Monday, July 27, 2009

SpringBoard - Or is it Spring"Bored"?

by Anonymous

I think that that Dekalb middle school parents, teachers, and administrators need to have an open discussion about the efficacy of the Springboard curriculum, and the damage it could be doing to our children. Springboard is an expensive and extensive new curriculum in language arts and math offered by the College Board to increase the number of children from disadvantaged subgroups that take high school advanced placement courses. Dekalb middle school teachers spend upwards of 25% of their classroom time on the Springboard cirriculum. Dr. Lewis requires that ALL middle school students in ALL schools participate in the Springboard program, and the DCSS employs many Springboard coaches.

The College Board's Springboard website does not list a single independent study of the effectiveness of Springboard. The web site touts DCSS as a major success for the Springboard curriculum, and provides statistics like "every DeKalb middle school using SpringBoard improved its percentage of students meeting or exceeding the state’s standard on the 2008 Grade 8 Writing Assessment compared with 2007."

Teachers from Shamrock, Henderson, and Kittredge loath the Springboard curriculum. A sample of criticisms can be found on April Griffin's Blog. Teachers just read prepackaged Springboard lessons to their students. Students loath it even more, and call it tedious, boring, and mind-numbing. They call it Springbored. Language arts teachers tell me that without Springboard, their students would spend much more time reading books and writing in class.

One insider speculated that the real reason that Dr. Lewis supports this program so strongly is that "it increases the classroom effectiveness of the worst teachers, and he has many of them in his middle schools, especially in language arts and math."

Shamrock, Henderson, and Kitridge feed into high schools that US News rates in the top 5% in the nation, based on AP courses. Why must these middle school students, especially the brighter ones, be subjected to this mind-numbing curriculum, and as a result, do much less reading and writing in middle school?

Any suggestions on what parents and teachers can do to free our our children from "Springbored"?

Addendum: My notes describe a discussion by the Board that they were eliminating Springboard and implementing the replacement program called, America's Choice - in Title 1 schools. (Funding from a Perkins Grant.) Are they continuing the Springboard program in non-Title 1 schools? Do you feel it's inferior? Is there an even bigger question here regarding Title 1 schools receiving superior instruction?


Anonymous said...

I also heard that the Bd announced that DeKalb was discontinuing Spring Board and everyone cheered.

I've had two children subjected to it.

Total, complete waste of instructional time. If we are paying for it, then it is a total complete waste of taxpayer money.

All teachers in magnet program hate it.

Cerebration said...

I seem to recall Jim Redovian bringing this up at the board meeting. He was asking that if this new program is so much better, why can't we use it in non-Title 1 schools too? It made me think they were leaving Springboard in non-Title 1's and the new program only in Title 1's. They (instructional people) were going to get back to him - wonder if they did...

Shayna Steinfeld said...

Without question, the teachers I met on the campaign trail (many of whom were at the Title I schools), as well as my own sons who had the program (and the non-Title I schools do not get all the component parts), despise Spring board. The teachers were most unhappy about the fact that they had not been consulted about its implementation or its effectiveness along the way. Besides the issues raised by the post, it also detracts from the ability of the teachers to be creative so the best and the brightest teachers are motivated to leave DCSS.

Ella Smith said...

I really do not know much about spring board so I have no comment.

If the teachers do not like it then they should do away with it.

Dunwoody Mom said...

This from Kim's meeting notes from the DCPC meeting back on May 7th:

Spring Board to be eliminated everywhere (there was applause from many at this comment).

Kim Gokce said...

I remember the moment well - there was much rejoicing! :)

Also, Jim Redovian was in the back of the room and as I remember it he said (paraphrasing) if American's Choice was good for Title I it should be implemented everywhere.

Dunwoody Mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dunwoody Mom said...

If Springboard is being eliminated and the Title 1 schools are going to use the America's Choice offering - what are the non-Title 1 schools going to use?

themommy said...

Everyone instructs the regular state curriculum. America's Choice and Spring Board are instructional tools not curriculum. I am not at all certain that non-Title 1 schools need America's Choice (it is very $$$). If a teacher is good and strong, they don't necessarily need the strategies that are provided by such programs. However, I have personally seen such direct instruction type programs work wonderfully on a teacher who is mediocre or poor.

