Monday, January 17, 2005

The New Math just doesn't add up

The Newton, Massachusetts public schools have a problem:

The school department was recently forced to publicly admit that the sixth-grade MCAS math scores have steadily declined over the past three years to the point where 32% of sixth-graders are now in the "warning" or "needs improvement" category. This means that if we were to attach a letter grade to these sixth-grade MCAS math results it would be a D-plus, with only 68% of the students passing. Brown Middle School fared so poorly that it is now subject to be placed under the federal No Child Left Behind Act for failing to keep pace under the minimum "adequate yearly progress guidelines."

The school department offered no tangible explanation for these declining scores other than to admit that they have no explanation, as articulated by Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Carolyn Wyatt (salary $106,804), "[The results] have decreased, incrementally, each year and continue to puzzle us." She went on to admit that this downward trend is peculiar to Newton and "is not being seen statewide." Again, she offered no explanation, but she did assure the School Committee that her assistant, Math Coordinator Mary Eich (salary $101,399), is currently investigating the problem.

My word. Math scores plummeting like a rock and the local yokel educrats have no idea why?

Tom Mountain has a suggestion:

[W]hat has changed in the elementary and middle school math curriculum to have affected such a dramatic decline in the MCAS scores?

Answer: the new math curriculum, otherwise known as anti-racist multicultural math.

Between 1999 and 2001, under the direction of Superintendent Young and Assistant Superintendent Wyatt, the math curriculum was redesigned to emphasize "Newton's commitment to active anti-racist education" for the elementary and middle schools. This meant that no longer were division, multiplication, fractions and decimals the first priority for teaching math. For that matter, the teaching of math was no longer the first priority for math teachers, as indicated by the new curriculum guidelines, called benchmarks, which function as the primary instructional guide for teaching math in the Newton Public Schools.

In 2001 Mr. Young, Mrs. Wyatt and an assortment of other well-paid school administrators, defined the new number-one priority for teaching mathematics, as documented in the curriculum benchmarks, "Respect for Human Differences - students will live out the system wide core of 'Respect for Human Differences' by demonstrating anti-racist/anti-bias behaviors." It continues, "Students will: Consistently analyze their experiences and the curriculum for bias and discrimination; Take effective anti-bias action when bias or discrimination is identified; Work with people of different backgrounds and tell how the experience affected them; Demonstrate how their membership in different groups has advantages and disadvantages that affect how they see the world and the way they are perceived by others..." It goes on and on.

These are the most important priorities that the school department has determined for teaching math from grade one through eight, as documented in the Newton Public Schools Benchmarks. Nowhere among the first priorities for the math curriculum guidelines is the actual teaching of math. That's a distant second. To Superintendent Young and his School Committee, mathematical problem-solving is of secondary importance to anti-racist/anti-bias math.

In other words, apparently, Superintendent Young and his School Committee believe that actually teaching mathematics is too "white" for their students. So if tests come back with answers like "2+2=22" and "6x6= Kwanzaa," I guess it would be "racist" for teachers to mark those answers wrong and seek to correct the problem students.

From such warped thinking comes exams like the following parody:




1) Johnny has an AK-47 with a 40-round clip. If he misses five out of ten shots and shoots thirteen times at each drive-by shooting, how many drive-by shootings can he attend before he has to re-load?

2) Jose has two ounces of cocaine and he sells an eight-ball to Jackson for $320 and two grams to Billy for $85 per gram. What is the street value of the balance of Jose's stash if he doesn't cut it?

3) Rufus is pimping three girls. If the price of each trick is $65, how many tricks will each girl have to turn so Rufus can support his $800 a day crack habit?

4) Jerome wants to cut his half-pound of heroin to make 20% more profit. How many ounces of cut will he need?

5) Willis gets $200 for stealing a BMW, $50 for a Chevy, and $100 for a 4x4. If he has stolen two BMWs and three 4x4s, how many Chevys will he have to steal to make $800?

6) Rauel is in prison for six years for murder. He got $10,000 for the hit. His common-law wife is spending $100 per month. How much money will be left when he gets out of prison and how many years will he get for killing the bitch that spent his money?

7) If the average spray can covers 22 square feet and the average letter is one foot hight, how many letters can one brother spray with three cans of spray paint?

8) Hector knocked up six girls in his gang. There are 27 girls in the gang. What is the percentage of girls in the gang that Hector has knocked up?

This parody is eight years old. But one thing that has become overtly apparent over the past few years of accelerating liberal intellectual decline is that today's parody is tomorrow's reality.

The other is that the "soft bigotry of low expectations" is hardening at an exponential rate measurable in the shrillness of lib race-baiting denunciations.

And some people wonder why Bill Cosby won't shut up.