Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Principals and Curriculum and Programs and Their Schools

Two items have come up that only solidify my belief that the district has a very odd relationship with principals.  I say odd because there is no real way of knowing what the district will tighten the screws on and what they will completely look the other way on.

One key issue is WHY principals make some of the decisions that they do and where they get the stated support for some decisions.   Principals say "their community" wants something and yet sometimes the PTA doesn't even know what is happening. 

I have found that principals are people with their own philosophies and beliefs about education.  The problem is that a school can have a district program in them as well as a stated focus for the school.  I find it vexing that a new principal can come in and almost sweep all that away.  

You can have parents, on the ground at their schools, telling Ex. Directors and others, "this is happening at my school" and the district will ignore it or shrug.

It leaves parents baffled about what they read on-line about a school, enroll in it and then find it has changed, seemingly with very little public discussion.

Again, parents - if you don't want to be treated this way, you have two choices.  One, vote in School Board members who will not back down from issues and questions.  Two, refuse to test your child beyond the minimum.  (You could also refuse to fund your PTA which - at some level will also hurt the district - but then you hurt your school.)

The three case studies here are from Stevens Elementary, Pathfinder K-3 and Washington Middle School.

The first story is from Stevens Elementary where, apparently, they have no BLT bylaws.  The School Board has a policy for each school to have a BLT (building leadership team that is made up of leadership, staff and parents).  Bylaws have things like meeting dates, number of meetings, make-up of BLT, voting. etc.  Their principal admits they don't have any and says they "need to work on them in August." 

How does a principal not know this?  And, it sure is handle to keep control over a group of people if you are large in and in charge.  This is how you lose any traction as a parent at your school if your principal keeps you at arm's length.

The second story is from Pathfinder K-8.

Another issue is fidelity to district-selected curriculum.  For example, Math in Focus.  Why all the work and cost to pick it only to find schools not using it?  There are now two more schools that are applying to be Creative Approach schools and one reason is to not use the district-selected curriculum. 

According to one parent at Pathfinder, they haven't been using Math in Focus for grades K-3.  They were told this at parent night in November that the school "had looked at it but do not use it." And yet when the parent asked about it, the principal and the Ex Director both said, yes, they are using it as their "primary curriculum."

The parent was told that Math in Focus is not Common Core aligned which is nonsense because the district would not have had it in the running if not. 

Pathfinder had done its own survey - just about a year ago - on parent preferences for math including alignment to CC, cultural relevance, on-line for immediate performance feedback, among others.  At the time, the principal said the superintendent was thinking of allowing schools to use alternatives but then the district dropped that idea.  The results of the Pathfinder survey were never given to parents.

The parent alleges that the MIF books were in the PTA closet for months.  He says his son has never seen the MIF book. 

I note that Pathfinder is applying to be a Creative Approach school and their application cites two reasons:

1) to not have to take any displaced staff
2) Waiver of Basic Instructional Materials (including math) 

  • Designate the instructional model that aligns with the school’s program design
  • Designate the instructional materials that will be used at the school in the curricular areas of ELA, Reading, Social Studies and Math  

In math, Pathfinder K-8 began focusing on changing the achievement of their students 6 years ago. They have worked with Ruth Balf from the University of Washington Math Department for 6 years focusing on teaching to the standards and then the CCSS. The staff agreed to fund a .7 FTE math specialist the past 2 years and will continue with a partial FTE next year. As they began to supplement Every Day Math more and more and used it less and less, they began using resources that taught specifically to the standard. They are using Math In Focus where it is aligned with CCSS but have found that it needs to be supplemented substantially in order to meet the new standards. In K-2 they are supplementing with TERC Investigations and in 3-5 they are supplementing with Engage NY. Therefore, in order to continue their work in raising the student achievement in math, they are request a waiver in math. 

(FYI, Green Lake is also applying to be a Creative Approach School.)

I'm confused as to why - if Pathfinder had been working for UW for 6 years in this manner - they need to ask to continue with what they are doing.  And Math in Focus "has to be supplemented substantially?"  Is this what other schools are finding?  And how much does it cost extra to use TERC and Engage NY?

I don't have a problem with waivers but where does this leave parents who tour schools, who look online and see "Math in Focus" and then get to the school, only to find out things have changed?
Lastly, we have the Spectrum Program at Washington Middle School.   I attended the meeting on the coming changes at Washington that was on Monday.  
I'll start by saying that it is unclear to me whether this is some sort of pilot program for middle school Spectrum or just what Washington is doing.  Yet again, the district leaves us hanging.  
Susan Follmer, principal, led the discussion with supplementation by a couple of teachers, primarily Amanda Roenicke.  There were about 30 parents present with a good amount of diversity.   The PTA president was there and quite supportive of this plan.
The bottom line is that it appears they are changing the Spectrum model at Washington by creating 6th grade classrooms that will have about 6 Spectrum students and "assorted Scholar" students.  (I'm assuming Gen Ed is called Scholars.) And, the class size for these classrooms? Limited to 26 students.  There may be looping for some 6th/7th grade classes.
 (Also, I note that they were VERY careful to say this is just for LA/SS as that is what Spectrum is in middle school.  Math/Science is by testing in "we want them to be at the appropriate level."  The principal also said she was "not sure it's great for 6th graders to be taking Algebra."

