Saturday, November 21, 2009

Dorn's recommendation to delay

State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Randy Dorn, is recommending that the legislature delay, yet again, the "pass the math test" requirement for high school graduation. See this news story in the Seattle Times.

The Times, in this editorial, complains that this delay "lowers the bar". Instead of delay, they write that "The Legislature must exchange Dorn's plan for one that does something for students. A better effort would include more experienced math teachers and up-to-date textbooks. After-school tutoring, summer school and other ways are needed to give students more lesson time. Science must be injected into core curricula with all the teacher training and other resources required to place science on par with reading, writing and arithmetic."

Ah, the idealism of the Seattle Times. It's refreshing, if naive. They are, of course, correct. But so what? The legislature is not going to pony up any money to pay for these proposals. So after all of the adults who are actually responsible for the education system fail to fulfill their responsibilities: the legislature, the OSPI, and the various district leaders, the Times believes that the solution is to hold the students accountable. The students, the only people in the system with absolutely NO power to influence it, are the only ones who are held responsible for the system's failure. The legislature underfunds the schools, the OSPI directs schools to miseducate students in math, the districts miseducate students in math and fail to implement early and effective interventions, and who pays? The students. Not only are they denied an education, they are denied diplomas.

If when it comes to graduation requirements Randy Dorn blinked, as the Times wrote, then he is willingfully squeezing his eyes shut when it comes to confronting the failures of the adults in the system.


TechyMom said...

Or, he's acknowledging that it's unfair to hold the students accountable at the end of that chain of broken promises, and that it's not ralistic to expect the legislature to start trying to fix it when tax receipts are way down and they're busy cutting budgets for all sorts of important programs that people rely on.

It sucks, but lots of things about the current economic situation suck. Postponing the test is one of the few things he can do in the short term.

Eric B said...

How will there ever be change if we never hold anyone accountable and have a deadline? Math and science education reform needs to be seen as an emergency and putting off the accountability more doesn't help. For the thousands and thousands of students who won't see that reform and won't be able to get a college education as a result of this decision, it is an emergency.
Also, the idea that by failure is 100% the fault of external factors (teachers, OSPI, curricula, etc.) discounts the responsibility of the students. Of course it is not 100% the student's responsibility to be prepared no matter what crud they are taught, it also is not 100% the system's fault that so many students chose non-rigorous math classes if they decide to take math at all. There is a balance there somewhere in the middle where, as a result of impending doom, we all come together to actually be successful at meeting these MINIMUM requirements. Until there is a deadline, however I don't see any of these entrenched groups making the drastic changes that are needed.

dan dempsey said...

Eric B wrote:
"How will there ever be change if we never hold anyone accountable and have a deadline? Math and science education reform needs to be seen as an emergency and putting off the accountability more doesn't help."

Eric here is a shot at holding someone accountable:

Education is this state is supposedly under local control. The Seattle school board is directly responsible for continuing an incredible math mess.

In January in King County superior court the district will get to explain their failure to act appropriately.

The Honorable Julie Spector
# 09-2-21771-8 SEA

The District must give its students equal educational opportunities, regardless of race or any other factor. The SPS Directors' selection of the "Discovering Series" of math texts is an arbitrary and capricious decision given the weight of evidence in the record that inquiry-based methodology .........

Plaintiffs urge the court to remand this decision to the school board for further consideration.
Despite clear evidence in the record and in citizen comments that inquiry-based instruction is flawed and is only working for some few of Seattle's students, in May 2009 the district recommended and the school board adopted high school texts that rely on inquiry-based instruction.
Some of the reasoning behind that decision consists of ignoring evidence in the record.
Martha McLaren, Cliff Mass, & Dazanne Porter are to be commended for attempting to make someone accountable.

Josh Hayes said...

I agree with Charlie on this (not surprisingly). I felt much the same exasperation on reading that editorial. I have this image of a little box outside each school's office with a glass front and a magic wand inside, and a sign saying "Break Glass in case of Budget Shortfall". Apparently the Times thinks that's standard equipment already. I'll have to look around my school for that darn box.

MathTeacher42 said...

You sound unfamiliar with Charlie's writings over time. Charlie is about the last person to let anyone off the hook ;)

I'm over 90% certain that his comments pertain to exactly what he is writing about in this exact diary.

Kids do deserve a lot of blame - for laziness & cluelessness they've picked up from the culture around us. Ironically, a LOT of that cluelessness comes from those of affluent backgrounds who were fortunate enough to have almost NO hard skills, a college degree, and some measure of success in the last 2 to 5 decades. They tend to lack the realization that they were successful in an empire which has about 4% of the world's population and which uses over 20% of the world's resources!

How long will those numbers hold up?

Maybe with another 5 or 12 years of 17% unemployment people will begin to wake up to:

1. the hard work and hard skills it took to create what we have,
2. the critical need for hard skills,
3. the hard work it will take to have the skills to improve what we have.


Anonymous said...

Randy Dorn points to the lack of progress in math performance over the years as one of the reasons he fears students will not be able to pass the math test in 2013, as current policy requires. Give the students and teachers more time, he says, to let them learn how to meet the new standards.

But I don't believe more time will help. The only thing that will change this trend for the positive is to change how we are teaching math. The real culprit here is the so-called "discovery" approach, so prevalent now in the schools, and which is preventing students from being able to master math. Anyone unfamiliar with this issue can read comments of UW Professor and Meteorologist Cliff Mass, about the flaws of this approach and some of the reasons why this problem continues to persist. Excerpts of his comments can be found on an earlier post on this blog at: