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14 December 2016


Don Bessee

Here is another fine example of the education cabals results;

The 'jon' smith can add this to his hands up don't shoot blm BS. ALL LIVES MATTER, BLUE LIVES MATTER!

Russ Steele

What can America learn from the schools of other countries?

Amanda Ripley, New York Times

Generally speaking, the smartest countries tend to be those that have acted to make teaching more prestigious and selective; directed more resources to their neediest children; enrolled most children in high-quality preschools; helped schools establish cultures of constant improvement; and applied rigorous, consistent standards across all classrooms.

Hard to do when union thugs control the school day.

For the United States, math is still clearly the weakest subject, in fact at all income levels.

Even harder to fix when teachers do not have any in-depth math training, and they are near impossible to fire for incompetence.


George, you've once again missed the target entirely. The stark message of the PISA result (a flawed test but is data that should not be ignored) is that pedagogy matters and the US education establishment get it wrong. In #1 Singapore, they've adopted what is derided as merely "drill and kill" (if you drill the child, you kill their enthusiasm) by Modern Educators but celebrated as traditional mathematics by those of us who were taught that way, and got it.

"Singapore Math" works, and has been available here for years:

The problems in US education are manifold but none are more stark than the Constructivist school of thought which has come to be absolutely dominant in our Colleges of Education over since the eighties: whole language, whole math, project based learning, discovery learning are all Constructivist in nature and are best described as the Socratic Method... without a Socrates in the classroom to keep ignorance in check. Practice makes perfect is devolved into "drill and kill".

Common Core isn't about a common list of topics, though that was the canard... the core of Common Core Math are the Standards for Mathematical Practice, where Phil Daro did to the Nation what he did to California in 1992... set the NCTM constructivist drivel into stone. Daro, you may or may not remember, was hired as the original Chair for the Common Core math standards effort, despite not having any degrees in mathematics or a career teaching mathematics. He literally does not have the background to teach math at our high schools, let alone develop standards for doing so.

If there are any proud 400# parents of a 9th grader taking Collegiate Algebra reading this, College Algebra has never been different than 8th grade algebra as defined in the now moribund California Content standards. Algebra is algebra. And the introductory algebra text used at Sierra College (according to the Sierra bookstore) is by the global k-12 textbook giant Pearson, for whom Phil Daro has been working for two decades.

My late first wife Teri was teaching developmental math at Sierra and was slated to teach the Algebra class that began the month after she passed away. Their developmental math was indeed equivalent to 4th to 7th grade arithmetic, heavy on the arithmetic of fractions and their Algebra was equivalent to 8th grade algebra. I don't remember what the algebra text was at Sierra at the time but the algebra text I homeschooled our son with, Algebra 1, Structure & Method by Dolciani et al, (like Singapore, aligned with the old California Content Standards) was a fairly traditional book that sent my son on a path towards mathematical competence, building on the arithmetic competence his St.Sensible imparted.

Discovery methods slow down the motivated and well prepared while they cajole the unmotivated and poorly prepared toward the goal of being college ready, and the current good news is the same as the only good news from the Whole Math debacle in California twenty years ago... the gap between whites and the minority groups du jour has been lessened a bit. What they don't say is it is almost entirely due to slowing the progress of all students who are on a collegiate path.

George Rebane

Gregory 1227pm - I have no idea what your voluminous contention is with my commentary. The "stark message" of which you speak is exactly what my commentary reports. The rest of your comment covers areas about which you have written much in these pages, but which have little or absolutely nothing to do with what I have posted. Please be a bit more specific in your critique.


George 1238, your commentary makes no mention of constructivist pedagogy and obfuscates the issue with politics and low standards. Our elected representatives are as oblivious to the problems as anyone and go right to the experts recommended by university education departments. THEY are the result of the post Sputnik education push, they are what you get when you push elected representatives to fix the problem.

I personally know Communists who get the pedagogy issue. It isn't politics, it's a basic denigration of content knowledge for teachers when they are reduced to being "a guide on the side" rather than their traditional role of Being A Teacher.

Constructivists in the US point to #2 Japan as their role model, because they like to claim that Common Core style investigations are what they are replicating... and there is some truth to that claim. What they never admit to is that the Japanese have punishing exams that weed out the weak from college admissions and they have their cram schools, juku, that is "drill and kill" from Hell. Their public schools concentrate on the conceptual and the kids that will go to college will get what they need on their parent's dime.


