kitchen table math, the sequel: spiral curriculum in a charter school

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

spiral curriculum in a charter school

When Courtney Sale Ross, the widow of Steve Ross, the former C.E.O. of Time Warner, and the founder of the Ross Global Academy, a charter school in the East Village, was told, last month, to expect a 9 A.M. phone call from the outgoing New York City schools chancellor, Joel Klein, she feared that it would not bring good news. Her academy, which was founded five years ago amid considerable fanfare—it promised a so-called spiral curriculum, encompassing the history of civilization across all cultures, and also offered instruction in eating organically and yoga—recently had the distinction of getting the worst progress report of any charter school in the city, with seventy-five per cent of its students failing English and seventy per cent of them failing math. The school, into which Ross and members of her board have poured eight million dollars of their own money, has had six principals, has occupied three locations, and lost three-quarters of its teachers last year; its charter is up for renewal this month. At eight-thirty on the appointed morning, Ross’s phone rang; on the line was Marc Sternberg, a deputy chancellor. “He said the most extraordinary thing,” Ross recalled last week. “He said, ‘I am informing you that the Department of Education is going to recommend a non-renewal.’
The New Yorker
by Rebecca Mead
January 17, 2011
If only someone would say the same to my district's "department of curriculum."

And see: The Trouble with Math by Ralph Abraham (pdf file)

And so much more: multiple intelligences, spirals, innovation, the whole child.... The Concept of Spiral Curriculum at Ross School

Educating the Whole Child for the Whole World: The Ross School Model and Education for the Global Era

Educating the Whole Child for the Whole World: The Ross School Model and Education for the Global Era


Crimson Wife said...

Should we be at all surprised that an approach that apparently works okay at a tony private school was an abject failure at a public school serving disadvantaged youth? The children of the elite who enroll at the private Ross School come with a whole lot more "cultural capital"/background knowledge and I hate to say it but probably also a much higher average IQ than the kids at the public Ross Global Academy.

What's that old saying about not being able to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear...

Catherine Johnson said...

You're comparing the kids at an urban charter school to a sow's ear?


Spiral curricula don't work with affluent kids, either.

The laws of learning have been well known for over 100 years. They have nothing to do with spirals, and everything to do with spaced repetition.

Crimson Wife said...

The disadvantaged kids aren't necessarily the sow's ear. Given KIPP-style instruction, they could very well be "diamonds in the rough".

Different kids need different amounts of repetition. What is appropriate for one is major overkill for another. The trick is to get the child into the proper learning environment.

There is a certain type of child who does fine with a "progressive" approach to education. And I do think there are significantly more of those kids among the elite than among the disadvantaged.

Hainish said...

What helps a child do better with this type of teaching is that fact that they are getting a lot of their education from home. If the home environment doesn't provide that (and I don't see why it should be required to), then the curriculum will not work.

The real question is, how many Ross Academies have to happen to children before adults realize that it does not work?

cranberry said...

Does anyone know anything about the private school in the Hamptons? I can't find anything online which would indicate how well it educates its students.

Crimson Wife said...

This article suggests that the graduates of the private Ross School are doing okay when it comes to college placement.

I would suspect that the school doesn't do as well as the more traditional prep schools because it attracts a different kind of student. If I'm super-hardcore about academics, I'm probably going to choose a school like Horace Mann over Ross.

LynnG said...

Six principals, a 75% teacher turn-over rate, and three building moves in five years? It's amazing they ever taught anybody anything!

A little consistency goes a long way when you are trying to teach a kid how to read.