Tuesday, February 23, 2010

No Textbook Police

I'm going to re-post some items from Director Martin-Morris' blog that I think are worth noting:

This is from a thread called "Sinapore(sic) Math in the district"

Charlie Mas said...
What are the rules for materials use?

To what extent are teachers required to use the district-adopted materials? Must they use them at all? Must they use them some minimum portion of the time?

To what extent are teachers required to use the district-adopted supplemental materials? Must they use them at all? Must they use them some minimum amount?

To what extent are teachers free to use other materials? May they use them at all? Are they restricted from using them more than some maximum amount of time?

Could a teacher exercise the academic freedom to primarily use his or her own supplemental material instead of any district-adopted materials? A math teacher at Washington had used the same textbooks for over fifteen years. Could he still use those books if he so chose?

Teachers have been free to forego use of the Singapore Math materials. Are they likewise free to forego use of the Every Day Math materials?

So long as the teacher covers the required content (the knowledge and skills that students are supposed to learn), and the teacher is effective (the students learn it), then what do we care what materials the teacher uses?

We have been told that teachers are free to choose instructional strategies and style (pedagogy). Is that true? We know that some textbooks support just one pedagogy. Consequently, it only makes sense to allow teachers who exercise their academic freedom to use another pedagogy to select other materials to support their work.

What are the rules on teachers' use of materials? Are there any rules?

More than that, if there are rules, who enforces them and how?

February 14, 2010 5:21 PM


Harium said...
Dear Charile from 2/14 @ 5:21PM

In response to you questions, this is my understanding. I know that this may not match with what some people are experiencing in thier individual school. This is what I have observed moving around the district.

To what extent are teachers required to use the district-adopted materials? Must they use them at all? Must they use them some minimum portion of the time?
Teachers are responsible for the units to be taught to make sure students meet the state standards. The text to support that work is the adopted text

To what extent are teachers required to use the district-adopted supplemental materials? Must they use them at all? Must they use them some minimum amount?
Teacher are not required to use the supplemental materials. They use whatever additional materials they wish to support the needs of their classroom. There is no minimum amount of time for supplemental materials.

To what extent are teachers free to use other materials? May they use them at all? Are they restricted from using them more than some maximum amount of time?
Yes teacher may use other material to support the needs of their students.

Could a teacher exercise the academic freedom to primarily use his or her own supplemental material instead of any district-adopted materials? A math teacher at Washington had used the same textbooks for over fifteen years. Could he still use those books if he so chose?
As a supplement, my understanding is yes they could do that. Seattle has not had a single test that it used. Previously each school picked their our text, which made it difficult to support centrally.

Teachers have been free to forego use of the Singapore Math materials. Are they likewise free to forego use of the Every Day Math materials?
My understanding is no, that is the primary text to be used.

So long as the teacher covers the required content (the knowledge and skills that students are supposed to learn), and the teacher is effective (the students learn it), then what do we care what materials the teacher uses?
Teacher use a variety of tools to get the content across. The text is just one of many. The primary text is the adopted text.

We have been told that teachers are free to choose instructional strategies and style (pedagogy). Is that true? We know that some textbooks support just one pedagogy. Consequently, it only makes sense to allow teachers who exercise their academic freedom to use another pedagogy to select other materials to support their work.
My understanding and blief is that teacher can choose their instructional strategies. I also believe that you can do that with any text. Our teachers know their craft and the text is not the driver or should not be.

What are the rules on teachers' use of materials? Are there any rules?
I don't know if I would call it a "rule", but teachers are to use the adopted text to support the state standards.

More than that, if there are rules, who enforces them and how?
We don't have textbook police going around to our classrooms. It is the role of the principal as the instructional leader of the building to make sure our teachers are meeting the needs of our students.

February 21, 2010 10:29 AM


Charlie Mas said...
So it seems to me that any teacher in Seattle Public Schools is free to use whatever materials they like to whatever extent they like. They don't need to ask permission. No waivers are required.

So if teachers want to primarily rely on the Singapore math textbooks, they are free to do so. Even if a whole school of teachers choose to rely primarily on the Singapore math textbooks, they are free to do so. They don't need to ask permission and they don't need to request a waiver of any kind.

There is no rule that says they can't - and if even there were such a rule there is no one to enforce it - and even if there were someone to enforce it they could not impose any penalties for breaking it.

