> From: dan hart <firstname.lastname@example.org> > > My solution is comparable exams for all students. Then, perhaps, we would > have incentives for students to learn like they do in other countries and > incentives for teachers to work on their teaching and, YES, even implement > moderate reforms.
A major problem in Ohio is that the legislature has implemented 'proficiency tests'. I have become totally disgusted with the incredible amount of time we are forced to spend addressing these. We spend an entire week administering them, usually during calculus bell, and passing isn't even required for graduation. The freshman test takes an additional week (fortunately NOT interrupting calculus). Students MUST pass this test to graduate. Nowhere near 100% pass the freshman test. Some districts are embarrassingly low (it's a middle school math test). Consequently we talk about almost NOTHING else in (administrator-led) department meetings except for 'how do we get more kids to pass' that test.
The tests are, among other state collected data, supposed to help rank schools, including funding. 'Deficient' schools get less or none. (Now that the state supreme court has declared the property tax unconstitutional, who knows of the ultimate effect of losing yet more funding.) So far, this hasn't happened. Maybe it won't ever. But any time you have such a global test, the pressure from administration and politicians is enormous.
I, for one, turn out well-prepared calculus students (if they give it all they can) (and even algebra I students, if they give it all they can). I don't need the added pressure from administrators and politicians of more state or national tests. A favorite political issue is 'lower test scores' on SAT and ACT and refuses to go away despite all evidence that this is inevitable, when more and more students than ever before take those tests.
Now I'm retiring in 1998, so this won't ever affect me as a teacher, but I think I speak for others. I personally have nothing to hide. Let's just do the best we can and hope for the best. When I started teaching (1968), we had WONDERFUL students and NO PRESSURE because of it. Now, everybody and her brother must take every test they can, regardless of their own attitudes toward learning, and the low scores are OUR fault. (?????) Leave it alone.
> Instead we're stuck with this rather peculiar American utopianism that > we will make school so darn interesting that the kids will flock to the > library to study the night away. It would be kind of amusing if we weren't > destroying so many students' chances for educational success simply > because we're afraid to demand mastery from them.
I, for one, demand mastery OF WHAT I TEACH. I'm not a popular guy because of it. But I have a good feel what reform is and what needs to be taught when, where, and how. One of the big problems with reform is that too much pressure was put on too many unprepared people to do a job which wasn't even well-defined by those saying 'DO IT!' Don't pull the plug on it just yet. Let the pendulum swing back toward the middle. I have NO DOUBT that a LOT of the AB AP calculus debacle of the past 2 years (any data on this year yet?) is because of the pendulum swinging way farther than anybody at the College Board dreamed.
Moderate use of technology as a unifying theme and connector of concepts is the goal of that aspect of reform. I KNOW at least one teacher whose proudly stated philosophy is, "To be successful in math, all a student needs to be good at is solving word problems with a graphing calculator." It is BUNK such as that which is giving the reform movement a bad name and record.
Don't pull the plug on it just yet.
Dave Slomer AP Calculus and Computer Science Teacher Winton Woods HS, Cincinnati, OH 45240