Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Krashen in Time Magazine on teachers' views and algebra

Inaccurate Reporting of Teachers' Opinions

According to "Teachers Find Students Unprepared for Success" (Briefing, March 15), a Gates Foundation report found that teachers think that "too many" students are "ill-equipped" for college.

But the report found that teachers are fairly confident about their students' preparation: Nearly half (46%) felt that 76% or more of their students would be prepared for college, and 72% said that half or more would be prepared. (Q720)

The report had interesting findings on why teachers thought some students were not prepared for college. Only about a third (35%) said it was due to lack of academic preparation. Half (49%) said it was lack of encouragement from family and friends. (Q 730)

Time also claimed that teachers supported "clear standards, student performance evaluations, and teacher assessments." Not included was the fact that few teachers thought standardized tests were effective measures. (Q810) (Note that "teacher assessments" does not mean "assessments of teachers." It means assessments done by teachers as they are teaching.)

Time's sweeping headline and sloppy prose creates the impression that a high percentage of students are doing poorly and that the answer is standards and tests. Neither is correct.

Also of interest is the fact that most teachers did not go along with the current obsession of college for everybody. Only 11% thought that college preparation was the most important goal of school. In contrast, 71% said that the most important goal was to be ready for careers in the 21st century. (Q701)

Algebra Equations: Not At All Dull

The opening sentence of "The World According to Tom," (March 15), "To the young Tom Hanks, history was as dull as an algebra equation," is a profound blow to math and science education.

To be sure, some equations are more interesting than others, but there are some fantastic ones, equations that any good math or physics teacher can show represent profound insights.

The Pythagorean theorem, a2 + b2 = c2 is one of the great breakthroughs of all time. eiπ = -1 shows that the mysterious numbers pi, e, and the square root of minus 1 are directly related to each other. Possibly the most famous equation of all time, e = mc2, which relates matter and energy and the speed of light, is the foundation of modern physics.

I am not a mathematician, but I find these and many other algebra equations to be anything but dull.

Stephen Krashen


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