Yesterday I was at a training for a "Response to Intervention" program for fractions. The program was full of animation and audible dialog and multiple representations and was built using the latest research and pedagogy about how kids learn fractions. It is all the stuff that research and best practices/lesson study advocates for. Honestly, I was pretty impressed.
Thinking about it later, I couldn't help but feel defeated knowing that this excellent tool existed, but is only being sold for remediation purposes. The truth, as I see it, is that the program would make an excellent curriculum component. If all kids, especially the youngest learners for whom fractions are new were taught using the program, more kids would have a solid conceptual and procedural understanding of fractions. Instead, kids are exposed to dry factoid textbooks that historically prove to have little success at reaching kids.
If it were truly about the kids and not about the profit, the resources and clever teaching tools that are now reserved for the high profit world of remediation would be instead infused into the mainstream curricula.
Reform efforts need to address the built in ineptitude of the textbooks that are created by publishers who then turn around and offer highly effective remedial programs for a few hundred dollars per child.
I continue to attest that, by and large, the classroom teacher does the best they can with the tools they are given. The tools don't work but, surprisingly, the remediation product from the same publisher does. Teacher evaluation under these circumstances is dead wrong and continuing on this StudentFirst path of only holding teachers accountable without addressing the issue of lousy curriculum/effective remediation is scapegoating teachers for a situation they have no control over and likely cant win in.
Dave Russell On Students First, Remediation, And Textbooks
(Very slightly edited for clarity--it was just a comment at SF's Facebook page)