Friday, September 18, 2015

Why not do what is known to work?

First of all let us check the math data in the Seattle Schools.  In the last three years grades 3 through 8 math scores have improved at a greater rate than previously.  It could be due to somewhat greater autonomy for schools and teachers prior to the Math in Focus adoption.  Let it be known in the year of the MiF adoption the difference between SPS SBAC Math scores and the State scores was at its largest positive difference ever in grades 4 and 5 on state math testing.

As folks squabble over the Standards for Mathematical Practice and the Content Standards in Common Core.... why not cut to the chase and do what works?  Do the best scores ever indicate a huge correction is needed for MiF? I think not.

The confusion:  The documents about the Standards for Mathematical Practice have the cart before the horse.  The practices rest on important “processes and proficiencies” with longstanding importance in mathematics education. However these practices grow from student math content proficiency not the other way around.  The SPS math leadership apparently has this backwards.

John Mighton, the originator of JUMP math, states that the teaching that develops a student's skills, and content knowledge will produce those "standards for mathematical practice" and only through mathematical proficiency and problem solving will conceptual understanding occur.  Yet far too many places are attempting to "teach" the "standards for mathematical practice" directly.

I find the hub bub about Common Core alignment repulsive.  It smacks of test preparation for the sake of higher test scores and little else.

Consider what Tom Loveless had to say about CCSS-M alignment in k-4 elementary school math and how that adversely effects students in middle school math.

Implementing Common Core: The problem of instructional time

Placing the CCSS-M standard for knowing the standard algorithms of addition and subtraction in fourth grade delays this progression by two years.  Placing the standard for the division algorithm in sixth grade continues the two-year delay.   For many fourth graders, time spent working on addition and subtraction will be wasted time.  .... 

It is true that standards, any standards, cannot control implementation, especially the twists and turns in how they are interpreted by educators and brought to life in classroom instruction.  But in this case, the standards themselves are responsible for the myriad approaches, many unproductive, that we are sure to see as schools teach various algorithms under the Common Core.

The net result is that a lot of time is wasted in grades k-4 so that too much material needs to be covered in grades 5-8. 

Looking at what works 

Gildo Rey Elementary School in the Auburn School District:  82% Low Income,  42% Bilingual, and regularly places in the top 5% of elementary schools in the state in math at Grade 5.  The change to SBAC math testing produced the following positive differences above the state passing averages for students passing the math SBAC at Gildo Rey:  

Grade 3: +9.30% ;; Grade 4: +12.60%  ;; Grade 5: +15.40% 

SPS averages using MiF were the best ever in 2015:

Grade 3: +7.20% ;; Grade 4: +9.40%  ;; Grade 5: +7.90% 

But when comparing SPS low income students with the all student state average pass rates, it is a different story:

SPS Low Income pass rate differentials =>

Grade 3: -13.70% ;; Grade 4: -12.90%  ;; Grade 5: -15.10%   

Gildo Rey Low Income pass rate differentials =>

                              ;; Grade 4: +9.20%  ;; Grade 5: +14.20%

If the SPS was concerned about closing or eliminating the achievement gap, the SPS would be following Gildo Rey's example instead of revising Scope and Sequence. 

High poverty, high test scores: Auburn school is a shouting success

A huge blending of effective efficient instruction is happening.  Whole group instruction with lots of questions, explicit example based instruction with guided practice, and a whole lot more.  

Oddly the SPS seems oblivious to the amount of time and energy it takes to provide effective efficient instruction.  Teachers need time to plan to deliver excellent lessons, instead they are encumbered with central administrative mandates that do little to produce what is needed.



Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Treaties Violated by lack of Highly Qualified Teachers in American Indian Schools

Fact: Indian Schools cannot fill 10% of teaching positions with highly qualified teachers.
  It seems that the US Government is violating  treaties.

Recalling Arizona and wars and war settlements let us recall the "Long Walk of the Navajo" in 1864.   Navajos were forced to walk up to thirteen miles a day at gunpoint from their reservation in what is now Arizona to eastern New Mexico. Some 53 different forced marches occurred between August 1864 and the end of 1866.  Today  the Navajo are on the largest Rez in the USA.  Part of that Navajo treaty settlement included a commitment from USA Gov to provide schools and schooling to the Navajo nation.   Perhaps Gov policy is welching on that deal.

