To boost scores and gain the coveted “exemplary” status in Texas, a Dallas elementary school taught third graders only math and reading for most of the year, ignoring the other subjects and pressuring teachers to simply make up grades for those discarded areas, including social studies, music and science.
The tactics used by Field Elementary are getting a lot of criticism in the media, but one point is being overlooked: Clearly, there are payoffs to an intense focus on math and reading.
I’d like to know the views of parents and teachers on this story as it reminds me of a debate in Georgia when the state wanted to make some non-core courses, including PE and music, optional in middle school to create more time for reading remediation. At the time, Gov. Roy Barnes argued that reading trumped all else and that sacrificing PE and music so that struggling students could spend more time catching up on their reading skills was a worthwhile consideration.
Without those reading skills in place, the students were doomed in high school and probable drop outs, he said. And the research supports that conclusion..
The Texas school broke the rules and cheated, but was the math-reading focus what students needed? But couldn’t reading skills be reinforced in the social studies and science classes as many schools are now doing?
A Texas elementary school principal was suspended is taking “teaching to the test” to a whole new level.
For most of the 2010-11 year, Field Elementary School only taught third-grade students two subjects — math and reading – according to a July report by the Dallas Independent School District dated July 14 and originally reported by the Dallas Morning News. Meanwhile, the students received almost no instruction in social studies, science or other subjects.
To make up for the gap, teachers were encouraged to invent grades.
The hyper-focus on math and reading set many students back a year in most subjects, but boosted Field Elementary’s score on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills Test (TAKS). The school’s TAKS score helped it earn “exemplary” status from the state of Texas. For third graders, math and reading are the only TAKS scores that count statewide.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog