Category Archives: Eureka Math

What A Difference A School Board Can Make… A Call to Action… Part Two

Good Evening To All The Board of Directors.

I am honored our district gives community members a chance to contribute to the conversation.  My dual role as parent and educator drives me to encourage everyone to dig deeply into the reforms and ask the hard questions.

School Boards can make a huge difference.  You are the first line of protection in regards to our children.  What you approve or disapprove impacts each school and child vastly.

Action #1: Amplify Testing

Diving 1Two weeks ago, I shared the 3rd Grade Math Benchmark Assessment given to 8 year olds.   I hope you had the time to review the last item and its’ scoring guide, as well as the student responses, while keeping in mind the students were required to show their thinking using Microsoft Word.

I posed the problem:  5 X (16 + 8 ÷ 4) – 5 X 2

The answer is 80 and was the first question on the 5th Grade Math Benchmark Test.  I watched as children stared at their screens.  Minutes went by.  Already defeated, they went on to attempt other items.  I pondered what we were told regarding Amplify being contracted to write custom assessments for our school district based on our pacing guide and content taught from EngageNY Mathematics.  I reviewed the first two modules at 5th grade and the above item had not been taught to this extent, nor was it the focus of the first two units.

  • How can we pay an outside source from our limited funds to write “custom assessments” and the items come back not aligned?  After all, we do have a “shortfall”… correct?
  • How can we ask teachers to replace their module assessments from EngageNY and use the Amplify Test for grades?
  • How can we afford to lose precious instruction time to deliver this test, and for what purpose?
  • Is it discriminating? Is it valid? Is it reliable? Is it the best measurement of student growth?

Exhibit A  Arabic Multiple Choice / Constructed Response Sample Test

I’ve included 3 Multiple Choice Test Items in Arabic and one constructed response.  I would like you to pretend you are a student, a non-Arabic speaker, and being asked to take this short “test”. (3 Multiple Choice Questions, one constructed Response) What you are looking at is simpler than what the non-english students in my school experienced.

How So?

  • Not one word would be in English.
  • The Multiple Choice letters would be Arabic.
  • If an able body is available they would be able to read each item to you out loud in Arabic.
  • 11 peers in your classroom speak 4 other languages and can have it read in Arabic too.
  • There is one teacher in the classroom.
  • This is the only accommodation.
  • No translations are allowed.
  • You observe 3 special education students at a table with the teacher, because she can read it out loud to them too. (All reading 2-3 grade levels below 5th grade)
  • The other 7 Arabic speaking students raise their hands to ask questions periodically, in which the 5th grade teacher must leave her table to answer.
  • The Special Education teacher is not available because she has 32 other qualified students she is expected to deliver individualized instruction to in other classrooms.
  • The Arabic Language Teachers are also unavailable because they are in other classrooms delivering instruction to the over 100 students qualified as ALL. (Arabic Language Learners)
  • You must type your answers into a machine you have had very little experience with because you had never seen one before or your family can not afford one.
  • All the Keys on this foreign machine (keyboard) are in Arabic.

How well would you perform?  How would this make you feel about school and learning?

Can you clearly see the issue and concerns teachers are having with this kind of testing zapping instructional hours which eventually turn into days of instruction?

Exhibit B       5th Grade ELA Interim Amplify Assessment

Now flip through the 31 Item, 23 page, 5th Grade ELA Interim 1 Amplify Assessment.

Imagine every single word, every single item, being written in Arabic.  You face the computer screen and listen to your teacher say, “Just do your best”,  or “all I can do for you is read it out loud in Arabic”, or “???????????????!” .

Exhibit C       Item #31  Constructed Response.

Consider completing 30 items and then facing this Item.  The students are expected to write a full story with eight criteria to include.   During the WASL years, fourth graders were given a full day to complete a prompt like this.  Even then, it was inappropriate and does not mirror the authentic writing process.  Examine the scoring guide and then review the six anonymous student responses.

Action #1 Request

Please consider equitable ways in which we can assess our most struggling learners.  I hope we can begin looking at ways to promote Assessment for Learning over Assessment of Learning.

Children’s brains are not standardized.  Just like walking and talking, they learn at different rates and at different times.  They have different passions and talents.  They need learning experiences and expeditions.  This, indeed, will close the “opportunity” gap.

