Jay Mathews’ Monday article on math acceleration (“Accelerated Math Challenge, For a Student and Her Mom“) was sparked by his recent talk at an MCPS middle school (which I attended) where he was blindsided by parent concerns regarding math acceleration. This is something I’ve blogged about numerous times and clearly it’s a simmering issue in the county…to the point that MCPS has formed a boondoggle math committee to “look into it..”
Anne McCracken Ehlers’s third-grade daughter was not doing well in accelerated fourth-grade math at Whetstone Elementary School in Gaithersburg. Becca was spending far too long on her assignments. She was confused. She was unhappy. Ehlers is a teacher herself, in the English department at Rockville High School. So she was polite when she asked for a change, but nothing happened….
Don’t you just love that “…is a teacher herself…So she was polite when she asked for a change…” As opposed to all those typically rude, pushy parents. Obviously as an MCPS employee, she knew that deference must be paid. And of course the kicker is that still nothing happened.
According to Mathews, the school,
[D]eclared their allegiance to each child’s “unique needs” and their support for “parent feedback.” But to my surprise, they mostly stood their ground on acceleration for all. “We believe that every child will be able to achieve at high levels, not just in math but in all academic areas,Whetstone Principal Victoria Casey said. Erick Lang, Montgomery’s associate superintendent for curriculum and instructional programs, emphasized the importance of completing first-year algebra before ninth grade: “Getting students to accomplish that goal requires keeping them on the right path of courses.”
Too much acceleration is as bad as not enough. And clearly MCPS has decided that what is best for ALL students is what is best for all students. You can see it in the coming-in-a-MCPS-dog-and-pony-show-near-you roll out of the Seven Keys to College Readiness.
The story generated 37 comments last time I checked and Anne McCracken Ehler, the parent (and MCPS teacher!) in the story also posted the following in the comments section:
Here’s a little background. I had been fighting since September to get my third grader out of the accelerated 4th grade math–(yes, skipping 3rd grade math) and back into 3rd grade math. She was finally moved in February after a series of emails and phone conversations—in which I argued that I wanted my daughter taught at an instructional level—not frustration (which is where she was—spending far too long on her assignments, lots of confusion about what she was being asked to do on the paper, coming home with Ds and Es, being asked to give up her recess regularly) and not independent (easy, coasting along, and bored).
Here is last email exchange—the one that finally worked:
“I am concerned about a statement you made on the phone indicating that asking to have Becca moved to a more appropriate math class would be giving up on her, telling her that she is a failure, that she doesn’t measure up. Becca’s worth–and indeed no person’s worth–is determined by their performance. My son didn’t really read at all until 4th grade–God bless the right IEP and Mrs. Jauquet and Mrs. Aoun who made my boy a reader–despite his learning differences. It’s been a long hard road, and I certainly have not given up on him. I have to pay careful attention to what he needs at the time–and now also what Becca needs at the time.
I’ve already expressed my reasoning for moving her. Seeing her math report card yesterday and hearing that she would not come to Math club today only confirm my resolve. This is not laziness nor coddling–this is certainly not a failure on anybody’s part–this is doing what’s best for the kid in front of you at the time.
Please move Becca to a math class that is more appropriate for her–do you have an class that is doing 3rd grade math with 4th grade indicators? Let me know what math group she will be attending and when the change will take place as soon as possible.”
Why are parents having to spend so much time fighting MCPS? It’s insane.