News

Parents up in arms over digital math program

Computer-based lessons use algorithms to teach math, but results are questioned

It sounds like a perfect fit for a school district based in the heart of Silicon Valley: a "smart" math curriculum -- administered almost entirely on computers -- that uses algorithms to tailor lessons to individual students. But for the Mountain View Whisman School District, taking a deep dive into so-called blended learning for math this school year has become a hotly contested decision, with more than a hundred parents calling for dismantling the program as soon as possible.

The program, called Teach to One, is an all-encompassing digital math platform with lessons, exercises and assessments designed to adjust to a student's performance. The company that created it, New Classrooms, touts the program as an "adapted personalized curriculum" that enables students who quickly master math concepts to go above and beyond without having to sit through remedial lessons, while struggling students have more time to catch up.

A 2014 study from Columbia University found some promising signs for the Teach to One model, noting that students performing well below the national average saw major improvements in the first two years of using the program, ultimately exceeding the national averages by roughly 47 percent by the end of the second year. After taking a field trip to Oakland schools to see the program in action last year, district officials agreed to pilot the program in sixth grade at both Graham and Crittenden middle schools for the 2016-17 school year.

Since the program's launch, however, parents at both schools have voiced major concerns that the curriculum is a haphazard mess, jumping between remedial math and overly challenging course content, and that the primary role of the math teacher has been relegated to managing the program rather than to providing direct instruction. Worse yet, some parents say their sixth-grade children have become frustrated and unhappy with math under Teach to One, and are turned off to the subject entirely because of the pilot program.

Under Teach to One, students use two of three teaching styles -- teacher instruction, group activities and independent work -- and end math class with what's called an "exit ticket," or daily quiz, to see how well they understood the day's lessons. The quiz results determine what lessons each student will get the next day. But when parents started reviewing daily lessons to see what their kids were learning, many were troubled by what they called incoherent, poorly constructed content.

On Dec. 7, 180 parents of fifth- and sixth-grade children -- most of them from Graham -- signed a letter calling on Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph and Assistant Superintendent Cathy Baur to discontinue Teach to One before spring, calling it a fundamentally flawed program that should not have been piloted on such a large scale in the first place. Among the criticisms, parents noted that the program's topics are taught in an incoherent order, and are riddled with mistakes and incorrect answers, illogical questions and link errors.

"This is further complicated by the fact that there is no textbook, so when a student struggles with concepts in the homework, they are left to looking for answers online," the letter states.

Graham parent Robin Linsenmayer Colman, one of the signatories, said she had heard a lot of individual one-off complaints from parents starting in the fall, which eventually culminated in the letter last month. She said fundamental math skills are no longer being taught, and many parents are now either relying on tutors or spending lots of time helping their children through math. Although teacher instruction is included as a learning "modality" in Teach to One, Colman said teachers hardly get to provide classroom instruction now, and play more of an administrative role.

"When they do teach, they are given a lesson right beforehand and it's spit out of the computer," she said. "And the computer says 'this is what you need to teach the kids today.'"

Graham parent Alan Wessel, who has a doctorate in mathematics and has taught classes at Santa Clara University, noticed troubling shortcomings in the program when he looked through his child's exit ticket following lessons on statistics and probability. When he reviewed the questions, he said, he realized that his daughter was getting complex math problems on probability, conditional probability and dependence that far exceed what a sixth-grader ought to know. His daughter, like many other students, had swiftly and inexplicably moved out of sixth-grade concepts and into eighth grade and beyond.

"If I gave that exit ticket to the statistics class I taught at Santa Clara University, about a sixth of the class would fail it," Wessel said.

Seeking some kind of justification, Wessel said, he contacted the district office and asked why some of the "crazy difficult" problems were being assigned. His email was forwarded to a New Classrooms staff member who claimed the problem was solvable based on seventh-grade standards, but did not respond when Wessel challenged him to solve the problem using the cited seventh-grade standard.

Wessel also argued that the algorithm that determines what lessons students receive, and when, is "bizarre and deficient," jumping from one subject to another and choosing subjects seemingly at random, all while circumventing any logical order normally found in a traditional textbook.

"It's extraordinarily annoying, and it's very difficult to help your child," Wessel said. "It's very demotivating for a lot of kids to get an exit test that's impossible to take, or an exit test that doesn't even have a correct answer."

New Classrooms did not respond to the Voice's request for comment.

Around the time parents were circulating the letter opposing Teach to One, the district office conducted a survey asking students and parents to weigh in on the pilot program. Of the 187 parents participating in the survey, 67 percent of Graham parents and 48 percent of Crittenden parents said they do not believe the program matches the needs of their children. A similar number, 62 percent of Graham parents and 46 percent of Crittenden parents, believed Teach to One has not improved their child's ability in math.

Although some respondents voiced optimism, supporting the idea of students moving at their own pace and using online resources to supplement instruction, the survey opened the floodgates for a torrent of negative responses. Parents demanded that the district throw out Teach to One, and allow teachers to go back to actually teaching in the classroom. One comment simply reads: "Bring back the teacher."

At the Dec. 8 school board meeting, board members were set to vote on a contract with New Classrooms that would continue the pilot program through the rest of the school year, but Rudolph pulled it from the consent calendar. Among the terms of the contract, New Classrooms would provide the math platform, instructional content, program schedules and assessments, and the district would provide the teaching staff, the laptops and other required technology to run Teach to One. Add up the cost of licensing and service fees, and the contract was expected to cost the $521,000, according to an interim budget report.

Shortly thereafter, the district office announced that it would make cutbacks to Teach to One, intended to strike a balance between the new pilot program and traditional math instruction. Under the revision, only half of math time will be designated for Teach to One.

Rudolph told the Voice that Teach to One, like all pilot programs, will be constantly assessed to see how well it meets the needs of the students. He said the survey indicated to the district office that students and parents value the program for giving students the opportunity to learn at their own pace, but also value face-to-face time with teachers -- which ultimately led to the decision to split class time in half for both.

"It's one of those things we'll continue to work on and work with," Rudolph said.

It's possible, Rudolph added, that the concerns about course work being too difficult is a perception problem more than anything else. Before Teach to One, parents of high-performing students would complain that math classes were moving too slowly, he said. But now that the digital platform gives parents access to all the course material students learned that day, the same parents are fearful that the classes are moving too fast.

When asked about the contract that Teach to One has been working under until now, as well as the fate of the future contract that was pulled from the consent calendar at the Dec. 8 board meeting, Rudolph said he could not comment pending negotiations with New Classrooms.

Colman, in an email response to district administrators, said she doesn't see a reason why Teach to One should be kept at all, and that students stand to lose an enormous amount of instructional time under the proposed 50-50 split. She pointed to recent benchmark assessments showing that math performance among district sixth-graders had declined compared with last year, which she said bears out the parents' concerns about Teach to One.

"Given declining student performance and broadly shared negative experiences with TTO, I see no reason why the district would insist on continuing TTO during 2017 for all students," Colman said in the email.

Crittenden and Graham are two of only a few dozen schools in the nation to adopt Teach to One, and there's a striking demographic difference between Mountain View's schools and the other early adopters. The Columbia University study that found major gains among students participating in Teach to One states that virtually all of the students surveyed in the study were eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, attended schools in high-poverty, high-needs communities and were predominantly black and Hispanic.

"We cannot state definitely that Teach to One caused the above-average achievement gains," the study states. "Adding to the ambiguity is the fact that the norms against which TTO students were compared were based on student samples that were on average academically and demographically far more advantaged."

A more comprehensive study on Teach to One, funded through the U.S. Department of Education, is currently being conducted by the Consortium for Policy Research in Education, which will explore how Teach to One's individualized instruction affects math performance. The study won't be complete until May 2018.

Wessel said the Mountain View Whisman School District is well off compared with districts using the program and cited in the Columbia University study, and needs to take advantage of the strong teaching staff and existing, well-funded programs rather than abdicate the responsibility of developing math curriculum to Teach to One.

"If we had horrible teachers, maybe this would be a better option, but we have wonderful teachers," he said.

Comments

46 people like this
Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Jan 5, 2017 at 2:20 pm

Why not use Khan Academy to personalize, isn't that free and based in Mountain View?


37 people like this
Posted by Graham Parent
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 5, 2017 at 2:39 pm

@Outside Observer

Khan Academy is indeed free, presents material in a cohesive manner and has much higher quality standards than TTO.


55 people like this
Posted by Sarah Krajewski
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 5, 2017 at 2:57 pm

The school district must stop using unproven methods to experiment on our children. New does not mean better.


20 people like this
Posted by Bill Hitchens
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jan 5, 2017 at 3:31 pm

My experience with mixed content and solely online classes is that they are inferior to classroom instruction --- as long as the instructors are of high quality and competence. For example, Foothill College's online classes are grossly inferior to face-to-face classroom experience, where there is and open dialog between students and instructors.


9 people like this
Posted by Einstein
a resident of Willowgate
on Jan 5, 2017 at 4:12 pm

How are grades determined? What I s it based on? Will a 6th grader who advances to 9th grade math level and then struggles get a lower grade than a 6th grader who remains at 6th grade level but aces the tests?


23 people like this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 5, 2017 at 4:41 pm

The requirements for adopting a new curricula, new materials, and piloting them are contained in a Board Policy based on state Education Code (law). BP 6161.1 BP Selection and Evaluation of Instructional Materials

Web Link

If President Wheeler had followed this Board Policy, and insisted that the Superintendent did also, there would have been lots of math teacher input, board discussion agenda items, reports to the board on progress in the selection of the material & curriculum, and a public hearing (or two).

The new President of the Board - may of his own power, call a Special Bd. Meeting, to start to redress these deficiencies of his predecessor. Or - three Board Member have the power to call a special meeting, for a public hearing just on this subject.

Or, will this Board prove to be just a rubber stamp. The whole community is watching.

PS
(IMO, this program might be excellent - just as a Target Student Supplementary Program (TSSP) under LCFF funding and LCAP accountability)


39 people like this
Posted by Former MVWSD parent
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2017 at 6:27 pm

What a mess. Math is full of building block concepts. To miss a year of these stepping stones while your district is using you as a guinea pig is incomprehensible.

This is definitely not helping MVWSD obtain the good PR it currently needs. Students are relying on you, Dr. Rudolph & Board! Their education, even a month of it, is never to be taken with a grain of salt!

Where was this $521k coming from anyway? Good heavens.


26 people like this
Posted by Op-Ed
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 5, 2017 at 6:48 pm

The insidious, invisible problem has been the impact when 6th grade "Teach to One" teachers also have to teach 7th grade math. The experimental program consumes so much energy and prep time that 7th grade classrooms have less.
Now if 6th grade math teachers have to do both regular instructional prep AND still "Teach to One" prep & meetings, that leaves EVEN LESS time for some 7th grade math classes!
How could the district possibly make this situation any worse for (relatively) new teachers?


12 people like this
Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jan 5, 2017 at 11:44 pm

It seems that I might be the only parent that finds TTO to be valuable - albeit not perfect but my child is learning at a pace that is engaging. The weekly homework package does have challenging problems that might require a little more brain power. Yes, there are topics that are beyond 6th grade math, and this is what high performing students need. In my opinion, TTO can be a valuable tool for high performing students who are often left behind in face to face live instruction. Maybe the district should consider bringing back the GATE program for the high performers instead of TTO?

Lastly, it's okay to fail...without failures, there are no successes.


14 people like this
Posted by Former student
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 6, 2017 at 6:13 am

Teachers need to just learn to teach.
Administration needs to stop having so many mandatory meeting where they pull the teachers out of class so the good teachers can teach.


