kitchen table math, the sequel: an administrative hassle

Thursday, March 15, 2007

an administrative hassle

I missed the latest big math meeting.....this is the one in which 5th grade parents were going to be filled in on 6th grade math.

It's all a big mystery, as things here so often are.

A friend sent this reaction:

Tracking: first we’re tracking, then we’re not. Then we are, then we’re not. So, I don’ t know if we are or not. Changes were going to be made but the teachers in 6th couldn’t handle too many changes.

The deal here is that the middle school principal wants to get rid of the accelerated math course.

A month ago, at a principals' meeting with parents, he said they were dumping the accelerated course. Last year's principal wanted to dump it, too; he told us so.

Unfortunately the superintendent had already sent around a letter saying they'd be tracking kids in 6th grade, which two of us present at the meeting remembered WIRES CROSSED!

Anyway, going into the 5th grade meeting I posted a series of The Trouble with Middle School Math posts on the Forum:

I love the internet.

At the meeting parents were concerned about what would happen if their kids did well in the non-accelerated track.

Could kids move to the accelerated track?

Apparently the new assistant superintendent for curriculum said "sure."

Then they asked the principal who said probably not, because moving kids from one track to the other would be an "administrative hassle."

Which was not the answer people were looking for.

I wish I'd been there, because I could have pointed out that moving kids OUT of the accelerated course is never an administrative hassle.

Moving kids OUT can be accomplished NOW, TODAY, RIGHT THIS MINUTE!

It's moving kids IN to the accelerated track that poses an insurmountable administrative hassle.

There's a discrepancy.

failure to cess

It bothers me that I have no idea why the principal would tell a roomful of parents he's never met that he won't be able to move their kids from the regular track to the accelerated track because it would be an administrative hassle.

There may be almost nothing worse he could have said, and he apparently chose to say this after the assistant superintendent had given the exact opposite response, which makes it even worse.

I have no idea what to make of it.


Anonymous said...

How can they get rid of accelerated math in middle school? By that time you have kids ready for algebra versus kids who haven't mastered 4th grade math.

When they go to the high school they won't all be dumped into one big math class. There'll be put into the dreaded TRACKS. The middle school teachers will be basically assigning them to their various levels by the end of eight grade. How's that going to work?

Or they could just hand them over to the high school and let them worry about it.

It's official: Your school system is goofy.

Catherine Johnson said...

You know ---- I don't think we have tracking in the high school, exactly.

The only tracking is acceleration (not sure whether there are some "Honors" courses - there may be).

I learned this week that all of the acceleration is done in the middle school. Kids in middle school have to jump ahead a year and a half in 3 years' time so they can enter the sophomore classes in the high school.


Catherine Johnson said...

Our principal proposed to hire another Earth Science teacher NOT to teach more Earth Science courses, but so that they'd have to separate "teams," aka the middle school model.


Needless to say, that didn't fly.

Catherine Johnson said...

He may have no idea how the high school tracks are set up.

The other day someone asked him a question and he started laughing & said, "Another question I can't answer."

No one seems to have told the guy ANYTHING.

We have HUGE "wires crossed" issues, which I assume come from micromanagement at the top.

The superintendent is making decisions building principals normally make, then (apparently) not informing the building principals.

At least that's my guess.

Anonymous said...

The high school has AP classes, right? Don't they start around 11th grade? Who goes into that?

So, you think in your high school's freshman and sophomore classes that there are no honors for the sciences, English, or math? Or are they just not telling you?

It seems like at least the middle school 8th grade team should know what is going on at the high school for transition sake if nothing else.

We have separate teams in middle school, also. I never really quite understood why. Still don't.

Forty-two said...

We had teams in my middle school - the idea was to help keep kids from getting lost in a big school by subdividing them into smaller groups. It wasn't a bad idea, although tracking can accomplish a similar effect. There were nearly 600 kids in my high school class (over 3,000 in the school), but the same 100-150 people kept showing up in all my honors classes. Of course, de facto teams by tracking aren't very diverse.

What I can't understand is why an extra Earth Science teacher doesn't mean the potential for more Earth Science classes, teams or no teams. By adding an extra teacher, even if it was just so that they could have multiple teams offering earth science, that still effectively doubles the amount of students that could take the class. Honestly, as it sounds like there are only one or two sections of earth sience offered, it would make more sense to just put all the earth science students in a single team in the first place. It seems like the waste of a teacher.

Forty-two said...

Of course, to be fair, the high school level science course offered in 8th grade at my school (physical science; earth science was the regular 8th grade course for us) was just as exclusionary as your regents earth science. They only had one section: 35 students selected out of over 140 that applied. I've no idea what the criteria for selection was, but they definitely emphasized that we were an exclusive bunch.

On the other hand, other than getting an early exposure to the concepts and an extra science credit (I graduated with 6 science credits), it didn't make a huge difference. Physical science was the non-college track sophomore course. Those going to college took Chem. I, and there was no physical science prereq. for that class.

Anonymous said...

Moving kids OUT can be accomplished NOW, TODAY, RIGHT THIS MINUTE!

You are too funny.

Odd that a principal wouldn't understand why a parent might want his kid on an accelerated track.

