Comments, ideas and concerns about the math curricula at Andover Public Schools

Friday, March 30, 2007

Upcoming School Committee meetings and Superintendent's coffee

Andover School Committee new meeting dates:

Wednesday April 4 at 7:30pm
Monday April 9 at 7:30pm

Location: School Committee Mtg room, 2cnd floor of School Administration building 36R Bartlett Street

Also broadcast live on Comcast Channel 10 (see Channel 10 for rebroadcast times)

Superintendent Coffee:

Dr. Claudia Bach, Superintendent of Schools invite all interested Andover citizens to meet with her at Starbucks in Andover at the dates and times listed below to discuss over a cup of coffee educational topics that are of interest to you.
This is a great opportunity to speak with Dr. Bach in a small, group setting.

Wednesday April 4 at 9am
Thursday May 3 at 10am
Tuesday June 5 at 10am

Thursday, March 22, 2007

What good is a curriculum that meets the Mass Frameworks if we don’t teach all of it?

From a concerned parent of an 8th grader and a 5th grader: In addition to the lack of advanced math, I’m very concerned that our 7th and 8th graders are not even completing the CMP curriculum at each grade level. What good is a curriculum that meets the Mass Frameworks if we don’t teach all of it?

In grade 7, only 5 of 8 curriculum units are completed in a typical school year. In grade 8, only 6 of 8 units are typically completed but this year they have added the new Algebra patch. So what’s going to get left out to make room for this unit?

It is unclear if this failure to complete the curriculum is caused by the pace at which APS teaches CMP or if it is a design flaw within the CMP curriculum in that it can not be completed in the standard school year. Whatever the case, we can not allow this to go on. The School Committee and the Administration must act now before another class of students is lost. The parent population has been patient; we do not need a year long study of the curriculum to see that middle school math is not working. Our peer towns are leveling with and without CMP right now, let’s at least take the first step to correct the situation for the next school year…. an advanced math class that will move at a faster pace and finish all of the curriculum units.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Doherty and Wood Hill Parents: Spread the word!

The results of the survey below and several recent comments indicate that parents at all three Andover middle schools have concerns abut our math program (administration claims notwithstanding!) Still, Doherty and Wood Hill are underrepresented here, in part because this blog began with West Middle parents and in part because each middle school (principals and teachers) has its own approach to whether there is a problem and how to fix it.

In order to keep the momentum going, we want to make sure that this blog represents the whole community, so to parents at Doherty and Wood Hill: please send a link to this site to other parents at your schools and ask them to read the links here and make their own submissions and comments.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Students Left Behind?

From a parent: I would like to see the school committee and administration fix a math curriculum problem. Many of us (from all three middle schools) have heard the middle school math curriculum philosophy several times. We have gone to the presentations, coffees and had private meetings. We have given the program a chance. Unfortunately, the program claims have not panned out.

Andover middle schools don't have an advanced math program. When I discuss this with colleagues and friends in other towns, people are shocked. Andover's excellent school system has the potential to produce several outstanding engineers, scientists, and other math-based professionals. We have denied the classes of 2009 on, advanced math starting in the 7th grade. What is the cost? Kids are bored and "tune-out" from the subject. They have to wait to be consistently challenged until high school. Now, even the high school curriculum is changing.

We have heard the arguments of the administration for the last 4 years. We waited patiently to see if the "no-leveled" math strategy would work. By my view of the world, it has not. I spent the last 3 years volunteering at the Wood Hill Middle School teaching a subset of the students "advanced math". I heard many times "wow this is hard - it's never been hard for me before". The teachers told me they heard the same comments. It's a shame to have some segment of the student population LEFT BEHIND! I'd say it's 10-20% of the kids depending on the year/class. I understand that the philosophy of leaving the kids together and bringing them all along at their own rate. Nice idea, but it didn't work in practice (from the evidence I and others have seen).

Parents in other excellent school districts, like Boxford and Acton, would not allow advanced math to be eliminated. They fought with the schools to keep the advanced middle school math. Andover parents circulated a petition 3 years ago that had at least 300 parent signatures.

Many Andover parents and taxpayers would like the administration and the school committee to address this issue. We need to get beyond the philosophy of the current strategy and look at the reality that students are being left behind. Our society needs all the scientists and engineers we can get to keep our country strong. Please help fix this!

Friday, March 16, 2007

School Committee Candidates Debate

At last night's League of Women Voters debate all three School Committee candidates talked about excellence in our schools.

The first question from the LWV (not an audience question) addressed "unmet needs" at the elementary, middle and high school levels. Dick Collins specifically mentioned advanced math in the middle schools. Debbie Silberstein talked about challenging all learners and addressing the wide range of learning styles. Bob Coffill mentioned the increase in math tutoring of our students.

A question from the audience: 16.7% of the student population is special needs. How do we avoid ignoring peer students and gifted and talented? Who advocates for these students? Again all three candidates talked about addressing the needs of the complete student population, using professional development to aide the teachers' ability to differentiate instruction within the classroom, and to ensure that the gifted learners are not left behind by MCAS emphasis on "proficiency".

It is encouraging that this topic is part of the debate platform for all three candidates. Math has been raised several times in the context of the School Committee election. It seems that all of the candidates are aware of and are concerned about the issue.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

School Committee Meeting March 13, 2007

At last night's School Committee meeting Dr. O'Neil gave an update on the middle school math discussion. Dr. O'Neil said that all three of the middle school principals have been meeting together and with their respective teachers. The math curriculum council also met on this date. The plan, as explained, is that potential solutions will be brought forward at the next curriculum council meeting with the intent to implement for the next school year. Dr. O'Neil said that solutions might not "look the same" at all three of the middle schools because of differing school philosophies, school leadership and school compostion.

Art Barber then asked about the comparable community data and whether or not this had been investigated. Both Debbie Silberstein and Tony James joined in the conversation clarifying that the question is why other communities believe they can have leveling and still maintain the middle school concept but Andover does not. Dr. O'Neil has the action item to follow up on this information.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Signs of Progress

It's too early to know for sure, but there were several encouraging signs this month on the middle school math front. As noted in the comments to the 2/27 School Committee post, AHS administered a "diagnostic" math test to this year's 10th graders to identify any gaps in their math knowledge and will offer after-school tutoring to those who need to catch up. This was presented at the school committee meeting as a direct response to the concerns raised at the 1/31 roundtable.

The Andover Townsman asked each of the School Committee candidates whether the middle school math program should be changed. (See the answers in the 3/1/07 link under "News Articles" at the left of this page.) Both the phrasing of the question and the fact that it was asked at all are indicators that our concerns are beginning to be not only heard but are something to be acted upon.

Finally, the liaison group of parents from each of the middle schools met with Marcia O'Neil on March 2nd and was told that the expansion of CMP into 6th grade has been "tabled" for this year, pending completion of a full evaluation of the curriculum. APS should be commended for this common-sense decision.