That is kind of interesting that they want math and science to be taught by ability grouping but not LA/SS.

What is the key word to all of this?  All together now - rigor.

Also, it will be "tech-rich" as they will be using "blended learning." (Side note; this is what Green Dot charter does to reduce its costs.)  It will be the "best of online instruction" with the "best of brick/mortar."  Apparently, there will also be some kind of choice for students but I'm not sure what that will look like.

"Teaching to top, providing scaffolding and supports for students who need that" is how this will get done.  There will apparently be an "honors option" but it wasn't very fleshed out except that they will be using rubrics.

Apparently, four teachers will work throughout the summer to coordinate this effort including Ms. Roenicke.  She said the new Spectrum will "level the playing field for equity."
It will be a "flexible" environment with students "taking a more active role in learning."  Students will be "working on different things at different times." It's "personalized learning" with a shift from "content to skills."

The will be getting new computer carts with 16 new Novo Thinkpads.  (Wondering about how to pay for this class size and tech?  Apparently, the PTA paid for the laptops/carts while creative moving about of students - making electives and PE bigger and other classes smaller - is how they get to smaller class sizes.  Do I think that last one is plausible?  I don't.)

Parents asked about this new isolation of HCC students and the principal said "that's another nut to crack." 

When asked about this new Spectrum, one parent said it sounded like an ALO. The principal didn't know what that was. It was also stated that Spectrum wouldn't be one level ahead but just "going deeper" and "expectations will be higher."

How will behavior issues be handled?  The principal said she would not sacrifice learning for behavior issues and there would be help via "aggressive replacement therapy" and social skills.

I asked about Special Education and there was murmuring and Ms. Roenicke assured the room that Washington had a Special Education teacher.
One parent asked about parents/students who do not have computer access.  The principal said there was low-cost way to have Internet access (without explaining how to get a computer) and that the school is open until 4:30 pm for students to use the library.

Per the entire school, all staff, including the principal, will have a cohort of 15 students, using the RULER initiative for behavior. 

One last remark by the principal was that Washington would go from about 1150 students to 650 when Meany reopens. 


Anonymous said...

There are other SPS schools using engageNY. It's a free, supposedly Common Core aligned set of units developed by NY state. They are of questionable quality.

It's "personalized learning" with a shift from "content to skills."

BIG red flag. More underestimation of the value of learning content. It's one of the reasons the social studies adoption almost feels pointless. If content is not considered important, or schools simply do whatever they want, what's the point of it all?

-same old

mirmac1 said...

what was interesting at C&I was the Pathfinder principal's view that they should be exempt from hiring provisions in the CBA because "we want teachers who are committed to the importance we place on social-emotional learning etc" Peters aptly noted that was true of every school. McLaren was concerned about the hiring waiver too. She also took umbrage with the "not aligned with CCSS" assertions made by both principals.

Yeah. Seemed bogus.

dw said...

One parent asked about parents/students who do not have computer access. The principal said there was low-cost way to have Internet access (without explaining how to get a computer) and that the school is open until 4:30 pm for students to use the library.

Really? REALLY?! I love how "equity" only applies when it meets certain people's agendas. The parent who asked this question should have followed up further.

Related: Every Single Online "EduTech" service comes complete with a host of data mining features built in. How will this get dealt with? Will the building be allowed to use whatever tools they feel like using? Are students going to be forced to use these 3rd party tools as a matter of course in a neighborhood, comprehensive middle school??

Very serious about this last question. There are huge ramifications when schools start using online tools, because almost all of them are data mining the children, either directly or indirectly, and the staff in the building really doesn't have even 1% of the necessary understanding to vet this. Even downtown staff has only a relatively lightweight understanding (though improving), and they are being sidestepped by schools around the city all the time.

What happens to a child whose parents refuse to sign off on having their children data mined every day at school? Or at home! This is completely unlike an opt-in STEM or alternative program, this is an assigned neighborhood school.

Here's an article worth reading to get up to speed: Politico: Data Mining Your Children

Short snippet from the article:

The NSA has nothing on the ed tech startup known as Knewton.

The data analytics firm has peered into the brains of more than 4 million students across the country. By monitoring every mouse click, every keystroke, every split-second hesitation as children work through digital textbooks, Knewton is able to find out not just what individual kids know, but how they think.
The amount of data being collected is staggering. Ed tech companies of all sizes, from basement startups to global conglomerates, have jumped into the game. The most adept are scooping up as many as 10 million unique data points on each child, each day. That’s orders of magnitude more data than Netflix or Facebook or even Google collect on their users.

Students are tracked as they play online games, watch videos, read books, take quizzes and run laps in physical education. The monitoring continues as they work on assignments from home, with companies logging children’s locations, homework schedules, Web browsing habits and, of course, their academic progress.

