Last Sunday, the Néw York Times had a lengthy editorial lamenting the sorry state of math education in the U.S. the editorial said that our kids find math boring, so they don’t major in math or become engineers. The Times barely mentioned the pernicious effects of standardized testing, which surely mars math tedious.
But the Times writers should visit Pasadena, California, which has developed a model program for the use of technology. It is certainly NOT boring. It demonstrates foresight, planning, vision, and purpose. And it seems to be very exciting!
“In sixth through eighth grade classrooms in Pasadena Unified School District, elective Robotics classes hum with activity as teams of excited kids use laptops to build robots during the school day. Students show off the robots’ abilities in a fun end-of-year “final exam” Expo open to the entire community, and those meeting a basic academic requirement will create and code video game and other apps in the just-launched App Academy at Pasadena High School.
There are no admissions tests, no magnet school attendance restrictions, and no GATE requirements to take the elective Robotics class; interested students simply choose the elective.
For the past three years, Pasadena Unified has offered real technological literacy and computer programming classes for public school children in two out of four high schools (with plans for all) in the district — and yet its big, slow-moving neighbor to the west, Los Angeles Unified, isn’t paying attention. Neither is the rest of California, to its detriment.
Under the direction of a visionary team housed in the Pasadena Education Foundation’s STEM initiative, children in Pasadena Unified’s majority-minority, 68% free-and-reduced lunch schools with many English language learners figure out how to code in hands-on, engaging ways. These students apply math, design, engineering, marketing, and even arts learning to their creations.
The goal is to offer programming and App Academy high school classes across the entire district, and with support from faculty at CalTech, rocket scientists at NASA/JPL, and Pasadena’s burgeoning tech incubator community, they appear on track to achieve this. There’s no reason Silicon Beach on Los Angeles’ westside or Silicon Valley up north can’t help with in-kind assistance — and crucial funding via revenue to the state — to scale this highly effective model to every single school district in California, not just the ones lucky to have a high-tech hub in their backyard.”
How great is that !