February 23, 2010 6:57 AM

49 comments:

adhoc said...

Singapore would have to be used consistently to be effective, which means entire elementary schools would have to agree to use it instead of EDM. It wouldn't help much if the 1st and 4th grade teachers used Singapore but the K,2nd,3rd and 5th grade teachers used EDM. For an entire school to use Singapore it would mean that the principal supports it. An entire school with support of the principal using Singapore might not slip under the district radar as easily as a teacher here or there doing it.

Plus, I don't think our elementary schools have the entire Singapore texts. I think they just have some supplementation materials. I know a few affluent schools would buy the Singapore texts themselves (PTA), but where would the rest of the schools get the money to buy their own text books?

Patrick said...

I don't think Martin-Morris means any teacher can ignore the chosen textbook or even that one school could ignore the chosen textbook without a waiver. He said several times that the textbook is the chosen textbook. It sounds like the teacher can supplement freely, or the school can supplement freely, but they have to teach the units in the chosen textbook.

There's no textbook police, but we assume those 110 District coaches are going to find out on a site visit if a school is ignoring the chosen textbook entirely. Principals depend on the district's good will for their performance evaluations and future good assignments, they're not going to completely ignore the District's textbook without permission. Or let their teachers completely ignore the chosen textbook without permission.

We might be in favor of a teacher or school ignoring inquiry-based math books, but that could cut both ways. What if a fundamentalist teacher decided not to teach evolution in biology class, or not to teach the trail of tears in history class?

Also, am I right that the district pays for the chosen textbook? If a school decided to use another book as their chosen textbook instead, or issue supplementary books to every kid, who would pay for them? The teacher out of pocket? Does a school typically have enough discretionary money that they could pay for an additional textbook for every kid?

Dorothy said...

Adhoc is right, Singapore really requires consistency over the grades to work. Additionally, it requires teachers to learn a significantly different methodology. Singapore adoptions in US schools has not been universally successful, mostly because it is different enough that it requires active teacher learning. I don't know much about Schmitz Park, but from the latest media about them, it appears there's one very enthusiastic teacher who spearheaded Singapore Math. My guess is that is the main reason for its success.

Patrick may have a point about being careful what you wish for. HOWEVER, there's a big difference here. The teachers are responsible for teaching the standards. There are specific skills and areas of knowledge kids must learn. So whatever text the teacher uses, kids must learn how to carry in addition and divide fractions. In biology, whatever material is used, the teacher must cover evolution. It's in the state standards. Not covering evolution would be an action that could require a different sort of disciplining the teacher than not using EDM to teach addition.

Given that Sand Point is going to be small and have a high percent of ELL kids, if I had a kid young enough to be assigned there, I would push really really hard for a waiver for Singapore. Seems like that could be used as a carrot to recruit some teachers interested in learning it, and active parents who could help tutor, especially tutoring new non-entry-grade kids to get them up to speed. Would be great to push that now, before materials are purchased for the new school.

adhoc said...

A teacher can't skip teaching evolution because it is part of the required standards. However you still have to be careful what you wish for. Let's say that the district adopts Singapore, but a few schools love, and want to continue teaching, EDM, or Terk, or ??? Since choice is much more limited now under the new SAP, and parents can no longer pick and choose what school they want to send their kids to, how would families feel about having to send their kid to the school that doesn't use Singapore? It can go both ways, and that's the slippery slope.

reader said...

EDM also requires consistency to be effective. Probably most text book series are best used that way. There is spiraling in EDM, which means you really need to have seen the material for the last few years to get it. People might not agree with spiraling, but the worst possible scenario is that a kid gets 1 year of Singapore (because somebody liked it), and another year of Saxon (because somebody else liked it), and then caught the tail end of a few "spirals" in EDM. I think it's entirely reasonable that a district adopt a math text book or series. Nor should the district give out "waivers". It isn't really fair to people who move or transfer. Plus, the schools eligible for waivers are the ones doing well with any curriculum.

reader said...

Why should Schmitz Park get a waiver? Their 4th graders only passed the math WASL at a rate of 78.6%. For their demographic, not so wonderful. What's so special about Schmitz Park? Either we do text book adoptions, or we dont. If we do, schools like that should just suck it up.

Chris said...

On Saturday, Harium went on this riff about textbooks being "reference materials," as in, materials <> curriculum, as in he's been listening to Charlie.