16 people like this
Posted by Graham Parent
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 6, 2017 at 8:54 am

@Taxpayer

The district replaced a well-functioning system with multiple math pathways with TTO. Under the old system, advanced students were placed in 6.2 and covered 1 1/2 years worth of material. Unlike TTO where instruction is mostly shallow, teachers were able to provide a solid foundation and students actually learned the material rather than just passing a short multiple choice question.

First trimester results indicate a dramatic drop in math test scores in 6th grade Math compared with last year; in English the scores improved this year so it doesn't look like the student cohort is worse.

Parents objecting to TTO are open to making it optional so parents who like it could continue. I do suggest you take a careful look at what your child is actually learning.


8 people like this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 6, 2017 at 10:32 am

@ Graham Parent - There were plenty of parent "give exception to MY KID" emails that tried to get kids, of pushy families into the Math 6.2 curriculum path even thought they DID NOT TEST as ready for that effort. It is not clear - how often these pushy parents - were able to get this done. But this 'institutional favoritism' is now illegal to use in selecting kids High School math programs.

I only wish the new state law had made this "objective criteria" mandatory for middle schools. Then maybe I wouldn't have heard the Principal of Graham complain that she wished "geometry would just go away". A public pronouncement, but 'never to the Board.' I do not respect Kim Thompson's timidity on this issue.

The early tracking in math was not working - as a system, and certainly not as an equitable system. Put some of the kids on "The Fast Track" and leave the majority of Hispanic kids on the slowest train? No wonder Castro moms would come to a Board Meeting and pronounce that the district was lying about her child's academic progress. The extra effort of trying to get kids "pushed" through 6.2, 7.2 etc detracted from efforts to give EQUITABLE math instruction to struggling students. Crittenden math teachers were brave enough to 'publicly rebel' and complain directly to the Board about this. They were met by silence from The Leadership.

SN is a retired member of the MVWSD Trustees


23 people like this
Posted by Graham Parent
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 6, 2017 at 12:13 pm

@ Steven Nelson

All valid issues and I agree the district should implement objective criteria for tracking.

I can tell you though that TTO can be a frustrating disaster for families where parents do not have the mathematical knowledge to help their kids or the financial resources to pay for a tutor.

Results from the district's own survey of parents

Crittenden:
students expressing love for math: reduced 53%
students expressing hate for math: increased 328%
Graham:
students expressing love for math: reduced 66%
students expressing hate for math: increased 443%


22 people like this
Posted by Unclear
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jan 6, 2017 at 1:26 pm

It's still unclear to me why the curriculum was changed. The district does not seem to have an answer.

If it was intended for the benefit of high performing students - as Dr. Rudolph's comments suggest in the article, why did they evaluate a program that has only been implemented in low performing areas? "Before Teach to One, parents of high-performing students would complain that math classes were moving too slowly, he said. But now that the digital platform gives parents access to all the course material students learned that day, the same parents are fearful that the classes are moving too fast."

If it was intended for low performing students, why wasn't a subset of students opted into a small pilot to be sure that the program would truly serve their needs?

What we do see is that only 24% of MVWSD 6th graders are meeting or exceeding standards, this year compared to 29% in the previous year. Seems like a number of significance to me.


29 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 6, 2017 at 2:23 pm

I find it dismaying that this $521,000 "pilot" was implemented in a way that doesn't seem to comply with the board's own rules for instituting a pilot.

In addition, from what I've heard, the contract with TTO was signed before the board could ratify it. Apparently it still hasn't been ratified.

Call me skeptical, but my sense is that we're still living with TTO because the administrators can't admit that they made a $521,000 mistake. Had this pilot been rolled out in a more cautious and limited way--as required by the board's own rules--then less would have been lost. And it would be easier to move forward.

Rudolph has dug a big hole for himself. No wonder he didn't bother to take his nose out of his computer as the parents spoke at the board meeting last night. And no wonder that he tried to dodge any future study sessions on TTO.

Dan


36 people like this
Posted by Don't appreciate it
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 6, 2017 at 2:29 pm

I don't love Rudolph's comment about parents in this article. The culprit is parents? We just complain regardless of whether the math is too hard or too easy? That isn't really what this is about. I'm hearing parents give the district a heads up that the program, which was not sufficiently tested, isn't working effectively and isn't going to help the district reach its goals.

Again and again I hear that kind of arrogant treatment of parents. A district *wants* engaged parents... right?


30 people like this
Posted by Huff Parent
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jan 6, 2017 at 2:46 pm

I also did not like Dr. Rudolph's comment about parents in this article. The parents are complaining that the TTO is poorly structured and non-sequential, and not that it is "moving too fast".


10 people like this
Posted by Old Steve
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jan 6, 2017 at 3:42 pm

Old Steve is a registered user.

My reading is the $521K assumed we would be moving forward as described. Given parent feedback, an exit needs to be negotiated, that is why the item was removed from the agenda. We tried something easy to make available to all students, and it does not seem to work as well as intended. Scrapping it sooner makes it less of a pilot. Now we have data, so we can make a decision. Too bad better feedback data could not have been available earlier.
And yes, after observing this district since 1992, there always seems to be a cohort of parents who are never satisfied, never willing to accept the District's best intentions as just that. We need to all work together, and while this public discussion is illuminating, we all need to be careful about mutual respect. Any pilot can be improved, that is why it is a pilot.


26 people like this
Posted by MVWSD parent
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jan 6, 2017 at 4:27 pm

I attended the board meeting last night. Although Dr. Rudolph seemed animated and engaged during all other parts of the meeting, he completely ignored the parents who spoke about TTO and spent the entire time typing on his devices, never even glancing up at the speakers. None of the parents were at all rude or disrespectful, and several lauded the district's efforts to innovate. How can the community have a productive dialogue with someone who does not appear willing to listen or engage?


22 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2017 at 4:38 pm

This is actually incredibly constructive dialogue. It's sad that it has to be in the comments section of an online news article, but it sounds like the one man with the most power over ALL of MVWSD didn't care to have a face-to-face with respectful parents last night.

This is NOT about "complaining parents" who "will always find something wrong".

This IS about "24% of 6th graders not meeting or exceeding math standards" AND a very real and large amount of students being turned off to math in general this year when TTO was instituted.

This is a problem. It's not one to hide behind a screen about. Do you hear us, Dr. Rudolph? We all fought for your big raise. Can you still hear us now?


20 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2017 at 4:50 pm

Our children are not guinea pigs. Potentially losing a year is very significant. They shouldn't be forced into an unproven experimental program. Considering the previous program worked very well, this is just wrong!


24 people like this
Posted by MP
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Jan 6, 2017 at 5:09 pm

As a parent of two students in the school district, I am extremely concerned that the district spent so much money (about half a million dollar) on TTO program that has not been tested, it's efficacy is not clear. I am disappointed that the school district decided to experiment on our children.


23 people like this
Posted by BB
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 6, 2017 at 5:16 pm

Unfortunately the parents have spent a lot of time trying to communicate with Dr. Rudolph. On December 7, we sent a detailed letter to Rudolph outlining the problems with TTO. 180 parents signed the letter that you can read below. Rudolph didn't initially bother to respond to the letter. After a week of radio silence, we sent a follow up letter (Dec 16), expressing our disappointment with his lack of response. On Dec 19, he sent a cursory email back, though didn't bother to engage with the substance of the original letter. It was a 4 line boiler plate email.

Everything points to the fact that he doesn't care about working with parents in a meaningful way. Had he bothered to do so, we could have resolved this problem a month ago and saved a lot of time.

The parents are asking for a very simple thing--the option to have a math program that works. It's exasperating that we have to spend so much time trying to get something so simple. Anyway, here's the letter:

Superintendent Ayindé Rudolph

Assistant Superintendent Cathy Baur

Mountain View Whisman School District

750-A San Pierre Way

Mountain View, CA 94043-3133



Dear Superintendent Rudolph and Assistant Superintendent Baur:



We are the parents of current and incoming Graham and Crittenden sixth graders. After one trimester of the Teach to One (TTO) pilot, we have significant concerns with the program and its impact on our children as they prepare to enter the competitive high school environment. We recognize and praise the district for considering innovative ways to supplement student learning (Membeam, Lexia, Khan Academy). However, TTO does not appear to be serving our students as well as the traditional teacher-directed method.

We have found the TTO pilot to be ineffective in inspiring and encouraging our children. Living in Silicon Valley, we appreciate taking chances, examining impact and changing course if things are not working. After 3+ months of TTO, we feel that TTO is not the right solution for our students.

Overall, although laudable for its innovation, the TTO program is still under development and the kinks have not been worked out. Continuing to require the program, now that we have first-hand experience with the problems, would be a disservice to our children. We have fabulous, qualified and committed math teachers at Graham and Crittenden, and they should be permitted to teach our children, as they are trained to do. Online learning can be productive for extended learning, such as homework. But at this point, nothing matches the efficacy of a face-to-face student-teacher relationship in communicating complex and important materials. Students are not getting this from TTO in its current form. Some parents’ frustration has reached the point where they are now looking into other school options for seventh grade, which would be very unfortunate.

We understand that the district is currently evaluating TTO. With this letter, we respectfully ask that:

TTO be discontinued for the spring 2017 trimester and thereafter.
If the district wishes to continue with TTO, either:
Make it optional for all students and provide a traditional teacher-led option for those who don’t wish to participate, or
With the involvement of the parent community, restructure the program so that TTO is substantially minimized or limited to a subpopulation where it has proven to be beneficial.
The district solicit parent feedback prior to implementing major curriculum changes going forward.
Below please find a list of items that summarize many parent concerns regarding the TTO program:

The TTO curriculum does not follow a logical pathway, enabling students to build a strong math foundation. TTO removes the thoughtfulness behind math curriculum development, by presenting topics in an illogical and incoherent order. By jumping around among concepts, students fail to make connections between subject areas. Students may “pass” an Exit Slip without the opportunity to build mastery in core middle school math concepts. When topics jump around illogically, parents find themselves forced to teach earlier concepts to which the student was never exposed in order to assist with understanding the concepts at hand.
Much of the instruction is quite shallow, in some cases even misleading and factually incorrect. Topics which would normally take days or even weeks of classroom instruction are sometimes completed in a single day. Further, this superficial exposure to math concepts will disadvantage all students. This will be especially evident when they join neighboring Los Altos middle school students in high school.
With TTO, students are often tested on materials that they have never been taught, causing anxiety, frustration and dislike for math. In a time where we want to encourage students to build foundational skills for cutting edge STEM fields, TTO seems to be affecting student attitudes toward math and problem solving. Many parents report a striking change in their child’s attitude toward math this year. The students generally have very positive feedback about math teachers at Graham and Crittenden, but many students hate TTO and now dislike math.
TTO does not support the Common Core curriculum, where student understanding is based on how the student arrived at a solution, not the final answer alone. With TTO, students choose a multiple choice answer without ever showing their work. This will not prepare them for high school math or advanced math classes, where the final answer just represents a fraction of the overall process.
One benefit of the TTO program touted by the district is that “The program will reduce the time teachers dedicate to student assessments and allow more direct instructional time with students.” In fact, the students have little contact with teachers. With the Emotional Intelligence aspect of learning, students benefit from positive reinforcement of a teacher, especially in math where they have to push a little harder to get to a solution. Assigning more growth mindset videos is not a solution to overcoming frustration and encouraging perseverance. Furthermore, teachers appear to serve an administrative function, affording little instruction time. The few teacher-led sessions are degraded, as teachers must figure out their lessons with little advanced notice based on what TTO provides.
The program doesn’t educate students or parents about what level of math skills the students are working on, so we have no idea if they are working at a fifth grade level or an eighth grade level.
Parents and staff have identified multiple and pervasive errors throughout the TTO materials including: mistakes in answers, illogical questions, link errors, etc. The instructional material is often confusing and of poor quality. This is further complicated by the fact that there is no textbook, so when a student struggles with concept in the homework, they are left to looking for answers online.
The TTO homework algorithm seems to be flawed. Sometimes students receive homework that is misaligned with their playlist. Other times the homework either too advanced or too simplistic for the student.
While we are prepared to support our students in math, TTO requires too much parent involvement. Many parents spend significant time at home providing math instruction because there is no textbook and because there are few in-class teaching sessions by math teachers. Many parents have hired tutors to make up for the lack of teacher-student interaction. This is unfair to both the parents and teachers. Many families lack the academic or financial means to provide this extracurricular support to their students. Graham and Crittenden have excellent math teachers who are passionate about teaching math. Further, performance results may be flawed in favor of TTO as a result of parents providing daily direct instruction and/or tutoring to supplement TTO’s deficiencies.
The lack of textbook and complete dependence on the internet interferes with math study in the classroom. Glitches in the system/Internet mean that students often miss instructional time, are unable to complete their Exit Slip, or are late to their next class. Not only does this compromise time in math class, but this affects learning in other subject areas. Unfortunately this has happened quite a few times to many of our children.
Small group collaboration seems to be ineffective at this stage. One child likened this to practicing a complex piano piece without an instructor–you practice and practice, and when you meet your teacher, you realize you learned it incorrectly and must now unlearn what you taught yourself. Without the foundational skills, it is inefficient for a group of students to work out a problem without teacher guidance or foundation. Further, at this age, some students goof off and interfere with others’ ability to learn. The lack of teacher support makes this a constant problem.
Thank you very much for your consideration.



