The Aragon 2018-2019 School Year Begins – and so do the calls for help

Each school year seems to bring a new set of intriguing questions.

This year Aragon apparently has a fairly large freshman class according to my tutoring students.  As the school’s “best in the district” reputation spreads, it becomes increasingly popular, and everyone wants to transfer their child there.  I am concerned that this is starting to stress the teaching staff.

Even more interesting to me is that, according to student reports, there are a significant number of freshmen and sophomores who are already enrolled in AP calculus.  I wonder how they progressed so far, so fast.  Russian School of Math??  How is this impacting older students in what are already challenging classes?

Finally I have been told that several of the math classes are full, and that students who bit off too much and tried to drop back from Calculus BC to AB found very few, if any, available spots for them.  Meanwhile, I am getting the usual calls for help, but my schedule for this school year filled up as always by early June.

I am trying to get more detailed information on the items above, and have placed some calls.  If any parents of Aragon students, or students themselves, can relate their experiences, either by contacting me privately using the Contact page on this website or via the public Comments section of this article, that would be greatly appreciated.

Note added early AM, 9/17/2018:  As of now, this article has been read 176 times since it was posted on Saturday.  The comments that I have received have all requested anonymity and this will be honored.  I’d appreciate your help shedding light on the questions raised above and will write a follow-up soon. Thank you!

In the interim I would like to remind parents of two of my blog articles written some time ago that are still relevant:

Critical Warnings re AP Classes

Info from UC Berkeley confirms why students should not skip from Precalculus to Calculus BC

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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…

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.

What’s Active?

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(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. The Aragon 2018-2019 School Year Begins – and so do the calls for help
  2. Will a Female Physicist Succeed Where Einstein Failed?
  3. STEM Class Issues from the 2017-2018 Aragon School Year: Part 3 – Physics
  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 🙁

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