I don't think I fully grasped what he was trying to convey, but it was basically: the teacher should teach to meet the standards, use the text as a reference, and everything in between is up to the teacher.

He also said something about how he judged textbooks by "how accessible" they made the material for the teacher. I think that's why he preferred other texts to Discovering. I asked if a teacher could teach math in a more traditional way using EDM as a reference, and he said yes. Then I was off in never-never-land trying to figure out how hard that would be. Ratios? See pg 15, 24, 55, 73, ...and look at previous and next grade books too.

I like the way he thinks about it, but the fact is these textbooks we pay the big bucks for are intended more as "curriculum" than "reference" and they are really not very useful as reference. (I'm talking about EDM - assuming the rest are similar.) It also seems like a quality product could theoretically do both.

dan dempsey said...

Dan Dempey will be on the radio tonight at 9:30 PM.

Franks Shiers Northwest Nights on KIRO FM at 97.3


Tuesday Feb, 23, 2010

grousefinder said...

Reader...

Schmitz just started with Singapore. The trends are upward since implementation. Check the 4th grade improvement with Singapore last year. Then, check the 5th grade scores. Then look at the 90+ percent passing rate for the math WASL at 3rd grade. Then ask around and you will find that 2/3rds of all 5th graders qualify for honors math when they graduate. Then look at the number of SpEd. students who passed the math WASL (some made honors math).

You cannot look at a snapshot in time and say that Singapore isn't working.

Trends laddie...trends...that's what counts.

reader said...

Jeez Grousefinder, another sped lover... for some sort of data purposes.

Schmitz Park has one of the lowest special ed participation rates in the districts, 7%,... so don't proclaim some sort of victory there. District average is 14%, and much higher for elementaries. In fact, there are too few sped students to even disaggregate their results.

As to 3rd grade scores. The trend (since you love trends) is always that the youngest grades have the best math scores. That's not due to Singapore.

If you want to do it that way... By that measure... last years 3rd graders did WAY better than this year's forth graders. They declined 96% to 78%. Looks like about a 20% drop with the Singapore. Better burn it before it hurts anybody.

Trends, better pick the ones you like. Evidence isn't really there.

reader said...

PS. 90% of the EDM math graduates at my school qualify for honors too. Better get on the EDM.

grousefinder said...

Reader...

90% of your students qualify for honors? That means you had access to the scores that were not released last year by Vaughn. I would be very curious to know how you got those scores. They were the only way qualify last year. What is your school? Which Middle School did your students go to? If it's Lowell...they are applying for a Singapore Math waiver. They always place 90% in Honors, Spectrum or AP Math.

grousefinder said...

Reader...

With that great performance at your school, you should be in the paper. I really want to let the Times know about your success. If your school is not Spectrum or AP, then it really should be widely publicized. So many people bash EDM, a success like yours really needs to be advertised. Here is what we need.

School Name:

Feeder Middle School(s):

Curriculum Mix or 100% EDM:

udubgrad said...

From where I'm sitting, if a student got Singapore math one year, Saxon math another year mixed in with the EDM, he/she would be far better off than with a straight EDM elementary math education.

I hope Reader will let us know the name of his/her school.

udubgrad said...

Following is an exact quote of Seattle Superintedent M.G.J. at
July 1, 2009 Board Meeting (76 minutes into meeting) I've checked it out.

“I think we have to be very careful about being prescriptive for how teachers teach in the classroom. I even have concern about saying that all teachers will do 15 minutes of Singapore because what if students don't need that?

So our teachers every day teach to students and their abilities and concepts and what they prove they know and don't know as opposed to being prescriptive to the point of not paying attention to student needs.

So that is why we've created the scorecard, real clear outcomes, the growth we would
like to see. The balance looks different for every single classroom, for teachers and
students.

So I think further conversations in the workshop about what that looks like and not
being prescriptive about what teachers actually do is really critical as we move forward, so we really understand what that should look like.”

reader said...

Why should I be in the paper? I didn't do anything. No mix. No Spectrum or APP. EDM is working fine at our school, better than Schmitz Park performance. And, way better than N. Beach. And no, mixing wouldn't help anything. Singapore might be good, or nice... or preferred by some, but truly isn't necessary. More text books only creates needless hassles. I'm a technology professional and I see no problem with EDM... other than the math war religious issue. I don't wish to disclose my school to protect my privacy. Sorry.

reader said...