Sincerely,



Signature of 180 parents


27 people like this
Posted by Different parent
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2017 at 5:16 pm

Sometimes it's better to look around you and see what's working better in neighboring districts. In Los Altos, teachers teach math. Textbooks are physical and also online so students can access homework from a textbook or online if they choose. Supplemental homework is given on Khan Academy- a proven program where teachers can directly send students (to their free accounts) "recommended" work. Therefore, high performing students could be working on much more challenging concepts than low performers- and one additional bonus is: no one is the wiser. But everyone is learning and growing at their own pace.

First: teachers.
Second: supplemental work through a *proven and free* online platform called Khan Academy.

Works really well. Why would we need to put our kids through the unchartered and expensive TTO when there are so many other wonderful examples to learn from in Silicon Valley?! Egos run so high I feel like TTO will be around for years just "because". Who cares what parents or students think. The Board wanted it. So badly they never asked permission. Sigh.


14 people like this
Posted by @BB
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2017 at 5:30 pm

I'm terribly sorry to hear you a) have waited a month before this has hit the news/fan/whatever. b) didn't receive a response from the superintendent to a letter so many people backed and had to follow up, and c) when you did receive a response it was cold and unhelpful.

While I would never wish this behavior upon anyone worried about their child(ren), I had the exact experience with Dr. Rudolph when in a panic about my child's safety at school last year. He didn't care. He didn't respond. When he finally did, he didn't resolve anything.

Math was one of the better (not great, but better than others) subjects at MVWSD and it's slipping too. Don't wait until it's too late. The students are lucky to have you.


22 people like this
Posted by Computer learning is the future
a resident of another community
on Jan 6, 2017 at 7:26 pm

Computer learning is the future, some parents can't comprehend the future, they want their kids to learn the old fashion way. Let the learning begin, leave the those who can't handle the future with their physical books behind there stooping backs.


7 people like this
Posted by Huff Parent
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jan 6, 2017 at 8:24 pm

I say just opt your child out of the TTO program.. they cannot force your child to participate in a program that clearly is not working.. if enough parents remove/refuse to use the program then the district has to respond.. clearly Rudolph was not deserving of his 20k pay raise since has had now cost our over 1/2 million dollars in a program that has failed miserably!


37 people like this
Posted by BB
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 6, 2017 at 8:31 pm

It would be a mistake to think that 180 parents signing the letter are all luddites who don't appreciate what technology can do.

There's definitely a role for technology in education. And that role will only expand. But when the technology is not ready for primetime--when it's glitchy and doesn't deliver on its promise--then it's just another mediocre product. The kids recognize it. The parents do too. And there's no reason we should embrace TTO in its current incarnation.


13 people like this
Posted by @ BB & @ Huff Parent
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2017 at 8:39 pm

@ BB - I think we all agree that online learning is the future; but not this specific form of it and not in replacement of the actual teachers whom we pay and also not in 6th grade. There's a time and a place (maybe college, homework, to name a few). I think the commenter above has mastered technology in the way to garner fake likes- there are not 18 people online right now so...

@ Huff Parent - while a good place to start, this only helps a small percentage of students (likely higher economic status whose parents are aware of what's going on) and might not enable the students who are pulled to get math instruction elsewhere. The bigger picture is: WHERE is Dr. Rudolph? Where's our $521k? We're bleeding money and our kids are getting farther behind the peers they will soon meet up with in high school. No good.


17 people like this
Posted by TTO parent
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 7, 2017 at 8:34 am

I'm wondering if a deal was made with this company and that is why we are not getting the level of response needed from Mr. Rudolph. If he thought the program might work with students struggling with math, then why not target just those students rather than change the program for all students?

Also, the students were already familiar with Khan Academy through elementary school, why not stick to that?

It just seems that the way it was presented, with no one knowing what was happening with math for the incoming 6th graders, that this whole program was not thought out well, not implemented well, and not performing well. So the choice is to stick with it because of some hidden agreement, give it a chance with the targeted students it was meant to help or scrap the whole thing.


29 people like this
Posted by Phreaticus
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jan 7, 2017 at 11:08 am

The reality is that this program can't even be called a pilot. Pilots are optional, controlled trials to subsets of a population to characterize a new concept to evaluate performance, find/correct bugs, before large scale deployment. There must be objective measurement criteria defined so impact can be benchmarked before, during, and after the pilot.

If all 6th graders at these two middle schools are forced to have TTO with no other option, and school and admin staff are not sharing test criteria, plans, and stats in public, it sounds like there are some very gross errors in play here.

400% increase in students expressing hate for Math is a staggering statement. If this was a medical clinical trial of a hughly hyped drug, with the same stats as the TTO survey results, the trial would have been aborted, and the drug company's stock tanked.

The Superintendent isn't even responding to 100's of parents, including public comment sessuon at District board meetings?

Hard to beleive this is actually happening.

I think more residents of our community need to show up at MVWSD board meetings, and help these parents out. Will spend time this weekend digging into this situation.


73 people like this
Posted by District Insider
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2017 at 1:41 pm

Hope this can't be traced back to me but I feel that parents have the right to know what is really going on.

Ayinde is the person driving this. He thought it was just the thing for Silicon Valley and that he would be viewed as a hero for bringing it here. Teachers who expressed concerns after a field trip to Oakland were overruled and the Graham and Crittenden principals had no say in this choice or implementation.

At this point the rest of the district staff realize TTO is not working, but Ayinde is unwilling to admit he made a bad choice. This is the first big contract he negotiated and he failed to obtain proper legal vetting which is why the terms are so unfavorable.and the contract includes a non-disparagement clause prohibited by CA law. He really wanted the program so TTO was able to get away with charging our district more than any other school has ever paid.

Legal staff and the board are going crazy and everyone is subject to the non-disparagement clause in the contract signed by Ayinde so no one can say anything negative regarding TTO. The principals are being forced to respond to parent concerns with canned statements generated by Ayinde and carefully reviewed by outside legal staff.

In the meantime, the district is desperately trying to get TTO to renegotiate, but they have little incentive to do so and do NOT want word to get out that a school has rejected their program. They are willing to reduce the $500K called for under the contract ONLY if the district continues with TTO at least 50%. This corresponds to a full class period (as math is a double period) this they can claim it is still a successful rollout. If the program is cancelled TTO is refusing to reduce the fees due at all.

This is what is driving the district to move to 50% rather than cancel the program. Contrary to district statements no teacher inputs were ever solicited regarding this change.


18 people like this
Posted by @ district insider
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2017 at 2:08 pm

I believe every word you wrote.

Ayinde is a self-serving man, sadly in charge of 1000s of children.

Fire him! Someone, please!!


23 people like this
Posted by Another Graham Parent
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Jan 7, 2017 at 2:34 pm

These are three issues that I see as a parent of a TTO pilot student:
1. Technology replacing actual teacher interaction: Everyone has an opinion on the role of technology in the classroom. However as Si Valley residents most of us think technology isn't all bad and can/should *supplement* classroom instruction. However my kid only loves TTO when she is assigned actual interaction with the teacher. All her friends are the same way. They hate TTO but love interacting with their teachers. It's a shame that we pay $521K to do away with something that actually worked.
2. The TTO syllabus: is crazy. It jumps all over the place and there is no coherent understanding of why one topic is assigned after a completely unrelated one. There are no textbooks so if a parent wants to go over class work with their student, there just isn't an easy way. With multiple choice 'exit' tickets, a reasonably intuitive/intelligent student can guess at the answer without quite gaining a 100% understanding of the subject matter.
3. TTO exit tickets: are wrong. Some of our parents found cases when the answer the program was expecting was completely wrong. To me, this is completely unjustifiable.
Need to add that my child is a great math student but this is not working for her or any of her other great math student class-mates. I am also *extremely* tired of being the guinea pig for every new-fangled program that the district wants to pilot. Last year, it was the disastrous Human Development module and I shudder to think what is coming up next.


15 people like this
Posted by ST parent
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jan 7, 2017 at 2:55 pm

@Steve Nelson,
What I have learned about the TTO program, I don't like, I've found nothing redeeming about it yet.
I also don't like how it came into use in our district.

So, I have one questions for you Mr. Nelson:
What exactly did you or any other member of the Board do, with the over-sight authorities you had, to prevent the situation we are in now?

I had thought the Trustees had the authority and responsibility to be watchdogs to prevent just this sort of outcome.
And I'm not interested in finger-pointing blame, I just want to know if any of the Board actually took meaningful steps to prevent this with their oversight authorities.

Certainly you had a deep history of opposing the "rubber-stamping" of what any Superintendent wishes to do. As well as doing a great deal of research on almost every issue and asking endless questions before allowing an issue to proceed.

Did this one slip past you, or did you object and got over-ruled?

What can be done now to reel this one back in?


15 people like this
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2017 at 3:01 pm

Posted by Computer learning is the future
a resident of another community
19 hours ago
"Computer learning is the future, some parents can't comprehend the future, they want their kids to learn the old fashion way. Let the learning begin, leave the those who can't handle the future with their physical books behind there stooping backs."

"...there stooping backs." (sic)
THIS says it all.
I advise sticking with high quality teachers and books.


22 people like this
Posted by veteran graham parent
a resident of Gemello
on Jan 7, 2017 at 3:07 pm

Much appreciate Kevin Forestieri's article - thank you!
I was surprised by Dr Rudolph's comment that "before TTO, parents of high performing students would complain that math classes were moving too slowly."
I think it is helpful to share that just 3 years ago, the middle schools re-orchestrated math levels so that several students were put on track to complete geometry by the end of 8th grade. Parents (and our previous superintendent) were concerned that this would move students along too fast. However, 2 years ago there was another change where all students were assigned 2 periods of math per day. As mentioned in the article, "we have wonderful teachers" who did an excellent job of guiding many students through 8th grade math, including geometry.
Those of us who have older students and a 6th grader, were very never given a straight answer as to whether TTO would prepare students in the same way. In fact, what we heard is that TTO has not actually been fully structured yet to know how well it would progress these kids through 8th grade. Through other schools, TTO has had time to work out glitches for 6th & 7th grade math, but what about all "the bugs" they'll find in the system when progressing kids through higher level math.
Parents and kids are already finding several errors in the system as Alan stated with "exit tests that are impossible to take and several that "don't even have the correct answer"!! Imagine how many issues there will be as our students are the "guinea pigs" to this program attempting to lead our students all the way through geometry. And, the way this system works, how can you make sure all the students achieve the same end point when they need to feed neatly into a high school program that starts with either the beginning of Algebra II or Geometry for the "higher level student".
Please see the well-thought out letter written and signed by many parents. It states:
If the district wishes to continue with TTO, either:
Make it optional for all students and provide a traditional teacher-led option for those who don’t wish to participate, or
With the involvement of the parent community, restructure the program so that TTO is substantially minimized or limited to a subpopulation where it has proven to be beneficial.


