Sunday, July 30, 2006

Parents fight back

I came across this parent group site in Penfield. The parents are concerned about fuzzy math in their schools. This list of observations neatly encapsulates what's wrong with the fuzzy math plague:

Penfield parents have noticed several problems relative to the new math programs. Some of the most common problems and observations are noted below. Skip to the bottom of the list to see some of the more recent observations noted since parents have turned up the heat on the district:

Students are receiving high grades on their report cards, but they don't seem to exhibit appropriate math skills for their grade level.

Children are no longer being taught basic math facts. Students lack skills in division, multiplication, fractions etc...

Calculators are too widely used and kids are losing their ability to perform simple arithmetic without their calculators.

There is too much group work. Students no longer receive direct instruction. They may work for a long period of time on one question and never really learn the correct method to solve the problem.

There is no emphasis on finding the correct answer.

There are no reference materials. There is no textbook.

There is not enough practice so children do not retain the concepts.

Problems are very abstract and often frustrate the students, sometimes to tears.

Parents are concerned about the future of their children should they need to leave the district and relocate to a district using traditional math techniques. Their children will not know the math algorithms.

Many parents have placed their children in tutoring to compensate for the lack of instruction.

Several teachers have mentioned that they are unhappy with the programs, but they don't speak out for fear of retribution.

High school students who have experienced both math techniques have spoken out against the "reformed math".

Many universities have indicated that students from traditional math programs perform better in college math courses.

Children with learning disabilities, particularly those with reading/writing difficulties, are hurt by these programs.

Students are asked to solve problems using tools/algorithms that have not been taught.

The schools have taken away the ability for students to work independently. Parents are forced to teach math lessons at home.

Children no longer feel confident or successful. They hate math now.

There are big concerns about the way that standardized test scores are being interpreted by the school district administrators.

Complaints to teachers and counselors are not being addressed.

Core-Plus received a poor showing in the Michigan State University study by Hill and Parker.

The math materials don't match the NYS guidelines for the various grade level expectations.

High achievers are being held back.

Academic Intervention Services (AIS) are not effective.

The district has no plans in place to repair the damage done to students over the past few years.

They are experimenting with our kids again. This is another "Whole Language" fiasco, only now it's math.

There are inconsistencies in the implementation of the programs between schools and even within schools.

Students report that some science teachers are providing math instruction during/after science class due to missing math prerequisites.
I love this entry under more recent observations:

Traditional math worksheets coming home for homework just prior to standardized testing. Teaching to the test and cramming.
Looks like the fuzzies don't have full confidence in their crap programs. They want to have it both ways: Supplement with traditional math and attribute any success to their snake oil programs to keep the faith.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Social construct

Educationists in Australia are on a "social construction" kick. How many "multiple and/or conflicting interpretations" can there be for 2+2=4 or for the fact that an educationist would fall on his face if he jumped out of a window? Teachers are to be penalized for presenting factual knowledge:

TEACHERS should present knowledge as a "social construct" open to interpretation rather than undisputed facts, even in maths and the sciences, says a NSW guide to quality teaching.

The Quality Teaching framework, developed on behalf of the NSW Education Department, rewards teachers for presenting "problematic knowledge" in their lessons.

Under a coding system developed to assess teachers, lessons that present knowledge "only as fact and not open to question" score the lowest.

The highest score is given when "knowledge is seen as socially constructed, with multiple and/or conflicting interpretations presented and ... a judgment is made about the appropriateness of aninterpretation in a given context".

"Knowledge is treated as problematic when it involves an understanding of knowledge not as a fixed body of information but rather as being socially constructed, and hence subject to political, social and cultural influences and implications," the guide says. "Knowledge is not treated as problematic when it is presented only as fact, a body of truth to be acquired by students, or is treated as static and open to only one interpretation."

The guide specifically relates the idea of contested knowledge to the teaching of science, saying if it is difficult to see how a subject is problematic, look at its history.
Deconstruction is in full bloom.

Decreased attention

An excellent dissection of NCTM charlatanry.

The NCTM Standards have been developed by progressive "math educators", not by people with genuine knowledge of mathematics. For eighty years progressive educationists have rejected the idea of remembering any domain-specific knowledge. They say knowledge is changing too fast, and the facts of today will be obsolete tomorrow. Calculators and computers are the latest "proof" of this claim. The NCTM wields them as a double-edged sword, justifying the trashing of traditional math and offering the benefit of exciting "tools" for bypassing the difficulties of traditional "paper-and-pencil" math.

Progressive educationists believe important factual knowledge is already known intuitively or will be picked up naturally as a byproduct of real-world experiences. They claim that real-world experts rely on "higher-order skills" and "just-in-time" factual knowledge supplied by computers and reference materials. They say real-world experts never trust their own long-term memory.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Michigan tries "history"

Michigan produces history "standards" (called "content expectations") that sound more like a joke.

Indeed, the draft "expectations" say nothing about America before 1890, leaving the nation's foundation years, its crucial philosophical groundings and the Civil War to elementary and middle schools. In the post-1890 studies, no mention is to be found of Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan. Same for Henry Ford, Rosa Parks, Andrew Carnegie, Douglas MacArthur and Earl Warren -- and Hitler, Stalin and Tojo. Similarly absent: the development of mass production and the rise of industrial unions, D-Day, defeat of fascist Germany and imperial Japan, the Korean War and the toppling of Soviet communism. In a flash of good sense, curriculum writers rejected the lead consultant's attempt to ban use of "America" and "American" as "ethnocentric," potentially offensive to the rest of the hemisphere.
Instead of history, there is an ideological agenda:

The standards do direct study of, for example, the environmental movement, the American Indian protests at Wounded Knee, Rosie the Riveter, the World War II internment of Japanese-Americans, acid rain, the automobile's contribution to global warming, consequences in the Persian Gulf of U.S. energy policy and alternatives to President Truman's use of the atomic bomb.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Mumbo-jumbo vs. quality education

As more and more schools adopt ed school mumbo-jumbo (authentic assessment, countless intelligences and learning styles, constructivism, etc.), it is reassuring that quality schools crop up now and then.