Mountain View Voice

News - September 14, 2012

Not everyone happy with EDI

MV Whisman's Explicit Direct Instruction method has critics

by Nick Veronin

While the superintendent of Mountain View's elementary and middle schools has touted the success of a new district-wide educational protocol, others are speaking out against it — saying it stifles individual creativity and forces students capable of working at a faster pace to slow down to keep pace with those who are struggling.

The highly systematic Explicit Direct Instruction method, which is currently being implemented in all classrooms throughout the Mountain View Whisman School District, is hurting at least as much as it is helping, according to a local teacher familiar with EDI.

"It really just changes the culture of the classroom — drastically — and it doesn't work for all kids," said the teacher, who asked not to be identified because he was concerned about speaking out against his employer. "I didn't feel like it was quality education. It feels like a 19th Century education with 20th Century tools."

Besides his concern that EDI could be short-changing kids, the teacher also said it felt like the system was forced upon district faculty by an administration with little interest in listening to feedback from instructors, parents or kids.

"It just felt like there was no real space to say anything," the teacher said. "It was just basically, 'This is what we're doing; follow it.'"

Superintendent Craig Goldman said that he expected the program would have its detractors. "With any initiative that requires a change in protocol, I would expect some resistance," Goldman said. "There is actually broad support for the program amongst our teachers, largely because it really just combines a variety of best practices in a way that resonates with teachers."

During an EDI lesson, children are picked to answer questions randomly, their names pulled from a jar; or all the students respond at once, scrawling solutions to math problems on a white board, for example, then holding the boards up for the teacher to see — a process that shows teachers who understands and who doesn't. Those who do get it may move on to a worksheet, while those who don't can get a little extra coaching.

"EDI ensures that students are called on in a fair manner that keeps them engaged," Goldman said. "Everyone has had the experience where a few children are raising their hands and getting all the attention. We've learned from EDI that children who were not getting called on are now appreciating the opportunity to shine."

While it may be that some students like the random system, many others do not, the teacher said. It makes some children uncomfortable. "It was like a gotcha thing all the time," the teacher said of EDI. And if students feel they are constantly under the gun with the system, so do many faculty members. "The choice to use EDI, and when to use it and how to use it — we didn't have any control over that." Not following the protocol made the teacher feel "delinquent."

Nicole Pelton, who has a son at Castro, said she is concerned her child will be held back by EDI. Her son is a fast learner, Pelton said via an email to the Voice. Pelton said he has told her that it often feels like a waste of time when his teacher picks a student at random to answer a question he or she may not understand — especially when her son does know the answer.

Considering how much money went into the implementation of EDI, Pelton said she would like to see it working better for her son. The district used a sizable chunk of a $1 million Google grant to purchase the rights to the system from the company that created the EDI program and get it up and running.

"EDI just seems a step in the wrong direction, and a very expensive one," Pelton said.

Goldman doesn't agree.

"In one year alone, since beginning to implement EDI, we've had significant growth in this district's test scores," the superintendent noted, pointing to recently released state numbers, which show that almost 4 percent more MV Whisman students are proficient in English and language arts, and 2 percent more are proficient in math. "It's difficult to understand individuals who think EDI is not having a positive impact," Goldman said. "It would make sense that as we get better at implementing EDI, we will see continued gains."

It may be that as time passes EDI will be accepted by more teachers, but the anonymous teacher predicted that much of the acceptance of the system will be reluctant. Greater efforts need to be made to reach out to the faculty and find out what all the teachers truly think about EDI, the instructor said.

"I don't want to make a spectacle of Mountain View Whisman. I just want to help the district grow. We need to hear each other out."

Comments

Posted by divergent, a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2012 at 7:26 pm

EDI epitomizes the worst of teacher-centered pedagogy. I won't go as far as calling it a "scripted approach" to teaching, but it's pretty darn close. Not only does it removes creativity and divergent thinking from the classroom, there is no room for collaboration, project based learning, and just as important, learning activities that promote social and emotional development among students.

I am surprised Google chose to invest their money in this program. Given that Google's founders were "out of the box" thinkers, they are putting money into a program that does not promote creativity or divergent thinking. Someone at Google messed up big time.

The school district also blew it here. The article is correct in pointing out that the school district lacks a mechanism for teacher feedback. The district's "one size fits all" approach is a serious concern. If EDI were a tool that teachers could use when appropriate, then this wouldn't be much an issue. It's not! Teachers are expected to implement EDI in all their subjects, all the time, without any deviation from the "script." Hence, the term "EDI Police" has now emerged among community. There used to be a time when teachers were hired and expected to make professional and educated decisions about the children in the classroom. EDI's "teacher proof" lessons allow anyone off the street to deliver "learning" to our kids.

