Thursday, April 17, 2008

Sudhakar's Letter -
An International Perspective on
Washington Math Leadership

Dear Members of the State Board of Education:

I intended to be able to make this testimony on Friday, April 18, on the state of the revised mathematics standards. Unfortunately, I cannot attend in person. However, I think it is of utmost importance that you consider this input from a very concerned Washington parent.

I have been following the changes in outlook towards math education in this country, and in this region in particular, for over sixteen years. Because I had a job that moved, I have had my children attend public and private schools in Texas, California, Oregon, and now Washington. In the same time period, I have worked with colleagues in India in connection with moving a large R&D project from the US to Bangalore. I have nieces and nephews who attend K-12 schools in India, so I get information on the progress being made there as well. Given all these experiences, I evaluated what my local school district had to offer my middle school child in terms of a world class education, one that would allow them to compete favorably with their peers in other developed and developing countries. Unfortunately, I could not find one. I am simply not convinced that the low expectations set by our education system in Washington will allow my children to be competitive in a global economy. As a result, I am home schooling my daughter through middle school.

In all my travails, I have found that of the leading causes of poor math performance at school is poor leadership at the state level. If the state standards do not reflect world class expectations, everything that follows them ends up below par. State standards MUST reflect the best of the best in the world. Otherwise, they will not stand up to competition from students from other states and countries in college. Worse, the likelihood that they will choose a non technical career increases dramatically. And leading Washington companies like Microsoft and Boeing will have to continue to look in other countries to hire their next wave of engineers, technicians, and programmers, as they are already doing.

I have been following the mathematics standards revision process for some time now. They have gone from absurdly ridiculous (the version rated F by the Fordham foundation) to barely acceptable in the second revision. Now I hear that the current version will be the last one, and the final approval is on April 18. The current version has not been posted long enough on the OSPI website for the public to digest and give quality comments. There has not been enough time allowed for public review and testimony, which will ferret out elements of old standards that had nothing to do with setting high expectations for students, but had more to do with continuing ineffective pedagogical practices. We need more public exposure and scrutiny of the next revision before it is approved. We get one chance in ten years to do this right. We cannot rush this through. Please demand an honest and open public review process from OSPI. You are where the buck stops. Please do the right thing for the future of our children.

Thanks in advance,

Sudhakar Kudva
Vancouver, WA

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