Saturday, September 1, 2012

Leadership in Education - Surveys of 42,000

So, we're listening to Bill Daggett, president of the International Center for Leadership in Education, and he shoots off some statistics and statements that leave me puzzled. I can't put them all in one post, so I'll be spreading them out a bit.

One of his memes is the idea of research by polling. His team went out and asked a lot of people to rank the topics that are listed in the math standards with a question that approximated "Which of these topics is the most important to you, is the topic that you feel is most useful in your daily life."

The answers came back and led to a fairly consistent set of answers. "Knowledge of the right triangle and the relationship of the sides using Pythagorean Theorem" came in at about 38th for almost everybody. The subset of  Math teachers, on the other hand, said it should be 4th. Daggett's point was that the math teachers weren't on the same path as the rest of the world and that we needed to change.

I found this troubling for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted to know the actual question ... how was this phrased? Did they just quote the standard or did they interpret it? Can this group really understand enough about specific math topics to be able to rank them?

I wondered whether engineers and technicians and other folks who use math often were separated out from those who didn't claim to use math daily, who claimed "I was never any good at math." It troubles me because a huge percentage of the American public has chosen careers to avoid math, has chosen to turn away from math because they don't like it, has chosen to trust someone else to do their math for them. That majority has already denied math in all of its forms ... should we ask teachers to have an opinion on the best surgical practices for dealing with appendicitis or ask mechanics to comment on law?

Why should their opinion of what's important matter to me as a teacher?

Secondly, should I really ratchet my classes to the point of average knowledge?  Should I tell my students that because the majority of Americans thinks that Pythagoras is useless then they aren't going to see it?  What of the percent of my class who could become one of "The Few, The Proud, The People who can Add without Whingeing"?

Show me what happens in the daily lives of people who use math daily ... now that would be helpful.

Of course, it would be nice to actually see the rankings, flawed or otherwise, instead of being told that there is a disconnect. We never did get that bit of information.  I guess we didn't pay him enough for that.

No comments:

Post a Comment