Monday, December 29, 2008

The Key Results of the NMAP Report.

The tables and what readers infer from them in the National Math Advisory Panel Report are what truly matters.

A streamlined curriculum means that mandated topics need not be 100% of a math course. This is the great unwritten benefit of the report. Without stating it, NMAP agrees with the Core Knowledge, CK, method of using a core curriculum: the core hovers around 50% of a course in a CK classroom. The actual percent of time spent on streamlined curriculum will depend on students and their groups, which is a difficult issue to address in print. This allows enrichment and remediation to occur in real-time, while staying on an acknowledged, understood national path.

The Benchmark Table is what regulates math instruction. The table implies that mastery learning be implemented within a streamlined curriculum and its assessment. It's about learning, not teaching!

The School Algebra Table, California Algebra 2 without conics, adjusts the pathways of the high school math curriculum, striking a balance between rigor and realism. Algebra 2 is absolutely necessary, but High School Geometry, isn't! Knowing how to determine the measures of inscribed angles isn't really vital. Yes, A1-G-A2 may be the standard and wonderful, but A1-A2 works.

All of the comments and responses on research methods, etc. are embarrassing. They really are beside the point. Words on research-based are merely buzz or rants of the chattering class, but a reasonable, streamlined curriculum that demands mastery learning - now that's something special. Are there any comments that the tables of the NMAP Report are unreasonable or a poor starting point? No. In short, opponents of the report, need to ask themselves: are we bricks in the wall? (with thanks to Pink Floyd)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Donation from Costa Mesa Community Foundation

Times are tough, but the people of the Costa Mesa Community Foundation believe in helping students stay in school by completing their math requirements - math failures equals dropouts.  Please thank them for helping sustain ALEKS use in Newport-Mesa. ALEKS is the fastest way to mastering math.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Embracing CHSPE Allows a Pathway to School Reform

The California High School Proficiency Exam, CHSPE, which is lawfully equivalent to a high school diploma for any purpose in California, serves as the linchpin for comprehensive, yet low-cost, school reform in California.  It accomplishes this through three critical benefits:
  1. The CHSPE serves as graduation insurance for students as schools increase rigor.
  2. The CHSPE helps implement an Early College, which improves college success.
  3. The CHSPE allows students to take courses they want to take, which reduces dropouts.
Schools want to increase rigor. For example, Algebra 2 or three years of science could be graduation requirements. However, the very real risk of increasing dropouts makes this effort very risky. For a principal or superintendent to bet the future on the words of pundits or a few researchers claiming that more rigor also will magically reduce dropouts is foolhardy, but if a safety net presented itself that also enhances the transition of students to community colleges or vocations, then the vigorous deployment of not only rigorous courses, but also career-oriented courses with extra support for students starting community colleges could proceed reversibly. Reform need not mimic Cortez's burning of his ships. The California High School Proficiency Exam, CHSPE, offers each student graduation insurance, and therefore supplies an often ignored mechanism in gaining community support in reforming schools.

In brief, CHSPE-based reform helps solve the problems of many courses being too easy, students needing remedial courses in college, students not completing college, and high drop-out rates, with the possibility of improved API scores.

Increasing Rigor Flexibly

a. The high school must request a waiver from its district for added graduation requirements for incoming ninth graders.  For example, while different pathways to rigor exist, many graduation requirement sets would include either three years of both science and math or statements like Chemistry, Biology, Physics or Geometry, Algebra 2, Pre-Calculus or Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Statistics.  The requirement set could be modified each year, and hold for the entering class.
b. Similar to colleges stating graduation requirements for entering students, a high school would notify eighth graders that its requirements will be different than the standard in the district. Eighth graders would have the option of starting at another high school, if space is available. They also would be told that they could take the CHSPE in tenth grade and graduate early or stay in school with a special schedule, if they so chose after passing the CHSPE.

c. Graduation requirements could be modified for each entering class as feedback on student success and difficulties and results on increased rigor became available.  In particular, the choices that students make after taking the CHSPE and later, the actual results of those decisions would determine the effectiveness of this approach to high school reform.

