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Traditional Math Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry (Barry Garelick)

Last year at a meeting of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (a Presidential appointed panel charged with drafting recommendations on how best to prepare students for algebra), a woman named Sherry Fraser read a statement into the public record which began as follows:

"How many of you remember your high school algebra? Close your eyes and imagine your algebra class. Do you see students sitting in rows, listening to a teacher at the front of the room, writing on the chalkboard and demonstrating how to solve problems? Do you remember how boring and mindless it was? Research has shown this type of instruction to be largely ineffective." (Fraser, 2006).

Such statement falls in the category of "Traditional math doesn’t work" or "The old way of teaching math was a mass failure," heard early and often at school board meetings or other forums. I am always puzzled by these statements but Sherry’s was particularly vexing given that 1) I was not bored in my algebra classes, and 2) Sherry, like me, ended up majoring in math. So I contacted Sherry and asked what the research was that showed such methods to be "largely ineffective". Sherry is co-director of a high school math text/curricula called IMP, developed in the early 90’s through grants from the NSF, totaling $11.6 million, to San Francisco State University. She replied to me in an email that she is a "firm believer in people doing their own research" and added that I wouldn’t have any trouble finding sources to confirm her statements. I have assumed she is just trying to be helpful by having me discover the answer myself, rather than just tell me the answer to my question. I have been a good student; here’s what my research shows:

From the 1940’s to the

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Going Broke for "Free" Public Schools

Families in California and across the country are struggling to pay for homes near what they think are “good” public schools. Many of these “house-poor” families, who spend more than 35 percent of their incomes on housing, are getting a lot less than they bargained for.

Their ranks have quadrupled in just one generation, and home prices for families with school-age children are also growing three times faster than other families. The problem is especially acute in the Golden State, whose cities litter the top-100 list of highest housing foreclosure rates. With seven high-foreclosure cities each on the list, Florida, New York, and Texas are a distant second to California’s dirty dozen, which includes top-ranked Stockton, Sacramento (#5), San Diego (#23), Los Angeles/Long Beach (#29), Orange (#45), and San Francisco (#78).

What drives many families to stretch their budgets to the breaking point is desperation to get their children into decent schools. Authors of The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Parents are Going Broke Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi explain that “when a family buys a house, it buys much more than shelter from the rain. It also buys a public-school system.”

Countless California families are moving to affluent suburbs so their children can attend public schools touted as outstanding by district superintendents, real-estate agents, local and state departments of education. But just how good are those schools? As a new PRI book puts it: Not as Good as You Think: Why the Middle Class Needs School Choice.

Many parents and their elected officials will be shocked to learn that there are hundreds of affluent, underperforming public schools throughout the Golden State in areas with median home prices exceeding $1 million.

In fact, at more than one in 10 affluent California public schools, a majority of students in at least one grade score

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Students Would Benefit from Diverse Virtual Schools (Sarah Brodsky)

What kind of student enrolls in a course online? It could be someone who needs to do remedial work, or a student who wants to study more challenging material at a higher grade level. Students who are home schooled, whose high schools don’t offer advanced placement courses, who want to take an additional foreign language, or who just want to work at their own pace might all benefit from virtual school. These students are each looking for different things when they sign up for online courses. But under Missouri’s current Virtual Instruction Program, they have to settle for one-size-fits-all online instruction.



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