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

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.

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