ellohay! West Michigan

Calculators

Posted in education, programs, Uncategorized by forgr on May 12, 2008

Out of curiosity, I recently attended a Grand Rapids School Board Meeting. I came in a little late, so I sat in the back.

I listened to each item on the agenda, watched while the group took a time to acknowledge Cinco de Mayo, and enjoyed hearing from several community members express their views on various items of concern.

I noticed a specific focus on tools and preparation for MEAP, SATs and ACTs from more than a few board members. Getting good scores on state and national tests are obviously a concern for this group, and in many cases, they are a major concern. Good score on MEAP determine a lot of things for a school and a school district e.g. total school scores, additional funding, overall school bill of health.

Students are allowed to use calculators on all three of these tests (MEAP, SATs and ACTs), they are encouraged to use them in fact. Scores are consistently higher when students use calculators. But in many cases, students can’t afford to buy calculators to use on these tests.

Scientific calculators currently run anywhere between $50-$100 depending on the features, but most households in Grand Rapids, MI can’t afford an extra cost like that. Many households are struggling to pay bills and get their children fed, clothed and off to school each morning.

There was one school board member that made the plea to individuals watching that evening to consider purchasing a calculator for $50 and donating it to the school district. She mentioned that she was potentially going to start a calculator drive herself.

I don’t have statistics to determine how many students are without calculators, but the fact that it was brought up during a school board meeting, means it’s a bit of a problem. Our students are under-served and cannot compete without the correct tools.

So, hey, calculators are helpful technological devices, who’s to say that earning-a-calculator isn’t a pretty good program to include in our future organization?

2 hours of community service = a new scientific calculator

What do we think? Cool, weird, good?

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3 Responses

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  1. Scott said, on May 13, 2008 at 7:43 am

    Calculators are a great idea.

    I was talking with Zort Ziffle over the weekend. He teaches kindergarten and has for over 25 years. He used to teach at New Branches back in the days before MEEPs and they had an open classroom where they learned the basics of reading, writing, etc. by creating projects that interested the students. With the advent of standardized testing, this changed to a more typical classroom arrangement. It was just not possible to allow the students those kinds of freedom despite the fact that they were engaged and learning. They had to make a very regulated and monitored sort of progress.

    It does seem like schools are now in the business of seeing students through their tests. It is unfortunate that schools have become a business at all.

  2. smcmaster said, on May 13, 2008 at 8:53 am

    Calculators–a very interesting idea…

    I don’t remember clearly enough taking the ACT to recall if calculators were even allowed, actually…. it’s not something I’m opposed to…. in standarized tests… in my job about half the math I do is by hand, and about half uses the Windows calculator…

    Watch out for mission drift, though. Earning a technology is within the bounds of the project as it lives in my head… but getting involved wtih schools seems like a good way to get entangled in off-mission projects…

    A agree with Scott that it’s unfortunate that schools have become a business at all. I remember a short discussion I had with a boss once. I thought the idea of charter schools was troubling, and the boss thought a bit of market competition was a good idea, and I responded that I didn’t think the market model was a good one for how to treat children’s minds.

  3. forgr said, on May 13, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    Mission drift, ah yes. If we do something like this, it would be for the direct benefit of students within the Grand Rapids Public School district. It would be a strange program “Calculators for students with the Grand Rapids Public School district”… but it still does allow students to have meaningful interactions with technology… I’ll have to sit on this one for a while…


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