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Celebrating Mediocrity

By Greg L | 19 January 2010 | Prince William County | 6 Comments

From the News & Messenger we see a letter to the editor demonstrating that the fight over the “Math Investigations” program isn’t over yet.  Now that statistics are beginning to emerge demonstrating the value, or lack thereof, of the program, they’re fueling a renewed debate over whether the school board is making the right decision for our children.

Prince William County Schools (PWCS) has issued the Year 3 Evaluation Report (Y3R) for its elementary math program.  Last year’s report was presented to the public in September of 2008, but Y3R was not available until 2010, and it has yet to be presented to the public.  That is unacceptable.

It appears that PWCS is striving to be average.

Our Standards of Learning (SOL) scores are average in the State and region.  Prior to PWCS’ Math Investigations’ (MI) mandate, our test scores were rising and our schools were among the best in the State.  Since MI was mandated in 2006, our pass rates are unchanged but our performance relative to the other districts in the State has fallen sharply.  PWCS Grade 3 students’ pass rates have dropped from the 77th to the 47th percentile while advanced rates have dropped from the 83rd to the 55th percentile in the State.  For more details, see http://pwceducationreform.wordpress.com.

Every instructional program has strengths and weaknesses.  The difference between getting by and excelling is whether you’re willing to identify weaknesses and adapt accordingly.  The data demonstrate that our children are struggling in many areas, yet little has changed.

If we want an exceptional instructional program we need to be willing to adapt and change the practices we employ in the classroom as our children’s needs demand. The question is whether the School Board will be willing to demand those changes or continue to celebrate mediocrity.

Greg Barlow, Dumfries
Jackie Hargenrader, Bristow
Ed Page, Haymarket
Kim Simons, Bristow
On behalf of PWC Education Reform

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  1. AnonymousMom said on 19 Jan 2010 at 10:49 am:
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    I don’t know why these parents are even bothering to try. The school system isn’t going to change anything over what some idiot parent says. If you don’t like the program the district provides homeschool, hire a tutor, or teach your kids yourself. Complaining is just a waste of time because the school board is just going to rubber stamp whatever the district says.

  2. Dave said on 19 Jan 2010 at 11:54 am:
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    I’m glad you didn’t have a vote during that important meeting in Philly back in 1776.

    I’m indebted to these parents who are fighting for all the children. Not everyone can afford Kumon, personal $40 hour tutors, or homeschooling. It’s people like you who promote the laissez faire attitude of the school board.

    The data speaks for itself. You’d have to be an idiot to ignore it.

  3. anon said on 19 Jan 2010 at 12:05 pm:
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    “The school system isn’t going to change anything over what some idiot parent says.”

    Why not? These days all it takes is the objection of one person to stop all sorts of processes. Look at Nativity scenes, for example. Why should this be any different?

  4. AnonymousMom said on 19 Jan 2010 at 12:30 pm:
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    Because the school system isn’t accountable to the parents or the students. The school system is accountable to the state Ed Dept and the state is accountable to the Federal Ed Dept. Neither of those entities will respond unless test scores really tank for many consecutive years.

    The only way the PWC school system will respond is if there’s a public outcry. A handful of disgruntled parents doesn’t constitute an outcry.

  5. Jackie H. said on 19 Jan 2010 at 1:08 pm:
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    Exactly “Anonymous Mom.” And that’s why we’re bringing this issue (as well as numerous others) to the public’s attention. Would you like to help us? All it would take is a simple note encouraging your contacts to reach out to our School Board members demanding change. You can include the student performance data relative to other VA districts from our OpEd or the detailed version which can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/ybzjn2k. In support of one of our dedicated parents presenting this data @ tomorrow night’s SB meeting, we could use all the help we can get. School Board members’ email addresses can be accessed here: http://tinyurl.com/ye64yt7

    Thanks! -Jackie

  6. Alan Cook said on 25 Jan 2010 at 5:00 pm:
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    National math test scores continue to be disappointing. This poor trend persists in spite of new texts, standardized tests with attached implied threats, or laptops in the class. At some point, maybe we should admit that math, as it is taught currently and in the recent past, seems irrelevant to a large percentage of grade school kids.

    Why blame a sixth grade student or teacher trapped by meaningless lessons? Teachers are frustrated. Students check out.

    The missing element is reality. Instead of insisting that students learn another sixteen formulae, we need to involve them in tangible life projects. And the task must be interesting.

    Project-oriented math engages kids. It is fun. They have a reason to learn the math they may have ignored in the standard lecture format of a class room.

    Alan Cook

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