Action Item Request #2  EngageNY  (Eureka) Mathematics

I received the following quote from a veteran, dynamic, engaging 1st grade teacher in New York.  After reading and considering her words, I urge the board to allow a committee to be formed ASAP to begin the process of finding a researched based math program with sound pedagogy embedding how young children learn mathematics.  Please do not wait until next year.

new-york-teacher-statement

 

Thank You and May This Season Bring You Never Ending Peace.

Diving 2

 Passionately Submitted,

RAZ ON FIRE

 References:

  • Wayne Au, University of Washington Professor, Author: Rethinking Multicultural Education
  • Jesse Hagopian, Garfield High School, Author: More Than A Score
  • Carol Burris, New York Principal of the Year, now Executive Director of NPE
  • Anthony Cody, National Board Certified Teacher, Author: Living in Dialogue & The Educator And The Oligarch: A Teacher Challenges The Gates Foundation
  • Leonie Haimson, Co-Chair, Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, Founder and Executive Director of Class Size Matter
  • Following The Common Core Money: Where are Millions of Dollars Going?  (Valerie Strauss highlights Carol Burris.  The history of EngageNY Math revealed)

 

 

 

 

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What A Difference A School Board Can Make… A Call to Action

Good Evening To All The Board of Directors.

Paul and Jerrall, I warmly welcome you to your new role. I was one of the crazy ladies driving my car around town with both of your campaign signs attached.

Deana, thank you for meeting with me and the time you have given to the community. Thank you for expressing your concerns with the over-testing of our children.

For those who have not met me yet, my name is Raschelle Holland. I’ve been an educator for 26 years and have been honored with the National Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics, the National Christa McAuliffe Fellowship Award, the United States Senate Innovative Teacher Award, and was one of the first in this state to become Nationally Board Certified. I stand here this evening, not just as an educator, but as a parent of an 8 year old, and active tax payer within the boundaries of Spokane School District.

I moved back to Spokane 8.5 years ago after having my son and desiring to live closer to my mother. I am a graduate of Shadle Park High School, Whitworth University, and completed a 3 year graduate degree at Gonzaga University in Teaching Mathematics.  I’m a Spokane “girl” through and through.

In my previous school districts, I had strong, trusting relationships with each of the school board members and the Superintendents.

In the past two years my passionate concerns regarding what I see occurring nationally with the current reform efforts, trickling into our states, seeping into school districts, and the walls of our schools have prompted me to crusade for our children and fight for what is right and true. Many of the reforms are harmful to children and … Need. To. Stop.

Too many have been afraid to speak up or to share their voice in regards to some of the results and consequences of the reform efforts. NCLB has failed. I also have grave concerns with the ESEA Reauthorization… a 1012 page document being voted upon today by our Congress. Who has time to read it? What is hidden within the document? Some say it is better. What I wonder is if it is like President Coin in the Hunger Games? She battled against the Evil Capitol, yet in the end she was just as evil and just as bad. Will the ESEA rewrite just be another Hunger Games using children for profit? We all must Be Aware, Be Leery, and Be Wise in the current times.

After all, we are talking about C H I L D R E N.

School Boards can make a huge difference. You are the first line of protection in regards to our children. What you approve or disapprove impacts each school and child vastly.

First Steps… A Call to Action

Action #1: Amplify Testing Diving 1

Please solve:

5 X (16 + 8 ÷ 4) – 5 X 2

Answer: ________

What grade level do you think children encountered this problem on the Amplify Test our school district has purchased?

The SBAC paid Amplify $12,000,000 to write practice tests. Rupert Murdoch of Fox News Corp owns Amplify. He has recently sold the company because it is losing money. In fact, 9 states got rid of it due to the way it shared the student data with 3rd party vendors. Parents spoke up and out.

I don’t want to be afraid anymore. So I am speaking up. Parents and teachers have been contacting me over the past few months. Here are some facts:

    1. The questions are convoluted in math. Nearly every question is a reasoning question.
    2. There are no accommodations for ELL or Special Needs students. Zero.
    3. There are 26 questions on the 3rd grade Amplify Math Benchmark. This is deceptive. Look through the 3rd grade test I have provided for you in your folders. One item is not one item.
    4. Look at Item #26, a constructed response. Review the scoring guide. Look at the student’s responses.
    5. We teach them with manipulatives and how to draw pictures to show their thinking. Look what the question(s) asks for. How does an 8 year old do this in a Word Document? Is this the best way to assess their knowledge at 8?
    6. Our district paid Amplify to write custom assessments in math based on our pacing guide. The problem above… I asked you to solve… was not addressed in Module 1 or 2 of EngageNY Math.
    7. Every 4th grader in my school failed this test. The data on the other grades will be similar. Every student? Is this about the teaching? Or the test? Or the math program being used?
    8. A parent contacted me from an elementary school in our district. She had asked to opt her child out of the Amplify Testing. There are grave concerns about the data collection and how the data is stored. She was told she couldn’t because it was being used for grades. Very concerning. The children are being asked questions they haven’t been taught yet and using these for grades? Her response… She’s moving forward with the Opt Out, because she said “she wasn’t concerned about her child’s grades at 8 years old, and if one test was what the teacher would base a whole trimester on… have at it.”
    9. What is the validity and inter-rater reliability across the district in scoring the items?
    10. After the children finish the math test, they then take the ELA Interim Test. The ELA 3rd grade test is 27 pages back to back when printed. Therefore, the test is 54 pages long.                       (8  y e a r   o l d s)
    11. My school has been using our two computer labs since mid-October and will go through Dec. 18th for Amplify Testing. Guess when the next testing window starts for the next round of Amplify Testing? Answer: Feb. 1st.  (By the time SBA rolls around, the children will be puking tests up. The SBA ties up all computers in the school April through May)

My personal questions revolve around the ethics and morality of doing this to children.

C H I L D R E N.

Current statistics say children take over 112 standardized tests from pre-k to graduation now. How necessary is this? What message are we sending our children? What is truly important?

Spokane School Districts Testing Calendar

Please dig and learn more about Amplify. Learn more about the company, how it got started, on whose dime, and how it is failing. Is this how we want to put forth $300,000? Please. Let’s ask ourselves if this is right for our children and if this is the direction we really want to head?

Action Item #2 EngageNY Mathematics

It has been put out there we may be stuck with this math program for two more years. I would like the board to consider doing the same with EngageNY as I am requesting with Amplify. Check out its history. Where it started, who wrote it, and on whose dime? I understand it is just an “interim” math program. However, four years of an elementary aged child’s life is not “interim”. These are children’s foundational mathematical years.

I’ve spent the past few years researching this program and I will express the angst I have with it, and the heartache many educators feel in this district using it… especially at the K-3 level. I have a long list of issues I can send you if desired. In my building it is ineffective for most of the children because our children come 2-3 grade levels behind. For ELL students it is a nightmare. It will not close the (“achievement”) opportunity gap, rather it will widen it.

I’d like a push from the School Board to start looking at elementary math programs as soon as possible. I do believe there are better programs for elementary children.

Congratulations

Diving 2Again, my sincere congratulations to the new Directors. I look forward to a positive working relationship and doing my part to help pave the path towards positive solutions.

You. Can. Make. A. Difference.

Passionately Submitted,

Raz on Fire

 

 

EngageNY Math, now Eureka, A Common Core Dropping

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?

ComplicityI’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.

Schew.

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.

Four years.

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.

Burris continues:

“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?

Demeaning

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”.

Yippee!

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.

Yahoo!

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?

Shameless Shapeshifters.

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…

New York Teacher Statement

My personal list:

  1. EngageNY/Eureka is not differentiated. It assumes children come to the classroom with the same skill set.
  2. The pacing is horrendous. It goes way too fast in some modules and way too slow in others.
  3. 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.
  4. It is plum full of worksheets.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. The DOK (Depth of Knowledge) levels of learning are low, levels 1 and 2.
  8. 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.

Why?

Hug a TurdA) Crappy Teaching?

B) Crappy Program?

Or…

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.

At. All.

It’s survival.

And it stinks.

The Finale

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.” 

turdNumerous dedicated, hard working, and talented teachers know exactly what EngageNY (aka Eureka) is:  A Common Core Dropping.

A Turd.

“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.

Passionately Submitted,

 RAZ ON FIRE

Other References:

  1.  Why Isn’t AFT and New York More Enraged About EngageNY?
  2.  Crazy Crawfish’s Blog: Louisiana’s Texbook Selection Shenanigans
  3.  Is NYSED Admitting the EngageNY Modules are Crap?
  4. Five Things EngageNY Didn’t Intend to Teach My Kid
  5. In Cumberland, New Math Lessons Replace Investigations