NOTE: We have heard reports that the proposal has been revised and the language requiring that two textbooks be provided to every student has been removed. The revised proposal has not been posted to the PWCS web site, however, we will post it the moment it is.
At the February 18th board meeting Dr Otaigbe, the school board representative from Coles District, presented a motion regarding mathematics in PWC.
Under the supervision of the Superintendent, Prince William County
Public Schools will implement a consistent blended approach to
mathematics education with the following elements:
1. The goal at each grade level is to achieve the mathematics
objectives of the Virginia Standards of Learning and the PWCS
2. All students are expected to achieve computational fluency
and understanding of mathematics concepts appropriate for that grade
3. Math Investigations textbooks and traditional math workbooks
will be provided for all students to support a blended approach to
the teaching of mathematics.
4. Classroom teachers will have the flexibility to use
instructional materials as appropriate to achieve learning outcomes.
5. The mathematics program will be implemented in the spirit of
6. Success of the program will be evaluated by scores on SOL and
other achievement tests, by student readiness for advanced math
courses, and by survey responses from parents and staff members.
7. Advanced students will be further challenged with additional
or more complex problems and activities offered in each classroom.
The Pros and Cons
I think there’s a huge disconnect between the intent of the proposal and the actual wording of it. And, as we’ve seen may many times before, unless the board is absolutely specific with what it expects, the school system will do whatever it wants.
The intent of the proposal is to return control over content to the teachers – it allow them to select whatever materials they believe are best for their students and teach from those materials. I agree with this idea, in theory, however, I have several very large concerns with it.
The first is how the proposal is written. If the intent I described above is accurate, then the wording of the proposal needs to say so explicitly. The impression of the proposal, based on feedback from teachers, is that this proposal is nothing more than the status quo. That we’ll continue with the empty claims of a blended program with central office dictating what lessons are taught, when they’re taught, and with what material and that is all Investigations all the time.
Teachers will be even further intimidated to keep their mouths shut and support the school system and parents who dare to present evidence that the program has not changed will be further castigated as the liars and manipulators we’re repeatedly called by school staff and board members now.
My second concern is cost. Providing every child with both Investigations and traditional materials will increase our materials costs roughly $1.7 million more then we’re currently budgeted to spend over the next 4 years for math materials – an increase of $850,000 just this year. Cost is definitely a concern in these budgetary times.
My third concern is consistency of delivery. The two approaches are markedly different with vast chasms in the expectations for what a student will have learned at the end of each grade level. A3rd grade traditional teacher will expect her students to know and be familiar with the standard algorithms and to have mastered their addition and subtraction math facts. But Investigations doesn’t even expose students to the standard algorithms for addition and subtraction until Grades 4 and 5. The net effect is that teachers will have spend considerable time in the beginning of each year providing remedial lessons to those students who have never been taught under the approach she prefers.
My fourth concern is class assignments. We all know how it works at schools. Parents find out which teachers do X or Y and parents who want their children taught X or Y try to get their children in those classes. If this program is implemented, parents who prefer a traditional math education for their children will do everything they can to get their children assigned to a traditional teacher and will scream and yell when that doesn’t happen. The net effect, at some schools, will be two instructional tracks with parents fighting to get their children in with the teachers who teach in the approach they prefer, while other schools will have parents, teachers, and Principal’s fighting tooth and nail over classroom assignments.
The fifth concern is that program is almost identical to the program we had before Investigations was mandated county wide. I find it interesting that the board member who so often rants about how horrible our program was before, actually supports this option because it is virtually identical to the program he routinely lambastes as terrible.