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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Chancellor Carmen Farina Returns To Her Old Ways, Bringing Back Unworkable Balanced Literacy. Is TERC math Next??

Marielle Combier-Kapel
 Carmen is up to her old tricks. When she was at PS 6 as Principal, she did away with the Gifted and Talented Program, because she said that "all children learn". (My youngest daughter entered PS 6 in 1997 when Carmen was Principal). She considered a low 3 or high 2 for all would be a great way to equalize the student population. We called her the Great Equalizer, the person to whom "differentiation" was a foreign language that she never bothered to learn. Most parents and teachers despised her.

One parent told her that the kindergarten class with more than 30 children was too large, and this parent offered to pay for a third teacher. She told him he could leave. He did.

Then she implemented TERC math, and had all students learning that "long division" was a term never to be uttered at any time, and Balanced Literacy and "Accountable Talk" were concepts that were to be held in high esteem....for reasons unknown. The parents - including me - were furious. My daughter, Marielle, when she was in 4th grade, wrote an essay called "Why TERC" (it was her idea) which was published in the Riverdale Review.  Then, I published the flyer handed out to all parents about the crime of teaching long division:

Why TERC? Letter from a Manhattan Fourth Grader

An editorial by Marielle Combier-Kapel, then in fourth grade in P. S. 6, Manhattan, with an introduction by her mother, Betsy Combier, and a flyer from the school.

Marielle and the Children's Chorus at the NY City Opera, in La Boehme



 In reference to Mr. Barnicle’s piece “Where There’s No Will, There’s No Way To Fix Schools” (Feb. 17) and Allison Gendar’s article “Ed Board Perks Under Fire”, (Feb. 12), I, a parent of four girls all now in public schools here in New York City, want to add my outrage. The children and parents in the public school system in this city have an Enron situation with the Board of Education. Only in our case we are hoping that the “company” disintegrates quickly. The Members of the Board are  famous for never contacting anyone with a problem, much less taking any action to fix it. The shooting at Martin Luther King Jr. High School was a visible result of Chancellor Levy and the Board members turning a deaf ear to months of warnings.

On October 5, 2001, I called the Chancellor’s office to discuss a problem in a school which looked illegal, and was told by his secretary, “the Chancellor never takes telephone calls from parents. Put it in writing and fax it to him, and he will respond within 7 days.” I did what she told me to do and am still waiting to hear his reply. The situation I would have liked him to look at is now worse than I originally thought.

Another bizarre example of the educational fraud our kids are being subjected to is the $millions spent on a “fuzzy math” program which is leaving our children unable to do traditional multiplication and long division. I and my fourth daughter are furious that the system is betraying her and ignoring her passion to learn the basic skills which her sisters , who were all in private school during their elementary school years, had. She wrote her thoughts below. It’s time to do something, Mr. Bloomberg. 

                                                                                    Betsy Combier      

by Marielle Combier-Kapel
4th Grade, PS 6

Parents are making tutors crazy calling them all the time because of TERC math. Kids don’t have time to do anything  because all they do after school is get tutored in math. There is no one to have playdates with anymore!

 Citywide math scores are falling, but Board Of Education officials say that the District 2 math scores on the Standardized tests are high, therefore the TERC math curriculum is a good thing. Many District 2 parents are spending lots of money on  tutoring, which brings up the scores, giving the impression that TERC is good for us kids.

Tutoring is great if your parents have money to spend on this.

TERC math shouldn’t be the only kind of math schools teach to their students. Just because some students
aren’t that smart, the schools are sending  flyers home to parents saying that they should not teach their child traditional math which includes long division and algorithms. I like long division!

My mom says:
“Fuzzy math condemns our kids by not allowing them to establish an understanding of base computations which will empower them as they reach higher levels of problem-solving.

The Board of Education policy to implement TERC math and ONLY this curricula is assuring our kids an immediate future of confusion, or worse, boredom, and a long-term disability in
math achievement and academic performance in non-math subjects as well. Learning traditional math as a reference is similar to having a Spanish dictionary when you are trying to write something in Spanish.”

Parents are now calling other parents to find out if they tutor their children in math or not, and are signing up my friends.

 One of my sisters’ teachers at Stuyvesant told my mom that  the math at the Freshman level may have to be changed to a lower achievement level, as kids from District 2 who are getting in are having trouble with the traditionally rigorous math program. A  teacher at my other sister’s honors program told my mom that she has never seen children in 7th grade who are not able to do long division.

What may happen is that I may be unable to compete for college places because the math teaching I have received is not teaching me what I should know. Is that fair?