5 people like this
Posted by @ district insider
a resident of Bailey Park
on Jan 7, 2017 at 3:28 pm

Unless you are a member of the board or the attorney for the district, you are making assumptions regarding everything you state above. I am certain none of these people is posting here so people shouldn't believe what you have said.


18 people like this
Posted by Mistakes can be fixed
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 7, 2017 at 4:42 pm

If even a little of what @District Insider writes above is true, the City has a serious problem. Dr. Ayinde has a serious problem. New Classrooms has a serious problem.

If Mtn. View has spent more than $500K on a digital math course that is serving up inappropriate curricula and tests with incorrect answers to unsupervised 6th graders, then why exactly are we paying one dime for it? If a product is defective, you send it back and demand your money back. OUR money back!

I applaud attempts by the District to innovate (provided they are done prudently), but if a math teaching program is teaching our kids that 1+1=3, that program needs to be discontinued immediately. It sounds like this attempt was a swing and a bad miss.

No matter what initiatives Ayinde pushes during the course of his superintendent job, his legacy will solely be determined by the success of the students during his term. The stakes are too high here to wait any longer. An entire class of approximately 600 middle schoolers falling behind in their math learning? Hello? Why is this even being debated? Admit your mistake and fix this problem, Dr. Ayinde.

I don't know about this "anti-disparagement" contract nonsense, but it certainly doesn't apply to everyone. New Classrooms has a social media presence: post your feelings at Web Link or to their Twitter feed at @NewClassrooms. Share this story with other news agencies in the area. Maybe Michael Finney is looking for a new cause (Web Link). The public can put a lot of pressure on these "non-profits" to fix their mistakes.

If Ayinde can't get our money back and put a stop to this fiasco, maybe we can...

A Parent of a Current MV 6th Grader/Ayinde Lab Rat


24 people like this
Posted by Old MV Parent
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 7, 2017 at 5:47 pm

Neither Ayinde not Bauer really have a strong background in curriculum and assessment. They made this decision on their own without proper vetting and input from the community. It is clearly more than a pilot, and Steve Nelson is right, this should have gone through the adoption process. There are many online programs to support blended learning, I'm wondering why this particular one was chosen. Is it some company that Ayinde worked with in the past? Is he friends with the with the CEO? What perks were given for this contract? Sounds fishy.
Very disturbing that Ayinde is too arrogant to meet with concerned parents.
Maybe it's time for him to move on....


22 people like this
Posted by Concerned Citizen
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 7, 2017 at 5:57 pm

I hope our local elected leaders and the editors of the Mountain View Voice are reading this thread with interest, and asking themselves whether there has been a breakdown in local governance.

The items below have been raised as questions in this thread. And if even some of them are true, it raises important questions about the school district, the oversight provided by the board, and the superintendent's decision making.

--Did the school board have rules for implementing a pilot? And were they not obeyed or enforced?
--Was the TTO contract supposed to be ratified by the board before it was signed? And why wasn't it?
--Why was a non disparagement clause entered into the contract when it doesn't comply with CA law?
--Why was New Classrooms paid such a large, seemingly unusual sum?
--Why did the school district enter into a contract for a new curriculum, when the contract provides that the district must accept it on an "as is" basis, regardless of the quality of the product/service?
--Why does New Classrooms have such leverage over the school district and what we can do in our own classrooms?

If true, it's all pretty concerning. And it seems like we should take a serious look at whether there's something broken in our system.


8 people like this
Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of North Bayshore
on Jan 7, 2017 at 7:56 pm

While I have seen the power (local) tools like Khan Academy can have in everyday classrooms without costing anything (to see an everyday classroom use Khan Academy: Web Link), yet three years on the board taught me that it is always more nuanced than what parents or the MV Voice may see at the surface. From firsthand experience, district educators always have good reasons for why they do what they do, and always act with the students best interest at heart. This does not mean they are always correct, but one should always seek out all the details before criticizing an educational program developed by professionals.

And that is the crux of the problem. The school district and the school board still lacks a good system of communicating details to parents and residents, even to those who seek details. When I was on the board, we did not solve this problem, but my experience did teach me that communication was then, and still is the primary problem.

Without a full picture, parents are left to parking lot gossip, state test scores, and still maturing student impressions to judge our schools. This is a real shame, since those often miss out on the really good details.


31 people like this
Posted by @ Christopher Chiang
a resident of Slater
on Jan 7, 2017 at 9:22 pm

@Christopher -- I appreciate your comment about "seeking out the details before criticizing an educational program developed by professionals." But that is exactly what we (the concerned MVWSD 6th grade parents) have done. No one complained when we showed up at Back to School night in August and the teachers knew nothing about Teach to One, but instead merely showed us commercials for TTO produced by New Classrooms. We kept silent and gave the program a fighting chance during the early weeks when our children brought home incoherent homework and cried when they were assigned 5th grade remedial subjects and 9th grade statistics (sometimes both in the same week!). The organized parent effort against Teach to One did not begin until early December, after we had 3.5 months of TTO and more than sufficient time to "seek out the details." How many more months of our children's education must be sacrificed while the district digs in its heels? If the problem here is merely communication, as you suggest, the district must ASAP hire a leadership coach to work with Dr. Rudolph and help him explain the "facts" that allegedly support the continuation of required TTO. Underlying this fiasco, I fear, is an improperly vetted contract that ties the district's hands. And someone in the district office lacks the courage to write off the sunk costs and get back to teaching.


17 people like this
Posted by Old Mtn View parent
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 7, 2017 at 10:04 pm

Doesn't Ayinde already have a coach (an expensive coach) that the district is paying for?


26 people like this
Posted by @ Christopher
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 7, 2017 at 10:25 pm

Since you've been part of the board and resigned because it was so out of control, I feel that your comment slamming parents and defending the board you just quit holds no weight.

Research TTO and get back to us. Maybe your kids can try it at their private school? Then we could chat about apples to apples. You may have not meant it to, but your comment comes off as very self-righteous. Please remember the 180 parents (plus those just learning about this, so... 250?) are only concerned for their children and not looking to pick an argument. They've got better things to do- trust me.


13 people like this
Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of North Bayshore
on Jan 7, 2017 at 11:11 pm

I did not mean to suggest that parents don't have real concerns, just that the district and school board may (or may not have) satisfactory answers, but continues to be hampered by underappreciating the power of active communication (both listening and answering).

From the outside, it may be perceived that a controversial program is being pushed by the superintendent alone, but unless there has been some drastic departure from past norms, I have never seen an instructional program developed without the involvement of teachers, principals, and multiple district staff.

It was in the past an incorrect narrative that decisions were impromptu or that of just one staff member. It was almost always the case, decisions really involved countless hours of behind the scenes planning and hard work. This does not mean the professionals are always right (or right on this issue) This does not mean the district doesn't have to be careful of groupthink.

A school board plays a critical role in ensuring healthy communication between parents and residents and the district, and helps the district see and own its mistakes, when they will unavoidably happen. Hundreds of parents speaking out about an instructional program, this is unprecedented in MVWSD, I never seen that level before, and I apologize if I seemed dismissive of that.

It is my view that the the underlining problem has always been a sentiment of us vs them, regardless of the issue, and that stems from the need for a more proactive, transparent, and responsive system of communicating. The abrasive personalities of particular school board members had taken priority over (and even masked) fixing this, and now with a new board, it's time to fix the communication issues.


16 people like this
Posted by @ Old MV Parent
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2017 at 11:14 pm

He sure does. I thought it was a $200k coach.

There's also a PR person we haven't heard from, Ms. Hausman.

But, radio silence. Back to TTO. Ayinde's not listening for whatever reason.


19 people like this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 8, 2017 at 8:52 am

Mr. Chaiang. You are sadly misinformed. There was no proper vetting of this TTO program through the required Board Policy. The Bd. President, Ellen Wheeler, and the Superintendent and the Director of Student Services decided to start this curriculum, without the complete process contained in Board Policy (adopted/revised again in 2014).

- the the poster who asked - Oversight and whistleblowing.- I had no veto power or right to put on Agenda anything relating to Math at Middle schools. In May - I started to get a lot of interference, from the CIO, who works under the CAO, in getting public documents from the District that I needed to do my job on this middle school math issue. I stand by my public fights with Dr. Rudolph over those public records requests.

Through County Office of Education records requests - I started to learn in late May - early June, that ADMINISTRATORS were going up to Oakland to view TTO site. @District Insider seems to have it exactly right.

Chris Chiang does NOT UNDERSTAND the Board Policy (State Law). The "norm" in this case Mr. Chiang is also the law and Board Policy, it was ignored. Check the public record Chris! If you are not going to bother doing that, please just sit down and be quiet!

I voted against giving the Superintendent/Administration the right to sign large contracts that WERE NOT FIRST VETED BY THE BOARD, in a public meeting. I lost 4:1 The CAO signed the TTO contract, without going through the adoption process, and then the signed contract was brought to this new Board - for ratification.

BTW, I aso voted AGAINST the new Superintendent getting an additional year on his new (first CAO) contract and getting a 10% raise. I did not think he had yet proven his worth -by results. Another Trustee joined me on that vote. We lost 3:2.

If "the watchdog howls" or the "whistleblower" sounds off - the public/community needs to pay attention.

Do you think ANY MATH TEACHER will now give free comment to the Board - now that the Administration has so clearly and publicly drawn lines in the sand? Chris - you live in LA LA LAND.

I do not know where the Mentor to the CAO was over the Summer, when this was finalized. I do not know if Rudolph can drop the "Dr." bit - and realize he is really, really not wise (yet) in the ways of a district administrative leader. And Ellen Wheeler's "odd sense of transparency" needs to be kept out the position of Board President.

I am glad the parents themselves are protecting their interests. Stay vigilant, stay informed, stay brave.

good luck. it's only local democracy


25 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 8, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Steven and Christopher, thanks for your notes and participation here.

Just to be clear, we have tried to go through this process in a cooperative way. That's why we gathered extensive feedback on TTO and took the time to get 180 signatures. We've appeared at the board meeting and tried to exchange emails with Mr. Rudolph. To their credit, the board has seemed interested in gathering information and listening to what we have to say, even if Rudolph has not.

Ultimately, we're not going to accept TTO as an option. And we're going to get that result through any legitimate means we can. If we can't negotiate a reasonable compromise with the district--eg give students the chance to learn math in a traditional setting until TTO can be adequately beta tested with a smaller group (or something like that)-- then we're willing to:

--Explore our legal options. Attorneys have a good way of getting results and revealing interesting facts.
--Make more regional and national media outlets aware of the story. That is already underway.
--File formal complaints about policy violations and the adoption of TTO.

Unfortunately time is ticking. The school year is dwindling away, so we'll be moving in these new directions very soon.

We're asking for something rather reasonable. We don't want our kids to be guinea pigs. We want them to learn basic math. We want a proper beta test of a product before it becomes the main curriculum. That's it.

By the time we're done, I'm pretty sure that the school district will conclude that they should have actively worked with us earlier on, when we first presented a completely reasonable request.


