Tracking vs high standards for all
- Subject: Tracking vs high standards for all
- From: Arthur Hu <ArthurH@TANGIS.COM>
- Date: Thu, 29 Jun 2000 10:28:28 -0700
- Comments: cc: "Wadeform (E-mail)" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Reply-to: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
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So let's have some discussion. Is the politically correct NCTM "all students
learn calculus and it must be integrated into K-6, we must not deny
to students of color" the right way or is the "world class" standard that we
test that determines who will excell at math and science and who will fix
conditioners? Maybe the US should give up and go back to tracking system
Europe, or at least make it voluntary.
AUSTRIA TRACKS LOWER STUDENTS INTO VOC-ED, NYC FLUNKS THEM
z43\clip\2000\07\nyaust.txt New York Times June 26, 2000 Imported
Austrian Teachers Gain Insights, and Thick Skins By ABBY GOODNOUGH
Thomas Lepuschitz, 30, a math teacher at Roosevelt, said he did not
understand why New York State required even the poorest students to
take math and science to graduate. In Austria, he said, students who
do not excel academically are sent to trade school, which he said was
a more sensible route. "Our school system divides people who can do
certain things and people who can't," Mr. Lepuschitz said. "The
people who can't are not lost; it's just a slower track."
June 26, 2000
Imported Austrian Teachers Gain Insights,
and Thick Skins
By ABBY GOODNOUGH
udith Hergovich had only the
vaguest expectations of what lay
ahead when she left her tiny village of
Trausdorf, Austria, in August 1998 to
spend a year teaching math in New
"I knew it would be hard," said Ms.
Hergovich, who was 25 at the time
and had been teaching only a year. "I
knew the students are a little bit
tougher than in Austria."
What she did not know was that her
new workplace, Adlai E. Stevenson
High School in the southeast Bronx,
had 3,500 students -- more than twice
the population of Trausdorf -- some of
the most crowded, chaotic classrooms
in the city, and one of its highest
But Ms. Hergovich plowed right in,
teaching five classes a day and
soaking up life in New York -- which
in her case meant an austere
apartment in the Pelham Parkway
section of the Bronx, far from the skyscrapers she knew from
postcards. Despite the unnerving challenges she faced, she found
experience rewarding enough to stay for a second school year.
Like Tocqueville touring America in the 19th century, Ms.
the 45 other Austrians recruited to help ease a shortage of math
science teachers have observed life here from an outsider's
and they are bubbling with insights about New York City's
culture. Almost all have struggled with more serious discipline
than they expected, and with the quandary of how to teach students
whose abysmal grades would relegate them to trade school in
"I have to be more strict and more mean here," said Eva Kailbauer,
who is teaching math at Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School in
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. "In Austria, if a kid says they have to go
nurse, they really have to. Here, kids take every opportunity to
you. I trusted them at first."
But the Austrian teachers have also been moved by the hardships
many teenagers here face. "It's always your worst students who
biggest problems at home," said Lutz Holzinger, 30, a biology
Roosevelt who has signed up for a third year here. "One bad
who acts up all the time, I learn his mother has AIDS and there is
father. I would freak out, too."
At the same time, Mr. Holzinger and several others say they cannot
believe what they see as stubborn indifference among many city
and the enormous tolerance of failure.
"It's very frustrating that many
students give up before they enter the
classroom," said Ms. Hergovich, who
was transferred from Stevenson to
DeWitt Clinton High School, also in
the Bronx, this year. "I never saw
something like this in Austria. I don't
know who to blame here; I wouldn't
say American culture. Just maybe the
circumstances of how they were
raised and where they live."
Ms. Kailbauer and Mr. Holzinger said that to their surprise, other
teachers had told them not to blame themselves when many of their
students failed standardized tests.
"In the beginning I was shocked because 50 percent failed the
Holzinger said. "But then I found out this is normal. Chemistry,
classes. If 50 percent pass, it's O.K."
Thomas Lepuschitz, 30, a math teacher at Roosevelt, said he did
understand why New York State required even the poorest students
take math and science to graduate. In Austria, he said, students
not excel academically are sent to trade school, which he said was
more sensible route.
"Our school system divides people who can do certain things and
who can't," Mr. Lepuschitz said. "The people who can't are not
just a slower track."
