Across the state parents and teachers are confronting their school boards and curriculum leaders with the same universal complaint. Eureka Math sucks. (That seems to be a nearly universally agreed upon fact by most parents not paid by LDOE or financially biased Common Core proponents.) Now however, complaints have shifted from the blindly adopted Common Core “standards” to the precise curriculum used to pound those standards into helpless children.
For those of you wondering how we got here, let me give you some backstory. Common Core was adopted sight unseen by Louisiana’s BESE board in in the summer of 2010 at the urging of US DOE and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan before the standards were even finalized later that Fall. Parents were given no education about these changes and no opportunities to review them, comment on them or reject them. One of the only former teachers on the State’s BESE board actually works for CCSSO, one of the two organizations that created these standards. These “Standards” weren’t finalized when they were adopted so no one could research them or review materials that implemented these changes. It took years for these materials to be developed and presented to the public. When they were, many groups in support of these “standards” told parents it was too late to say anything. They had missed their chance to comment; according to Common Core supporters (when there was nothing concrete to comment on.) In the future I imagine this will ensure parents object to all changes; because they won’t get a chance to comment or modify anything later based on their experiences with the Tyrannical implementation of Common Core.
In 2012 and 2013 LDOE directed LEAs to implement Common Core but without any real support or direction. (It was even theorized this was done on purpose.) This lack of direction in the name of “empowering educators” led to much confusion and poor product selections. One of the worst math products LEAs adopted during this time was a “free” math curriculum called EngageNY (Sometimes parodied as EnrageNY because of the trouble it created for New York school districts when they tried to adopt it in their schools.) To use EngageNY one had to print out everything or use it online (which didn’t help much for completing classroom or homework assignments.) Districts that adopted this last year in Louisiana like East Baton Rouge Parish, had to spend loads of cash – and probably burned through plenty of printers and toners cartridges to implement it – and it was not well received. (I actually wrote a little blog post about one of my daughter’s first grade assignments that, for good or ill, is probably my most popular piece to date.)
The commercial version of EngageNY is known as Eureka. In an attempt to address the concerns brought up by me and countless others about the poor roll-out and implementation of Common Core (I actually theorized this was done intentionally and with forethought in this post.) LDOE offered to review all textbooks for the following school year, and make recommendations, out of the kindness of their hearts. . .and for $500 per subject per grade level for most vendors that I have yet to see an accounting of where that money went. This year I’ve been told most publishers are considering refusing to submit their materials to LDOE because of how they were shafted last year. My understanding is the only Tier 1 selections Eureka for Math and Core Knowledge for ELA were exempted from paying the $500 fee per grade level per subject and these two products are linked to our current Superintendent of Education, John White.
This brings us to where we are today. Despite much ado from Governor Bobby Jindal about removing Common Core – which has turned into what kids are calling “Epic Fails” these days – Louisiana finds itself barreling headlong into a full-blown Common Core bonanza. At the forefront if this bandwagon-train is Eureka Math, the top pick of John White and his Teacher leaders and LDOE designated Louisiana Core Advocates which made up most of the selection committees.
These days the only thing that riles up parents more than Common Core is Eureka Math. School Boards across the state are being hammered by parents underwhelmed by the “rigor” of Eureka and overwhelmed by the typos and pointless exercises. I have reports of nearly armed revolts from parents in some of the largest districts in the state that foolishly “Believed” in John White and his Teacher Beliebers.
From a teacher (Crying parents, teachers and kids)
We had an inservice on Eureka Math in Rapides Parish Yesterday (9-29). The teachers had concerns about Eureka, lots of them! We were told by the presenter that they did not want to hear ANY negative comments. There were teachers crying at this meeting. They told us this math was WONDERFUL and that lots of teachers liked it and thought it was great. I really want to see these teachers because I don’t believe they exist. It is like a dictatorship in Rapides Parish. I was so shocked and disgusted that they wouldn’t let us speak that when I left the meeting I called our local news channel and told them about it. I was afraid to give my name, so I didn’t. They are not listening to us and don’t want to hear us. It is so sad. They also told us that we didn’t have to give the test that come with series. We could give a multiple choice test instead. Doesn’t that defeat the point. If this math is so great, why can’t the students pass the end of the module test? It is because they are not conceptually ready for the concepts. It is also crazy because they want the student to “go around the world” to get an answer to a simple problem. They also told us to look at the end of the module test and only teach the standards that are on the test and to teach them as they are presented on the test. Isn’t that teaching the test? I am beyond shocked. Are teachers in other parishes experiencing this too?
