There is an elephant in the room…
And this elephant is creating quite the stench.
The numerous discussions happening around the country regarding EngageNY, a “free” math program, are snow balling. More and more school districts are considering adopting this program, as others are dumping it (no pun intended).
What do you know about it? Where did it start? What’s its history? Is it “free”? How much did it cost to write? Who wrote it?
Or a bolder question: What in the H. E. double hockey sticks is this?
I’m often tagged and asked to join discussion threads with these questions, amongst numerous others. I’ve been very vocal about my thoughts regarding this math program, and my angst regarding what harm it is causing children. I do not fear discussing the elephant in the room… especially an elephant causing such a stink. How could I not speak up? As a 26 year math educator, I find very little in this math program mirroring solid research about how young children learn mathematics.
The Journey I’ve Traveled
My school district approved this program at a school board meeting in December 2013. It did not go through a review process with a group of math experts in the district. In fact, the math committee reviewing math curricular materials was disbanded in the Spring of 2013. Why? The reason given was there were no “viable math curricular materials to review that align with Common Core”.
Bye Bye Math Committee.
Yet, in November 2013, a person downtown (hired for one year in a .5 position) was instructed to put together a binder of EngageNY sample materials. This binder was presented to the Spokane School Board in December 2013. Parents were in the audience with letters from New York State teachers with recommendations to avoid this math program. It still was approved.
Those of us who have had a career in math education were not in the loop.
In January of 2014, the roll out of this program began with teachers using one to two of the modules to get their feet wet. I attended a professional development session in the Spring of 2014 with a group of teachers, and those presenting and training us were teachers in their first and second year of teaching.
I was astounded as I sat quietly, (internally steaming), in the Professional Development session. Those of us who have had hundreds of hours of math education training, (I myself a 25+ year educator with a Master’s Degree in Teaching Mathematics), sat for two hours listening to two young, well intentioned teachers, trying to train us on an EngageNY Module… a program they had very little experience with themselves.
Where were the district math experts in this process? Why didn’t the district call back the math committee to review the binder? Why the rush? Why no discussion? After all, this would be placed in teacher’s hands and used with children.
C H I L D R E N.
I left the training with a pit in my stomach. I reviewed the lessons in the first grade module and knew instantly this was not how young children learn mathematics. It is riddled with worksheets, direct instruction, and a lot of sit and get. As I drove home, the nausea in my belly churned. Ultimately, as an instructional math coach, my job would be to assist teachers in implementing this program… with “fidelity” of course.
The 2014/2015 school year hit, and the majority of teachers opted to fully implement the program alongside implementing a new ELA program on top of it (Journeys). Currently, in the 2015/2016 school year it is no longer optional. It is required.
The comfort statement we all heard was, “This is just an “interim” math program.” Somehow, it being an “interim” program, justified its use. We can put something in front of children because it is merely an “interim” program. As a parent of a primary aged child, and as an educator of K-6 children, just how is this program an “interim” math program for them? This program will be in front of children for four years until a permanent adoption will be made.
How is this “interim” for a 2nd grader? A 2nd grader who will be taught from a program with NO research to back it, for 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade. This is four years of a child’s foundational mathematical career.
My own 2nd grader shared his thoughts throughout his first year being exposed to the program. “Mom, I’ve been waiting for math to get more challenging. And now it is. But in the wrong kind of way. They are now making the easy stuff harder. I already know how to do what we are doing. The easy things I already know… I now have to do in a hard way.”
And the “free” word attached… adding to the justification of its use?
The copying alone to implement this program in a school district Spokane’s size is $3,000,000 a year. In four years time, Spokane will have spent $12,000,000 in copying alone.
The History and the Money Behind EngageNY and Eureka
“Where did this unprecedented scripted curriculum come from?” Carol Burris, New York State Principal of the Year, asks.
