Monday, June 11, 2007

A Lesson in Collaboration

Pilot Program In New Milford, CT

Some time ago, I was reading about a school in New Milford that had conducted a math pilot program with Saxon and Singapore. They had been using Everyday Mathematics exclusively and there were many concerns from the parents as well as the teachers. It made the local press at the time and while the story is not a new one, I believe that their documentation of the process that took place in 2005-2006 holds many lessons of value in 2007.

In the final analysis, the math committee recommended that the BOE implement a hybrid program of Saxon Math and Everyday Mathematics. The following is a summary, by grade level, of their recommendation to the BOE:


The district would use the following mathematic materials:
§ Kindergarten - Saxon Mathematics
§ Grade One – Saxon Mathematics
§ Grade Two – Saxon Mathematics
§ Grade Three – Saxon Mathematics and Everyday Math (all classes)
§ Grade Four – Saxon Mathematics 1/3 – 2/5 of classes
- Everyday Mathematics 2/3 - 3/5 of classes
§ Grade Five – Saxon Mathematics 1/3 – 2/5 of classes
- Everyday Mathematics 2/3 - 3/5 of classes
§ Grade Six – Saxon Mathematics 1/3 – 2/5 of classes
- Everyday Mathematics 2/3 - 3/5 of classes

According to the math committee, the following were the “good points” they found Singapore Math to have in the pilot groups:


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

2. The program covers fewer topics, but does so in greater depth; kids seem to be doing quite well with it.

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!

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.

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.

In the final analysis, Everyday Mathematics stayed on because it aligns well with the Connecticut Mastery Test and there were concerns about maintaining Adequate Yearly Progress per NCLB.

“There is no doubt when talking to state math officials they like components of programs like EDM, Trailblazers, Investigations that are rich in topics and in problem solving. Those who dislike constructivist programs dislike these same programs for the very reasons many at the state department recommended them. One factor deserving consideration though is that the state controls the assessments –the CMT
and CAPT-- and those assessments and those math programs are aligned pretty well with EDM.” (Math Pilot Summary, p. 1)

The teachers found the Singapore Math program to be less “teacher friendly” with more hours of preparation required for the lessons. There also was a concern about the need for “further training, further curriculum development, and recruiting math competent staff” and of course, how to pay for it.

Whatever your opinion of their findings, some of which I found most telling, the most important lesson in all of this is that it actually took place. This is an example that administration, parents and teachers can work together towards a greater good despite the polarity of the issue of math education.

It was encouraging to see a school district working so closely with parents and teachers. They not only encouraged the formation of a proper forum in which to discuss these issues in an efficient, orderly and fair manner but they also worked on coming up with a solution. The process was clearly documented and the discussion was an open one.


More schools should follow this example because it is truly an example of accountability on the part of administration-- accountability to parents who have a personal stake in the outcome of their children’s education and accountability to the teachers who feel a responsibility to do their best in their capacity as educators.

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.

Whether or not you agree with the district’s decision or the implementation, it’s hard to dispute that as much as the school may fear being cutting edge, the process that led them to this decision was definitely that. This school embraced the debate about math education, evaluated the facts, and conducted their own research by establishing the pilot program. They sought feedback from those with a compelling interest in the outcome—parents and teachers. If only more schools would have this kind of courage.


See the New Milford Public School’s math committee process documented here

3 comments:

Tex said...

Yes, if only more schools operated as Milford apparently does -- with openness and incorporating parents’ opinions.

And, yes, the candid admission that Singapore would require “recruiting math competent staff” is both refreshing and disheartening. Many of us agree that part of the problem with the dismal state of math education lies with elementary teachers lacking math proficiency.

Catherine Johnson said...

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's that much???

wow

Parentalcation said...

http://parentalcation.blogspot.com/2007/06/mindless-math-mutterings-lesson-in.html

"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]