Memo to the 400# proud parent, I described what the Sierra College college bookstore has for their collegiate Introductory Algebra. Pearson also provides computer learning modules, perhaps you'd share what your boy is using.

Ghiddotti also uses CPM, maybe even worse than Pearson. Maybe not.

George Rebane

Gregory 113pm - there was no use of "constructivist pedagogy" per se in the PISA reporting. You are free to use that term and define its meaning, but don't dun others for not using your lexicon. The correlation of high scores to the quality of teachers and supportive culture was covered by numerous statements in the citations, and that was also covered in my commentary. And there is no "obfuscation" with politics and low standards, because here in the US those factors comprise the heart of the matter in the opinion of many of us. I'm sorry that you don't see that, your ex cathedra remarks withstanding.

The rest of your lecture on the knowledge base of our politicians and communist pedagogy is an expansion which was not possible to cover in the four minute commentary.


Yes, George, no one in the mainstream loop are pointing to the black and white differences between Singapore at #1 and USA at #31. It's the pedagogy, and they are teaching the way we used to teach while we are teaching our best and brightest using methods formerly reserved for remedial education.

We're on a constructivist slide that started in earnest in '92 when NCTM Math hit the big time.

FWIW, Jaime Escalante denounced the NCTM "Standards" for how to teach math, saying they looked like they were written by a PhysEd teacher. Now they are in US schools from coast to coast.

My recipe for increasing teacher competence... make public for each school what the average SAT or GRE Math and Verbal scores are for the teachers, and a district average of the same for all credentialed administrative staff. Right now there is no direct advantage for an adminstrator to hire a teacher who is more able than they are.

Teachers who can't document their SAT can retake it.

George Rebane

Gregory 318pm - So again, what is our disagreement and your rather hubristic opening salvo, "George, you've once again missed the target entirely."??



The target is the pedagogy, George, and you keep missing the target entirely. That's the difference between #1 Singapore and the USA at the back of the pack.

George Rebane

Gregory 656pm - And Gregory, pedagogy gets delivered through teachers with good pedagogy through good teachers and bad pedagogy through bad teachers. And that now seems to be the point that totally evades you. Pedagogy is not a teacher independent function in education, it depends, as I have stated, on the quality of teachers (which as the data shows - Fig 2 - is not strongly correlated with education spending for the wealthier nations).


Scenes, always something of a fan of Joe Scarborough from his congressional days, I've recently been watching Morning Joe regularly, without commercials... before I go to sleep. My Roku box has an NBC "channel" and I can get the day's Morning Joe, mostly stripped of commercials, when I want it. I'm guessing that clip is waiting for me.

Both JS and Mika Btfsplk have been amazingly positive on the Trump cabinet picks, and positive about how rational Trump has been. An island of sanity in the MSLSD universe.


No George, pedagogy gets decided by the school, by the state, now by the nation who bribed states with Race to the Top promises of funds to accept Common Core. California shoved the NCTM whole math and whole language models down the chute in the early 90's, then the fight was to push it back out (kicking and screaming) only to have the Feds push it back down after the Common Core people hired in 2008 the same guy who screwed California's kids with whole math in 1992.

From my work with Mathematically Correct over the years I have come into contact with a number of math teachers whose jobs were always on the line because they resisted constructivist tenets, and my first wife knew not to try to teach at Bear River HS in her day because she knew it was a CPM-only school. Some of the NUHS teachers actually helped with the CPM development but the math department wisely steered clear.

If you want to work at the County charters, you will teach that way. The Grass Valley charter, too.

It's politically incorrect to not want to teach Common Core math, and the NCTM vision is at the center of Common Core.

Induction, not deduction. Math appreciation. Doesn't work for the kids on the math and science track.

George Rebane

Gregory 728pm - It is not who decides pedagogy that matters, but by whom and how it is delivered, and that was the sum and substance of the PISA results - the variance of pedagogies was not even mentioned, and for good reason. Teachers are the final arbiters, no matter the plans and ministrations of the bureaucrats.


No George, bad curriculum conquers all, and bad pedagogy makes for bad textbooks and bad curriculum. In the case of Common Core, *because* they mandate discovery methods for how the material is delivered, algebra is delayed until the 9th grade because the pace is so plodding. It takes longer, and the results are substandard compared to competent teachers allowed to teach from traditional texts using traditional methods.

