Opposition Letter to Teach to One Signed by 180 Parents

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

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