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."