Misrepresentations on the PWCS web site – episode 1

PWCS has lots of information available on it’s web site for parents defending Investigations. Much of that information comes directly from TERC and much of it misrepresents the facts.

This article is the first in a series of articles exposing the misrepresentations on the PWCS math web site. We start with the document entitled Are we allowing Investigations to put our children behind?

The document appears to have been drafted in an attempt to defend Investigations against the assertion by opponents of Investigations that it leaves our children behind where they need to be.

The first sentence of this brief document states that the primary evidence behind the assertion that Investigations leaves our children behind is the poor performance of Investigations students on the Singapore assessment tests. The article then goes on to assail the Singapore program which is rather entertaining considering that Singapore students regularly stomp American students in international math test.

My intent is not to defend the Singapore program but rather to dispel the notion that our concern that Investigations leaves our children behind is based on their poor performance on the Singapore tests because that is not true.

Our assertion that Investigations leaves our children behind is based on reports and analysis of Investigations by mathematics experts, alignment with the VA SOLs, and examination of the curriculum itself. Poor performance on the Singapore tests is just the icing on the cake.

What do the experts say

Dr Wilfried Schmid (math PHd from Harvard) states that “By the end of fifth grade, TERC students have fallen roughly two years behind where they should be.”

Dr. Bill Quirk (math PHd from Cornell) states that “TERC is totally out of sync with the National Math Panel Recommendations. Furthermore, TERC 2008 Math fails to provide the foundations of algebra.”

Dr. Thomas Parker (Math Ph.D from Michigan State) states that “TERC students will hit a wall, probably at the end of middle school. They are not being given the grounding needed to understand the abstractions of high school algebra and geometry. Their options for careers in science and engineering are being close off by their elementary school program.”

Dr. W. Stephen Wilson (Math Ph.D from Johns Hopkins) recently testified as follows, “I am not really here today to talk to the Board, but to the parents. If your child goes to a school that uses TERC Investigations, you should understand that it means your child’s school has abdicated its responsibility to teach your child mathematics. By doing so, the responsibility now rests with the parents. Good luck.”

Still think we’re basing our assertion that Investigations leaves our children behind based on an assessment test used in Singapore? Then lets move on to

Alignment with the VA SOLs

Investigations meets fewer standards than any other text recommended by the state board of education. Of course, Investigations wasn’t recommended for use in Grade 5, but you won’t find that anywhere on the PWCS web site.

The state establishes standards they believe an academic program should strive to teach each student. Each text submitted to the state is assessed against these standards and ranked as to which standards it meets adequately, limited, no evidence.

Kindergarten has 18 standards – Investigations adequately meets 56%
Grade 1 has 21 standards – Investigations adequately meets 90%
Grade 2 has 26 standards – Investigations adequately meets 54%
Grade 3 has 25 standards – Investigations adequately meets 64%
Grade 4 has 22 standards – Investigations adequately meets 55%
Grade 5 has 22 standards – Investigations adequately meets 50%

As a K-3 series Investigations adequately meets 66% of the standards.
As a K-4 series Investigations adequately meets 63% of the standards.
As a K-5 series Investigations adequately meets 61% of the standards.

Investigations is only approved by the state for use as a K-3 series and as a Grade 4 text. It was not approved as a K-4 or K-5 series.

You may think  – but we’re using version 2, not version 1. True, but version 2 has not been assessed by the state or approved for use.

Still think the concern is based on poor performance on the Singapore tests? Well then lets move on to a more subjective area – our own analysis of the texts and what’s included in them.

The Program itself

Lessons are spelled out in the teachers guides and teachers are expected to follow the lessons. These lessons generally start with a teacher lead instructional period followed by group activities and end with a class discussion of what was learned.

Sounds wonderful, until you notice what’s missing. Where’s the verification that the students are actually learning the process accurately? Ask your child to bring home his / her student workbook and see how many times it looks like the teacher has corrected mistakes they make. With 25 – 28 students in a class how often do you think your child has his / her work reviewed by the teacher? What happens if your child’s group mates didn’t understand the lesson either and they all simply learn the process incorrectly?

Where’s the reinforcement of learned concepts? Sure the kids play games which are fun and exciting, but if you take the time to observe a class you’ll see that if one students understands the process the other students let him / her fix their mistakes and the kids spend more time figuring out the rules of the games than actually playing them. Homework, when it’s assigned, is generally limited to a handful of problems.

Where’s the differentiation for students who already know and understand the concepts and processes? Take the time to look at the lessons – they’re one size fits all. Where’s the opportunity for a child who already knows and understands what’s being taught to expand his / her knowledge other than by teaching their classmates?

Still think our assertion about remedial pacing is based solely on the Singapore assessments?

The final paragraph in the PWCS document is so inflammatory and disgusting that it deserves mentioning all by itself. That paragraph states, “Math Office staff are concerned about the unfortunate circumstances of the children who are being told by their parents that their “school math” is wrong. Those children could very well fall behind out of frustration. “

Our children are frustrated because they’re bored, because the program is paced so remedially that they fight to stay awake during class, and because it’s not the parents who are telling them school math is wrong – it’s the school which is telling them that the math their parents have taught them and they use with fluency is wrong.

For years schools have complained that parents don’t emphasize learning and don’t support the schools. Yet when parents do involve themselves and take it upon themselves to fill the gaps they identify in their children’s education the parents are blamed for their children’s frustration. Not because they’ve taught their kids so well that they’re light years ahead of their classmates, not because the program is remedial and can’t be differentiated to meet their children’s needs, no no, it’s because the parents have actually stepped up and taught their children to use process and procedures the program the county selected thinks are dangerous.

If anything this blame everyone and everything except the program attitude is why I so deeply support choice in education.

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