A couple of interesting events have occurred in the past week which should have PWC officials working over time. The first is the US Dept of Education’s Practice Guide on Assisting Students Struggling with Mathematics and the second is the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Forest Grove case.
Let’s start with some background.
In 2004 Congress reauthorized the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). Included in the act was something called Response to Intervention (RTI) for math and reading. RTI is a tiered system of instruction whose intent is to ensure that all students receive a high-quality instructional program and that students who are slipping behind are identified and provided additional, appropriate instruction to ensure that they don’t slip further behind. A child does not need to have an identified disability or special need to qualify for remediation – he / she simply needs to be struggling to keep up with his / her peers. RTI has been applied to reading for some time, with some success.
The practice guide provides advice to school districts in applying the RTI principles to math. The Guide provides eight steps schools districts should follow to ensure early and adequate intervention should a student slip behind in math (you can find those steps in Table 2 of the report linked above). Those steps conclude that explicit instruction and drills are the standard course of action for remediation.
Remember, Investigations doesn’t do explicit instruction and drills.
So what does that Supreme Court case mean to all of this? According to Justice Stephens “IDEA authorizes reimbursement for the cost of special education services when a school district fails to provide a free and appropriate public education and the private school placement is appropriate, regardless of whether the child previously received special education or related services through the public school.”
In the Forest Grove Case, parents of a child with ADHD pulled their child from the Forest Grove school system before he’d received remediation, and placed him in private school. They then sued the school district for the cost of private school under IDEA and won.
Enter PWC and the Investigations battle. Many parents have argued that Investigations remedial pace leaves their children behind their peers in other districts. That insufficient practice, inadequate direct instruction, and de-emphasis of fluency with basic math facts provides their children with an inadequate foundation in mathematics. Many parents have noted that their children are struggling with basic mathematics concepts like subtraction and division, and fractions are beyond their comprehension.
Under the RTI these students should be receiving remediation with direct instruction and drill on basic math facts and standard operations. But Investigations doesn’t do direct instruction or drill on basic math facts and standard operations. So what is the county going to do to intervene with these students, if the program they’ve chosen doesn’t do what the RTI recommends? Remember, your child doesn’t have to have special needs or a disability to receive remediation.
What does this mean for parents who have already given up on PWC schools and are teaching their children math at home? Those of us who have hired private tutors or purchased alternate instructional materials? Can we demand that the county reimburse us for the cost of tutors and alternate materials?
Alternate materials are readily available to the schools which provide for direct instruction and drill on basic math facts and standard operations. Those materials include programs like Saxon, Singapore, Sadlier Oxford, and others.
Does PWC have those materials available so that they can provide remediation to students who are struggling?
What about for students who are bored by Investigations because it moves too slowly. Does PWC have those materials available so that they can provide remediation to students who are ready to move ahead?
And if PWC does not have those materials available and does not provide the remediation these students need, is the county prepared to reimburse those parents for the cost of private school, private tutors, or home instruction?