“The New York State mathematics curriculum was developed by an organization located in Washington D.C. known as Common Core, Inc. According to reporter Jessica Bakeman of Capital New York, Common Core Inc. was awarded three large contracts from the New York State Education Department: $3,323,732 for K-2 curriculum, $2,715,958 for grades 3-5, and $8,108,919 for grades 6-12.
That is a total of $14,148,609 — or more than $1 million per grade level project. Bakeman broke the story about the high costs of the New York State modules, which you can read here. To put this expenditure in perspective, my school district, Rockville Centre, generally pays less than $1,000 for a grade level curriculum project.
According to the story, New York Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch bragged that New York State is the only state using its federal Race to the Top dollars to develop curriculum; it has spent in excess of $28 million on curriculum in English and Mathematics.”
Therefore, a company, not in New York State, called Common Core, Inc… located in Washington D.C. was contracted to write the EngageNY Curricular Materials.
How many of us were led to believe this was written in New York by a group of educators?
Not. The. Case.
Common Core Inc. and Gates Foundation
“Let’s go back to 2007… the year that Common Core Inc. was founded, three years before the standards were made public. In 2009, it received over a half million dollars in the form of a grant from the Gates Foundation to write curriculum for standards that had not yet been released nor adopted by state.
Last week, Catholic Education Daily reported on the connection between Common Core Inc. and the Gates Foundation in a story entitled “Common Core is Curriculum, Contrary to Advocates’ Claims.”
The story reports that despite Bill Gates’ claim that there was no need to build national Common Core curriculum, he has, through his grant program, quietly funded its development in excess of $10 million, with Common Core Inc. The Gates Foundation appears to have a partner in New York State when it comes to curriculum development.
The New York State Regents Research fund has received millions of dollars from the Gates Foundation to further its reform agenda. But more importantly, the State Education Department has helped finance the effort to create curriculum by using more than $28 million in Race to the Top federal taxpayer dollars. And it appears that one of the recipients, Common Core Inc., intends to influence curriculum beyond New York State. A search of the Common Core Inc. site shows that the organization will sell textbook editions of the work that they did for New York, thus leveraging New York’s tax dollars to launch a textbook series.”
For Carol Burris’ full unmasking of the truth: Follow the Common Core Money: Where are Millions of Dollars Going?
Eureka Math is Born
So… just what is the “textbook” series Common Core, Inc… intended to launch? Well… The Common Core, Inc. group saw dollar signs. After all, school districts across the United States were tapping into this “free” program. So Common Core, Inc. formed a new “math group” and named it Eureka. Eureka then bought the rights to all of the Common Core, Inc. materials. The online version many school districts are using is the Common Core, Inc. version. It is riddled with errors… but it is “free”.
Eureka then cleaned up the errors. However, it is essentially the same exact program. Use the old EngageNY version for “free”, or use Eureka’s cleaned up version for a price.
Mercedes Schneider reveals the transition from EngageNY to Eureka in her research: The (NY, DC, LA, and CA) Story of Eureka Math. There are no major changes to the EngageNY materials. This was also confirmed from a Eureka trainer who came to Spokane last year.
No. Major. Changes.
It. Is. The. Same.
Oh! But wait! It just got another new name… Eureka is now calling their incredible math program Great Minds. You can read all about it here: The Eureka Difference.
Eureka proclaims, “When implemented faithfully, Eureka Math will dramatically reduce gaps in student learning, instill persistence in problem solving, and prepare students to understand advanced math.”
Yet, isn’t this the same exact curricular program developed by Common Core, Inc. at New York State’s expense? And started with money from Gates even before the Common Core Standards were unleashed?
Many school districts have come to learn the fallacy and are saying good-bye… even Spokane has done some back peddling and teachers are being told they can differentiate and utilize other curricular materials to enhance children’s mathematical learning. Why? Because EngageNY/Eureka does not work for a large number of children.
Local School Board in Louisiana Votes to Dump Common Core Math … If you read the article, what they are really dumping is Eureka Math.
The Concerns Run Deep
Where do I start?
Perhaps with the voice of a teacher? A teacher in New York forced to implement what she knows is not right for her students…
My personal list:
- EngageNY/Eureka is not differentiated. It assumes children come to the classroom with the same skill set.
