Friday, March 7, 2008

Evelyn Russo is above average !

Evelyn Russo (see my previous post) is above average ! She was given a doctorate in instruction even though she had no idea how to teach reading, didn’t know how, and obviously did not teach the children how to read. We have the kids’ results. To call it failure is being kind. She and those thousands of others who are doing what she was doing are creating the disaster that has been going on for decades in the public schools of our state, and our town.

We can’t allow ourselves to think that because we live in a relatively affluent town, the teachers here are better trained than those who work anywhere else. They are all trained exactly the same ways, and they are teaching in the schools of their affluent towns without a clue how to teach children to read.

The reading problem is just a symptom of what is happening in all the other areas of instruction. We know that the Math program (Everyday Math) is just as much a failure as the reading program is. How can we expect any of the programs to be effective when the two most important ones are such documented failures? There is no way.

About MATH, here’s columnist Laura Maniglia who writes a bi-weekly apology for the public schools. On Nov. 23, 05, she wrote about what she calls the Math Debate, admitting that US students rank 29th out of 34 nations – ahead of only four Mediterranean countries and Mexico while China, Japan and Korea rank at the top.

She describes the debate between proponents of “traditional” math and the new “constructionist” math, including Connected Math and Everyday Math used in Guilford. She says that traditional math would teach the foundations of computation and number facts (you know: adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing) which provides them with the skills needed in more advanced math and problem solving. No surprise there. It’s what everyone needs. It’s what we all use in our lives.

On equal footing, she puts something called the “constructionist approach” -- “it emplasizes an enquiry program for pupils to construct their own knowledge through ‘reasoning.’ This approach,” she continues, “often intruduces calculators as early as first grade with the HOPE that the students will learn math in the process.”

There you are: just like in the Whole Language reading instruction in which they HOPE the children will learn to read even though they do not teach them how to do it. The new new math program – Connected Math or Everyday Math flies on the HOPE that the children will learn actual math even though the teachers do not teach it.

And we wonder why American jobs are being exported by the millions…
Here is your answer: the American public schools are not teaching American children even the basic skills they need in order to survive in the world today.

It’s another part of the national crisis. The schools refuse to hire people who are well educated in the fields they are supposed to teach. It’s true of reading; it’s true of mathematics; it’s true of all the subjects. Dumbing down starts at the top. What can you expect at the bottom?

It’s your money. They’re your children.


Deb said...

Thanks for all of your work, Ned, and for your math comments today particularly. I'm with you all the a homeschooler who is educating two girls at home for pretty much all of the reasons you address on your blog, but particularly for the far better education my kids can get with me at home in a short time than they can by wasting all their time in the system that is public school. And, they're just far far happier than they would be if they were confined all day.

Just a couple of math comments:

My husband David is a math professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology, a second-tier engineering college. He just finished the winter quarter, teaching Calculus III, which was for him a sobering and extremely discouraging experience. My girls (6 and 8) were amused by his complaints every night about how poor his students have become at math. His impression that students' abilities in mathematics have declined dramatically in recent years is shared by most of the other professors he knows: The math that students tend to be taught in high school, even at the "better" schools does not prepare them for what they will need in college if they want to have a career in any kind of science. "A" students are often shocked that what they were taught isn't what they need to know, he says. He has a very interesting article on the way math is taught, which is even more relevant today than when he wrote it a few years ago. That is at

By the way, it is common knowledge among professors that home-schooled students are the students you want in your classrooms. They actually *know math*, having learned it for the knowledge rather than having memorized some stuff temporarily for a grade.

Regular school math teachers don't know what kids need to know for college (and they can't actually do math, either), parents don't know, people just trust that the state standards provide a rigorous education. Ha! Colleges don't want to start a fight with state education departments, but it's just those departments that are killing the ability of students to succeed at science careers. Consider that only 40% of those entering RIT leave with a degree -- it's not because they find the concepts in mechanical engineering so troublesome, but they mostly can't do the math that engineering requires. How sad that is, that high school math education is in effect slamming the door in the face of bright but ill-prepared would-be scientists.

Wouldn't it be great if parents started ignoring state standards and instead turned elsewhere for how to prepare their kids for college math? I have encouraged my husband and his department chair to start creating something like an RIT Math Standard that can be distributed around the country and can be used to help prepare kids for what college math requires. They're starting in that direction this summer by providing seminars for high school math teachers, teaching them what math kids need to know by the time they get to college -- because high school teachers really DO want to know this. I want them to write a book, next, called something like What you REALLY need to know in order to do college math: The straight scoop from college professors.

Others, by the way, are starting to concur with the fact that math is being taught badly in public schools. There was an article in Thursday's Wall Street Journal here, called Education Panel Lays Out Truce In Math Wars:

Anonymous said...

One day last week, as I was researching an educational topic, I inadvertently came upon a March entry into of Ned Vare’s blog in which he made a misleading statement, characterizing me as “an apologist for the public schools.” Sadly, he has misinterpreted the disinterested dissemination of information for a political position. He I has demonstrated a woeful unfamiliarity with most of my writing, because he clearly mistook my explanation of the constructivist (aka Everyday Math, Connected Math, etc.) for an endorsement of it. I question whether he actually perused the entire article, “New Math,” for he neglected to mention my conclusion: American test scores are deplorable, and this new undertaking is uncertain at best, so why should we experiment with our students?
I have written several articles about the math program currently in use in several Shoreline districts, and not one favors it. See my July 1 entry, “Math: myth versus reality.” Moreover, in “Politics, Education, and Everyday Math” I further elucidate my position.
While I understand that anyone can be misinterpreted or misconstrued, I’m saddened that Mr. Vare has chosen to engage in ad hominem attacks. My sole intent remains to edify readers rather than to proselytize. Our children’s (and our nation’s )best interests should be the focal point dispassionate discourse and erudite discussion.
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