Thinking Beyond Buildings: Diversity Policy

The diversity policy is still a hot topic–and a hot potato of a topic at that.

It seems incredible to me that Everyday Math will suddenly start working better for all children in the district than it does now, if we just seat children next to different children at school.

This is not an argument against trying to balance FRL numbers, but more of a plea not to end the conversation with redrawing attendance zone boundaries.  We need to keep (start?) asking about curriculum and instruction choices in the district.

How much parental involvement is required for students to be successful with the current math, reading, and writing programs used by the district?  Shifting the burden to parents to ensure that, for instance, students memorize the multiplication tables needlessly disadvantages children whose parents can’t or won’t help them.

I previously posted about attending a conference in which 6th grade teachers acknowledged the difficulties of teaching long division and fractions to students who have not memorized the multiplication tables.  Now ask yourselves why children in any district should have their success with long division and fractions depend upon whether their parents can or will help?

The same goes for reading.  A former teacher once told me that it is impossible to teach children how to read unless their parents will read with them for one hour each night.  If that is the case, I think it is time to talk about finding a new reading program–one in which the success of children is much less dependent upon whether their parents can or will help.

What programs could we look into?  We could start with Singapore Math and Core Knowledge Language Arts.  Each have had promising pilots elsewhere.

In fact, I too love this quote from the New Milford (CT) Singapore Math pilot summary:

The pace of [Singapore Math] … is quicker than anything we do and quicker even than our curriculum calls for. As a result, some sped students actually perform AHEAD of their non-special education peers in successfully handling content — almost by definition becoming non-sped students!

That seems worth investigating and talking about doesn’t it?

Whatever programs we choose, it seems that for the sake of equity in the district, we ought to be more cognizant of just how much parental help is required to be a successful student in the district, and we ought to make a commitment to making curricular and instructional choices that can help more students experience academic success without regard to their parents ability or willingness to help.

The Press-Citizen asked school board candidates which areas of the district’s curriculum or educational programming could be improved.  You can find links to their answers to that question and a diversity policy question here.

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4 thoughts on “Thinking Beyond Buildings: Diversity Policy

  1. Chris

    Great points. It’s worth noting that your argument against Everyday Math applies to any curriculum that relies on frequent homework, since there is a wide variation in how much homework help kids can get from their parents.

    Reply
  2. FedUpMom

    The school’s got our kids for 35 hours per week, but that’s not enough to teach them how to read? What the heck are they doing? Actually, I know the answer to that — they’re confusing our kids with reading methods that don’t really work. I had to teach my own daughter to read in 2nd grade. Ugh.

    Reply
  3. Karen W Post author

    Posting this comment on behalf of Nick Johnson:

    Without commenting on the specifics (because I haven’t explored them) just wanted to note how very pleased I am with the approach this represents: the willingness to do some research, to look, beyond our and neighboring school districts, to best practices in other states and nations. It’s what we did when I was on the school board with a regular feature of board meetings we called “Ed News,” and I tried to encourage with every-two-weeks K-12 columns in the Press-Citizen (http://www.uiowa.edu/~cyberlaw/SchBoard/Other/nickwrit.html#Published%20Articles). Thank you for taking on this incredibly important role.

    Nick

    Reply
  4. Pingback: Sleepless in Iowa City | NicholasJohnson.org

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