The June 8 Metro article “A ‘math miracle’ or miscalculation?” noting the decline in Bruce-Monroe Elementary School’s 2010 math test scores after the school introduced Singapore method for teaching math failed to point out that Bruce-Monroe’s reading scores also plummeted in 2010. Overall reading scores declined by 15 percentage points in a single year, and Hispanic students’ scores declined by 21 percentage points. At the end of 2010, approximately the same percentage of Bruce-Monroe students were proficient in math as in reading.
The fall in both reading and math scores suggests that Bruce-Monroe has a systemic problem unrelated to the Singapore math method. The drop in scores could have been caused by the change in the composition of students, which was noted in the article. Tracking the progress over several years of students who were in the school could address this problem. Unfortunately, the D.C. contract to put in place a longitudinal data system to track scores of individual students over time was canceled because of numerous deficiencies.
The test results also illustrate an important lesson. Countries that have high math scores do well not because of a single factor but because they have coherent education systems. This includes well-trained teachers of mathematics, and that takes professional development and time.
Alan Ginsburg, Washington
The writer co-authored a 2005 American Institutes for Research study on the Singapore method of teaching mathematics.