December 7, 2016
Updated with additional signatures - December 16, 2016
Superintendent Ayindé Rudolph
Assistant Superintendent Cathy Baur
Mountain View Whisman School District
750-A San Pierre Way
Mountain View, CA 94043-3133
Dear Superintendent Rudolph and Assistant Superintendent Baur:
We are the parents of current and incoming Graham and Crittenden sixth graders. After one trimester of the Teach to One (TTO) pilot, we have significant concerns with the program and its impact on our children as they prepare to enter the competitive high school environment. We recognize and praise the district for considering innovative ways to supplement student learning (Membeam, Lexia, Khan Academy). However, TTO does not appear to be serving our students as well as the traditional teacher-directed method.
We have found the TTO pilot to be ineffective in inspiring and encouraging our children. Living in Silicon Valley, we appreciate taking chances, examining impact and changing course if things are not working. After 3+ months of TTO, we feel that TTO is not the right solution for our students.
Overall, although laudable for its innovation, the TTO program is still under development and the kinks have not been worked out. Continuing to require the program, now that we have first-hand experience with the problems, would be a disservice to our children. We have fabulous, qualified and committed math teachers at Graham and Crittenden, and they should be permitted to teach our children, as they are trained to do. Online learning can be productive for extended learning, such as homework. But at this point, nothing matches the efficacy of a face-to-face student-teacher relationship in communicating complex and important materials. Students are not getting this from TTO in its current form. Some parents’ frustration has reached the point where they are now looking into other school options for seventh grade, which would be very unfortunate.
We understand that the district is currently evaluating TTO. With this letter, we respectfully ask that:
- TTO be discontinued for the spring 2017 trimester and thereafter.
- If the district wishes to continue with TTO, either:
- Make it optional for all students and provide a traditional teacher-led option for those who don’t wish to participate, or
- With the involvement of the parent community, restructure the program so that TTO is substantially minimized or limited to a subpopulation where it has proven to be beneficial.
- The district solicit parent feedback prior to implementing major curriculum changes going forward.
Below please find a list of items that summarize many parent concerns regarding the TTO program:
- The TTO curriculum does not follow a logical pathway, enabling students to build a strong math foundation. TTO removes the thoughtfulness behind math curriculum development, by presenting topics in an illogical and incoherent order. By jumping around among concepts, students fail to make connections between subject areas. Students may “pass” an Exit Slip without the opportunity to build mastery in core middle school math concepts. When topics jump around illogically, parents find themselves forced to teach earlier concepts to which the student was never exposed in order to assist with understanding the concepts at hand.
- Much of the instruction is quite shallow, in some cases even misleading and factually incorrect. Topics which would normally take days or even weeks of classroom instruction are sometimes completed in a single day. Further, this superficial exposure to math concepts will disadvantage all students. This will be especially evident when they join neighboring Los Altos middle school students in high school.
- With TTO, students are often tested on materials that they have never been taught, causing anxiety, frustration and dislike for math. In a time where we want to encourage students to build foundational skills for cutting edge STEM fields, TTO seems to be affecting student attitudes toward math and problem solving. Many parents report a striking change in their child’s attitude toward math this year. The students generally have very positive feedback about math teachers at Graham and Crittenden, but many students hate TTO and now dislike math.
- TTO does not support the Common Core curriculum, where student understanding is based on how the student arrived at a solution, not the final answer alone. With TTO, students choose a multiple choice answer without ever showing their work. This will not prepare them for high school math or advanced math classes, where the final answer just represents a fraction of the overall process.
- One benefit of the TTO program touted by the district is that “The program will reduce the time teachers dedicate to student assessments and allow more direct instructional time with students.” In fact, the students have little contact with teachers. With the Emotional Intelligence aspect of learning, students benefit from positive reinforcement of a teacher, especially in math where they have to push a little harder to get to a solution. Assigning more growth mindset videos is not a solution to overcoming frustration and encouraging perseverance. Furthermore, teachers appear to serve an administrative function, affording little instruction time. The few teacher-led sessions are degraded, as teachers must figure out their lessons with little advanced notice based on what TTO provides.
- The program doesn’t educate students or parents about what level of math skills the students are working on, so we have no idea if they are working at a fifth grade level or an eighth grade level.
- Parents and staff have identified multiple and pervasive errors throughout the TTO materials including: mistakes in answers, illogical questions, link errors, etc. The instructional material is often confusing and of poor quality. This is further complicated by the fact that there is no textbook, so when a student struggles with concept in the homework, they are left to looking for answers online.
- The TTO homework algorithm seems to be flawed. Sometimes students receive homework that is misaligned with their playlist. Other times the homework either too advanced or too simplistic for the student.
- While we are prepared to support our students in math, TTO requires too much parent involvement. Many parents spend significant time at home providing math instruction because there is no textbook and because there are few in-class teaching sessions by math teachers. Many parents have hired tutors to make up for the lack of teacher-student interaction. This is unfair to both the parents and teachers. Many families lack the academic or financial means to provide this extracurricular support to their students. Graham and Crittenden have excellent math teachers who are passionate about teaching math. Further, performance results may be flawed in favor of TTO as a result of parents providing daily direct instruction and/or tutoring to supplement TTO’s deficiencies.
- The lack of textbook and complete dependence on the internet interferes with math study in the classroom. Glitches in the system/Internet mean that students often miss instructional time, are unable to complete their Exit Slip, or are late to their next class. Not only does this compromise time in math class, but this affects learning in other subject areas. Unfortunately this has happened quite a few times to many of our children.
- Small group collaboration seems to be ineffective at this stage. One child likened this to practicing a complex piano piece without an instructor--you practice and practice, and when you meet your teacher, you realize you learned it incorrectly and must now unlearn what you taught yourself. Without the foundational skills, it is inefficient for a group of students to work out a problem without teacher guidance or foundation. Further, at this age, some students goof off and interfere with others’ ability to learn. The lack of teacher support makes this a constant problem.
Thank you very much for your consideration.
Signature of 180 parents