So, today brought forth two different points for me about math in Amherst quite directly.

First, I read the front-page story in the New York Times on the growing number of districts moving to Singapore Math (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/01/education/01math.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=math&st=cse). Districts using this math program include public schools in elite districts (e.g., Scarsdale), elite private schools (e.g., Sidwell Friends, where the Obama girls attend school), and inner-city schools in New York City. Interestingly, this is the math program used by the Chinese Charter School in Hadley and by the AIMS program for African American children in Amherst (a Saturday math program). It is interesting to read about the experiences (good and bad) districts have had with this program ... and this article certainly reminds me of how much I'm looking forward to hearing a review of our math curriculum/program by Dr. Andrew Chen (the math consultant located by former superintendent Dr. Alberto Rodriguez).

Second, I received my second child's very first MCAS scores in the mail (he is now a 4th grader at Fort River). I am not going to talk specifically about my own child's performance, but the information provided to all parents included not only how your child does (in both math and English language arts) by also how your child's scores compare to the district and state averages. In a district in which many families have connections to higher education institutions and/or advanced degrees, both Amherst as a district and Fort River Elementary School were below the state average in math. Only 13% of kids in 3rd grade at Fort River, and 18% of the kids in Amherst, scored at the Advanced level, compared to a state average of 25%. That really suggests that our district is not helping kids to achieve at the highest level. However, even more concerning was the finding that 24% of the 3rd graders at Fort River and 14% of the kids in Amherst scored at the warning level, compared to the state average of 11%. So, our district also has more kids at the very bottom level than the state average. In sum, after 4 years in the Amherst schools (K to 3rd), more kids are at the warning level than the state average in math AND fewer kids are at the advanced level than the state average in math. As a School Committee member, a strong proponent of public education, and a mom, I find these numbers highly, highly concerning.

## My Goal in Blogging

I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.

## Saturday, October 2, 2010

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## 57 comments:

I will put it more bluntly: in a place like Amherst, there is no excuse for this.

In those early years at Ft. River k-3, very little traditional math is done. Perhaps teachers will say: we introduce math concepts, we do many projects with math manipulatives, etc. But, there is very little recognizable math with drilling, practice. They should all be playing the banker in monopoly at school, and they will get more math that way!

I have friends whose kids attend schools where Singapore math is taught. It sounds amazing. I hope Dr. Chen will look into this curriculum.

"That really suggests that our district is not helping kids to achieve at the highest level."

This is at best a shallow interpretation of what the numbers suggest.

Have you considered school readiness, which often correlates to socio-econmoic status?

Please provide the data for where the town of Amherst stacks up in the state average for this data.

I know from experience of writing grant proposals for the Amherst schools that the town is considered in the low income bracket.

Yes, I know it's hard to believe. Then again, the poor are often, usually even, overlooked.

My point is that socio-economic status is one of the biggest factors in success in education. The data glaringly supports that.

Before we simply make a judgement that our schools should be showing better in the standardized test arena, let's take the time to better study the factors that create and block success in schools.

If you are saying that the schools are 100% responsible for every kid's mcas results, and that their families have nothing to do with the child's education, then you should be giving the school's complete credit for all of your child's successes in school.

I'm sure you have taught your children a great deal, knowing how much you value education. What about all those kids, who for myriad reasons have not had all of that parental/adult school preparation and rigor on the home front? What about those kids who haven't had any of this quality school prep/practice time at home?

Anonymous 11:32 - I agree that SES is correlated with achievement on standardized tests. In Amherst, 33.6% of elementary school kids are considered low income. This is almost identical to the state average (32.9%). So, again, more Amherst kids are scoring warning that the state average, and fewer Amherst kids are scoring advanced than the state average, and the difference in SES is .7%. I don't think that is a plausible explanation for these differences.

I have never said that schools are 100% possible for MCAS scores. But that is true in Amherst AND in other districts across the state. I find these numbers concerning, and I think we need to acknowledge that this is a problem that the schools need to fix (regardless of how one can apportion the various causes).

to anon@11:32

look up the results yourself (http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/)!

I would love to hear an explanation for the precipitous drop in 3rd math achievement that doesn't involve either the curriculum or teachers.

I think this result is the canary in the coal mine. I have been sharing our family's experience and frustration with math (we have a current 4th grader) on CS' blog for a couple of years and my very deep concern with our chosen curriculum. Now I can say "I told you so". The question now is "does anyone care?" Or more importantly, "Do those with control over our ES math curriculum care?"

Anon 2:19

No they don't care. They are interested in avoiding any criticism that will call into question current leadership (or lack thereof). Support the status quo. Avoid criticizing feckless and incompetent administrators who react only when forced. Blame the students. Blame the socio-economic status of our town. Blame everyone else but the software we have put in place to teach our children that is wonderfully mediocre.

Catherine-

Just wondering- how do the comments of Anon 3:33PM advance this discussion? Had the poster said this all was the fault of the current feckless and incompetent school committee would you have posted it?

Catherine,

I am really frustrated with your post on a number of levels. First, you've most likely known about the 3rd and 4th grade scores since they were first published by DESE in mid-September. You, yourself, corrected me about some SGP data that you could only have gotten had you gone into the 2010 MCAS results. So using your child's MCAS report to exclaim this dramatic, "Oh, my, we're headed off the cliff!" is just too disingenuous for me. Second, you ask for data-related responses all the time, and I post a lot of data and analysis to which you almost NEVER respond--the latest of which, I'll refresh your memory, was regarding the whole issue of where we start versus where we end in elementary school math as measured by MCAS. Why don't you let the good folks who read your blog and who don't go on the DESE website themselves know that our 5th and 6th grades in 2010--where the flow of a math program from K-6 culminates--we are WAY ABOVE the state average in advanced, and above the state average in EVERY subgroup, both in CPI and, for the most part, SGP as well.

It's not just an aberration, it happens EVERY YEAR, as I've posted to complete deafness in the past: from 2007-9, our 3rd grade scores were just a tiny bit above the state average, as opposed to somewhat below in 2010's case. In the 6th graduating class of 2010, we went from 1 point ahead of the percentage in advanced from their 3rd grade score in 2007, to 18 points ahead in Advanced in their 6th grade score in 2010. Each year our 5th and 6th grade MCAS scores are always much higher than the state average.

Or let's say you're right, and we really should be getting out the chains to flagellate ourselves because of this past year's 3rd grade MCAS scores--why is it things worked out well in the past with the SAME math program? Hmm, I wonder if budget cuts could have had anything to do with it, so math mentoring positions had not been cut, and new teachers in the district could have been well-trained in the program. Or hmmm, maybe there's a demographics-related answer to account for the in that grade turn. But no, it has to be yet another negative message--in spite of your constant insistence that you don't deal in negative messages.