Get a grip folks. Here's a handful of schools using EDM... all doing great. It's not some big miracle.

Math pass rates for grade 3,4,5:

View Ridge - 97, 90, 91
Lafayette - 95, 88, 94
Loyal Heights - 91,89,89
Wedgewood - 93,83,97
McGilvra - 91, 84, 88
Stanford - 93, 79, 82
Hay - 90, 91, 94

Maureen said...

More interesting, I think, since the real point is that EDM increases the achievement gap.

Math pass rates for grade 3,4,5 FRL rates, %African American, %NonEnglish:

View Ridge - 97, 90, 91 2.8, 3.2, 2.8
Lafayette - 95, 88, 94 12.3, 5.4, 2.3
Loyal Heights - 91,89,89 4.4, 1.3, 0.3
Wedgewood - 93,83,97 10.8, 3.9, 2.5
McGilvra - 91, 84, 88 5.8, 5.8, 0.8
Stanford - 93, 79, 82 16.9, 3.8, 16.9
Hay - 90, 91, 94 8.1, 4.1, 0.9

Schmitz Park is 8.7, 2.5, 0.6

North Beach is 6.5, 1.2, 0.0

Stanford used to teach math in Japanese/Spanish. Is that still the case? Do they use EDM?

This is my source.

Maureen said...

This is an interesting way to look at the scores vs. FRL rate. Note that 2008 is the year that EDM was introduced in most schools. Ideally, we would like to look at this data over a few years and grade levels (this tool only does 4th, 7th & 10th). Note that Greenlake (which previewed EDM) does relatively better in 08--I'm thinking because they dipped down in 07 and had made the adjustment before the other schools dipped in 08.

If I were poor, I would want my kid at Maple. If not poor, at Hay or Wedgewood. We can't tell if Maple would do as good a job on a Hay type kid.

Maureen said...

If you follow the link I posted above, click the "Schools in District" yellow tab and select Seattle Public Schools for the District. Then hover over the dots to see which schools they represent. It starts you out on 4th grade Math in 2008, but you can change that in the blue box.

(Dan Dempsey linked to this a while ago.)

adhoc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
adhoc said...

High performance of students is directly linked to the affluence of the school. I don't think the use of EDM or Singapore makes a bit of difference in affluent schools. Parents who have the resources and time will sit down with their kids and teach them the math themselves, seek private tutoring, or enroll their kids in after school programs like Kumon. Their kids won't fall behind. Plus their kids have every other advantage (stable home, healthy food to eat, enough sleep at night, medical care, etc)

The schools that Reader listed are amongst the most affluent in the district and would do well no matter the materials they used. It's no surprise that they have high WASL scores despite their using EDM.

The problem comes along when low income families can't compensate for EDM's deficiencies. That's where we see the big difference. That's where we see kids fall behind, and the achievement gap widen.

Wouldn't straight up, straight forward, traditional, tried and true math materials work better for everyone?

reader said...

I don't think traditional math would work better. Afterall, that's what we used to have, and it wasn't working. We've always had an achievement gap, and it's always been widening. I believe it is due to many more things than the selection of text book. Most importantly, overall commitment.

Perhaps schools with high rates of minorities and/or FRL should get the waivers IF they can demonstrate the need and desire for a different text. But what do we see? No, it's the affluent schools looking to get waivers.

If it's true that the textbooks don't matter for high SES schools, then why give them a waiver? It's just a little weird that high SES people are always complaining on behalf of others.

Chris said...

Heh, a completely unsubstantiated rumor: someone caught a district-mouthpiece in Math & Stuff last weekend checking out the Singapore materials for their own children. Have you been there, reader?

Bruce Taylor said...

Reader, parents at affluent schools are seeking waivers because we're sick of paying for Kumon to make up for EDM's deficiency.

Bruce Taylor said...

And "Reader": Here I am, a person with the courage to use his real name, and my concern about the achievement gap is real and personal.

I tutored ELL fifth graders in math last year, and EDM was difficult for them. The more I talked -- about slices of pie, pieces of cake, numerators, denominators, whatever -- the more confused they became. I don't blame that difficulty solely on EDM, but I am certain inquiry-based instruction will be a disaster for them at the middle- and high school level.

I worry about that, because I invested a year in those kids, and they deserve the best material we can give them. And because I know that unlike my child, those kids aren't going to Kumon.

