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Welcome to EduIssues.com, a site to discuss education issues facing the area around San Mateo, CA.  Please read the Welcome message for more details about this site.  All discussions are moderated as explained in the Welcome message.

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Topics

(Click on any topic title below for all articles in that category in reverse chronological order – only the most recent or important articles are listed below)

Education News

  1. Will a Female Physicist Succeed Where Einstein Failed?
  2. STEM Class Issues from the 2017-2018 Aragon School Year: Part 3 – Physics
  3. IMPORTANT (and urgent!) note to parents of Aragon precalculus students!!
  4. Why U.S. Schools Should Not Be Like Shanghai!
  5. Before You Vote on Upcoming School Ballot Measures, Please Read This!
  6. “Mutual Assured Destruction”
  7. My Speech to the SMUHSD Board on NGSS

 

Issues in Teaching Mathematics     

  1. STEM Class Issues from the 2017-2018 Aragon School Year: Part 2 – AP Statistics
  2. STEM Class Issues from the 2017-2018 Aragon School Year: Part 1 – Precalculus (with an aside on Multivariable Calculus)
  3. Pros and Cons of the CPM Math Textbook Series
  4. Why is 10^0 = 1 ???
  5. Why Can’t We Teach Mathematics Properly?
  6. Here We Go Again….

 

AP Class Crisis

  1. STEM Class Issues from the 2017-2018 Aragon School Year: Part 3 – Physics
  2. “Mutual Assured Destruction”
  3. Attention SMUHSD Parents! State Mandated Testing Negatively Impacts Aragon’s Physics Program
  4. Taking the Fight to Harvard
  5. It’s AP ex(sc)am time again!
  6. Critical Warnings re AP Classes
  7. A Hole in the Aragon Math Curriculum
  8. very unfortunate local test practice that I think is hurting students.
  9. How to Interest Kids in Science, Engineering, and Math.
  10. Confirmation from UC Berkeley on problems with AP classes

 

Teacher Salaries

  1. Before You Vote on Upcoming School Ballot Measures, Please Read This!
  2. IMPORTANT – SMFCSD Seeks Community Input on School Finances
  3. “I’ve Ended Many School Days Crying in My Car”
  4. SMFCSD Settles Contract Dispute with Teachers, But What Comes Next???
  5. SM Daily Journal: Battle over teacher pay gets worse

 

College Admissions

  1. How to get in to Harvard
  2. SAT Test Prep Recommendations

 

Top Ten Most Read Articles

  1. Pros and Cons of the CPM Math Textbook Series
  2. It’s AP ex(sc)am time again!
  3. Critical Warnings re AP Classes
  4. Info from UC Berkeley confirms why students should not skip from Precalculus to Calculus BC
  5. Back to School – Changes at Aragon HS
  6. “Educators laud test success” – Give me a break!!!!
  7. “I’ve Ended Many School Days Crying in My Car”
  8. How to Get in to Harvard
  9. A Hole in the Aragon Math Curriculum
  10. No Last Minute Miracle for Measure Y 🙁

Thank you for reading and participating on this site.  Together we can make a difference and improve education for our local students!

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Will a Female Physicist Succeed Where Einstein Failed?

While not strictly an educational issue, this link leads to one of the most fascinating articles that I have read in a long time.  It is about a female physicist named Cohl Furey who is using the hierarchy of number systems (real numbers, complex numbers, quaternions, octonions) to try to explain the fundamental properties of nature.  While this line of investigation may not pan out ultimately, it is extremely interesting and the additional background material linked to from the article is also fascinating.  One can skim some of the details, but it is worth reading in its entirety to get the flavor of modern research into the mysteries of the universe.

Developing the kind of passion with which Dr. Furey pursues her research should be our goal in education.

Since I have a Ph.D., I have often been asked why, after finishing my tech career, I wanted to teach high school instead of college.  Here is an excerpt from the article above that explains why:

Furey, who is 39, said she was first drawn to physics at a specific moment in high school, in British Columbia. Her teacher told the class that only four fundamental forces underlie all the world’s complexity — and, furthermore, that physicists since the 1970s had been trying to unify all of them within a single theoretical structure. “That was just the most beautiful thing I ever heard,” she told me, steely-eyed. She had a similar feeling a few years later, as an undergraduate at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, upon learning about the four division algebras. One such number system, or infinitely many, would seem reasonable. “But four?” she recalls thinking. “How peculiar.”

A good high school teacher has the ability to “launch a thousand ships” to quote Homer. Sad that we are turning our educational system into a standardized test taking machine for college competition…

STEM Class Issues from the 2017-2018 Aragon School Year: Part 3 – Physics

This is the third and final article in a three article series.  The first article was about precalculus at Aragon.  The second article focussed on AP Statistics.

