Anchorage School District Struggles with Math Curriculum, Just Like Students Do

The math curriculum at the ASD needs to be closely evaluated and maybe sent to the scrap heap of education prototyping on our kids.

The Anchorage School District commissioned The Council of the Great City Schools to evaluate why the Every Day Math program is not fulfilling ASD’s dreams. In a voluminous report, the CGCS concluded that the school district has made some strides in Standards Based Assessment scores following the same students for several grades. There are many problems cited by the study and actions with which to improve the math curriculum. Recommended corrective action was to provide more professional development for teachers and assistance to parents, Parent University. It seems as if teachers cannot adequately teach to the curriculum and parents find it very difficult to help their kids with homework. This would appear to be a formula for failure for our kids. The study places overall responsibility for lack of progress in math on the ASD staff, principals and teachers.

The study breaks down SBA scores by ethnic/racial group in the District. It appears as if much of the lack of progress is in the minority groups and English Language Learners groups. The study goes into depth relating students on free/reduced price lunches (FRPL) to low math scores. Maybe students not on the FRPL get more nutritious meals from sack lunches and fast food franchises. There may be some correlation with parent involvement at the lower socio-economic levels. Maybe reverting to the more basic Saxon math program would help these parents do homework with their kids. It couldn’t hurt.

It seems as if there is little accountability in the District regarding monitoring, implementation and evaluation of EDM by the various players. The study states: “The evaluation system for principals is not connected to student achievement or meeting school goals. The evaluation system for teachers does not reference student performance on state assessments.” Then what are  principal and teacher performance based upon if not student achievement? Clearly, we need to connect student achievement, as one metric, to teacher/principal performance. Otherwise, we cannot differentiate between the good and the bad.

One solution to the choice of EDM versus Saxon (or other more viable math programs) could be to allow the parents the choice of selecting the best fit for their child regarding school. Why can’t a parent choose a school which teachers a particular curriculum best suited for their child? Only the parent knows the best learning style and which math program would fit the child. The charter schools and alternative schools in the ASD mostly use the Saxon math program and their SBA scores exceed the other schools. Incidentally, why didn’t the study include the charter schools? Only the Alaska Native Charter School was included in the study.

Give the kids a chance…give them choice.