Saturday, February 28, 2009

What is my problem with ...
Differentiated Instruction Seattle style?

In looking at recent research and some of the recommendations made, there is a push for differentiated instruction by some. Finland, a top performing country on PISA math, used very little if any tracking in math prior to grade 10. Finland is PISA ranked near the top with Korea, Hong Kong, & China Tapei. Finland advocates for mixed ability grouping prior to grade 10.

I asked myself so what is my difficulty with the differentiated instruction advocated by the SPS?

Upon further reading it became quite apparent that Finland and the SPS have a huge difference in the implementation of no ability grouping.....

The difference is that in Finland if children fall behind there are intensive interventions that the children receive in addition to regular math instruction. Some of this may be outside the regular school day.

That does not regularly happen with the SPS.

Perhaps it could ... but it does not.

D44.00 the elementary school policy states:
Identification occurs early in the school year and will enable a timely intervention program to be implemented in order to optimize the student's chance of earning promotion. (fairytale #1)

D45.00 the middle school policy states:
Generally, except for unusual and compelling circumstances, a student who has not achieved the necessary skills will not be considered eligible for promotion to the next higher grade. Grade-level curricula and associated student learning objectives of the District represent the expectations for student performance. Classroom instruction is planned to accommodate a reasonable range of student performance. However, some students’ skill deficiencies may be so severe that allowing more than one year for completion of a particular grade is a reasonable alternative to promotion. (fairytale #2)

If students had required necessary skills and had effective interventions then differentiated instruction might be preferred. The SPS has neither required necessary skills nor effective interventions. Instead the SPS has a math circus, where the State Math Grade Level Expectations are ignored and as a result there are no effective interventions because there are a massive number of learning goals each school year, which fall into the following categories: Beginning, beginning/developing, Developing, developing/securing, Securing.

Social promotion is the result.

It is quite apparent that the SPS does not use education research to find effective ways to educate children but rather uses research to justify supporting existing programs, which often are not working.

Note the big push for differentiated instruction but the failure to identify required necessary skills and the lack of interventions for those failing to meet the required skills. This is an extremely important component to producing an effective math education program but for the SPS it is ignored. {Instead we get Edu-Crats speaking Edu-Fluff}

I am all for effective programs like the one in Finland ... but Seattle is very confused and remains unable to improve their system through the intelligent applications of relevant data.

Singapore has a definite division of Students in grade 7 after the 6th grade exams.

Though the programs in Finland and Singapore are very different they are both thoughtfully developed and produce very positive results. The same can not be said for Seattle.


Anonymous said...

15% of Finland are Swedish speaking. In order to address, math instruction, this group had to be included - the genius behind both math curricula in Singapore and Finland are that the curriculum works for minority language learners. This is the purpose behind integrating geometry, math, and algebraic instruction beginning in middle school, if not sooner. And it is the primarily the reason our own minorities have so much trouble.

Anonymous said...

You should also include Quebec. Canada took to heart what was learned from TIMMSS - started listening to their language instructors and made important changes to their curriculum. You don't really need a test to show how poorly Americans are doing. Just look at the percentages of students who can graduate from college in four years. All these 'self-important pompists' have no business pushing teachers and students around. Get a real job.

Anonymous said...

Another difference in the direction of US curriculum are the lack of application using irrational numbers and fractions.

Most, if not all problems in US textbooks, that combine problem solving or application of geometric theorems (e.g. Pythagorean) avoid using 'difficult' numbers.

Anonymous said...

Differentiating curriculum as with other terms used in the US is not used in the same sense in Europe nor the rest of the world.

Not one country runs a curriculum system the way we do. For one, they couldn't afford to do what we're doing and neither can we. Secondly, our 'standardized' system is far below ethical. You would think our administrators were teaching triage when you hear them talk about 'saving schools' to raise AYP.

How many times have I heard at meetings: "Don't invest your time in the far below basic, because it won't raise AYP."

We start tracking students at least beginning in the third grade. Most countries don't do that until (as you say) 10th grade and even tracking is used in a different sense. They don't have tracks for failures or probables as they do in the US, everyone is going to school learning something that can be applied toward some career. Where I come from teachers had a zoo track and if you were a new teacher guess what you got - all the school's 'animal crackers'...

Anonymous said...

First, Washington has the poorest math standards in the US (probably the world). They hired some hack professors who earned a million to create an even lower standard, so now Washington is stuck with two useless documents. Then OSPI recommended, nay imposed on communities some incredibly stupid textbooks to teach their children with. Finally, OSPI contracted Pearson to polish off the rest of the education budget with a %billion+ do-nothing test, named the WASL, that costs about $25 per test to administer and correct for every child each year.

Waste, Waste, and more Waste.

People were skeptical when the programs were approved and fearful when the math programs were finally implemented. Now with experience behind them, the public is downright mad - I would be if I couldn't multiply.

I can't think of a worse punishment than having them spend the rest of their dull lives sleeping with their own damn textbooks. Instead of a stoning, we'll call it a booking.

dan dempsey said...

Above I find:
that costs about $25 per test to administer and correct for every child each year.

Unfortunately way more than that...really about double from what I've heard lets say $50+ for WASL high school testing last year.

And what is the cost of blowing two weeks of school?

Reading ..Writting and then about a month later Math .. Science.

Anonymous said...

$50 per year per test? Where'd you hear that...inflation?

Anonymous said...

This was worth the research:

WASL costs total $164.5 million over 4 years. Here’s the breakdown:

$ 374,861 to Assessment and Evaluation Services for the period 8/1/2008 to 12/31/2010. The scope of work includes coordination of quality control work efforts.
$131,193,205 to Data Recognition Corporation for the period 10/20/2008 – 12/31/2012. The scope of work includes testing operations, scoring and reporting, translations, teacher development.
$ 8,388,699 to Educational Service District 113 for the period 10/20/2008 – 12/31/2012. The scope of work includes the Collection of Evidence (alternative to the WASL).
$ 18,275,563 to Educational Testing Service for the period 7/21/2008 – 12/31/2012. The scope of work includes assisting with work efforts associated with item and test development, and coordination of professional development.
$ 6,592,350 to Measured Progress for the period 10/20/2008 – 12/31/2012. The scope of work includes the Washington Alternate Assessment System Portfolio.

164 million/4 years/1000000 students = $41 per test per student per year.

ascannell said...

I don't think you have a firm grasp of what differentiated instruction means. Differentiated instruction means planning for a variety of different student ability levels and different academic needs. It means taking the same lesson plan and making it appropriate for all learners so that everyone is challenged on an appropriate level. This includes adaptations for students with disabilities, students who are learning English and special challenges for students who need it. Your article seems to connect differentiated instruction with ability grouping and interventions. These are all separate strategies used in classrooms to help students. Students do not need "required necessary skills" in order to benefit from differentiated instruction. Instead, the point of differentiated instruction is to give each student what they need.