In this article I comment on Aragon’s regular and AP physics program. Continue reading “STEM Class Issues from the 2017-2018 Aragon School Year: Part 3 – Physics”

STEM Class Issues from the 2017-2018 Aragon School Year: Part 2 – AP Statistics

This is the second in a three article series.  The first article was about precalculus at Aragon.  The third article is about Aragon’s physics classes.

AP Statistics is taught by possibly the best math teacher at Aragon, Mr. Shahrvini.  That is a big plus, but this article is intended to provide information to students and parents about what the class entails.

Unfortunately Aragon counselors often portray the class as an “easier alternative to AP Calculus.”  In my experience (and, of course, others might disagree), it is more accurate to describe AP Statistics as being “different” from AP Calculus.  Depending upon a student’s abilities/habits the class might be easier, or it could turn out to be very hard and frustrating. Continue reading “STEM Class Issues from the 2017-2018 Aragon School Year: Part 2 – AP Statistics”

STEM Class Issues from the 2017-2018 Aragon School Year: Part 1 – Precalculus (with an aside on Multivariable Calculus)

This is the first article in a three article series.  The second article is about AP Statistics at Aragon.  The third article is about Aragon’s physics classes.

For years the Precalculus class at Aragon has served as the hurdle/gateway to AP mathematics.  The unfortunate effects of this “Harry Potteresque sorting” result in my receiving annual calls and emails from desperate parents and students.  I could have just kept quiet and reveled in the boon the class gives my tutoring business.  However, I felt compelled to speak out publicly and address the problems with the system, particularly when they came to a head early in the 2105-2016 school year.

My personal goal is to teach and try to inspire students to love math and science, and I have grown extremely weary of instead having to put band-aids on what I consider is a broken system.

If you are or will  be soon a parent of an Aragon student(s), I urge you to read the following comments carefully and take them into consideration when your student chooses his/her math courses.  I also encourage you to contact the school and lobby for other math options such as I suggest in the article below. Continue reading “STEM Class Issues from the 2017-2018 Aragon School Year: Part 1 – Precalculus (with an aside on Multivariable Calculus)”

IMPORTANT (and urgent!) note to parents of Aragon precalculus students!!

I am very hesitant to make this announcement given somewhat fragmentary information, but time is of the essence since grades were just posted yesterday, and it will be too hard to take corrective action if it is not done now.

I am getting very concerned that there *may* have been a problem with the precalculus final exam in one of the three precalc teachers’ classes at Aragon.

I have about a half dozen precalculus students this school year spread over multiple classes of the three precalculus teachers at Aragon. Several of my students did fine, but yesterday, when the grades for the final exams and the course were posted, some students were shocked by how poorly they did on the final exam. After calling their friends (who were not my students) they heard similar stories. These stories seemed to be concentrated in a particular teacher’s classes. For example, students who went into the final with an A in the class were shocked when they found out that they failed the final (these were not my students, but friends of them). Something (and there are obviously many possible causes) is clearly wrong when there is this big of a discrepancy between the final and the grade for the rest of the semester.

The problem with the system is that the finals are graded after the year ends and students never get to see them. In addition, there has been an increasing tendency at Aragon to use student “teaching assistants” to grade tests. I do not know if this was the case with the final exam in this class.

If you have a child who was negatively surprised, I want to let you know that you may not be alone in this case. You may want to call the school office as soon as possible next week and see what recourse you may have.

I realize that this note will make me even more despised at Aragon than I already am, but a student should have the opportunity to review his/her exam at the end of the school year, and this habit of quickly grading tests and heading out the door for the summer is problematic, to say the least.

Before You Vote on Upcoming School Ballot Measures, Please Read This!

Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford professor often acknowledged as the most influential educator researcher in the U.S.A, has written an extremely compelling article about the state of American education.  I urge all of you to read it (it is not a lengthy article), particularly before you vote on your next local school tax measure:

“What Teacher Strikes Are Really About.”

An excerpt follows:

“A nation that under-educates its children in the 21st century cannot long survive as a world power. Prisons — which now absorb more of our tax resources than public higher education did in the 1980s — are filled with high school dropouts and those with low levels of literacy. We pay three times more for each prisoner than we invest in each child’s education annually. With an aging population and only three workers for every person on Social Security, the United States especially needs all young people to be well-educated enough to gain good work in the complex and rapidly changing economy they are entering. Without their ability to pay the taxes that support the rest of society, the social contract will dissolve.”