Anonymous said...

A correction is needed in the letter in regard to Ruth Balf.

"In math, Pathfinder K-8 began focusing on changing the achievement of their students 6 years ago. They have worked with Ruth Balf from the University of Washington Math Department for 6 years focusing on teaching to the standards and then the CCSS."

Ruth Balf is not a member of the Math Department at UW. She is at the UW College of Education.

Ruth Balf
Instructor, UW College of Education

M.Ed., Mathematics Curriculum and Instruction, University of Washington

Ruth Balf is a teacher educator with the Mathematics Education Project. She is a former elementary school teacher with nearly two decades of experience as an educator. Balf has extensive experience leading a wide variety of professional development programs for practicing teachers. Through her work with teachers, she builds leadership capacity within schools and systems and helps foster professional communities that focus on understanding students' mathematical thinking and experiences.

Does she have any degree in Mathematics?
What is her undergraduate degree?
Does Pedagogy trump content knowledge?

It is disturbing the the College of Education is seen as the same as the Math Department at Pathfinder.

-- Dan Dempsey

Melissa Westbrook said...

DW, as you may well remember, I want to work on student data privacy. Indeed, I feel quite bogged down by other issues but feel the need for the blog to provide as much info as possible.

I am still going to push hard on student data privacy and data mining. The district has a very blase take on it (meaning, all is well). It isn't.

Anonymous said...

I think some claims of "not aligned with CCSS" refer to the standards of practice vs the content standards. It was a point of contention during the materials review process. The "standards of practice" consist of the fuzzier side of CCSS, while the content standards are the actual nuts and bolts of what needs to learned.

-same old

Anonymous said...

"The parent was told that Math in Focus is not Common Core aligned which is nonsense because the district would not have had it in the running if not."

The situation is more complex than this statement implies. The district would not have had it in the running if it did not have "Common Core Aligned" stamped on it. All of the materials that were considered made that claim. The math adoption committee examined the books in detail and found varying degrees of "Common Core alignment". While MIF contained most of the Common Core material, it tended to be spread across different grades when compared with the Common Core Standards. A teacher who wanted to attempt to teach grade 4 exactly according to CCSS would need the MIF books for grades 3, 4, and 5 in order to find all of the appropriate lessons. Also, there were lots of errors in the teacher guides that were supposed to indicate the list of lessons that match specific standards. Many of the lessons listed for a standard in fact contained something entirely different.

After "all the work and cost to pick" curriculum materials, the adoption committee did not recommend MIF, although a minority of members did think MIF was the best choice. The school board apparently found their opinion persuasive.

And yes, teachers at several schools across the district are struggling with MIF, and supplementing extensively. My information is anecdotal and I don't know whether, on balance, there are more teachers that like MIF or don't, but clearly there are quite a few in each camp.

Engage NY is available free of charge. Teachers I have talked to who use TERC are using materials from a previous school district adoption, so presumably their only cost is for photocopies.

I have no position on what Pathfinder should do. I do think the district could benefit from a change of atmosphere that would allow people to discuss their actual beliefs and opinions without feeling pressured to say they are using the adopted curriculum if they are not.


Anonymous said...

Dan Dempsey -

Ruth Balf was quoted, extensively, in a 2006 Seattle P-I article on reform math. She was a major proponent of teaching via reform/discovery math methods.

Rick Burke presented the traditional math view in the same article. Google it.


Anonymous said...

Pathfinder is being up front about their staff decision to abandon Math in Focus. The rest of us are all using other materials and calling it "supplementing" as that is allowed. Math in Focus has become unpopular at many schools. The bottom line is getting results. Are the students able to show mastery of grade level standards?

My Math, TERC, and even some EDM materials are being used in my building along with MiF.

Northend Teacher

Melissa Westbrook said...

Good to know, NE Teacher. I wish this was more widely known. And, that parents are given this information so they won't be confused.

dw said...

DW, as you may well remember, I want to work on student data privacy.

I am still going to push hard on student data privacy and data mining. The district has a very blase take on it (meaning, all is well). It isn't.

I know you do, and that you will. No complaints here, just keeping the issue fresh when it seems applicable.

There are actually some staffers downtown that are paying some attention to these issues. The problem is twofold:

1) There are so many things on everyone's plates, that it becomes a matter of priorities. Unfortunately, this is a problem that keeps growing day by day and year by year, and it's becoming harder and harder to manage as time goes by.

2) Lack of understanding -- on multiple levels.
- Teachers are signing up for services all across our district without even informing staff downtown. They feel like they want to use these shiny new tools, but have no clue whatsoever about the ramifications, nor that they are likely breaking district policy (and sometimes laws) if they haven't received explicit permission from downtown.
- Building leadership may or may not even be in the loop, but they almost certainly don't have the technical/legal ability to determine which, if any, of these programs are "safe and sane" for kids.
- Even downtown staff, which in some cases is able to give permission for certain buildings to use certain services, doesn't seem have a deep understanding of how data mining works. It is a very technical arena, and it's very difficult to balance the desires of teachers, parents, students with the legal and technical aspects.
- Lastly, many parents don't understand any of the above, and can't understand why it's such a big deal. When they say to teachers and principals "Why can't our kids just use all these great tools?", it doesn't help.

