Tags Articles tagged with "Murray Siegel"

Murray Siegel

Murray Siegel

By Murray Siegel

The December education column discussed students who should attend Maricopa Unified School District schools but ride to schools in Kyrene and Tempe.

Parents of these students were asked why they send their children out of town. What follows is a digest of some of those replies.

One parent raised concerns about her special-needs son, who received grades of D and F in Maricopa but who has gotten A’s and B’s in Tempe. She writes, “You want these children and their funding back, prove to us (parents) that we can trust you to not only properly educate our children but to keep them safe, comfortable and really CARE what happens with them.”

Another parent is concerned about the teaching of math and writes, “I have friends who go to the schools in Maricopa and they are falling behind in math. Maybe hiring teachers with higher pay and see how the Kyrene school district does it. I don’t have the kids take the bus. We drive them every day.”

A third parent has one child in a Kyrene middle school and one in a Tempe high school.

Her top reasons for leaving MUSD are academic programs and available electives. Concerns also include spending significant funds on a new math curriculum while disregarding needed building maintenance.

A parent whose children were bused to high school in Tempe and are now in college was concerned about restrictions on her children’s growth. When they had the chance to go to Tempe, they did, and they say the results validated that decision.

Another parent is sending her daughter to kindergarten in Kyrene because of the Dual Language Academy. She wrote, “I do not enjoy waking up my little girl at 5:30 in the morning, but her father and I feel that this is a sacrifice that she will benefit from.”

MUSD Superintendent Tracey Lopeman was sent all the parental comments with any identifying information deleted before transmission. Excerpts from the superintendent’s reply:

Knowing there was room for improvement, I implemented Superintendent’s Advisory Councils for students, parents and employees to share observations and identify goals to support the needs of students and families. The District also invited parents, students, and community leaders to work with district staff to begin developing a Five-Year Strategic Plan.

 This year, MUSD led the state in new National Board Certified Teachers. Often referred to as the “gold standard” of achievement, National Board Certification asks educators to demonstrate standards-based evidence of the dynamic instruction that takes place in their classrooms.

Obviously, the new superintendent is motivated to accelerate improvement in Maricopa schools. Hopefully, her leadership will upgrade MUSD schools so more students will attend school here.

Murray Siegel, Ph.D., has 44 years of experience teaching mathematics. He is in his fourth year as a volunteer at Butterfield Elementary School.

This column appears in the March issue of InMaricopa.

By Murray Siegel

Murray Siegel

This column is written for parents and grandparents of young girls who have shown an ability and an interest in mathematics.

For many years, females were discouraged from pursuing an interest in mathematics, but thankfully, that has changed. Yet the question might still be asked, what can a young lady do following her interest in math? To answer that question several women who were (and still are) math nerds will be highlighted.

Jelena Kovacevic grew up in Yugoslavia and states, “I’ve been a math nerd for as long as I can remember, and I’m proud of it.” She received her undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from the University of Belgrade, moved to the United States when her father was the Yugoslav ambassador and obtained her Ph.D. at Columbia. She worked at Bell Laboratories and became chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Carnegie Mellon. Last year, she was appointed dean of NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, the first woman to do so in the school’s 164-year history.

Eleanor Baum realized early that her love of math was directing her to be an engineer, but in the 1950s females were not supposed to be engineers. One college would not admit her because they had no women’s bathroom. City College of New York admitted her, and she was the only woman in her engineering class. She earned a Ph.D. at Polytechnic Institute of New York and worked in aerospace before becoming dean of Engineering at Pratt Institute, the very first woman to be an engineering dean at an American university. She was appointed dean of Engineering at the prestigious Cooper Union and is now dean emeritus there.

Audrey Malagon grew up in rural Nebraska and was always interested in math. Fortunately, there was a summer honors program where her interest was enriched. She received a Ph.D. in mathematics from Emory University and is a professor at Virginia Wesleyan, where she shares her passion for mathematics. Her ultimate professional goal is to be a university president.

Not all females with mathematical ability become academics. Mary Barra obtained an electrical engineering degree from General Motors Institute, and, after receiving an MBA from Stanford, worked at General Motors and is currently the CEO of that corporation.

Danica McKellar had an early interest in math and received her mathematics degree from UCLA. She has written books aimed at exciting young girls about math. You know her best as Winnie Cooper on “The Wonder Years” television series.

Female math nerds have also become physicians, lawyers and politicians. Mathematical ability can be the key allowing a young woman to open the door to success.

Murray Siegel, Ph.D., has 44 years of experience teaching mathematics. He is in his fourth year as a volunteer at Butterfield E.S.

This column appears in the February issue of InMaricopa.

Murray Siegel

By Murray Siegel

Special Education is a branch of education focused on students with special needs, such as learning disabilities, behavioral or physical challenges, or difficulty in communicating with others. Educators have a responsibility under federal law to create an environment in which a student’s difficulties are overcome.

One type of student with special needs does not generally have those needs addressed in school. This is the academically-gifted student.

Most folks would say the gifted student does not need any help. School is easy for him or her, so why bother with spending money? Yes, gifted students typically learn at an accelerated rate, but there are challenges.

How does a classroom teacher deal with a gifted student who completes the week’s lessons on Tuesday? Two typical strategies are to give that student busy work or ask that student to help another student who is struggling. Busy work is boring and a student who is gifted may not have the patience to work with a struggling student.

The fourth-grade teacher is conducting a lesson on long division. A gifted student in the class raises his or her hand and declares, “I have a better way to divide.” The teacher, if not educated in dealing with the gifted and/or without a deep knowledge of math, may simply tell the student to learn the method being taught. This will frustrate the gifted child.

