kitchen table math, the sequel: ignoring parents in Palo Alto

Saturday, March 14, 2009

ignoring parents in Palo Alto

Apparently the professional educators in Palo Alto think picking a fight with parents is a good idea.
Superintendent Kevin Skelly said he didn't want parents to leave the meeting dissatisfied, and asked if there was a way to get to the heart of the matter while remaining respectful to the teachers and other committee members who'd spent so much time discussing, evaluating and piloting the programs. Parents asked for a poll of which program they preferred. While Skelly came close to calling for a show of hands, he ultimately asked parents to write their thoughts on paper, indicating the strength of their preference or objection to different programs.

"I'd rather hear it now than I would at 11 o'clock on April 14 (during the school board meeting)," Skelly said.

Most of the notes expressed frustration with "Everyday Math," ranging from "What is wrong with regular, normal math being taught today? Why do we need 'Everyday Math?'" to, "I will fight 'Everyday Math.'"

Fair warning.

update 3-18-2009: It's possible this post is mistitled. This may be a case of ignoring parents and teachers in Palo Alto.

ignoring parents in Palo Alto
welcome to the Grand Canyon
a teacher-mom on Everyday Math
the plot thickens
Steven H on Everyday Math in Palo Alto

where parents get their information
"reality" in Palo Alto

Parents frustrated over math texts
Teacher committee recommends new math text
Ed Week on the ed wars

interview with my cousin re: her experience with EM


Liz Ditz said...

As the Sage of the Infield said, "This is like deja vu all over again".

The Math Wars in Palo Alto started in 1995, with Honest Open Logical Debate (H.O.L.D.)

H.O.L.D. is an organization of people in the Palo Alto community that feel that some of the changes being made in the name of educational reform are being implemented too rapidly, and without community input.

Are you concerned about:

* the de-emphasis on basic math skills?
* the lack of textbooks and standard student materials?
* the hours that your child spends writing and illustrating a Problem of the Week (P.O.W.) that took him/her fifteen minutes to solve?
* the fact that 8th grade standardized test scores in computation have plummeted from the 90th to the 58th percentile in the past two years?
* the level to which your child is challenged in math?
* the ability of teachers to meet all children's needs in a heterogeneous (mixed ability) class?
* the failure of PAUSD to communicate with parents before changing the entire direction of a successful math program?
* the fact that PAUSD seems to have a different view of mathematics than you do?

H.O.L.D. believes that:

* basic mathematical skills are the foundation of an excellent mathematics program.
* textbooks and standard student materials are important. They ensure quality, consistency across the program, and are necessary for parent involvement.
* while writing in math may be valuable, the primary emphasis should be on obtaining mathematical skills.
* declining test scores indicate weaknesses that need to be dealt with.
* some children want or need a more rigorous math program than others.
* challenging children of all abilities is not always best done in heterogeneous (mixed ability) classrooms.
* PAUSD needs to communicate with its parent community about proposed changes to programs before implementing them.
* schools should reflect the values of the community that they serve. Parents and community members have the right to be heard and provide input to programs.

concernedCTparent said...

This would make me laugh if weren't so terrible. Palo Alto? A place where parents are composed of Stanford professors and Silicon Valley types? Ummm, I think these parents may just know what they're talking about. The arrogance of the district is appalling. Picking a fight with Palo Alto parents just says it all, doesn't it?

Fair warning, indeed.

SteveH said...

"...they eliminated 'Singapore Math' because they felt it wasn't the best program to teach to a class of students at a range of math levels, and it didn't provide enough support for English Language learners."

The head of curriculum at the private school my son went to told me that Everyday Math was "a better match for our mix of students".

They know that Singapore Math is better.

"They said they liked how 'Everyday Math' provides a more thorough and in-depth teaching of standards, and is engaging and challenging for students, but worried that the pace could be too fast for 'emerging mathematicians.'"

"emerging mathematicians" = Low expectations.

"We have the best interest of kids at heart,"

It takes more than caring and sincerity to get the job done. It takes content knowledge, which they don't believe in. Since it's their turf and they are sincere in heart, then that's all the justification they need.

How else can they have a math open house, sit parents in little kids' chairs, and look mathematicians and engineers in the face and say what they say.

Jenny said...

I want to know how to get parents involved. I found out that our district is considering Everyday Math. I've talked with parents and most people just don't care. I was one of two parents who showed up to look over the materials. Our district obviously doesn't want parent input in the matter and it seems other parents are happy to oblige them. It's mind boggling to me!

Catherine Johnson said...

Liz - Barry told me yesterday that, sure enough, the CA math wars started IN PALO ALTO.

It really is extraordinary, professional educators picking a fight with silicon valley AND Stanford at the same time.

SteveH said...

"I want to know how to get parents involved."

Unfortunately, parents won't really understand until they see the work coming home. At my son's previous school one parent (with a major in applied math) loved the idea of Everyday Math. By the end of the year he changed his tune. Too late.