The real message from these scores, as you yourself surely know, being so well-educated and all, (and if you didn't, I'd be SHOCKED), is that while we need to focus more attention on the early grades (3rd-4th) regarding MCAS performance, and there should be less of a gap between achievement of various subgroups, overall things are still going VERY well for students through the span of their elementary years in math, as evidenced by the cumulative improvement in math (which most districts DON'T get).

I realize now that I've been right all along, and you really do just have an anti-Investigations agenda that you've always maintained complete innocence about.

My responses:

Abbie - I share your concerns. I fear others do not.

Anonymous 3:22 - I guess I'm interested to see what type of data would convince people we have a problem in math in our district. I don't know what that data possibly could be.

Anonymous 5:11 - I post everything that doesn't name a staff member and criticize that person individually. So, yes, I would post your comment as well -- and I'm sure some people will indeed blame the Amherst SC for these scores.

Ken - I've indeed known the scores weren't good ... but knowing the scores aren't good and seeing physically the scores on my own child's MCAS report is pretty different (more impactful).

I believe I've responded to every post you've made -- my apologies if in the midst of my various responsibilities I have neglected to do so. I agree that our scores in 3rd and 4th are much worse than in 5th and 6th (of course, 6th grade doesn't use Investigations, so that is a bit of a different issue). I am glad that you find it helpful that our scores rise in 5th and 6th ... to me, that doesn't mean the 3rd and 4th grade scores aren't problematic. I also note that we are NOT doing as well as the state average in some subgroups (e.g., Hispanic/Latino students in 5th grade math are below the state average as are African American students in 6th grade math).

And as yourself note, "from 2007-9, our 3rd grade scores were just a tiny bit above the state average, as opposed to somewhat below in 2010's case." Ummm, so perhaps I would say that our 3rd grade averages are lower than they have EVER been so I have no idea if these scores will in fact show the same rise. If in the past, our 3rd grade scores were just a tiny bit above state average and then they climbed directly to WAY above state average, perhaps we now will see our below state average scores climb to the state average. As the mom of a 4th grader, this isn't really consoling.

And I also had a 6th grader last year -- and was surprised to see that the SGP for his grade at Fort River in math was 41 (state average is 50), which is real drop from last year (SGP was 55). Again, I'm sure you have a good explanation for this ... but as a mom, it is depressing.

I have no idea if it is Investigations. But I believe it is appropriate to at least have the math curriculum we are using be one of the factors that is considered; don't you? And yet that seems to be off the table in terms of any plausible explanation.

So, here's my question to you: is there any sort of evidence of data that would convince you that it is POSSIBLE our math program is in trouble? And if there is such data, what would you consider as possible causes of such trouble? Thanks.

In regard to Ken's post: "Hmm, I wonder if budget cuts could have had anything to do with it, so math mentoring positions had not been cut, and new teachers in the district could have been well-trained in the program."

Virtually every town in MA is experiencing budget cuts - I think that may weaken the assertion that budget cuts are the cause of our math problems.

Some case studies: CF 2007 Third graders did not do very well overall on MCAS, math, I followed that cohort through to 2010 and did not see much change that lead me to be optimistic that kids that have a poor start ‘catch-up’, like Ken suggests. The same trend seems to hold for CF Third 2008 graders. There isn’t an earlier year of FR 3rd graders that did as poorly as 2010 class, so I couldn’t track that (only the last 4 years are easily accessible). I couldn’t find any early grades at WW where they did poorly to track later achievement (ie “catch-up”).

WW had an Achievement Academy for math and ELA for struggling students. Did CF and FR also have Achievement Academies? If they did, what does it mean that students still did so poorly?

Abbie - all of the elementary schools provided Achievement Academics last year to every child who was in warning or needs improvement on MCAS.

Comparing scores between CF, FR, and WW show a lot of variability between the three schools, between different years.

Some glaring examples are seen with 3rd grade math scores.

Grade 3 math (Warning/Failing) for CF, FR, and WW (and STATE) is 4, 24, 5, (state = 11). That's a pretty shockingly high number for FR.

Grade 3 math (needs improvement): 36, 30, 11 (and state = 24).

Grade 3 math proficient: 50,33, 55 (state is 40)

Grade 3 math advanced: 11, 13, 29 (state is 25).

So, in the third grade, you might say that WW does better, CF is in the middle, and there is definitely reason for concern at FR. Same curriculum. Technically the same population at the three schools now. So why the difference?

The higher grades do NOT show a dramatic difference between the three schools.

But inflating our schools' reputation year after year has been ~wonderfully~ effective in keeping both our property values AND our salaries above state averages. I mean, that right there proves we're better than anyone else, right?

My responses:

Anonymous 8:09 - good point: it is clear that FR seems to do worse than the other schools (and at the time these scores were taken, FR had fewer low income kids than CF; remember these scores are all pre-redistricting). I don't know what is going on ... but I'd like to.

Anonymous 8:18 - so, I'm going to just request that you try to contribute productively to this important dialogue, OK? Thanks.

I wonder if it were possible to do a study/survey of Amherst students to see if there is any correlation between MCAS scores, socioeconomic or racial groupings, parental education level, parental involvement in HW time, and kids who 1) do, 2) sometimes do, or 3) do not do their HW. While you're at it, test whether other factors too like teacher experience correlate with MCAS scores.

A big concern of many 6th grade teachers at both WW and CF is that there is a large proportion (half?) of kids in some classrooms who just don't do their HW.

Maybe the parents of these kids who do not do HW are not forcing their kids to do it (because I force all my kids to do their HW, every night) - so is it the schools' responsbility to see that everyone does well on MCAS and classwork and has a wonderful graduation rate if the parents are not putting in their share of effort into their kids' education?

This is a somewhat rhetorical question - but what if part of the cause of the poor MCAS scores relate to the parents' input or lack thereof into their child's everyday HW and study habits? You can change the curriculum all you want - and add aides to classrooms - and throw money into teacher training - but it takes a very strong and motivated kid to succeed when they don't have the proper role models and support in their parents. And I don't believe that the school system is responsible for or capable of making up for that lack.

Anyways, I'm not saying that I know the solution - but having the answers in front of you (correlation between poor MCAS scores and some combination of socioeconomic or parental education or parental involvement) may help direct the SC and the school on how we can get the biggest bang for our buck. (for example, if poor MCAS scores correlate purely to parental involvement, less attention/money can be spent on switching curriculum. If scores correlate to teacher training - or teacher interest in math/english - then that is also useful information.

