Sunday, April 11, 2010

Rude Awakening

(Picture take at Flushing Meadow Park today--nothing to do with the post, I just liked how it came out.)

The parent of a college student approached me and started complaining about her daughter's math teacher. "The teacher goes too fast. He covers too much in one class. He doesn't stop even when my child tells him that she does not understand. He only counts test grades. He won't give any extra credit. My daughter had no trouble in high school and aced her Math A regents with a 78. I don't understand why she is having so much trouble now. It must be the teacher's fault."

I am sure everything the parent is saying is 100% true. I can almost hear those words being said about me somewhere at the same moment.

Studying math in college is not the same as studying it in high school. No one is spoon feeding you. The same topic isn't gone over again and again and again. Students are expected to put in a couple of hours a week on their own and to get any needed help outside the classroom. Math is not a subject that lends itself to extra credit--you either know it or you don't. There is no in between. The math this young woman is studying covers topics taught in high school, but it covers them at a much quicker pace and it does require you to have previous knowledge. Without this, you are doomed to failure.

I feel sorry for the girl and her mom. I hold the high schools responsible for her inability to succeed. I hold Richard Mills and his dumbed down regents responsible for giving her a sense of accomplishment when in reality, she had accomplished nothing in high school.

I was at a retirement party this evening and the guest of honor, a math teacher, talked about her first teaching job, a job where she taught a "dumbed down" version of intermediate algebra and trigonometry to a group of kids who were deemed not ready to pass a regents in the subject. The teacher said that those kids would be the honor students of today. Boy, was she correct.

Setting our standards so low only sets up our students for failure in the future. Parents don't know this. Kids don't know this. Facing the reality of all this in college is not a nice feeling.


Anonymous said...

Dumbing down starts way before high school. High school and college are where the poop hits the fan, so to speak. Sad for the kids who find themselves shortchanged.

Kate said...

"aced her Math A Regents with a 78" made me, if not laugh out loud, chuckle a little bit. Even if you were ignorant of the dramatic scaling of those scores, how does a 78 = "aced"?