Superintendent Rainwater’s Reply Regarding the Math Coordinator Position

Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Art Rainwater replied via email to our “Open letter about Math Coordinator position at MMSD“:

On Wed, 31 May 2006, Art Rainwater wrote:
Dear Steffen and others;
Thank you for sharing your concens.
The District has always employed outstanding curriuclum leaders in our Teaching and Learning Department. Mary Ramberg has been a leader in Teaching and Learning as have Lisa Wachtel in Science and Mary Watson Peterrson in Literacy and Language Arts.
Please rest assured that I. even more than you, am committed to employing the best possible math corrdinator. The minimum requirements posted are exactly what they say. They are minimum requirements and failure to meet the requirements eliminates the person from consideration immedately without even a further paper screen. Our district has a hiring process that has served us vrey well over the years and this is only the first part of that process.
The breadth and depth of knowledge of mathematics is obviously one of two key components in determining who will be the final pick for this position. However, equally important in the decision is the breadth and depth of pedogogical knowledge. Both of these will be given equal weight and I will not employ anyone who does not have both.
Art Rainwater

My reply:

Dear Art,
Thanks for your prompt reply.
What caused all of us to write/sign this letter is that the posted job ad does precisely NOT require what we consider two MINIMUM requirements for this position, namely (and I repeat):

  1. subject knowledge equivalent to a strong bachelor’s degree in mathematics, and
  2. teaching experience at the highest level in the high school curriculum.

I do hope that the school board and the district administration will RESTRICT its search to ONLY candidates meeting these two MINIMUM requirements.
Thanks for your attention!

5 thoughts on “Superintendent Rainwater’s Reply Regarding the Math Coordinator Position”

  1. Steffen — Thank you so much for keeping on top of this issue and this hire. And thanks to each and every one of your colleagues for signing on to the initial letter.

  2. Unless the superintendent wants to change the direction of the math curriculum, he’s going to hire someone who will continue to administer what has already been put in place, nothing more.
    That said, it would be true of any organization. If the chief executive supports the status quo, the new person will be hired to support the status quo. If the chief executive wants something new, the new person will be hired to make changes.
    So the real issue lies in what the suprintendent wants — more of the same or something better.

  3. Of course it occurs to me that if the job requirements are loose enough, then it’s easier to do an internal hire, say, a retiring prinicipal looking for a few golden years downtown…just saying.

  4. I double majored in two disciplines before obtaining my masters in teaching. I value having strong subject area knowledge prior to entering teaching, so I am supportive of the idea in item 1.
    Perhaps I misunderstand item 2, but I do not accept that experience teaching pre-calc or calc (if that is what is meant by teaching at the highest level of the high school curriculum)is essential for an overview of the curriculum. As a result, I don’t see why it should be a minimum requirement for the position.
    A teacher who has had great results teaching 9th grade algebra may have a strong grasp of the K-12 curriculum. In fact, it is possible for someone with a strong math background and elementary teaching experience to understand the K-12 curriculum well. I also worry that the pool of individuals with administrative licensing and experience who have also taught pre-calc or calc is small.
    I would be interested in having the rationale for item two explained in more detail.

  5. Tim, I can not speak for the author, but here is my take on needing item 2. Some people have teaching certifications K-3. In order to receive this certification, college students only need to have taken math through Trig, and they understand teaching math through 3rd grade. It would be hard for this person to relate either with students or teachers who teach Calculus. Even teaching high school algebra can be taught by a K-8 certified teacher with nothing more than a trig background as a student.
    The elementary level teaching is very hands on, using manipulatives, calculators etc. The high school upper level courses calls for memorization. If kids are not taught how to memorize in first and second grade, how are they expected to learn this in 11th or 12th grade? Ask a middle schooler how much grass seed is needed for a triangular lawn and see how they figure it out if they don’t memorize the formula for the area of a triangle. My kids where taught to find the area of a circle you multiply the 3 x the radius squared, based on the text book, rather than by approximately 3.14. Will your child have a calculator at the mall with her when she is trying to figure out if she has enough money to purchase an outfit? Can he figure out the tax without a calculator? How many cans of soup can you purchase with $10? Could your student go to the fabric store and figure out how many projects they could do out of a remnant? Introducing calculators in first grade can be very dangerous, and a high school teacher vs. an elementary level teacher will be able to see the results of situations like this. Even a 7-12 math teacher who has only taught in the middle school may not see the impact of how a subject is being taught influences the child in high school math.
    Does the district want every school to teach the same math programs? How would it look if special ed had a coordinator who didn’t have a special ed background? How about a K-3 teacher with no coaching experience running the athletic department? Years ago, Business Ed cetification (who where certified 7-12th grades)was the only ones certified in teaching computers even in the elementary school level. The state changed this certification around 1985. A teacher cerified in either elementary level or high school level, most likely wouldn’t do as well as principal in the opposite grade level school.
    Because math has two completely different camps on how to “teach” math, the new coordinator will probably decide which way the program for the district will go. As a Madison citizen, I feel it is important that MMSD has high standards in math and that students are ready for college level math. As a parent, I would want the coordinator to be knowledgeable on teaching the highest math available in the district, which is currently Calculus. The district is losing talented youth already because of things happening in the schools. I would hope that a coordinator would not only keep up with research but talk with schools like MATC and UW to make sure our students are prepared for their schools. How would you feel if you child had taken Algebra and Geometry in high school to find out they were not at all prepared for even college level Algebra at the UW or MATC. To me, a coordinator, needs to be able to talk the talk and do the walk when college level professors are talking about calculus and they also need to understand the how 1st graders are learning math. Does this cut down the eligible candidates, sure. The pool may be small, but at least they will be truly qualified.

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