06 January 2008

More Reading About Public School Math

http://www.reason.com/news/show/28479.html

Do you remember the movie "Stand and Deliver?" It was about a fellow who left the business world to become a calculus teacher in an inner-city school. This article details the REAL story behind Jaime Escalante's success with the students in taking AP Calculus tests. It really took a decade, and not a year as implied in the movie, to build a student body ready to take such demanding coursework.

The movie seems to indicate that you can move from basic math to calculus in a few months, but the article shows how Escalante needed the "feeder schools" to do a better job preparing students. Even an amazing teacher can't perform math miracles, after all. I can tell you from personal experience that having a crappy teacher for even ONE YEAR can really have effects, even years down the road. Imagine a whole system of poor preparation. It sounds like the *real story* is how Escalante advocated for higher standards in the lower grades, but perhaps I'm reading too much into the article.

The movie also doesn't tell you that the success of the program made it fail. It attracted the jealousy of other teachers and the ire of union officials. The new principal was unsupportive, and the program collapsed after Escalante's departure.

Inner-city kids are not stupid or lazy or unmotivated, if they're given a real chance. But the laws of supply and demand seem to work against them, particularly given the way schools are a "monopoly" funded by tax dollars. Quote:

Gradillas has an explanation for the decline of A.P. calculus at Garfield: Escalante and Villavicencio were not allowed to run the program they had created on their own terms. In his phrase, the teachers no longer "owned" their program. He's speaking metaphorically, but there's something to be said for taking him literally.

In the real world, those who provide a service can usually find a way to get it to those who want it, even if their current employer disapproves. If someone feels that he can build a better mousetrap than his employer wants to make, he can find a way to make it, market it, and perhaps put his former boss out of business. Public school teachers lack that option.

There are very few ways to compete for education dollars without being part of the government school system. If that system is inflexible, sooner or later even excellent programs will run into obstacles.

/quote.

How sad that the teachers and "powers that be" couldn't get along and find a solution that worked for the STUDENTS.

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