- The pacing is horrendous. It goes way too fast in some modules and way too slow in others.
- It assumes children “get the math” in one lesson, because the homework sent home in the evening is on the new learning that occurred on that day. As educators we must continue to focus upon the purpose of homework. In title schools this widens the achievement gap… what help do the most struggling learners receive at home? Oh, that’s right… Eureka has parent videos so they can watch the lesson that happened that day in class. Hmmm… great for the parents who have internet access at home.
- It is plum full of worksheets.
- It asks children to do speed “sprints” on math they do not yet understand. Go fast! Go fast! I watch children doing these sprints and every answer is wrong. They are practicing for speed, skills and concepts they have not yet mastered. Goes against tons of research.
- It compartmentalizes learning. Do this for 3 minutes, then this for 18 minutes, then this for 33 minutes, then this for 6 minutes. It is all neatly packaged in a 60 minute lesson. And then on to tomorrows lesson… assuming every child got the 60 minute lesson from the day before.
- The DOK (Depth of Knowledge) levels of learning are low, levels 1 and 2.
- The rubrics written for the module assessments are tied directly to the models EngageNY/Eureka expects them to use. If a child solves a problem in another way, they cannot earn a level 4.
Side note: Even more lovely… Spokane School District has set up the Eureka Math Lessons in a Pacing Guide. After every two to three modules the students take a Math Benchmark Test through Amplify. (Spokane School District paid Amplify to write custom Math Benchmarks based on EngageNY/Eureka Modules… more $$$$ spent). The pacing guide and looming benchmark assessments assumes children master everything in 60 minutes every day, can move quickly through math skills and concepts, and complete each module as scheduled. Teachers all over the United States are finding this to be untrue.
The lessons Do. Not. Take. 60. Minutes.
Furthermore, one of my grade level teams just finished the first Math Benchmark Assessment through the Amplify computerized test. Not one child “met the standard” according to the Amplify Test on the first two Modules. The teachers teaching Eureka with “fidelity” and “faithfully” didn’t get the results.
A) Crappy Teaching?
B) Crappy Program?
C) Crappy Test?
I’ll vouch for all three teachers. Awesome instruction in all three classrooms. So… the conclusion is… ? Need I answer?
Okay, I can’t resist…
I think educators are being asked to hug a turd.
Correct Answer: B and C
Two turds in a pod.
After the Amplify Test and “analyzing the data” what solution are we left with as educators? Move on to Eureka Module Three and Module Four to prepare for the next Amplify Math Benchmark Assessment. After all, No Child Shall Be Left Behind.
EEE GADS! This is not teaching and learning.
And it stinks.
I will end with a quote from a well-respected math educator in Spokane School District. She read the New York Teacher’s comment above and responded with:
“I could have – and should have – written the above paragraph last year when I did the first module. I can add tears to the experience. The kids’ and mine. This year isn’t any better. My kids will have no number sense. There is nothing. None. No room to show their thinking. A new book on my porch – mindful mathematics – yesterday reminds me of what is important to teach my kids: how to think, not what to think. What’s important: flexibility, accuracy and efficiency… what’s not important is being shown a strategy and being expected to perform it all in one lesson. Quite the opposite of what’s best for kids. I am not buying into this. Can’t do this to children and their parents. I respect them as learners too much.”
“I’ve been handed a turd. You can ask me to blanket it with floral spray to mask its’ odor. However, it is still a turd.” –Ryan Grant, 5th Grade Teacher, Medical Lake School District commenting on the EngageNY Math Program.
RAZ ON FIRE
- Why Isn’t AFT and New York More Enraged About EngageNY?
- Crazy Crawfish’s Blog: Louisiana’s Texbook Selection Shenanigans
- Is NYSED Admitting the EngageNY Modules are Crap?
- Five Things EngageNY Didn’t Intend to Teach My Kid
- In Cumberland, New Math Lessons Replace Investigations