NORWALK, Conn. – The Teach-to-One math program, once highly touted by Norwalk Public Schools, is in the process of being dumped due to poor performance.
Teach-to-One never spread beyond Nathan Hale Middle School after starting as a pilot program in 2015-16. It’s likely to be replaced by Illustrative Mathematics, not just at Nathan Hale but in five elementary schools and in two high school sections. It’s also thought that interventions will be stepped up.
Eliminating Teach-to-One is a “great idea,” Board of Education Curriculum & Instruction Committee Chairwoman Sherelle Harris said Tuesday after her Committee voted unanimously to make the switch, on the recommendation of NPS Chief Academic Officer Brenda Myers.
“Sometimes you have to give it three years to see what’s really happening, to see if something’s really working,” Harris said. “But it’s not working.”
Teach-to-One offers personalized math instruction for every child, via computers, 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.”
NPS hired Mass Insight Education & Research to review TTO, which began in 2015-16 as a sixth-grade program and expanded to all grades the following year.
“Despite early signs of success at Nathan Hale, it is unclear to what extent the curriculum is advancing student learning,” Mass Insight wrote in its December report.
“The School Performance Index (SPI), math, has remained largely flat the past three years – trailing the district and state and under the target of 75 (57.8 in school year 2018-2019),” Mass Insight reported. “Math Smarter Balanced Growth has declined for the past three years. In 2019, Nathan Hale trailed the district by another 10%. And nearly 50% of Nathan Hale’s students are not meeting growth targets in math (school year 2018-2019).”
The program’s “rapid expansion caused growing pains including a lack of fidelity to the model,” the consultants reported, crediting Nathan Hale for working to solve scheduling barriers and partnering with TTO consultants to provide professional development to teachers.
Mass Insight surveyed families and found that 20 percent wanted TTO changed. They report one response as, “Not all kids can learn from a computer. Learning shouldn’t come from a computer but from teacher and student interaction and student to student interaction.”
The fact that half the students didn’t meet growth targets in math in 2018-19 was “particularly striking given the premise of TTO – personalized learning to meet students where they are, and close skill gaps,” Mass Insight wrote. “It is unclear why so many students are not meeting their growth targets.”
And, “In cases in which students begin far below grade-level, it is possible that they are not making up enough ground to ever achieve grade level content on the TTO platform,” Mass Insight reported. “Without the access to, and practice with, grade-level content (even with looming skill gaps) students are unlikely to achieve success on state assessments with grade-level content they have not been exposed to.”
TTO has cost Norwalk Public Schools $220,000 a year, but out of the state’s Priority School District grant, Myers told NancyOnNorwalk. Also, NPS Chief of Digital Learning and Development Ralph Valenzisi obtained additional funding from grant partners, she said.
With the program eliminated, the money will be used to “help support K-8 math implementation,” she said. “… Now we’re using those resources to support the district.”
Harris said the added interventions will be Math 180, which already used in other schools. The Nathan Hale students will “definitely” need the interventions in addition to the new curriculum, Illustrative Math.
Nathan Hale seventh grader Emma Aponte started a petition in November, calling Teach-to-One “pretty bad,” and urging its replacement.
“TTO is boring and repetitive,” she wrote. “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.”
On Wednesday, she wrote to NancyOnNorwalk, “When I heard TTO is going to removed next year, I screamed with joy. Finally, my classmates and I can have a decent math education. I am so happy we will be getting our teachers back.”
This post was amended at 4:43 p.m. to replace the illustration.