The school district also blew it here. While nearby districts are investing in Common Core Standards, STEM, and Next Generation Science Standards, the district office chose to spend what limited resources it has on a system, developed in 1960s and geared towards low-income, disadvantage populations in urban cities (look up Project Follow Through).

The school district also blew it here. There is absolutely no evidence that EDI has contributed to the growth in test scores. To do so, one would have to identify students who received full implementation of EDI in their classrooms, and then measure growth v. students who did not receive EDI. I challenge the district to produce data that shows a causal link. The district also claims to have broad support. Again, there is no evidence to support this claim.

Still not convinced that EDI is not what we need in our schools, check out the following link, Direct Instruction advocates love this:

Web Link

Who knows? Maybe your kindergartener will be solving Algebra problems very soon. Can't wait to see your 6th grader solving Calculus equations.

Bottom line: This is a way to raise test scores and nothing more. I'll leave you with this excerpt from the article link below:

Door #1: If our goal is to accelerate short-term learning of predetermined and easily tested academic knowledge and skills (regardless of broad and long-term effects), then direct instruction would be judged to be clearly more effective.

Door #2: However, what if we want what works best in the long run for the range of goals we value most for children, including real-world competence in subject matter plus creativity, love of learning, initiative, problem-solving, independence, critical thinking, citizenship, good decision-making, communication skills, leadership, and to be caring, happy, and healthy? If we really want this, then education with substantial child-initiated and jointly-planned learning is clearly superior.

Web Link


Posted by Teacher in support, a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2012 at 7:43 pm

Bottom line is that our students who are most at risk aren't doing well with our current pedagogical strategies. I don't think we new robots, but there is a mathematical fluency that is needed. Does a kid really need to problem solve six ways to add 3+4. In the last 10-20 years so much new knowledge has been created that in order to progress, we have to be more efficient learners.

I think about Picasso. He was a divergent and innovative artist, but he also had basic technique and understanding.

I think many who dislike EDI lack an understanding of its purpose. It's a strategy to teach new learning. One can still do projects. The idea is that we want to increase students learnin the first time to be more efficient so we have time to have students work collaboratively I. A meaningful way.

It's the inverse of what many are already doing. If done correctly and thoughtfully, students will be able to correctly apply knowledge they have gained through acquiring mathematical fluency.


Posted by divergent, a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2012 at 8:36 pm

@Teacher: You do not know for certain that link between "current pedagogical strategies" and "at-risk children" is the one to blame here. Take a look at Sean Reardon's Whither Opportunity? Rising Inequality, Schools, and Children's Life Chances. In this analysis, "Family income is now nearly as strong as parental education in predicting children's achievement." Unless you know for certain which pedagogical strategy is being used, you cannot say that it is failing. It may very well be that the "at-risk" student is "failing" for other reasons. For example, the authors point out that "increasing parental investment in children's cognitive development" is a huge predictor for academic success. Did you know that "between birth and age six, wealthier children will have spent as many as 1,300 more hours than poor children on child enrichment activities such as music lessons, travel, and summer camp" and "that a child from a poor family is two to four times as likely as a child from an affluent family to have classmates with low skills and behavior problems." The public school system is not designed to close this type of gap: it does not guarantee equality of outcome.

@Teacher: Many feel that our public school system should focus less on efficiency, and more on effectiveness. There is no evidence that we need to be more efficient because of something that has happened in the last 10-20 years. Check out Tony Wagner's Creating Innovators. The key is not efficiency, but rather developing a culture of innovation based on "collaboration, interdisciplinary problem-solving, and intrinsic motivation." EDI does nothing to promote what many leaders now think is critical educational foundation for the next generation.

@Teacher: I agree that EDI's purpose is to "teach new learning." It is not, however, the reason for the "dislike." I encourage you to read How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom, the research based cognitive backbone for how Next Generation Science Standards are being developed (coming soon, 2013-2014).

@Teacher: The real question is choosing Door #1 or Door #2. Are you willing to risk what works best for children in the long run for a higher test score this year?


Posted by Teacher in suppor, a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2012 at 10:01 pm

The current problem is the system. I do think we have to improve public education on a very fundamental level, but we have a very real problem both district and nationwide. Students who are at-risk have a difficult time achieving. This is completely obvious to most. Given that, my job as an educator, is to give my students the tools they will need to be successful regardless of their home life. What I do from 8-3 MUST work for these students. If my students do not achieve, what I am doing is NOT WORKING. Again we have outliers, but an astonishing number of our ELL's and low SES are leaving middle school not proficient. We MUST change what we are doing. It's not EDI versus project based collaborative learning. Its EDI plus project based collaborative learning that will create the best system.