Anonymous 8:57 - I think you are a teacher (yes?) from your post -- and I want to say thanks much for sharing your thoughts. I especially like to hear from teachers, and that is one of the reasons I allow anonymous posting (since teachers often don't feel comfortable using their names, which I understand). I think doing that type of a study would be fascinating, and I think it could be done (though you'd have to get permission of the school to match up the data between MCAS and parental/student surveys). I think more knowledge is good, and you are suggesting a really important question (e.g., what is the CAUSE of these scores). If you want to talk with me more about this privately, I'd love to hear from you (casanderson@amherst.edu).

Also, it strikes me as another thing to do would be to find districts that are like ours in terms of size/demographics, and then see what strategies they are using to improve achievement. That might also be informative (e.g., what curriculum are they using? what type of professional development are they using? what type of afterschool support do they provide?).

Thanks much for adding your voice!

Catherine, if you think you've responded to all my math-data related posts, you'd be quite wrong. And your very busy schedule actually allows you time to respond to many postings in long and great detail, so please don't pretend it is just coincidence that my posts with lots of math-related data corresponded to the only times you were too busy to respond. Several times over the past year, I asked for direct comments from you about things some of your supporters wrote, and each time I got a scathing "How dare you accuse me of avoiding the issue, I'm just so busy, I haven't had time to respond!"--when I never accused you of trying to avoid the issue, merely asking whether you'd planned on responding; and, your outrage about having no time to respond was surrounded by hundreds of words on other posts. Ultimately, you didn't respond at all to my questions, which I'm assuming was your intent all along.

But that aside, let me flip your math program question: do you think that a program under which we got consistently above average results every year over a series of years should get NONE of the credit at all? Or are we just logical when it comes to negativity and blaming? And let me re-ask one of the unanswered questions I asked in another thread: Easthampton got horrendous results in 5th and 6th grade using Every Day Math. Do we now decide that it is an awful program?

My biggest complaint about your kick-off post in this thread was that you ONLY looked at the negative data, in spite of all the other data to contextualize it. You would not accept a paper from one of your students with the level of analysis you gave this complex issue.

I want to finish up answering your questions. How should you feel as a mom? Well, in 5th grade, our non-Title 1 students had a CPI of 86.7 and n SGP of 60, versus the state's 83.5/52 for that subgroup; and a 91.7/61.5 versus 84.7/53 for non-low income. And in 6th, it 88.1/59 versus 84.7/51 and 92.6/66 versus 86.7/52 for those same subgroups your child falls into. So, mom, I think you shouldn't worry much.

Ken,

I'm sort of stunned by your comments. How does anything he says explain why Amherst at the 3rd grade level isn't doing particularly well? AND, why FR at the 3rd grade level is well below the state average?

If there are all sorts of factors that explain 3rd grade problems, why are those problems so much worse at FR? Why is Amherst, at best, "average" and at worst, "below average"? I recall that we're among the state leaders in per student expenditure.

What is it about Fort River School that has it scoring so low? What is it about Amherst that has the town performing in such a mediocre way?

Saying 3rd grade is tough or transitional or whatever is meaningless, unless you think that it's only tough and transitional at FR.

My responses:

Ken - I am consistently responding to your posts with respect, but I'm really going to ask that you do the same with me. Your accusation that I'm avoiding replying to your posts is silly -- I've replied to many, and I apologize if in the midst of other priorities in my life I have missed a few. I do the best I can -- and some posts are quite easy to respond to because they involve numbers I have easily available or to explain a process. You have often posted several years of MCAS data by grade/school/subgroup, and it would take me a REALLY long time to go back through all of those numbers and check your findings and see if I agree or not with the interpretation (and yes, there are times in which I'd prefer to spend that hour with my kids). Feel free to re-post anything you want an answer to - ideally without the accusations.

To anwer your questions:

1. I take it as a given that Amherst should have above average MCAS scores. We are in a college town in which many parents have advanced degrees (and can afford Kumon, tutoring, etc.), and we spend far above the state average per pupil. So, no, I don't see scores as slightly above the state average as really exciting. We also have rates of kids in 8th grade algebra BELOW the state average, which to me suggests that kids don't arrive at 7th grade ready to do math at the level they should.

2. I don't think looking at a single isolated district is the best way of evaluating anything (Easthampton, Amherst, etc.). That is similar to judging the effectiveness of a treatment for cancer on one person ... and that would be awful research. So, I'm in favor (as you know) of choosing a curriculum that has demonstrated consistent results in multiple districts. If we find one district does really well or really poorly one year, there could be many explanations (and yes, curriculum would be one of these), and I would therefore want more information from OTHER districts before drawing a conclusion.

Finally, it is hard for me to contextualize below average MCAS scores in math in 3rd grade. You believe this negative finding isn't that big a deal because scores in later grades are better. So, you are right that MCAS scores in upper grades are better. Can you acknowledge that the 3rd grade scores are STILL concerning?

Ken - I appreciate your concern for me as a mom. So, we can all acknowledge that 3rd grade MCAS scores in math are below average in Amherst, and really below average at Fort River. In 4th grade, boys (which is the gender of my son) at FR show a SGP of 47 (state = 52), and in 5th, they show a SGP of 52 (state = 51), and in 6th, they show a SGP of 43 (state average = 49). So, FR kids are lower than the state average in math MCAS in 3rd grade, and I can look forward to my son having a growth percentile that is AT BEST (in 5th) 1 point above the state average (and in 4th and 6th below the state average by 5 or 6 points). Given that our kids are starting lower in 3rd grade, learning that they will grow a bit under the state average actually isn't making me feel better.

Anonymous 10:48 - good questions. Thanks!

From Anon 8:57 - No, I'm not a teacher, I'm a parent of 3 kids in the school system.

I spend a lot of time "helping" my kids get their HW done (asking, reminding, cajoling, putting my foot down on no fun stuff until the HW is done, anything short of actually doing their HW for them). And in sixth grade, the amount of HW really ramps up compared to previous years (to the tune of ~2 solid hours of HW) - but my kid is prepared to do most of it without reminding, because of all the time I have put into training the kid in previous years.

I just wonder how the school is expected to help a kid excel (in MCAS or with doing 7th grade extensions or anything else) who does not do their HW and who presumably does not have the parental support and role model they need to learn good study habits.

As I mentioned in my previous email, there are a lot of sixth graders who are just not doing their HW. This seems to be a very good area to tackle to improve the overall level of education at our schools. And this is an issue that will still be there even if we changed our curriculum, got aides in every classroom and money fell for teacher training. There is only so much you can teach each child in a mixed-classroom during the day - they have to do HW to learn and practice the rest.

A possible solution perhaps is a (mandatory?) HW club for the kids who are consistently not doing their HW?

Perhaps the third grade at FR is an anomaly... it specifically has performed terribly compared to previous 3rd graders.