Marielle Combier-Kapel
[Betsy Combier:] I scanned in the flyer my daughter Marielle received from her 4th Grade teacher one week after I had a talk with her about TERC, and how my daughter was upset at being told NOT to do long division. The teacher, who we do like alot, whispered to me that "her hands were tied". Below is the flyer and Marielle's Editorial which she wrote except for my quote, and she emailed it to the NY Times.

Dear Family,
In mathematics, our class is starting a new unit called Arrays and Shares. This unit focuses on multiplication and division. Students begin the unit by looking at things that are arranged in rows, for example, juice packs, egg cartons, and rows of chairs. Through examining these rectangular arrangements (or arrays), they begin to visualize important aspects of multiplication, for example, that the solution to 7 X 6 is the same as the solution to 6 X 7.
            As students go on to work on two-digit multiplication and related division problems, it is       
             critical that they visualize how to pull apart the numbers they are working with. To solve
             these harder problems, students learn to use related problems they already know how to 
             solve. For example, the problem 7 X 23 can be solved by breaking the problem into more
             familiar parts: 7 X 10, 7 X 10, and 7 X 3.

While our class is studying multiplication and division you can help in the following ways:
             Look for items around your house or at the grocery store that are packaged or arranged in     
             rectangular arrays. Tiles on the floor, egg cartons, window panes, and six-packs of juice      
             cans are examples of rectangular arrays. Talk with your child about the dimensions (rows
              and columns) and discuss ways to figure out the total number.

Play the Array Games that your child brings home for homework. Help your child practice skip counting by 3's, 4's, 5's, and so forth.
When your child brings home problems, encourage your child to explain his or her strategies to you. Ask questions, such as "How did you figure that out?" and "Tell me your thinking about this problem", but don't provide answers or methods. Show that you are interested in how your child is thinking and reasoning about these problems.

Please don't teach your child step-by-step procedures for computing multiplication and division. Too often we find that children at this age memorize the multiplication and division procedures but cannot recognize situations in which multiplication and division are useful. We will gradually support students this year in developing several strategies for carrying out multiplication and division problems, but we would prefer they not memorize procedures at this time.

Thank you for your interest in your child's study of mathematics. We are looking forward to an exciting few weeks of work on multiplication and division.


From Betsy: A great site to read about how bad TERC really is, is AMERICAN MATH FORUM, where you can find this:

TERC 2nd Edition
Number and Operations with Whole Numbers
Multiplication and Division

TERC 2nd Edition
Authors and Collaborators

Computational Algorithms and Procedures
Developing Fluency with the Facts
At P S. 158 in Manhattan, which is among the schools that have adopted aspects
of balanced literacy, a student-driven model.

Carmen Farina: The Problem With Her Being Chancellor of the NYC School System Is.......


New York Schools Chief Advocates More ‘Balanced Literacy’

The reading lesson began like any other. Tara Bauer, a teacher at Public School 158 on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, took her perch in front of a class of restless fourth graders and began reciting the beginning of a book about sharks.

But a few sentences in, Ms. Bauer shifted course. She pushed her students to assume the role of teacher, and she became a mediator, helping guide conversations as the children worked with one another to define words like “buoyant” and identify the book’s structure.

“Turn and talk,” she said as she raced around the classroom, prodding students to share their impressions.

The student-led approach to reading and writing used by Ms. Bauer, which is known as balanced literacy, is poised to make a comeback in New York City classrooms. The new schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, wants more schools to adopt aspects of balanced literacy, including its emphasis on allowing students to choose many of the books they read.

The move, while cheered by proponents of this method, is seen by some as a departure from recent trends in the city and nationwide.

Lucy Calkins, a professor at Teachers College at Columbia University and an
early advocate of balanced literacy, at P.S. 158.
The city’s Education Department turned away from balanced literacy several years ago amid concerns that it was unstructured and ineffective, particularly for low-income children. And Ms. Fariña is facing sharp resistance from some education experts, who argue that balanced literacy is incompatible with the biggest shift in education today: theCommon Core academic standards.

During her almost six months as chancellor, Ms. Fariña, a veteran of the school system, has reduced the role of standardized tests, increased collaboration among schools and shepherded through a new contract for teachers that includes more training and more communication with parents. But her push for a revival of balanced literacy may have some of the most far-reaching implications in the classroom.

Ms. Fariña, who relied on balanced literacy as a teacher and a principal, said in an interview last week that she did not believe it was at odds with the Common Core, a more difficult set of learning goals that has been adopted by more than 40 states.

She said she thought the strategies of balanced literacy were particularly useful for children who arrived in classrooms with little knowledge of English, including immigrants. “They’re going to feel frustrated, alienated,” she said. “You need to put them on something they can accomplish and do fluently.”

