Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Don't Tell Me to Do the Maths

I think I now know where it all went wrong in my childhood. When I was a freshman in high school the Algebra teacher let me work at my own pace cause I was all annoying and precocious and could handle advance math from figuring out the ERA of Nino Espinosa. So I'd steam ahead at the week's beginning, wait for the class to almost catch up, then blast through some more chapters again. So imagine my shock when I saw this headline today--"Study: Math teachers a chapter ahead of students." I guess that means I was ahead of my teacher. No wonder I abandoned doubling up on math courses as a sophomore, taking only Algebra II--Trig (the sequel sadly not as good as the original) and instead taking Honors English and American Lit. Indeed the AP article speaks directly to me:

Math is important because it is considered a "gateway" course, one that leads to greater success in college and the workplace. Kids who finish Algebra II in high school are more likely to get bachelor's degrees. And people with bachelor's degrees earn substantially more than those with high school diplomas.

For the unsaid is "and people who earn bachelor degrees in things called the 'Writing Seminars' didn't take enough math prior to college to figure out how things like income work." Nope, instead we just want to giggle because the Education Trust spokesperson who gets quoted in this article is named Ross Wiener. Especially when the semi-lengthy AP article near the end has to specify "Wiener, the Education Trust official," so we don't get confused with "Wiener, the wiener." I might go fuzzy when faced with figures, but on the other hand I'm over-cultured and the last sentence makes me think of both Stranger than Paradise and The Palm Beach Story. Your arcane allusion mileage may vary.

Meanwhile, back to the article:

Congress tried to fix the problem in the sweeping 2002 No Child Left Behind Law. The law insisted that all teachers in core academic subjects be "highly qualified" by 2006.

Side note: perhaps a vacuuming law would have been more successful than a sweeping one. I mean, should students use an abacus and not a calculator? Get with the times, Congress! (And while you're at it, do something about Michele Bachmann since Minnesota couldn't.)

But the most well-known aspect of No Child Left Behind is its requirement for annual state tests in reading and math, and the penalties it imposes on schools that fail to make progress.

The teacher requirement is less well-known, and also less onerous. States were allowed to come up with their own definitions of "highly qualified." As a result, most teachers in the U.S. today are deemed highly qualified.

We are all special now. Or perhaps all appointees of the Bush Administration.

When it comes to out-of-field teaching, state officials may be understating the problem, the report said.

Researchers compared two different sets of Education Department data, reports from state officials and a survey of teachers themselves. Teachers said out-of-field teaching happens far more often than states reported for highly qualified purposes.

For example, in Arizona in 2004, the state said 94.4 percent of core classes were taught by highly qualified teachers. But Arizona teachers told the federal government in 2004 that 58.4 percent of core classes were taught by someone certified in the subject he or she was teaching. That was the most recent year in which the teacher data was available.

At least we have insight into how John McCain, from Arizona after all, ended up choosing someone clearly out-of-field like Sarah Palin as his running mate.



Blogger Mike said...

George the math guy. I love it.

4:04 AM  
Blogger Smitty said...

So to be a lobbyist, I had top:
1) fail math a lot;
2) do well in Lit/English;
3) Excel in social activities;
4) have no other marketable skills or true understanding of the theoretical function of government; that would just get in the way of getting what I wanted.

In short: our education largely consisted of going to parties and nominally paying attention in class.

9:31 AM  

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