kitchen table math, the sequel: Steve H on choice

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Steve H on choice

None of this would bother me if parents had the ability to go somewhere else. I don't care if a company has a union or how much Six Sigma training they have or if they are ISO 9000 certified. I can judge the product just fine, and I'll wager that most parents can do the same if schools weren't allowed to have such unknown products. Our school only publishes a very vague list of goals and topics for each grade, I don't know what goes on in classes, and everything gets hidden away in portfolios!

They want involved parents, but we don't get the tools to even help them do their job. We get questionnaires that ask us if we have enough information to help with our kids' math homework. It's an incredibly bad product for the price we pay. Clearly, parents will make better decisions when it comes to their kids' education, and it will be based on their individual needs, not the need to improve low cutoff test numbers.

I don't want to play their game and argue whether they should have coaches or not. Coaches could be a great asset if they were used to ensure consistency and mastery of basic math skills. Obviously, that doesn't happen, but arguing against coaches just means that I'm playing their game according to their rules.

The only thing that will really change schools is the ability of parents to walk away. No arguing. Just walk away.

Then, magically, the goal becomes a good education for your child and not fixing the schools, and schools will start paying attention to parents, not the other way around.
Steve's right about that: if parents could take their (tax) dollars and go, that would change things up considerably. Choice doesn't guarantee good schools. But it opens the door.

re: what is my school actually teaching & when?

Interesting moment at a school board meeting recently.

The Interim Curriculum Director was giving her report rejecting Singapore Math in favor of Math Trailblazers on grounds that "there us bi perfect curriculum." In practice, "there are no perfect curricula" means the district pays employees to "develop" the imperfect curricula we've bought. Citizens pay twice: once to buy the curriculum, then again to improve the curriculum. Because there is no perfect curriculum.

Virtually none of this activity is pegged to student achievement data.

Anyway, there was the Curriculum Director rejecting Singapore Math because there is no perfect curriculum.

At least two board members, of the four who were present, raised the question of international benchmarking and algebra in the 8th grade. At some point during the discussion, the new principal of the middle school said that we have 40% of our kids now taking algebra in the 8th grade. At an earlier meeting he had pegged that figure at 35% (which used to the case - he's right); but when he'd gone back and looked at this year's enrollment it was 40%.

Another board member said to the Interim Director: "Anecdotally, you hear that the accelerated course is less accelerated than it was. So we don't know what is happening. Are there more kids in accelerated math because accelerated math is less accelerated? What are your findings there?"

The Interim Director had no findings to share on that point.

Which begs the question. Why exactly do we need a central administrator to investigate whether the accelerated math track in the middle school is now less accelerated?

Why don't we have a published scope and sequence everyone can read and evaluate?

I fear I am going to have to pursue this issue.

Because I've got time on my hands.

what is "scope and sequence"?
Scope is the material or skills that is to be taught, and sequence is the order in which you teach the information.



Catherine Johnson said...

Given the expense of hiring & tenuring instructional coaches, I strongly oppose this development - particularly considering the fact that we have no evidence instructional coaches will improve achievement.

The instructional coach model is hierarchical, and I don't see how, logically, a hierarchical model can improve classroom teaching given the fact that teachers have tenures and unions - and coaches have no supervisory authority.

At this point I'm against any form of experimentation in public schools without a prediction of exactly what gains the district expects to see and when the plug will be pulled if no gains materialize.

Kennic said...

I have looked through lots of scopes and sequences and compared some curricula to it. Even if a curriculum follows a scope and sequence it won't tell you if the curriculum is "less accelerated" because scopes and sequences don't say anything about depth. Both Primary Mathematics Standards edition and Everyday Math are approved in California for following their scope and sequence, but they are very different programs. A student who has successfully completed Primary Mathematics Standards edition 5B with comprehension could go on to a decent algebra program from the because of the mathematical reasoning required, even if all the topics of pre-algebra are not covered, and since algebra 1 books review all of pre-algebra, quickly maybe, anyway.

But US math drags out algebra anyway, over years and years of introducing it at elementary grade level, one baby-step a year, whereas if they waited until students could handle it they could learn all those baby steps in a week. Kind of like trying to get a student not ready to read reading; it can take years if they are not ready, but once they are ready, it takes months.

Catherine Johnson said...

Well...I think a published scope and sequence would be better than nothing around here.

The fact that no one, including the board, has the faintest idea whether the middle school is now teaching fewer topics in 6th grade: that would be remedied by telling parents how much of the NY state math standards are or are not being taught that year.

lgm said...

I have asked that question also. None of my children's math teachers will answer it. They seem to reserve the right to get bogged down and cut material out, so don't want to be held accountable. I go to to ensure that we cover ALL the Regents material at home since the school can't be bothered to commit to doing so. Indeed, this year I've had to teach the last 2 factoring topics that are usually taught in Alg. I, simply b/c the teacher decided it was too much for the class my kid was assigned to.

Catherine Johnson said...

I once asked for the scope and sequence (or maybe it was the curriculum map) for Math A & then kept on asking until they gave me something.

When I finally got it, I discovered it wasn't for the course my kid was actually taking. It was for the course everyone took the year before.

The reason that mattered was that they had changed textbooks.

When I asked why they'd given me the curriculum map for last year's course, they said they didn't have one for the course they were actually teaching.

We were about halfway through the year at that point.