Direct Instruction, scripted instruction, America's Choice etc are only as good as the implementation plan and training.

Anonymous said...

America's Choice is Not a direct instruction program.

It has already been used in some Middle Schools but then dropped for Springboard. I taught America's Choice. No one from the county office ever asked me for an opinion of the programs effectiveness or suggestions for improvements.

Now I have been told that the America's Choice rep in the southeast is a former DCSS regional director.

and so it goes........

Cerebration said...

I recall the price tag being over $800,000. It's paid by a grant though... for two years, I believe, then it's paid by Title 1 money.

themommy said...

Sorry for the confusion -- I understand that the America's choice program isn't direct instruction -- I was just delineating all the instructional methods that DCSS schools have purchased through the years (should have used capital letters).

I knew that a former DCSS employee was the SpringBoard Rep for the area, didn't know that about America's Choice.

greenie said...

so, as long as it's grant money, it's o.k. to waste it?
Sounds insane. My dd complained about it throughout sixth grade. Can someone explain how either "teaching tool" works?
IIRC, Springbored is a workbook system used daily that reinforces the lesson through repetition - not very challenging exercises but useful if the student doesn't get it, wasteful if the student does. Is that correct?

Jen said...

I just found this site and I love the dialogue. I teach at a Dekalb County school and while I did not teach Springboard, I heard only negative things about it. But I have also heard criticisms about America's Choice from teachers who have taught it in the past, like it is scripted and was not always fully funded. I have a master's in education and continually go to professional development workshops/courses so why do I still need someone to take away my planning time to learn yet another "teaching tool"?
I network with other teachers and parents on public education issues like these, if you have time please check out our website. We, the public, are the ones who should be leading the changes in education.

Anonymous said...

I see that DCSS has posted two press releases on its web page about America's Choice (including a disclosure of sorts that the America's Choice rep is a former DCSS administrator- apparently not a surprise to anyone).

As I read this, the program is only used in schools that failed to make AYP. Does that mean it is only used with the subgroups within the school that did not make AYP?

And please tell me this is not scripted teaching. Maybe the teachers who are reading this website can enlighten the parents.

Anonymous said...

Springboard is HORRIBLE. We've lived with this at PCMS for too many years. The teachers hate it, the kids are bored with it, and it takes valuable class time away from teachers who want to use innovation and creativity in teaching. I suppose it's fine for teachers who like following a textbook, but do we really want that kind of narrow teaching?

Ella Smith said...

School board members and county administrative staff will be out policing the schools the first day of school regarding dress code is my understanding.

I feel any program to get parents involved is important as this is a key to improving our education of our students in Dekalb County.

I discussed my concerned for lack of policies to ensure supplemental positions hired like coaches are posted and the principal at least looks at qualifications of all individuals interested before hiring.

Principals appoint individuals normally who are their friends and then the other employees hear there is a supplemental opening.
My concern for coaches is safety. Coaches should be hired who are qualified to protect our children from athletic injuries.

I actually have heard from the school officials regarding my concerns. I am very impressed as to how two assistant supertendents have either called me at home or emailed me after I signed up to speak.

On another note, our three favorite speakers (who always make things interesting and are always good speakers) were banned from speaking this week at the school board which I thought was interesting. Those two precious children live in Gwinnett County (on the line) and their dad is an employee for Dekalb County School System. He is not an employee at the Dekalb County School of the Arts. I think because they do not live in the county the school officials are questioning if they have a right to speak at the board meetings each month. I also think it is in question if the children have a right to go to school in Dekalb since they are not residence of Dekalb and their dad does not work at the Dekalb School of the Arts.

Now there is a board policy which does indicate that these children can attend school in Dekalb County if there father works for the school system. The policy was provided to the parents by the school system upon request of a copy. But, the state law indicates that they do not have the right to attend our county schools unless they attend their father's school. I feel for the kids as they are caught in the middle now of a bad situation.

