Tag Archives: EDDRA

Questions for EDDRA Respondents

EDDRA correspondents have been writing a lot lately about Jerry’s gate-keeping.* I’d like to move that conversation on a bit. Most everyone agrees that Jerry’s gate-keeping is just fine and in any case entirely up to Jerry. We all know the disasters that could happen otherwise, at worst various kinds of hate speech, but most often a great deal of nonsense, thoughtless stuff in our in-box that we could all do without. Jerry has kept that sort of thing from happening to EDDRA.

However, I would venture the opinion that the EDDRA correspondents by and large, and perhaps Jerry himself, do represent a fairly narrow slice of current thinking about education, in particular in regard to attitudes toward the pubic schools. I would say that EDDRA respondents are anti-reform, believing, I suppose, that the schools are not in great need of reform, or fixing. Am I right about that?

I’ll show you what’s on my mind by asking you to respond (Jerry willing, of course) to five questions. Now this is not a test of the sort that so many of you have been writing about recently. (It’s interesting that in regard to testing you are certainly not of one mind.)

For my questions there are no right answers, and hence no grades.

In each instance I’ll tell you how I’d answer the question. I think now that my answers will probably be different from yours as I’m sure I belong to a different slice of that thinking about the public schools that I refer to above.

Let me say I very much appreciate being an EDDRA correspondent because I encounter from you opinions widely different from my own. And that’s good.

So my five questions:

1)   Did the makers of NCLB have the undoing of the public schools in mind when they fashioned the law? (I don’t think they did.)

2)   Which group of schools, public charter schools or public exam and magnet schools, do the most harm to the non-selective public schools in the district by removing the particularly talented children, as well as those with motivated parents (the latter being the basis of a common criticism of charter schools), from the general admissions pool?
(Isn’t the answer obvious? It’s the highly selective Exam and magnet schools, yet these schools are never criticized in this regard, usually because they have important friends, both in the School Department and in City Hall.)

3)   Does poverty itself do most to explain the achievement gap?
(Here although I agree with David Berliner and Jonathan Kozol of the devastating effect of poverty on the lives of children, I don’t think it’s the principal cause of the gap.)

4)   Closely related to the previous question, do you think there is any sum of money sufficient to close the achievement gap? How much?   (I don’t think there is.)

5)   This last question concerns the recent op-ed pieces in the Wall Street Journal by Charles Murray. My question, is Murray right?  (OK, that’s hard to answer in one word. But what he says does make me question, again, whether we’re right to push all kids onto college. Murray says we’re pushing them into failure, failure to do what they’re simply not able to do ….like pass a probability and statistics course, reach master play level in chess, dunk a basketball… whereas they might have known success in something else. I’ve been pushing myself all my life and have never been able to reach master play in chess or dunk a basketball. And as Murray himself says, he couldn’t understand all the steps making up a proof in the American Journal of Mathematics. We have to take into  account our limitations, and are we doing that properly with our kids in the public schools?)

Finally, I read on EDDRA’s web site that “EDDRA is dedicated to analyzing reports, dispelling rumors, rebutting lies about public education in the United States. “

What I’ve said above is perhaps not exactly doing that, but high on my on list of priorities regarding public education is the importance of sharing my own ideas on the subject with others and that’s what I’ve tried to do above.

*Jerry Bracey has an EDDRA list-serv of which he is the sole gate-keeper. Everything that reaches the 2-3000 individuals on the list has to make it through his “gate.” that is, gain his acceptance, if not approval. This was sent to the list. Don’t yet know if it made it through the gate.

EDDRA means Education Disinformation Detection and Reporting Agency, and it was Jerry Bracey’s baby and he is no more. I liked Jerry. I will miss him. He was a good man.

Groundhog Day and a New Push for the Basics

[EDDRA is dedicated to analyzing reports, dispelling rumors, rebutting lies about public education in the United States. It represents an online version of the work that Gerald Bracey has been doing since 1991.]

An article from today’s (11/14) Times (As Math Scores Lag, a New Push for the Basics, By TAMAR LEWIN) seems like a good subject for EDDRA commentary.

First of all wouldn’t one have thought that not once again could we have been subjected to “a New Push for the Basics.”  For how many times can one write about this and expect to be noticed and read, let alone believed?

As I skimmed the article I right away thought that we were one more time caught up in the situation depicted in the movie Groundhog Day. We were to again live through the same day, knowing it was a repeat of the day before, while the other actors on the set with us, Tamar Lewin et al., seemed convinced that they were living the day for the first time.

We know better. Jerry Bracey himself reminded us on an earlier occasion how common it is among those who write about the schools to repeat, seemingly unaware, what past writers on the same subject have said: “About schools, the media report the present with no apparent historical awareness that it’s the same story once again.”

In the movie Phil Connors (the actor Bill Murray) finds he’s doomed to repeat Groundhog Day — again and again — until he learns that his actions can affect the outcome.  In regard to math education in our schools is there some way that we also can break out of the cycle of repeating, in this case the same reforms over and over again? Is there an action that we might take that would change the outcome, move us onto something new, something that would restore our confidence in the way math is taught in the schools? Well, evidently not yet. As of this time our groundhog day movie has no resolution,

Perahaps EDDRA might want to comment on the accuracy of a number of (unsupported) statements in the article, as well as the general applicability of a number of the quotations from the various people interviewed. Is this Misinformation?Disinformation? [What’s the difference between the two?]

“students’ lagging performance on international tests”

‘We don’t teach long division; it stifles their creativity.”

“…recommending a tighter focus on basic math skills and an end to ‘mile wide, inch deep’ state standards that force schools to teach dozens of math topics in each grade.”

“Many point to California’s standards as a good model: the state
adopted reform math in the early 1990s but largely rejected it near the end of the decade, a turnaround that led to rising math achievement.”

“…at a time of increasing globalization, the math skills of children in the United States simply do not measure up: American eighth-graders lag far behind those from Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and elsewhere on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, an international test.”

“It [traditional math, whatever that is] produces people who hate math, who can’t connect the math they are doing with anything in their lives,…”

“In Asian cultures,” she added, “the assumption is that everyone learns mathematics, and of course, parents will help with mathematics.”

“….the whole country has been in denial about mathematics, and now we’re sort of at a second Sputnik moment.”

Now I realize as I take certain statements from the article, that it’s really the whole article that is mis-, disinformation. Furthermore it probably could have been written with few or no changes in any year since when, the sixties?  If I hadn’t seen it in today’s Times I’d be probably unable to say when it was written. Just as Phil Connors woke up again and again to the same day, I’ve been reading this article throughout some 45 years spent in or close to education.