Edumacation, We Don’t Haz It

I stumbled across this post at Pithy Title Goes Here, and had to explore further. It seems that an adult took a standardized test for 10th graders, and failed miserably. What was at fault? Why, the test, of course!

“I won’t beat around the bush,” he wrote in an email. “The math section had 60 questions. I knew the answers to none of them, but managed to guess ten out of the 60 correctly. On the reading test, I got 62% . In our system, that’s a “D”, and would get me a mandatory assignment to a double block of reading instruction.

He continued, “It seems to me something is seriously wrong. I have a bachelor of science degree, two masters degrees, and 15 credit hours toward a doctorate.

“I help oversee an organization with 22,000 employees and a $3 billion operations and capital budget, and am able to make sense of complex data related to those responsibilities.

“I have a wide circle of friends in various professions. Since taking the test, I’ve detailed its contents as best I can to many of them, particularly the math section, which does more than its share of shoving students in our system out of school and on to the street. Not a single one of them said that the math I described was necessary in their profession.

“It might be argued that I’ve been out of school too long, that if I’d actually been in the 10th grade prior to taking the test, the material would have been fresh. But doesn’t that miss the point? A test that can determine a student’s future life chances should surely relate in some practical way to the requirements of life. I can’t see how that could possibly be true of the test I took.”

Wow, a multi-degreed professional couldn’t do 10th grade math!

I guess I shouldn’t snark so much about “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader.”

Who was this highly credentialed person?

The man in question is Rick Roach, who is in his fourth four-year term representing District 3 on the Board of Education in Orange County, Fl., a public school system with 180,000 students. Roach took a version of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, commonly known as the FCAT, earlier this year.

Roach, the father of five children and grandfather of two, was a teacher, counselor and coach in Orange County for 14 years. He was first elected to the board in 1998 and has been reelected three times. A resident of Orange County for three decades, he has a bachelor of science degree in education and two masters degrees: in education and educational psychology. He has trained over 18,000 educators in classroom management and course delivery skills in six eastern states over the last 25 years.

(My emphasis.)  Surely it must be the test!

I’d certainly like to see the questions.  Let me quote once again from The George Orwell Daycare Center:

“There is really nothing very mysterious about why our public schools are failures. When you select the poorest quality college students to be public school teachers, give them iron-clad tenure, a captive audience, and pay them according to seniority rather than performance, why should the results be surprising?

“Ours may become the first civilization destroyed, not by the power of our enemies, but by the ignorance of our teachers and the dangerous nonsense they are teaching our children. In an age of artificial intelligence, they are creating artificial stupidity.

“In a democracy, we have always had to worry about the ignorance of the uneducated. Today we have to worry about the ignorance of people with college degrees.” – Thomas Sowell

“It is only from a special point of view that ‘education’ is a failure. As to its own purposes, it is an unqualified success. One of its purposes is to serve as a massive tax-supported jobs program for legions of not especially able or talented people. As social programs go, it’s a good one. The pay isn’t high, but the risk is low, the standards are lenient, entry is easy, and job security is pretty good…in fact, the system is perfect, except for one little detail. We must find a way to get the children out of it.”—Richard Mitchell, the Underground Grammarian.

As Glenn Reynolds puts it, “Credentialed, not educated.”

I’m not discounting the possibility that the questions themselves are ridiculous, after all, I’ve had some experience with “new math” myself.  Again from George Owell Daycare Center:

In 1960: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is four fifths the price. What is his profit?

In 1970: (traditional math): A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 80% of the price. What is his profit in dollars?

In 1970: (new math): A logger exchanges set L of lumber for set M of money. The cardinality of set M is 100 and each element is worth $1. Make 100 dots representing the elements of set M. The set C of costs contains 20 fewer points than set M. Represent set C as a subset of set M, and answer the following question: What is the cardinality of the set P of profits?

In 1980: A logger sells a truckload of wood for $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20.

In 1990: (Outcome-Based Education): By cutting down beautiful forest trees, a logger makes $20. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class discussion: How did the forest birds and squirrels feel?

In 2000: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $120. How does Arthur Andersen determine that his profit margin is $60?

In 2010: El hachero vende un camion carga por $100. La cuesta de productiones…

So I want to see the questions.  But somehow I don’t think that would explain the whole problem.

And I really wonder how Mr. Roach would do on the American Civics Literacy Quiz.

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