It looks like to me that the school system is going to have to either make some changes on policies or go back on its statements regarding employees children attending this school system as it appears to be coming to a head as there is conflict between the law and apparently the Dekalb County School Policies.

The children will remain enrolled in the school until the situation is figured out but I did find it interesting. I have heard that the school board has been looking for a way to prevent them from speaking weekly. Maybe they finally found a way to stop them from speaking. I did not think you had to be a Dekalb County citizen to speak at a school board meeting. Of, course I could be wrong. Maybe there should be a policy that prevents more than one person from a family speaking to the same issue to give more individuals or families more opportunities to voice their concerns. I actually could see this as a tool to enable more interaction from the public.

Anonymous said...

I am amazed that the family who has monopolized precious Board time at meetings does not even live in DeKalb County. These poor children. Perhaps Mom should have given this some thought before taking the actions that she did.

Pay tuition like everyone else who wants to attend a school outside your district. Or better yet - send your kids to private school.

I think everyone (except the mother) would support a Board policy that limits the number of family members that can address the same issue. It seems to me that this would be a reasonable restriction without running afoul of the 1st Amendment.

Anonymous said...

I have regularly spoken at meetings for the last 5 years, and I must differ with Ella on the subject of the Jacksons. They are not "favorite speakers"--the children are being used as puppets by the mother--who clearly is writing speeches and using them to fling her venom through them. It was cute 18 months ago when the daughter sang the national anthem and we all stood for it.

It was not cute 3 months ago when I was sitting waiting my turn watching the little boy, who was coughing, tell his mom he wanted to go home. Last month--when they stumbled on words like "nepotism" and went over time, she was crouched behind them next to the podium and rapped them on the legs to tell them when to stop.

As far as I am concerned, the mom can say whatever she likes in 3 minutes. We can then judge whether it is accurate and helpful. But we are all behaving as passive bystanders as the children are being cruelly used. This needs to stop.

Cerebration said...

Just want to share with you the power of the internet! Our little blog has reached out and made a connection with people from other blogs on many occasions.

The most recent is a teachers blog in Tampa FL, who found and referenced our discussion on Springboard here at this link! See what a small, small world it is!

Anonymous said...

I teach in Hillsborough and it's bad. All our grades dropped, FCAT reading dropped, and attendance didn't improve, yet the dstrict doesn't blame SB, they blame the teachers. TOTAL nightmare, and now we have to teach it 100 percent of the time.

Cerebration said...

So glad you have come to visit our blog Hillsborough Anon! There really is something to be said for reaching out -- teachers everywhere need to be heard and trusted.

No Duh said...

Welcome Hillsborough Anon. I'm a Chamberlain High Grad myself. Back when it was good, I hear. Just attended my 30-year reunion.

I'm convinced that school systems in big metro areas will continue to perform poorly as long as the Central Office organization is run by former (usually bad) educators. When a citizen asks why can't the system be organized with a corporate structure, it's always "pooh, pooh, you don't understand, school systems don't run like corporations." Why not?

But, that has nothing to do with Springboard -- which every teacher I've ever talked to has loathed.

Anonymous said...

I'm a teacher in Dekalb County and don't know why we have to buy any "program". America's Choice, Spring Board, now America's Choice AGAIN. The state gives teachers the standards to teach and that's what they need to do. The county buys these programs and expects all teachers in the county to teach the students in the same way as if all the students in the county can be taught the same way. This new program, the books weren't here when school opened and the supplies needed to teach the program, the way they say to teach it, are on back order. Once again we're expected to use something, but aren't given all the tools. I think someone gets a kick back.

Anonymous said...

Let's all remember folks, it's DeKalb, not "Dekalb". Got that?

Anonymous said...

Is America's Choice a "scripted" teaching program?

Anonymous said...

How did America's Choice chose the trainers? Many are unqualified--degrees, yes; expertise, no. Why should someone listen to a trainer that moves from job to job, just so he won't have to go back into the classroom. DeKalb County needs to provide support for the standards, not for another gimmick to "show" good teachers how to teach.

Cerebration said...

I'm confused. I think this is another "initiative" set forth by Dr Lewis that will do no more than fizzle out eventually.

