Saturday, January 06, 2007

Perversity in Chicago

Like so many big cities, Chicago has a huge number of underperforming schools who get placed on a probation list, thanks to NCLB. What is the school board's answer to ailing schools? Administer a massive dose of poison!

In what can only seem to be head-shaking perversity, the board forces something called the Chicago Math and Science Initiative on ailing schools, enforced by its network of so-called Area Instructional Offices.

As can be seen from the instructional materials used by CMSI, it's all of the worst fuzzy type:

Purpose: To promote instructional coherence across K-8 mathematics classrooms by recommending and supporting specific research- and inquiry-based instructional materials.

Description: The mathematics instructional materials designated for grades K-8 in the Chicago Public Schools are:

Primary Grades Mathematics: Math Trailblazers and Everyday Mathematics

Middle Grades Mathematics: Connected Mathematics and Math Thematics

This information can be used as a resource by other elementary schools that seek to align their use of instructional materials with that supported by CMSI.
Students who desperately need structure, coherence, instruction and solid foundational knowledge are fed this fuzzy crap, guaranteed to perpetuate failure.

The science component is of a similar vein. All "inquiry" and discovery and no foundational knowledge.

1 comment:

JohnL said...

I fear this is not in the best (or even better) interests of students and their families. (In fact, I'd say it's not even in the better interests of society, given the growing need for math and science literacy in the USA, as reflected in T. Friedman's flattening world.) It would be nice to be able to make point predictions about the results of such reforms but, alas, it would be hard to verify them.

Here are some of the things that get in the way of verifying such predictions:

* Outcome variables such as science competence are compose of so many variables in addition to curriculum that the changes are likely to be small and, therefore, hard to spot.

* Data collection is usually too slipshod to permit one to trust the fidelity of assessments.

* The changes, whether they are of this ilk or of the type we would support, are usually so poorly implemented that they amount to a very small, rounded hill or beans.

But, I won't quit. I promise.