From: http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/mcas/mcascharts2.aspx?linkid=33&orgcode=00080020&fycode=2010&orgtypecode=6&

Above proficient third graders at FR for 2007, 2008, 2009, and (2010:

27 32 28 (13) (very low for this year's 3rd graders compared to previous years)

Proficient: 39 36 38 (33)

Numbers seem OK here.

Needs improvement: 24 17 24 30

A little high for this year's third graders.

Warning: 10 14 10 24

Very high for this year's third graders.

Then look at the other grades: In fourth grade, there is drop in advanced proficient students but not in the other categories.

31 44 20 (12)

Wow, why would the advanced proficient level drop from 44% in 2008 to 12% in 2010.

CF also experienced a drop in advanced proficient this year for third graders compared to previous years' third graders.

9 20 32 (11) but they had a related increased in proficient kids - 46 28 26 (50) - and no accompanying precipitous drop in either Needs Improvement: 26 38 38 (36) or Warning: 26 38 38 (36)

The levels at WW have stayed consistent or improved for the third graders from 2007-(2010).

Advanced Proficient: 24 26 28 (29)

Proficient: 45 38 44 (61)

Needs IMprovement: 23 21 22 (7)

Warning: 8 12 7 (5)

Put in terms of actual numbers of kids: of the 63 FR kids who took the math test, 15 kids are in Warning, 19 are in Needs Improvement (34 kids of the 63 are doing POORLY - that has to be disruptive, take a lot of the teachers' time away from the others who are doing OK). 8 are above proficient and 21 are proficient. So if there were three classrooms last year, each classroom had about 10 kids or half the kids struggling in math.

I won't use CF as an example because it only had 28 kids last year (so a few kids one way or the other will skew the percentages).

But WW had an equivalent number of kids (56) in the third grade.

Of the 56 WW third graders, only 3 were in Warning, 6 Needed Improvement. 30 kids were proficient and 16 were above proficient. In each of the three classrooms, there would be an average of 3 kids strugglers in math, which is a much more manageable number for the teacher.

Anyways, I think this is a specific problem with this specific third grade, at FR.

Not a problem with the curriculum.

The question is: do you ignore it, because 4th grade and higher grades do fine on MCAS HISTORICALLY? Or do you dig in deeper to see if there is a specific problem with the third grade class (now fourth graders) at FR. As a parent, I agree with Catherine that this doesn't bode well for her son's classmates - but it seems to be something specific to the teachers or perhaps the class make-up -- but not the curriculum.

I quote here from the recent 2008 Report of National Mathematics Advisory Panel, which concluded that:

• The mathematics curriculum in Grades Pre K-8 should be streamlined and should emphasize a well-defined set of the most critical topics in the early grades.

•

Standards and curricula should make use of what is known from rigorous research about how children learn, especially by recognizing (a) the advantages for children in having a strong start; (b) the mutually reinforcing benefits of conceptual understanding, procedural fluency, and automatic (i.e., quick and effortless) recall of facts; and (c) that effort, not just inherent talent, counts in mathematical achievement.(my bolding)• Our citizens and their education leadership should recognize mathematically knowledgeable classroom teachers as having a central role in mathematics education and should encourage rigorously evaluated initiatives for attracting and appropriately preparing prospective teachers, and for evaluating and retaining effective teachers.

• Instructional practice should be informed by high-quality research, when available, and by the best professional judgment and experience of accomplished classroom teachers. High-quality research does not support the contention that instruction should be either entirely “student centered” or “teacher directed.” Research indicates that some forms of particular instructional practices can have a positive impact under specified conditions.

•

NAEP and state assessments should be improved in quality and should carry increased emphasis on the most critical knowledge and skills leading to Algebra.I just don't feel that 'Investigations' fulfills goals 1, 2, 5. Is it reasonable to expect that our ES teachers, few (if any) of who are trained in math education, should have to develop their own complementary curriculum to fill-in the holes that are missing in the 'Investigations' curriculum. I think that is an unreasonable expection. Why wouldn't we consider other curricula that are more closely aligned to meet goals 1 and 2? I find the argument that we should stick with 'Investigations' because that's what we are currently using very weak. Is that progress?

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds".

Thank you, Anon 9:24, for this deep analysis. It does appear that the low FR 3rd grade scores may indeed be an anomaly - I am sure the folks at FR will be watching this matter closely. I also think that one year's poor scores by one class at one school does not in itself warrant throwing out the entire curriculum and starting from scratch. It is good that we are doing a review of the math program and I look forward to Dr. Chen's report. We should all wait for that report before jumping to conclusions.

As a parent whose kids experienced this same math curriculum K-3 at FR, I agree that something is amiss with the math instruction at this school. While they had some fantastic teachers, they also had less-fantastic ones and they failed to learn basic math concepts despite always getting good marks in math on their report cards. None of their early teachers seemed to emphasize math or get excited about it, nor did the culture of the school celebrate math. This has always troubled me and these latest MCAS results bother me even more. I hope Dr. Chen is looking into this.

The other thing that suggests that it's not just the math (or math curriculum) but something more to do with the FR third grade class make up (or teachers, if they are different from previous years) - is that the ELA scores are low as well, compared to previous years.

Third grade ELA scores for 2007-(2010) at FR for P+ & P and NI & W:

68/32, 75/26, 65/35 to (55/44) for this year's class.

Third grade Math scores at FR for 2007-(2010):

66/34, 67/34, 66/34 and (46/54).

You can see that for both ELA and math, for the previous three years of third graders, the ratio of P+ and P to NI & I is about 65/35, and this year it is much closer to 50-50.

What is scary is when you look at the fourth graders' scores from 2009-2010. They've decreased from they were in third grade to the fourth grade.

ELA: P+&P/NI&W: 65/35 in 2009 to 54/47 in 2010.

Math: 66/34 to 57/44

So, is there something wrong with the fourth grade teacher/curriculum that happened recently that causes the same group of kids to have lower scores from the 3rd to the 4th grade?

The fifth and sixth graders at FR have shown a decrease in ELA from when they were in third grade to the fourth grade. But there is a steady increase after that to very respectable scores in 6th.

The Fifth Grade ELA scores from 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade:

75/26 to 60/40, to 67/34 (a drop in 4th grade, starting to go back up in 5th).

The Fifth Grade MATH scores from 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade:

67/34, 62/38, 68/31 (consistent)

Now to the sixth grade ELA: scores from 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th grade:

68/32, 47/52, 76/24, 83/17 (a drop in fourth grade, and then steadily up)

Now to the sixth grade MATH: scores from 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th grade:

66/34, 73/28, 74/27, 78/22 (nice climb up).