The Common Core demands that students frequently read books at and above their grade level, and some of its proponents take issue with the idea of allowing struggling students to read easier books. Susan Pimentel, an architect of the Common Core standards, said that the philosophy was “worrisome and runs counter to the letter and spirit of Common Core.”

Balanced literacy, so called because it combines several approaches to reading and writing, has a relatively long history in American education. It emerged as a product of the progressive movement of education in the 1970s and ’80s, when teachers were searching for an alternative to the top-down, textbook-driven approach to literacy in many schools. It was based on the idea that children were natural readers and writers; teachers needed only to create the conditions to unleash their talents.

Under the method, long-winded lectures by teachers were discouraged, and students worked frequently in groups — called workshops — to read and write. Spelling and grammar were de-emphasized in favor of fluency. Textbooks were scrapped in favor of classroom libraries teeming with novels and plays. And students were encouraged to write about social justice issues and tell their personal stories.

Balanced literacy took off in New York under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who mandated the approach citywide in 2003 as one of his early efforts to shake up the school system. The city turned to Lucy Calkins, a professor at Teachers College at Columbia University who was one of the early advocates of balanced literacy, to help train teachers.

The shift prompted complaints that balanced literacy was loosely organized and lacked rigorous instruction in phonics, an approach that teaches children how to sound out words. Ms. Fariña, who became deputy schools chancellor in 2004, worked to respond to those doubts, arguing that balanced literacy could be used in tandem with robust efforts in spelling and phonics.

But after several years of experimentation, the department moved away from balanced literacy. School officials grew concerned that students lacked the knowledge and vocabulary to understand books about history and science. In 2012, a study found that a small group of schools that used balanced literacy lagged behind schools that used a differing approach known as Core Knowledge. (Education officials in the current administration said the study was too small to be meaningful.)

When the city released a list of curriculums it recommended under the Common Core standards last year, it omitted balanced literacy, amid worries that it was not sufficiently comprehensive to be labeled a curriculum. Still, many schools continued to use Ms. Calkins’s methods, and now at least several hundred of the 1,700 schools use at least some aspects of balanced literacy.

Ms. Calkins, the founder of the Reading and Writing Project at Teachers College, has continued to make the case for balanced literacy, which is in wide use across the United States. She has tailored her approach to the Common Core standards, by increasing the amount of nonfiction, incorporating more discussion of difficult texts and decreasing the amount of time devoted to personal writing.

“I don’t really agree with rigid, myopic interpretations of the Common Core,” Ms. Calkins said in an interview. “It needs to be a big tent.”

Ms. Pimentel, the Common Core architect, said she believed that balanced literacy could be used under the new standards, so long as students were regularly exposed to complex books, read a mix of fiction and nonfiction and were asked to write about the texts they read, and so long as there was a focus on building knowledge through reading.

Ms. Fariña said she was confident that balanced literacy had incorporated the tenets of the Common Core. “I believe the world is comprised of a lot of nonfiction reading, and we need to put that in there,” she said. “But I still don’t want to lose the sense that kids write about things they’re personally involved in and write about their own memoirs.”

But some experts remain unsatisfied and point to the Common Core’s requirement that students develop a “rich” body of knowledge across a variety of subjects through reading.

“One of the best things you can do to build reading proficiency is to build a strong base of background knowledge,” said Robert Pondiscio, a senior fellow and vice president at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a research organization. “When you have 24 kids reading 24 books, you’re not accounting for that.”

Ms. Fariña and Ms. Calkins have been friends for decades. Ms. Calkins wrote the introduction to one of Ms. Fariña’s books, and Ms. Fariña worked for several years as a consultant for Ms. Calkins’s group after her retirement from the Education Department in 2006.

In May, Ms. Fariña asked Ms. Calkins to host a seminar on her methods for hundreds of principals; in August, New York City teachers will be invited to a similar event.

The Education Department did not respond when asked how much it was paying Ms. Calkins’s program.

In the interview last week, Ms. Fariña emphasized that while she believed in balanced literacy, she would not mandate its use in classrooms or add it to the city’s list of preferred curriculums.

“I’m just asking people to have a common-sense approach,” she said.

At P.S. 158, the students and the staff have rallied behind the curriculum. On a recent day, second graders rewrote the story of the Gingerbread Man, adding their own plot twists and flourishes.

Ms. Bauer, the fourth-grade teacher, said balanced literacy had improved her teaching and inspired a love of reading in her students.

“This hooks students in a way that other approaches don’t,” she said. “They become highly motivated. Every lesson has a higher purpose.”