What is the common solution to all of the above problems? Education. Most people have a hard time comprehending (and really don't want to know) the level of power and detail that's happening now in the data mining world, but slowly, but surely, we need to keep working on daylighting what's happening as much as possible. This will be a long road.

Anonymous said...

At the time of the MIF adoption I took no position as I could not find enough data to base an opinion upon.

When Everyday Math was adopted the district demanded fidelity of implementation and there were several years of lousy results. In the two years before the MIF adoption the district had loosened up on "Top Down Math Dictatorship" and the results were quite good. (Middle School test scores were better as well likely due to less Top Down dictating) ---- It seemed that teachers and schools had a much better handle on improving student learning in math than the central office autocrats.

This brings into question the idea that a district wide adoption is better than individual school and teacher responsibility for learning.

If teacher bonuses were to be awarded, then these bonuses should be based on school improvement, it is a cooperative effort. To have a large enough sample size for VAM a school or district sample size is needed. Principals and Superintendents could have VAM in their evaluations.

If the principal at Pathfinder believes that MIF won't work and chooses to use something else, let the principal be held responsible for the program's success or failure. --- Assuming that test scores mean something.... do the students have any reason to perform well?

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

Ruth Balf is not a member of the Math Department at UW. She is at the UW College of Education.

World of difference. Thanks for pointing that out, Dan.

I have to disagree, however, that principals should get to decide curriculum based on "beliefs." Is it fair to experiment on kids, and then say, oh well, I guess we were wrong (oh wait, that's what we've been doing with EDM, CMP, and Discovering...)? On one hand, you have Mercer, and putting aside CMP materials really did bring about improvement. But they had seen the poor results of CMP (and the weaknesses created by EDM). In some cases the substitution is better, but in some cases it's not. Who should really get to decide?

-same old

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

My understanding is that we still have rights to use the blackline masters from TERC and EDM. Once purchased, blackline masters (worksheets that can be reproduced) can continue to be reused year after year. And yes, the My Math materials were purchased.

Northend Teacher

Anonymous said...

To those of you making remarks about Ms. Balf--I wonder what you are saying with your comment about a degree in math versus a degree in education? Sounded a little elitist to me, particularly on a blog devoted to being a positive force in our schools where people who are trained in pedagogy (we hope) are teaching our kids. Our educators deserve better treatment, especially here.


mirmac1 said...


I understand your sentiment. I'll just say that, unfortunately, I've seen hundreds of thousands spent on UW COE pilots that parents feel were of little utility. I've also seen central office "transformations" with COE assistance yield little of value.

When the former Dean of COE expended so much effort to advance his personal TFA agenda, it seemed to sap the life blood of COE staff.

I would love to see UW involvement lead to effective and lasting results for our kids.

Anonymous said...

I think what is implied is that education folks are trained in Piaget and multiple learning styles and other defunct theories of information aquisition and childhood development but do not necessarily have inside knowledge about the foundational math and science that needs to be taught and mastered for our children to be successful in science and technology jobs.

West Parent

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
mirmac1 said...

I am pleased that the C&I Board Committee made sure that future curriculum material committees understand that they RECOMMEND materials, but that the ultimate decision is up to the Board. Staff must lay out the choices in an objective, measurable manner (of course!)

I'm sorry to say that the turmoil, fueled by Heath and Tolley, led to a huge falling out with my teacher neighbor. As the "consumer" via my child I will always be grateful that EDM was thrown out for a more content-based curriculum, CCSS be damned. No more lattice multiplication for us. I rue all the crap my child must unlearn.

Charlie Mas said...

There are a number of anonymous unsigned comments in this thread which will be deleted.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I fully understand your issue Melissa. I've read this blog faithfully for many years and occasionally chimed in. It seems like the teachers at Pathfinder and other schools are responding to the needs of their students. That often means deviating from district mandated curriculum calendars and top-down "teach with fidelity" mindsets that are misguided and ultimately counterproductive to learning. The school board voted for MIF. Does that mean that it is the only tool teachers can use? If they decide to supplement with other materials, are they misleading parents? Curriculum is just one piece of the very complex puzzle of teaching. If we want excellence in our schools, we have to respect the knowledge and professional judgement of the teachers who understand better than anyone how students learn and what resources they need.

Also, I'm fairly familiar with the Creative Approach MOU and application. Schools do not apply for Creative Approach status in order to acquire waivers. That is, waivers are not the rationale. The waivers are requested to support the Creative Approach.

Finally, it doesn't matter what department Ruth Balf works in. Her work is outstanding. Ask anyone who has had the privilege to learn from her.

This post just makes me sad.

-dismayed teacher

Charlie Mas said...

There are a number of issues in this post, dismayed teacher. Let me see if I can help you find answers to your questions.

