Wednesday, October 08, 2008

America's Do We Really Have A Choice™? A Non-Math Teacher's Uninformed Non-Report

This blogpost should really be written on a napkin, coffee-stain circles surrounding illegible scribbling and little arrows going in all directions. In several places the napkin has ripped up from the sharpness of the pen. To say "work in progress" is giving it too much credit.

I'm not a Math teacher. I'm one of those teachers who thinks interdisciplinary learning is essential (there should even be a law), but when it comes down to it I have accepted the shackles of "Humanities" versus the mid/high school shackles labeled "Science", "Math", "Music", etc. So in researching "America's Choice" I not-so-proudly claim almost zero skills of critical analysis. I do not know whether "America's Choice Navigator® is "good" or not, and in my research I'm leaving that to the Math folks.

Moreover, as I start doing a little research I realize how fluid a situation we're in here. A commenter to yesterday's post, Abuelita2, asks whether my school has "accepted" America's Choice Navigator™. Great question, but from talking to my Math folks it's not apparent that "acceptance" is an option. The only word we're hearing is "mandated". At the same time, it's not clear (in fact, it's a word meaning the complete, utter opposite of "clear", beyond "unclear" to some new word we "Humanities" folks can invent...let's call it "mudunclear") just how my school is supposed to implement America's Choice Navigator™ (btw, I made a mistake yesterday and we're not "mandated" to use Ramp-Up, but instead are being vaguely "mandated" to use Navigator™).

Confused yet? Well get in a line longer than at your typical Great Depression soup kitchen because everybody I've talked to so far mentions just how mudunclear this is right now (or would if they knew about this newly invented "mudunclear" word we Humanities teachers have invented).

And all I got on top of that so far is a link or two:

Some guy named Bill Quirk has a critique of NCEE (the non-profit organization that spun off a for-profit arm to sell America's Choice products) that looks to be worth reading, especially by Math teacher types.

Prince George County Schools in Virginia is a district of about equal size to APS. They evidently received a full-blown dog & pony show from NCEE presenting a plan to fully implement America's Choice throughout the district. Here's the .pdf of that dog & pony show. Costs of implementation included. No idea on whether they bought the dog, the pony or both.

That's all I got at this point. Clear as mud. More mud to follow...more clarity requested from you guys out there.

P.S.: about you write a "guest" post on the subject? I'd love to read it, and you know far, far more about the subject that I ever will. Which, I admit, ain't saying much.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Was looking for online reviews of America's Choice programs and saw this blog. Love the "mudunclear" description.

Before I make my comments, I want to just say that Johns Hopkins U. has done some nice comparisons of "research based" (gag) programs for math and language. Results are at

I am a MS math teacher. Or at least I used to be. Now, I am not sure what I am exactly aside from an overpaid babysitter and a pawn in a very costly game of making some folks "successful" at the cost of our students, our teachers, and the taxpayers.

My school adapted RampUp mid-year this year. A couple days were lost to testing students for the program, and catching up with those absent during testing. Then came the disruption of student schedules being shuffled with some limbo time between testing and shuffling as we waited for our new classes to be formed. Then came the training---I think a total of 10 days, with more that we were supposed to have, but I could not justify being away from my students that long.

Pros of the program: The "concept book" is nice---students can almost self teach from it, and it has examples of how to solve a variety of problem.
Presentation is good. Simple, straight to the point. Not cluttered. A predictable flow of activities. Teacher's guide shows student book.

Cons: Does not follow the same sequence as the APS curriculum map for MS mathematics, so the kids are screwed when they take the
A2L tests. I asked mutltiple times at training sessions, inservices, etc. how to resolve that issue since A2L results are being used for summer school, AIPs and placement. No answers.
More "mudunclear" guidance from APS as to what grade levels to use it with. 6 and 7? 7 and 8? Aren't we heading toward consistancy within the district?
Materials management is an issue with check out and return of not just one textbook, but 8 mini-books plus the concept book. Navigator is even more cumbersome with cards and keychains to keep track of.
Scheduling for Navigator will be "interesting" since it is done as 4 week mini classes geared to certain groups of students missing a particular concept. Who is going to be doing the moving of the kids so they are getting what they really need?

Another concern is that some of the same district higher level folks who "selected" this have now left or are leaving APS to work for.......America's Choice. I have not always taught, and where I used to work that would have been callled conflect of interest.

Training (one figure I saw said the cost per teacher for 9 days of training was $3,300) was expensive, and a waste of money because issues that needed to be addressed by the district regarding implementation of the program were not answered. I wish I could make $3,300 in 9 days! Last I knew, the Abq. America's Choice offices are near Old Town, behind St. Claire Winery.

Last thing I want to speak out on is that when they start looking at district scores and whether various programs provided higher levels of success, I do hope that someone will be looking at the fact that most schools did try to inrease length of math periods. ANY curriculm is going to do better when you give it more time!

That's all folks!