31 people like this
Posted by Pete Gelbman
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jan 8, 2017 at 12:04 pm

I'm a very concerned parent of 6th grader in the TTO program at Graham.

First, thanks to the Voice and Kevin Forestieri for this article and helping highlight what can only now be described as a debacle. Clearly some very interesting information emerging in this discussion thread.

Dr. Rudolph's comments to the Voice, implying that this issue may just be a perception problem on the part of parents, and clear implications that this is primarily about parents of high performing students being fickle etc - are inappropriate and factually untrue. Even if they were 100% factually true, for him to make such statements in response, is an extremely poor way to handle this situation, and certainly not what one would expect from a person in his role.

First, if anyone simply reads and comprehends the parents letter, digests the student/parent TTO survey data, or heard public comments during recent Board meeting - it's clear that Dr. Rudolph's statement have nothing to do with the real issues at hand. I don't know the guy and have nothing against him, but since he made such a negative broad sweeping implication about 100's of parents across both MVWSD middle schools who are concerned with this program (Concerns that the District's own survey results now confirm in spades - 300-400% increase in students hating math, 5% reduction in 6th grade math scores vs last year - hello?) - I feel it's necessary to point out that his statements seem to be deflection and avoidance tactics. Poor ones at that.

Second, how would Dr. Rudolf actually know which parents of which students (high performing or otherwise) are complaining about what issues? He refuses to respond and engage with us, so it's not clear how he would have any information to formulate such a position. He may have other data that we the parents are not privvy to, such as teacher input, internal program evaluation metrics, etc - but has not shared any of that with us, even though is he is compelled to by Board Procedures, and has been requested to numerous times by numerous parents. This itself is a massive issue... (Web Link

No doubt, parents of high performers can be very pushy and overly sensitive complainers, I can certainly appreciate that being a big issue if I put my feet in the shoes of teachers and administrators. However, painting nearly 200 parents associated with this specific TTO situation with such a broad stroke is wildly disingenuous and unprofessional. Are all 180 concerned parents that wrote the original letter - only from high achieving students? All the negative survey data was only from high achievers? We're all just annoying whiners? Our issue with the TTO program isn't that it's teaching too slow, or too fast. Read the letter and listen to public comments at board meetings. The program is incoherently structured, and producing confusion and gaps. We can't figure out WHAT its doing, because there doesn't seem to be any structured plan for how to evaluate it; practically speaking many/most of the concerned parents just know we're spending many hours at the kitchen table each week correctly fundamental confusion in our kids homework, when we never had to do that before.

Actually, the TTO parents that I'm personally am in contact with are all very open to new ways of learning, and in theory TTO may be a useful tool for some students over time. As many parents have said, Kahn Academy is well established and we've been using in our house as in informal "teach to one" for years - in fact we are currently using it a lot to plug holes created by TTO!

The bottom line here is that this specific program has fundamental qualitative and structural issues, is being executed poorly, and the pilot has been implemented very inappropriately.

This isn't a pilot program by any stretch; the simple and unfortunate reality is that all 6th graders in MVWSD (Graham or Crittenden) are forced to learn math this way this year, with zero input or choice given to parents. The key "Ask" from the parents is very simple: simply make the TTO program optional for rest of the year, so concerned parents can opt out if the "pilot" isn't working well for their kids. This creates no resource burden on the schools (they have same # of teaching staff as last year, etc). Surely, you can't get more reasonable request than that.

A study session has being formally requested by the Trustees, and should be scheduled soon. Hopefully this should be public forum where the real issues with the TTO program and the faulty process issues around its implementation can be properly discussed in a healthy, objective manner. I encourage anyone and everyone to participate.

Thanks,

Pete


20 people like this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 8, 2017 at 1:42 pm

CONTRACT, delegated according to Ed Code 17604 and 17605. Motion of Nov 19, 2015, Resolution No. 1580.11/15
Packet quote from Dr. Clark / CBO at the the end of the first paragraph: "Any contract made pursuant to this delegation and authorization must be approved or ratified by the Board, evidenced by a motion duly passed and adopted, to be valid and enforceable."

I sure hope Dr. Clark knows what he is talking about here (he usually, but not always does). Anybody can bring suit against anybody. No mater how illogical and unfounded the claim. Pretty clear (how many $$,$$$ of legal fees now) but it seems obvious, from Closed Session Agenda, that some litigation may be at hand. (get out of unenforceable 'signed' contract? still costs $$,$$$). The TTO contract is not (currently) enforceable - even if signed by Administration.

Now Ellen Wheeler, do you see why I think your ideas of "transparency" are ludicrous? It is just nuts for you to think you led this curriculum materials adoption/purchasing/pilot through any type of transparent public process (agenda discussion, teacher and parent involvement as prescribed, hearings and reports). As Board President, this was your responsibility, that 'the leadership' adhere to the Board Policy and the state law. You can't be prosecuted, removed from office, or recalled just for this. You do owe (IMO) a whopper of a public apology to the parents of this district. You are a wonderful person I believe, but you do not always do a wonderful job.

Legal Standing. I believe any taxpayer of MVWSD (payment of illegal public contract) or parent with an affected student has legal standing in this issue. Although there are not any (as far as can tell) criminal law paths in this matter - there seem to be some very sturdy civil law paths to 'the parent's resolve'.

President Gutierrez, you may now have a credible legal/liability issue/challenge from many parents - Jose, is this the battle that you chose to FIGHT? Against the parents? Think hard about the moral and political implications of such a public FIGHT.


29 people like this
Posted by MV taxpayer
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 8, 2017 at 1:55 pm

To the parent that led the letter effort and continues to look into alternate avenues once hitting a wall,

THANK YOU.

It's a hard fight. May you be successful before the year ends and before your child(ren) fall behind the peers from Los Altos they will meet up with in high school.


24 people like this
Posted by @ Steven Nelson
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2017 at 1:58 pm

You've gotten a lot of slack for your behavior in board meetings. However, I have to say: at least you show up, engage with parents, are transparent, don't break laws, try to dig deeper into public records, and...aren't swaying in the wind like Ayinde and Ellen.

I'm curious what payoff they received from TTO because at this point that is the only thing that makes sense to me!


28 people like this
Posted by Good
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jan 8, 2017 at 3:06 pm

I appreciate the effort these parents are making. I've found Rudolph to have a really arrogant attitude towards parents and I don't think he should be allowed to commit taxpayer money to an unproved technological "advance" that we don't need.

Kids learn best from people, not machines. There can be a place for supplementation with online programs but they should not replace teaching and they must be researched and subject to rigorous review. The idea that parents are objecting just to be difficult is absurd. There should be an investigation of this "disparagement" clause nonsense and whether this contract was signed illegally or improperly.



14 people like this
Posted by Don't blame All staff
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jan 8, 2017 at 3:17 pm

In defense of Ms Hausman, she is a communications person. I have not seen her job description but I'm willing to bet it does not include curriculum selection and implementation.

If the teaching staff was ignored in recommendations against TTO (as has been illuminated in comments here), why should we assume Ms Hausman was heard if she flagged what is turning into a PR nightmare for our Superintendent(s) and our Trustes.

Let's keep focus on the kids, and put responsibility where it truly lies.


1 person likes this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 9, 2017 at 8:57 am

= @ Steven Nelson, "what payoff"? I do not think that there is any and that there never would be in any matter concerning Wheeler, and I believe Dr. Rudolph. They are professionals, and do honorable work. Like Mr. Chiang's comment on "communication," they have this idea that it is from the DO outward. This is a common very bad system of belief for many trained administrators. 'If they know what we wanted, and why we wanted it,they would of course love what we have chosen, because our hearts are good'. And Ellen Wheeler usually rubber stamps that view.

While I was a Trustee, I privately urged Dr. Rudolph to talk to and get advice from our former City Manager, Kevin Duggan. But even Duggan, a regional, state and nationally respected CAO level administrator - had detractors who would occasionally cast aspersions. He knew his job was to follow the council (majority), state law, and execute the ADMINISTRATIVE duties of his position with candor, efficiency and honesty.

Mistakes are just mistakes.


10 people like this
Posted by @ Steven Nelson
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2017 at 10:37 am

Okay, fair enough. I was just saying that the fact they went past all usual protocol for signing a contract is super fishy and maybe there was some money or enticing them to get to this point. Maybe not. It wasn't an attack. I actually really praised you in the first part of my comment even though many have not over the course of the past couple years.

The problem now is that we have a program that isn't working and an administration that isn't working, or listening, or talking, and to parents that feels like an administration that simply doesn't care. And that hurts, emotionally and directly on the education of our 6th and 7th graders who are falling behind. So I applaud the parents who are taking steps to take action. It's been too long to have not seen a change; m at least an opt out option. I'm really surprised this has gotten this far.


20 people like this
Posted by @ Don't blame all staff
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2017 at 10:42 am

No one would expect a PR spokesperson to come out on her own with a speech. What that comment was addressing was this: the district took steps to hire a PR spokesperson. They are currently in a PR tornado. Wouldn't it be the perfect time to use the PR spokesperson, who is very well spoken and knows the district well from the inside and outside, to at least read a statement on the current status of the investigation/status of TTO?
It was a slam on Ayinde for not using the tools in place to better control this situation that is getting out of hand.
I actually personally know Shelly and would never blame her for anything the district did wrong. They do that by themselves pretty easily!


17 people like this
Posted by @ District Insider
a resident of Slater
on Jan 10, 2017 at 2:44 pm

Ayinde claims to be an expert on piloting materials in his arrogant emails to parents. The truth is he's a newbie at the job and it shows. The roll-out was mismanaged from the start.

And now to go to 50%? What is the justification for that?

If District Insider is correct then heads need to roll!
--------------------------

Posted by District Insider on Jan 7, 2017 at 1:41 pm:

Hope this can't be traced back to me but I feel that parents have the right to know what is really going on.

Ayinde is the person driving this. He thought it was just the thing for Silicon Valley and that he would be viewed as a hero for bringing it here. Teachers who expressed concerns after a field trip to Oakland were overruled and the Graham and Crittenden principals had no say in this choice or implementation.

At this point the rest of the district staff realize TTO is not working, but Ayinde is unwilling to admit he made a bad choice. This is the first big contract he negotiated and he failed to obtain proper legal vetting which is why the terms are so unfavorable.and the contract includes a non-disparagement clause prohibited by CA law. He really wanted the program so TTO was able to get away with charging our district more than any other school has ever paid.

Legal staff and the board are going crazy and everyone is subject to the non-disparagement clause in the contract signed by Ayinde so no one can say anything negative regarding TTO. The principals are being forced to respond to parent concerns with canned statements generated by Ayinde and carefully reviewed by outside legal staff.

In the meantime, the district is desperately trying to get TTO to renegotiate, but they have little incentive to do so and do NOT want word to get out that a school has rejected their program. They are willing to reduce the $500K called for under the contract ONLY if the district continues with TTO at least 50%. This corresponds to a full class period (as math is a double period) this they can claim it is still a successful rollout. If the program is cancelled TTO is refusing to reduce the fees due at all.

This is what is driving the district to move to 50% rather than cancel the program. Contrary to district statements no teacher inputs were ever solicited regarding this change.


9 people like this
Posted by @District Insider
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2017 at 3:59 pm

So.... was there teacher and principal input or not?

Why did he want this program so much?


4 people like this
Posted by @ Steve Nelson
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 10, 2017 at 4:00 pm

Steve Nelson says above:
CONTRACT, delegated according to Ed Code 17604 and 17605. Motion of Nov 19, 2015, Resolution No. 1580.11/15
Packet quote from Dr. Clark / CBO at the the end of the first paragraph: "Any contract made pursuant to this delegation and authorization must be approved or ratified by the Board, evidenced by a motion duly passed and adopted, to be valid and enforceable."

