When Richards arrived at the O’Connor campus, she was greeted by Principal Susana Mathis, Superintendent Bob Brezina and the school choir, directed by Lucille Araj. Students lined the sidewalk and hallways to get a glimpse of the governor.
Richards said she always asks children how they are doing in school and if they like math.
“Younger children usually say they like math, but the older they get, the more they say they’re not good in math or don’t understand it,” Richards said.
She said the education system “has to assume blame” when something happens to change a child’s opinion of math from “I can do it” to “I can’t do it.”
Richards said that while state leaders have been focusing a lot of attention on how Texas will finance public education, she is equally concerned about “the quality of the product.”
“I think the quality discussions about what children are actually learning and what we’re turning out of the public school system will be the next big debate in Austin,” she said.
Richards praised Shoecraft and the support given his math concept by the UHV faculty.
“The University of Houston-Victoria is doing a remarkable job and their campus here is truly important in the higher education system of this state,” she said.
She also commended teachers at schools like O’Connor “who are willing to go out on a limb to allow their students to excel.”
“A lot of times the big thing that holds back education is the fear of trying something new,” she said.
Gov. Ann Richards admitted she found more than she bargained for while visiting classrooms at O’Connor Elementary School Friday.
Richards was in Victoria at the invitation of university of Houston-Victoria President Glenn Goerke to see firsthand the Move It Math program developed by Paul J. Shoecraft, an associate professor of mathematics at UHV.
She admitted she knew very little about Shoecraft’s concept before arriving in Victoria, but before leaving, she said she was “extremely impressed.”
Richards received a briefing and watched a short video at the UHV Petroleum Training Institute, then went to the O’Connor campus to see first- and second-graders breeze through “monster” addition, subtraction, multiplication and division problems.
Move It, an acronym for mathematics opportunities, valuable experiences and innovative teaching, focuses on the skills and thought processes children must acquire to succeed in mathematics.
“Move It Math is a quantum leap ahead” of traditional math instruction concepts now taught in Texas classrooms, Richards said.
“I was impressed by the fact these children have not only learned a great deal about numbers, but also can work independently in the classroom,” she said. “I think it’s remarkable. Obviously, these children are excelling far beyond the standardized requirements of Texas public schools.”
The governor is no stranger to the classroom. Prior to entering politics, Richards taught school at the intermediate and high school levels.
“I have been in a lot of classrooms, but never in one where independent work was going on as successfully as what I have seen taking place here,” she said.
She said she plans to urge newly appointed Education Commissioner Lionel “Skip” Meno and members of the State Board of Education to “do as I did and come to Victoria to see a program that really works.”
“Any exposure to this program would certainly convince people at the Texas Education Agency that it’s worth emulating statewide,” Richards said.
“The question will be how much of it we can do and how fast we can put this program on track.”
Move It Math Whizzes Cheer [Gov.] Richards on City School Tour
Don Brown, Staff Reporter
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