If you want the WW equivalent:

WW 4th graders ELA: 70/29 to 70/31

WW 4th graders MATH: 61/39 to 47/53 (drop from 3rd to 4th grade)

WW 5th graders ELA: 67/33, 60/40, 71/29

WW 5th graders Math: 64/36, 64/37, 73,28

(both ELA/Math are improving by 5th grade)

WW 6th graders ELA: 68/31, 51/49, 81/19, 83,/17 (decrease in 4th grade, but nice improvement in fifth grade)

WW 6th graders math: 71/28, 55/46, 61/40, 79/21 decrease in 4th grade, but nice improvement in fifth and especially sixth grade)

Some thoughts:

Both FR and WW are doing something right by 6th grade. The ELA scores for FR and WW are 83/17 and 83/17. The MATH scores are 78/22 and 79/21. Does this mean that we should not worry about what happens beforehand?

A single class can go from 70/30 to 55/45 from one year to the next, and still end up at 80/20 by 6th grade.

There is a dip in ELA scores at FR from the third to the fourth grade, and this has happened 3 years in a row (for the 4th, 5th and 6th graders).

There is a dip in Math (between those are P+/P vs those who are in trouble) from third to fourth grade for the past two years (for the 4th and 5th grades, but not the sixth graders).

At WW, there are years where scores drop in ELA or Math but not in a pattern.

This years' FR third graders have the LOWEST starting point on their first MCAS test in both ELA and MATH scores compared to other classes at FR. (ELA: 55/44 and Math 46/54). Other classes at FR have started out generally at 65/35 in both ELA and math.

This years' WW third graders have the HIGHEST starting point on their first MCAS test in both ELA and MATH. (ELA: 87/12 and Math 84/16). This point is moot in the sense that these kids have been dispersed to different schools - but it does say something about the teaching at WW vs FR prior to and including the third grade IF you assume the class make-up was similar between the two schools.

The third graders at FR also have low ELA scores.

Third grade ELA scores for 2007-(2010) at FR for P+ & P and NI & W:

68/32, 75/26, 65/35 to (55/44) for this year's class.

Third grade Math scores at FR for 2007-(2010):

66/34, 67/34, 66/34 and (46/54).

This years' FR third graders have the LOWEST starting point on their first MCAS test in both ELA and MATH scores compared to other classes at FR. (ELA: 55/44 and Math 46/54). Other classes at FR have started out generally at 65/35 in both ELA and math.

What is scary is when you look at the fourth graders' scores. In general, at both FR and WW, when there is a decrease in ELA or MATH scores, it occurs in the fourth grade.

FR 4th graders ELA: 65/35 in 2009 to 54/47 in 2010.

Math: 66/34 to 57/44

The fifth and sixth graders at FR have shown a decrease in ELA from when they were in third grade to the fourth grade. But there is a steady increase after that to very respectable scores in 6th.

The Fifth Grade ELA scores from 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade:

75/26 to 60/40, to 67/34 (a drop in 4th grade, starting to go back up in 5th).

The Fifth Grade MATH scores from 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade:

67/34, 62/38, 68/31 (consistent)

Now to the sixth grade ELA: scores from 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th grade:

68/32, 47/52, 76/24, 83/17 (a drop in fourth grade, and then steadily up)

Now to the sixth grade MATH: scores from 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th grade:

66/34, 73/28, 74/27, 78/22 (nice climb up).

If you want the WW equivalent:

WW 4th graders ELA: 70/29 to 70/31

WW 4th graders MATH: 61/39 to 47/53 (drop from 3rd to 4th grade)

WW 5th graders ELA: 67/33, 60/40, 71/29

WW 5th graders Math: 64/36, 64/37, 73,28

(both ELA/Math are improving by 5th grade)

WW 6th graders ELA: 68/31, 51/49, 81/19, 83,/17 (decrease in 4th grade, but nice improvement in fifth grade)

WW 6th graders math: 71/28, 55/46, 61/40, 79/21 decrease in 4th grade, but nice improvement in fifth and especially sixth grade)

Some thoughts:

Both FR and WW are doing something right by 6th grade. The ELA scores for FR and WW are 83/17 and 83/17. The MATH scores are 78/22 and 79/21.

A single class can go from 70/30 to 55/45 from one year to the next, and still end up at 80/20 by 6th grade.

Does this mean that we should not worry about what happens beforehand?

Is the fourth grade MCAS test particularly difficult? If there is a drop, that is the year when it occurs.

There is a dip in ELA scores at FR from the third to the fourth grade, and this has happened 3 years in a row (for the 4th, 5th and 6th graders).

There is a dip in Math (between those are P+/P vs those who are in trouble) from third to fourth grade for the past two years (for the 4th and 5th grades, but not the sixth graders).

At WW, there are years where scores drop in ELA or Math and if it occurs, it is during the fourth grade.

At WW, math is not celebrated either. When you look at the schedule at Open House/Curriculum Night, you see how the kids spend 1 period doing math, and then there's Reading, Writing, Word Work,Spelling. Reading is broken up into Quiet Reading, Reader's Workshop, and buddy reading. There is a huge emphasis on "Just Right" books - why don't teachers care about kids doing "Just Right Math?

Homework for every grade includes reading every night (15 min in second grade, more in third, and then up to 30 minutes every day including weekends in 4th grade. My fourth grader is also recording 30 minutes of silent reading everyday in school.

Math homework at most consists of 1 worksheet that can be done on the bus ride home, and that is only 1 or 2 times a week that they get math homework. Oh, and the weekly math exercise to add up all the minutes you've read and all the pages you've read. Imagine if the kids got 30 minutes of math homework everyday in fourth grade including the weekends.

We've also had teachers tell parents "Oh, I'm not good at math!"

What teacher would dare tell a parent "Oh, I can't read..."

There needs to be an overhaul of the ATTITUDE towards math in the Amherst school system, starting with the teachers.

My comment is in regard to the FR and Ken posts...My current 8th grader went to FR k-6.

Many beloved veteran teachers with high expectations have been retiring from FR over the past few years. Given the (IMO) very hazy curriculum guidelines in Amherst, new teachers have little guidance about expectations and perhaps less than adequate curricular materials or coaching in using those materials. My child had an excellent math ed at FR but he was lucky in that he got all the right teachers.

For example, my child's 4th grade teacher supplemented his math curriculum with his own material that he developed and collected over the years. And, from what I've heard, he was at odds with the former principal for using that supplemental material. I also heard that this particular teacher did not want Amherst to purchase the math curriculum that they now use.

So, in response to Ken's assertion that the math curriculum is fine and that it has worked well for so many years - I'd like to say that older teachers supplemented the current math curriculum with other stuff - or perhaps they substituted their stuff for the current math curricular materials.

