kitchen table math, the sequel: how many tutors in Palo Alto?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

how many tutors in Palo Alto?

Anonymous posts a link:

Almost 60 percent of Palo Alto parents supplement their children's math education through private tutors, extra workbooks and other means, mostly because they feel Palo Alto classes aren't challenging enough, according to results of a district survey released this week.

The district conducted an online survey of about 1,200 elementary school parents, and will compare its results with another survey taken next spring, after students have spent a year learning the district's new Everyday Mathematics curriculum.

During the debates over the controversial Everyday Math program, adopted as the district's new curriculum in April, many parents said Everyday Math is confusing and doesn't teach basic math skills. Parents frequently said they would have to supplement their children's math education.

Under the current curriculum, 62.8 percent of parents said their children don't need extra help in math, the survey says. But 57.2 percent said they provide supplemental math work anyway, mostly in the form of extra practice materials like workbooks or software, or regular math tutoring by a sibling or parent.

About 6.5 percent of parents said they hired a private math tutor, and 21.6 percent said their children attend a private math program like Kumon or Score.

A majority of parents who supplement their children's math education — 51 percent — said a "main reason" they do so is because their child needs to be more challenged in math, and 42.9 percent said a main reason was because their child enjoys math.

Former school board member Mandy Lowell, who has been critical of the district's adoption of Everyday Math, said boredom with math has been a "perennial problem" here. Palo Alto students are the sons and daughters of engineers and scientists who enjoy math, and have passed their love for the subject on to their children, she said, but the program focuses more on "supermarket math."

Most Palo Alto parents supplement kid's math, saying subject is too easy

They do what they do.


eduprobe said...

I suspect that surveys would discover that a higher percentage of families are supplementing the school curriculum in math and other areas in high-standardized-test-scoring school districts (such as Palo Alto) versus average- or low-performing districts. But without actually doing such a string of surveys, I don't know how to check my suspicion.

Asserting that outside tutoring/supplementation is categorically a bad (or good) thing is unhelpful. In what cases should parents be willing to trust the teacher or school to do a good job - or not?

Jo Anne C said...

"In what cases should parents be willing to trust the teacher or school to do a good job - or not?"

If a parent wants their child to acquire and MASTER the foundational skills and knowledge needed to enter the fields of medicine or engineering they can not trust that public or private school systems will provide that foundation.

Tutoring, after schooling, home schooling, a parent needs to do what ever it takes. Trusting that the school will do the job may lead to disappointment.

Allison said...

--In what cases should parents be willing to trust the teacher or school to do a good job - or not?

I would say something even more general than Jo Anne said.

I would say we've reached a point in society that parents should not be willing to simply trust the teacher or school as they would have a generation or more ago.

Fundamentally, there are too many people in the system claiming to be experts who aren't; too many people claiming their credentials give them knowledge they don't have; too many people in the system working at cross purposes with parents; all told, the authorized people can't be assumed to know more about your child's needs than you do.

This isn't just a phenomenon related to schooling. We've reached the same point in medicine--we no longer trust doctors as we once did, or that they are our advocates. We have to be our own advocates. Our model has really shifted--we're expected to partner with our doctors in our healthcare outcomes; we're expected to "partner" with our kids educational outcomes. We've reached it in most of parenting too--we're expected to be far more responsible for our childrens' outcomes than any prior generation of parents; we're supposed to be deeply engaged in their molding (regardless of how possible that is), and we're supposed to be highly active in all levels of their universe. We're not really supposed to leave this stuff up to others anymore.

So, parents shouldn't be willing to trust; they should have their trust earned, and until such time as the school or district or teacher does earn that, they should be viewed with skepticism that they have the ability to provide a good education.

Now, parents should engage the school, the teachers, etc. They should give the school and teachers and opportunity to earn that trust. But well intentioned enthusiasm and likeability at the teacher or principal level do not mean the school is doing a good job.

Parents can recognize that a school is doing a good job by evaluating their child's progress--can they read well? spell well? Speak well? Write well? Better than a year ago? If you don't have a good idea what your child should be mastering each year, look at the Core Knowledge Series "what your XXth grader needs to know". The post by Barry on retrofitting a curriculum discusses this in more detail.

Barry Garelick said...

I would only add to the above two comments that the usual means of assessing the effectiveness of a school--test scores--may be unreliable for the reasons indicated in this post: parents supplement/teach. I would also add that some private schools suffer from the same problem as public. They are not immune from bad programs such as Investigations, or EM. The Sidwell Friends School where the Obama girls attend, for example, uses Investigations, supplemented by (wait for it) Everyday Math. My op-ed about this is here.

The situation with the Obamas now gives ammunition to schools and school districts under fire from parents who are opposed to Investigations or EM. Schools can now say "It's good enough for the President's kids; why don't you like it?"

There's an answer to this of course. But their question will drown out anything you have to say.

SteveH said...

"test scores"

Back when my son was in first grade seven years ago, I was amazed at a parent night that reviewed state testing scores. Everyone was looking at relative changes. Nobody was looking at any sort of absolute or external standard. The teachers were crowing about how our (high SES) school had improving numbers. However, there were a couple of areas of concern related to problem solving, so everyone was talking about how to improve that score.

I was the only one looking at the released test book questions and the raw percent correct scores. The questions were simple and the raw scores were awful. The NAEP site is also a good place to see these numbers.

Unfortunately, state testing focuses on how well a school gets most all kids over a minimum proficiency cutoff. Our state coverts lousy raw scores into a proficiency index that relates to the low state cutoff. Magically, bad raw scores turn into a scaled and pretty good looking percent that is in the 90's for most schools. Of course, this should be easy to achieve for high SES towns. Everyone was feeling good and thinking that all the school needed was to tweak the process a little bit to fix "problem solving".

But even that approach is flawed. The state (graders) take each question and somehow break out the skill parts that relate to problem solving. Nobody I have asked can tell me how that's done. When I looked at the sample math test problems, I can't tell what they consider to be problem solving. So, here they are looking at small relative changes in a score category they don't understand, and they expect to figure out how to change their teaching to fix it.

On top of all of that, there were teachers and parents saying that our high Proficiency Index meant that we had excellent schools. We see comments like that in our paper. It's good that places like Palo Alto are asking parents questions about help at home or tutoring, but they really need a way to see how well those numbers correlate with their best students.

SteveH said...

"Our model has really shifted--we're expected to partner with our doctors in our healthcare outcomes; we're expected to 'partner' with our kids educational outcomes."

I've noticed this effect too. There are a few, very caring parents on our school committee who set high standards for themselves in terms of committment and involvement with the schools and their children's education. It seems like they project their own willingness to do extra work onto all others. They expect that it should be the norm for caring parents. Good parents do these things.

The problem gets fuzzy when the details are examined. What, exactly, are they doing at home to support their children's education? Do they really expect all other parents to do the same thing? It's almost as if this offloading of responsibility and onus is looked at as a good thing. On one hand, schools talk about keeping kids well fed, getting them to school on time, and modeling a good interest in education, but on the other hand, they send home work that requires parental help or even explicitly tells parents to work with their kids on math facts.

It's an accountability and onus shift, and it's done in a way that makes parents feel like they are supposed to do those things. Good parents support their schools without question. This seems to be especially true for public schools. We're all supposed to be part of a team that benefits all kids.

It's almost a paradox. We have very caring and supportive parents of the ideal of public schools, but they really don't see that many of the kids they presume to champion don't have them for parents.