If the teachers at Pathfinder - an option school - want to supplement the Board approved instructional materials, they are free to do so, just as the teachers at every school are free to do. If, in fact, they want to supplement so much that the Board-approved materials are hardly used at all, or even not used at all, they are free to do so, just as the teachers at every school are free to do (subject to possible consequences from their principals). However, it is not okay for schools to tell families that they are using the Board-approved materials when they are not.

"According to one parent at Pathfinder, they haven't been using Math in Focus for grades K-3. They were told this at parent night in November that the school 'had looked at it but do not use it.' And yet when the parent asked about it, the principal and the Ex Director both said, yes, they are using it as their 'primary curriculum.'"

Do you understand that issue? Supplementing is not misleading parents - lying about it is.

I absolutely respect the knowledge and professional judgement of the teachers. I would like the folks at Pathfinder who claim that MIF is their primary instructional material when it is not to respect the truth. Where do you stand on the truth, dismayed teacher?

Creative Approach is a tool to permit schools to get waivers from Board policies and elements of the collective bargaining agreement. There is already a little used and completely unnecessary policy/procedure for requesting waivers from instructional materials, so there is no need to pursue Creative Approach status for that.

Finally, the quality of Ruth Balf's work was never questioned, but her position was misstated on Pathfinder's application for Creative Approach status. This error was noted and the facts were stated. Why does this correction trouble you? Why weren't you troubled that the application misstated it?

Anonymous said...

From the C&I Committee: a move to change Board Policy 2015, Selection and Adoption of Instructional Materials.

Will this impact the 6-8 Social Studies materials adoption? It explicitly adds Open Educational Resource material for evaluation and specifies that a pro/con analysis should be included with recommendations to the Board. The new language also explicitly states 2 recommendations are to be submitted to the IMC and to the Board (as opposed to 1 or 3 or more?).


Melissa Westbrook said...

Dismayed Teacher, apparently you didn't read the whole post.

The post was about how principals and their school staffs can seemingly change programs/curriculum at any time w/o input, demand or notice to parents. Especially parents who are new and are reading what the DISTRICT says is being offered. I know principals and teachers believe they know best (and probably do) but there is the issue of truth in advertising.

If you read the link to Pathfinder's CA applications, those waivers seem to be the primary reason for their application. Let me know if I misread.

I only reported what Pathfinder said. Other commenters had their own take on Ms. Balf and her work there. I said nothing about her or her work, just that I thought if Pathfinder had been doing this for six years, they should be able to continue.

Readers seem to confuse others' comments for mine and/or believe I agree with them. I'd ask you to not do that.

Anonymous said...

MW reported that: Parents asked about this new isolation of HCC students and the principal said "that's another nut to crack."

First how does a change to LA/SS for Spectrum mean more "isolation" for HCC that isn't even involved in those classes currently? In addition, as the HC roles enlarge with the addition of single domain learners (high achieving 95% reading OR math and high IQ 95%) starting next year there will be more kids than the current projections propose especially with this type of changes.

Finally Follmer, thinks a lot of her self to consider a program that has evolved over the past 30 years something that she should crack. Especially since with the change to HCC assignment I just mentioned, HCC will become a large percentage of the building when Meany opens.

WMS Parent

Lynn said...

WMS Parent,

I too wonder why this would have any effect on kids in HCC. She can't possibly think she's got the ability to do away with this program too.
I think there's a typo in your post though. Kids will be eligible for single subject HCC qualification in middle school - but it will still require 98th percentile IQ scores.

Anonymous said...

Look at JAMS and HIMS...principals have indeed had a hand in what HCC looks like at each school. There's a cohort of students, but an appropriate educational program is becoming next to nonexistent.


Anonymous said...

Melissa, you did not post what Pathfinder teachers said, it sounds like you posted what a parent said, that a teacher said. BIG difference!!!!!!

I strongly feel that parents should be a listened to, they should have a voice in their child’s education but the reality is, most parents also don’t have any idea what a classroom is like. If I asked the parents of the students in my classroom what they think I should teacher the class, I would get 27 different answers. They advocate for what their child needs, first and foremost. Teachers have to advocate for all children. Just because the district adopts a curriculum (that the board choose, again going against the adoption committees recommendation for the second time) this doesn’t mean that teachers suddenly get to stop thinking about what their students need. For example my students need a math curriculum that is not text heavy and have young children reading and following along in a text book too big for their little hands to even hold comfortably. My students need to actually be doing math, lots and lots of math. I am going to have to modify ANY curriculum that is adopted. I never lie to my families about what I am going to teach , I am as clear as I can be but I also don’t notify them every time I make a change to a lesson plan or unit. As a professional (and here is the part that ties directly to this thread) I have to daily make decisions about how best to teach my students, every single one of them. I cannot call the Board for advice on this, nor can I call community members or parents, I have to make academic, social and behavioral decisions for my students. It is my job, have some respect for the professionals!

