Monday, October 21, 2013

How Not to Roll Out a Change in Curriculum

The manner in which Minooka CCSD 201 rolled out the new Go Math "pilot" program could be easily labeled "how not to roll out a change in curriculum."  First, the pilot program was first mentioned to the school board in May of last year (the end of the last school year).  The rush to implement the Go Math pilot was due to the anticipated arrival of the new PARCC test in 2014 (see here for more information).  This, of course, meant that parents were given no warning that the math curriculum in many of the classrooms would be different from what they were expecting it to be.  It also meant that teachers were given no advance training prior to the start of the new school year.  Okay, maybe they had one or two days of teacher institute days to get up to speed.  As a result, teachers were learning how to teach the new curriculum at the same time that they were expected to be teaching students.  Second, only after it became clear that there were issues with the new curriculum did the district send out a letter to parents notifying them of "Parent Curriculum Information Meetings" to inform them about the new curriculum.  The schedule of meetings, by the way, is as follows:

October 2nd - Aux Sable Elementary School 5:30-7:00PM (already held)

November 13th - Minooka Intermediate School 9:00-10:30AM

December 4th - Walnut Trails Elementary School 9:00-10:30AM

January 15th - Minooka Junior High School 5:30-7:00PM

February 6th - Jones Elementary School 5:30-7:00PM

March 19th - Minooka Elementary School 9:00-10:30AM

You are free to go to any of these curriculum meetings.  You do not have to wait until a meeting is held at your child's school.

Now if you are a parent and decide to go to one of these meetings be prepared to hear the following (or something like it):

1.  "There were similar outcries from parents and teachers when Saxon Math was adopted a decade ago."  This may be true.  I don't know, since I wasn't there.  But that doesn't mean that the current complaints are any less valid.  Each curriculum should be judged on its own merits.

2.   "Go Math is research-based."  This one I love.  You hear the term "research-based" thrown around quite often when you talk to school administrators.  Very rarely, if ever, do they back up that statement by citing any research.  The statement insinuates, of course, that Saxon Math (or the alternative to whatever it is that they are promoting at the time) is not "research-based."  So, what should be the relevant decision criteria when choosing a math curriculum?  Whether it is supposedly "research-based" or whether it has a proven track record of inculcating a thorough understanding of mathematics and teaching children efficient methods of solving mathematical problems?

3. The high ISAT scores that Minooka CCSD 201 students achieved during the years of being taught with Saxon Math were "phantom scores" or "inflated scores."  It is funny that this was never mentioned before.  So, either this is true and the administration has been touting "phony" scores all these years, or this is false and is a less than honest shot at Saxon Math.  Either way, it is problematic.  So, in the future when the administration touts the scores that students achieve on standardized tests (or any test for that matter), we will have to wonder if the scores mean anything or will we be told at some future date that they were "phantom" scores all along.

Now, I am not at all under the misconception that Saxon Math is perfect (no curriculum is).  What I have an issue with is choosing a mathematics curriculum because of a new standardized test (rather than the quality of the math education that it provides) and rolling it out without proper preparation.

1 comment:

  1. i agree. my daughter was slated to be in one of the trial classes....i didn't find out until orientation day at aux sable. I spoke with Sam Martin on the spot and told him i thought Saxon had been "tried and true" and he agreed that the kids had done well with Saxon.... I immediately researched GoMath and read a lot of bad comments from TEACHERS on a teacher forum where they post their opinions. I pulled my daughter from this class and changed her to a Saxon class. Kristan Crouch