Wednesday, March 11, 2009

If it doesn't work - stick with it

"When you have a 2-year-old car, and maybe it's sputtering a little bit, you don't get a new car. You get a tune-up." Prince William School Board member Michael I. Otaigbe in a recent Washington Post article.

OK – and in the mean time, thousands of “cars” will never master the basic concepts of math. I love analogies in education and this one may be my new favorite. The discussion is over the math curriculum used in Prince William schools. Currently they use “math investigations” which has some controversy as to whether it is an effective way to teach math but they decided to stick with it.

Right now there is a petition from 1,500 Prince William parents to dump the “investigations” and there is a study that shows it is not as effective as other text books. But Prince William doesn’t care – it would cost too much to replace the text books and they want to see if improving the program helps. It seems that they just need more parent training, more teacher training and some changes to the material and then it might actually raise the program to somewhere near “average”.

What about the students? I can see making a ton of effort for a program that shows a lot of promise and has community support – but they are going through all this effort for a sub-par program that emphasizes feeling good about math over actually learning math that doesn’t show promise and is hated by the community.

In the real world if your customers hated your product, your employees didn’t understand it enough to “sell it” and your results were mediocre – would you really “tune up” the product or would you go back to the product that actually works?

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