Catherine Johnson said...

So, you think in your high school's freshman and sophomore classes that there are no honors for the sciences, English, or math?

I misspoke.

They have a HUGE Honors track, Top Secret selection process, furiously angry parents, the works.

I'm not sure, however, whether they have Honors math.

I assume they must....but I'm not sure.

It seems as if they basically just have accelerated math.

I could be wrong....but that's what one of the dads at the school has been telling me (insofar as I understand him).

Catherine Johnson said...

It seems like at least the middle school 8th grade team should know what is going on at the high school for transition sake if nothing else.

They convey the idea that they don't know anything, and they may not.

A mom last year asked one of the 8th grade teachers what her son could do to qualify himself for Honors social studies.

The teacher said he/she didn't know and added, "Frankly some of the choices surprise me."

That's one reform we've (probably) been able to push through: the science department is now using an open, transparent, objective selection process.

It's possible, of course, that the new chair would have done it anyway.

She implied as much to me.

otoh, we've made a LOT of noise about the Top Secret selection process for Earth Science.

They've managed to defeat us thus far on the question of teaching Earth Science to everyone instead of to a small elite.

Course is conceptual!



So hardly anyone can take it!

Catherine Johnson said...

By adding an extra teacher, even if it was just so that they could have multiple teams offering earth science, that still effectively doubles the amount of students that could take the class.

The whole thing is appalling, and we're all going to be watching passively as the teacher we have now, the one who can only teach the cream of the crop, gets tenure.

Catherine Johnson said...

Pelham teaches Earth Science to all of its 8th graders including the SPED kids.

They're all passing Regents, too.

We have two sections out of 8 science classes altogether, and, according to the principal, "A number of students are struggling in the class and don't belong."

Catherine Johnson said...

Odd that a principal wouldn't understand why a parent might want his kid on an accelerated track.

I don't know that he doesn't understand.

He doesn't care.

He's a very nice guy, but he simply doesn't care. He is MIDDLE SCHOOL MODEL to the max; he's focused on "the whole child" which means he's focused on scheduling.

The huge challenge in making a middle school "exemplary" is scheduling.

Teams, interdisciplinary this and that, etc.

It's all gone. Every last bit of it.

This principal spent his entire first year here working out a plan to implement the middle school model and render Irvington Middle School exemplary and it's gone.

You would think that, in the wake of that experience, he'd get the message that telling a huge room of parents that their kids won't be allowed to move to the accelerated track because it would be an "administrative hassle" is the exact wrong thing to say.

Catherine Johnson said...

The astonishing thing is that even the 10 minute "homeroom" they wanted to IMPLEMENT at the beginning of the day (this would be 10 minutes taken off lunch) went away.

We were SURE that one would get through.

They need the 10 minutes so they can discuss character at the top of the day.

When parents objected to the idea of discussing character for 10 minutes, and pointed out that free-ranging discussions of character hadn't panned out so well at the 4-5 school, the principal said they need the 10 minutes so kids can listen to announcements over the P.A.

We were positive they'd steal that 10 minutes from lunch.

I don't think they're even doing that.

The whole thing is gone.

That should give you some idea of how ferocious things have gotten here.

The K-5 parents are incensed. It's pretty spectacular.

And wealthy parents are simply out of their minds. They're paying property taxes as high as $50,000 to $60,000/year to be told their kids won't be accelerated in math no matter what because it would be an administrative hassle.

Catherine Johnson said...

This guy's career has been spent in Albany; the parents he's been dealing with have all been low-income.

I'm sure this is the way he's always treated them.

He's the decider; they're the low income folk who await his decisions.

Every email from him is very cordial; he's very warm and even affectionate.

But he expresses and wields absolute power.

He's the man.

Catherine Johnson said...

Someone told me that our superintendent also comes to us from a district filled with disadvantaged families.

She, too, wields -- or expects to wield -- absolute power.

She has actually told SPED parents, of all people, "I know better than you what's best for your child."

In special ed a comment like that is beyond taboo.

You simply don't say it.

She's said it directly.

This is a woman who knows nothing about special ed, and who violated special ed law as soon as she got here.

Catherine Johnson said...

Ed came home from the last Board meeting saying that the administration is on a Civilizing Mission.

That, too, should give you a feel for the place.

It's not working.

Anonymous said...

While our middle school certainly has its issues, the first thing they did when the 6th grade parents came for Open House was show them how the math tracks worked and why a kid would be on one rather than the other.

The 8th grade teachers recommend, but I imagine you could fight them if you had wriggle room. For instance my friend's kid was in 8th grade honors math. The 8th grade teacher recommended that since her grades weren't perfect that she go to the honors track that wasn't the top but the next level down.

When the kid got to high school, the freshman teacher took one month before telling her she needed to move up to the top track, which she did and performed fine.

I just met with my youngest son's (6th grade) 8th grade math teacher, and even thought he could go to the high school for math (for 7th grade) we've decided to have him repeat with another book and teacher. His grades aren't bad, but all over the map this year. I don't want him going over there unless he's primed and ready for the top track and since we don't have to go, we're going to give it another year to soak in.

However, this same teacher let me know that it was my decision if I wanted to push it. I don't.