10 May 2006

Trend-setting Subterfuge

I don't know if you've read or otherwise noticed this, but math and science scores for students around the United States aren't so hot. There are still way too many Johnnys out there who can't read, but far more of them can't use numbers or think scientifically about problems. My distict is not an exception to this.

For four years now, we have had "coaches" for most of our elementary schools. The model is based on Cognitive Coaching and really has been a powerful form of staff development for teachers who have taken advantage of having a coach in their building. Scores have seen a dramatic increase. The only problem is that all but one of the coaches has been designated for literacy goals. The math specialist and I are further mystified by the actions of our Boss Lady...who has not only asked the one and only math coach to move to literacy, but who has bought into the idea that coaches should work only in the area of writing.

Writing? That's something not required for schools to test in (let alone make AYP) under NCLB. Why are we spending our precious (and ever shrinking) resources on an area that doesn't "count"? Don't get me wrong, writing is an extremely important skill to have...but we're not hurting too badly in that area. It seems odd that in a "data-driven" organization...one which reads "The Tipping Point" and "The World is Flat"...that math and science instruction are not a primary concern. We have asked the Boss Lady about this and haven't received much in the way of answers, except for an indication that principals want the coaches to be used for writing.

So when the district sent out an invitation to participate in a web-based survey about how our resources are used (the district is receiving some additional grant money from the state for next year), you can imagine what I wrote in the "comments." I mentioned this to the math specialist, who passed it along to the math coach whose job will be no more. I talked with the other science person. When the group of teachers I was working with yesterday asked me why we have no science specialists for elementary, I suggested they provide that feedback when they take the survey.

Will our comments make any difference? Probably not. But at least we will have used another forum to voice them. Perhaps the accumulation over time will turn things toward our direction and get kids the support where they need it most. We'll just keep asking.

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