Monday, May 18, 2009

America's Choice™: Other Voices, Other Sounds

Last October I wrote a little something about "America's Choice™", the Math remediation curriculum-in-a-box pressed upon "failing" schools in APS. As sometimes happens with these old blogposts, I received a fascinating review of America's Choice™ just this past weekend.

I think it's worth re-posting here, and I hope "Anonymous" doesn't mind....

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!

Along the lines of the added time for Math, tomorrow morning my own school has it's "BIG MEETING" to introduce a new schedule, one replete with dramatically increased time for Math instruction. Having such a BIG MEETING on the last week of a school year should be good for plenty of fireworks. *Firearms maybe, even.

*Note: This is a joke. Nobody is bringing firearms. Really. Zero firearms will be brought to this meeting. Kind of a bummer I even feel the need to make this disclaimer. What happened to the good 'ol days when one could make "bringing firearms to the meeting" jokes? I tells ya, it ain't like the good 'ol days anymore. Hey, get off my lawn before I shoots ya with some rocksalt buckshot!


Anonymous said...

"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."

It would be a shame to publish an allegation like this without naming names.

jscotkey said...

Anon: A sticky situation, one made more problematic, imho, by the whole "Anonymous" thing. I don't quite gather whether you think the shame is the "publishing" at all, or the publishing without the names, but, as I've discussed ad nauseam, I'd rather nobody be "Anonymous".

Still, the ease of making up names has me leaving the little "Anonymous" box available, and the overall information from the quoted posted is quite interesting. Btw, I have no idea who this particular "Anonymous" is. As for the APS/America's Choice job-connection...I have no insights into that.


Abuelita2 said...

I had to teach America's Choice Math Navigator last year. It had some really good features. But it was like all canned programs --seemed to be written by people who had no real experience with live human kids! ("24 minutes" for one component), etc.
I am waiting for parents in the distict to become aware of how these businesses (profit and nonprofit) worm their way into the attention and brains of politicians and bureaucrats, and get lucrative contracts for semi-junk, paid for by us the taxpayers. To wit, America's Choice (not), Success for All, and especially, Shipley & Associates.

call me, anything but late for dinner said...

There are valid reasons that APS employees might not want to attach their names to anything that sounds even like a complaint against APS.

The question; "who are they?" is a reasonable question, no matter who asks it.

Lori S. said...

I am an educator in Georgia and my school system just adopted the America's Choice program. While I do have some reservations about the program, I am eager to see how the students will benefit from it. From the start, it appears to be a lot of work on my part. I am praying that all of the work will solely benefit the students.

While I am a fan of the Literacy model, I am apprehensive about the Math model. I have not received a formal training on the Math model. I believe in constant review of skills. I do not see where the Math model will allow time for that. Can anyone tell me different?