Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Implementation of Supplementation!

Let's clarify a few things.

Let's talk about the supplementation issue. I know that if you have read any information on this site, there is a very strong possibility that you have seen or heard that word over and over again when it comes to that issue. It is a very important issue to understand for many reasons. I will do my best to explain.

Understand that when the teachers found out last year this is the way they would be forced to teach this year, most were devastated. My husband, who sat in on that meeting saw many of the teachers walk out in tears...not having any idea exactly why they were so upset. We now know what so many of them already knew. None-the-less, the program was chosen and the books that they were using along with all of their resource guides were taken from each classroom to ensure that they would not be used in order to keep the curriculum pure. All of those books (which were the Scott Foresman text) were sold. The teachers were told in no uncertain terms that there would be NO supplementation allowed in the 3rd and 4th grades (Hawthorn) outside of the curriculum. NONE AT ALL.

So...as so many of us parents started our year looking for the text books so we could help our kids with their math we quickly learned that there were none. So, the question became "what are they doing" as the worksheets were completely ambiguous, and in many cases when parents would try to help their children with the standard algorithms the answers were counted wrong even though the answer itself was right....it was the process that was being graded, not the answer itself. Many, many parents can attest to this.

Thus, causing many questions to arise. We soon found out that the standard algorithm is only identified as one of a multitude of procedures to solve simple addition and subtraction problems in the 3rd and 4th grade, but never taught and PRACTICED as the simplest and most efficient way to solve a problem. Multiple strategies are introduced, but none ever mastered...especially what most of us would see to be the most simple and quickest way to achieve the correct answer. There is NO mastery or PRACTICE. It became obvious that most of our children were very confused with the process and that we could not help them because the standard algorithm is not advocated by this curriculum.
The standard algorithm is not even INTRODUCED in this program until the 5th grade when it comes to division and multiplication. Check out the math handbooks that can be checked out from your teacher and confirm that fact. You will not see the standard algorithm AT ALL when it comes to simple multiplication and division problems. Thus, the outcry for supplements to introduce our children to the basic building blocks of math, with the demand for practice and mastery of the most basic of skills was made.

Any educated assumption would expect that a child must master addition before you can really teach him/her to subtract. Once those are mastered the progression to multiplication and division are reasonable. It is a progression of steps, one at a time. (Just as our National Mathematics Advisory Panel suggests: Less is more. Teach our children the most efficient, tried and true methods of problem solving. Stop confusing them by shoving a multitude of strategies in front of them and expect them to excel.) We realized quickly that our kids needed so much more than was being offered by their curriculum...but, we (the parents and the teachers) were met with opposition to this request from those who are advocates of this way of teaching.

So...in the beginning the teachers were absolutely told NOT to supplement outside of the curriculum. The teachers were told it was critical to keep the curriculum "pure".

Do you remember a recent post titled: To Supplement Or Not To Supplement. That Is Now The Question. Do you remember how I asked for all of the definitions? Remember how I wanted complete clarification? There was a reason for that. Well, a couple of weeks ago, after the parents came together at the first forum, we were told that the program WAS being supplemented. However what they failed to mention was that it was only being supplemented from within the existing program. There was some confusion as a result of the first forum and what was told to the parents. As a result the teachers were called in to a meeting and a memo was posted. To clarify, the teachers were called in to a meeting and told to ONLY supplement with inquiry based supplements...nothing else...( Which might as well be only supplementing from inside of the curriculum, because this is not what most of us would consider a more traditional approach that we are so desperately looking for. )
Therefore, even though some would tell us "yes, you can supplement" that was not a total lie..... just not the whole truth. Yes, they could supplement, but not with what the vast majority of us would consider a true supplement. This is why it has become so important to know which questions to ask and be very specific because you will hear what you want to hear, but it is crucial that you know how to ask your questions. There is a lot of what I call "double-speak" with this curriculum, and it is VERY frustrating.....not just for us, but for the teachers, too. Know how to ask your questions if you expect to get an accurate answer.

