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Math is Hard, But Reading is Harder

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The editors at Top Education Degrees decided to research the topic of:

Math is Hard, But Reading is Harder

Why math scores are higher than reading scores.

Education is on everyone's mind. As a nation, we are often concerned with how our math scores compare to those of other countries. However, evidence suggests that the bigger concern should be our reading skills.

Can you read this?

Troy Prep Middle School - Albany, NY (Charter school with mostly low-income students)
Teachers at Troy say it's easier to help students reach goals in math rather than in reading
Common finding throughout the nation
Fifth grade students are usually several years behind in both math and reading
2012: 100% of the 7th grade students had proficient or advanced scores in standardized math tests
Just over 50% met the same standards for reading
Similar results were found in 31 other schools in the district
These schools have many low-income students from NYC, Newark, Rochester and Boston
After attending these schools for 2 years
86% of students are proficient or advanced in math
Only 66% reach this level for reading
2011: 29% of low-income 8th graders showed proficient or advanced levels in standardized math tests
Only 17% showed the same levels in reading

Why does income matter?

According to teachers, administrators and psychologists
One reason students struggle to improve reading comprehension is that deficits start at a very young age
1980's: psychologists, Betty Hart & Todd Risley found
By age 4, children from low-income families have heard 32m fewer words than children from higher income families
Many low-income students come from homes where English is not the spoken language
Over 10m US students are from immigrant households
1 out of every 5 public school students
78% do not speak English at home
Reading is much more ambiguous
Students with a disadvantaged vocabulary find it more difficult to catch up
Reading and comprehension require more abstract thought
Math has clearer rules which makes it easier to teach and to understand

Look at the SAT. See the SAT scores drop.

2012: Reading scores for the SAT reached a four-decade low
Average reading scores = 496
Down by 34 points since 1972
Average writing scores = 488
Down by 9 points since 2006 (when that subject was first tested)
Math scores remain largely unchanged
The ability to answer questions about sentence structure, vocabulary and comprehension continues to decline for college-bound teens
Experts say the low SAT scores are related to the number of students taking the test
More than 1.6m students took the test last year
44% of students were from minority groups
1/4 of test takers are from low-income families
More than 1/4 were from families where English is not the spoken language
Scores dropped for every racial group except for Asian
Only 43% of test takers scored high enough to indicate likely success in college
Family income and test scores are definitely related
(on average) Scores increase with every $20k in additional family income

Children are being left behind

Experts say Bush's No Child Left Behind law plays a major role in the decline of test scores
The law does not address barriers faced by many students
Low-income students are more likely to face
lack of health care
vocabulary deficiency
The law also narrows the curriculum for teachers
Teachers are required to try to teach within the limits of students who are at lower levels
The needs of some are not being met
The proficiency of others is not being expanded

It may be time to reconsider the notion that "one-size-fits-all" isn't working in our schools. What do you think?