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Students, parents challenge schools on math
Original post made
on Dec 14, 2011
A coalition of students and parents challenged the Palo Alto school board Tuesday to ensure the district's two high schools offer a basic, non-honors track in math and science that satisfies entrance requirements for University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) schools.
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posted Wednesday, December 14, 2011, 10:51 AM
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Posted by Thank you activists
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 19, 2011 at 4:49 pm
"The complaints about tutoring truly seem misguided to me. The data seems to indicate that it is not nearly as widespread as some have claimed based on their anecdotal impressions. And the nefarious impact of this excessive learning seems pretty mysterious to me…."
What is misguided is for the district or anyone to play dumb about tutoring, or to hide behind the impossibility of proving it. Palo Alto's stratospheric combination of money and education,may not necessarily be "data" to prove tutoring, but IS a factor for declaring advantage compared to minority students, minority being anyone lacking similar access. Access to some of the best summer camps in the country, internships, daily expert academic direction from highly educated parents (this adds up), world travel, college application coaches, SAT prep. As Michelle Dauber has pointed out, the tutoring and camp industry exists and grows for a reason. There are also more subtle things of the material nature that can be handy to motivate academically, such as tech gadgets, cars, etc. Collectively, the community's advantage of sorts, can't be hidden just because a group is so pure they don't use any of this.
I don't need irrefutable "proof" about tutoring, and I actually think that tutoring can also have very positive effects. The debate can rage on.
About the nefarious impact - Ken Dauber best explained it .in his post - "What is the effect of tutoring on classroom teaching and learning? The debate above in this thread about the actual extent of tutoring, based on surveys of parents and kids, is happening because tutoring is private and happens largely outside of the view of teachers and other students. Effective teaching, though, depends on teachers being able to use the performance of their students as feedback about the pacing, content, and teaching methods being used in the class. If some of the students are getting taught outside of class by private tutors, their performance won't just reflect the classroom teaching, but teachers have no way of knowing that. From a teacher's perspective, the higher performance of tutored students produces a misleading signal that the course is paced correctly, and the performance of untutored students becomes a fact about those students rather than a fact about the class as a whole."
In an interesting twist, you point to the root cause of what you term "competitive" environment. That may actually be the best way to look at tutoring, it's about competition and as you explain.
"My impression (no data here!) is that the tutoring issue is a red herring. The root cause is the pressure that parents feel due to low admission rates of high-reputation colleges (which it terms is driven in large part from the demographic surge of high school grads) and anxiety about future economic opportunity, which translates into the competitiveness (largely parent driven) we see in the schools. That competitiveness causes worried parents to lash out at those they view as taking away the scarce opportunities - in this case Tiger Moms and others using "unfair" or "excessive" methods like tutoring."
Ironic that if it's about stiff competition, the entire Math department can attack minority students on this very issue.
My two cents is that irrespective of tutoring, the district can serve all students as equally as possible. Holding out that school is still about learning, not just competition, fair learning can be reflected through the right course offerings for students of different achievement levels, lanes that are not imbalanced in favor of one group, or other arbitrary goals.
Your suggestion for people to get "comfortable" that kids will be fine, as long as we love them is nice; some suggest, just level the tutoring playing field with free online options. Both would be a way out for the district, to not to fix the lanes, the inequitable math and science course offerings as I've posted before, or the festering Math arrogant school culture (exemplified by the Math letter), towards students who are not in the most competitive lanes which hurts all students. These all have solutions.