Tuesday, July 05, 2005
HOW TO GET HIGH-QUALITY MATH AND SCIENCE INSTRUCTION
Nebraska has once again missed the boat, since our powerful teachers’ union has been able to extinguish the flame of educational innovation in this state by blocking attempts to start charter schools.
Now look what a good thing is happening in the Boston area, because Massachusetts does have enabling legislation for charter schools. Charter schools have public funding but private management, with far more say-so by parents and teachers, and thus more flexibility and accountability than the public schools.
If Nebraska had charter schools, the Class I parents could have saved their country schools, and inner-city and minority kids could have been far better prepared for college and high-tech careers if they could have skirted the inept management of the Omaha Public Schools, which has failed to give them what they need in the way of good math and science instruction, and so we have the spectacle of high dropout rates, and almost no disadvantaged or minority students in upper-level math and science classes in OPS.
Then again, it’s early. Charter school legislation can always be introduced next legislative session. Offering everybody some real alternatives would be a much better solution for kids all across the state than the forced consolidation of the Class I country schools, or of all those quality suburban districts into OPS. Hint, hint!
A Math and Science Charter School
Q. I’ve read that educators don’t realize how dumbed down math and science instruction is today, because they took so little math and science in high school and college themselves. How do parents find educators who “get it” and are delivering excellent math and science education?
In Massachusetts, a charter school is opening this fall that has been controversial, but carries with it great promise for doing just what you ask, and great potential for replicating its services in your community, if someone will undertake the task.
The Advanced Math and Science Charter School is set to open in the western suburbs of Boston, serving students in 6th through 12th grades with a high-quality, sequential approach to all school subjects, particularly math and science. So far 230 students from 42 school districts have enrolled for Grades 6 and 7, with an ultimate goal of 1,000 students, Grades 6-12. The staff credentials are considerably higher than those of the typical public-school teaching staff.
A charter school has public tax funding and does not charge tuition, but has more freedom than the typical public school to vary the curriculum and approach to education. This charter school is aimed at improving the qualifications of the technology workforce in the Boston area. It projects an 80 percent increase in demand for high-tech workers over the next 10 years, but students are underachieving in math and science to qualify for those jobs.
Controversy has come because the school’s founder is a Russian immigrant, a geochemist who was persecuted in her native country for being a Jew and spent time in refugee camps. She found great career success in the U.S. and attributes it to the rigorous education she received in her native country, so she wants to offer it here. The concern is that the curriculum will be too technical, but so far, there appears to be the same quality approach to the humanities and the arts as to math and science.
Local educrats, who have sued the Commonwealth over this start-up, are frightened because they fear this school will “skim” off the top students, which would reduce the average test scores of the other public schools. On the other hand, it’s argued, don’t smart kids have a right to work up to their level of ability just like everybody else?
The school will offer special education services, with an emphasis on “the forgotten gifted,” underachievers with high IQ’s who often languish in public school settings.
Homework: The school’s homepage is www.amsacs.org
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