MTI Demands to Bargain: Middle School Math Masters Program and Reading Recovery Teacher Leader

A reader emailed this item: Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity Newsletter [pdf file]:

The District sent literature to various teachers offering credit to those who enroll in the above-referenced courses. As an enticement for the Reading Recovery Teacher Leader course, the District offers “salary, tuition, and book costs.” The program will run after work hours during the school year. Regarding the Middle School Math Master’s Program, every District teacher, who teaches math in a middle school, is “expected” to take three (3) District inservice courses in math, unless they hold a math major or minor. The District is advising teachers that they must complete the three (3) courses within two (2) years. The courses are 21 hours each. The program is scheduled to run during the school day, with substitute teachers provided on the days the courses will be taught.
The Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission has previously ruled that an employer offering financial incentives, including meals and lodging, or release time, to employees in conjunction with course work or seminars is a mandatory subject of bargaining between the school district and the union.

8 thoughts on “MTI Demands to Bargain: Middle School Math Masters Program and Reading Recovery Teacher Leader”

  1. You could have guessed something was in the works on Reading Recovery by decoding one of the cryptograms in the recent undated budget document titled Department & Division Detailed Budget, page 78:
    “The Reading Recovery Project annually provides intensive one-on-one reading instruction to approximately 312 lowest achieving first grade students. During this past year the project received a grant from the Deluxe Corporation to continue intensive professional development for Reading Recovery teachers so they could more quickly accelerate students’ literacy development. The challenge for Reading Recovery teachers across the district is continually to improve so that student outcomes improve; Reading Recovery teachers will have less support for their professional learning in 2006-07 as there will be one Reading Recovery Teacher Leader, thus doubling the number of teachers supported by a Teacher Leader.”
    The key phrase is, “The challenge for Reading Recovery teachers across the district is continually to improve so that student outcomes improve.”
    The financial “enticement” for Reading Recovery teachers seems to be addressing this “challenge”.
    Those narrative snippets in budget documents contain much, much more in policy and appropriations than the board is ever told.
    Of course, the district gives no “enticements” to reading teachers who want further training in curricula different from ineffective Reading Recovery.

  2. Dear Ed,
    I hate doing this to you but see the site below and an excerpt.
    “The schools receiving the math grants will receive $70,000 each for the next two years to fund a similar intervention program for mathematics.
    “Math Recovery is a short-term intervention program for first-graders that are struggling with math,” Smith said. “The specialists will work with students one-on-one to tailor the program to the students’ needs every day. It allows for rapid progress. Typically, about 75 percent, if not more, that go through that program, no longer need anymore supplemental help.”
    “About 74 percent of the children that went through Reading Recovery were successful without the need for further help,” she said. “That means that they’re on grade level now.”
    I guess you should be happy we don’t have Math Recovery too…….yet
    Reed Schneider

  3. I had almost forgotten a paper I sent to the local school board over 4 years ago. I was making a joke about the folly of an imaginary program called “math recovery”. Imagine my surprise when I saw the article I referenced in my last post.
    The paper I sent almost years ago is in quotes below:
    “With the overwhelming support for Reading Recovery, and its proven success, I propose the BOE immediately search for similar programs for math. Perhaps the District could develop its own and sell it. At the very least, the District should be able to get a grant to help defray the development costs.
    At no charge to the District, I will help get the ball rolling by laying out a possible framework in keeping with the philosophies of Reading Recovery
    2 math coordinators and 4 remedial math teachers should be hired.
    Classrooms will need to be reorganized to allow small group learning.
    Students will not be required to learn 2+2 or 4+4 or the multiplication tables. They will only be informed of these concepts “incidentally” should the need arise.
    A teacher will not tell students that 2 squared means 2 multiplied by itself. Rather, working collaboratively with their peers, they will talk amongst themselves and develop their own strategies for squaring numbers.
    When a student comes to a problem they don’t know (9 + 1 for example), the teacher/facilitator will ask them to “look at the pictures for clues” or “guess”.
    Students will keep “math journals” where problems and solutions can be written down. The facilitator will look over these journals from time to time, but will not correct any mistakes. To correct the mistakes would be to stifle and destroy the student’s math creativity.
    No longer will students be given math worksheets with arrays of number problems like 1+2, 1+3, 1+4.. and 2+3, 2+4, 2+5….. You see, this is “drill and kill”. Very unfashionable.
    Teachers will love this new program because while they are with their “guided math” group of 4 or 5 students, the rest of the class will be unsupervised and doing “silent math”.
    Come to think of it, we could try it in band class too. Silent trumpet playing! Kids could push down on the valves and “guess” what it would sound like.
    The new “Math Recovery” program will be good progress toward having consistent practices across the entire curriculum.”
    Little did I know someone would actually do it!!