CHSPE and Student Decision-Making

d.  Eight and ninth grade students would be informed that those who complete Algebra and two years of high school math strongly perform well on CHSPE and graduate early. Those who neglect studying flounder and struggle through four years of high school.

e. The CHSPE would voluntarily be taken in February and June during tenth grade. With a cost of nearly $100, students would be careful in taking it. There is no legal reason for a school to pay for the CHSPE. However, organizations such as a PTA could partially subsidize the fee.

f. Students who pass the CHSPE would enjoy these options:
  • Simply stay in high school and graduate at the end of 12th grade.
  • Graduate immediately with family permission.  This would allow a full community college course load with fees. However, student failure is likely. Early high school withdrawal could be effectively discouraged by the obvious benefits of the other choices. However, early withdrawal would serve students who want to start a non- or low-technical trade program or possibly those who seek a certificate program from a community college. 
  • Complete, but do not file, school withdrawal papers.  Students would gain these benefits:
1. Able to take two community college classes without fees
2. Attend high school on a reduced schedule with study halls for college classes
3. Reduced schedule could include focused courses such as robotics or drama 
4. Reduced schedule could simply be independent study courses supporting college classes
5. Enjoy food and activities such as sports, which would be inappropriate for those NCAA-bound
  • Students, who graduate early, would be welcome to reapply for admittance. There is no need to penalize students for making unfortunate choices that could be mitigated.
  • Instruction in 11th and 12th grade would operate at higher levels than currently employed. Students who couldn't or wouldn't meet the standards could always opt-out by passing the CHSPE or transferring to another high school, if remediation proved ineffective.
  • Students who cannot pass the CHSPE would be served as current students are. However, with, hopefully, fewer numbers they could be identified and focused on better than today.
The Opposite of Cynicism

In could be said that encouraging CHSPE is an improper way of increasing a school's graduation rate or decreasing it's dropout rate, but the opposite has been far worse for decades.  Although aware, very few California school officials tell parents and young adults of the CHSPE's availability because bodies are dollars in ADA districts.  Arguments against the CHSPE are self-serving, while arguments for the CHSPE are informational and grant options to students and parents.  It young adults another way, perhaps their only way, to succeed.  Explaining the benefits and disadvantages of the CHSPE is professional and proper.

In Basic Aid districts, not ADA districts, a student leaving school is close to revenue-neutral.

Note: CAHSEE vis a vis CHSPE

The CAHSEE is a necessary condition for awarding a high school diploma, as set by state law. The CHSPE is sufficient to be recognized as a diploma for ANY PURPOSE under state law.  The CAHSEE is easier than CHSPE because its tests lower level math standards.  In addition, the CHSPE includes an essay examination in its English componenent.

Let Successful CHSPE Students Walk in Graduation

Yes, the CHSPE is easier to earn than a district high school diploma, and from an initial, gut reaction, letting CHSPE students walk in graduation doesn't seem fair because they have accomplished less than most of the other students, but consider the advantages to all parties, and a 180 may be warranted!

Positive Reasons to Encourage Students to Walk

Don't let the best be the enemy of the better.  With 25% of students dropping out of school, it may be that most students taking and passing the CHSPE have a close to 50% chance of not graduating otherwise.  Walking through graduation may be their only motivation to even continue with their education. The CHSPE is an educational compromise. Passing it can be joyous; not a moment of regret. Save criticism for dropouts; especially since CHSPE students frequently plan to continue their studies at a community college. Students and their families should be legitimately proud of earning the CHSPE, and remember they are the foundation of education - they're called taxpayers and voters.

Early graduation is not rejection.  A school administration need not think that a student taking the CHSPE is rejecting them, the students are simply rejecting two more years of conventional school after completing eleven or twelve years.  In short, school leaders shouldn't take CHSPE results as reflecting poorly on them.  Passing CHSPE can be considered a vindication - students have succeeded early and are ready to move on; albeit not perfectly.  They shouldn't be punished for leaving the nest; nor should administers think they failed.

Motivate ninth and tenth graders.  The prospect of graduating school after 10th grade may help ninth and tenth graders try harder in math and language classes.  Seeing happy people move on in a graduation ceremony, not a second class disappearance, serves as a powerful image.  Hearing other students moan about not knowing enough math to pass the CHSPE will also have effects.  In Alt Ed, juniors perform better than sophomores because they see the end of school and the pleasures of walking in graduation.  The resulting success may even encourage them to stay!

