06 September 2006

The Cadre

As much as I am willing to tow the party line in this district, there are some places where I just can't. I respect the people who are in a position to make decisions and I understand that I don't have access to all of the same information as they do---perhaps I would make the same choices if that was so. Instead, I have to consistently renegotiate for things. One of these is our "Math and Science Cadre."

This is actually a brilliant compromise, although I can certainly take no credit for the concept. Principals at our elementary schools have chosen to focus their staff and resources on writing. This isn't a bad idea, but our data don't show that kids need the most support there. They need more help with math and science. So, while every building will have a half-time literacy coach to model lessons in writing and conduct professional development in scoring prompts and planning, math and science is being pushed aside. The math specialist and I were finally able to convince Boss Lady 1.0 that to give us 21 days out of the curriculum sub pool (literacy gets the other 159) plus enough money to fund some additional subs so that one teacher from every grade level (k - 6) at every elementary (there are 14) could come together three times this year for some intense professional development in math and science. While this isn't as nice as having math and science coaches who can meet with every teacher district-wide, we are able to get our feet in the door in this other way.

The first meeting is just less than two weeks away, with five happening by the end of the month. I am very excited about all of this, but it is also a lot to plan. It has to be fun...intensive...worthwhile...differentiated for levels of expertise...and more. Every grade level will be different and no lessons will be reusable. I plan to develop their content knowledge in a variety of ways and also have them do some of the junior high and high school labs so that they get an idea of the "end point" for kids and how the elementary curriculum plays a crucial role in getting them there. The new math specialist and I will meet tomorrow to divvy up the days and talk about working to develop teacher leadership capacity in the group and additional support.

My hope is that the cadre will be successful in two ways. One, of course, is for students. Supporting their learning must drive all of our work. But secondly, my wish is for the cadre to generate enough momentum and enthusiasm and to be the critical mass necessary to unseat the focus on writing. We have to find a way to make enough noise and get administrators to look at the data and to think more about how to use our dwindling resources to help students.


Anonymous said...

Science Godess, Not English Godess,

That would be "toe the line" rather than "tow the line". Interesting background on the phrase here ( http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-toe2.htm )

It seems a shame that math and science are considered subordinate to writing. Personally, I value math skills in my fellow citizens more than writing skills. It's harder for the media and politicians to hoodwink people who are good at math. Being able to write well doesn't confer the same benefits to one's fellow citizens.

The Science Goddess said...

Very interesting---and I stand corrected! I guess I'm just glad not to be toe'ing any cracks.

As for writing---most people rely on expository writing skills throughout their adult lives, but it's the narrative form that dominates the school setting. We're really doing our kids a disservice. We have to make a change.