So here we are, after a school board member requested clarification as to exactly what a supplement was about a week ago...Dr. Overlander went to the teachers at Hawthorn personally and told them to supplement with anything needed to make sure the children were getting what they need. I appreciate that he himself went and made sure the teachers knew that is what he expected. And for the first time, most will tell you at that point is when they would agree they felt the liberty to truly reach beyond the current curriculum for supplements to meet their students where they were at.(Thank you Dr. Overlander) This is definitely a positive step in the right direction, but begs the answer to a few more questions as a result of such a compromise.

The first question is: Is there any uniformity in what those supplements are going to be?
The second question is: How do you plan to assist the teachers in the implementation process? Being that it is crucial that they have the tools and pointed instruction on exactly how to effectively supplement, shouldn't the administration be vested in making sure that the implementation is a success? The implementation issue is a big one. But, let us all remember that implementation does not only apply to the teachers. If the teachers are not given the adequate tools to administer these supplements effectively, then how can we reasonably expect the supplements to be a success? If not implemented by our administration successfully one must question whether or not they really want the supplements to work at all if they are not willing to oversee this endeavour.

Keep in mind...the supplements are only a quick rescue for our kids to stop the bleeding. We want this program removed as our core. We want our core to be the more basic traditional approach to math that all of the experts advocate! The supplements will only give us some assurance that our kids are learning something at school. SUPPLEMENTS SHOULD NOT JUST BE HOMEWORK TO PACIFY THE PARENTS!!!! THESE SKILLS SHOULD BE PRACTICED AND MASTERED AT SCHOOL!!

You might find it interesting...Parents, ask your child how long they are spending on math daily at school. You might be interested to know that in some classrooms in Hawthorn your kids are spending a minimum of 2 hours a day on math. Ask your kids that question. More than one parent and teacher have shared that they are allowing over an hour per day for math, and then their intervention time (45 minutes) per day is also allotted for math. So my question becomes...when is there time to work on reading? When is there time to fit all of the other subjects in every day if our main focus is just learning math? *** Remember, our math scores in
Camdenton have always been good. Our reading is another story. If we are going to dedicate so much time to one program, why is it to the subject that our kids normally have tested well in here at Camdenton? Why not focus on that subject that statistically plagues us in our elementary schools currently....reading! Ask your kids if they are also doing math during their lunch breaks.... Just ask the question, and see what your child tells you.

You might find interesting this fact that I will share with you....last week I called over 30 schools I was told to be using Investigations as their core. I truly hoped to find a couple of success stories. I truly did. I thought I probably would. However, I was stunned to find, not ONE used this curriculum without being REQUIRED to use supplements. Only 3 schools actually called it their core, but NONE used it without strong supplementation. Only a few supplemented with it, many had dropped it, and some had never even heard of it. I spoke with only curriculum directors and/or principals. I also emailed teachers to get their perspective on Investigations. As one teacher from Raytown told me ...in his words:

"We do use Investigations here in Raytown. I have found that it is really lacking in substantive “work” or practice for the kids. My personal philosophy is that students feel good about math when they are successful with it. Being successful requires enough practice to become proficient in “doing” math. Investigations is really popular with adults (who already “get it”) because it seems like such a neat way to learn math. (Games, activities, really digging in and investigating the mathematical concepts.)
However, when kids at fifth grade—pretty much grade wide—struggle with basic addition, doing complex multiplication and division is near impossible.

I know that that is a fairly negative view, but it is honest. (And,
as a comparison, and in the interest of full disclosure, I did teach with Saxon math for five years, and loved it; I saw students at every level of ability grow
excited and confident in their understanding.)

Sorry, I completely forgot; we also find that there a lot of holes in trying to reconcile what Investigations focuses on and what the GLE’s require. We need to go to our old basal more often then not."

Once again, from the mouth of an expert teaching Investigations right now...he declares how crucial those supplements are for kids because they are not sure the program is meeting the GLEs. School board, please see this as the absolute necessary mandate that our administration needs to implement our supplements correctly and do that sooner than later before any more damage is done! Remember, Eldon just said the same thing about Investigations and the GLEs. Please pay attention to this fact.

On a final note: Please know that our foot soldiers are out there going door to door with their petitions. As of today we are working on 300 signatures since Friday. We have most of our signatures from our paper push, but our online petition is up and running since Sunday. Either way make your voice heard, and help us help our kids. Thank you to all who believe in this ..."OUR CAUSE" for our kids! United we stand.