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Education Reporter

From the Education Reporter Mailbag:

Math Teacher's Lament 
I am a high school math teacher with 22 years experience. In addition to two bachelor degrees in math and education, I have earned two master's degrees in the same subject and I am two chapters of a dissertation and a defense short of a doctorate.

Recently, I left one district where I taught Algebra I & II for 12 years to teach math in the public schools of a city in Ohio. I am shocked by what is accepted as high school math curriculum in this urban district. The school district has replaced the standard college preparatory track of Algebra I & II, Geometry, and Pre-Calculus with a program called the Core Plus Mathematics Project by Everyday Learning Corporation.

This program is grossly flawed in two ways. First, it is extremely dumbed-down and comes nowhere near preparing students for the SAT or college preparatory mathematics. I taught the freshmen course last year and found that they barely touched linear and quadratic equations. Instead, the students spend most of the year working in groups using technological tools that do the math work for them. They finished the year with little or no concept of how to solve a standard equation.

What's worse is the content of the curriculum. The textbooks are geared to emphasize reading, and the students are reading about evolution, industrial pollution and the environment, the exponentially-rising costs of health care, and population control. The text actually asks students to write a policy for the Communist Chinese government advising how many babies a family should be allowed to have so that China does not become overpopulated. Also, with healthcare costs rising so much, students are nudged into thinking that government control of health care is better than health care as a business. This is a text that does not teach mathematics but, disguised as a math program, advances a far leftwing agenda.

Have you come across this program before? If not, you seriously need to look into it.

Respectfully, (Name and school district withheld by request.)

Mission Impossible 
My oldest son has chosen to teach in the Hartford Public Schools as part of a mission until he sets up his chiropractic office. He tells me that his 7th-and 8th-students can’t read; four or five in every class read at a 3rd grade level and the rest aren’t reading at all. He is keeping notes, and will write and expose this system someday.

He says these kids don’t have a chance. There are no books in the classroom, or any windows. The courtyards, which should have flowers and plants, are used for storage and garbage. Do the leaders of this nation really know how our inner city schools are run? Do they care?

We have thrown away so many children in this country. They are defeated before they begin. How sad.

C.D. Zelotes, Connecticut

Lunatics Running Asylum? 
Yesterday was opening day for our phonics-based after-school reading program. A mom who had signed her child up rushed in and, obviously flustered, asked me if the program placed heavy emphasis on phonics. I said that, yes, indeed it did, and asked why she was concerned.

She said she had just told her son’s “reading specialist” (the child has an Individualized Education Plan) that she was bringing him to our classes. The specialist said we are “too phonics-oriented” and “fail to take into account children’s individual learning styles.” She also said that, in her opinion, the boy’s learning style was “much more inclined toward memorizing words rather than phonics and that our program would undoubtedly harm him.” (This is a child whom the school could barely manage to teach at all.)

I explained to the mother that research supports phonics teaching methods and that I knew of no research supporting the notion that some children learn to read better using word memorization. I explained the disadvantages of word memorization. When she appeared calmer, I suggested that she ask the “reading specialist” exactly what reliable, objective test was used to determine that this boy would learn to read better through the exclusive use of sight words. We were lucky. The mother left her son in our class.

This isn’t a profession. It’s an asylum. The guards are in the cells, and the lunatics are running the place. I just wanna scream!

Dave Ziffer, Illinois

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