Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Welcoming Our New Educational Insect Overlords

In between the 9.4 million things I have to edit/grade these days, I'm trying to do a little research on "America's Choice" the highly trademarked, ultra-glossy curriculum that is evidently being mandated to my school's Math Department. I say "evidently" because I like the word too much, but also because the way news & information works in a public school isn't a smooth system of teacher newsletters, staff meetings and emails.

No, information is passed via a haphazard set of teachers bumping into each other in the halls, secret conversations held in closed classroom after school, and acrimonious department meetings where Math teachers rant and rave while passing out slick, ultra-glossy packets from highly trademarked curriculum "providers".

So all I know is that "they" (and "they" can be everyone from George W. Bush, to the District, to some obscure bureaucrat in the APS "twin towers", to the janitor) have decided Math must use this "America's Choice" curriculum, in particular the "Ramp-Up Mathematics" (trademark, copyright, sanitized for your protection) program designed for students 2+ years behind in the subject.

On top of that, some obscure "they" dictates are being gossiped about involving a required 30 minutes a day of computer-based, continuous-loop math testing, a move to block schedules for Math (90 minutes) and Language Arts/Literature. The genesis for these changes is believe to be either from: 1. the fact my school is now on Restructuring Double Secret Probation IV, Part II, Subsection B; 2. Winston Brooks is a sinister Dick Cheney type who goes around obsequiously demanding things like "central control" and "highly marketed solutions to long-standing problems"; 3. the janitor likes the "America's Choice" logo.

I dunno.

All I've found so far is the "America's Choice" website, a 2003 New York Times article doing the old "on the one hand, on the other hand" thing about the program being implemented in NYC schools, and something from "Literacy Matters" (whatever that is) that includes costs of the "Ramp-Up Literacy" as copy/pasted below:
The set-up cost is $90K for up to 30 teachers. The cost of curriculum materials for the individual classrooms is $2,000-4,000. In order for the school to be accepted in the larger school reform program, 80 percent of the faculty must accept it. America’s Choice has partnered with over 650 schools, including charter schools, in 16 states.
If anyone from a school that has already been on Restructuring Double Secret Probation for a while has more information, I'd be keen to hear about it. You can either comment here, or bump into me in the halls at my school between class periods, while we both eat lunch standing up, and talk with our mouths full in hushed whispers.


Amber in Albuquerque said...

Totally off topic, but I like your goat (Petunia). But what the heck do I know...I like Balloon Fiesta too ;)!

Anonymous said...

I just want to know who gets the kick back when APS throws out all our books to get new ones so that the district can be in the same book on the same day. Think it's the same person who got the great kick back for School Max?

Abuelita2 said...

I taught America's Choice math (Navigator) in elementary school last year. I had to. It is extremely scripted. Some really good ideas, but it truly must be written by people who have not actually dealt with real live children, each of which is a different individual human. Our lessons were supposed to be 24 minutes each!!! Every day!! Ye gads!

I also researched it; learned it is a for-profit subsidiary of the original "research" organization (I forget the name now.) Our school had boxes and boxes of slick, expensive books which went to waste.

As with NCLB and current text book adoption practices, I believe the large publishing companies with marketing people who can cozy up to politicians are the ones whose programs get adopted by districts and states.

By the way, did 80% of your faculty "accept it?" Did they have access to it, to examine it beforehand?

Anonymous said...

With a wink and a smile Insect Overlord Winston Brooks is promoting "creativity" in the classroom by making sure we are all on the same page teaching the same lesson under central administrative control. This simple-minded doublespeak somehow appeases the school board and media, until a couple of years go by and we're wondering why that program didn't raise test scores and teacher morale continues to erode. And of course it will be right after he's given a huge salary increase and contract, followed by yet another search for a new superintendant. Where is the can of Black Flag, or Raid when you need it?

Anonymous said...

"This simple-minded doublespeak somehow appeases the school board and media, until a couple of years go by and we're wondering why that program didn't raise test scores and teacher morale continues to erode."

This could be said about the infamous principal shuffle Beth pulled while waltzing out the door. How's that working for you people?

Amber in Albuquerque said...

This is really depressing. Perhaps someone could point out to feudal prince Marty just how much paper (and books, and 'manipulatives') end up in the landfill everytime APS decides to succumb to some other corporate marketing pitch(oh wait, I mean change instructional programs for the good of our students). Seriously, colossal amounts of money are being wasted, an epic amount of trash is being generated, and it's hurting (teachers and students)...not helping. Please stop the insanity!