Re: Are Americans Obsolete?
I had a couple recent experiences that I found instructive. Last year’s valdictorian and salutatorian in our HS went away to Stanford and MIT. Not bad for a largely rural small school in a very poor area. Recently they both posted on facebook opining on how horribly our HS equipped them for college calculus. When I mentioned that to my son, he pointed out that neither of them took advanced calc in HS. What the h___ did they expect? And, where were their parents and guidance counselors? They didn’t think that these kids, who both aspired to technical careers, needed advanced calc? The course is available and, as far as I know, competently taught.
Since we are talking about High School education I think that I will chime in here. I believe that I am qualified to offer an opinion since I have been teaching HS math for the last 17 years.
I could probably rant about several areas but I will try to keep it focused to math. I teach Advanced Placement Calculus and Honors Algebra 2. The students that make it through my AP Calc class and go on to university are more than well qualified. I know because I get much positive feedback from them after they are successful at universities like Univ of Cal., Stanford, MIT, Cal Tech and many others. Sounds great right. However, there are over 3600 students in my high school and we have one AP Calc class of 21 students this year. This is about the same as most years. The numbers are pathetically small. This same situation is evident in my “Honors” Algebra 2 classes. I teach 4 of these classes and if if was up to me this would be collapsed into one regular algebra 2 class, one algebra 1 class and two pre-algebra classes. Most students simply are not prepared to proceed to the next level in mathematics after they complete each course. This situation starts in elementary school and proceeds all the way up.
Schools have lost focus on providing a meaningful education and now are focused on satifying the bureaucrats. In my view this situation is a consequence of too much government involvement in education; especially Federal Government involvement. Let me provide an illustration of government interference that negatively impacts education.
No Child Left Behind (NLCB) legislation implemented by Dept. of Ed. mandates certain performance standards for high schools. These are determined by yearly tests usually done in April or May. If a school does not meet minimum standards then they get put on the list of “Program Improvement” schools. As part of the requirements the overall school and every major sub-group within the school must meet the minimum standards for each subject area. A major sub-group means 100 or more students in that group.
Several years ago our school did ok on every test except one sub-group. That sub-group was Special Education. Yes because there were 105 students in our school that were identified as “Spec. Ed.” they had to pass the minimum standards for math. Well, why do you think they are in Special Education? So as a consequence of that group not passing the whole school got put on the “LIST”.
So what you say. Here comes the unintended consequence. Our district has yearly open enrollment that allows students to transfer to available spots in schools of their choice. We used to get many students transfer into our school because of our academic excellence. In fact, I had several very good students transfer in that took my math classes and later went on to do very well at prestigious universities. When we got put on the “LIST” the number of these very good students that transferred in dropped dramatically. Parents had a choice. Why would they send their top student to a “Program Improvement” school. Because fewer top students transfered in our scores suffered. It became a self fulfilling situation. Now the entire focus is not on top quality education but to get off the list.
This is only one instance of bureaucratic interference that has unforseen consequences. However, similar examples can be found at every level of public education in every discipline. We spend far too much time, money and resources on regulations and satisfying bureaucrats and far too little on education. Every time we put more mandates on the schools we end up doing more harm than good.
In addition to End the FED we need to END the Dept of ED.
End of rant.