Discourage pettiness.  Do many hard-working honor/AP students and their parents seriously claim that "the normal students" don't deserve to be in graduation?  Surely some do, but the complaints are ignored.  Similarly, would normal graduates strongly state that those CHSPE students have no right to walk in our procession?  It's absurd to believe they would.  Should administrators be petty for them?  Letting holders of CHSPE certificates walk brings joy with little cost to students who have been in the system for eleven years. In their mind, they have paid their dues to ed code. Advising that they stay in school is one thing.  Denying them a small benefit of completing state requirements truly seems inappropriate.

Acknowledge the academic truth.  How many at-risk graduates could pass the CHSPE anyway?  Many retake the CAHSEE several times and CHSPE is far more difficult.  Are conventional at-risk graduates actually more academically qualified?  Where's the evidence of this?  To err towards hurting people in this situation seems cruelly unwise.

Increase morale of instructors and staff.  Teaching young adults who don't want to be in school yields poor learning results.  Below Basic on CST's after a year of work is neither an honor for teachers nor students. Teachers may complain, but they also want to keep challenging students in Alt Ed. CHSPE students are in the highest quartile in Alt Ed. Yes, they should be encouraged to stay in school, but denied walking in graduation because they are more talented than other Alt Ed students?  Upon reflection, most teachers would praise walking and the benefits it indirectly grants to their classrooms.

Embrace the CHSPE.  There are many incredible and surprising advantages of students passing the CHSPE.  Setting the stage for increasing it's deployment is enhanced by letting students walk in graduation.

Legal Considerations to Let Students Walk

California law states that the CHSPE certificate is equivalent to a high school diploma FOR ANY PURPOSE to agencies operating under California law.  On the other hand, LEA's (e.g. school districts) have large sway in making policy under many precedents.  In short, parents could sue to allow their child to walk with reasonable grounds for success.  However, the proceedings will be messy and expensive and unproductive.  The issue really is just being able to walk in graduation.  It is simply too small an issue for an administration to fight considering the text of the state law.  Where is the compelling school need to circumvent state law?

To count requirements twice can be construed as an effort to violate state law deliberately.  A school may state that a diploma and other requirements such as community service and senior projects are required to walk in graduation ceremonies.  This may seem reasonable, but a diploma is not issued until community service and a senior project are accepted.  They are requirements for a diploma, not graduation!  Where is the compelling school need to circumvent state law? In short, applying non-diploma requirements suggests that parents who sue should seek monetary damages from individuals, not just the right to walk from a school or district.

Precedent has been set for letting students not complete requirements in courses, but receive credits and grades of A with a boost in GPA.  It is said that this practice is unofficial, but it is publicly recognized and accepted by administrators, with the caveat that by law teachers have this right in grading. However, these grades are used by the administration in boosting GPA scores that are used in school awards. This makes them official, not just tolerated. This is NOT a gray area as a result, but subjects schools to charges of hypocrisy, which undermines any LEA's arguments on consistency or integrity.  Currently, many teachers award grades in AP courses based solely on AP test results. Classwork and participation are irrelevant.  In short, the AP test is to AP course requirements as the CHSPE test is to high school requirements.  If a school wants to argue that top students deserve special treatment while at-risk students should be treated brusquely . . . lots-of-luck!  It is this argument that two lawyers who have reviewed this blog state would force a judge to rule in favor students. Almost without question, the official GPA boost from faulty AP grades is far more damaging to a school's environment than letting CHSPE students walk. To argue otherwise is obtuse.

Walking in graduation has been denied on behavioral grounds.  For example, getting drunk at grad night disqualifies a student.  Passing CHSPE is a positive event.  In the past, pregnant woman and convicts who have served time, were not allowed to walk.  Now they do, often with strong school and community praise. Is passing CHSPE sui generis? No. On its face, it is simply absurd to deny CHSPE students the opportunity to walk.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Algebra I Success Initiative

Items 3, 4, 6 and 7 can be initiated.  Simple after-school classes focused on the skill benchmarks suggested by the NMAP report will prove highly beneficial.  Sixth grade must be worked with extensively this school year - now.   Items 5, 8 and 9 can be combined.  They will take time.  The is just one way to make this happen.