I sure hope Dr. Clark knows what he is talking about here (he usually, but not always does). Anybody can bring suit against anybody. No mater how illogical and unfounded the claim. Pretty clear (how many $$,$$$ of legal fees now) but it seems obvious, from Closed Session Agenda, that some litigation may be at hand. (get out of unenforceable 'signed' contract? still costs $$,$$$). The TTO contract is not (currently) enforceable - even if signed by Administration.
---------

As an attorney, let me point out:
Just because the district considers the signed contract as not enforceable doesn't mean that New Classrooms views in that light if they signed in good faith and Ayinde did not disclose he didn't have full signature authority. Contract is made under NY State law (per details on district website -- Dec 8 Agenda) so that adds complexity as well.

Thus, contract could very well be considered enforceable.

End result (as Steve points out): BIG $$$$ paid by district to lawyers and New Classrooms to get out of this mess.

As @ District Insider says above: What a NOOB!


5 people like this
Posted by FOIA-FTW
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 10, 2017 at 6:30 pm

Web Link

I made a public records request for the contract. This link was sent back. It has the contract in its entirety, including:

- No disparaging clause (Page 92 of the link, Section 7.3 of the contract):
"Neither party shall directly or indirectly make or cause to be made any statement, opinion or publication maligning, denigrating, disparaging or defaming the other party or any of its employees, consultants or representatives, clients or benefactors, or portraying or tending to portray any of the aforementioned parties in a negative or unfavorable light, including in communications with clients, benefactors, potential clients, employees, potential employees, competitors, counter-parties or potential counter-parties, the media or any other person with whom the other Party does business or may do business in the future."

And a section saying where the contract can be litigated:

7.13: Governing Law. This Agreement shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of New York, without regard to its conflict of law provisions.


3 people like this
Posted by Wow!
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2017 at 7:28 pm

Parents for the win. Love the investigating.

Does MVWSD typically sign contracts with no disparaging clauses? Anyone know? Thanks.


7 people like this
Posted by Wow! Point 2
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2017 at 7:32 pm

The fact the public record states there is a no disparagement clause speaks VOLUMES to the validity of "District Insider"'s statement above.


15 people like this
Posted by board watcher
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 10, 2017 at 8:36 pm

I find it very interesting that this item was included in the agenda under the 'consent' portion which typically contains several items and is approved with a single motion and little if any discussion period. In the agenda for the 12/8 meeting, this contract is listed in the consent agenda as item C "contracts for ratification" directly after the approval of the prior meeting's minutes and the personnel report. I do not think this supports the notion that the district had any intent whatsoever to discuss this issue, but rather to give it a rubber stamp.

It also appears that the board meeting took place after the parent letter had already been delivered to the superintendent. I guess maybe the board should have been copied on the letter as well.

This is a very sad situation when ego appears to trump good, solid educational practices. If its not working, fix it


4 people like this
Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of North Bayshore
on Jan 10, 2017 at 8:41 pm

I do not agree with the "District Insider's" conclusion that so neatly places all the blame on the superintendent or Teach to One.

Teach to One is a collision of multiple independent problems. I apologize it's long, but this issue doesn't fit a sound bite.
1) the inherent challenges of teaching a totally different way that will cause tensions regardless of if it was anyone of the other current personalized learning tools: Khan Academy or Facebook/Summit's Basecamp.
2) the very common mistake of rolling out a new technology too fast, too wide, which is a common mistake (see LAUSD iPads)
3) the mistake of not obtaining a flexible contract with New Classrooms (the well-regarded non-profit that runs Teach for One Web Link It's absurd for anyone to infer underhanded dealings by New Classrooms or the district, neither would risk their reputation. The difference between poor legal negotiating and corruption is vast.
4) the mistake of not seeking, listening, and following up with parent feedback in a way that reinforces a vision of one common community on behalf of children, not one of us versus them.

1) and 2) are district staff responsibilities and that buck stops with the superintendent, and are common mistakes among all innovative districts. 3) and 4) are board responsibilities and that buck stops with the school board. Each group needs to model the growth mindset they teach their students, and both own and learn from their mistakes.

I ask that if the district is serious about educational technology and personalized learning (blended learning), that they consider hiring a district staff member that is a professional in academic technology. We fumbled through Measure G for so long because we dragged our feet in hiring an in-house construction professional.

I ask the district and board to consider convening a new committee of parents and staff to examine educational technology to identify their specific effectiveness and needs for extra support. Don't throw out the baby with the bath water, and we are lucky to have so many brilliant parents.

I ask the board to consider revising its policies to require public hearing for all instructional materials, regardless if they are digital, and review a financial threshold that triggers items to be board reviewed, rather use of the consent agenda (though this contract was already out of compliance with existing bylaws governing the nature of consent agendas). I ask the board consider changing their legal counsel. The district's contracts are only as good as our counsel.

The board has five members, each with different strengths, and thankfully without the hysterics of the past. I hope this new board can learn to use each other's wisdom rather than suppress them. Doing so would have avoided this mess.


2 people like this
Posted by @wow point 2
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 10, 2017 at 8:50 pm

The TTO contract was published on the district's webpage in early December for anyone to see. District insider did not have any special access and much of what he says is likely conjecture based in his biased view. Anyone can state their opinions. We all shouldn't take it as gospel.


21 people like this
Posted by @ board watcher
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 10, 2017 at 9:10 pm

@ board watcher - The parents did send the parent letter to the Board before the 12/8 meeting and the parents were prepared to speak against ratification of the TTO contract at the meeting. At the beginning of the meeting, however, Dr. Rudolph removed the contract from the agenda. Accordingly, the contract has not been ratified by the board.

Further (for all of those interested), at the request of a parent, the board has agreed to convene a public study session on TTO. The session will take place on Tuesday January 17 at 6:30 PM at the board room (750-A San Pierre Way). The purpose of the session is to engage in a more fulsome discussion about the problems (and alleged merits) of TTO. The parents will speak, and Dr. Rudolph will have the opportunity to present data/facts supporting his position that the district should continue to utilize TTO. Kudos to the board for scheduling this promptly and not dragging out the process.


5 people like this
Posted by Sincere question
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 10, 2017 at 9:45 pm

This is a question for Steven Nelson and Christopher Chiang.

From what you know, does a superintendent (or other school official) have the right to sign a costly contract before the board reviews and/or ratifies it?

If they don't such a right, are there any consequences if they run ahead and sign such a contract?

If they do have such a right, then what is the point of having a board? Isn't it essentially the board's responsibility to provide some basic oversight?

I'm not asking this to put you on the spot. I'm just trying to understand whether we have checks and balances in our system, and whether they're working.



2 people like this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 11, 2017 at 9:52 am

@ Christopher Chiang / former MVWSD Trustee
I'm glad that you are continuing to study and post on this issue. Four good points, IMO. I think you made one major omission / and your conclusion of board "needing to revise its policies" to handle new digital curriculum materials.

(0) The MVWSD Bd. President and Superintendent did not follow established state law (ED CODE) and Board Policy 6161.1 which clearly call for ("shall") parent input early in the process, and majority subject-matter classroom-teacher representation for math curriculum materials that are not state DOE adopted .

Chris Chiang - to jog your memory, you yourself voted for Board Policy 6161.1 when we adopted it April 3, 2014 and that policy already covers (as does ED Code) the inclusion of digital materials in curriculum adoption. The PUBLIC POLICY is in place and is clear. The Administration was allowed, by President Wheeler, to keep those items of teacher and public input and records, required by adopted Public Policy and ED Code, from being used in the TTO process. Check the record - the Minutes (& Agenda Packets) of the Bd. of the MVWSD, May-Dec 2016.

Chris - why did we, you and I and the other Trustees at the time, hire Dr. Rudolph? We knew he was new to such a high public school administrative-leadership position. "Wet behind the ears" would be entirely appropriate. We knew he would be willing to 'stick his neck out' for innovation in education/teaching/LEARNING. But - Chris, we did NOT hire him as a CEO of a charter school. He is required, no matter what advice he is getting from President/Trustee Wheeler, to follow the ED Code and the adopted Board Policies.

mistakes are just mistakes

retired MVWSD Trustee Steven Nelson


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Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 11, 2017 at 10:04 am

@ Sincere Question. The lawyer, who provide me/community the correction on my earlier 'conjecture on government contract law' maybe provided a better explanation. I do not know if that lawyer litigates CALIFORNIA GOVERNMENT contracts, which I know have some differences in law (statute and case) from purely private-party to private-party contracts.

I think this is a purely CIVIL law issue (not criminal law).

SETTLEMENT not dragged-on court litigation. Whether or not CALIFORNIA GOVERNMENT CONTRACT LAW, or New York State civil contract law apply? Good 'lawyer question'. Probably worthy of litigation - if Trustee Wheeler wants to waste more money! To me, it seems clear that there is no enforceable contract, for TTO, under California GOVERNMENT CONTRACT LAW. But the process, is NOT stupid. TTO cost some money - and some money is owed (IMO) to terminate the non-contract relationship (ASAP).

I'll take that anonymous lawyerly advice - it's just going to take $$$,$$$ of legal and settlement costs.


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Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 11, 2017 at 10:26 am

@ Christopher Chiang - actually, I can't fact-check the claim I just made of 'you voted for' BP 61061.1 in April 2014! I can't easily get to the Minutes - since they have been put into digital storage by the DO. I guess I could use 'The Wayback Machine' or make a PRA request of the District CIO.
Whatever - BP 61061.1 was adopted by a majority vote of the Board - whether or not you were at that particular meeting, for that particular vote (and I think you made >95% of the votes).
cheers


24 people like this
Posted by @ Christopher Chiang
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 11, 2017 at 1:24 pm

Wow, the ignorance runs deep! No wonder you were completely ineffective as Board President.

I find it galling that you insist on posting without any real knowledge of the issues, even those of which you should be aware from your time on the board. You abandoned our kids by resigning from the board and now you feel like you can offer us advise?

New Classrooms is only "well-regarded" by those who have not examined it closely. By the time this issue settles, their reputation will be ruined.

Their marketing material sounds great, but if you look carefully even they admit that
... student outcomes “could not be attributed to Teach to One without the use of
an experimental or quasi-experimental design.” see Web Link

Here in Mtn View, our kids are suffering. The survey conducted by the District (hoping to provide support for TTO) shows kids going from loving to hating math with test scores declining. Examine the survey closely, look at the comments section, talk to parents of kids involved in the program and look at New Classrooms and TTO critically before posting here!

And don't come back saying that *some* parents like it. Some parents are happy because their kids are getting "A"s for the first time and their kids like it. (Perhaps because the kids like playing computer games during their TTO time.) I would expect an educator like yourself to critically examine an issue before commenting.


15 people like this
Posted by @Steven Nelson @Christopher Chiang
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 11, 2017 at 8:40 pm

"Wet behind the ears"?

Yuck

This "innovator" is using our children as guinea pigs. Using our district to build his resume.

Fortunately only two of the board members that hired him remain on the board.

Hopefully the new board will understand the value of experience. competence, and interpersonal skills with the next hire.


4 people like this
Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of North Bayshore
on Jan 11, 2017 at 9:06 pm

This superintendent whom some people here so readily attack has created the district's first strategic plan, realized the need to hire a construction professional, so that construction could finally be ramped up, increased teacher pay, caught the district up with its peers in utilizing technology, and believed the achievement gap in MV can and will be erased.

And he joined a district with a toxic school board that was fighting battles with two different superintendents in the last 12 months.

The superintendent has not been a model of transparency and inclusive decision-making, but I place that responsibility equally on the school board, who set that norm of minimalist collaboration for him.