You wave your hand and say "We have an ever-expanding achievement gap." When will you be concerned? When minority achievement is near zero? At zero? Below zero?

reader said...

So, let's see how minorities perform at our high performing schools.

To get this information, compare the "white" category with the "all" category? It's not perfect, but let's look at that differential at the listed high performing schools.

White Math Scores for grade 3,4,5:
(followed by minority differential divided by non-white% to get true performance delta or achievement gap)

ViewRidge 95, 91, 93: 0% = 0%
Lafayette 96, 98, 95: -4% = -17%
Loyal Hgst 96,98, 95: -7% = -47%
Wedgewood 94,77,100: +1% = +3%
McGilvra 94,77,100: -3% = -12%
Stanford 100,96,94: -12% = -26%
Hay 94,90,94: 1% = -4%

-------------------

John Hay, View Ridge, and Wedgewood have essentially NO achievement gap.

Consider Schmitz Park. It's whites score and absolute delta of 2 points higher than the "all" category. Since SP has only 20% minority, that means the average achievement gap is -10%.

adhoc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
adhoc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
adhoc said...

Reader said "I don't think traditional math would work better. Afterall, that's what we used to have, and it wasn't working."

When was the last time SPS used traditional math? It had to be over 10 years ago because my son is a high school freshman and he has never had any traditional math. He had Terk (talk about a disaster)in Elementary, CMP in middle school, and now Discovering in high school.

When was the last time SPS used tradtional math? And what texts or materials did they use?

reader said...

Congratulations on your courage Bruce. But no, I certainly do not work for the district. And, I do not do Kumon or anything like that. I don't know anyone who does. I'm not opposed to "Singapore", it just isn't going to be panacea. Afterall, our state standards are all inquiry and "language" based.

adhoc said...

Reeader thanks for you white VS minority achievement gap analysis.

Personally, I do not think the achievement gap has much to do with race. I think it has all to do with socio economic status. Perhaps the same analysis using FRL VS non FRL students would have a different outcome? My guess is that is where the achievement gap widens.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I believe inquiry based math hurts low income families the most. They are the families that generally do not have the time or financial resources to compensate for EDM's deficiencies.

Most non white families at View Ridge and the rest of the schools you listed are middle class, upper middle class, or affluent. Those famfilies, regardless of their race, will provide adequate resources to their children and compensate for EDM's shortcomings. The schools you listed are amongst the most affluent in the district. They will always fare well despite lowsy materials.

adhoc said...

Reader said "John Hay, View Ridge, and Wedgewood have essentially NO achievement gap. "

They also have some of the lowest percents of FRL students in the entire district. See the connection...

Patrick said...

In View Ridge and Wedgewood there are also many parent volunteers who can spend one-on-one time with kids who are struggling. (I can't speak about John Hay.)

Karrie said...

Not sure how we would get this data - I'd like to know what % of kids at the schools listed go to Kumon or get other math tutoring support beyond what they experience in the classroom.

My child attends a school with fairly high scores - not on this list though - and about 1/2 the kids in her 2nd grade class go to Kumon or have other math tutoring. We supplement at home with math fact practice and other resources.

And during an EDM presentation to our PTA - it was made clear BY THE TEACHER who gave the presenation that EDM can't succeed if the basic math facts aren't covered outside the classroom. HE stated several times that EDM does not provide time or exercises to get the basic facts right, and without that time/effort outside the classroom, the child won't do as well with EDM.

Bird said...

And during an EDM presentation to our PTA - it was made clear BY THE TEACHER who gave the presenation that EDM can't succeed if the basic math facts aren't covered outside the classroom. HE stated several times that EDM does not provide time or exercises to get the basic facts right, and without that time/effort outside the classroom, the child won't do as well with EDM.

I'm going to step out on this one and say that this is a completely apalling thing to say. It's one thing for teachers to strongly encourage you to support your child's mastering of the math facts, it's another to say that, if you don't, the school won't ensure that they master that material and they won't do well with EDM.

It's the school's responsibility that the students master the material that is required for the success. Any teacher in the district that takes another position should get their head straightened out by the district.

Do I consider my child's education my primary responsibility? Most definitely. And I won't let the school's failure be my kid's failure.

But not every student has parents that can guarantee their basic education. Some kids aren't born into families with that kind of support. Others end up there as a result of uncontrollable circumstances.

