Weekly Math Updates

June 21, 2006

  • Charter School Information
  • Media: District considers increase in property tax (ASD)
  • MUST READ: Why Education Experts Resist Effective Practices (And What It Would Take to Make Education More Like Medicine) *****
  • Junior High/High School Students
  • Constitution Project (coming soon)
  • Weekly Comic-Laughing Stock

Charter School Information

After endorsing several candidates last week that support charter schools, one of you responded that you appreciated what I am doing, but didn't always agree with me. After I picked myself up off the floor, I read the rest of the email. This individual mentioned some things about how charter schools get built from taxpayer money and Jim Ferrin profits from his position as a lawmaker by passing laws that benefit himself. This person also cited a lack of anyone to complain to concerning where a school is built and who a community responds to if they have a problem with it. So I decided I didn't know enough about the subject and have tried to ask around so I could better educate myself and in turn, you.

Charter schools are built by private money but they do get a startup grant from the federal government since they have no tax base on which to draw funds from. These funds are only available if the school selects students by a lottery and not any other method such as geography or their favorite TV show, etc... Then a construction company fronts all the costs of building the school. If Jim Ferrin is making money off charter school construction, it's because he's putting his own money into the school and hoping it's successful so that he can recoup his money.

After a school is built, the construction/privately held company leases the school to the charter organization for a few years until they have a track record of success, at which point the school tries to obtain a loan to purchase the building. When a charter school purchases the building, it can own it. This may be a concern the legislature needs to address since it is purchased with taxpayer money (via wise use of the school's WPU) and if the school ever closes and it was owned by the school, who then controls the building? Some charters never own their own buildings and just continue to pay a monthly lease payment for the life of the building.

The votes that have gone through the Utah legislature that some say benefits Jim Ferrin, were approved by a 98% vote, and merely allow charter schools the same latitude as public schools. It was the legislature's way of leveling the playing field. What was done was to say charters can build wherever there's land they can obtain as long as a couple of basic problems don't come into play and there's really nothing that a city or citizen can do about it just like the system exists currently for "public" schools to be built by districts. They got the same leeway.

Public school district buildings are owned by the taxpayers in the district and boards were set up as the local authority to prevent the state from taking over local school buildings and calling them their own.

I hope this information helps explain the system a little better for people. I'm sure I'll get a few emails and if any of them change this information I'll do a part 2 next week.

Media: District considers increase in property tax

ASD's looking to raise property taxes...but lower their budget.

MUST READ: Why Education Experts Resist Effective Practices (And What It Would Take to Make Education More Like Medicine) *****
by Douglas Carnine

OK, if there's one big article you read, it's this one. It's 12 pages of how the education community has completely ignored the largest study ever performed on education methods--examining language, spelling, reading, and math. It's a must read type of document if you're a teacher or involved in education, and certainly important enough to warrant reading if you're a parent. It's a massive study that was done over decades of time, 180 schools, and 79,000 children. Surely the evidence should speak for itself, but clear evidence is hard for the education community to swallow.

Oddly enough, just yesterday at work one of the attorneys handed me an article from the June 2006 Scientific American magazine called "The Political Brain". The article examined 30 people who were half (self-described) "strong" Republicans and half "strong" Democrats. They then presented statements from George Bush and John Kerry to the subjects where Bush and Kerry contradicted themselves, thus creating a conflict for the subjects. Then, using MRI technology, the subjects were examined to see which parts of their brains they used to analyze the statements. What they found was very interesting and directly applies to this article. Once a person has drawn a conclusion (like *BUSH IS MY GUY* or *INVESTIGATIONS MATH ROCKS*, they tend to use emotional centers of the brain to ignore contrary facts and then reinforce their position emotionally rather than reasoning through the contradiction for the truth. It takes extraordinary effort for someone that has made their mind up to overcome their partisan feelings and view rational information objectively. If you're interested in the Scientific American article, here's a link to a pdf of the article. It's just one page long.

We need people across all boundaries, education or political, to use their heads. I'm a "strong" Republican in principle with the party platform, but I have no clue where George Bush, Orrin Hatch, and our other federal Republicans from this state come from since they seem to have no clue what the constitution is all about.

Here's the excellent must-read education article link and an executive summary for those of you that just can't bring yourselves to read it:

"Until education becomes the kind of profession that reveres evidence, we should not be surprised to find its experts dispensing unproven methods, endlessly flitting from one fad to another. The greatest victims of these fads are the very students who are most at risk.

The first section of this essay provides examples from reading and math curricula. The middle section describes how experts have, for ideological reasons, shunned some solutions that do display robust evidence of efficacy. The following sections briefly examine how public impatience has forced other professions to “grow up” and accept accountability and scientific evidence. The paper concludes with a plea to hasten education’s metamorphosis into a mature profession."

Not only did the study find that direct instruction was the best method for transmitting information to students, IQ's also rose under the method in significant ways. Amazingly, the programs that failed students (all the constructivist based programs) were then hailed as successful by the Department of Education and instead of promoting direct instruction programs, extra dollars were spent to improve the failing programs. The author then states:

"This is a classic case of an immature profession, one that lacks a solid scientific base and has less respect for evidence than for opinion and ideology."


Education has not yet developed into a mature profession. What might cause it to? Based on the experience of other fields, it seems likely that intense and sustained outside pressure will be needed. Dogma does not destroy itself, nor does an immature profession drive out dogma.

The metamorphosis is often triggered by a catalyst, such as pressure from groups that are adversely affected by the poor quality of service provided by a profession.

We are that catalyst. We the taxpayers that have children engulfed in a system led by dogma and not evidence. The education community needs pressure to mature and examine the only real evidence that exists in a massive governmentally funded study that condemns constructivist learning and wholeheartedly supports direct instruction methods.

Junior High/High School Students

If you have children going into a junior high or high school this upcoming year, be sure to contact the school and request traditional math teachers that don't use Connected or Integrated math. Even for children in elementary school, not every teacher uses Investigations and you should try to request those traditional math teachers for your children to ensure a better experience.

Constitution Project (coming soon)

As the math fight starts to slow down (there's just a few things left to accomplish now, though they will take some time) I have another project sort of waiting in the wings. I've wanted to study the constitution for a long time and it seems that more and more I'm seeing people starting up little study groups to discuss that inspired document. Very soon I will tell you about this project and anyone who would like to participate in an online study group is welcome to join.

Weekly Comic

Archive: http://www.oaknorton.com/weaponsofmathdestruction.cfm

Till next week,

Oak Norton


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