Saturday, June 24, 2017

Summer Curriculum Officially Begins

Academic summer started this week.  The last day of school was Wednesday.   In Chicago, the school year is Sept 3 through June 22.  This is about 30 or 40 days more than a teacher has curriculum for, and about 60 more days than any kid needs to get through a grade of material.

Every night during the summer, I put some workbook or assignment or something I printed off of the internet on the breakfast table for each of my children.  It's been a long time since they complained. The work usually gets done, but usually only half or less, and sometimes it's all wrong.  I never know what they are capable of until I see the work, and then I'll adjust.

I assigned only math some years, and not the regular kind of math, but the kind of math that is heavy on real skills.   MAP scores came in last week, and the 3rd grader, who has not learned school related math of any kind at home since Kindergarten, has once again hit 99%.   Occasionally I feel bad that Test Prep Math really doesn't have a lot of math in it.  It's got almost nothing related to school math but adding and subtracting and maybe a bit of multiplication, division, fractions, and a smattering of other topics.  It's really heavy on the type of skills you might need if you had to figure out next year's math on your own, or math for the year after that, or the year after that, or the year after that, which is an exact description of the MAP test.  Other tests like the ITBS are much easier than the MAP.

I'm really skeptical of the whole premise of the MAP test.   How can a 1st grader be tested on 4th or 5th grade math?  It's possible that the 4th or 5th grade material can be figured out by a 1st grader who is thinking and reading carefully.  There is no time limit on the MAP, so this favors kids who are used to spending a lot of time on a single problem.  If your kid masters a list of grade level common core topics, or grade level + 1 common core topics, the child will do well on the MAP, but not well enough.

It looks like MAP is the test we need to beat for next year, and this one counts.  I though our school district replaced it with a different test for selective enrollment because I read an official announcement to that affect, but the MAP is back.   This will be the first test prep year we've had in a while. After 4th grade, our MAP strategy is much different than before 4th grade.  I also have to worry about the reading section, because these scores count as well.  We have a few more points to go on reading, so I'm alternating between placing reading and math on the table.  Saturday we do both.

I've used reading comprehension for 6 years, but until this year, we've only used it for core skills essential to learning, like learning how to read something really complicated with unknown words. This year, we're actually going to learn how to conquer question types.  We have friends who spend a lot of money on a 3 hour (plus commuting) course for this purpose.  I have a new motivational tool: "Give me a little quality time each day, and you won't have to go to that stupid long boring course during the school year."  I'm asking for about 5 or 6 hours each week during he summer.

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