A fantastic math teacher can supplement a substandard book better than a lousy teacher can, but even a lousy teacher can still get good results if they have a great book, one of the reasons why the American editions of Singapore Math have been popular among home schooling parents. Saxon, too.

Pedagogy is paramount; that the reporters of the PISA results aren't looking into the details of why Singapore is doing so well is par for the course.

George Rebane

Gregory 1149pm – Well, now that we have brought in pedagogy, curricula, and textbooks, I think this debate has diffused markedly beyond the recent PISA results and my related commentary. My experience in and with various educational systems over the years has clearly given me a different perspective on the matter than has yours. Even though I have designed curricula and been a classroom teacher in many environments including high school, university (undergraduate and graduate), industry, and the military, I do not consider myself to be the final arbiter on the design and/or delivery of education. IMHO neither should you as evinced in your 1227pm off-point opening salvo and elsewhere in these pages. In sum, I believe we agree on more than this exchange conceals, so let’s just leave it there.


George, I've had a front row seat for math education issues for the last 20 years, and spent a year teaching algebra to a classroom of mentally gifted middle school kids before that. This isn't about how much better a mathematically competent teacher is at teaching math than one who is lesser, this is how much worse thousands of kids will do when a teacher is forced to use a wholly ineffective curriculum.

For example: twenty years ago, Phil Daro Math v.1 rolled out into California. The Grass Valley School District went whole hog for whole math, led by Jon Byerrum (now County Ed Supe Holly Hermansen's husband) and Linda Brown. Both were true believers in Constructivist classroom practices. They chose MathLand for lower grades, CPM for the older kids. We bailed out of the district after one year because of it, while a mathematically competent co-worker kept his kids there thinking that's all the easy stuff and they'd pick up what they needed.

At the same time, the Pleasant Ridge District (Alta Sierra, Magnolia) used Mathland for a month and bailed out in horror, choosing Saxon as their immediate replacement.

I put it to you that the teachers at Pleasant Ridge and Grass Valley were, as a population, not that much different, nor were the students, but three years into Byerrum's experiment, half of his kids were in the bottom quartile while all of the Pleasant Ridge kids were in the top two quartiles in math with similar results in language by the STAR exam results. Faced with abject failure, Byerrum told me there were some holes in Mathland they'd patch, and he kept it.

While yes, for an individual teacher as an independent practitioner ability and knowledge of math is paramount, when you have tens, thousands or millions of kids getting their curriculum chosen from on high dependent on what the district leadership decides to buy into, pedagogy and quality of the text using that pedagogy has been found to be the determining factor.

I remain in regular contact with the likes of Sandy Stotsky (it was nice seeing her face to face at the GV Elks presentation not that long ago) and others from Mathematically Correct and the national news is not good... the hot off the presses news in Trump's Dept. of Education is that a major Common Core proponent is up for being #2, Hanna Skandera, acting chair for PARCC, one of the two Federally funded consortia for Common Core testing, and, coincidentially, an ally of Jeb Bush.

Singapore is #1 in that test not because they have the best teachers that are the most knowledgeable, but because they have support from on high for a solid and traditional math curriculum, that has come to be known as Singapore Math. In the US, we hired a "mathematical nothing" to repeat his California mistake and so we have a national "Standard" that demands a Constructivist approach, and virtually all the available textbooks use Constructivist approaches. Even the SAT is now tuned to it.

We are in a meltdown; fixing the pedagogical bent is a first order response, getting rid of lousy teachers is a 2nd order effect and getting more mathematically competent teachers is at best a 3rd order effect because of the long half-life of the teacher corps.


An addendum... one of our more po-dunk commentators believes schools will be teaching Algebra 1 in the 8th grade. Unfortunately, those schools are not in tune with the social justice aspect of Common Core Math; by delaying Algebra 1 until the 9th grade, all kids get the class when all kids are ready.

'Frisco Unified has removed Algebra from all Middle Schools. And all will be enrolled in Algebra 1 in the 9th grade because all will get CCSS Math 8 in the 8th grade.

One size fits all. Promise.

Further explained here:

Under the new standards, the district is no longer taking a “drill and kill” approach to math. Instead, algebraic concepts will be woven into all math courses, beginning in kindergarten.

The goal is to get students fully prepared for Math 8, a hybrid pre-algebra class in eighth grade focusing on how linear functions and equations all fit together.

Students will then take a deep dive into Algebra 1 as high school freshman, which will also include transformational geometry and angle relationships.

