An Interview with Clarence Johnson: Roll Call 2012?

Jan 31, 2013 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

1) Sir, you have just published a book entitled Roll Call 2012 – What brought this about ?

During my 14 years as a high school principal, I was concerned with the learning curve of African American students in mathematics when compared to other ethnic groups. When I conducted research as a doctoral student on the failure rate of African American students in mathematics, I examined the data and found solutions to the problem that faced African American students, their parents, and their respective communities. When I received my PhD degree in 2008, I made a commitment to my 5 doctoral professors to share my research findings and recommendations with all parents and students.

2) According to the National Math and Science Initiative, America is ranked 25th in high school science and math. Let’s take science first- why do you think this is so?

Mathematics and science are closely related. If students are not equipped with upper-level mathematics skills, they are not successful in science.

3) Now let’s examine math- why is the U.S. lagging behind in math?

The focus on attaining upper-level mathematics skills needs more support . We need more students enrolled in Advanced Placement mathematics courses.

4) Are there any racial, or ethnic groups that do well, or do poorly?

White and Asian students do well in mathematics based on the national test scores.

5) Are math and science teachers adequately prepared to teach math and science- in other words, do they have the supplies that they need?

I believe that the teachers are adequately trained. Most schools have computers and technology. We need to continue to increase our focus on attaining mathematics and science skills at the early grade levels. Increase the enrollment in Advanced Placement classes.

6) What other countries seem to be doing well in high school science and mathematics comprehension?

Finland and South Korea are near the top in mathematics and science.

7) Now, among other nations in the world, I daresay that America has more students in the classrooms with special needs- health needs, medical needs, learning difficulties and differences. What say you?

In our democratic system, we educate all of our students. We offer the opportunity to all students and not a selective group.

8) Further, compared to other nations of the world, America probably has more discipline problems in the classrooms. Is this a factor?

During my tenure as principal, I observed that discipline was one of the problems in mathematics classrooms. Students that are lacking in skills look for other ways to gain attention and become major distractions in the overall learning process. Teachers who had students involved in engaging activities had fewer discipline problems. Our students must see the relevancy of mathematics in their daily lives.

9) What needs to be done to help the U.S. improve in their math and science?

Bring back the focus on the space program, related careers, and stress the acquisition of mathematics and science skills at the national, state, and local levels. Mandate more Advanced Placement courses and hire qualified teachers.

10) Final question- but tough one—do we need to lengthen the school day or school year? Or both?

It is easy to say yes or no when in truth this is an answer that affects parents, students and educators. Not an easy question to just answer, but requires the consideration of all involved. I believe that we need to remain in our current format. Do not lengthen the school day. Teachers need a break. The qualified teachers who give maximum efforts must have time to refresh.

11) What have I neglected to ask?

No suggestion.

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