-teacher (who like all teachers apparently, shouldn't have a voice in how and what should be taught in their classroom as community members and board members who are not trained educators know much better what a classroom full of 30 kids need)
-snarky teacher

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

You misread, Melissa. The waivers are part of the CA application but are not the driving force behind it. Did you actually read what the application is for?

-To Teach

Anonymous said...

I believe your writing to be considered PROPAGANDA. You should stop before you are sued. Conjecture and hearsay are not reliable sources. "Quoting" someone who may have misinterpreted something or just taking someone's OPINION and publicizing it as FACT is blatantly irresponsible. Do NOT post something EVER and state this as fact or that you are "quoting" someone. 3rd of 4th party gossip is not truth. You can think anything you want, you do not have the right to say it or spout it as truth. Truth is finite, opinion is infinite and just as the saying goes, everyone has one.

Also, get a life. Quit trying to hurt someone because you disagree or want to mold them to your thoughts or beliefs. Irresponsible reporting. Good thing this is a BLOG and not an actual news source. Again, you would be sued.

reposted-for wacko

Anonymous said...

Yes you are correct Lynn, 98% IQ

As for HIMS and JAMS those were new APP programs not dismantling an existing program.

But what new isolation or how is HCC at WMS isolated at all? They aren't even segregated as Follmer likes to say. They are placed in an environment that is designed to save the district money and not burn out teachers and buildings with a smattering of HC kids in every building. But the majority of their classes are not based on HCC identification.

HCC will be the majority of WMS in two years and it will only succeed if supported, not cracked.

WMS Parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Snarky, I did say a parent said it. Twice.

I have no problem with teachers/schools using/supplementing curriculum. I didn't say that.

What I am saying - what the overarching theme is - that parents have a RIGHT to know this is happening and why and the district and school have a duty to tell incoming parents about it. What's so hard about that?

As for being sued, been there, done that. Won.

Again, people are not clearly reading what I write. I know the boundaries of what I can and cannot say and try to be quite clear on what I know factually versus opinion and I am clear in when someone makes a statement. I can quote people whether their statements are true or not.

My intent is not to hurt anyone but to bring the clearest picture of what is happening in our district. Vampires are not the only ones who don't like sunlight.

Anonymous said...

snarky teacher, I think this one is hard because we parents, and especially we parents with a math background, are aware that elementary school teachers generally are not very strong in math. We also can tell that they are not coming out of elementary school prepared enough for higher level math, and that this has gotten worse with discovery math. This is why people might get uppity about what credential exactly a lion of math pedagogy has- because we see too few people with actual math backgrounds influencing pedagogy in the district. I wouldn't mind a teacher who was strong in math picking and choosing curricula for math(we have had a couple who could do this, and it was great), just like I don't currently mind the way most of my students' teachers monkey with the language arts curriculum. They, almost to a person, studied and favored language arts all the way through high school and college, and were typically strong in it all the way through. Not so for math, and so they typically have less ability to create curriculum, especially one that works for students who are strong or weak in math. But they often do, and most of the time it is for the worse.


Anonymous said...

Sorry, didn't finish editing- the "they" who is coming out of elementary school unprepared is our kids.


Anonymous said...

APP/HCC at HIMS and JAMS are splits - first, WMS was split to form HIMS APP, with some teachers and students coming from WMS; then, JAMS APP/HCC was created by splitting the HIMS cohort. There was a weakening or "cracking" of the program with each split, it just hasn't caught up with WMS yet.


Anonymous said...

realist, where did those kids come from thin air? The first split happened to WMS. It has been split and did not crack. Some kids will also be going to Madison next years alternate pathway. Not this coming year but the year after their will be more kids in HCC then in any other program at WMS...

WMS Parent

Anonymous said...

Melissa, I was referring to your comment

"I only reported what Pathfinder said. Other commenters had their own take on Ms. Balf and her work there. I said nothing about her or her work, just that I thought if Pathfinder had been doing this for six years, they should be able to continue."

This made it sound like you were quoting teachers not parents and I wanted it to be clear!

Anonymous said...

@realist & WMS Parent: The splits have seriously weakened, diluted and compromised the APP/HCC program at WMS. It's nowhere near where it was for my older kid, and the Common Core alignment is compromising the LA/SS class even more. So, if HIMS and Jane Adams haven't caught up yet, then they how far must they both be in comparison with where old WMS program was only a few short years ago? Besides certain classroom teachers, I don't see a lot of support for HCC from principals and administrators. Unfortunately I think the rapid growth in the program caused largely by Spectrum's demise has give people a false sense of confidence that their kids are being properly served, when they really aren't. Folmer's comment regarding not being certain that Algebra is appropriate for 6th graders shows her cards. When would arbitrarily holding a kid back in math be a good thing? So much for the future of Avanced Learning in SPS, I'm afraid. WSDWG

Anonymous said...

WSDWG you are right on the lessening of the program but I don't think that spectrum had much to do with MS as it is still being offered at the other MSs and sounds like others are reporting that it is even stronger. (I would agree that it certainly had a factor on L@L though.)