  1. Increase instructional time for middle grades so all sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students receive sufficient mathematics, pre-algebra, and algebra instruction and support. Cost: $1.5 billion in General Fund for local support.
  2. Expand the Morgan-Hart Class Size Reduction Program to include pre-algebra and Algebra I in seventh and eighth grades. Cost: $492 million in General Fund for local support, $369 million in General Fund for school facilities and $305,000 in General Fund for state operations.
  3. Provide funding for districts to establish and operate "Boost Classes" in elementary, middle, and junior high schools, for no more than 15 students per class identified by a student success team as needing specialized curriculum, instruction, and counseling to address the new algebra requirement. Cost: $175 million in General Fund local support and $185,000 in General Fund for state operations.
  4. Expand school counseling services in grades four through eight to identify and provide services for students not adequately prepared to take Algebra I in eighth grade. Cost: $40 million in General Fund for local support and $185,000 in General Fund for state operations.
  5. Expand Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programs in grades four through eight. STEM programs increase student engagement and motivation by providing relevant and rigorous instruction that gives students a clear understanding of how academic subjects can be applied to real-world situations. Cost: $25 million in General Fund for local support and $320,000 in General Fund for state operations.
  6. Expand the after school programs funded by Proposition 49, including weekend algebra tutorial support programs with an option for online and toll-free services. The expansion would include stipends for highly qualified teachers for supplemental mathematics activities for seventh- and eighth-grade students. Cost: $36.3 million in General Fund for local support.
  7. Expand effective Algebra Summer Bridge programs that provide instruction for students in grades four through eight and professional development for elementary and middle school math teachers. This program targets student needs and builds teacher capacity. Cost: $10 million in General Fund for local support.
  8. Expand Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), a college preparatory program targeted primarily at disadvantaged students, to improve student success in Algebra I. Cost: $5.8 million in General Fund for local support.
  9. Expand the Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement (MESA) Program at the University of California (UC). Cost: $5 million in General Fund for local support.
  10. Provide increased support for migrant students assessed in Algebra I. Cost: $135,000 in General Fund for state operations.
  11. Require the California State University (CSU) and UC systems to expand through the federal work-study program the availability of trained classroom tutors for both elementary and middle schools. Cost: unknown.
Other Considerations for the Math Committee

A focus on pacing plans and California standards benchmark testing may not be the most fruitful activities to undertake at this time.  However, getting courses that use HOLT texts to use standard tests in DataDirector may be best for our long term learning on obtaining and using more rapid feedback.  Expanding to other courses can be done afterwards.  Holt is the Pre-Algebra text.  Getting this going this year would be smart.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Online, Adaptive, Database-Driven Software for Math


The best metric for an instructional program is (time to proficiency)/(cost) for each student. The instructional method must be matched to the student and situation for the fastest time. Any particular method will not be a match for all students. A set of instructional delivery systems must be available to allow student choice and/or matching.


Without question, the product with the best time/cost ratio for reluctant learners is ALEKS. Its secret strength is its fairly terse, text-only help. It forces students to bring themselves to the problem first in order to solve it. This is also its weakness. An educator may believe that more instructional depth and variety is needed for students. Please note that this may be more of a cultural bias than a research-driven result. For example, video instruction may be more engaging, but does it bring the student to a specific problem. In other words, are bells and whistles truly helpful or merely sales features?

Apangea's structure offers the most robust math learning system for an independent learner. It's design has online instruction, supplemented by an automatic avatar (similar to the animations that arise in Microsoft Office) that offers help when the software system senses student difficulties. When difficulties persist, a real human, currently based in Pittsburg, comes online to help the student. This is unique, because it allows students to work without teacher support and it does allow students to obtain a more robust proficiency than ALEKS. The actual quality of its instruction has not been determined by me.

It is useful to see that ALEKS at $40 and Apangea at $130 are the two quality extremes of the same spectrum. Other products try sell similar features at lower costs and need to be offered when students reject ALEKS/Apangea or when budgets are unavailable.

Specific Choices

Carnegie Tutor offers much of Apangea's design sans the avatar and remote human intervention at a much lower cost. Carnegie joins ALEKS and Apangea in having the best artificial intelligence systems for adaptive, data-driven learning. iPass offers a limited course offering, basically just Algebra Readiness, but it is the product that exists in the middle of spectrum, because it uses constructed responses as does ALEKS.

The I Can Learn system is primarily purchased when a large grant is available and annual costs must be minimized. It is a school-based system only and not for at-home use. APEX Learning, which our district enjoys and I support, isn't a great method of delivering math instruction, because it doesn't adapt to student struggles. Its feedback design isn't appropriate for math considering its cost. Apex is better for high content courses, such as World History or Biology. It offers a consistent interface to all courses, which simplifies both student and teacher management chores.

