This case is about a company attempting to use the judicial process to punish a parent who dared to voice reasonable concerns that the company’s educational program was not beneficial to his child and other similarly situated children. Instead of addressing such concerns in a productive dialogue, the company is seeking to silence them outright. But it is a parent’s obligation, right, and privilege to take action and, in this case, speak publicly to government officials and institutions and to other interested parents about matters of such important public concern as the well-being and proper education of children. Moreover, the Supreme Court has time and again emphasized that commentary like the statements at issue here—issues of public importance—“occupies the highest rung of the hierarchy of First Amendment values, and is entitled to special protection.”With that said, here goes...
Please ponder these questions from a Wake County teacher:
- Several teachers have spoken for MVP because they didn’t have a curriculum before MVP and if MVP is taken away they say they won't have a curriculum to use… so question is what in the world were they teaching with before MVP?
- Wake County has some of the best math teachers in the state, why not instead get those top-performing teachers to pool their resources to make a curriculum?
- Why does Wake county trust a curriculum written by folks from Utah (with a different standard course of study) more than they trust their own teachers here?
Indeed. I would like to share a radical proposal. I work in the IT industry and we use this notion all the time: Use what we sell and sell what we use. A private company recognizes its most valuable resources are not the property it owns or the products it sells, but THE PEOPLE who work for that company. Why should government agencies - such as a school system - think any differently?
So here’s an idea for Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) to address 3 current problems at once: 1) continued budget expansion, 2) underpaid teachers, and 3) pouring more money into a widely unpopular and problematic secondary math curriculum.
By my estimation, WCPSS must have nearly 600 math teachers teaching with MVP. Before MVP, every school and every teacher had curriculum resources they used to teach Math 1, 2, and 3. Those resources are still available on Google drives or on teacher laptops. So the resources for an excellent mostly-matched-to-standards curriculum exist in aggregate across this very large county. With some level of adult coordination and project management, WCPSS could invest money in making robust system-wide math curriculum resources including:
- A database of high quality class lessons which map to state standards and made available to students (and parents) for use after class
- A math problem bank (some with and some without worked examples) which could be used by teachers or students for class work, homework, quizzes, and tests.
- Problems could be mapped to lessons (which are mapped to standards).
- Problems could be rated for difficulty which would allow teachers to build assignments and assessments appropriate for scaffolding.
- This could include MVP problems which are utilized during the appropriate time at the teacher’s discretion.
- Continued refinement or adjustments to standards changes year after year.
- Teachers could use their own creativity to deliver the material using methods best suited for their style and students’ needs.
The results would be truly high quality resources, better performing students, and increased teacher satisfaction and buy-in. ALL teachers would access to ALL resource for ALL students. Problem difficulty ratings would ensure ALL students are met where they are and can be challenged to go higher. Assessments would be fair because they would only contain problems within the realm of what is expected. Parents would have resources (notes + examples) to help students if needed.
This investment to do this could be in the form of tooling (software) and labor (paying teachers lucrative bonuses to contribute to the project). Save the millions spent on one-time-use MVP workbooks and teacher re-education required to teach/facilitate using discovery methods, and shower that money on the excellent teachers who know best how to teach Wake County students. Even paying 100 math teachers $50 per hour for 40 hours each would be a fraction of what we are spending on MVP annually. And the result would be one of the best math curriculums in the country. It’s a win for taxpayers, teachers, and students - and common sense.
And not to get ahead of myself, if we had such a WCPSS-created curriculum, couldn't we charge a nominal fee to other NC counties for access? Or perhaps petition the State for additional funds to maintain the curriculum based on State standards? Wouldn't the State of NC welcome this as a cost saving solution?
Hammer Time or Something Else?
I know I have over-simplified this proposal and there will be skeptics. This is intended to be a conversation starter, not a step by step implementation plan. Some will say that MVP was purchased with the hope it would improve mathematics critical thinking due to an audit done in ~2016-17 showing poor results or trends. But what actions are Wake County school admins and parents taking to shore up gaps experienced with MVP?
- extra tutoring resources at school
- extra tutoring resources at home for parents who can afford it
- a WCPSS website with the beginnings of what I am proposing here
- links to videos with lessons
- references to websites with direct instruction and examples
- allowing some (not all, apparently) teachers to use their own resources to supplement MVP when needed
By replacing existing or former curriculums with off-the-shelf end-all-be-all curriculums, WCPSS leadership has fallen for the age-old phrase "if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." They have incorrectly viewed the problems of declining performance (whether math or other subjects) as only fixed by replacing curriculums with wildly different solutions. This groupthink continues to be perpetuated by WCPSS leadership as justification for MVP or any other new idea that comes down the pike. MY OPINION is that our prior curriculums were fine - excellent, in fact - though they perhaps needed some organization to make them more accessible. I think our leadership has incorrectly diagnosed causation, and jumped ahead to feel-good tweet-worthy edufad actions for the sake of "doing something."