I'm not saying we must do EDI, but it is a strategy that has been shown to improve student test scores. Again, test scores aren't the only thing that matter, but the opportunities our low SES and ELL population miss out on for not being proficient are many. The tests are designed to show minimal proficiency. Frankly if students cannot demonstrate minimal proficiency in reading and basic arithmetic on a multiple choice question , how do we expect to see innovation and collaboration around content when students cannot access the material in a significant way.

Although the common core is due to be adopted for 2013-2014, it is very possible that we this will not come to fruition because our state lacks the money to assess in meaningful ways. This will be a travesty if we aren't able to adopt the new core.

Just as a clarification, the efficiency comment was geared towards effective teaching the first time around, rather than teaching the same thing twice, or three times. Many of the techniques in EDI allow for the teacher to make assessments as students are learning. Rather than completing a lesson and then finding out at the end of your teaching segment that students were confused. If done correctly, a teacher could pinpoint when in a process students are falling behind. Plainly put, it better to teach effectively the first time around rather than teaching the same thing 3 different ways after the fact.


To answer your question about which door... Ideally, I want a third option that raises test scores in the short run and if beneficial in the long run. I think both option 1 and 2 aren't useful for our most at-risk students. Because of the way our school system is set up, students who are not proficient/advanced on a standardized test won't be able to have access to opportunities that are life changing to them.


Posted by divergent, a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2012 at 10:47 pm

@Teacher: I agree with this completely. The system is at fault. I also agree with you that a balance of both EDI and PBL would be best. It seems, however, based on this article and others about EDI at this district, that teachers have not been given the choice to use the best of both worlds. It's my understanding that it's "EDI or else." I do not agree, however, that if students do not achieve, what you're doing is not working. How are you supposed to do in one year, what would normally take 3-5 years? If an at-risk student enters Kinder 3-5 years behind, educators simply cannot throw EDI at them and expect accelerate cognitive experiences necessary for meaningful understanding.

@Teacher: I agree. EDI will eventually lead to gains in test scores. I am just not convinced about the long-term benefits. Will they fail in trig, geometry, calculus, because they only learned the material at a superficial level? Are we hoping that deep conceptual understanding will "kick in" later in life?

@Teacher: Does EDI even align with common core? Won't it use performance assessments?

@Teacher: Okay. Got it. I agree. Seems to me, however, that good 'ole teacher collaboration should take care of the ineffective teaching. Right?

@Teacher: Good point. Again, it's a systematic issue. It's a travesty, however, that the at-risk students not only need to deal with whatever is going on outside of school, but school, in and of itself, is an obstacle to, like you say, opportunities.


Posted by Teacher in support, a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2012 at 11:29 pm

Maybe I am just given the district too much credit, but I feel like teachers have been told that EDI is for teaching new content only. It is 1 tool in our toolkit. It is not the only tool.

Again, a student coming in 2-3 years behind isn't just about cognitive ability. Many students honestly have not had enough practice with certain skills. Many students who come from affluent or even middle-class have many more opportunities to practice skills through family game time. As teacher working with these students, our time is valuable, we have to be knowledgeable and use things that make our time efficient and effective. Realistically, those students need more.


EDI is not a curriculum. It's really about organizing lessons so that it is not confusing for student learning. It's about teaching in a way in which we ask questions that given them an opportunity to express their conceptualization of knowledge so that you as a teacher can make an informed decision about where to go next. So, it can be used with common core or any curriculum for that matter. Students should have conceptual understanding to where they can successful complete a performance assessment.

I found many collaborations aren't discussing how do we teach, but what we are teaching and what materials to copy. We, as Elementary teachers, have WAY to many subjects to effectively discuss conceptual development in an meaningful way without spending 20 extra hours planning.

I think your question about deep understanding can be understood by really thinking about what we actually teach. How many students ever truly understand our number system. To really grasp the concept of base 10, one must also understand that there are other systems like binary or base 5. Is that the type of deep understanding we are looking for? If so, I have yet to see any teacher help students develop a true deep understanding. I have seen the the way that many other teachers are instructing student, and they are also not developing deep understanding. ( I know a red-herring), and according to data, they are aren't doing well on test. All the later in life talk really becomes irrelevant when students get to 8th grade and can't pass pre-algebra. If students lack the basic skills to be successful/ achieve proficiency in pre-algebra, they will fail in the upper division math anyway.

Our discussion has been centered around math, but i truly am more concerned with reading/language arts. How are student to debate the pros and cons of arguments, when they are functionally illiterate?




Posted by Jack Smith, a resident of North Whisman
on Sep 17, 2012 at 6:27 am

[Post removed due to promoting a website]


Posted by Teachers Make the Difference, a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Sep 17, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Goldman announced at the beginning of the year all-hands staff meeting that the "EDI Police" would be out and about making sure EDI is implemented.

The teacher of the year last year, with only five years experience, was named solely for her support of EDI.

There is no proof the EDI has led to slightly higher test scores. Th


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