Weekly Math Updates

October 16, 2005

Hi all,

    I don't know if you saw this article in the Provo Daily Herald on Sunday, but I'm sure it's no surprise to any of you.  I left a comment on the website which should be approved and posted tomorrow, but here's the article and then my comment following it below.  Hopefully they don't edit out the endorsement of the petition at the end of the comment.

    I will be sending out an update in a few days on the school board meeting from last week as well as a cool product you can get to help your kids with math (I've negotiated a slight discount with the publisher since this will be going to so many people).



Utah slips in state education rankings
Date: Sunday, October 16 @ 00:00:55
Topic Top Stories

SALT LAKE CITY -- An annual ranking of the nation's smartest states ranks Utah in the middle of the pack -- but shows the state slipping.

Utah ranked 33 of 50 states surveyed by Morgan Quitno Press, a Kansas-based independent research and publishing company that for 16 years has annually ranked state and cities for safety, health, livability and smarts.

Utah ranked 28th in 2004, was 25th in 2003, and 17th in 2002, the first year of the study, according to information from Morgan Quitno's web site.

The Smartest State Award ranks pre-kindergarten through 12th grade education across the 50 states. The company compares national statistics from 21 equally weighted factors, including graduation rates, test results and average class sizes.

The smartest state this year was Vermont.

Each year the company fine-tunes its methods of analysis, president Scott Morgan said. The current methodology places less emphasis on per pupil spending and more on student achievement, he said.

Utah's slip in rankings this year is tied to its large class sizes.

"You're terrible on class size," Morgan explained Friday morning. "Worse on pupil-teacher ratio . . . and your (National Assessment of Educational Progress) scores aren't particularly strong either."

Brett Moulding, curriculum director at the Utah State Office of Education, reviewed the study data and agrees.

"I second that," Moulding said of Morgan's interpretation. "We know where we stand; this data's available to the world. They've just assembled it in one place for people to look at."

An on-paper comparison of the numbers shows some glaring difference between Utah and other states. For example, Utah has an average of 22.1 students per teacher in primary schools, while Vermont has 11.4. The national average is 15.9.

"It becomes very striking," Moulding said. "We're not just a little different. We're significantly different."

Likewise, Utah's teacher to student ratio is among the worst for middle and high schools, as well as in special education.

Moulding says the downward trend in the ranking is something to pay attention to, but also something to keep in perspective.

And despite what seems to be a slip in smarts, Utah still had a low high school dropout rate of just 3.7 percent, lower than the national average.

And of those Utahns who stay in school 82.5 percent graduate, the fourth-best result nationwide. Utah also ranked 5th in numbers of residents age 25 and older with 91 percent.

My comment:

I have to respectfully disagree with the author or whoever said that the slip in performance is due to class size. Certainly, class size is a factor in education, but if you look at this next link, you'll see that Utah had a pupil per teacher ratio of 21.8 in 2001-02.


If we're now at 22.1, you can hardly call that tiny increase a reason for continual declines in education year after year. We'd be far better off looking at the curriculum being taught to our children such as the programs Alpine School District is using for math (Investigations, Connected, and Interactive math). These programs are being condemned by professionals around the country and here's why:

Investigations math removes teaching the times tables and long division to children.
Connected math was reviewed by 5 professors and they gave it an "F" and said that was "deceptively high" it was so devoid of content.
Interactive math was reviewed and said to be only acceptable for students not planning on majoring in a math related field in college.

If you're in Alpine School District you can sign a petition at www.teachutahkids.com to ask the school board to remove these programs from the district.  Already 700 families have signed representing nearly 4% of the district.

Oak Norton

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