Las Vegas Sun

November 28, 2014

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Letter to the editor:

School District is culpable for failure

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The Clark County School District recently reported that 68 percent of sophomores in the district failed the math proficiency test. Passing the test is required for graduation. I taught for 30 years at the high school level. If I had given a final exam in which 68 percent of my class failed, it is more likely my administration would have called me to task rather than my students.

I would have been asked if the material on the test coincided with the material covered in class. Also, my teaching technique would have been challenged. I would have been questioned as to why my students did not respond better to my teachings.

Questions I would ask to those who authorized this test would be: 1. Was the test fair? 2. Did all students have access to the material covered on the test? 3. Is knowledge of the material on the test crucial to life after high school? 4. How many members of the School Board could have passed the test, or better yet, how many non-math teachers in Clark County could have passed the test?

What is to be proven by administering a test designed beyond students’ knowledge level? This is a failure by School District administration, not the students.

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  1. What a difference a generation or two makes. When I attended public school, I had to learn the 3R's. No one whimpered for me if I didn't; the onus was on me. I learned because my teachers were there to educate - not indoctrinate! "Touchy-feely" and "self-esteem" wasn't even on the radar. Preparing students, such as myself, to go out into the real world with a real education was. Not so today. Today, it's, "if the curriculum is too difficult, dumb it down." Lot of good that'll do the students when it's time to earn a living. That is, if they even try to earn a living after having been told for 12 years that they are "special" and "entitled." Maybe. But they are also cranked out dumb as dirt about what really matters.

  2. Not every student is gifted in math comprehension. Some will simply never "get it", and then it becomes a threat to their graduating at all. The letter writer makes some very good points. It should be noted however that the students have seven chances to pass this test prior to graduation. By seeing the results on the first try, they should see what their weak areas are, and start studying for the next exam. If necessary, hire a tutor. Failure to receive a high school diploma creates a major hurdle in these student's lives, and their future chances of gainful employment. I would like to know how many years of math are required to fulfill graduation requirements. Math past geometry in my high school days was not a requirement to graduate. There should also be a path to graduation for those students who will not need advanced math to prepare for the jobs they have in mind.

  3. The question is whether the CCSD math test is standardized for the grade level and, if so, how did the students in other counties and states fare? Better, worse or the same as CCSD students? Based on the answers then there are reasons for comparability of student academic achievement and conclusions based thereon.

    Carmine D

  4. Too often the value of math education is overlooked. Some people have expressed the opinion that math is something few will use or need in the remainder of their lifetime and is of little importance. But math teaches reasoning and problem solving skills that can be confirmed because there is one correct answer. It is not just about getting the answer. You can get an arithmetic answer from an electronic calculator or even a cell phone and maybe reliance on those is part of the problem, but you miss out on developing problem solving and reasoning skills.

  5. A number of appropriate questions raised by Mr. Blanner. However, his grade must be an "F" as he failed to properly research the answers. Over the past five years State Standards for core subjects, mathematics included, have been rewritten. As a result, curriculum and testing have become more difficult. In mathematics this difficulty was applied incrementally over a three year period. This year the passing score was increased [from 251 to 300, I believe]. These actions have been reported in both the Sun and the RJ. There is no reason for anyone who reads education news and comments to be unaware of these facts. It is unlikely that any substantive improvement in math scores will be seen for at least another 3-5 years as the foundations of improved standards are brought online and current elementary and middle school students start high school.

    As the recipient of a Catholic boarding school education I know math...the foundations were drilled into my head by repetition. In my work as a mechanic, shop manager and business owner [and shop instructor] I used math on a daily basis. But I don't use upper level algebra or calculus or trig. Most of us don't and most of the current crop of students won't. I have noted in previous comments that in my shop class I had students who had passed their mathematics proficiency exams but could not differentiate between metric and fractional measurement, could not use a tape measure, could not understand measurement of volume, bore, stroke or other common applications of mathematics in a machine shop environment. Even worse they were unable to use common consumer math for business.

    As PISCES41 notes, mathematics is a valuable subject in teaching and learning critical and abstract reasoning. The current emphasis, however, on multiple years of mathematics irrelevant to daily use simply makes mathematics a chore to be endured rather than a tool of wonder and enlightenment.

  6. Mathematics is absolutely wonderful and beautiful. Some of the test results is unfortunately related to main-streaming students instead of segregating the gifted and talented in math from the very slow learners. A gifted student cannot explore the beauty when the entire class must dumb down and go over the basics endless times. The slower student is just overwhelmed when among faster learners. Discrimination must be used discriminately.

  7. That may be the smartest thing @Roslenda has ever posted.