Friday, November 28, 2014

Our Math SUCKS!! A look at NB's Education System

like the Marine's motto “...leave no man behind”

I really hope that a representation of our New Brunswick Teachers provide their thoughts on this article, as I am very aware that I am poorly researched in this topic, however, as our newspaper editorials and government is making all of their opinions public, why can’t I?

This Link does a pretty good job identifying how our middle school math scores are well below the National level.
Almost 32,000 Grade 8 students in New Brunswick took the 90-minute test in the spring of 2010.
Mean scores by province in mathematics
Canadian average
British Columbia
New Brunswick
Nova Scotia
Newfoundland and Labrador
Prince Edward Island
New Brunswick students scored an average of 478 compared to the national average of 500. The standard for their grade level was 358.

I firmly believe that Math Scores are the best litmus test on how we are doing across all of programs that our students are taking, as there is no room in math for subjectivity.. right or wrong.. that is all.. Having a national evaluation on History or Social Studies would be near impossible to generate any analysis on how our education program is doing versus other provinces. Therefore, I suggest that we can use our math rating as a general statement on our entire curriculum.

I laughed out loud as I saw the justification from John Grant McLaughlin (a UNB Math Professor) suggesting that our failing grade was a result of socio economic factors, fewer international students (as I guess they are smarter), teachers can’t teach math,  and that our students are not “inspired” by math.

Not inspired?? Show me a middle school student who is inspired – ESPECIALLY about math, and for my extrapolation – education in general. If we have a method to inspire teen angers – I think second to a cure for cancer, the world will be a much better place.

Another common “excuse” is the fact that our children miss a good number of days at school due to weather closures, or Teacher Professional development days. Although this may be frustrating to those parents who see our education as a daycare service, I stand firmly in a belief that if we added two, or even three weeks of education to offset these days.. it would have ZERO impact on the improvement of our provincial standings.

We look at the symptoms, and that is great for a politician.. we can spend millions on addressing the symptoms and get votes, and cut ribbons. We can write articles to the paper complaining about the number of field trips.. we can pay millions to re-arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.. but these efforts, and actions (at massive tax payer expense) have been going on for years – and we continue to have poor education for our children.

So what is the cause? I am positive that it is a complex issue, but I think the fundamental issue is the fact that it is no longer acceptable to let a percentile of our students fail. More than ever, the pace of the curriculum is slowed to a snail’s pace. Our curriculum and expectations are progressively being tailored to the small percentage of the class of students to those experiencing the most difficulty. 

Pace, Content and expectations are targeted and designed for a small number of students, who years ago, would simply fail, and be forced to repeat the year. But now, for the love of god, like the Marines motto “we leave no man behind”, our average and advanced students are slowed to allow ALL to progress.

There is much more to the activity of teaching to the lowest common denominator t than leaving a handful of stellar student  bored and unchallenged - we are setting the bar so low to accommodate the lowest, that the majority of the average students now will strive only to that bar. The average student will achieve only what is expected, and will not find internal motivation to exceed goals that have been set for them. With the goals set only to make sure every student gets a passing grade,  we are setting a level of performance well below what is truly necessary.

The solution? Accept the fact that the children with challenges may be forced to repeat a year, sure this may seem cruel to the handful of children this applies to, but is in not worse to strip the challenge and education of most of our students..

Pick of the pace, raise the bar, and manage the few that are unable to meet the requirements. The world, Universities, Trades will all welcome the fact that our students have been conditioned to reach to bar, to meet challenges, to accept occasional failure. Not a graduating class that believes coasting is an acceptable result. Programming our children that they need only be a bit better performer than the worst performer of the group will not fare well in the fast paced challenging world that they are walking into.

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