Monday, March 31, 2008

Springboard for a Better Future

Here is a five minute talk I have given on the subject of educating our children to be tomorrow's leaders. It is entitled, Springboard for a Better Future.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Pact Showing Commitment to Education Can Be Valuable

There was a great story in the New York Times, March 26, 2008, by Samuel Freedman: A Do-It-Yourself SAT Class, With No Whining, or Parents, Allowed. The story described a group of students who made a pact, a.k.a. a compact, to study together for the SAT test. The decided how often to meet. They committed to attend the scheduled meetings. And they agreed, in writing, not to whine or complain. They set a goal of scoring 700 on each part of the test.

Working together is a great way to accomplishment. One of the founding documents of our country is the Mayflower Compact, signed in 1620.

Not everyone in Plano is committed to education, even though the community has good schools. If we had more commitment, our schools would be even better. If Plano developed a community compact, or pact, expressing a commitment to education and steps parents could take to improve their children's education, it could be a big help to some segments of our community.

Additionally, when other districts try to improve their performance by copying our curriculum implementation, they don't get what makes Plano schools successful: supportive parents that value education. If other districts want to improve performance they need to copy more than lesson plans, they have to copy attitude. It would be good if we spelled out our attitude. If we could get more people here to value education, then we could offer an example for other districts to emulate. Showing under-performing districts how to improve community commitment to education would help them far more than the money the state legislature rips off from us.

A community compact on education would help Plano and the state of Texas.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Is this Really 4th Grade Math?

Here is a problem my 4th grade boy had to work in school. Tell me if you think this is a problem 4th graders should be able to do:

Miguel planted 4 different kinds of plants in his vegetable garden. The garden contains a total of 72 plants. Of the plants, 15 are tomato and 12 are squash. The remaining plants are either lettuce or cucumbers. The number of lettuce plants is twice the number of cucumber plants. How many lettuce plants are in Miguel's garden?

If you are comfortable with algebra, you can solve this in your head without pencil and paper. So, how many lettuce plants are there? Be the first to post the answer, but tell us if you used paper and pencil or if you are an engineer or mathematician!

How many 4th graders in a class of 20 do you think can solve this?

The children were given nine different strategies to try and guess the answer, but the glory of math is that you can be taught to solve problems and not have to guess.

One reason America ranks low in math when compared to the industrialized world is that we have flawed teaching strategies. Many ninth graders have trouble solving a problem like this at the beginning of the year, so the strategy is to show algebra to kids at earlier grades. No matter how early they shove this in the curriculum, the kids who have trouble with this in 8th and 9th grade still have trouble with it in 8th and 9th grade. Eventually this ends up in 4th, 3rd, and 2nd grade. Yes, I remember showing my son how to do algebra problems in 2nd grade. Why? He still doesn't know algebra in 4th grade. Grades 3 through 5 are too early to do algebra. It is a waste of classroom time and reinforces in some kids the idea that math is too hard for them.

The idea of pushing algebraic concepts into grades 3 through 5 is part of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, but not full-blown algebra problems. The problem I shared with you here is not like the example in the NCTM website for grades 3 - 5. PISD has mis-applied the concept.

There is a lot we can do to improve mathematics education in the elementary schools. Vote for me and let's work together to improve our children's education.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Plano for the Presidency

You've heard me say earlier that Plano can and should develop good leaders for America.

Our current president came from Midland, Texas. Why can't a future president come from Plano, Texas?

As we educate our children, we should consider that one of our own could be President of the United States. I say we should bear that in mind as we teach our children. They need to know more than Algebra. They need the wisdom of History. President Harry Truman claimed his first source of political wisdom came from Plutarch, read to him by his father.

Studying Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans is how Truman's father helped shape Harry's character. History is a great way to teach character lessons, put in the context of real events. Good character is vital for good leaders. Heraclitus said, "A man's character is his fate," in his work On the Universe. This is often shortened to: Character is destiny.

David Hall is a candidate for the PISD Board, for Place 5. He talks about character education on his blog.

President Reagan said, "we've got to teach history," in his farewell address to the nation.

Truman said it. Reagan said it. I echo their wisdom. Let's educate our children as though one of them will lead America. Let's give America our very best.

Robert Canright

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Karen Dillard and Student Scores

The College Board had threatened to cancel student scores, which was irresponsible talk. I had heard rumors the College Board was taking action against our children, but now it seems those rumors were unfounded.

Karen Dillard posted a copy of a court order on her company website that says, "The College Board hereby states that it will not ... make public statements about individual test takers...."

Parents and the school district should be concerned about our children's test scores.