SmartMathPractice (Planetii) and XLPrep can be thought of as competitors to ALEKS, both are adaptive at $20 each. Their weakness is that they use multiple choice. Please note that multiple choice inherently slows the time-to-proficiency in an adaptive system because guessing must be dealt with by having students complete more questions. Guessing gives false positives. This cannot be mitigated, CAHSEE's sub-categories being classic examples; although SmarthMathPractice and BrainX try by including a student's belief in his or her own knowledge into the software's decision-making.

Almost all of the other products, such as StudyIsland, are variations of XLPrep, or vice-versa. They offer more immediate help than ALEKS on the displayed page of the problem, but their multiple-choice nature hinders learning.


Apangea should be tried with an independent school's higher achievers and, possibly, as a strong prep course for a student attempting to enter seventh grade Algebra or eighth grade Geometry. As a learning community, we need to try it and determine its fit and appropriateness.  The software provider claims that it's best market is actually in alternative ed.

Supplemental Opinion

In my experience with reluctant learners, they must be allowed to skip instruction and do problems until they exhaust themselves and are emotionally ready to accept instruction. ALEKS and SmartMathPractice are superb under this scenario and iPass horrible. XLPrep and RevolutionPrep (CAHSEE) immediately provide short instructional help after a failed problem. Some students prefer this. More stable students will read/watch delivery without having to fail first; in other words, their maturity allows them to use the types of software that appeal to educational buyers. Please re-read the second paragraph above.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Credit Recovery at a Distance

Please comment on this post. It is only meant as a start for brainstorming or refinement and it has errors in fact and judgement.

An online program, LearningStation, that the Alt Ed principal found at CUE has been approved for use by the district at the CRC. It should be noted that the district goal is not to conflict with DataDirector. While DataDirector can generate tests, LS allows online student testing in addition to scantrons. It is also easier to use. When DataDirector improves a bit more LS will go away.

For $2 per student per year, a student can take tests, generated by teachers from a standards-based test bank or personally. It is reasonable to make several tests (hopefully randomized questions), so that students can take them in a 'light, proctored' setting. For example, in the PC lab after school with a monitor such as a parent volunteer (no cell phones, etc.). Please note that a cell phone means cheating automatically: take a picture, send it, text received "b." Welcome to Trabuco Hills.

In short, this would allow credit recovery at a distance in a variety of courses. I will try to coordinate it with a non-CRC high school, but I only have a few non-CRC licenses available. An independent study teacher would have to approve of the test and sign off on results in this situation. However, math is the toughest to test-out subject. Failures can be enrolled in a standard online class (Geometry, Algebra 1, Algebra 2). A certain number of hours or attainment of a completion level can be demanded before either retaking an LS test or a 'light, proctored' test (e.g. ALEKS).

The weakness with this base level is no personal instruction. An alternative could be modelled as an afterschool summer school CRC however. A teacher for math or science could be present to assist students. It may not be necessary to staff it every day. It would depend on the number of students.

AfterSchool Credit Recovery

Student Characteristics

50 ninth and tenth grade students, who had failed either Algebra 1A or Geometry A undertook an afterschool program to earn a C in those classes while concurrently enrolled in Algebra 1B or Geometry B. Three students did not complete enough coursework; although they did attend, off and on, through the end of the course.

Less than 10% actually struggled to comprehend the material. The rest fit two profiles:
  1. active in activities that had taken priority over math for several years
  2. disliked teacher and/or had missing homework count for too high of a percentage to pass

On the other hand, the students from this school, could work for extended periods without supervision; unlike the other three high schools in the district. This is what really sets the school apart. However, the students just could not juggle time to learn math taught in a particular style while satisfying their personal priorities. Texting was their most common addiction and/or sports ate their time.

Design of Instruction

For credit, students were told that they needed to attend for 60 class hours.

