Access may not be the problem

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I just read an article that complains that disadvantaged children (undefined in the article) do not receive access to math classes of the same rigor as their more advantaged counterparts. I am certain this is true. Lower-income students often encounter weaker content.

My concern is contained in various previous posts. Sometimes this weaker content comes as a direct response to students’ operational academic levels. Sometimes this content may also be the appropriate choice for students who have fallen behind.

This last year, my lower-income, language-challenged, bilingual students were forced to take on more rigorous math. All students in my school, whether bilingual, special ed or “regular” took exactly the same quizzes and tests. The more mathematically apt gained a fair amount of knowledge, even as they took frequent hits to their self-esteem. But my lowest kids spent the year getting clobbered. I’ll acknowledge that if my students had seen that rigorous content in earlier grades, we would not have been in the mess we were in. When thirteen-year-old students can’t add fractions or convert a decimal to a percentage without days of remedial work, something has gone badly wrong in elementary school.

But you can’t just dramatically up the rigor of the material to fix the problem. When you do, you see answers like the following:

I managed to give a point of partial credit on the last answer at least.