Sunday, August 05, 2007

Help! What Do State Legislators Know About the Utah State Math Curriculum?

The Deseret News reported today that some Utah legislators are up in arms about the new state secondary school mathematics curriculum that the State Board approved. I wish they would have given more details, but my first thought is that who would know more about what the curriculum should be--legislators, or educators. Does anyone know any more details?


The decision to change the curriculum was unanimous, so that ought to count for something. A good friend of mine is on the state board. I can't imagine he would have voted for something crappy.

The number of legislators said by DesNews to be bothered by the curriculum is three.

The impetus behind the concern was the apparent math fiasco in the Alpine School District, which generated a great deal of concern in many parents in that district.

In February 2006, Stephenson tasked a committee with studying the state's math core to correct problems he saw with the Alpine School District's controversial program, which allowed unconventional problem-solving methods to be used in deepening a student's understanding of math.

I glanced at about half the curriculum online today, and I couldn't see anything terribly wrong with it, but then again, it's been a year of Sundays since I had an Algebra or Trigonometry class.If there's a loophole of the kind that Alpine exploited, hopefully the parents will step in to get the problem corrected again. I wonder how recently the legislators have studied the subjects included in the state secondary math core? To be fair, I must also wonder the same thing about the State Board.

Admittedly, the curriculum discussion was controversial.

The committee, which included some of the nation's top mathematicians and math education professors, gave mixed reviews of Utah public school math, with some experts believing only a few changes were needed and others calling for a complete curriculum overhaul.

In November 2006, the Legislature's Public Education Interim Committee ordered creation of "world-class math standards," and a new committee went to work.

The mathematicians and math education professors on the committee were frequently at odds with each other over goals and developmentally appropriate methods for the Utah core.

I wonder if the three legislators attended the meetings where the curriculum was discussed?

A visited about it today with a friend who is on a local district school board. Some of my concerns come as a result of my discussion with him. It's hard to know whether these legislators have a particular ax to grind about education, or whether they seriously know something that I (and the State School Board) don't.

Can anyone enlighten me?

3 comments:

  1. Good point, Frank. These legislators have no business telling the experts how to run education.

    America has the world's best K-12 education system because the experts run it, not elected officials or parents.

    Along the same lines, legislators should not interfere when experts develop sex education curricula. What qualifications do legislators have in determining the content of sex ed curriculum?

    And elected officials should not interfere on abortion issues. When did legislators become experts on abortion? This is a decision that should be left to a woman and her expert doctor.

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  2. But part of my point is: what if the legislator is an expert in one or more of these areas? I just can't tell from the article whether any of these legislators are experts in education.

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  3. I don't know much about the what the school board approved, but I can tell you that there is a full-scale revolt going on in the Alpine School District, mainly due to the problems encountered by many students with respect to Investigations Math (see here for discussion, charts, etc.) Bear in mind that Investigations Math was designed and loved by many math experts, but that it apparently doesn't work very well on the ground. So, I hope that the school board's new standards don't push districts toward this type of model.

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