  1. While not strictly needed from a credit recovery basis, the fact that no student passed an initial test-out meant that math schoolwork needed to be accomplished.
  2. The school is paid on a per student hour basis. Too few students makes the afterschool program unable to sustain itself. All students needed to be enrolled for the entire time.
  3. Main Problem: Given that these students are actually far behind in mathematics, 60 hours, far less than what is normally found in a semester, really cannot help them achieve proficiency unless accelerated methods are used:
  • Adaptive math instruction with continuous formative assessment
  • Calculators for adding fractions to speed students through material (a necessary evil)

Instructional Solutions

  1. ALEKS online, data-driven, math software
  2. Casio fx-300ES two-line calculator with natural display inputs and outputs.
  3. Teacher provides one-on-one tutorials on an as-needed basis.
  4. Students start where they are mathematically comfortable before they undertake specific class coursework. This builds confidence and addresses underlying issues. The mutual burden is for the teacher to press each student to work as fast as possible and students to understand why. This remains problematic at other high schools, but was well-accepted at this school.
  5. With continuous formative assessment, no summative assessment is given. Doing math becomes the point of the class, not how many wrong answers still constitute a pass.
  6. As long as time requirements were met and progress was demonstrated, a C was rewarded, a B could be earned for exceptional work or if a B was earned in a student's concurrent math class. Students accepted this, but still complained during the last week of the course. Students considered their work of higher quality than it was.
  7. Because of start-up problems, the 60 hours of class time was not matched with 60 hours of computer time. For this first class, 40 hours of computer time was mandated as a minimum. In the future 50 hours will be expected.
  8. Unlike traditional summer school, mandatory attendance at a set time did not work with the majority of the students. Changing the course from Algebra for 2 hours on Monday and Wednesday and Geometry from 2 hours on Tuesday and Thursday to simply 4 hours per week helped the students succeed and gave them a chance to stay on track. Athletic activities frequently kept them from class at the originally scheduled time. In short, the two courses met simultaneously in a math lab.


  1. The above approach keeps students on problems on which everyday students also work. The more conventional approach to remedial or intervention classes is to offer simplified instruction. This common cursory review of all standards is not considered fruitful by me, but of course, this is a value judgement. A principal can direct that an AGS or worksheet approach be used instead.
  2. Many brands of math software exist, ALEKS offers the fastest path to proficiency, bar none. Also, from a practical standpoint, it also allows license reassignment, which is important in environments where students drop easily. For example, one $40 annual license is normally used four times: Two semesters, one summer school, and one reassignment. Other programs don't offer this reset capability.
  3. Having one standard computer login greatly helped. The student ID/password scheme, while it has been improved greatly (Thanks Mr. O), doesn't fit the approaches of many of these students. They login under various names unless simply given a default one.
  4. Individual student progress was recorded weekly in a spreadsheet.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Math Lean Curriculum Strategy

Strategic Constraints
1. Implement National Math Panel Report inferences in compliance with California Standards.
2. Press forward with rigor in accordance with the American Diploma Project & Algebra 2 test.
3. Cope with bifurcation of student math achievement by minimizing dropouts.

A. Use Singapore Math for K during 2008-9 school year (training must occur during summer).
If this is not achievable, then at least one school must step up to implement.
B. Do not choose any other K-5 texts during the new textbook cycle - unless failure occurs.
C. Use Singapore Math for K-1 during 2009-10, K-2 during 2010-11, . . . .
D. During 2008-9, form a team to refine the Algebra 1/2 curriculum to align with Panel.
E. Start Algebra 1/2 sequence in 2009-10.
F. During 2008-9, form a team to refine Algebra ABCD and Intermediate Algebra to align with the panel and to decrease drop-outs. This may entail technology such as ALEKS and a end-focus on CHSPE prep.
G. Grants may have to be sought to encourage/demand CHSPE participation for IA students.
H. Insure that the CRC obtains a state school code and conducts summer school around the district. Year-round summer school credits must not be issued by EHS, CdM, H, or CM.
I. Summer School needs to be loosely scheduled for dropout prevention. Classes need to be open for over 60 hours, but only require 60 hours for attendance. More than one teacher can be assigned to a class so that the lead teacher's attendance burden is also minimized.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Textbook Pilot Voting

As I understand it, currently the pilot participants will vote with these choices:

a. Textbook A definitely, B not
b. Textbook B definitely, A not
c. A, B is ok
d. B, A is ok
d. No pick - use current materials

It would be advantageous from a professional development standpoint to augment the following choices.

a. Textbook A definitely
b. A, B is ok
c. Textbook A or another text that eases teacher professional development
d. Textbook B definitely
e. B, A is ok
f. Textbook B or another text that eases teacher professional development
g. No pick - current materials are adequate or another text that eases teacher professional development

This option set applies to Pre-Algebra (Grade 7 math) in particular. If the other groups (AR-A1-G-A2) pick the same vendor, then it would ease teacher training and workloads by using one supplier for all. It might help the students be more comfortable. Remember that they have different online suppliers for their other textbooks. They have learning curves.

