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Norwalk seventh grader calls out NPS for ‘boring and repetitive’ math instruction

Emma Aponte speaks to the Common Council, early in 2018.

NORWALK, Conn. — The Teach-to-One math program is “pretty bad,” according to a Nathan Hale Middle School seventh grader.

“In TTO, students do not progress and stay behind. For example, someone I know who finished 6th grade last year, only finished 20% of math. He still got a B+” Emma Aponte states, in a petition she created.

The petition was posted on Nov. 10 and had 64 signatures Monday evening. There are seven comments from parents who agree with Emma.

“My son loved Math all through elementary school,” one wrote. “It was his favorite subject and he excelled in it. Notice the past tense, he hates it now cause if this program. That is a huge problem for him and me. Please get rid of this Math program so my son could love Math again!”

Norwalk Public Schools debuted Teach-to-One as a pilot program in 2017, at Nathan Hale. It’s personalized math instruction for every child, NHMS Principal Albert Sackey said in March 2017. Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski encouraged BoE members to go see a TTO class in action, saying, “I think you’ll be extremely impressed. I think you’ll also see students are learning to become independent learners, the confidence level of students in a subject that is not the natural inclination of many of us. It is incredible.”

In August 2018, he attributed improved math scores to Teach-to-One.

Emma’s petition states:

  • “TTO doesn’t even care how good you are at math. If you don’t even try on exit slips (mini quizzes), you can still get an A. This motivates students to not try.
  • “TTO is boring and repetitive. You are stuck on the computer all day bored. Some of us don’t even do math, we play games. Math is suppose to be fun, but because of TTO it is now a chore.
  • “TTO isn’t a better program than a regular classroom, so what’s the point? Kids don’t enjoy math anymore. You might argue it improves MAP Testing, but a single test doesn’t tell you how good a kid is at math.
  • “TTO mixes grade levels. This means no matter what you do, it’s never gonna be your grade level. It can be lower and higher grade levels. In my opinion, you should just do your grade level work.”

 

 

NPS Communications Director Brenda Wilcox Williams did not reply to an email asking for a response to Emma’s petition.

“We are aware of certain problems with the Teach to One math program,” BoE Curriculum Committee Chairman Bruce Kimmel wrote. “We have hired a consultant to examine its strengths and weaknesses, and how to use the program going forward, even if only on a limited basis. The district has already begun the process of reworking its entire math program.”

“TTO judges math grades by participation and by pace,” Emma wrote in a PowerPoint presentation not attached to the petition. “It doesn’t matter how good you are at the lesson. This means if you fail miserably and don’t try at all at exit slips, you can still get an A. This motivates kids not to try. You are also on your own pace, so this means if you are behind you stay behind.”

11 comments

Townie November 19, 2019 at 7:29 am

Kimmel states they have hired a consultant to examine things. Why is it necessary to pay an outside consultant tax payer funds when Adamowski and the BOE have built an empire of highly paid staff of assistant supers, directors, chiefs of this & that, coordinators, assistants, all experts at their central office. This to me is just another example of why our public school systems are failing.

John ONeill November 19, 2019 at 11:12 am

Wouldn’t it make sense to have teachers’ anonymous feedback on this and many other issues in school system. Norwalkers need to really understand what’s going on in schools. Common sense and basic fundamentals should prevail here. But, I guess everyone has a different opinion how common sense is defined. We need feedback from teachers not only on curriculum, but classroom culture, school administration culture, as well as central office culture. Is this info available? IF not, why not?? On a related note, I would also like the teacher’s feedback on lack of ELL funding from state. I’m sure they think it’s a travesty and makes teaching that much more difficult. Again, pushing Barbis out makes for a great headline, but the community seems to be missing the bigger picture. I believe Tom Keegan ran on platform of common sense. It is my hope that Tom shakes the bushes, and is not afraid to go public with his findings.