But again I don't think WMS has cracked. Perhaps it could when the principal has no understanding of the program (or AOL) and yet is opposed to it as segregation and seems to think changing Spectrum will make it more isolated; and yet was hired to teach the most abilities diverse schools in the nation.

Raise your hand if you were on that hiring committee. Did HC even get discussed?

WMS Parent

WMS Parent

transparency said...

It’s appalling to hear your school principle lie to parents faces when asked by parents if Pathfinder Creative Approach School Application will includes a math waiver to not use MIF? The respond from our trusted principle is “No, math has nothing to do with the emotional learning is what we are after”. So it looks like yet again we are lie to and this is suppose to build trust? Get involve parents and know your rights as parents in your kids school.

n said...

I haven't read the previous posts because two of these issues are right up my alley and I have been a little frustrated over them recently myself.

We have a BLT but it is controlled by the principal and the parents on it do everything and are rubber stamps for the principal. I believe teachers make better choices for their schools working with parents but without parents have the deciding vote. Our principal grooms certain teachers, gets them on the BLT, and makes sure that the BLT directs the course. Supposed to be advisory but not. Many young teachers who don't get what's going on so veteran teachers - those the principal is actively trying to get rid of - have little influence. It's a fact.

Second, I've finally figured out MIF. For a long time, I was conflicted to say the least. The first grade curriculum stinks. It is wordy and confusing. If a teacher sticks with it and tries - really tries - to understand the goal of the program, I think it is great. Going out on a limb but I believe it is all about number sense, visualizing and internalizing place value. If I'm wrong (Lihn Co?), tell me. But my assistant and I both think our first graders really understand math and number relationships in a way we never before seen.

I think many teachers (elementary mainly) simply aren't math people. Neither was I and this took a huge amount of reflecting and conversation. But I am now a believer. No more mile wide and inch deep; now this program really is a mile deep and an inch wide. I think elementary teachers want to teach the easy stuff: money, time, shapes, patterning. But my kids and I look at numbers quite differently now. I'm convinced and I think they will go on with a much, much richer understanding of number relationships. Esp. if the second grade teacher is on board as well. Not sure that's going to happen.

Teachers don't know the math either. My assistant is a math person and she and I talked every single afternoon about what the lesson was meant to achieve. Elementary teachers haven't quite caught up to the rigor of math teaching themselves. It is a new day and if we want our kids to get it, we better make sure we get it first.

I'm worried because at my school the math committee is already talking bringing in new curricula and I'm against it. The primary math person on the committee knows NOTHING about math and readily admits it. Unbelievable.

That's my 2 bits.

n said...

Also, neither does the principal who also admits it.

n said...

What's more, MIF is not aligned perfectly. At first grade, it goes beyond. I ignored it and taught to my best ability the common core staying with MIF. If this is real math and we want kids to really understand the math as a foundation for high level math, I'm determined not to rush to be really teach it well. And you know what? Most of my kids love it and they are way beyond what I believed or they believed they could do.

I had an experience with Balf a long, long time ago when she was still teaching and her knowledge of kids and learning disorders was shallow to non-existent yet she was very opinionated and frozen in her views. I was surprised to find she had moved into education at the university level. But then, remembering some of my profs when I went through, maybe I'm not so surprised. More networking to get in that expertise I think. Although I could be wrong. Dan, good observation.

Back to MIF: my kids took MAP test this week. Map test still tests the mile-wide math knowledge over limited content of computation, place and number sense. I wonder how that will alter results from previous years' scores. Is MAP going away?

Also, if some schools are using other curricula including Envisions (is that it?), what happens to kids who transfer? My sense is that MIF is very different in its emphasis and goals for learning. So where are we? Back to what's comfortable for teachers? Or do we stick with the program that we adopted because it supposedly set a foundation for higher math later on?

People better make up their minds.

I'm still with you, Dan. Dept. of Ed is very different from Dept. of Math. It's all about the content for me. And I'm not a math person but I'm sure learning!

Just got to you, sleeper. I totally agree!

Lynn said...

Let's talk about Green Lake Elementary's Creative Approach application. Green Lake apparently has had quite a few split grade classes. (The NSAP was not kind to this school.) Several years ago, in response to parental complaints about split grade class assignments, the principal put all (post-K) students in split grade classes. This is their creative approach. A school with an assignment area should not be allowed to do this. There should be a standard program at any elementary school that is a default assignment. It should include (whenever possible) assigning children to classrooms by grade.


Anonymous said...

Lynn, so all classes are split regardless of numbers? That is wrong. APP folks are used to split classes. We have been the younger and the older but it only happens due to enrollment. They all worked out fine and we wouldn't bat an eye if we had another split in ES. But to split for split sake unless it was to aid differentiation I would question that and if it is just for grins I would strongly condone that.

WMS Parent

Anonymous said...


Yes. That is why many parents who care and math folks support a Singapore math based approach. It's because of the focus on numeracy early, the core of math, and arethmatic is then more deeply and completely understood. This basic math is what has been missing for our students since reform math started, and has hurt our students, as well as our professionals. It is a shame principals and staff are giving up so quickly.

