Thursday, November 11, 2004

Of Course... More Funding!

(sigh) Guess what math education needs-- more money!
SALT LAKE CITY -- It's time for educators to pay as much attention to math as they are already to reading, state Superintendent Patti Harrington told legislators Wednesday.

To back up her belief, Harrington said, she will ask the legislators this year for an additional $16 million to address math concerns.

"That's where our next problem is," she said.

Many elementary teachers don't feel comfortable with the higher levels of math that fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders are supposed to learn, Harrington said, and there aren't enough interventions and assessments to ensure students are learning. [emphasis added]
Higher levels of math??? Excuse me??? Math education has not changed so much over the years that a teacher would be having to teach stuff to fourth graders that she didn't already learn herself. I've looked over the Utah math core, and it's really basic. What, exactly, is it that our teachers don't know?
Reading programs are already in place for K-3 students at all public and charter schools in the state, Harrington said.

And we have reading specialists in most of the schools. How about a math specialist? Every school could hire a math specialist to conduct inservice and advise the teachers on really cool math stuff that kids can do-- oh, wait, thanks to constructivist math curricula being in vogue for the last 20 years, there are not enough non-foreign math majors left to fill the demand.
Harrington appeared before the Education Interim Committee Wednesday afternoon to talk about progress made on Senate Bill 154, which required higher academic achievement standards focused on competency.

She said funding math would follow the spirit of the law by improving competency. She also wants to get $10.1 million for more assessment and interventions relating to the Utah Basic Skills Competency Test, now required for high school graduation.

"We need to give them knowledge and skills to prepare students for post-high- school experience and jobs," she said. "Students can feel overwhelmed with all the new standards. It's daunting to think of the day-to-day struggle of students." [emphasis added]

Right. So what we need to do is not actually teach them when they're younger, but get them some help and test them some more when they get into high school. After all, we all know that testing makes people know stuff. Hey, here's a bright idea. If testing makes students know math better, why don't we test their teachers? You know, the teachers that can't do fourth grade "advanced" math? Maybe that'd learn 'em.

I think we should spend the $16 million on tutors for our teachers. Once they are brought up to speed on the material, they can teach our students and avoid the creation of yet another generation of teachers who can't do sixth grade math. So, since nobody ever listens to me, the money will probably be wasted on "updated" textbooks (like math changes from year to year!), more flashy manipulatives, and larger calculators with more buttons. Yeah, that's it. Our problem is a lack of buttons on the calculator. Anything to avoid addressing the real problem.