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

Saturday, May 26, 2007

[UPDATED] Wellesley visit

The three middle school principals and Dr. O'Neil visited Wellesley middle school to learn more about their math program. This is particularly interesting because of the sixteen comparable towns, Wellesley is one of the few using CMP at all, and the only other town of the "elite eight" to choose it as their sole middle school math curriculum.

Previously Wellesley had leveling for all of their classes but in 1998 moved to more what we now know is the "middle school model" and eliminated leveling except for math classes. Over time they have come to more of a heterogeneous (mixed) grouping for math as well, however, they maintain accelerated CMP classes for their 8th graders. (Dr. Bach has said that having 50% of the class move at an accelerated pace is not considered to be leveling.)

Wellesley outscored Andover on the MCAS over the past three years, however, their rate of decline is actually steeper than ours.

New update: Wellesley's middle school program of studies for 2007-08 is now published and is quoted below:
"In grade eight, students are heterogeneously grouped for all subjects except Mathematics. In Mathematics, there are four course offerings, a core course in Algebra, an accelerated Algebra course, a course designed for students who would benefit from a measured pace to master the major topics of first year algebra, and The Interactive Mathematics Program.

Teachers will offer their perspectives to parents and seventh grade students for the level placement in eight grade mathematics. After careful consideration by the teacher of a student's work and study habits, classroom performance, and current achievement, an appropriate level placement will be suggested."

(It appears that we were incorrect in saying that Wellesley offers CMP as its sole middle school math curriculum.)

Changes from CMP to CMP2 to streamline and focus

To the left is a link to the Prentice-Hall description of the differences between CMP and CMP2. The effort centers on streamlining investigations, adding new content and bringing more focus. For instance in Comparing and Scaling "the authors have created a number of new problems that more directly convey the mathematical focus they feel is critical. One rather big shift is that the mathematics goals of the unit include more explicit work on forming ratios..." In many units investigations have been removed completely. More actual math has been incorporated as well.

Reading between the lines it appears that developers have recognized and addressed many of the issues and deficiencies noted by Andover students and teachers. The removal of investigations and the compacting of units speaks to the repetition so many students find "boring". The addition of focused mathematic application speaks to the challenge that was missing for some students previously.

It is clear that the program itself had significant room for improvement. Perhaps not quite as robust and rigorous as Andover has been expected to believe.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Spirited math discussion at last night's meeting

Quite a few interested parents and students attended the 5/22 School Committee meeting to learn what the next steps were for the middle school math curriculum. The discussion during citizen's input lasted over one hour! Many parents -- and two students who have gone through the program -- all raised compelling questions. Other supportive parents were in the audience as well. Dr. Bach, Donna Pappalardo from the high school, and all three middle school principals were there to answer questions.

(One of the more controversial statements of the evening was Dr. Bach's claim that the parents and students who are unhappy were a "small group". If you are reading this post, you are probably part of that group, so let your voice be heard -- by leaving comments and suggestions for posts here, by contacting your teachers and principals and the school committee, and by telling other unhappy customers of this curriculum to make their voices heard as well.)

The Shapes of Algebra module and the pacing of CMP were discussed at length. Art Barber ended the debate with a proposal for Donna Pappalardo to take over the task of collecting data from our comparable communities and to convene a special meeting with Marj Andresen and other concerned parents and students.

It's hard to capture in a blog post, so people are encouraged to watch/record the rebroadcasts (Thursday at 8:00pm; Sunday at 7:00am on Comcast Channel 10.)

Which School?

[Bumped yet again for new visitors to vote!]
It seems that not every middle school sent a notification to families about the January 31 roundtable. (The superintendent claimed at her coffee this month that at some schools, parents were completely satisfied.) Please answer the following anonymous poll for your middle-school-age child (if you have one) or the school system they attend if not currently in middle school.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

School Committee Meeting Tues May 22 7:30pm

Reminder that there is a School Committee meeting on Tuesday May 22 at 7:30pm in the School Admin building.

Here is the link to the agenda.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

What happens next? posted by Marj Andresen

Are you tired of hearing about the math program? Especially from me????

I know that I am tired of thinking about it and tired of talking about it. But because I have a 6th grader and a 2cnd grader I still feel compelled to deal with it. Any progress now is too late to help out my 8th grader.

I first met with my 8th grade son's principal a year ago and first met with Dr. O'Neil last August to talk about enrichment and challenge. Since then I've talked with many other Andover parents, students and faculty about middle school math. And, as you know, I spoke with parents, students, teachers and administrators in 25 comparable towns. The School Committee has heard from me continuously since last November and saw a "mob" come out to talk about math in late January.

So far:
We heard about the diagnostic test given at AHS. The level 1 students scored an average of 86%. The level 2 students scored an average of 58%. And remember this is after a half year of algebra 2 under their belts.
Now we are being told that these results don't really tell us anything. And we're being told that since we don't have prior data we don't know if these algebra gaps have always existed.
While it's true that we don't have prior diagnostic test scores we do have the previous MCAS scores (which were high) and prior soft data in the form of student, parent, teacher, and private school feedback. The perception of the community is that there has been a decline in algebra capability of our students over the past three years.

As a fix-- The Shapes of Algebra:
We heard that this year's 8th grade will be using the Shapes of Algebra module to address prior deficiencies. But many of the 8th graders haven't begun that six week module yet. We have five teaching weeks left of school to cover this ground. It is possible that this fix will not be delivered as promised. So where does that leave our 8th graders?

And now:
We are hearing that the solutions for next year come in the form of more professional development leading towards better differentiated instruction. (what EXACTLY does that mean?) We are hearing that a math coach might come to work with the teachers (if we can find the $$ to pay for one). We are hearing that we'll bolster CMP with modules of Impact Math to address some of the challenge issues that have been raised. We are being told that students wanting more should pursue math at the high school or use a software program in the place of classroom instruction.

We are continuing to hear that we are mistaken and that this program is truly rigorous and challenging. We are continuing to hear that our students are well prepared for the rigors of high school math. We are continuing to hear that if we seek additional challenge for our students that they can leave the classroom to receive it.

We're NOT hearing that math interest and ability will be considered in the formation of teams for next year. We're NOT hearing that we will accelerate the pace of the math instruction (as do our peer communities). We're NOT hearing that we will consider any sort of leveled math instruction (as do our peer communities). We're NOT hearing that the upcoming K-12 program evaluation will consider solutions beyond CMP for the middle school.

So what happens next?
It can't be only me continuing to voice discontent. If you have concerns, if you have comments, if you want to see things change then you need to make your opinion known. Call/email your prinicipal. Copy it to Marcia O'Neil, copy it to Claudia Bach. And most of all contact the School Committee.

The best thing you can do is to show up at the Tuesday May 22 School Committee meeting. 7:30pm School Admin building.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

School Committee Meeting and Dr. Bach coffee on May 8th

There's a new date for Dr. Bach's coffee at Starbucks: Tuesday May 8th at 9:30am. This is a good time to come to talk with Dr. Bach in a smaller venue.

Also on Tuesday May 8th is the School Committee Meeting. It's at 7:30pm in the School Administration Building (back of Doherty Middle School). Agenda is posted at: