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In math, grade-level tests are holding back low-achieving students

September 24, 2019 Fordham Institute

By: Joel Rose, New Classrooms

Imagine that you’re a sixth-grade math teacher. It’s the first day of school, and the vast majority of your students arrived multiple years behind where they should be. Your job is to teach them concepts such as understanding percentages and dividing fractions. Both will appear on the sixth-grade state test, but your students never successfully learned much of anything about the basics of fractions in fourth and fifth grade.

What would you do?

Would you try to go back and address their unfinished learning from prior years and run the risk of not having enough time to cover all of the sixth-grade-level material? Or would you march dutifully through grade-level content and try to fill in gaps where you can, knowing that it probably won’t be enough?

Today, New Classrooms Innovation Partners, of which I’m co-founder and CEO, published The Iceberg Problem: How Assessment and Accountability Policies Cause Learning Gaps to Persist Below the Surface….and What To Do About It. In it, we contend that, while college and career readiness needs to be the goal for all students, policies that were oriented around annual grade-level expectations may, at least for middle school math, make it harder for some students to accomplish that objective.

Read the rest of the Fordham Institute article.