In fact - these are some stated goals from his very recent August 09 presentation -

Goal One
•Common Syllabi
•Data Rooms
•Update school websites
•CSIP –Consolidated School Improvement Plan
•Reorganization of Instructional Department
•Targeted Assistance Pilots
•Access and Equity
(This includes school choice regions - which have been in the planning stages for a few years now)

Goal Two
•Increase rigor and academic achievement in language arts, mathematics, and science in Pre K –12Narrow

Goal Three
•Increase rigor and academic achievement in middle schools through “SpringBoard”
•SpringBoardimplementation in all middle schools
•Six new SpringBoard Coaches
•Training for all middle school principals
•Benchmark Assessments

Goal Four
•Increase rigor and academic achievement in high schools through “High Schools That Work”
(is this program still alive and kicking? Anyone know what it is and what it's contributing?)
•Participation in HSTW National Conference
•Small Learning Communities
•Expansion of AP training
•Expanded program offerings
–Early College Academy
–Destiny Charter
–Gateway to College
•Dropout Round-Up
•Futures Fair
(Um - these are not new - DECA, Destiny and Gateway serve a combined 300 kids approx)

Goal Five
•Ensure quality personnel in all positions
•Three-day Orientation for new teachers
•Higher expectations
•Development of aspiring principals
•Ten DOE high performance principals

FOLKS - these are the goals that are driving every decision. Each agenda item on the BOE meeting agendas must be attached to one of these stated goals. Along with that, every decision must be based on these criteria -
PersonnelEducationally Sound –
Philosophically Based –
Fiscally Responsible

These are the stated testing measures they plan to use to evaluate their success - let's double-check these next summer. (As is often the case, leaders never quite revisit stated goals to check actual data to check their progress against their goals.)

DataMeasure 1
The percentage of DeKalb students meeting or exceeding state standards on the CRCT in the state benchmark grades 3, 5 and 8 will increase in reading and math by at least 9% by the end of school year 2009, with 2006 CRCT scores as baseline (2% in 2007, 3% in 2008, and 4% in 2009).

Measure 2
The percentage of DeKalb students (First Time 11th grade test takers in the regular program) passing the science portion of the Georgia High School Graduation Test (GHSGT) will increase by 6% by the end of school year 2009 (2% in spring 2007, 2 % in 2008, and 2% 2009).

Measure 3
The percentage of DeKalb students passing each of the End of Course Tests (EOCT) in math, English Language Arts, science and social studies will increase by 6% by the end of school year 2009, using 2006 EOCT scores as the baseline scores (2% in spring 2007, 2% in 2008, and 2% in 2009).

Measure 4
The number of students enrolling in Advanced Placement (AP) courses in DeKalb County School System high schools will increase by 15% by the end of school year 2009, using 2006 as a baseline (5% in spring 2007, 5% in 2008 and 5% in 2009).

Measure 5
The DeKalb County School System average SAT score will increase by 12 points over the period 2007-2009, using 2006 as a baseline (4% in spring 2007, 4% in 2008 , and 4% in 2009).

Anonymous said...

Short version: SpringBoard is about the most mediocre curriculum I've ever seen. Enough "good" in it to pass the "10 feet test," (looks good from 10 feet away), but extremely mediocre (at best), and damaging to any progress PLCs were beginning to make in our building at worst. (Try mixing PLCs *with* this scripted curriculum. Have fun with that.)

It strikes at the heart of teaching as a profession. I am either trusted as a professional to design instruction or I'm not. And while I see districts panicking about AYP, etc., and I get that, this is NOT the answer. Until educators are able to design their own rigorous and engaging instruction based on the students looking back up at them, we're screwed.

SpringBoard pros:

It is a "common" curriculum, which is HIGHLY valued by the powers that be (though they fail to consider what they're giving up in order to get this "common curriculum")

Decent evidence of a variety of "best practices"

SpringBoard cons:

Little to no natural differentiation

Horrible pre-assessments

Little intentional, authentic grouping

Only surface-level attention paid to learning styles

Culturally-irrelevant materials (depends on the culture using it I guess, but it's all very vanilla)

Little to no authenticity of materials (better than a textbook, but is that a point worthy of pride?)