Maricopa schools (MUSD) responded to a parental appeal for an elementary gifted program and hired a teacher to work with the gifted in grades three through six. One day each week, gifted students in a particular grade at all six elementary schools spend the day with Zoe Redfern, MUSD’s teacher of the gifted, at Saddleback ES. The program is managed by Gretchen Brown, director of multiple programs. Ms. Brown coordinates with a parental gifted committee. This committee is hoping to see the gifted program expanded to the middle schools and to open honors programs to gifted students beyond English and math.

An important component of the MUSD gifted program is the placement of a liaison for the gifted among the faculty at each elementary school. The liaison is helpful in explaining to teachers both the nature of giftedness and ways to maximize the learning experience of gifted children in the teacher’s class.

Gifted students do not simply learn faster. They have deeper insights and ask many “what if” questions.

Is it worth spending additional funds on these bright students? It is the gifted student, if properly challenged and allowed to flourish, who might someday discover a cure for cancer, create a pollution-free method for burning coal for energy or redesign the traffic flow at Sky Harbor Airport. MUSD’s gifted program will provide a positive return on investment.

Murray Siegel has a PhD in MathEd and 42 years of teaching experience. He and his wife Sharon are volunteer teachers of advanced math classes at Butterfield Elementary School.


by -
Murray Siegel

By Murray Siegel

Politicians are talking about making a college education more affordable, yet do we know what a university actually does?

Most Americans, if asked what the primary purpose of a university is, will say the education of undergraduates, who make up the vast majority of the student body. Examination of most university policies will reveal a different answer: the primary purpose is the education of faculty.

The important faculty at any university are the tenured professors or those seeking tenure. The university administration might proclaim teaching excellence is of primary value but their tenure-granting and promotional criteria belie that statement. A professor’s scholarship is what is most valued. Scholarship means the professor’s research and writing.

To provide sufficient time for tenured or tenure-track professors to do research, they are given fewer classes. To make up for this loss of teaching time, the university allows classes such as first-year calculus and introductory chemistry to be taught in large sections, with as many as 400 students in one class.

To teach these large lectures, especially in mathematics and the sciences, the faculty assigned might speak English as a second or third language. Does this give you a warm feeling about the university’s concern for undergraduate learning? Many classes are taught by contract faculty (instructors, lecturers, etc.) who are not tenured and who are hired to teach, often without guarantee of having a permanent job.

Allow me to provide two examples from my university education. As an undergraduate engineering physics major, I had a renowned professor for advanced electricity and magnetism. During the entire semester, we had one test, a mid-term, the problems on which had absolutely nothing to do with the course subject matter. The tests were returned a month later with grades of ?, X or √, and the professor refused to explain the meaning of these grades. Instead, he continued his dysfunctional lectures.

In my graduate program in mathematics education, I had a marvelous professor who was also at the frontier of mathematical research. When he came up for promotion, his application included a list of published articles. Actually, a few of these had not been published but were under consideration. A few other math faculty, who were envious of this professor, informed the administration of this “fraud” and the professor was forced to resign, despite being the most exceptional mathematics teacher I had ever had.

Yes, faculty research might involve a cure for cancer or a means of increasing cotton yield, but it most likely involves topics such as finding the next prime number, or identifying a species of bat by its mating call, or deciding if Shakespeare really wrote a particular sonnet, or if Abraham Lincoln suffered from depression.

Is this more important than quality teaching? Can anything be done to sustain proper research and increase the actual teaching accomplished on a university campus? Look for an answer in a future column.

Murray Siegel is a Maricopa resident. He has a PhD in Math Ed and 42 years of teaching experience. He and his wife Sharon volunteer at Maricopa schools.

This column appeared in the May issue of InMaricopa.

Murray Siegel

By Murray Siegel

Which individual is the key to successful public education?

Is it the teacher, or the student, or the parent or the school board president? Based on my 42 years of teaching experience, I can state that the building principal is the key to educational success.

Here are brief descriptions of the successes generated by two excellent principals for whom I have served. These two leaders made a real difference, and what they accomplished can be duplicated by all principals if we are concerned about who occupies the principal’s office.

Kelly Henson was my principal in two high schools. He had only one year of teaching experience, so he left academics to his assistant principals and the department chairs. His focus was on elevating student and teacher morale.

An example of his skill involves student attendance. When teachers raised concerns about student attendance, Kelly devised an attendance incentive program for students. Exemplary attendance was rewarded with final exam exemptions, priority in the parking lottery and free prom tickets. Immediately our school’s average daily attendance was the highest of all 14 high schools in the district. It was said that most teachers would walk through fire for Kelly.

Alec Ashbaugh was my principal at a grade 1-7 elementary school. The district demanded all students work on grade level with no enhancement for students who could learn more. Alec recognized that many of his students were highly capable. He defied the district by hiring elementary-certified teachers who were experts in various subject areas.

In many classes students were learning material generally taught in high school and even college. Students were challenged, and teachers had an opportunity to really teach. Alec protected the faculty from the wrath of the district administration and students benefited. He was a great academic leader but understood that administration was not his forte, so he found an assistant principal who would deal with discipline and logistics.

Both of my sons attended this school, and the education they received in mathematics and the sciences was superior to what might have been obtained in most elite private schools.

We must be concerned with the selection, continuing training, evaluation and rewarding of our school principals. If we focus on these, our schools will maximize both learning and teacher retention.

Murray Siegel is a Maricopa resident. He has a Ph.D. in Math Ed and 42 years of teaching experience. He and his wife Sharon volunteer at Maricopa schools.

This column appeared in the April issue of InMaricopa.