Hull Barnes says exposing all students to high-quality math instruction is a social justice issue for SFUSD.

District officials say the controversial practice of tracking students — or separating them based on talent and ability — is simply wrong.

Math is now supposed to be more rigorous and engaging at all levels, regardless of the students’ ability.

It's 1995 all over again. They've even recycled the rhetoric.

(note to readers: in Ed-speak, rigorous does not mean "extremely thorough, exhaustive, or accurate", it means you had to think real hard, discuss the problems in a language other than math and draw pictures. It should also be noted that many of our local middle schools have been teaching a class they called Algebra 1 for years, but if only 1 of 145 tested as Advanced and large numbers tested Below Basic, it really wasn't Algebra 1)


I was poking around local school websites today and happened to notice, on the list of the touchy-feely Sierra Academy of Expeditionary Learning (SAEL), a local charter high school, has as it's Vice Chair of its Board of Directors a name that should live in infamy... from paragraph 2 of my 16 December 2016 at 12:25 PM... Linda Brown.

So forgive me another post.

Another memory of Ms. Brown... when she and her co-Principal at Hennessey were trying to convince me in 1995 of the efficacy of the discovery and project methods inherent in MathLand, they both exclaimed at how much fun it was, and had they had the opportunity to learn that way in elementary school they wouldn't have been stuck in dumbbell math.

Yes, dear friends, the folks who chose Constructivist methods for the entire Grass Valley School District really were the folks who were stuck in dumbbell math. Not surprisingly, those methods remain in vogue for special ed kids where they probably are appropriate.

One more thing... checking, of 300+ records for pensioners with the name Linda Brown, the GVSD Linda Brown of 2015 has the highest pension, $107k. Nice. By chasing our son from Hennessey and into the only local private school, MSM, she cost me the equivalent of a new BMW, and I really wanted that Beemer.

SAEL is too new to have the old STAR results that ended in 2013, but the Grass Valley Charter that Ms Brown led is the same "Expeditionary Learning" curriculum as SAEL, and in 2013, fully 2/3rds of their kids who took Algebra 1 in the 8th grade were below Proficient, and 87% of those who instead took General Math in the 8th were below proficient for that class. Dismal. Thank you, Linda Brown, for your 39 years of disservice to the children and parents of Nevada County.

George Rebane

Gregory 315pm - Is this the "constructivism" you have been referencing?

Bill Tozer

Not on the exact topic with the thread, but the link is related under Dr. Rebane's prose:

"It is again time to take a look at how America’s future is shaping up with respect to the most important measure available – the academic performance of our young people.


George 3:54, that paper appears to be specific to modern science museum design, and I'm not sure that view of constructivism is terribly useful in discussing math education issues. Here's some others:

"Applications and Misapplications of Cognitive Psychology to Mathematics Education" has a view of constructivism I believe to be useful and correct.

Anderson, Reder and Simon were/are all first class academics, but Herbert Simon was a giant you may have run into before, the ACM Turing Award recipient one year, Nobel in Economics another.

This paper by David Klein at CalState Northridge is a good overview specific to K-12 with a number of California references:

It quotes from a particularly informative book by E.D. Hirsch, "The Schools We Need and Why We Don't Have Them". If you'd like to read it I can probably dig out my copy with only minor spelunking.

George Rebane

Gregory 617pm - thanks Gregory, I think I get the picture and also your opposition to constructivism which I share.


Let's be clear I have no truck with Jean Piaget's concept of constructed knowledge, it's the modern "educator" who has turned that into a belief that the only way to construct that knowledge is to discover it for yourself.

I still vividly remember a math chalk talk, an informal lecture, by my teacher in the 5th or 6th grade... how to rationalize a repeating decimal. Now, it was purely algebra but using elementary subtraction methods.

If we have a number like .4444..., what is that as a proper fraction?
Simplified, we have

subtract bottom from top

I remember being gobsmacked... wow, you can subtract one equation from another!

Constructivists completely denigrate traditional teaching... "a sage on the stage". I'd much rather listen to the sage on the stage than try to stand on the shoulders of my fellow midgets trying to discover for ourselves 700 years of mathematical knowledge.

Give me the wisdom of the ages. Please.

What we now have is Phil Daro math v.2, Common Core, constructivist math activities (it's wrong to call them lessons) from coast to coast with nowhere to hide. The inmates are running the asylum.

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