Teach to One, and it's predecessors the School of One in NYC, aren't perfect, and it may very well not be right for MVWSD (a conclusion that should be left to the community to decide), but what Teach to One represents is very important, and needed.

The idea of students learning at their own pace, and more importantly, the idea that students direct some degree of their own learning are critical to their future in a world where they will be expected to never stop learning, and they won't always have traditional methods to do that learning.

That doesn't mean we let students suffer. If this particular personalizing learning tool isn't working, swap it out, find a new one, and do it right next time: pick a tool through a transparent process that involves the parents and teachers from the first step. Get better legal counsel. Demand the board do their oversight role.

Even I am happy to take the blame for things I was not there for, but please do not roll back the vision that the achievement gap can be eradicated, and that students need more self-direction in their future.


27 people like this
Posted by Give me a break
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 11, 2017 at 11:03 pm

@Christopher. Driverless cars are a nice idea. They will eventually change our way of life. But if lawmakers let them on the road prematurely and many people get needlessly injured, then the lawmakers shouldn't get a slap on the back and a free pass. They should be held accountable, blamed for doing sloppy work, and maybe removed from office.

That's an extreme version of what we have going on here. Personalized learning in math is a nice concept. One day it will make a difference in classrooms. We get that. But it's being done now in a completely mediocre fashion. And there's no reason we should stick with it--not when we have perfectly qualified teachers who can do a much better job. Let the technology evolve, and bring it back later when it's really tested.

As a parent and local citizen, I expect my leaders to have the basic competence to understand the difference between mediocre software and real innovation. And if they innovate, I expect them to do so in a prudent way. From top to bottom, I see nothing but incompetence and abdication of responsibility here, from the board to the superintendent. Wasting $521,000 and a year of kids' time isn't trivial or acceptable.

I'm not sure if you're defending the superintendent because you hired him, or because you just generally set the bar low, but, based on your comments, I'm honestly glad you're off the board and that we're working with some new people. We need people to set some real standards, provide oversight, and demand accountability. Whatever was acceptable before isn't getting us very far now.


26 people like this
Posted by @Chris
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 12, 2017 at 1:34 am

Keep in mind that "utilizing technology" should in no way be a goal in itself, and should not be any measure of success.

Also, "reducing the achievement gap" should only be considered a good thing if the bottom is moved up, and not if the top is moved down.


4 people like this
Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of North Bayshore
on Jan 12, 2017 at 7:33 am

"Teach for One" might not be right for MVWSD, but it would be wrong to assume that personalized learning is still just an idea not yet ready. I am not defending MVWSD's TTO implementation process, the scale of roll out, contract restrictions, or contract amount. All things the board can correct by following existing board policies that are meant to protect against such errors, and new policies that further clarify the board's role.

I am defending personalized learning. Other schools have been doing it for years. Schools that have succeeded realize that technology doesn't replace the teacher. Having visited many of these schools, a master teacher (who is a content expert) is critical to their success. It also takes time for teachers to plan and collaborate.

Examples:
Summit Public Schools (Sunnyvale, EPA, RWC charter, so is traditional Milpitas Unified)
Uses Facebook Basecamp (free):
Web Link

Intrinsic Schools (Chicago, so it traditional district LASD)
Uses Khan Academy (free):
Web Link

Avenues School ($45,000 NYC private school)
Uses Teach for One (listing it for context, not endorsing it):
Web Link


20 people like this
Posted by Implement intelligently
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 12, 2017 at 8:47 am

I could easily see how Khan Academy could be used in an intelligent way, as a supplement to other teaching. It's a good supplementary resource, but I don't think even Sal Khan himself would suggest that you should make it the center of the curriculum and push the teachers to the sidelines, as was done here.

I can also imagine that other programs will come along that can take over as the core pedagogical program. Once that happens, beta test the program intelligently, train the teachers, see what kind of results the program gets with a good sample of students, negotiate a reasonable contract that gets ratified by the board, and give yourself the chance to get out, if necessary. If everything lines up, then implement it. That would be the sensible approach--as opposed to the sloppy, wasteful way this was done.


21 people like this
Posted by This!
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 12, 2017 at 9:09 am

Said by @Chis above:

"Also, "reducing the achievement gap" should only be considered a good thing if the bottom is moved up, and not if the top is moved down."

THAT is why we had to leave MVWSD after 5 years. This is EXACTLY what Rudolphs 5 year "close the gap" plan does. Here's example #1, ladies and gentlemen, illegally obtained (not within bylaws), at that.


2 people like this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 12, 2017 at 5:43 pm

I fully support Chris's explanation of how individualized learning, aided and abetted by software technology, can start to make a positive contribution to 6-7-8th grade math LEARNING in the present day. Chris himself is an expert, in the affluent district classroom, of how this technology component is VERY SUCCESSFULLY done. That is not the MVWSD situation. His fine direct experience only partially applies.

An old style/old thinking status-quo superintendent would not push MVWSD into a better future. We had a chance to hire such candidates! 72 people applied. The joint decision was Rudolph. Think that was an easy decision? With me in the closed session room! It was not. But take a look at the District Quality Report, or the reports on each school. Take a look at the TEACHER SURVEYs done by the teachers themselves (Chris and I studied this survey, in detail = teacher's opinions matter to us, in particular). We needed change.

So - a half million dollars for an experiment is not a good amount of money to waste on this. But it is a trivial amount of money - compared to the Budget, and certainly compared to the General Fund RESERVES of the MVWSD. A quick BOARD DRIVEN CORRECTION, and the proper amount of hubris reduction on the backs of Pres. Wheeler and Superintendent Rudolph - the direction can be corrected.

I fully supported the cost-reduction, time-reduction efforts of the Rudolph Administration in planning for building a smaller/quicker/cheaper Castro/Mistral facility. That ALSO had a consult-with-the-Teaching-Staff problem.

"Give Me A Break" - you don't get that as an elected official. We take our lumps in various ways. We lick our wounds after we fight the battles we think worth fighting. And the 'don't really care, not really engaged'? You can tell who those elected officials are also.


13 people like this
Posted by @Steven Nelson and @Christopher Chiang
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 12, 2017 at 8:21 pm

Well, you made a mistake.

Sounds like you generated a false dichotomy: "either an experienced professional or a newbie who will innovate".
Surely there are experienced professionals who innovate.

Glad you both are off the board and that only two of the trustees who hired Rudolph are left.

The new board needs to value experience and competence when they hire the next superintendent.
Hopefully that will be soon.


15 people like this
Posted by TTO is Gone
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 12, 2017 at 9:53 pm

We're very happy to report that the school district announced today that the TTO experiment is finally over. The announcement is below. We thank everyone for the effort they put into getting this result.

We hope that Dr. Rudolph has success during the rest of his career here. We would urge him to launch pilots in a more prudent and policy-compliant way. And it would be very helpful if he communicated better with parents and showed a little respect for/interest in our input. Finally we thank the board for listening to us and taking our concerns seriously--they truly did--and we look forward to working with you on improving the pilot process going forward.

Many thanks all.


Dear parents,

One of my tasks as Superintendent is to bring together diverse groups in our community to create the best educational environment for our students. As we tell our students, it is ok to “fail forward;” that is the idea of trying something new is the way to innovative success. We are always looking for ways to reach all of our students to best prepare them for high school and beyond. Our community would not expect less.

This year’s math pilot, Teach to One (TTO), is an example. After careful consideration and evaluation, we took research-based, technology-assisted learning and brought it into our classrooms as a way to better tailor instruction to individual students. From the beginning of the year, the classrooms were closely monitored. We communicated program highlights by email weekly, and we talked with and corresponded with parents regularly. As always, we are open to feedback as reflected in the adjustments to pacing and instruction that we made mid-year to continue to support and improve student learning.

What went well: TTO has important advantages. Students, especially at Crittenden, said they have benefitted from Teach to One’s individualized learning and innovation. Teachers had access to daily data about their students’ progress and appreciated TTO’s ability to differentiate math instruction for all students. TTO is flexible and personalized, and helped many students reinforce skills that they might have missed in previous grade levels, as well as provided extra challenge to those who needed it.

What didn’t go well: There were technology problems. We heard the desire for a better balance between teacher-led instruction and Teach to One to provide students a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts. There were concerns that students needed more exposure to grade-level and foundational concepts before advancing to higher-level skills. The rollout did not go as well as hoped; administrators, teachers and students were learning alongside one another.

What's changed significantly in the last 10 days:

On January 5th and 6th we received more data from internal teacher assessments and recent Northwest Evaluation Association Measure of Academic Progress (NWEA MAP) data from TTO. This latest data demonstrates that close to 52 percent of our students are on grade level {55.51% (Graham) and 48.24% (Crittenden)} with 51 percent of our students demonstrating growth equal to or above the national average, which is a drop from 58% of students entering the 6th grade on grade level on CAASPP. However, the former data (teacher-administered assessments) demonstrates students performed at a higher level on the two tested standards RP1 (Ratio and Proportional Relationships standard 1) and RP3 (Ratio and Proportional Relationships standard 3) compared to their peers from the previous years (RP1 61% proficient compared to 49% at the end of the 2015-16 school year and on standard RP3 60% proficient compared to 49% at the end of the 2015-16 school year).

At the heart of our decision-making, the most important factor is if our instructional programs are meeting the needs of all of students. With conflicting data points, it is hard to ascertain if TTO is having a positive impact on student performance because the latest data reports show the results are mixed. Some students aren't performing as well as we had hoped.


Our plan moving forward:

In light of the additional data received on January 5th and 6th, effective immediately, the District will discontinue using Teach to One. Instead, students will have teacher-led instruction with Eureka Math. Meanwhile, teachers, coaches and administrators will work on a plan to include technology to supplement math instruction. We are committed to personalized learning, but can't continue a program that does not meet the needs of all of our students.

There is a Board of Trustees study session scheduled for Jan. 17 at 6:30 p.m., Board Room, 750 A San Pierre Way. To view the materials for this meeting, please visit: Web Link

I close with the words of President Barack Obama:

“So that’s what we mean when we say America is exceptional. Not that our nation has been flawless from the start, but that we have shown the capacity to change…”.

I thank you for your patience, feedback and involvement during this process. I would also like to commend teachers and staff for putting forward their best effort to make this pilot program successful. I look forward to renewing a conversation on how we create a personalized learning environment for all students.

Respectfully,

Dr. Ayindé Rudolph

Superintendent


16 people like this
Posted by @TTO is Gone
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 12, 2017 at 10:43 pm

> We hope that Dr. Rudolph has success during the rest of his career here.

In particular, we hope the rest of his career here is off quite limited duration.


18 people like this
Posted by Really?
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 13, 2017 at 6:56 am

So Ayinde says the reason for dropping TTO is conflicting test scores in January, one test says students are doing better and one that are doing worse?? He can't just say "I made a mistake? Wouldn't the students learn more from that? Unbelievable.

As the above poster said, may the duration of the rest of his contract match the length of TTO. MVWSD is not growing with Ayinde.


2 people like this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 13, 2017 at 7:50 am

@ @ TTO is Gone - A rather wise, long term MVLA administrator told me this bit of wisdom, in the world of School Boards, THE MAGIC NUMBER IS THREE. Coladonato helped directly select and hire Rudolph. I was in the rooms with him as this happened. The same for Wheeler.

Gutierrez has shown both the ability to work with Rudolph, and be independent minded and work to keep him in his proper place (administrator - not CEO/Public Policy decider). Review the Castro/Mistral facility down-sizing cost-saving discussion and vote of the Board.


Blakely has never (yet) shown a rebel/independent streak that indicates she would lead an ouster campaign.

Wilson has shown an independent / rebel-community-organizer streak (Slater reopen), but she has not shown any indication that she would lead an ouster campaign.