Additionally, many peers of my child did go to Kumon if they didn't get a teacher who was strong in math teaching. (You stated in the past that you didn;t think that parents knew what Kumon was - that couldn't be further from the truth).

to anon@3:38

I very much hope you shared your thoughts about your child's FR math experience (and how you think that has changed for current kids) with Dr. Chen.

Someone mentioned Kumon. Many children from more affluent families use Kumon to teach their kids the math Amherst elementary schools won't teach.

More and more kids from more affluent families are being pulled from ARPS and heading to charter schools and privates.

This might explain, in part at least, the drop in Math MCAS. Kids who have had access to, dare I say it, a better math curriculum, but were still in ARPS are leaving in droves.

There are still plenty of bright kids of all socio-economic backgrounds whose parents are teaching them math the "old fashion" way (not Investigations), so all is not lost, but clearly ARPS isn't doing a particularly good job.

My thoughts: Thanks to all of those who have posted good and thoughtful information here. I think the key thing to understand (for me as both a SC member and a parent) is how to understand the very low 3rd grade MCAS scores at FR (and to some extent, in the district as a whole).

One explanation is that these scores will rise over time, so we shouldn't be so worried, since the data does show that our current 5th and 6th graders are doing pretty well.

Another explanation is that our current 5th and 6th graders were doing considerably better when they were in 3rd grade, and this means we are in a bigger hole than we've been in before ... and that in 3 years, we are going to see similarly low performance for these kids.

The "new" (and supposedly improved) version of Investigations was implemented in 2007, and I was told repeatedly that this new version fixed the problems seen in the old version (which empirical research has shown in less good than other curriculum). Well, these 3rd graders have now had 3 years of the new curriculum (and only 1 year of the old curriculum), so one possibility is that these kids are the early indication of whether this new curriculum is better (and I would say it is not). Another possibility is that the families who have chosen to leave our schools (or not enroll their kids in our schools - I know of several families at Fort River and Wildwood whose youngest child does NOT attend the school) have children who would have scored higher on MCAS, and those kids are all of a sudden missing from our data. I find either of those explanations concerning.

Are there other plausible explanations?

When is Dr. Chen's report due? And if he concludes that Investigations is a poor curriculum will ARPS be able to have a new curriculum in place by the start of the 2011-2012 school year?

So just how many parents are supplementing their child's education with other teaching/tutoring during non-school hours?

And is this different than other school systems?

And does this supplementing explain some of Amherst's schools' "success"?

I agree with Anon 6:07pm.

I was quite struck with the MCAS scores. My husband and I have been very concerned about our child's math education for the last two to three years. Last year my husband started doing extra math work with our child at home (using the traditional approach) and interestingly enough we saw a huge improvement in the math MCAS score - from low proficient to low advanced. I am especially struck with this improvement given that we were only doing about 10 problems 3-5 days per week - not very rigorous by any stretch of the imagination.

This makes me wonder about the percentage of students scoring advanced on the MCAS. My suspicion is that these are the children who are involved with Kumon, Sylvan, have private tutors or like our child have parents who do extra work at home.

I wonder what the MCAS statistics would look like if we removed these children from the overall scores.

If that small amount of work improved our child's score so tremendously, there is no reason the district cannot do the same for all children, especially given the high cost of spending per student.

Anon 12:15,

I have not examined all the figures you posted. I commend you for taking the time to look. I will say that comparing one 4th grade to the next year's, etc, is less informative than tracing the CPI of a cohort across grades, from 3rd to 6th. It's comparing apples to oranges (i.e., 2 different groups of students) rather than the growth of the apples. Ideally, 2 things should happen: the CPI of a grade for both the aggregate and subgroup scores should increase over time; and the lowest CPIs should increase the most. So far, all our 3rd grades have improved steadily to 6th, both in the aggregate as well as subgroups, and that is very rare in the state.

In FR's case, also look at the demographic shift. The ESL % has increased at the school every year since 2007, as has the % of low income students. If you add up the % of low income, ESL and SPED students (3 of the lowest scoring subgroups in the state) in 3rd, it looks to be 68+/-% of the total students in 2008, 67+/-% in 2009, and over 75% in 2010. (Of course, there must be some overlap but without knowing the exact figures all one could do is guess, though it would probably not acvcount for too much of the total.) One could easily forecast lower scores just on that fact alone. Conversely, in WW last year, those 3 groups comprised well under 50% of the total! So demgraphically, you can not compare these 2 schools' MCAS scores even though they are in the same town--and even DESE does not want us to! Catherine's throw-away line about us being a college town so the expectation should be very high scores for all COMPLETELY overlooks the demographic realities of our student body.

In other words, it is EXTREMELY complex to analyze MCAS data well, and jumping to uninformed conclusions (not yours, Anon, but what many others are doing) about this or that trend ultimately does no one any good.

The math program itself is a red herring; the real issues are demographic shifts and the preparedness of teachers to adapt instructionally to them.

Catherine, you can't be serious about jumping to the "boys" category and their SGP to find yet another way to insist that there is something wrong for your son because of Investigations. Your compulsive eagerness for this is starting to show more clearly. First, as you well know, the SGP measures year-to-year growth amd so is not a score as such. Second, you're telling everyone that your son may have more in common with, say, a low income latino male student than a white, female non-low-income student? You're just trying SO hard at this. I'm surprised at you. Again, you wouldn't accept this silliness in a student's paper in a course you teach.

Anon 3:38 (and others), my message is not that the math curriculum is fine. My message is that the data clearly shows 4 things.

One, there continues to be a demographic shift towards more academically needy students, and our teachers need training in doing that successfully, not throwing a new program on top of their heads. Programs guarantee nothing. Catherine won't answer a question I've asked twice now: Every Day Math, which people tout as so great, has yielded ABYSMAL scores in grades 5 and 6 in Easthampton. Does that mean EM is bad? This whole discussion just distracts attention from what we really need--teacher training-- which is what I've consistantly said.

Second, this anti-Investigations discussion is CLEARLY an ideological one. So just say it, period, and make the real agenda clear. Investigations goes at teaching math in a way that some people find odd--and apparently even offensive. It's fine to have opinions, everyone does. But then let the data define the reality. What I object to is ideology masquerading as fact, and opinion masquerading as fact or operating at the same level as fact (like Abby's "treatise" on what she thinks comparing Investigations to recommendations of the Advisory Panel) which is why I have been so "out there" with this math discussion. I don't think hidden agendas are healthy for a school system, not because they're agendas, but because they're hidden.

