couple of years ago that moving kids all over the map in Louisville didn’t result in better scores for the under-privileged kids who got sent to supposedly better schools on the East side of Louisville, it’s clearly past time for Louisville to fix its neighborhood schools, especially those in the West End. That way, students can thrive in a nearby school and parents can be close by for support, too. This would be a far better solution than burning huge amounts of diesel to operate what too often turn into rolling fight arenas.
JCPS doesn’t know how to fix those neighborhood schools you say. Then let’s – finally – try the charter school approach! We obviously need them in Louisville – and now in Lexington, too.
A lot of people understand that Kentucky’s largest city would benefit from more school options for students including charter schools operated independent of the stifling restrictions from bureaucracy and union influences in Louisville.
Now, however, another hot prospect has emerged with a vengeance, and this time it is Lexington – not Louisville – that becomes the newest poster child for the need in Kentucky of charter school legislation.
The Herald-Leader just came alive with an article, “Education commissioner warns of state action if Fayette doesn’t support low-achieving schools,” which discusses the deplorable support the Fayette County School District has been providing to some of the very lowest performing schools in the Lexington area. The article links to a really disturbing letter from Education Commissioner Terry Holliday that charges the Fayette County Board of Education with some really significant management shortfalls.
I wonder if the commissioner would like to turn some of those schools that the Fayette County School District doesn’t seem interested in or capable of helping into charter schools. Too bad we don’t have a law right now that would allow him to do that.
Considering the Obama administration’s failure to keep its promise – made by the President in public speeches at least 36 times – that “if you like your plan, you can keep it,” there should be little surprise that other claims offered by Obamacare’s Kool-Aid drinkers to sell this big-government health-care program also are bogus.
For instance, President Obama and fellow supporters of the Affordable Care Act repeatedly asserted that the strain on hospitals would be relieved as there would be fewer expensive emergency room visits.
“What about those parents whose kids have a chronic illness like asthma and have to keep on going back to the emergency room because they don’t have a regular doctor, and the bills never stop coming?” Obama asked a crowd during a speech in Maryland.
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, Obama’s political soulmate in Frankfort, made similar claims during his State of the Commonwealth speech to a joint General Assembly session in January.
Beshear claimed that the success of the commonwealth’s version of Obamacare – known as the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange – “means that our friends and neighbors … can be treated in an appropriate setting – not in an emergency room, the most expensive place to get care.”
Yet, a new poll by the American College of Emergency Physicians indicates that emergency room visits are rising.
A whopping 75 percent of the 2,099 physicians nationwide reported that the number of ER patients has increased since Obamacare went into effect on Jan. 1, 2014 – with 28 percent claiming the number had “increased greatly.”
Ryan Stanton, an ER physician at Baptist Health Lexington, told The Wall Street Journal that ER visits had gone up 20 percent during the first few months of 2015 compared with 10 percent last year – when the law widely expanded coverage.
Adam Ogle, director of emergency services at Baptist Health Paducah, told the Paducah Sun that emergency visits to his facility were up by more than 6 percent in 2014 over 2013 and already have grown by 5 percent this year, compared to the same period last year.
Even as Obamacare was being shoved down Americans’ IV tubes, we had to hope that the previously uninsured who now had coverage would be able to seek conventional treatment, thus relieving the pressure on ERs, to which a visit by a patient needing primary – rather than emergency – care costs $580 more per visit, according to a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report in 2013.
Dr. Stanton points to a huge increase in volume, which was bound to happen due to the fact that a whopping majority of the formerly uninsured who now are covered receive coverage through taxpayer-funded Medicaid rather than a private plan they pay for.
Considering a shortage of primary care physicians who would accept Medicaid patients already existed before Obamacare, where did the geniuses who created this health-care boondoggle think the newly covered would go when they needed care that couldn’t wait for months until a physician could see them at the office?
To the ER, of course, which won’t turn them away.
Obamacare supporters will try to pooh-pooh this survey, claiming it’s anecdotal.
Yet while it may not be absolutely conclusive, the survey offers a realistic view of what’s happening on the ground rather than the rosy rhetoric offered on the campaign trail.
Plus, plenty of rigorous data – again available even before Obamacare was implemented – showed that expanding Medicaid increases the strain on emergency rooms.
Since the Obama and Beshear administrations don’t have a solution for that problem, they choose to simply ignore it and act like Kentucky and the nation has cured its crisis of uninsured citizens.
They’re still failing to treat this condition.
But if you leave an infection untreated, won’t it only grow worse?