Those who can afford to supplement at home or with tutors do because the foundations of math have not been taught for a long time.

West Parent

Anonymous said...


I have found the opposite to be true of balf. Working with her more recently I have found her to be incredibly knowledgeable about child development and learning. She is pushing teachers be better mathematicians themselves and holds high standards for teachers responsibility to reach every student regardless of their ability. The math education in our building has increased dramatically since working with her and her colleges from the UW. I guess with time everyone can learn and grow even teachers.


Anonymous said...

I have found the singapore approach to be a great thing to use at home, my own child is using it. However as a teacher it is not working as well whole group because of how the lessons are written and the idea that kids all learn exactly the same way. If I were to teach the lessons as is, I would be lucky to keep 5% of my kids engaged. I dropped EDM long ago and have been pulling from multiple sources including the older singapore materials. If i were to just teach MIF my kids would have a lot of procedures down but little to no flexible thinking and problem solving skills. no single curriculum is ever going to work. Teachers are going to have to keep on working hard i guess.

-singapore at home

Melissa Westbrook said...

Again, all I'm asking for is truth in advertising, both from the district side and the school side. I think especially if a school is a neighborhood school and yet is a Creative Option school (or part of the City's Innovative school program) that it is CLEARLY stated to potential/incoming parents.

Lynn said...

I don't think truth in advertising makes this OK for neighborhood schools because most families have no other available choices. Other public schools in the Green Lake area are full. There should be a standard program available to every student with option schools providing alternative programs.

Lynn said...

I am hearing that elementary teachers hate MIF because the lessons are scripted and require whole group direct instruction. There is no time available for small groups working on different skills. I suspect this is largely about what teachers are comfortable with - and I wish they had some information on the post-elementary math success of students who learn Singapore math in elementary school.

I hope that when the McLeary money finally shows up we hire math specialists for our elementary schools. Having someone available to guide teachers and to work with kids who need remedial or more challenging work would be helpful. Alternatively, team-teaching in elementary school so that one teacher covers math and science and the other reading and social studies would provide some benefits.

Anonymous said...

The post and general comments aptly describe what's been happening at Salmon Bay. The new principal is all about test scores, whole child/cooperative approach be damned.


n said...

@RH - I'll defer to you because it has been a long time. Hopefully, she's moved toward being less opinionated and rigid in her "rightness." She was smart but smart isn't always wise.

@Singapore at home: I got through 27 first graders this year and I worked like hell to figure out the program myself. I put them on the carpet and tried to make it as interesting as I could and over time as they got it, we started to love it together. I have to say number bonds were key. A few of my kids started going nuts over number bonds and I began to learn about number relationships, whole/part vs. comparing, additive vs. whole/part (which I think is misnamed) and realizing that adding symbols too soon limits children's natural understanding of numbers and puts certain procedures in boxes. As we continued working without rushing to the next chapter, my kids began to understand. And when that light went on, suddenly they were hungry for more. Did I have a couple who drifted away? Yes. They were first graders after all. Extra work with them helped. I think the key is not to rush. Really, I didn't get into regrouping with hundreds at all. I stayed with two-digit regrouping. We did do some bar modeling because I wanted them to have a taste of second grade and they got it almost immediately because they understood the concept of whole/part so well. BTW much of this is covered in EDM but the importance of it - the emphasis on numeracy(see W Parent) has clarified what's important and redefined how I teach.

It was a huge amount of work for me to simply understand what I was supposed to teach them. The first-grade materials are crummy. But I get it now. And I believe in it. And I passionately hope that my school doesn't give in to the comfort level of teachers at the expense of a really good math program.

n said...

I have to add one more thing to "singapore at home" and that is that I do a lot of word problems. That's where the thinking comes in. I ask my kids to look at data, show number bonds, equations (eventually) and now even bar models. The number bonds help them understand if they are comparing (many more), joining (making a whole) or taking apart. We've been able to do almost everything with number bonds and the kids understand number relationships better.

When I explain how I teach, I'm putting myself out there! I'm so not a math person that if anyone thinks I should be corrected, please feel free to do it! But it's been working for me so far. And my kids even got the concept of "additive" which is our newest learning. All I can say is that there are ways to make it interesting but first teacher has to really understand what is being taught - the essence of the learning. And the student book and workbook pages ain't doin' it. It really helped me having someone to thrash it out with every day.

With that, I'll stop. (This is really important to me!) And I don't like engageNY

Anonymous said...

Whole group instruction is efficient, that's why it's been around longer than the Greeks. Really, how many lessons can one teacher be expected to teach in an hour?
West Parent

Linh-Co said...


Thanks for sticking with MIF and making it work with your students. This curriculum does take a lot of effort. You are right about the importance of number bonds and the composing and decomposing of numbers being key to numeracy. I also have to agree with you that I don't much care for the workbook pages. I think they were sloppily put together and need some serious editing.