All over the country, gifted programming and opportunities for acceleration have been vanishing, thanks not just to budget cuts, but to the edworld fantasy that it’s possible simultaneously to eliminate the achievement gap and meet the needs of all students through “differentiated instruction” in heterogeneous-ability classrooms. Here, everyone uses the same curriculum, but the brighter students supposedly receive greater challenge either by teaching their less capable peers, or because the curriculum is so “rich” and “deep” (red flags that I should have included in my examples of edworld doublespeak) that they can engage with it at all different levels.
The most striking recent example of this is in Montgomery County Maryland (one of the most highly reputed school districts in the country, and one whose recent changes I blogged about earlier). Here, the school district recently sold its good name to Pearson, one of our country’s biggest textbook publishers, to the tune of $4.5 million dollars, and has adopted a “rich,” “deep” math curriculum known as “Curriculum 2.0” (or “Montgomery County Math” or "Pearson Forword") that looks suspiciously like Pearson’s other abomination, TERC Investigations.
Having thus “enriched” and “deepened” its math curriculum, MontCo is eliminating the once common practice (known as Math Pathways) of allowing those who are mathematically capable to attend math classes in classrooms one to several grade levels ahead of their official grade level. A mathematically advanced second grader, for example, might take math with fifth graders.
One year into the new curriculum, parents and kids are increasingly frustrated. One parent describes her second grade daughter as coming home in tears about how boring her math class is. Another parent notes:
Kids in this curriculum are bored, losing interest and not being taught at an alarming rate. Teachers don't feel empowered to give kids what they agree with parents that kids need.One of the scariest aspects of the latest reforms in education is the disempowerment of teachers--particularly those experienced enough to know what works best. Why haven’t the teachers’ unions made this particular variety of disempowerment of one their topmost concerns?