Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor


Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor


Article excerpt

Lagging US students need fewer tests, better teachers

I am so relieved to find that my concern over the shift from problem solving to content learning is now getting national attention through the Program for International Student Assessment results reported in your Dec. 7 article, "Math + Test = trouble for US economy."

I'm a science teacher and it is heart-breaking to have to rush my students through a laundry list of facts so they can pass standardized tests. We no longer have time to do practical projects and student-directed experiments. These activities train students in exactly the skills and attitudes they will need to power our economy in the 21st century.

When the US secretary of Education talks about the high standards and accountability that the No Child Left Behind legislation mandates, we have to ask if those standards are high standards for passing tests, or genuine high standards that teach our children skills and ways of thinking that will help them solve real problems in the real world.

Business needs to get involved in the math and science standards debate in every state. Their future, and ours, depends on it. Sue Boudreau El Sobrante, Calif.

That there is a problem with the scores of our students is undeniable. But the Dec. 16 article, "US lags in math, but not as far" contained a gem of information - the philosophy of educators. The key is the statement: "The most intransigent barriers to improvement in math and science performance may be the culture of teaching."

If you ask an educator what education is, you may be in for a surprise if you expect education to have anything to do with comprehending or solving problems. This is the real problem in education today.

Traditional teaching of math is a long process in which the student must recall memorized facts from previous lessons and apply them within new contexts. Since that is not "education" in the philosophy currently popular, students learn math as a series of encapsulated lessons without connections. Low scores on standardized tests are the result of students not being able to solve problems out of the specific, narrow format they have learned. …

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