Friday, October 18, 2013

Traditional or Constructivist???

We, as is the case with a lot of districts are grappling over new textbooks.  This year, it is the 6th - 8th grade years to decide.  Currently CMP2 is used as our foundation in all classrooms.  Foundation is the key word.  It is what our curriculum is based off, not what it is!  However, the 6th grade teachers have been working diligently over the past 2 years to align their teaching to the CCSS and add in differentiated tasks to engage all learners.  We have come a long way.  Our assessments in tiered and assess at different levels of Webb's DOK to show true understanding.  We have come a very long way.

Now it is decision time.  Do we go with stick with our modifications or go with a new foundation which would essentially mean taking what we really like and supplementing it into something else.  If we go with a new foundation do we lean towards a more traditional program or a more constructivist.  Here is my rationale for each one.

Constructivist Pros
Currently we have a more constructivist program in CMP2.  I love the group instruction, the engaging problems, the themed progress through the program, and the writing involved.  I don't like the fact that the book is useless to parents.  They cannot help their kids which also means it serves as nothing more than a workbook for the kids.  The new CMP3 doesn't look any different.  However, it has online tools which poses a whole added dimension that is harder to discern.

Constructivist Cons
Where is struggle is in two basic areas.  Our test scores are always low in the middle school regardless of the assessment (State testing, ACT Style, etc...).  This is NOT due to the teachers.  Some of the finest teachers in the district are working really hard to make things better.  The other part that ties to this is later years teachers are always frustrated due to lack of skill retention from 5th - 8th grade.  They don't point fingers at the teachers because they know they are working.  Right now, the blame is on the kids effort but is that the case?

Traditional Pros
I feel that traditional books are better for the bottom third of students and work find for the middle third.  The upper third is utterly bored.  However, they are strong in skill development and tend to be weaker in application.  However, we as a district are strong in application, partly because we have had a constructivist program for so many years.  Our teachers think that way.  These books also tend to allow parents to be able to read them (which means the kids can) and refer to examples to help at home.  This has been a rather large issue.

Traditional Cons
They are traditional...they tend to be boring, filled with a bunch of stuff that is not needed and don't offer engaging activities for the top third of our students.  Like above, strong in skill but weak in application.


Can we do both.  Can we purchase a traditional foundation and implement our constructivist teaching strategies over the top thus helping our lower students with a solid foundation and offering our upper students engaging learning activities?  Would this help to fix the problem.

For those that know me understand I am all about the application.  But if there is a lack of skill development the application fails and the student will "top out."  To breach this subject with my staff will be really difficult.  Personally, I don't feel there is any better curriculum than the one made by the teachers.  Would this force that to happen with quality.  Giving teachers the skill support they have so long desired but allowing them to tailor instruction in a constructivist group oriented way?

Let me know your thoughts...