On the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) from 2009 to 2015 in eighth grade math, scores in the DCPS rose 17 points for students with at least one college-educated parent, and fell 3 points for students whose most educated parent held a high school diploma but no college. In 8th grade reading, scores rose 13 points for children with one or more college educated parents, but fell 1 point if the more educated parent had only a high school diploma.

No matter how one feels about testing, when test scores fall for poor kids and achievement gaps expand dramatically, we need to know, ask why, and act to support equality of opportunity in schools.

Why would the DCPS reforms strongly favor children from better educated families? Science predicts such an outcome from the DCPS adopted standards .

In the past decade, scientists who study how the brain works and learns have reached a consensus that is perhaps discouraging: During problem solving, the brain must rely almost entirely on knowledge that an individual has previously thoroughly memorized. For example, problem solving in math requires “automaticity:” the fast recall of all fundamental facts and procedures from memory.

A key “reform” in the DCPS (and most states) since 2009 has been the adoption of the Common Core (or very similar) standards which delay and de-emphasize learning fundamentals. As one example of many, the Common Core math standards ask students to solve multi-step addition and subtraction in first grade, but do not ask children to learn the “math facts” of addition until second grade, and never ask students to recall any subtraction facts.

According to the predictions of science, which children will do well in math without learning recall of math facts at school? Those who are tutored at home – or attend the math tutoring centers that now fill the strip malls in non-poverty neighborhoods. The test scores say science is correct.

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