photo of Kristen Casaretto by Hasain Rasheed Photography
Did anyone watch Education Nation on NBC last week? It highlighted the work of three teachers, including Teach for America alum Kristen Casaretto, who teaches fourth grade at Think College Now in East Oakland.
Talk about courage — the segment includes a live video feed from Casaretto’s classroom during a math lesson. (The above link takes you right to the Oakland part; to see the whole “Classrooms in Action” segment, go here.)
At one point, `Today’ show host Ann Curry says to Wendy Kopp, founder and CEO of Teach For America: “In this particular school, the numbers — I’ve gotta be honest with you — are not great … but these numbers are going up dramatically every single year.”
Kopp responds by saying she saw “a whole different set of data,” particularly for math — numbers that put the school on par with schools in Palo Alto, a district often used to illustrate the top half of the achievement gap. She went on to praise the teaching staff at Think College Now and its turnaround.
I think the two women saw the same data set, but parsed it differently.
Curry’s stats were accurate, as you can see here (although proficiency is not necessarily equivalent to “grade-level,” and each state determines how many correct answers are needed for a student to be deemed proficient): About 57 percent of students at Think College Now — most of them, English learners — showed proficiency on state reading tests this spring, and 77 percent did in math.
And Kopp is right that the math proficiency rates at TCN and at Palo Alto are comparable, at least in the upper grades. In fact, more fourth-graders from the Oakland school showed they had a strong grasp of math.
Second grade: 89% for Palo Alto, 73% at TCN
Third grade: 88% in Palo Alto, 57% at TCN
Fourth grade: 91% in Palo Alto, 96% at TCN
Fifth grade: 89% in Palo Alto, 82% at TCN
Numbers aside, congrats to Think College Now and to Ms. Casaretto’s class, which seemed remarkably unfazed by the live national broadcast. One little boy even yawned as the camera zoomed in on him!