Each year Tribal schools and Bureau of Indian Education schools have 10% of total teaching positions go unfilled by certified highly qualified teachers throughout the USA.

B.I.E. regulations allow new teachers to bring only six years experience when placed on salary schedule. Teachers would also find that the level of placement by College Credits may be less at BIE schools than at other schools.

So why is this apparent violation of a treaty allowed?

Follow the money… to remedy the teacher vacancy problem would likely require spending. How many current teachers in AZ and other states would decide to teach on the Rez and take a huge salary cut?  Clearly not enough.

If you wish to move to AZ consider Kayenta near scenic Monument Valley, a town of about 5,000 with several teaching vacancies as usual right now. If you don’t like AZ how about teaching in Pine Ridge, SD site of the historic Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890 and American Indian Movement protests in 1973. Seems to me protests are needed today over this Indian Education issue with unfilled teaching vacancies. Apparently just part of the “Trail of Broken Treaties.”

In his 1931 poem “American Names”, Stephen Vincent Benet coined the phrase “Bury my heart at Wounded Knee”, seems USA Education commitments have been buried as well somewhere in Indian Country.

So where is Indian Eduction today?
.. Lots of study and words but little action and few positive results.

Study after study tells us:   to improve a school system’s outcomes for students, three factors matter most: (1) hiring effective teachers and principals; (2) developing teachers and principals continuously; and (3) providing targeted support to ensure every child can benefit from high quality instruction.  

Arne Duncan tells us:  “The President and I believe the future of Indian Country rests on ensuring that your children receive a high-quality education. Improving academic outcomes for Native American children has never been more important. Unfortunately, too many Native American children are not receiving an education that prepares them for college and career success, too few of them are going to college, and far too many of them drop out of high school. We need to do better.

In 2011  the Tuba City district was able to hire more than 40 international teachers, many from the Philippines, who held special visas.  The influx allowed the schools to reduce class sizes, and  finally be able to replace all long-term substitutes with certified teachers who are trained in the subjects they teach.

So what will the President and Secretary of Education tell us about the situation in Tuba City, AZ where the Superintendent Harold Begay filled positions with Highly Qualified Teachers from the Philippines ... only to have the US Gov regulations require them to leave when their visas ran out.

Tuba City schools had shown great improvement.

Check the comments for the 11 vacancies in Kayenta and the data on schools making adequate yearly progress as well as the percent of Indian schools under restructuring after years of low performance.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Professional Development (enormous waste)

Recently I read that the total cost of PD as an average of 3 districts and one large charter agency was $18,000 per student per year.  Yet any positive results from this expenditure were minimal at best.

So why is PD such a waste?
Why are results minimal at best?

Because the current gurus of ed reform, who make the PD decisions, are "not into the details of teaching".

In most places the leadership is top down and uses blanket policy enforcement.  There is no  regard for those that are doing the work (teachers) and no regard for those that are supposed to be learning (students).''

With the profusion of early release and late start days intruding on the daily schedule, one must wonder if there is any regard for parents.

Teachers are over-burdened with time consuming top-down mandates that have nothing to do with the "details of teaching effectively".  It is as if the gurus think great instruction can take place without time or effort. This is a major reason that PD is an enormous waste.  PD is time consuming and adds nothing but non-productive burdens to teachers lives in most cases.

"The Mirage," :Confronting the Hard Truth about Our Quest for Teacher Development
Click "The Mirage" above for a 68 page .pdf download of that report.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

SBAC Math scores for Seattle's Math in Focus adoption = Good News

#1 .. Originally I was not a big supporter of Seattle's Math in Focus adoption because MSP testing indicated that what Seattle had been doing the last few years was producing good MSP scores at grades 3, 4, 5.   The average of the last four years MSP Math pass rates were above the State averages at each grade level.  The difference in pass rates was widening and particularly so the last two years of MSP testing.

#2 ..  When a new adoption takes place there is often a transition period of a few years as teachers get familiar with materials and students become better prepared for the material they are required to know.  When books are switched student mastery of grade level Pre-requisites for the best learning may not be present.

#3 ..  The average of the SPS Math MSP difference for the four years from 2010-2011 thru 2013-2014:   Difference is Seattle's Pass Rate average minus State's pass rate average.