I had another parent tell me that my kid would be ok because I'm a good parent who will back my kid. That's true, but I know from experience that you can't guarantee that you will be there 100% for all 13 years of your kid's schooling. Anyone can see challanges over such a long period of time from depression to job loss to disability to death.

I would hope-- no, EXPECT --that if for some unforseen reason, I couldn't be there making sure my kid learned all their math facts, my kid's school would step up and make sure it gets done.

Math facts? I mean, come on, this is the very minimum we should expect from schools. No wonder there's an achievement gap. That's disgusting.

Karrie said...

Bird

Agreed - my jaw hit the floor. I thought I must have heard that wrong. But it was stated clearly several times. Scary indeed.

Now a lot of teachers at the school supplement EDM with minute math and other tools but it isn't consistent.

Patrick said...

Bird, it's an appalling situation, but telling the truth to the parents in that situation is praiseworthy on the teacher's part. I'd much rather hear it from the teacher than find out after it's too late to do anything about it.

Rose M said...

Mastery is not a goal of EDM. Kids move on to new subjects before mastery of old ones. Even with spiraling allowing subjects to be repeated, there is never a time that kids must master anything.

Also math calculation mastery is certainly not something that EDM proponents think is important. The idea is that a child could use a calculator for that, so does not need to master calculation.

I think the teacher is saying the he personally thinks calculation mastery is important to learn even if it is no longer a part of the SPS curriculum. I don't think he is saying that it is an SPS goal & he will not work to meet it. I have heard this from many teachers, they are being discouraged from wasting time in teaching calculation skills.

I would prefer to hear that than to hear teachers say don't worry, they don't need to learn to multiply.

reader said...

Bird, you absolutely should require your teacher and school to provide math fact fluency. It is a completely failure on their part if they do not do this. Don't let them say "EDM doesn't provide for it, so I won't either."

Look at the Singapore documentation. They say exactly the same thing. The curriculum doesn't provide drill on math facts or "calculation". That has to be done in addition to the curriculum. In our EDM classes, the teachers do 5 minute and 1 minute drills for calculation fluency. If kids aren't fluent, they get 5 minute and 1 minute drills sent home. It's really NO BIG DEAL.

Adhoc, it's very difficult to disaggregate test scores on anything besides race. But, race and FRL are highly correlated. There is no NCLB category "non-FRL", but white is a good proxy. Not perfect. But, for high performing schools it does give you a good way to figure out the actual achievement gap... and presumably, instructional efficacy. BTW. It does seem that Schmitz Park with it's current 10% achievement gap.... is an improvement over the year before's whopping 55% achievement gap.

Maureen said...

If kids aren't fluent, they get 5 minute and 1 minute drills sent home. It's really NO BIG DEAL.


So the kids whose parents are not engaged are missing out on fifteen hours of instruction every year. And they were behind to start with. One more small contribution to the achievement gap.

Volunteers can try to help those kids, but it gets very difficult past 3rd grade or so as the years of delay compound.

reader, if your family is at one of the (low FRL) schools you listed, you may just not know how difficult it is to help a kid who can't count on academic support at home.

reader said...

I'm saying the teachers, if they have any crediblity and any quality, will need to work on math fluency... regardless of the text book the district selects. That much is true for both EDM and Singapore. And, most often it is completely reasonable for that in-class coverage to provide adequate math fluency. But sadly, like all things, the classroom may require some homework. Would anyone say differently? If a kid can't do 1 - 5 minutes of homework... well directed, and instructed from school... there isn't much anyone can do for him/her. Yes, Maureen I do get it... some people have families that are unable to help. Fluency just isn't one of those issues. It's practice. And Singapore Math isn't going to fix the kid or the family either.

Maureen said...

Singapore (or any materials that are less dependent on language fluency) at least gives motivated kids a chance of keeping up. I have trouble helping my own kids interpret their EDM/CMP homework, I can't even imagine what it must be like for families who struggle with standard English.

I agree that math facts fluency will require supplementation with almost any curriculum (though from what I have seen of Singapore it would be easier to put the facts in the context of the day to day lesson). Also any math facts practice shouldn't require English language interpretation. The question is how well those supplemental worksheets really helps kids who struggle with EDM, don't see where the facts fit into the lessons and already believe they are bad at math when they are eight years old.

seattle citizen said...

