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The Iceberg Problem: Event highlights, op-eds, and more

October 7, 2019 New Classrooms

On September 24, New Classrooms released its report, “The Iceberg Problem: How Assessment and Accountability Policies Cause Learning Gaps in Math to Persist Below the Surface…and What to Do About It.” It examines the issue of unfinished learning in middle school math and proposes solutions to help kids get back on track. You can explore the profound challenge of “The Iceberg Problem” and download our report here.

Event Highlights

After opening remarks by Paul Ohm, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Georgetown University Law Center, New Classrooms CEO and co-founder Joel Rose stepped up to the podium to share key insights from “The Iceberg Problem.”

Joel Rose

Policies designed more than 30 years ago to increase the number of students graduating ready for college or a post-secondary career may actually be preventing them from getting there at all.

Joel Rose, New Classrooms

At the conclusion of Joel’s remarks, he joined a panel alongside Kirsten Baesler (North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction), Jim Blew (Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Education), Shavar Jeffries (President, Democrats for Education Reform), Karen Nussle (President, Conservative Leaders for Education), and Roberto Rodríguez (President and CEO, Teach Plus) to discuss the nation’s assessment and accountability system and what can be done to put the needs of individual students first. The conversation was hosted by Thomas Toch, Director of FutureEd at Georgetown University.

New Classrooms Chief Program Officer and Co-Founder Chris Rush brought the event to a close with gratitude and a positive vision for what will come next in education.

Chris Rush

If there’s at least one thing that we’ve come to consensus on, it’s that right now, today, school isn’t working for too many kids. And we absolutely need to find a better way to do it.

Chris Rush, New Classrooms

The Iceberg Problem in the news

Since the unveiling of the report, The Iceberg Problem has been in the news.

The 74: Rose & Weisberg: Do Kids Fall Behind in Math Because There Isn’t Enough Grade-Level Material, or Because There’s Too Much? It’s Both

One year after TNTP released its vital report, “The Opportunity Myth,” which found that students who don’t meet grade-level standards often never receive grade-level instruction, TNTP CEO Dan Weisberg joined Joel Rose to shed light on how these findings aligned with findings identified in “The Iceberg Problem.” This piece, published in The 74, brings nuanced analysis to a nuanced challenge: ultimately students must achieve grade-level proficiency and we must meet them where they are.

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

The assessment and accountability system in the United States is based around the theory of equal treatment, with all students in a given academic year experiencing the same content. But equal treatment is not synonymous with equitable treatment. Focusing exclusively on grade-level instruction, with state testing always front of mind, routinely widens existing learning gaps for students coming into middle school with unfinished learning. Joel Rose shares his thoughts in this piece published by the Fordham Institute.

Report: Students lose ground in math because of focus on grade-level instruction and testing – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia teachers are concerned about the Iceberg Problem in their state and have taken steps toward innovative solutions, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Teachers are speaking out about the difficulty of balancing the individual needs of students with the fixation on grade-level test performance. Over time, the learning gaps middle school students carry with them from elementary school become unsurpassable barriers to algebra readiness. This article outlines the plan of action Georgia is taking to combat these foundational cracks.

Student growth measures: What we’ve been missing (Phi Kappa Delta Magazine)

New Classrooms VP of Policy & Advocacy Michael Watson addresses the trouble with grade-level assessments in this Phi Kappa Delta publication. Assessment measures do little to measure students’ actual academic growth and resultantly reveal only a small portion of student learning. Teachers are encouraged to focus instruction on grade-level proficiency, limiting their ability to meet students where they are in their learning. This can cause skill gaps to grow and students’ chances at college and career readiness to decline. This piece highlights these difficulties and speaks to the importance of rethinking measures of growth.

Over the last decade, we have worked with teachers and students in schools across the country, and that work will continue as we advocate for accountability and assessment systems that put the most important stakeholders first: students.

Remember to visit newclassrooms.org/icebergproblem to learn more.