Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Translation services

Having studied edu-lingo and school-think for the last year and a half, I thought I would translate the reasons that New Milford didn't choose Singapore Math after they tested it for a year.

memo reviewing the meeting with teachers and math committee members of April 6, 2006, which summarizes information about the pilot materials

Singapore - We have piloted Singapore Math materials in 6 classrooms in grades 1-3 (2 classes each grade). We have found the following:

1.Parents generally like it, especially once we figured out how much homework was appropriate for the program in the early grades.

Parents recognized good math when they saw it.
2.The program covers fewer topics, but does so in greater depth; kids seem to be doing quite well with it.
There isn't all that wasted "enrichment" that most math programs have.
3.The pace of the program is quicker than anything we do and quicker even than our curriculum calls for. As a result, some sped students actually perform AHEAD of their non-special education peers in successfully handling content almost by definition becoming non-sped students!
It made the rest of the teachers look bad.
4.There is little prose within the books and the books themselves look deceptively simple; the materials are more inviting to the math- phobic than the traditional type programs.
It is missing all those cool stories and pictures we are use to seeing.
5.Adoption of such a program would change the "landscape" that we know as math programming. Students in this program K-8 would have completed Algebra I, most of Algebra II and Geometry. Currently between 20%-25% are tackling Algebra I in grade 8; under 5% in a good year are tackling Geometry by that grade level.
It will make the rest of the education establishment look stupid
1. The teacher's guide has been termed in the words of the Singapore trainers "as pretty much useless". They are correct. The guides have offered little insight or guidance to teachers on how the program should be presented. Training support for this program would be essential and pretty much on going.
We were education majors. All that math stuff hurts our brains.
2. The books fall apart easily. The school in New Jersey that used them basically estimated a 20% replacement rate annually. While the books are $8 dollars per book (not expensive in today's world), 2 books per grade ($16), we would be
running up sizeable costs in replacement texts annually.
We can't afford to pay $16 per student per year for superior performance, we need to save that money for field trips to the local park.
3. Teachers report that it has been "labor intensive" to prepare lessons, often taking longer to prepare the lesson than to teach it. With familiarity, some of the prep time would be reduced. Yet a real concern still exists at the elementary level about the amount of prep time necessary to sustain the program and teach the other subjects too. It isn’t that teachers are not willing to give the effort, it is that they saw this program as often requiring disproportioned amounts of time to prepare lessons, robbing from preparation required for other subjects. Hearing the stories about the demands on time have made many other elementary staff skeptical about this program.
Yes, it requires to much time to prepare a lesson in addition and subtraction, and we really haven't figured out how to collaborate yet.
4. The "change in landscape" image sounds exciting, but presents real practical problems. Can we train 6th grade teachers to teach Algebra I well? Can we recruit grade 7 teachers who are comfortable presenting lots of Geometry and Algebra II? If not, do we have a sense we could train them and, if so, at what costs? If we went down this road, it would become necessary to redesign the scope and sequence of high school math sequences. Does the system have the funds to do that and the staff to deliver the change? We would have almost all students taking Calculus by junior year, if not before then. That means the academic levels expected of all our staff would be raised in math.
We already told you that we were education majors, and math really really scares us.
5. The Singapore curriculum does not match the state frameworks very well, something the critics would applaud who feels the state frameworks are a problem to begin with. However, as mentioned above, the state measures on CMT’s reflect those frameworks. If we adopt this program, we would likely face an interesting, almost contradictory, dynamic of more students going further than ever before in math, yet perhaps having lower math results on the CMT’s. Our program, if powered by Singapore, would not cover all the discrete concepts measured on CMT's. In talking with one of our consultants who faced a similar issue in New Jersey with their test, he said such a dynamic never materialized. We will not know if it will be an issue here because we will not getting results back on CMT's in time to study how the program may have impacted results this year in grade 3. Since CMT’s impact how the district looks on NCLB issues of achievement, we cannot afford to ignore this issue.
We suspect that the Singapore Math students will score high on the CMT, forcing us to choose Singapore Math. Luckily we have to make a decision before the test results come out.
6. When asked for working models that involve districts like us, we found that we would be the cutting edge for all practical purposes, especially in Connecticut. That is a bit scary. We would be out there by our "lonesome" for now.
Big changes frighten us. Did we forget to mention that we were education majors because math scares us?

Mindless Math Mutterings: A Lesson in Collaboration

Mindless Math Mutterings: A Lesson in Collaboration

New Milford has decided to use a hybrid of math programs. See Mindless Math Mutterings for details, but I did want to comment on one thing I read in the final recommendation, posted at the district website.

By the end of second grade, students should have many of their basic skills in addition and subtraction firmly set, and it is at this point that we feel the pace of Saxon can present a problem. Students ready to “rocket forward” are sometimes kept in “lock step”. Parents remarked about that as well.

Therefore, beginning grade three we recommend a hybrid of both EDM and Saxon materials be given teachers. Teachers would, within their classes or working in tandem with another teacher’s class, group and regroup students throughout the year to provide practice where it is needed here and enrichment where it needed there.
Translation: Saxon mathematics was so effective that students were ready to move at a faster pace than we really want them to. To counter this, we will place them into Everyday Mathematics, which will distract them with alternate algorithms, word problems and silly games, and prevent the higher ability kids from getting to far ahead.

You notice it never occurred to them to just move through the Saxon material faster. Die acceleration, die! Enrichment wins again ->[insert evil maniacal laugh here]