The Board of Education began recruiting in Austria in 1998, after
Posamentier, a professor of mathematics education at City College,
pointed out that Austria had a surplus of math and science
many with advanced degrees. The Austrian government was
because the teachers would come back fluent in English, an
"I immediately wanted to go for it," recalled Mr. Holzinger, who
about the opportunity from a radio advertisement. "I already was
planning to go to New York, and this was a chance to do reasonable
work instead of being a waiter or something like that."
Mr. Lepuschitz applied for a job here in 1998 because he was 40th
waiting list for a teaching job in Austria. He had spent eight
student-teaching in a private school. His first assignment, at
School in the Bronx, was terrifying, he said.
"Students threatened me," said Mr. Lepuschitz, looking studious
young in jeans and a baggy sweater. "They didn't behave."
He requested and was granted a transfer to Roosevelt High School
fall, after hearing from other Austrians that students were better
there. But Roosevelt students tried his patience, too, he said.
"They don't know how to solve an equation after you tell them
times," Mr. Lepuschitz said. "Out of 30 students, maybe 10 will
the question, three plus seven equals X, what is X? And that is a
Mr. Holzinger, for one, seems to
have mastered the discipline problem
by acting hip and unflappable. One
rainy spring morning, his students --
even the one whose T-shirt read,
"Rule by Intimidation" -- listened
quietly as he explained the difference
between DNA and RNA. Ms.
Kailbauer's approach was similarly
no-nonsense. After passing out work
sheets to her ninth-grade algebra
class, she sat ramrod straight at her
desk, surveying them with a glare.
"Those of you who are not sure what
to do," she said gruffly, "just listen."
Almost all the Austrians say their
personal lives in New York City have
been far less taxing than their professional ones. Many share
with one or two other Austrians, typically in far-flung
Brooklyn and the Bronx, furnished with thrift-shop finds. They
stick together, venturing into Manhattan on weekends to see movies
Ms. Kailbauer spends her free time playing league volleyball and
basketball. Martin Zeindl, who teaches math and physics at the
of American Studies in Queens, has found a social network through
Assigned to high schools in every borough but Staten Island, the
teachers have generally won praise for knowing their material and
speaking solid English. Adele Vocel, the principal at Roosevelt,
Austrian teachers fit right in at her school because the teaching
the student body were already so diverse. The students speak 32
languages, and many of the teachers have thicker accents than the
"When I heard there was a new wave and I saw we had the ability to
absorb some of them, I begged," said Ms. Vocel, who hired four
Austrians last year and four this year. "These teachers are very
prepared, and they work very hard."
But Sandra Abrams, the principal of James Madison High School in
Brooklyn, said that although the Austrian teachers know their
thoroughly, she had reservations about their "chalk-and-talk"
"They tend to have a lecture-style approach," said Dr. Abrams,
school had two Austrian teachers last year but none this year. "We
see students involved in a very hands-on kind of way rather than
passive and taking notes."
Officials at the United Federation of Teachers said that they had
complaints about the Austrian teachers, who are paid according to
union-negotiated salary scale. Those with master's degrees earned
$36,000 this year, slightly more than they would make as teachers
Austria, they said.
Schools Chancellor Harold O. Levy said in an interview that he was
interested in expanding the program and perhaps starting others
on it. The number of teachers from Austria and other countries may
than triple next year if 100 new candidates pass muster. Board
are interviewing them this week in Vienna and Innsbruck, Austria.
The applicant pool has grown because the Austrian-American
Educational Cooperation Association, which administers the program
Vienna, hired a full-time recruiter last fall and stepped up
advertising. The new round of applicants, some of whom were drawn
the ads and some by word of mouth, includes several teachers from
Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy and Sweden.
New York City needs math and science teachers more than ever;
officials anticipate needing to hire nearly 700 new math teachers
coming school year. Howard S. Tames, executive director of the
personnel division, said that most of the 400 math teachers the
hired this year were not certified in math. He said the board
try to recruit qualified teachers from Canada, the Caribbean and
India and the Philippines over the next few years.
But Mr. Levy warned that such programs were not ideal because the
teachers were here only temporarily.
"This is a good thing in situations where we're really hard up,"
"But in the end, we'd rather have permanent teachers who come here
Unlike the Austrian teachers in the first round, of whom all but
home after the 1998-99 school year, 20 of the current 29 teachers
signed on for another year. Last week, at a party in their honor
Austrian Consulate, several said their students had done
on the state Regents exams. Even Mr. Lepuschitz, who had
about disruptive students in an earlier interview, said the final
school had been unexpectedly pleasant.
"The troublemakers didn't come to class anymore as soon as the
got warm," he said with a shrug. "The people who wanted to learn
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