Saturday, September 06, 2008

Math Results Spinning in Prince William

Today's WAPO article "Pr. William Pupils Still Grapple With Math Test" appears to be a masterful exercise in the "spin", by Prince William County. Essentially, the "Math Investigations" program introduced last year amidst wide derision by Parents and Teachers has failed to produce any metrics of success. Zero - and in fact partially negative - progress in improving 3rd grade math performance for yet another year.

Take note, Loudoun County Public Schools(LCPS) - as Edgar Hatrick (LCPS Superintendent) answered our question a year ago when asked about Math Investigations in Loudoun - "we are evaluating the use of Math Investigations..." Well, it seems evaluation period is over, based both on the experience of parents and children we know in Loudoun, Fairfax and Prince William, and on reports and metrics such as the WAPO article describe.

The "spin", however, is swirling faster than the center of TS Hannah today. The article quotes "many" education experts and area school officials "hailing" Investigations, while "some" parents and educators "deriding" it. Our informal surveys of online and offline response to the program have these measures reversed, with "most" parents and educators solidly in the camp of derision. Prince William school officials said "it was an accomplishment that the overall percentage of proficient and advanced students stayed flat...because new programs often result in sudden drops". (Cue pause of disbelief while your mind wraps itself around this nonsense.) Such an "accomplishment" of "no change at all" reminds me of my teenage lifeguard test - tread water and don't drown for 30 minutes, and you pass.

A spokeswoman for Pearson (publishers of the Investigations program material) said "if Investigations were not successful, why would Pearson continue publishing it year after year after year?". Simple answer - it's just business. Ask the cigarette manufacturers the same question - "if smoking actually kills you, why would we keep selling cigarettes year after year?". Because a lot of money is to be made.

Here's an interesting quote regarding Loudoun, from the bulletin board - " I talked to a 3rd grade teacher from a school in Loudoun who was told to be doing "full investigations" if asked. However, the teacher told me they SUPPLEMENTED 75 percent of the year and did MI only 25 percent. The admin said you do what you got to do to pass that test. They got 94 percent and they really didn't do Math Inv. but they have to pretend they did!! "

Keep supplementing, and stop pretending

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Loudoun County School Govt. overhead needs to show they are doing something so they come up with this kind of bull.... Look at the ratio of overhead to real teaching positions.

12:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PWCS SOL results are frightening. The school my children attend had near double digit declines in pass rates and only one AYP category with a single digit drop in advanced scores - the rest were all double digit drops. Boys now score advanced less than 50% of the time.

Oh - and the line about scores declining in the first year is totally busted. Neabsco Elementary began using Investigations before the rest of the county and was 1 year ahead of the rest of the county in implementing Investigations. The 2006/2007 school year was the first year third graders at the school who were taught full Investigations took the SOL and pass rates dropped 13%.

The official response for that drop was that one teacher, yes - one teacher, struggled with Investigations and her scores were dramatically down while the rest were about the same (and that was from school board member Julie Lucas in a public meeting). I'd expect that that teacher received some heavy duty retraining on Investigations and lots of suppoprt this year. I'd expect, with the additional training and support for that one struggling teacher, that test scores at the school would rebound from their 13 point drop. I'd expect it, but I'd be wrong. Test scores at Neabsco were unchanged.

Run, RUN from Investigaitons.

7:40 PM  

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