Third, the data trends actually show--CONSISTANTLY--that Amherst 3rd graders steadily improve in math in EVERY subgroup category from 3rd to 6th, which means that whatever program is being used is scaffolding learning quite well. By 6th, ALL of our subgroups are outperforming the state average for that subgroup, sometimes by a lot. It does NOT matter where students start their MCAS "career" score-wise. It matters where they finish, which in our elementary schools is grade 5 (with Investigations) and 6 (elementary math). Otherwise, MCAS at grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 10 would all be weighted equally, but you can get Warning every year grades 3-8 and still graduate in grade 10 with an appropriate score. This improvement been the trend in Amherst since MCAS data has been available to track students 3rd-6th. The issue is uneven levels of achievement, which is the case all over the state. And for that, you need more teacher training in working with underachieving populations, not a new program.

Finally, Catherine also has avoided answering this question, which I've asked on at least 3 occasions in this and other threads: How much credit does our math program get for our strong overall math performance in past years (it's been in the district since 2001, I believe, in the 1st or 2nd editions)? Or does our program only have negative impact? Or was it a good program...butthensuddenlyitbecamebad? This is a complex issue which requires careful analysis, and that means logical reasoning at the least, and unfortunately there is a REAL lack of that on display by some folks on this blog.

I agree with Navneet that it is likely that a large percentage of the kids scoring "advanced proficient" are doing extra math work at home or at Kumon or other similar place. That plus their innate talent (or lack thereof) for math puts them at their maximum level on the MCAS scoring chart. (Just like real life - it takes a combination of innate talent and hard work, and you can compensate to some degree with more of one or the other).

My kids do Kumon - and my oldest consistently scores in the low advanced proficient level. The other kid does not really get math easily - it's not intuitive - but with Kumon, this kid has scored in the high proficient level. Without Kumon, I'm sure the scores would be much lower.

So turn the question around: is it the school's job or the parents' job to instill good study habits in the kids? I think it requires a combination of the two - that the schools send home more math homework at a younger age, to instill the basics that can traditionally be learned with drills and repetition - and it's up to the parents to ensure that the homework is completed. I really don't think the schools are required to take on the burden alone, without parental suppport.

Then the issue becomes: what do you do when the families will not provide the academic support their kids need (in terms of forcing them to do the homework (if there were any)).

Anon 9:44, please understand that your conjecture about Kumon and/or extra work at home is nothing more than that--a conjecture. After you posed it as a conjecture, you seemed to start running with it as fact. Your child does Kumon, but neither you nor Navneet have any real data to prove your point about large %s of higher achievers doing it. In addition, in many families, extra work on school-related work--be it math, reading or whatever--is a fact of life regardless of the program.

My responses:

Anonymous 2:05 - Dr. Chen's report is due soon ... end of this month. I look forward to seeing it, and I look forward to seeing what Maria Geryk does with whatever recommendations he proposes.

Ken - I continue to treat you with respect, and I would really appreciate it if you could do the same when you post questions to me. Thanks.

1. My son is a boy, so I find the SGP for boys relevant. I'm sorry if you disagree with that approach.

2. I said I'm concerned about the scores (below state average) for Fort River, and you said we should focus on SGP and not worry about the scores. So, I looked at SGP, and you said that isn't as good as looking at scores. All I know that is that 3rd graders in Amherst this year aren't doing as well as the state average, and demographically Amherst isn't different than the state average, so I don't know how to spin this more positively. You say that in the past, kids have done better over time. But you also have to admit that in the past, we haven't been below the state average in 3rd grade! I'm concerned. You are not, and that's fine. But don't ridicule my concern.

3. I've responded to your question re. Everyday Math in Easthampton already, but I'm glad to respond again. First, Everyday Math ends in 5th grade so it would have no impact on 6th grade scores anywhere. Second, I'd never consider the results of one district as determining anything. If you have a friend who smokes and is 70, that doesn't mean that smoking doesn't kill. Research includes data from lots of different districts, and whether you like it or not, this type of research shows that Everyday Math is effective, and that Investigations isn't. I know that doesn't fit with your theory of what you see, but that is the point of larger scale research.

4. I do have an ideological view -- I believe math is really important, and kids need to really learn math at an early age. And when I see below average MCAS scores in math in a district, I do feel concerned that those kids aren't learning math as well as kids in other districts. I know you believe our low scores are the result of a lack of teacher training ... that is one possibility, and I would hope you would acknowledge other possibilities.

5. My understanding is that Investigations and Everyday Math are actually quite similar in their approach to teaching - they are both reform curriculum. Where they differ is that one has data showing it works and one doesn't. I care about data.

6. And in terms of your final question -- I've heard repeatedly from teachers and curriculum leaders that we haven't been using the Investigations curriculum for years. In fact, at multiple meetings administrators and teachers have said its use has been very inconsistent, so I have no idea whether the kids who were getting it did better or worse than the kids who didn't. What we do know is that as consistent implementation has been done, our scores have decreased. I'm hoping the math report by Dr. Chen will shed some light on this issue.

Catherine, I'm sorry, but your insistence on looking at the SGP for the subgroup that LEAST descriptively describes your son (as if average growth would be a horrible thing anyway, but that aside) just because it's lower, rather than both the very high CPI AND SGP of the 2 subgroups that are the MOST descriptive, is, frankly wierd. Of course, you are well aware that most all the the boys in the non-low-income and non-Title-1 subgroups will way outperform most boys in other subgroups, but that doesn't make your point, so you ignore it. That's your prerogative, and I'll let your readers make their own judgment.

You scold me for disrespect, but I would hope the same holds true from my end. For instance, I would find it more respectful if you answer what I actually write rather than your caricature of it. First, I never said SGP isn't as good as looking at scores. I actually was very clear. What I said was that SGP isn't a score, but you used it as such. Then you also intimate that I am not concerned about the lower scores in 3rd grade. I never actually said that. What I am most concerned about is describing and contextualizing the data so that it can be understood properly, and what I am most against is the rush to labeling and judgment, which has been happening (with your kick -off) on this site, and does no one any good: teachers, students, parents and administrators alike.

You are incorrect once again in asserting that research shows that Investigations has been shown to be ineffective. I will say it one last time: NO RESEARCH HAS BEEN VALIDATED BY THE WHAT WORKS CLEARINGHOUSE THAT COMES DOWN ON EITHER SIDE OF THE INVESTIGATIONS DEBATE. It seems like a pretty clear statement to me, one which I've posted several times. Yet you continue to ignore it. YES, the WWC HAS validated Everyday Math research, but NO, it has not ruled one way or the other about Investigations, unless something has been added to their site since the last time I looked last month.

