KTM User Pages
07 Feb 2006 - 16:23
Comment left by Anne:
BTW, my Math Booster class has seemed to strike a nerve with parents. One of the parents on the PTO at one of the elementary schools is going to speak to her principal about having the PTO sponser my class. I would love to be a fly on the wall at that meeting!!! Politics being what it is in a school district, I don't see it happening.
Excellent. On all counts.
Now that I know we have one person from Irvington reading the site, I figure I'll engage in a bit of spaced repetition on the Singapore Math in Irvington front.
micromanagement I have been told, by a board member, that our Superintendent has a tendency to micromanage. When Ed heard what was going on — for the uninitiated, Ed is a longtime professor and university administrator — he said, "The superintendent shouldn't even know about your course. This should be way below her level of vision. If this is what she's spending her time on, we're in trouble." I'm sure he's right.
one more question The administration's thinking, I gather, is that under the new policy the PTSA cannot offer after-school courses that cover the same material taught in Irvington schools. The PTSA can offer enrichment courses — knitting, cooking, all-sports. The PTSA can offer academic courses not offered by the district — Chinese, for instance. The PTSA is free to offer after-school courses in Chinese. This means that I cannot teach a writing course in the after-school program. Irvington parents are actively distressed by the quality of writing instruction in the middle school, and the district acknowledges the problem. I taught writing to middle-school students for Johns Hopkins CYO; I have a Distinguished Teaching award from the University of Iowa for my teaching. I am a professional writer, author of a well-reviewed book that spent 6 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. [3-31-2006: 10 weeks on the paperback list and counting] I would probably agree to teach writing to middle-schoolers in an after-school PTSA program as a service to the community. Is the administration acting in the interests of Irvington children? I can think of a dozen parents from whom I'd want Christopher to be able to take an after-school course, and that's just off the top of my head. All of these parents would be teaching core academic subjects. Math, English, history, science. I would like to see our administration foster such opportunities for our kids.
Irvington mission statement: The mission of the Irvington School District is to create a challenging and supportive learning environment in which each student attains his or her highest potential for academic achievement, critical thinking and life-long learning.
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Pardon me for asking the most naive question -- is there any reason why you couldn't teach those courses ... without the approval of the school? Not on school grounds? For whoever wants to show up? [Wouldn't that chap their hide ... ] -- TerriWheeler - 06 Feb 2006
I mean, at some point you gotta say -- Hey, I tried working with the system, but the system isn't changing fast enough to not sink our children's education. [Why we're homeschooling: we don't think that the schools will get rid of constructivist math, "whole language" reading, whatever-they-call-it "social studies" that does the family-neighborhood-country-world-progression by the time our first child would get into school. I could try to change these things so my child doesn't get a crappy education in school, but it doesn't seem like most folks agree that these things are bad and need to be changed, so ... ] -- TerriWheeler - 06 Feb 2006
Terri I've begun tutoring kids using Singapore Math, so the answer is yes. The issue here is political. I don't need the superintendent's permission to teach Singapore Math in Irvington. It's a free country. However, the superintendent proposes a policy stating that parents can do nothing on school property - including after-hours - without her sign-off. (She has already been acting on this policy informally. This is why a school board member told me she's a micro-manager.) In other words, if I wanted to give a talk to parents about Singapore Math, as a private citizen, she would have to give the OK. Ed and I both feel this is a serious intrusion on parent turf. School situations - all human situations? - inevitably involve power & turf issues. That's what I'm talking about here. Given the level of my taxes, I don't feel like handing all power over all decisions and activities to the people whose salaries I'm paying. Another issue: I wouldn't feel a need to say that I tried working in the system. The system has no claims to my loyalty. Schools must earn public respect the same way anyone else earns public respect. -- CatherineJohnson - 06 Feb 2006
Our superintendent also attends PTSA meetings. She and the assistant superintendent both attended the PTSA forum. That was great; they got the hand-out. One of the dads asked whether the PTSA ever gets to discuss anything outside the presence of the superintendent. Last year the special ed PTSA invited a state-paid advocate to speak. Special education is different from regular education in that it is essentially structured to be adversarial. The state pays advocates to travel to school districts to tell parents how to deal with and figh their school districts. The superintendent showed up at the meeting unannounced. The advocate censored herself, and so did parents. For me, this was a serious breach of protocol. I'm sure there's nothing in PTSA regs that says the superintendent can't attend any meeting she wants to attend. It was a breach nonethless. -- CatherineJohnson - 06 Feb 2006
While I'm on the subject of breaches, the superintendent last year made an executive decision that all special needs kids who'd been sent out of district would be brought back to district in order to balance the budget. This is illegal. 'Illegal' is the correct term. Parents were sent letters telling them that the district could now 'serve their children's needs.' (Special ed students are entitled to 'FAPE' - 'free and appropriate public education.' If the district can't provide FAPE, the district must pay another school or school district to do so.) There were no new programs in place. Again, this is illegal. Many of the special ed parents, including us, lawyered up. This, of course, makes me bitter. Special ed attorneys are incredibly costly. There's no reason for me to have to pay for an attorney to compel my very expensive school district to do what they are legally obligated to do. Then the superintendent hired a fantastic new director of pupil personnel who came in and worked 24 hours a day to get things straightened out. He's amazing. Which brings me to what I like about the superintendent, which I've said before. My sense is that she has an amazing eye for talent. I could be wrong about that....but I think I've probably seen enough of her picks to know. My one question about her hiring and firing (she fires, too) has to do with whether she can work with people who aren't her 'type,' but who are good at what they do. No data on that, yet. -- CatherineJohnson - 06 Feb 2006
I didn't mean to give the impression that I didn't think you shouldn't also go the political route. My big concern is that schools have time on their side -- if they drag their feet on an issue, your kid will move onto high school and you'll be out of their hair. I encountered that issue big time when I was in college -- a transfer student who's only going to be on campus for two years vs. the school administrator who's been there 25 years? With the level of paperwork and political sludge and budgets that are hammered out years in advance and all the inertia that entails ... few students ever had a chance to see any change. They always knew they just had to wait us out. [Admittedly, not all student's ideas were good ones, but quality of ideas didn't seem to be an issue there. Heh.] -- TerriWheeler - 07 Feb 2006
My big concern is that schools have time on their side -- if they drag their feet on an issue, your kid will move onto high school and you'll be out of their hair. You betcha! -- CatherineJohnson - 07 Feb 2006
Actually, in the realm of special ed there are laws governing how long the school has to make decisions. Those laws exist to get rid of pocket vetoes. (sp?) My point is simply that I'm engaged in a political process. I don't care one way or another if I teach a tiny after-school class in Singapore Math. I taught it last year to see if I could; then I taught it this fall because the chair of the program wanted her son to take it. I want to give the district enough trouble over TRAILBLAZERS that they don't even think of adopting fuzzy math in the middle school or high school. (I assume the high school is safe, probably.) -- CatherineJohnson - 07 Feb 2006
"(I assume the high school is safe, probably.)" Don't bet on this. Watch out for Core-Plus. -- CharlesH - 07 Feb 2006
Have you seen the new (I think it's new) AIR study on PISA & TIMSS? I have to pull it again; I had it, & then Safari crashed. They found that high scores on skills correlates with high scores on the cognitive items. -- CatherineJohnson - 07 Feb 2006