Little to no real student choice

Little to engage students

Little to no real, complex, multiple-step rigor

Very little actual teaching of content. Lessons are merely "presented"

Writing process is "covered," but never taught in a "workshop" spirit

Very little use of technology

Assessment is not scaffolded in any meaningful way. Lessons are taught until they lead to an "embedded assessment." Yippee.

Anonymous said...

That comment above is why we need to hear from DCSS teachers. The Central Office, Gloria Talley and her way too big staff, make these ridiculous decisions regarding curriculum. Then the principals and teachers are blamed when the parents aren't happy.

Thank you Anon 6:00 PM, for atruly enlightening post.

I am freaking sick and tired of the Crawford Lewis/Talley/Moseley/Turk/Ron Ramsey administration. When will the BOE clean house????

Anonymous said...

How did you get your school board to look at this? And how was the decision made?

Anonymous said...

I question the pedagogical knowledge of anyone endorsing the use of any scripted components such as SpringBoard. To call them "instructional tools" is fine provided they are used that way, but typically they are not. The only difference between an "instructional tool" and "curriculum" is in function/application.

At the very best, SpringBoard's curriculum is mediocre by any informed assessment. At its worst, students hate it, receive non-authentic, non-differentiated, boring and artificial instruction, deflating the incredible opportunity education offers both students and teachers.

Look up "I Hate SpringBoard" on facebook, or even google that term.

Anonymous said...

"Besides the issues raised by the post, it also detracts from the ability of the teachers to be creative so the best and the brightest teachers are motivated to leave DCSS."


Anonymous said...

Really, SpringBoard only need be SpringBored if teachers aren't adapting it and if they have a bad attitude about it to begin with. Sorry folks, it's not the be all-end all, but neither is it the bad guy. If the teachers don't give it an honest chance then it's certainly not going to go anywhere and if they bring a bad attitude to the curriculum the students will hate it too. It's up to the teacher (of which I am one) whether it's going to be successful...just like any type of curriculum. I've seen it fail when teachers are negative and soar when teachers embrace it.

Anonymous said...

At our school, Springboard is widely despised. It teaches us how to analyze films (when will we ever need that), and write "Perfect Paragraphs," which are molded into a format that does not allow for originality or creativity, that latter of the which is killed by the new "curriculum." Every time our class is subjected to the curriculum, nobody tries to accurately answer the questions, because all of us know that when a teacher assigns Springboard, it is merely to give us something to work on, giving the impression that we are "learning." So, instead of the teachers actively engaging in the lessons, and creating them, they can always fall back on a SB assignment whenever they do not have a lesson plan for a day. Many of the same ideas are repeated in consecutive books, such as filming techniques (what was CollegeBoard thinking!?), rhetorical appeals, and the same, horrid tables that we have to fill out to analyze poems, passages, etc. So, almost all the focus on grammar, sentence fluency/structure, diction, effective argument-writing/stance-defending (which is present in the SAT), and higher level thinking is replaced by the terrible curriculum. May this serve as a warning to those who may encounter Springboard in the future. Please, avoid the fate of our district.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree with these criticisms of Springboard. Of course, I re-write my own lessons to better teach concepts and engage students in critical thinking despite the text's obvious flaws.
We are told in my district in Washington state that we must teach Springboard with "fidelity" and that we must keep within a week of each other on all assessments. This is poor practice at its finest as we are more concerned about plugging through a less than mediocre text than on making sure students are actually learning.
Many of the lessons are poorly designed with large gaps in preparing students to complete the assessments, almost all of which are uninspiring papers on very narrowly assigned topics.
As far as the comment about how teachers can just rely on Springboard if they don't have a lesson for a day, I would have to say our experience is otherwise. Try writing a plan for a substitute when students are left with abridged and poorly contextualized readings with virtually no activity that leads to any deeper level of learning. Hardly something to "fall back on." I cannot say I absolutely hate Springboard because I have accepted that I must make it work for my students.