Social Distortion (Part 2)

This is a follow-on post to Social Distortion (Part 1).  Part 2 serves as an “update” to my initial comments to Alexander Russo‘s post titled Comparisons: The “PISA Myth” Everyone Loves containing an excerpt from The amazing truth about PISA scores: USA beats Western Europe, ties with Asia.


Posted by: DaveDecember 29, 2010 at 20:23 PM

Update to Initial Comment:  When writing my initial comment, Alexander, I did not click through the link you posted: The amazing truth about PISA scores.  After reading that author’s posting, I see that the chart, as well as data and analysis related to the chart is the author’s, and not yours.  It was not clear from your posting if the chart, or analysis was yours, notwithstanding your use of quotation marks around an excerpt from the author’s posting.

Nonetheless, I still take issue, as I describe in detail in my initial comment, with your post, especially your commentary: “Take out uneducated nonwhite immigrants and American schools (red bar) aren’t doing all that bad on PISA, apparently.

As I mentioned, you have considerable influence with your postings, I hope you find it in your heart, and mind, to wield that influence credibly, for the good of all students, not just the privileged few.  And please accept my apologies if I offend in my tone, I do not know what you truly meant, and I suspect you are a strong advocate for our school systems.  At the same time, this is a great “teachable moment” as we are so apt to say in education; I am open to being on the receiving end, too.

Lastly, I believe, and I sense you may too, that the vast majority of teachers, principals, schools, etcetera care tremendously for their current students, irrespective of class, race, ethnicity, etcetera.  At the same time, something is not working, and fixes are in order.  The real question is where will the most impact be realized?  As I mention in my initial comment, it MUST include efforts to address the inequities, and challenges, associated with low socioeconomic status.  Any effort elsewhere will simply be superficial at best, and a waste of time, effort, and scarce resources at worst.

Sadly, the depth and breadth of the issues associated with low socioeconomic status are monumental, and touch upon political and economic positions that differ vastly among our nation’s citizens, as witnessed everyday in the news, in the blogosphere, etcetera.  Given this, and until an acceptable, effective nonpartisan solution is created, my belief is that individual communities must take responsibility for the success of their local schools, hence their children’s academic achievement.

In many ways, the American spirit to overcome calamity, to take charge of your life, to influence your destiny, and to pursue the American Dream for a better life must be shared with, and frequently re-ignited, among high poverty communities.  Hope must be instilled in these communities. Hope that their children can be successful in elementary and secondary school, and beyond, if parents and the community join together to help students overcome their challenges.  Hope that a sustained, committed effort by parents, and the community, will help close the achievement gap, opening doors for their children before closed to them.  Unfortunately, snake oil salesmen in the guise of education reformers are peddling solutions like firing all teachers, restarting schools as charters, etcetera WITHOUT explaining to parents and students that significant effort on their part is required to attain academic achievement.  Said effort being a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for success irrespective of whether it is a private, public, parochial, or charter school.

Thanks for the opportunity to state my case and beliefs about where, and how, effort should be focused.  If Bill Gates, and a few other philanthropists, working with Arne Duncan’s designees and select local community leaders, parents, teachers, etcetera would collaborate on how to address the inequities of poverty, and its deleterious impact on academic achievement, they would realize a significant moral return on investment, as opposed to the haphazard, shotgun approach that to date has yielded limited improvement, and nothing on a national level of any statistical significance.  Once they piloted this approach, it might be scalable across the nation since the primary focus is determined and driven locally, with significant human resource contributed by the community as well. It may not be what many would prefer, since much of the hard work falls upon the local communities, as supplanted by grants and other financial assistance from philanthropies, local, state and federal programs.  But realistically, many of those in these communities who understand what progress requires will gladly join in if they see a path forward, unimpeded by class, race, ethnic, or other inequities that are insurmountable, or perceived as such.

About Dave aka Mr. Math Teacher

Independent consultant and junior college adjunct instructor. Former secondary math teacher who taught math intervention, algebra 1, geometry, accelerated algebra 2, precalculus, honors precalculus, AP Calculus AB, and AP Statistics. Prior to teaching, I spent 25 years in high tech in engineering, marketing, sales and business development roles in the satellite communications, GPS, semiconductor, and wireless industries. I am awed by the potential in our nation's youth and I hope to instill in them the passion to improve our world at local, state, national, and global levels.
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1 Response to Social Distortion (Part 2)

  1. Pingback: Social Distortion (Part 1) | Reflections of a Math Teacher Candidate

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