W. Stephen Wilson teaches mathematics at Mayor Bloomberg's alma mater, Johns Hopkins University. Last fall he conducted an experiment on the students in his Calculus I course.
Professor Wilson administered the same final exam to last fall's students that he used for the same course in the fall of 1989. He chose that year because he was able to obtain data for both his exam and the SAT math scores for both cohorts of students.
The surprise: the 1989 students did much better than their 2006 counterparts.
We need more University Professors speaking out on the decline of skills of their incoming students. Maybe then, more high school teachers will get into the act as well. Then we can focus on the real rotten apples of education the elementary and middle schools.
Speaking as a parent who is proud that his 10th grader just got a 130 on a Spanish test, but disturbed by what the implications are for the students who got an A while answering only 10/13 correctly....
What is needed is someone to come up with high profile, public benchmarks that can be administered by parents.
Is my 7th grader up to par? Is his school? I'd like a test I can give myself.... and clear options for how to get him up to par if not.
If you think about it: The pressure for grade inflation comes from the bottom up, from parents who don't want their kids to "fail" with bad grades. To reverse it, you need to make counter pressure from the bottom possible, by letting the parents of the students who are getting good grades discover how worthless those good grades are.
I think I do a lot of it as it is. But it is one of the most common topics on campus.
Then we can focus on the real rotten apples of education the elementary and middle schools.
That really cuts to the quick. I now feel like more of a failure than usual. As an elementary school Principal we have had pretty strong performance in math as this chart shows. http://dq.cde.ca.gov/dataquest/APIBase2006/2006APR_Sch_AYP_Chart.aspx?allcds=37680236037865
However, I find that my teachers lean toward the drill and kill methods more than the conceptual understanding. I've even had the pleasure of teaching alongside one of my 6th grade teachers and found that there is not enough time (given the sheer number of standards at each grade level) to play around with conceptual understanding. We make sure the students know the procedure as well as possible and move on. We then look for time throughout the year to throw in those nifty conceptual understanding lessons at the little math neophytes.
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