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Don’t blame students for poor test scores

The Aug. 8 front page headline of The News, “Elementary schools see scores plummet in new state tests,” should surprise no one. While some low scores in mathematics might be attributed to the first use of Common Core exams, a major factor is the use of the program in K-5 called “Investigations in Number, Data and Space” by TERC.

In several letters to The Buffalo News, I warned that this bogus program did not require students to master the traditional algorithms of arithmetic. The results of this program – still in place, with some alleged improvements - has wrecked the mathematical development of a whole cohort of Buffalo students in K-5. Given half a chance, these students might have become scientists, engineers, mathematicians or econometricians.

Unhappily, future success in many of these fields requires mastery of the mathematical basics of school mathematics.

Buffalo teachers should not be blamed. It was a Buffalo teacher who first alerted me to this curricular catastrophe. This teacher wanted students to learn the basics of arithmetic.

If one wants to talk about accountability, one needs to publicize the names of the administrators and “mathematics educators” who imposed this program on a gullible public, Buffalo School Board and State Education Department.

While the new, improved “Investigations” may now address the traditional algorithms, Buffalo students in K-5 deserve a curriculum in school mathematics that does not address these algorithms of arithmetic as an afterthought.

I write as a mathematician who has watched the curricular mathematical wreckage in K-12 in my beloved New York State unfold beginning in 1977. The dumbing down of school mathematics began when Courses I, II and III were first unveiled for high schools, replacing the venerable Regents curriculum for high school mathematics.

It has gotten much worse since then.

Richard H. Escobales, Ph.D.

Buffalo