Although our FR population in 3rd grade roughly mirrors the state, I believe it is more complex. Again, adding low income, LEP and SPED together is 64% of the total 3rd grade population statewide, while at FR it is 76%. There may be overlap, but that would be true in both cases. There is an increasing burden of a complex population to teach at a time when services are shrinking, and perhaps when teachers are getting less trained than before. I also wonder if the mobility rate for FR's most struggling populations is higher than the state average. The point of all this is, Catherine, that as a School Board official, I would expect a greater degree of caution and analysis than you have shown on this very complex and important issue.

Finally, you note an inconsistent implementation of the curriculum. Well, that is something significant that I, at least, didn't know, which adds a very important variable to the equation. Of course scores will go down if there is inconsistent implementation of ANY program, especially one like Investigations.

Ken - it is clear that you and I have different views on many things, so I'm going to leave it at that. But as I'm sure you know, the fact that no research on Investigations has been done of high enough quality to merit mention in the What Works Clearinghouse doesn't mean that this curriculum is effective. It means we don't know. And a study last year, which I've linked to (as have others) randomly assigned schools to use one of 4 curriculum, and Investigations was the worst of those 4. There isn't any data not written by the publisher of Investigations showing it is effective. That isn't ideology, that's just fact.

Here we go again. Someone points out in very clear terms the many places where Catherine is just plain wrong and what is her response? She just walks away from the discussion. When will people wise up?

Ken:

CS said quote "My understanding is that Investigations and Everyday Math are actually quite similar in their approach to teaching - they are both reform curriculum. Where they differ is that one has data showing it works and one doesn't. I care about data."

That is accurate. You are wrong in calling that statement incorrect. There lacks any data to show that Investigations is good (and none showing it is bad)!Lots of folks have posted about inconsistent instruction in math. But go ahead and pretend that this is the FIRST time you have heard it... I raised this point myself, that teachers need to supplement Investigations because it is an incomplete curriculum. Since this seems to be left mostly to teachers to figure out, it is inconsistent. It is unclear to me how 'professional development' would address this problem. Again,

why wouldn't we want try to find a curriculum that is complete, one that offers conceptual understanding, procedural fluency, and automatic (i.e., quick and effortless) recall of facts.You keep suggesting the main problem is lack of 'professional development'. That's what you do for a living, right?

As the mother of a FR 4th grader, I was also horrified by the scores. I also thought back to last spring and can say with confidence that 1/3 of the third graders took the MCAS in very trying circumstances: one month after their beloved teacher went on maternity leave and one month into what became a disastrous spring that the parents of that group have written off as essentially a wasted 5 months. I see the difference between my daughter's ability to do her challenging math homework and the scores she received on the MCAS, and I'm confident that the test did not reflect her abilities but certainly reflected the despondency (no exaggeration) that she and many of her classmates felt during that time.

I also note that at the open house both of my children's teachers this year (1st and 4th) explained that they do not rely on Investigations alone to teach their students and have created their own math curriculum to ensure that their students are really learning math.

(Anonymous for the teachers' sake).

Anonymous 10:05 - thanks for sharing your story ... and the information about a teacher being away on leave may help explain those very low scores last year. I also have heard from teachers that they supplement Investigations with other things -- I just don't think we as a district should be requiring teachers to do that much work! But I just want to be clear -- my kids have had great teachers, and I do not blame the MCAS scores on the teachers. I think it is a much broader issue -- are we giving teachers curriculum that are easy to teach, are we providing adequate training/mentoring, etc. Again, I'm hopeful Dr. Chen's report can shed some light on this, and help us improve.

Did all of the third grade teachers go out on maternity leave last year? If not, I imagine the one teacher's leave explains only part of the problem.

I am sorry to hear that your child was despondent over her teacher's departure. I have known other kids at Fort River whose entire years were similarly disrupted for lack of a good transition plan to cover maternity leaves (or returns from maternity leaves that then never happen).

I think part of the problem between certain school staff and CS has to do with hypersensitivity to ANY criticism. Aren't we all adults here? Isn't the job of the the SC to identify areas of concern? I've been a public school teacher and I understand the demands of the job - and I've worked in towns that have high (sometimes unrealistically high) expectations. But the defensiveness and unwillingness of school staff to hear concerns is (IMO) a problem in this town. I don't have control over how school staff behave - however, I wish they could acknowledge that they are hypersensitive. Maybe Ken should just read the Community Supported Education website - they just stroke each other over there and ignore any questions from parents that aren't 100% positive about the schools.

To: October 5, 2010 3:38 PM

Your experience was the same as ours at Ft. River. There were some seasoned teachers there that had the backbone to buck the former principal there and just do what they knew was right, curriculum-wise.

1.) I am a teacher in the schools and will remain nameless for the sake of my job.

2.) I often feel attacked, unsupported and disrespected by members of the community who are making judgments without acquiring evidence (asking your kids, looking at homework assignments and reading blogs is not enough info to make a true evaluation. Try ASKING rather than accusing. The two are very different).

3.) I believe Catherine does have a specific ideology and agenda, but who doesn't? That's the way of the world isn't it? Ken's agenda (I'm assuming) is to support/defend his school and the teachers (working their butts off) in it and to demand fair evaluation of data. My agenda is to continue improving as an educator and make sure that, despite the sh!t-storm that is coming down on my profession, I continue to do the best job I can - for my students.

4.) I have never had any formal training on how to use Investigations.

5.) I supplement the curriculum with other materials.

6.) I believe that Investigations doesn't meet the needs of all kids - particularly when parents have already decided the curriculum isn't good and teach their kids in other ways AND when teachers aren't sufficiently trained.

5.) I believe that there are some FANTASTIC aspects of Investigations that truly help kids conceptualize numbers more clearly - which is the problem with traditional math. I was a struggling math student all through school, and only began to understand certain mathematical concepts AFTER I began teaching Investigations. It helped me "get" what I never "got."

6.) I tutored a young lady in Belchertown, who was considerably behind in math. I used many Investigations techniques to help her catch up. The conceptual piece that Investigations emphasizes helped her A LOT when mixed with traditional methods. She scored proficient on her MCAS this year.

7.) My point is that I think we should mix Investigations with traditional methods, because together, are EXTREMELY effective (IMO). The proper mix (and training and support) could prove extremely effective.

Oct 9 9:18 --

Can you provide any examples of what is going on in Amherst in regard to education that leads you to refer to it as a sh!tstorm?

Is Investigations used only in the elementary schools? If so, what is used at the middle school and high school?

Ken and Catherine are clearly on opposite sides of a great divide. No matter which equation is applied, the numbers just don't add up for Ken. Perhaps he should subtract himself from the discussion before this multiplies to the point people want to start throwing Pi at each other in irrational numbers.

It is actually Catherine's numbers that don't add up and she should be the one who subtracts herself from this discussion.

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