Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Special Legislative Session Tonight

Instead of a regular School Board meeting tonight, there is a Special Legislative session, starting at 6 pm at the John Stanford Center.

There are only two agenda items:

Elementary Math Adoption (Student Learning) – The Student Learning Committee recommends approval of this item which would adopt a new elementary math curriculum beginning in the 2007/08 school year.

K-2 Independent Reading Classroom Libraries (Student Learning) – the Student Learning Committee recommends approval of this item which would authorize expenditures of $1,388,432 for K-2 independent reading libraries in every K-2 classroom in Seattle Schools.


If you are interested in testifying about either one of these topics, just show up early. The agenda says:

Public testimony at this special legislative session will be limited to the topics of the meeting. Each speaker will be allowed up to three minutes to speak. Anyone wishing to speak may sign up at the door starting at 5:30pm.

1 comment:

Dorothy said...

Singapore Math:

A very good article about the (almost complete) failure of the Montgomery County, Md pilot program in Singapore Math can be read at:
Hoover Institute

Earlier I expressed a concern that Singapore will be challenging since it uses a fundamentally different conceptual approach. But it had been years since I'd seen a text so couldn't explain more. This article gives a nice explanation of the "Bar Modeling" method and compares it to "Guess & Check." The article explains that American Educators think that it is a Good Thing for students to see problems for which they don't have tools. Problems for which they need to invent the tool. And very often, the students use (and are encouraged to use) Guess & Check. In contrast, Singapore Math gives the tools. Kids do not guess, they solve problems in a straightforward pictorial manner that aligns conceptually with Algebra.

I must be too old school, because I just do not see the advantage of all this Guess & Check. I would never give a problem to students that was so out of alignment with what they know that Guess & Check was the reasonable first response. And I am appalled at how often and how unfruitfully the Integrated II kids I observe rely on Guess and Check.

The fundamental concept of Algebra I is that one can efficiently model an unknown as "X" and use logic and mathematics to solve problems. Bar Modeling is an alternative method for efficiently modeling an unknown and using logic and mathematics to solve problems. The advantage of Bar Modeling is that it can be taught incrementally from a much earlier age, when our way of doing algebra is too abstract for such young kids. My problem when faced with a Second Grade Singapore Math text was that the Bar Modeling problems look just like algebra to me. I am so ingrained in algebraic knowledge that I wanted to solve the problems with a "Let X equal..." methodology. It was not intuitive to me how to use the pictorial method. And therefore, I could not use the book with my child who was definitely not ready for full blown algebra. With dedication and access to first grade texts, I could have prevailed, but decided not to pursue it.

There are lots of problems in the Singapore books that are not Bar Modeling problems. Lots of straightforward arithmetic computation practice problems. But without the fundamental Bar Modeling approach, is the Singapore Series any different from any other fairly traditional math text? I doubt it.

So, in Seattle. How many elementary school teachers, in the 15 minutes allowed for Singapore math supplementation after the required 45-60 minutes of Everyday Math, are going to teach the Bar Modeling method? How many are going to even understand how to use it?

If we took all the money that is going to be spent on Everyday Math, and spent in on Singapore Math, including lots and lots of professional development, and strong math coaches at every school, could we make Singapore work? Possibly, but consider the Montgomery County issues in advance. The current compromise plan to appease the parent activists concerned about fuzzy math by having one Singapore book (not even a classroom set?) in every classroom? And 15 minutes of time allowed with no professional development? How can anyone in the district say with a straight face that that is meaningful?