Wednesday, March 12, 2008

An Observation

Hello

Since we are in full WASL Mode, I want to share something that happened to me during my first year as a teacher. This was the 2005 – 2006 school year. I had decided that I was not going to make much of a big deal out of the math WASL. I figured that the people who chose the curriculum had used the EALR’s and the GLE’s as a guide when picking the curriculum. I was coming to education from over 20 years in the financial world and just assumed that when you have a template that explains what the expectations are, you would go over and above to make sure you filled as many of expectations as you can. In the business world, when you don’t do this, you have to answer for it to your supervisor and it is likely that you will lose your job if you don’t.

Imagine then when I met the person who is in charge of math for the whole district early in my first year at a RB staff meeting. I asked her about how the math curriculum was chosen and how much analysis was done to see how closely the curriculum tracked to the EALR’s and the GLE’s and this person told me how closely the curriculum tacked to the EALR’s and GLE’s was never considered and she had no idea how closely they tracked. I then asked what was used to determine which curriculum what was chosen and why not use the EALR’s and GLE’s since a student’s graduation (at that time) depended on meeting the math standard on the WASL. My question was ignored and this person just kind of walked away. I have to say this was my most bizarre moment as a teacher. How can the standards that students need to meet in order to be considered proficient in math never be considered when choosing a curriculum?

I still don’t say much about the WASL in my class. I do supplement with WASL type questions when appropriate. I don’t say to my class this is a WASL type question, I just have them do the problem.

I know that the district is in the middle of a math adoption for high school and has just done an adoption for grade school and middle school and the state is in the middle of revising the math standards. It seems to me that this is backward. Wouldn’t the students of the Seattle Public Schools be better served if the districted waited till the new standards were adopted and then determine what would be the best curriculum, using the stands as their guide?

4 comments:

APP Dad said...

Thank you for sharing your perspective! I have worked with my child with the "Show What You Know" series of study guides for the WASL, and I have often wondered two things:

1) why don't the teachers use these for the classroom, since they're focused on the WASL results?
2) how do they come up with the questions for WASL math tests? They don't seem to have anything to do with what the kids are learning in school, and sometimes don't even seem to have much to do with math itself.

I guess we can at least be glad that SPS staff seem unfamiliar with the very concept of "teaching to the test".

Anonymous said...

On the math adoption site it states:

High Schools

During the 2005-2006 academic year, a high school curriculum adoption committee met for approximately 80 hours with the goal of finding a single curriculum for our 10 comprehensive high schools and 8 alternative high schools. Using the state Grade Level Expectations (GLEs) as their guide, the committee made the recommendation to adopt the Interactive Mathematics Program (IMP). An adoption decision was postponed pending work at the state level to revise the GLEs..

My issue is that the GLEs for math, and what the WASL tests, is very heavily weighted to "reform" math and therefore students aren't being taught or tested on the correct material.

That's how they ended up with IMP on the first round! A bad curriculum was found to meet the requirements of bad standards.

Hopefully the SBE and Wheresthemath.com will be able to succeed in getting a new set of standards put in place that will make it obvious that IMP is not a curriculum that allows students to meet those standards.

dan dempsey said...

As an SBE Math Panelist, I've carefully looked over successful nations standards. I've followed development of the National Math Panel report which is due to be released tomorrow 3-13-2008.

If IMP aligns with our new State Math Standards we will have failed miserably to correct the deficits that have left us as the international math laughing stock of the world.

Anonymous said...

My child's kindergarten teacher said (during curriculum night at the beginning of the year) that she needs to deviate from the given curriculum because if she used it she would not be able to bring the kids to the district standards. This is in Kindergarten. Imagine how that snowballs by the time the kids are in High School.

She was a little sheepish when she said it. There are two parents in the class who are also teachers (one in that school, the other in another school in the district). I didn't feel like it was an appropriate moment to ask "why doesn't the district use a different curriculum then. Now I wish I had.