Monday, January 18, 2010

Ranking the States in Math

Ed Week recently published a "Math Progress" index related to the Quality Counts 2010 report. The index ranks the various states according to 12 metrics. I believe some of these metrics are important-- for instance, the percentage of middle schoolers attending schools where taking algebra in 8th grade is the norm. Others are less important--for instance, the percentage of lower-income students taught math by teachers who have been teaching it for more than 10 years. What with tenure and the like, it is quite possible to teach math badly for 20 years or more, especially in the large urban districts where many lower income students reside, and other studies have shown that after the first few years on the job, teachers don't make vast quality gains. So I'm not sure I would have included this one.

Nonetheless, what I find most interesting about these rankings is how varied the states are. Some are generally good on most of the metrics (Massachusetts and Maryland). Some are generally bad (Mississippi, for instance). But even the top scorers like Massachusetts don't do well on some important metrics, like 8th grade algebra, whereas lower ranking states like California do quite well on this one. Because of this, it is hard to point to one state doing "best practices" that others can emulate. In other words, large scale math reform is not going to involve just pointing to one state and saying "do what they do." It will have to involve picking and choosing from across the country.

1 comment:

Kevin said...

It is not clear that California's putting algebra into middle school has improved math teaching here. All that happens is that algebra gets watered down still further, so that students can pass without noticeable math skills.