  4. Ironically, one of my biggest gripes about the habits that my son developed in Reading Recovery (apart from the problem that he really needed phonics and speech and language therapy), is the horrible habit of desperately looking at the pictures for visual clues. It was heartbreaking to watch as he struggled to master math. And it was infuriating to consider how deeply ingrained the pattern was. Yep, they really did him some favors by saving him from drill and kill. Oh, yeah, which Sylvan provided for a tidy fee, when we bit the bullet and decided that we didn’t care how he learned math as long as he learned math.
    For crying out loud, reed, please oh please don’t suggest “science recovery”

  5. All of which is further proof that every child learns differently and we need to understand that at every level and in every subject. It also means that no matter what reading or math sequence we put struggling learners in, a certain percentage will continue to struggle until their instructors figure out how that specific child learns best. In a nutshell, that means when (and/or if) we finally dump reading recovery, another group of parents will complain that the “new” program isn’t working for some children.
    It’s a vicious cycle with no blanket solution except to spend a ton of money to cater to every type of learning style on demand. The bright side is we can do that in public schools if we want to:)

  6. Lucy: Ah, er, you just did. Thanks alot.
    David: I have to respectfully disagree with the “learning style” argument. A good basal supplemented with phonics worksheets will be appropriate for well over 90% of the children. Small group remediation can help the rest. Edu-theorists would have us believe that auditory, visual, tactile, etc., learning must all be treated differently. It simply is not true. More and more research is debunking that myth.
    Our schools are charged with providing a “free and appropriate” education.
    It does not say “free and individualized for every brain synapse structure.”

  7. People who are interested in a thorough and research-based analysis of reading challenges in students should check out the work done by Prof. Jack Fletcher, who I believe is from Texas and is a researcher on literacy. I heard his overview presentation more than 2 years ago at the Waisman Center, and much of it still sticks with me because it made so much sense.
    There are basically three areas of break-down for students with reading challenges: 1. phonemic awareness, or phonics awareness; 2. reading comprehension; and 3. fluency. While programs like Direct Instruction are wonderful for children who have the first problem: phonics, they do little to nothing for kids who have the second two challenges. In fact, there are probably even more children labeled “learning disabled” who are challenged by comprehension than there are children challenged by phonemic awareness.
    The third issue, fluency, tends to be a problem for children whose families do not have a lot of direct access to reading books at the child’s level and who don’t read much outside school. That’s why most elementary schools’ 90-minute basic language arts block (most also have a drop-everything-and-read time that adds another 20-30 minutes) is so critical for children who aren’t reading outside of school. I believe the minimum kids should be reading once they are a very basic level is 20 minutes per day of independent or guided direct reading. Again, DI instruction may or may not include direct reading time, depending on the instructor. Only with fluency will kids be truly independent readers. Fluency allows the brain to automatically recognize thousands of key words that would take forever if a reader was sounding them out each time.
    Reading instruction in any school or district has to take into account all three of these component parts, and we need reading specialists in every building who can accurately assess which of these component parts is giving a child problems. For some children, it’s all 3.
    Programs like Lindamood-Bell and a couple others that Jack Fletcher has used actually address all three component parts as part of their overall program.

  8. Lucy,
    The Madison school board tentatively endorsed “math recovery” when it voted to support the application of The Studio School ( where students will construct their own meaning of all things, including math:
    “In the field of education there has been growing interest in a constructivist approach to education. With this approach children construct their own knowledge in collaboration with other adults and children. It is a social experience. Constructivist learning theory asserts that each child constructs knowledge while engaging in meaningful learning activities that deepen understanding. Each individual’s construction of knowledge is the result of complex interactions between new information, individual temperaments, learning styles, interests, abilities, life experiences, and physical capabilities. The approach we are proposing will offer children ongoing opportunities for active involvement in open-ended experiences and project work that emerges out of their interests. The role of the teacher will be to listen carefully as children reveal their interests and then link them in compelling ways to academic bodies of knowledge (e.g., science, language arts, math). The learning experiences will be designed so as to offer each child an opportunity to contribute to investigations and projects in accordance with his/her individual interest and capabilities.”
    I urge you to oppose a charter for The Studio School.

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