Thursday, July 31, 2008

Quote of the Day...

A young boy slowly trudges into the house holding a bow with a busted string.

I say, "You can fix it."

He perks up. "I read in one book that women's hair makes very good bow strings."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Excellent books!!!!

Much of our vacation consisted of traveling...many, many, many miles. I read several books during the trip and highly recommend two of them...

Escape is the fascinating true story of one woman's experience in a polygamist family. It just boggles the mind.

But a must, must read for everyone is Last Child in the Woods; Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. I want to comment more on it later, but my copy is currently overdue at the library, so it may have to wait... ;)


We've been gone on a delightful vacation. Time to do a lot of updating. We saw 13 states, visited many relatives, Yellowstone, several "Little House" sites, the Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, and more. ;)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What Are We Doing to Our Kids?

This is an article from the San Francisco Chronicle. Well worth reading...

Former math teacher's lesson of the day

It isn't absurd enough that we test high school students with a High School Exit Exam that is pretty much on a par with the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST) required of teachers, but now we are all congratulating ourselves with a decision to test eighth graders for algebra. At least state schools chief Jack O'Connell has learned from his own past mistakes and opposed this decision. If only he had the guts to say he blew it on advocating for the exit exam, which is not only a complete waste of tens of millions of dollars, but sends more and more kids into the streets and trouble with the law when they fail to graduate because they do not test as well as others. (About 10 percent of high school students must "fail," otherwise it isn't a "test.")

I tutored algebra to younger students when I myself was in high school. Later I taught it in public high schools for nearly 20 years, concurrently with other math courses, including geometry, pre-algebra and seventh and eighth grade math. I taught in some of the highest achieving, and some of the lowest achieving middle and high schools in the state. So, maybe my perspective is broader than the average citizen's. Still, anyone who thinks it is a good idea to begin testing all eighth graders in algebra is simply delusional. It would be more PC to say uninformed, but I am at wit's end.

During the last two decades, decision makers playing fear cards (such as documents like "A Nation at Risk" and phrases like "competing in the global economy") have transformed school curricula. Now, everything is rushed and ratcheted up to the extent that we teach first grade in kindergarten, junior high in sixth grade, ninth grade in eighth grade, and junior college in high school.

We have added levels of complexity, breadth of standards and overall intensity at every level, and still delude ourselves that standardized tests can successfully evaluate our "successes" in "increasing rigor." Standardized tests reflect nothing more accurately than the socio-economic levels of the various testing populations. We are making our children sick and discouraged in record numbers. Skyrocketing increases in medications for school children (both for anxiety and for learning disorders) and in high school dropout rates prove this without question!

Sure, some children should take algebra in eighth grade, some even in seventh grade, but most should take it in high school when the typical kid is ready for it. Our children should also have an opportunity to take a pre-algebra course first, if needed, or take a problem solving class, or even a whole alternative math sequence. (Algebra is still offered in the community colleges, after all.) This is about readiness, not racism or lowered expectations. Some people excel in their right brains and truly struggle with complex linear patterns and abstract thinking. They deserve a high school opportunity too, as they have in the past. The U.S. economy is stumbling, but not for a lack of engineers or Ph.D.'s. What we lack most now is common sense!

Every kid that we push out of school that ends up on the streets is more likely to soon be in position to cost the state $40,000 annually to incarcerate...this is the same cost as one new classroom teacher. The governor and his fellow Republicans seem all too eager to keep cutting education while they continue to increase spending for prisons. This is as inappropriate as it is insane. Those who agree with the idea that "an algebra test for all 8th graders is good" are living in a wonderland, are clueless about motivation, are in the dark about the inter-relatedness of systems (socio-political-economic-educational), and probably own stock in testing companies, private schools or correctional facilities, or textbook publishing conglomerations. They are not friends of public education, or school children. The decision to force every eighth grader into algebra must be reconsidered.

/Claudia Ayers is a retired public school math teacher and former intergovernmental program analyst (1975-1978) in Gov. Jerry Brown's administration./
Related Posts with Thumbnails