Kathleen Montgomery November 19, 2019 at 1:53 pm

Emma Aponte, thanks for a spot-on review of TTO. NPS, if you’re going to survey anyone, survey the receivers of TTO, the STUDENTS first. Then the teachers. The problems are well know and being ignored by the Central Office.

Barbara Meyer-Mitchell November 19, 2019 at 1:55 pm

We should all be very proud of Emma for speaking to this issue and raising awareness. Norwalk students self advocate, and we are proud of that quality. Regarding the question of why we use a consultant to research the issue, it may surprise you to know that the NPS Curriulum Department is primarily staffed by 4 full time staff, with the support of two teachers-in-residence who rotate back to the classroom after serving a year in Central Office. This department used to be comprised of eleven positions with very specific accountability. These individuals provide the backbone for the education delivery for almost 12,000 students. By contracting with consultants to examine this issue in depth, the Board is best able to evaluate the program with concrete data and recommendations.

Norwalker November 19, 2019 at 2:04 pm

I think we are killing ourselves in this town to think that our schools are doing fine. My daughter comes home every night without any homework after spending three or four years of having homework every night. Then next year the next teacher will expect hem to do homework again. Inconsistency and a stupid common core system has taken out any individuality with teachers and left us teaching to a test. There’s more to life then math and reading. Not every kid is going to go to college.

John Miller November 19, 2019 at 3:20 pm

More taxpayer money to fund another consultant to assess a program that the Superintendent described as “incredible” just two short years ago. Now that IS incredible!!! The common sense and basic fundamentals mentioned by John O’Neill appear to be AWOL on the BOE and our kids are paying the price.

John ONeill November 19, 2019 at 4:06 pm

Hey — Harry Rilling campaigned on Norwalk schools being top notch. Too bad Emma didn’t write her note a month ago.
@Barbara — Maybe, just maybe if our elected leaders fought and won some funds from Hartford for our ELL crisis, there’d be more money for proper staffing. Don’t you think?? Maybe, it’s time for our Board of Education, and our Teachers to start an open conversation about the fact that Norwalk has a CRISIS and needs state help. I challenge our Teacher’s Union to step up. They seemed to have an opinion on Barbis. How can they not have an opinion on this issue? It would be nice if Mary Yordon publically commented on this. Maybe an open letter to our elected leaders might get the ball rolling in Hartford. —

Tysen Canevari November 19, 2019 at 6:41 pm

Maybe Emma sent her email to Harry and Mr Camacho and they held onto it with Mike Barbis’s letter! Didnt Harry say that a couple from Westport told him they moved her for our schools. Now that is comical. Unless they are spanish speaking. Mr Kimmel likes hiring consultants. He hired one for 40k to do a traffic study due to the time start change at school. He claimed it was “only 40k”. Dont blame the teachers. Blame the administration that captains the Titanic. Kudos to Emma for speaking out.

Bryan Meek November 19, 2019 at 6:56 pm

Computer adaptive testing is the future of education and evaluation. If TTO is lacking in some areas, it won’t change the fact that this medium is here to stay. Microsoft, for one, has been certifying engineers based on this model for 20 years. The American Institute of CPAs has been doing this almost as long. The results of the testing are supposed to identify strengths and weaknesses in the subject material, which MSFT and AICPA have done adequately, albeit after time of refining their own processes. I’m not advocating for more time for TTO to take hold, but it is coming in some form whether anyone likes it or not.

Milly November 20, 2019 at 6:45 am

Norwalker – There is nothing more important than being able to read. If you do not have a high level of reading and reading comprehension how do you learn?

niz November 20, 2019 at 7:17 am

NPS SpEd cheif does not care. she does not provide accurate information and with no one to answer to… here we are. teachers will not come forward, thats already obvious. hoping the newly elect BOE deal with the desperate need for schools, F.A.P.E. etc.. Emma is a shinning star… thank you Emma, brave, smart and articulate.

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