From a parent:
I am a Rapides parish parent. My 6th grader is a Magnet student with an impressive record. He boasts only one “C” on his report card in his entire school career, and a high school reading level. You can imagine our shock that he is currently failing math! And he is not alone. According to an administrator, an estimated 25% of his grade at the magnet school is failing math as well. I am hearing horror stories all over the parish! Kids melting down, crying themselves to sleep, hating school (all of these we have personally experienced). We want this curriculum out of our parish, and a group of us intend to petition the board to do so! Can you please tell me which Tier 2 math curriculum EBR switched to? Also, ANY help you can offer in direction for the upcoming school board meeting would be very appreciated! I would like to contact the media. However, the local station is very biased toward the school board. Any suggestions there would be greatly appreciated as well. The teacher from Rapides parish who commented above is NOT exaggerating! I have spoken with high level district personnel who have told me that the school board has no authority in this. The curriculum was chosen by the Superintendent and assistant superintendents out of the need for our students to “be able to pass the statewide assessment at the end of the year”. The entire demeanor of the Rapides parish administration is that they are in control and we need to sit down and shut up. They obviously don’t know me very well…
Over 800 turn out for a town hall to vent their frustrations over Common Core in general and Eureka Math in particular.
Brandi Sharpton, a parent and local high school math teacher, said she has done her best to work with the Common Core standards, but her research and experience tell her she cannot support the initiative. “As an expert in my field and an involved parent, I feel like it’s important for others to hear my opinion,” Sharpton said. “I’m definitely a supporter of raising standards, but raising them this way will only serve to make the gaps bigger and frustration levels higher.”
Sharpton went on to discuss the Eureka Math curriculum, which the Calcasieu Parish School Board adopted this year and the state Department of Education identifies as a superior quality curriculum. She pointed out that, even with a degree in math education, she would spend hours each night trying to determine how to help her second-grade daughter with her math homework.
“My daughter has an excellent teacher and an excellent school, but this curriculum is developmentally inappropriate,” she said. “My child cries almost every night, and I cannot allow this curriculum and these standards to set a negative tone about learning that will affect her for the rest of her life.”
Local fourth-grade teacher Shawna Dufrene agreed with Sharpton. Having taught math for more than ten years, Dufrene said casting Eureka Math as “the Cadillac” of math curricula is wrong. “I can appreciate a Cadillac, but I know a lemon when I buy a lemon,” Dufrene told the panel.
Tiffany Hebert, a parent and former teacher, said in a statement to Breitbart News, “Highly educated parents with graduate and post-graduate degrees should not have to go to ‘Parent University’ to help their elementary kids do math homework.”
I’ve heard a meeting is taking place tonight in Calcasieu where the standard operating procedure by the State seems to be to fill the Board room with Teacher Leaders to support John White’s Eureka agenda by heckling parents trying to testify about their problems. I heard this occurred in St Tammany. I strongly urge supporters of Eureka and Common Core not to do this going forward. Parents and teachers need to work together and that type of behavior will make this a very personal fight that only charter school operators will win.
I received this comment and researched it myself:
Had a conversation with a Caddo elementary principal about the new math curriculum. According to her every school in the parish is struggling with it. Her school is high ranking, with selective admissions and lots of gifted kids, but math is a problem for them this year.
Offline I was informed by multiple sources that Caddo uses straight up photocopied EngageNY, which is Eureka on crutches. I’ve heard from others that their schools are struggling with it. I can easily understand why. Even the trainers LDOE provided at their summer conference to provide professional development struggled with Eureka and even failed to complete their presentations. Wow. I’m not sure how that didn’t make it into the news at the time. . .
In St Tammany there was so much concerted uproar the School Board decided to vote to drop Eureka for next year just 2 months in.
After more than three hours of passionate debate, the St. Tammany Parish School Board voted Thursday night to remove the controversial Eureka Math materials from the district’s classrooms by next school year.
At Thursday’s meeting and a special meeting held last week, a steady stream of parents pleaded with the board to remove Eureka Math from the parish’s math curriculum.
To learn some detailed tips about what dirty tricks transpired at St Tammany’s School Board meetings and how to be aware of them and fight them, please refer to this blog post by ThePeopleLLC.
Eureka is giving a face to the Common Core fight, and it’s not a pretty one. I’ve been asked to make a recommendation, but unlike some folks, I recognize I am unqualified to make that recommendation. Unlike LDOE and a number of members of BESE, I defer to experts in their area of expertise. I rely on teachers with decades of experience to counsel me on education issues. What appears to have happened in Louisiana is that large multi-national corporations told very inexperienced folks like previous Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek with his law degree and zero years of teaching experience and current Superintendent John White with his 2 to 3 years of dubious teaching experience that Common Core was the panacea for all education ills, and they bought into it, with our tax dollars and our children as guinea pigs. (From what I hear, John White has never met an education proposal he hasn’t wanted to spend your money on.) Once they decided what they wanted to do, they simply sought out folks that agreed with them. That’s the exact opposite way to do things, but this is Louisiana, this is Bobby Jindal’s administration, and doing the opposite of what you should be doing seems to be our trademark traditionally and the hallmark of Jindal’s administration. If we learn nothing else from the Common Core and ongoing education reform fiasco, I hope we learn to ask questions and engage parents first. Shooting first, without identifying a target or aiming, is the exact opposite of what we should be doing, although the exact mindset that Louisiana’s first, chief, Common Core adopter – former Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek – worked so diligently to foster at LDOE.
Planning is for no good long-eared varmits! Pow! Pow! Eureka!