Response to the NYT’s: Deficiencies in Public Schools.

A few days ago Professor Stotsky posted an interesting commentary in the New York Time’s opinion page: Deficiencies in Public Schools. Prof Stotsky, pointed to the rise in tutoring as a sign that the public education system is failing our children. She pointed to a RSM as an example of a tutoring service that fills the gaps in public education

I agree with the professor to a point. There is clearly something missing in both private and public schools at least with respect to the education kids receive in mathematics and the sciences. Our kids continue to fall behind the rest of the world on most global standardized tests. However, I don’t believe tutoring is the answer. Instead, over the last 13 years, we’ve focussed on 3 ingredients in RSM: a good curriculum, great teachers and a community of engaged parents.

To set the record straight, I sent the following letter to the editor:

In Professor Stotsky’s article, “Deficiencies in Public Schools”, she mistakenly mentions our school, the Russian School of Mathematics, while discussing the increased number of tutoring services across the country. RSM is not a tutoring service. A tutor can take a student from point A to point B, perhaps to pass a test or achieve a better grade in class. Our school is something else. RSM unites parents, students, and teachers around the goal of an excellent mathematical education. Russian math education is known for developing strong critical, creative, and logical thinking – factors that are imperative for any discipline or future career.  We know that the earlier a child is exposed to creative thinking, the easier he or she will develop it as an ability. For this reason, we begin our program in kindergarten, not in high school as Professor Stotsky says.
In public schools, math is taught simply as a bank of formulas necessary to memorize, not as an instrument to expand one’s mind. Professor Stotsky is correct in pointing out that it is this deficiency that drives many parents to our school. But it is not the reason they stay. Many students have been with us for 10 or more years because they appreciate the fact that the ability to succeed comes from the ability to think logically, to work, and to cherish difficult problems and treasure personal achievement. This rich experience does not fit into Professor Stotksy’s simplistic description. We invite her to our school so that she can see for herself how much love, effort, and creativity goes into the success of our graduates.

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By: Irina Khavinson   Irina Khavinson

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