Technology Implications of New Math Textbooks

After viewing McGraw-Hill's, Prentice-Hall's, McDougal-Littell's, and Holt's short presentations, please accept these thoughts:

1. An LCD projector is mandatory for each math teacher with a new curriculum. A Smartboard may be nice, but only after ALL math teachers have Epson 83c LCD's (about $725 each). Budgets are/will be tight! Room layouts need to be tweaked this year in anticipation.

2. The answer to how all of the wonderful online math software solutions will survive or morph has been partially resolved: they will be rolled-up into major publisher technology components. Prentice-Hall has done a far better job than McGraw-Hill in integrating outside vendors. In particular, the lessons of NutShell Math, the interactive animations of Gizmos, and the supplements of MathXL to its Algebra Readiness program stand out. Also, the integration of MindQuiz into its Algebra Readiness allows teachers to write grants for "clickers" to enhance instruction with no extra software purchase needed. McGraw-Hill/Glencoe's animations are rudimentary. It may have been wise of McGraw-Hill to acquire some of Heymath's technology to be compete with Gizmos.

McDougal-Littell took an independent approach. It wrote lesson tutors, dynamic graphing software, and online animations on its own. The results are quite impressive. Prentice-Hall may have more to offer, but McDougal-Littell's is integrated best for the easiest teacher usage of a large amount of tech with complete teacher support by the integration of graphic organizers, etc. Holt provides a DVD with online duplication. It would be easiest for teachers and students to start with Holt, but over seven years ....

3. Of future importance is the integration of ExamView into all of the textbooks. Besides ExamView becoming the district benchmark test source, it can be used for formative assessment in Jeopardy style games as some point for some teachers. See MindQuiz. It should be noted that ExamView just purchased Interwrite, which makes clickers. In short, teachers writing grants for clickers should be encouraged to buy eInstruction/Interwrite brands, such as Cricket or eInstruction's. There will be a future synergy. Of additional note is that the "front-end" to ExamView is slightly different in each program. McDougal-Littell has the easiest selection of problems, followed by Prentice-Hall. Both McGraw-Hill and Holt's test generation would take a bit more work than the first two. Finally, McDougal-Littell has added many additional problems (classics) into its ExamView library.

4. Both ExamView and Data Director offer test bank libraries. How they compare or are used should be a priority of the math committee. Holt claims that only its test results from ExamView flow into Data Director (which would be very advanced for our district), because Holt owns Data Director. This sounds like a great feature, but it raises a bad question: Isn't Data Director meant to be open? If we purchased a system that is trying to lock out competitors data, it's worth is diminished. This is a serious breach of contract. Holt may be doing a Microsoft. API's to Data Director should be available to everyone (They may not want to offer a connection, but that's another issue.). The managers of Data Director should be spoken with in a direct, straight talk manner. This is not a trivial issue. Interoperability is vital to all.

5. Academic vocabulary is weak in all systems; yet Prentice-Hall is trying the best. It's Algebra Readiness is particularly strong in this area, where real academic words like "isolate" are defined (not just "get x by itself to solve"). By skipping the teaching of words like "consequently" and only focusing on Math jargon, teachers make a major error. Teaching academic vocabulary isn't asking students to write about how they feel about math, it is a valuable component in passing CST and CAHSEE Math, which rival vocabulary tests. This is an important area for professional development.

6. The use of multiple choice during learning, which all of us are guilty of to some extent, is poor from a brain research perspective. Momentum Math is extremely guilty on this topic. Error analysis too soon confuses students long term. The MI pilots have the most extreme difference between the two curriculums.

7. It would appear that due to the disposable nature of MI, that we don't have to make a 7 year committment to it. In my experience, the iPass software product should be sought by teachers who want to use it for MI and can raise the funds for it. It should be considered.

8. Of subtle importance is that the use of math technology will allow the district to pursue more of a "Singapore Math" approach in the next adoption, if the district is willing. The real difference is that "Singapore Math" pushes mastery, then promotion, and tries to keep students in a math register. It doesn't spiral like the US curriculum. Technology should allow highly efficient intervention. We can start planning the future now. The math curriculum of the primary/elementary grades should interest us.