I read and enjoyed every word of this. It almost makes me want to run for school board again, but then I remember that my wife will divorce me if I do that.Quote:
A Standardized Mathematics Curriculum
You hit the nail on the head. Mathematics is a universal language. 2 + 2 using whole base 10 positive integers is always 10 whether you're in Japan, Germany, Brazil, or Minnesota. It would be the most logical choice to standardize and there's some leeway in this regard - at least on state levels. It would help for kids transferring districts to states and the like.
The problem is with Mathematics they're trying to re-invent the wheel. Gauss, Newton, Leibnitz, LaPlace, et al - all their math still applies.
School districts have administrators who are basically politicians. They're in a lot of pies. What's a big factor of housing costs? School quality or reputation. The ever so pressing: "You want a good education for your kids, don't you?" "Your kids' education is worth the extra money, aren't they?" They have to differentiate their school as 'innovative' and that means having something different, a better presentation, and 'improved methods' and 'new technologies' than other school districts. So administrators who are into jumping up jobs and getting districts popular and increasing revenue will dump the teachers every time. They can adjust. If they don't, can always find new teachers.
In Texas, every kid is now starting at Tier 1 level. It basically means a teacher is now primarily responsible for discerning the inner workings of all 140 of his students. Learning styles (tactile, audible, visual, etc) and we have to write reports on it and have learning accommodations for each students' learning style. Try teaching a single lesson plan to 25-35 teenagers. Now they're stacking the bar and saying you have to teach 25-35 individualized learning plans. Then add the parents who don't want to deal with their kids and get them tested for everything to get accommodations. My kid has autism. Nope. My kid has ADD. Nope. My kid has ED. ED, as in emotional disorder. Ever watch Jurassic Park, the dinosaurs are testing the fences to find a weakness. If they can given a treat each time (positive re-inforncement) to try a weakness, they will continue. School becomes a game. Oh, and any kid with a 'learning disorder' (real or not, not saying some aren't real), I have to write another set of assignments for.
Then, kids can re-take any assignment, quiz, or Exam for a 70. That is, if you get a 35, because you didn't prepare for the exam on Friday because you got drunk or played CS Black Ops (Counter Strike - a video game for those of you watching at home) - well, no worries, because you can just retake it and get a 70 on the exam. By that time you will know the type of questions on the exam and your teacher (me) now has to write another version of the exam and write an exam key. Their irresponsibility led to my weekend getting an extra work load. When I went to school, there no re-takes. You get 1-2 drops a year. Exams only account for about 30-40% of the class, so it's easy to make up a B with even a 70 exam average. If I have any kid who's below a 70 for any quarter, we had a 15 page report we had to fill out outlining all the learning modifications we tried to make sure they passed. We had to document trying to contact the parents, what learning options were discussed, etc. Guess what most teachers do? Would you like to write 15-20 15 page reports (in addition to your 67 hour work week) beginning on Tuesday through the weekend? For $50K?
Each year, teachers become more and more liable legally for a student's success and mental health. We have to report everything, if we don't, we stand a chance of legal stuff. Then you have students who might try to say you cheated them or didn't treat them fairly or they came in for tutoring and you didn't give them enough attention - they actually had to work with the other 12-15 students who come in regularly. They tell their parents, who contacts the principle - and we have a meeting. Another eat in to my evening.
Sure, there's bad teachers who don't care anymore. And they'll sit on good classes, I got lucky to be able to teach AP Calculus. Except, I had to write my own curriculum. Some districts will have a good Special Education dept who can help (project management) with a lot of the learning modifications - but you still have to write the exams. Try writing an exam that isn't over a student's head. It's hard. I know Calculus like breathing, I don't see the difficulty level without some sort of feedback. You find all their deficiencies in Algebra, Geometry, spatial understanding, etc - because teachers passed them beforehand. Guess who has extra work (tutoring, assignments, etc) to make sure these learners pass?
You can't make plans as a teacher. Your evenings are at the disposal or anyone's inability to take any responsibility for their own learning. There's over 5,000,000 videos, webpages, and learning tutorials online on algebra alone. Over half of my kids had smart phones, so they had access to this stuff all the time.
Education should be about learning to solve problems, learning to find a way through the obstacles given to you. Relationships will require this, your future job will require this.
The reason secondary education (k-12) is a joke is because everyone passes. We've said everyone deserves an education, but rather we've given them all diplomas and called it an education. We reduce to the lowest common multiplier. There's a reason 'pop' (or popular) music is so mundane - it has to appear to the largest group and thus has the lowest common multiplier. Everyone has to like something about it.
Same with health insurance, giving everyone health insurance doesn't mean health care. We have a dichotomy here where we're crossing our i's and dotting our t's. One doesn't mean the other. It can.
Obviously, my experience isn't everybody's experience and it shouldn't be taken as such.
But, I was a fun teacher, honestly. Imagine a farm kid (mechanical minded, familiar with livestock processes) with a Physics & Chemistry background teaching your Mathematics and Science courses. You get to design a potato gun and you get to launch a potato at your teacher and if it hits him (or within 3 yards) while he's standing 200 yards away, you make $100. Create your own video games. Explode watermelons and use CO2. Make your own vander graaf generator and make people's hair stand up. Then figure out why. Study Reighley Scattering and refraction of light. Mess with optics.
I was voted Most Inspirational Teacher in just my 2nd year. But I walked away because I had to give up my life to do so. I liked teaching and was looking forward to coaching baseball as well. But, I hadn't even gotten into coaching and I was already no longer be able to live and thus to inspire. I could no longer think or dream with the kids, because I was writing learning modifications or correcting retakes for 70's on every little assignment.
Or meeting with a principal and a parent because their daughter decided instead of trying to do their homework or come to tutorials that they found something online that says students associate 'red' with correction and have lower sense of self esteem when they see red correction marks/ink on their exams as opposed to other colors. (Not peer reviewed) So I'm in this meeting and I know the kid is just trying to not be grounded. So I stand up after a minutes of this discussion of grading in purple or black, walk over to the copier in the room, put the exam in there, hit copy, and bring it back, put the paper in front of the parent and student, "Whatever color I grade in will become associated with it being 'wrong'...here's your paper, it still says a '44', do you feel any better about this exam now that I've put it in black and white?"
The Problem with Bonuses or Teacher Performance
Not all kids are created equal. Look at the problem with the Twins and the Yankees. It's the have's and the have not's. The problem with bonuses for being a 'good teacher' is you'd get teachers changing grades (already do)...so if you do EOY testing, that's based on the students you have. Already see this, teachers trying to get top kids from the previous year. Ultimately, something along the lines of a kid was 'here' and you took them 'here' - you see those stories. But kids are such a dynamic data point. I had a few kids who did horrible on EOY exams as someone told them they don't matter, they can graduate without them. Which is true, but killed my test scores! The other problem is most of the standardized tests are from curriculum from the year before, not the current year. This is a whole other discussion and my post is probably already too long to endure.