kitchen table math, the sequel: a teacher - mom on Everyday Math

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

a teacher - mom on Everyday Math

Posted by RWD, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, 10 hours ago
To me, the ignorant statements are the ones made by math committee members who suggested that parents obtained their information on the two math programs under consideration by "googling" it. An incredibly high number of parents in this district have graduate degrees; we might actually know something or have something to offer this process. While I appreciate that three parents (and more -- some teachers are also district parents) sat on the selection committee, no one put out a poll to the community to see who of us might have experience with these programs beyond a brief trial period. As a new member of the community, I couldn't have sat on the formal committee, but I have some feedback on Everyday Math that I'd like to feel was heard and respected.

I am an educator (my graduate degree is from Columbia's Teachers College) and a mother who suffered -- and I do mean to say suffered -- through Everyday Math with my daughter for three years prior to moving to Palo Alto. I chose where to live because of the excellence of the school districts, but I verified their excellence by making sure that they did not teach Everyday Math. Obviously, I feel strongly about this program in a negative way. I know that I will have to return to the days of homeschooling my very intelligent daughter in math -- something I have not had to do at all this year. Neither of us enjoyed that supplementation, but it was necessary -- as our teachers admit it will be necessary for our students. (That's a problem, don't you think -- the suggestion that "gaps will be filled" -- ?)

Our specific problems with Everyday Math far exceed the different language -- the whole "spiraling" approach to learning, where components of the curriculum are not mastered before moving on, is problematic; it has come under scrutiny in the education community for its inefficiency, especially because students need to re-learn concepts before advancing again on the spiral. I can't see how "mastery of concepts" is a high priority in Everyday Math, yet it was on many of the parents' priority lists at the community meeting. And that is just one example.

At the end of the day, not enough parents know enough about this program and just how funky it is -- and I think that if they did, there would be even greater concern. If parents can't make it to the PAUSD offices to review the materials like I did, what can they do? (Google it! Or nothing.) And for those of us who actually attended the meeting, what information did we get about the two programs? (Little.)

Look, all things considered, I am really happy with our teachers and the school district, but I think the superintendent is right on the money in expecting trouble over this decision. I know that our teachers will "fill in the gaps," but, quite frankly, I'd rather NEVER hear those words in terms of my kids' education. Shouldn't we be reaching rather than bending, here?

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


RMD said...

I love the last comment: "Shouldn't we be reaching rather than bending, here?"

I find this with many parents I come in contact with. They are afraid that "reaching" will somehow harm their children (I'm serious!), and make them "too" smart. Or, they don't understand that their children are a lot more capable than schools let on.

I still don't understand it all.

Catherine Johnson said...

I agree - every line of her comment was fantastic.

Although I don't think I've seen the phenomenon you mention amongst parents around here.

Parents here worry (& I agree) about becoming Scarsdale: they don't want their kids ground down by ferocious competition & round-the-clock grade grubbing, etc.

Unfortunately, since no one in my district is interested in precision teaching or Direct Instruction or Keller Method (etc.) that is a valid concern.

What I've seen is that when teachers or administrators here decide to add "rigor," they simply make classes hard & give kids assignments that are complex and over their heads.

My district has essentially no concept of teaching material step by step.

Anonymous said...


I see that, too. In fact, yesterday I ran into a new neighbor who has a middle-schooler. I was telling her about the high school and the different levels there when she immediately said that she didn't want to "pressure" her son. Then, she went on about how we're all putting too much pressure on our kids and that they need to have more fun.

I then just decided to keep all the info I had to myself.

She will probably find out very soon that in a public high school there are plenty of classes with "no pressure."


Catherine Johnson said...

I definitely hear pressure talk everywhere ---- although, as I'm thinking about it, around here I hear it more from the administration than from other parents.

The superintendent told my husband and me that Irvington parents "pressure" their kids and it's "sad."

This was her explanation for why kids in the accelerated math course were copying each other's homework.

Barry Garelick said...

Here's the comment I left at the Palo Alto site:

It sounds to me like the school board is the one who has spent five minutes on Google to find out about Everyday Math--and they only visited EM's website. The school board really should have done more homework. Why didn't they talk to the school districts that have dropped Everyday Math to find out why they did so? Did that occur to anyone? Or were their minds already made up? Is anyone on the school board reading these comments who wishes to answer that? Thank you in advance.

Anonymous said...

What I've seen is that when teachers or administrators here decide to add "rigor," they simply make classes hard & give kids assignments that are complex and over their heads.

I would add that high school teachers were basically told that the ones with higher GPAs were not offering a rigorous enough course.

The possibility that proper teaching and assessment was going on was not a possibility in anyone's opinion. Common consensus among the administration and staff was that the teachers with higher averages were offering fluff courses.

My child was in one of those courses and I know for a fact that the teacher who offered it has made his course more difficult to alleviate the perception that he was easy. The kids are learning less this year because he has sped up his class and added test questions that were very tricky (we spoke about this and I don't feel comfortable naming him) and he is seen as more rigorous.

He feels safer in his job, the students lose out on a teacher who taught, and the system is propped up on the smoke and mirrors of statistics.


Anonymous said...

Just wanted those of you in Palo Alto to know that you have friends down the peninsula who will be sharing your math experience next year. Turns out that the Saratoga school district has adopted Everyday Math for 3rd - 5th grade. I am NOT looking forward to this.