The Blended Approach – What to do?

So what can we do, now that choice has failed in PWC?

Well, the motion the school board approved authorized several changes to the current policy in effect in our schools which we should expect our schools to implement as soon as possible. These changes include:

  • the requirements that students be provided instructional materials in the form of textbooks or workbooks from both Investigations and a traditional or classical program;
  • that teachers be given the autonomy to select appropriate materials for their students and adapt lesson pacing as they deem appropriate to meet learning objectives;
  • that individual school Principals will work with parents and teachers to implement a blended program of instruction at their school, and;
  • that differentiated instruction will be provided to more advanced students.

Whether our local schools actually deliver these changes in an acceptable manner, depends on us.  Each of us has a choice.  We can decide to sit back and wait for the schools to deliver these mandates, or, we can engage our local schools directly and ask them to provide us with their plans for implementing these mandates as they are being developed to head off problems before they take effect.

I can’t help you if you want to sit back and wait, but if you want to dive into the belly of the beast and try to salvage something for your kids, then here are my suggestions.

Current Program at Your School

Before discussing how your school will be implementing the changes called for in the motion, it’s probably a good idea to know what the current program is.  You’ll need to contact your school Principal and find out what the current plan for providing balanced instruction is in your child’s school.

Ask for details, like pacing guides and the actual materials used that provide the “blend”.    Ask  whether teachers are allowed to adapt lesson pacing and select alternate materials when they believe their students needs it, and ask to review those materials.

You’ll need to review what the school gives you and identify areas where you think the program falls short of your expectations.

The New Program

Instructional Materials

Schools will be expected to provided both traditional and Investigations instructional materials to students – textbooks and workbooks – so that the materials teachers need to provide blended instruction are already at hand.

To do that your school will need to figure out what traditional textbooks they have stored in the building and may need to purchase additional materials or obtain them from other sources if there aren’t enough to go around.  Those materials will then have to be distributed  to students and teachers.

Investigations publisher has developed a book which links Investigations sessions to SFAW lessons.  The book provides a road map, of sorts, to teachers looking for more traditional material to blend into Investigations.  If we’re really serious about providing a blended approach,  this book is a resource every teacher should have.

How do you make sure this is happening at your school? You’ll need to contact the Principal to discuss his / her plans for providing both traditional and Investigations textbooks and workbooks to students.

The need for every student to have both traditional and Investigations textbooks and works was a vital part of the motion the board approved.   Schools which fail to provide these materials to all students will need to explain why they are not doing so to parents, the Superintendent,  and the school board.

Lesson Pacing and Planning Calendars

Just having the materials doesn’t mean they’ll be used.  That’s where the next part comes in. Principals are expected to work with parents and teachers to implement the blended instructional program.

Remember all those math nights where we were told that Investigations methods were superior, that learning the standard algorithms was dangerous and needed to be limited to study which was deferred to later grades?  I find that unacceptable and I think my child should be taught the standard algorithms for addition and subtraction  in second grade and for multiplication and division in third grade.  And I’m not talking about Investigations bogus “study”  lesson, I’m talking about real instruction with plenty of practice, reinforcement, and support, like you find in any traditional program.

If the Principal is expected to work with me to develop the blended program, then he needs to adapt Investigations lesson pacing to provide this level of instruction when I think it’s needed, or he needs to explain why he will  not do so to the parents,  the Superintendent, and the school board.

How do you make sure the lesson pacing is adapted to meet your expectations?  You need to contact your school Principal and ask what changes he / she anticipates implementing to adapt the current program. You’ll probably want to discuss areas where you think Investigations falls short of expectation and suggest ways you think it could be improved so that she can adapt the program in the appropriate manner.

Differentiated Instruction for Your Child

As a parent, if you believe your child’s needs aren’t being met by the instruction provided in their classroom, you have the right to request  differentiated instruction for your child.  The schools are not legally obligated to provide differentiated instruction, unless your child is receiving special services under the ADA, but that doesn’t mean you can’t talk with your classroom teacher about what he / she can do to improve your child’s learning experience.

Remember, the new motion grants teachers the autonomy to adapt instruction to meet the needs of her students – autonomy they haven’t had in the past.  If you think your child needs different instruction than that which is provided by Investigations, then you should talk with your child’s classroom teacher, because she has now been given the discretion to provide that alternate instruction.

I know having that sort of conversation is difficult, because most of us love our classroom teachers and don’t want them to think we don’t support them or that we’re somehow criticising how they teach.  The only advice I can give you is to be honest with your child’s teacher.  Let him / her know how you feel about Investigations and ask if there’s any way he / she can differentiate the instruction she provides your child with more traditional materials.  You may even want to provide a copy of any materials you use at home to your child’s teacher.

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