Jewish World Review April 5, 2004 / 14 Nissan, 5764
Companies outsource for better workers, study says; nothing succeeds like failure; suspending everyone
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | According to a report by the American Electronics Association, high-tech companies blame second-rate math and science education in the U.S. for the offshoring of high-tech jobs. From Wired:
The American school system, which AeA researchers charge is failing to provide strong science and math education to students, is largely to blame for lost jobs, according to the AeA's report, "Offshore Outsourcing in an Increasingly Competitive and Rapidly Changing World."
"Companies aren't outsourcing only in order to obtain cheap labor; they are also looking for skilled technology workers that they increasingly can't find in the U.S.," said Matthew Kazmierczak, senior manager of research at AeA, and one of the authors of the report.
On Assorted Stuff, Tim writes:
While this report sounds like another industry lobbying group trying to scare Congress into giving their companies lots of money, they do make one good point. We don't do a good job of math and science instruction in this country. Part of the blame for that goes to society in general which gives lots of lip service to learning those subjects but then has an adult population which is largely (and often proudly) ignorant of even the most basic math and science concepts. How many people actually understand the odds behind the lottery or what the theory of evolution actually says?
I'll probably get blasted for this, but I also blame the tsunami of standardized tests we spend a large part of the year preparing for. The math on these exams hardly gets up to the "high tech" level that the AEA report is referring to and most exams barely touch science at all since it's not one of the indicators that NCLB requires. When the test becomes the target of instruction, learning settles for the lowest common denominator of the test.
Reform K12 responds:
The argument seems to be this: first standardized tests are criticized because schools must spend "most of the year" on test prep, which leads us to believe that they're really, really hard. Then the tests are criticized because apparently the math and science on the test is not high tech (which we read as "easy").
I'm not convinced by the AeA's argument: If Indian programmers and engineers demanded U.S. wages, they'd be out of work. They're highly educated and relatively cheap.
I also think testing has nothing to do with the problems of math and science education in the U.S. Many students flunk those very easy tests because they don't know the basics. They're not prevented from learning higher math because too much time is spent on test prep. The problem is they don't know the basics.
I sat in on a charter school faculty meeting a few days ago that focused on test prep. The English, math, science and history teachers are making sure they teach the relevant state standards before students take the state test; they're also discussing how to measure whether students know what they've been taught. This is not a waste of time, it seems to me.
Nothing Succeeds Like Failure
On the New York Times op-ed page, teacher Marlene Heath eloquently defends Chicago's policy of holding back students who can't read. Heath, now a reading specialist at an all-poverty school on the South Side, was skeptical when Mayor Richard Daley ended social promotion in 1995. Now she says it's been a boon to students and teachers.
Only 26 percent of our elementary students were able to meet national norms on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills in reading in 1995. That number is now 41 percent. At Beethoven (School) alone, reading comprehension jumped to 46 percent last year from 22 percent in 1997.
About 48 percent of Chicago public school students tested in the lowest quarter nationally before social promotion ended. Now that number is half of what it was. The high school drop-out rate, which was nearly 17 percent in 1995, is now at 13 percent, while the graduation rate has steadily climbed.
But the students who have come through my classrooms over the last 14 years offer the most convincing evidence that retention is one of the best things we can do for a child who needs that extra year to develop literacy skills. I began teaching sixth graders in 1992, and shortly after social promotion ended, I began to see students who were much better prepared. This new caliber of students allowed me to do what I should have been able to do all along — teach sixth-grade-level work to all my students. That hadn't been possible with the two or three nonreaders who had passed each year through my class before.
Students who can't read fluently become deeply frustrated. Not only do they drop out, they can ruin the learning environment for other students.
At F.D. Moon Academy in Oklahoma City, there are 147 sixth graders. Wednesday, 136 were suspended for slamming tables in the cafeteria, talking back to teachers and disrupting classrooms.
(Elaine) Ford, in her first year as the school's principal, said teachers can't improve test scores until disciplinary issues are resolved. She estimated teachers spend 85 percent of their time reprimanding students.
Students will have to do community service.
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