Grade 3 +7.18%                 Grade 4   +7.28%             Grade 5    +5.73%

#4  ..  The differences from SBAC Math testing for 2014-2015 (the first year of Math in Focus)

Grade 3 +7.20%                 Grade 4   +9.40%             Grade 5    +7.90%

#5  ..   Those differences above state test levels were the highest ever at Grades 4 and 5.   So it seems the best course of action would be to have teachers proceed forward using whatever plan was in place in 2014-2015 school year.

#6 .. Qualified teachers who know math and a good math textbook are the two most important educational tools.  .... Now if only those teachers were given enough preparation time.

#7 ..  It appears that the SPS math leaders may be planning to change the scope and sequence of Math in Focus teaching to a different presentation order than what the MIF book recommends complete with non-MiF supplements.  I would certainly question any decision in that direction at this time.

Update:  -- it seems that
Teachers will be required to follow the SPS district developed ELA and Math Scope and Sequence unless a teacher gets an approved waiver.   ---   seems the same thing is happening in Highline SD.

The rationale for these moves is apparently Common Core State Standards alignment.  It would be wonderful if the rationale was to maximize student learning by following a proven effective program of instruction.  Instead we will likely see tinkering with scope and sequence as well as adding and deleting materials used for instruction.  Yet why would these changes be effective?  Is there any relevant data or is it just philosophical belief that drives SPS decision-making?

 Math in Focus is not the original Singapore Primary Math Series,  used by many home-schoolers and high performing charter schools.  Singapore Primary Math Series was also used in the past by Craig Parsley at Boren STEM school in West Seattle and for a long time at Schmitz Park school in West Seattle.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

My comment on CCSS math survival at Hechinger

Hechinger Report on CCSS in December 2014
Who was behind the Common Core math standards, and will they survive?

My response:

The CCSS were unproven, hurried, untried, untested and pushed by "Arne Duncan's abuse of funding via Race to the Top dollars.

This Hechinger article appears to be a "somewhat dishonest" propaganda piece.

"the Common Core only contains broad guidelines about what students should know, not directions about how textbooks should be written or how teachers should teach."

Check the Geometry Standards – these look like something tried in the Soviet Union long ago and without success. Clearly a strong logical proof centered Geometry text like Jurgensen’s would not meet the CCSS-M focus.

The Standards for Mathematical Practice and CCSS tests from SBAC and PARCC certainly seem to contradict the statement "not directions about how textbooks should be written or how teachers should teach."

The CCSS result has been a big boost to "No Vendor Left Behind" and "Race to the Bank" as Pearson, hardware vendors, and textbook sellers cash in.

A careful analysis of "Early CCSS Adopting" Kentucky's results reveals the failing nature of this misguided expensive overreaching centralized power grab.

John Hattie in "Visible Learning for Teachers" shows how to maximize student learning by the decentralization of decision making. He uses "relevant data" and intelligently applies it...... Unlike CCSS manufacturers.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

TOP Teacher Quits over testing

February 12, 2015

'LIVE! 2014 Top Teacher' Stacie Starr resigns from Elyria City Schools because of state tests

There is a lot more quitting happening than is reported. 

While Ms. Starr a special education teacher at a high school resigned in protest over PARCC testing of high school students, there are a variety of other practices currently imposed by administrations that are causing resignations.

Ms. Starr's major disagreement centers on the fact:  "These tests are supposed to be college career preparation and not everyone is going to college.

Currently teachers are being worn out by demands that have little if anything to do with improving instruction.

#1..  Attendance is required at PLCs (Professional Learning Communities).  What might have started out as communities have morphed in to top down indoctrination sessions with rarely any connection to improving learning but sucking lots of teacher time with busy work.

#2.. Rarely is evidence used that substantiates the need for changes being imposed.  The shift to standards based grading might be the next step in dumbing down. The jury is still out on that, but it does take a significant amount of time, energy and resources.

#3.. School wide reading of books related to education and meetings to discuss these books takes time away from classroom preparation.  

#4.. The push for everyone "College Ready" as a graduation requirement is simply unrealistic.  The gyrations needed to make it appear that everyone who graduates is college ready is exhausting.

#5.. The job of teacher should be to maximize the learning of each individual student.  Today the job  is to keep everyone happy in this chaotic often contradictory bureaucratic environment.  Few teachers signed up for that task -- thus the quitting.