Bird, you write that
"It's the school's responsibility that the students master the material that is required for the success"
Well....no.
I think I understand what you mean, that teachers/schools should provide what they think is necessary to teach.
But it is also the responsibility of the student to learn, and the parent/guardian to provide the environment for learning, and for the community to support all such efforts.

There is no way for a school to guarantee that a given student will master the material, and to say it is the school's sole responsibility that they do master the material is to fall into the old "blame the teacher" trap: Johnny failed: teacher didn't do her/his job...

But I think you meant it is the school's responsibility to provide materials, including supplemental, and instruction to TRY and assist students in mastering concepts...

Bird said...

I'm sure there is much we agree on, seattle citizen, but it does sound like we differ on what a school's responsibility is in a child's education.

I agree that the teacher, the child, the parent all have a job to do in education, much as you have outlined - to teach, to learn and to support learning. The chances for success go up the better each contributes.

But I don't think each party's responsibility to the child's education is limited by that job.

As a parent, if my child's school fails to provide the necessary instruction and if my kid fails to see the reason for learning the material, I'm not going to let it lie and say "I did my part. My responsibility is done." I'm picking it up where the school and the student fall down, and I'm doing whatever it takes to get my kid to success.

As a student, I certainly was in some classes where the teacher was in over their head or uninterested in providing instruction. I had parents who often weren't paying attention, but I didn't just say, "I did my part. I learned what was given to me." I sought out materials and instruction on my own and did what was necessary. I did my best to make up the deficits in the educational environment around me.

I expect the same from teachers. I don't expect them to simply provide basic instruction and materials. When kids are not working hard and parents don't care, I don't expect the teacher to simply say, "I did my part. I told them what was needed. I gave them all the nescessary materials and instruction." Public schools have the same sort of responsibility that students and parents have -- to make sure their students get an education even when the other parties aren't doing their jobs. Their responsiblity doesn't end with providing basic instruction and materials.

Does this mean that each party can solely guarantee success in the end in every case? Probably not. Do they still have the responisiblity to fight when the rest of the supports in a student's life are missing? Of course.

If they aren't willing to pick up that responsibility then, yeah, I think there's some blame available for everyone, including the teacher.

I realize that your reference to the "blame the teacher trap" is a loaded term and is about much more than what
I'm arguing for here. And I suspect much of that other stuff we agree on -- for instance, how public policy and private interests often scapegoat teachers when there are many inputs to student success and we'd all see greater success in schools if we worked more on those other supports - proper funding, good materials and curriculum, sufficient social support for students and families, etc.

I'm sure we could quibble all day about how much each party is responsible and for what.

I would hope, however, that we can all agree that if a teacher stands up and tells people that there are some basic skills (in this case math facts) that they know are absolutely required for student success, but that those skills must be obtained outside of school and the school won't support kids that can't get them outside of school, then something has gone horribly wrong with the system.

reader said...

Also any math facts practice shouldn't require English language interpretation. The question is how well those supplemental worksheets really helps kids who struggle with EDM

The math fact materials we use have nothing to do with EDM, and they have 0 language requirements. They are simply that... facts. Kids like 'em because 1) don't take long, 2) are simple, 3)pretty easy to relate. When you graduate (from the facts)... you're done. And nearly all of it is done at school, not at home. Occassionally a very small bit gets sent home... and it is easy. Everybody knows you've got to learn that stuff.

reader said...

Bird, your teacher is the problem. Really.

Rose M said...

Bird,

It happens all the time.

Some teachers strongly believe that kids should spend more time mastering handwriting, instead of typing, but in their school the typing time is set aside & required by the principal for all kids in that grade level.

Some teachers think that kids really need to have recess in order to learn, but recess is cut in their school.

Some teachers think kids should not use graphing calculators because they will not be allowed to use them in university placement tests, but the textbook problems are based on using specific calculators.

seattle citizen said...

Bird, I think we agree in principal. Everyone (teacher, student, parent/guardian, community should (and often does) go above and beyond to TRY to make sure a student gets everything they need.
I do NOT think a teacher should just say, well I gave you the basics, didn't push, didn't adapt to you, didn't go the extra mile...you didn't learn but I've done my job...Teachers of course should do everything in their power (and I emphasize, in their power) to get a kid to learn.
But your statement was cut and dried: "It's the school's responsibility that the students master the material that is required for the success"
And if a student doesn't master it, then it's the school's fault? Have they abrogated their responsibility?