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Topic: Re: David Berliner on "A Nation at Risk": Three Decades of Lies

Replies: 21   Last Post: May 5, 2013 9:47 PM

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 Phil Mahler Posts: 126 Registered: 12/6/04
RE: RE: David Berliner on "A Nation at Risk": Three Decades of Lies

Posted: May 5, 2013 11:51 AM

I agree it's good to question facts. Over time (and I've had more than my fair share :-) ) I've concluded that we prove what we believe, not believe what we prove. (this is not meant to describe the responder, I refer to myself and everyone. It's sometimes said of scientists, too, though please, I am a great respecter of science.) So... let me proceed to prove what I believe. :-)

Concerning the re-look (below) at my citation that only 20% of 1932 12th graders could compute 2.1% of 60...

It is a good point to consider that the high school curriculum was dramatically different for many students then, and I had not considered that.
Nevertheless it seems to me that for those taking the vocational or general ed track in the 12th grade, computing 2.1% of 60 was an expected skill to have. Perhaps more so, since their math was centered on arithmetic, not algebra.
Also, a much (I use that word without backup knowledge) smaller percentage of people went to high school then. Those in the 12th grade were a select group who persisted when others did not.
Further, the college bound student in 1932 had not been using calculators for the last 5 or more years, which is part of my argument about why students can't do decimals and fractions. (I have to admit that is evidence for the original statement that something drastic has happened... But if that's all it is, I'm fine with that.)

I make no claim to have absolutely refuted the comment made. But irrespective of this discussion, part of my belief is that when a person is 18 or so years old and can't compute 2.1% of 60, we should show them how it is done with a calculator, not the algorithms of decimal computation. And the same for fractions. They should know it is a multiplication problem, or proportion, though I don't like that approach, and they should know it's much less than 60, but they shouldn't be made to do the calculation by hand.

I know I'm being extreme, but I see our remedial programs doing far too much filtering, which I believe is unneeded, and no one (I'd love to be contradicted on this) has found the formula for teaching the grade 4-10 math curriculum in one or two semesters to any meaningful percentage of students placed into our developmental level programs.

Enough from me.
Phil

________________________________________
...
>Consider these facts (I know that all facts are
>disputable);
>

Let's.

>In 1932 20% of 12th-grade students could compute 2.1% of 60.

Was this 20% of college-bound seniors? You may recall that certainly before about 1970, and maybe into the 1980's in some places, high school was not monolithic. Typically, there were three broad categories of education, often comprehended within the same school (hence, "comprehensive high school"). Roughly 80% of students followed a vocational track or a general education track. Neither track typically led to college. Only about 20% of high school students, those who were college-bound, followed an academic track. Obviously, these figures varied over time and place, but I am pretty sure I am in the right order of magnitude.

The NY Times article I cited said that 50% of students already in college need remediation. So, we are talking about college students, and for our discussion to be coherent we need to be comparing college-bound high school students, then and now.

Your 20% figure corresponds rather well to my information, viz, that college-bound students were reasonably well prepared for college. Why is this no longer true?
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Date Subject Author
4/27/13 Richard Hake
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