Monday, May 22, 2017

Despite A’s at Gompers, former student talks about feeling unprepared

First I want to say that it was brave and generous of UCSD student Felipe Morfin Martinez to come forward and say that his K-12 education did not adequately prepare him in science. I'm glad he brought that issue to the attention of the public.

I noticed that Felipe blames only the director of his high school--not his teachers--for his lack of academic preparation in science. I think Felipe is allowing his good personal relationships with his teachers to interfere with his assessment of the situation.

I believe that Felipe was short-changed, but I believe the problem started in elementary school, and I believe that teachers share the blame as much as principals.

Also, I suspect that Gompers doesn't provide adequate remediation for kids who didn't learn basic concepts in elementary school.

Also, it's possible that Felipe wasn't really much interested in science. He says,

"I wanted to do science and I guess it clicked on me when I was probably in 10th grade or ninth grade where it was like, ‘my dreams aren’t going to happen because I can see it. I’m not ready for that, I’m not prepared for that.’"
Why would he give up on science in "10th grade or ninth grade"?

I know from personal experience that an effective teacher can teach kids to thoroughly understand math and science concepts. Felipe's problem isn't that his classes weren't advanced enough.  Felipe must have taken courses up to and including pre-calculus to get into UCSD. He could also have taken two more years of calculus.

The problem is that only a minority of kids deeply understand basic concepts. And often those kids learned more at home than at school.

During my years teaching in elementary school I far too frequently heard teachers claiming that the math was too hard for any teacher to understand. I once contradicted such a teacher, and then I learned to keep my mouth shut.

The problem is a lack of basic education in elementary school and a lack of remedial education in the higher grades. And you need super good teachers to make remedial education fun and fascinating. You can't just have hacks that pass out easy math worksheets...


inewsource published an investigation last week into the quality of education at Gompers Preparatory Academy — a nationally recognized charter school that promises “students can succeed at the university of their choice.” After the story ran, Felipe Morfin Martinez came forward to share his experience.

Morfin Martinez graduated from Gompers in 2016 and was awarded a full-ride scholarship to the University of California San Diego where he is studying communications.

He told inewsource that he realized early in his Gompers education that he wasn’t being challenged in his classes. Despite earning straight A’s, he said, he knew he wasn’t prepared to achieve his dream of pursuing a career in science. When he shared his concerns at home, he said, his parents responded: “You don’t believe in yourself, look at your grades.”

Morfin Martinez says he’s proud of his straight A’s at UCSD, “but they’re not the classes I wish I could take. They’re not organic chemistry, they’re not the chemistry series, the math series, they’re not the classes that people value.”...

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