Could I cover one block of math? Family emergency, the teacher had to go, math practice assignment was all duplicated, I didn’t have a class at that time . . .
It was a class for kids generally not on the college-bound track, certainly not on the mathematics-intensive path. In a couple of minutes three kids told me they were there because they failed the state math test, the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS). We got into the exercise and found it featured a whole bunch of algebraic equations that would tax my memory of the rules quite well.
As I was struggling to remember how to divide and multiply exponents in fractional forms, 15 minutes into the class a woman handed in the assignment. More than 30 equations done, each one I spot checked done correctly, all the work shown — even beautifully legible handwriting.
“You have a real facility for math,” I said. “Why are you here and not in the calculus-bound class?”
She said she had failed the TAKS math portion. I told her I found that highly unlikely.
“I can’t do story problems,” she said. “I can’t figure out how they should go.”
So here was a mathematics savant, relegated to remedial math because of a difficulty translating prose into equation.
In the old days, we’d take a kid like that, let her run as far and as fast as possible in what she was good at (higher abstract mathematics concepts), and work with her on the story problem thingy. If she’s stuck where she doesn’t learn new concepts, she probably won’t make “adequate yearly progress,” either. We have taken a kid with great math talent, and turned her into a statistic of failure.
It was a flawed sample, of course. 30 kids, one savant, three others not quite as fast but with roughly the same problem: Math is easy for them, prose is not easy, especially when it has to be translated into equations. 4/30 is 13%. Do we have that many mathematically capable kids who we flunk and put into remedial math — 13% of the total?
One way to make sure no child is left behind is to stop the train completely. If the train does not move, no one gets left behind.
No mail gets delivered, no milk gets delivered, people can’t go to far off places to study, or to sell. But nobody gets “left behind.”
Did I mention that the Texas Education Agency fired their science curriculum person in direct violation of Article VI of the U.S. Constitution? Is there a correlation there?