- C W G - seems like that is three, the Magic Number, even without B & W -


31 people like this
Posted by Proud of our parents
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Jan 13, 2017 at 2:20 pm

I'm proud of how the parents in this community organized and spoke up to change a program that wasn't working. Dr. Rudolph is never going to thank you but I do! We need parents who are paying attention and holding our elected officials (and their hires) accountable.


17 people like this
Posted by Interested Observer
a resident of another community
on Jan 13, 2017 at 5:10 pm

It's so disappointing to see that former Trustee Steven Nelson continues to post comments and disparaging remarks. His hubris is appalling - who is he, of all people, to categorize and demean the other trustees and the superintendent? He only caused dissension during his tenure - he never contributed to any positive outcomes during his four years!! Why doesn't he just go away!!!You would hope by now that he would have internalized that he is not respected and his comments not welcome.


11 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jan 17, 2017 at 8:58 am

@ Steven Nelson, that is SO inappropriate for you to "size up" and critique any of the old or new trustees! Nobody asked for your evaluation! How incredibly judgmental, rude, and uncalled for!


10 people like this
Posted by Pete Gelbman
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jan 19, 2017 at 10:02 am

Hello,

First: thanks to all folks in the community that supported the concerned parents, students, teachers, and staff - to remove TTO program until it or other programs can be properly evaluated/corrected/piloted moving forward. Some parents really invested a lot of time on this, I really applaud them and rest of us owe them a huge thanks. It's really very unfortunate that that such an effort was required to correct this situation. And that is the real reason for this note.

I find it interesting that so many folks chime in here in anonymous format. I suggest more folks "own" their opinions and words by using their real names.

To the folks that are upset by Steve Nelson's critique of Trustee's. Clearly there is some colorful history around MVWSD past and current staff. I'm personally not privy to all the drama (or interested in it), as my family moved here from Seattle 2 years ago. However, it seems to me that many of Steven Nelson's points are being substantiated by the actions & evidence coming to light.

If anyone is actually following BOD meetings, digesting facts, and in particular attended the recent "study session" (it certainly wasn't a study session, by my definition), it's abundantly clear that there have been numerous violations of MVWSD's own Board Procedures 6161.1 (Web Link==) and possibly CA laws, which led to this buggy program getting improperly implemented. Those procedures and policies are in place for a reason, and they were violated/skipped. Whether due to mistakes, dereliction of duty, or incompetence, I can't tell from all this chatter. But, regardless - these issues are exactly what Trustee's are in place to prevent. This event is not trivial, needs to be corrected, and should clearly be avoided moving forward.

The fact that Ayinde was out of line, is now pretty clearly visible. However, what seems far more important is whether the Board will properly correct itself moving forward, so that this event or worse - does not repeat.

Lack of transparency & accountability are the key issues here, for me. Can't have an honest conversation or real progress, otherwise. So I for one, thank Steven, Christopher and others that use their names and take full responsibility for their comments, however difficult or polarizing their content may seem to some folks. In full disclosure, my first post in this discussion was as "Phreaticus"; at first I didn't want to get too involved and pename was convenient. But, as the seriousness of the situation and facts started unfolding, it seemed only right to properly identify myself as a concerned/engaged parent. I encourage others to do same, so we can collectively set a good example of public transparency for the MVWSD staff and Trustee's.

Best,

Pete


3 people like this
Posted by ST parent
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jan 19, 2017 at 11:03 am

@Pete Gelbman
On parent efforts, I agree, great effort and good outcome, congrats.

On anonymous posting, people do this for a wide variety of perfectly good reasons. Not the least of which is to be able to speak their minds truthfully without fear of retaliation from officials or people they may know. And it helps prevent flame wars across unrelated threads. I stick to one moniker in relation to school stuff, but on other issues I use a different name so that people who disagree with my school related comments don't bring the fight to unrelated articles.

Besides, WHO said something does not effect the actual value or truth of WHAT was said. On the other-hand, HOW it gets said effects the odds of anyone understanding it.

On Steve Nelson, the real problem with Steve Nelson (and I have told him as much before) is that he has always been his own worst enemy about issues he cares about. Even when I have totally agreed with the point he was trying to make in Board meetings or in posts on the MV-Voice, his way of expressing himself usually gets in the way of other people being able to either hear his point or emotionally allowing themselves to consider his intentions as valid or important. His style of communication sabotages his own agenda most of the time.

And I say this from the perspective of someone who has had similar problems myself at times. I was never quite as bad as Mr. Nelson is, but I was pretty bad in the distant past. I have worked hard to understand Mr. Nelson, but even with that effort I often totally miss his intended point, even really good points.

On Superintendent Rudolph, I have liked some of what he has done, disliked some. I recognize that it's his first-time at this job and since I know that I have made mistakes, even bad mistakes, at a new job, I do tend to cut him some slack on beginner mistakes. His job does require the exercise of authority and it's a fine-line he's walking between the proper use of authority and arrogance. Even with a new less aggravating Board, it's still a difficult job.

Dr. Rudolph has learned a lot about how to do his job, but he has much still to learn. Hopefully he will learn how to lead our district without dictating and how to correct mistakes more gracefully and reverse himself when it's best to do so.

The MVWSD has had a really bad history with Superintendents, even before the two separate districts merged many years ago. We've had more too much turn-over and too much controversy and too many different people in the job. I am not surprised the district couldn't find an experienced fully-formed Superintendent to hire.

If we push out Dr. Rudolph before he fully learns his job, how would we ever be able to attract any good talented leaders in the future? Who would want to be Superintendent at MVWSD when we can't tolerate any mistakes?

As Trustee Wheeler is fond of saying, "Don't let the perfect become the enemy of the good."


3 people like this
Posted by I_Got_Mine
a resident of North Whisman
on Jan 19, 2017 at 7:08 pm

Since my parents live in the school district and one retired as a Assistant Administrator of the SJUSD just South of you, I asked her about becoming a school district administrator. The answer was " HELL NO!" and she does not usually use profanity.
However, if you want someone who has had a lot of experience solving problems AND has this retired assistant administrator to provide the people skills ( I fix MANY hardware problems and that is a special learned set of skills ), I could do the job of actually " making a system work properly " and follow all the " rules " that must be implemented THAT A SYSTEM MUST COMPLY WITH TO WORK SUCCESSFULLY.
That original training started in Silicon Valley and was tested by actual use of my training at Cray Research. I lived like a king when I worked in Chippewa Falls simply because housing prices were far less than out on the West Coast. My employer's name also had something to do with that, too. A $50,000 vested Stock Option and an Non-Degreed-Engineering title were just a few of the benefits I learned at Cray Research. It didn't require fancy degrees; we worked as equals and called each other by their first name.
Well times change and things change that affect one personally. The funny part was that I was already aware of what the normal " management ladder " and learned enough at SJSU to know what compromises I would have to make to climb that ladder. I stuck to " problem solving using Statistical Analysis " to determine what could be wrong with a system and how to fix it ". I did end up as a manager at Cray Research. My boss didn't like his " promotion " either. Both of us saw the non-future for Cray Research ( the new CEO " rewarded us " with these promotions and managed to insult the employees at the same time ) and left. I know the value of PROPER communication; I've worked with the future by learning the basics of our World Wide Web. I know how everything works and the ( shudder ) charts and diagrams to keep a complex system running and quickly diagnose and repair parts that are not working.As a result, I ended up doing Project Managing.
Now if the Administration Staff has done THEIR job, the documents, charts and figures should all be there now. If not, how can you diagnose and treat any problems if you don't have the data that you need to assist a boss to find and fix them?
That is a basic problem; No data means people will be knocking at YOUR DOOR demanding that this problem must be fixed and YOU HAVE NO CLUE WHAT THE PROBLEM IS ABOUT! AND you have to go to your boss ( the board ) and honestly tell them you have no idea what the complaints/concerns of the people ( who pay EVERYONE'S SALARY )are about. Or go into Management BS mode and say " We are working on the problem as we speak. "
Since that $500,000 is gone, everyone should examine the mistake of doing business in that manner AND NEVER DO BUSINESS IN THAT MANNER AGAIN! This was what the VP asked me about a mistake I had made once; I fully expected to be fired in that meeting. The above was what was said; the sums we of a similar amount...
Now, you have been given a REALITY BASED SOLUTION TO ANY ONGOING PROBLEMS. Your administrator is not aloof or arrogant, he is running scared, like I have seen many top level managers behave. Maybe he is not but if he isn't, behaving in this manner is a sign that he is in far over his head for this job and has no clue to what he should be doing. Hiding this fact by NOT COMMUNICATING IS DANGEROUS TO THE PEOPLE HE SHOULD BE SERVING and could be grounds for terminating his contract. Yes, a computer is a good tool but does not replace critical thinking ( yet ). ANY COMPUTER IS JUST A TOOL.


4 people like this
Posted by ST parent
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jan 19, 2017 at 7:22 pm

@I_Got_Mine

Uh, gee, I'm ... almost speechless, almost.

Where were you any of the times in the past years when the MVWSD was seeking qualified applicants for the Superintendent?
Did you send in your resume?

I doubt that a post here qualifies.

In any case, as I said, Dr. Rudolph is new at the job so he's bound to make mistakes. I would add that anything that even smells like a mistake becomes instant public fodder.


4 people like this
Posted by More Info
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 19, 2017 at 7:29 pm

EdSurge - an education technology news site based in Burlingame wrote a follow up story with some comments from the district.

Pulling the Plug on a Personalized Learning Pilot
Web Link


12 people like this
Posted by @ST Parent
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 19, 2017 at 8:08 pm

Regarding your statement "If we push out Dr. Rudolph before he fully learns his job, how would we ever be able to attract any good talented leaders in the future?"

Based on Steven Nelson's previous comments, it doesn't seem like the Board even considered experienced superintendents, and that they were looking for someone new and "innovative" (probably due, in large part, to the influence of then Board President Christopher Chaing).

That was the "old" Board. Now with our "new" Board, they can look for an experienced superintendent who has demonstrated competence.

This error was not just a little mistake. It costs over half a million dollars, and clearly demonstrates incompetence. This guy has poor judgment and lacks the basic skills to provide leadership for a complex organization. End of story.


5 people like this
Posted by Pete Gelbman
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jan 20, 2017 at 7:39 am

@ ST parent:

Thx for your comments.

You mentioned "without fear of retaliation from officials or people they may know". Wow, if that sentiment really drives how many folks conduct discourse in a local community forum, that is really spooky... Since I'm new around here, what type of things should I be afraid of? My house TP'ed, pets poisened? Not invited to the cool club parties? Raise my taxes? Is this enough to to get a concealed weapons application approved at MVPD?


Like this comment
Posted by Greg
a resident of Stierlin Estates
on Jan 20, 2017 at 2:43 pm

We wouldn't need so much personalized learning in middle school if we were willing to let kids repeat classes in elementary. There is no reason to take a kid who can't multiply and force them to do sixth grade math.


7 people like this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 20, 2017 at 4:20 pm

"Based on Steven Nelson's previous comments, it doesn't seem like the Board even considered experienced superintendents ..." That is totally incorrect.


Like this comment
Posted by ST parent
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jan 22, 2017 at 6:03 pm

@Pete Gelbman

"@ ST parent:

"You mentioned "without fear of retaliation from officials or people they may know"."

That fear is certainly in people's minds and has certainly happened all over. That fact is at the very core of why journalists protect the identities of their confidential sources.

"Wow, if that sentiment really drives how many folks conduct discourse in a local community forum, that is really spooky..."

Why? The fact that we have freedom to speak our minds without presenting ID first is at the core of our freedom of speech and always has been. Those who would insist on IDs as a condition of speech have no good intentions for doing so.

"Since I'm new around here, what type of things should I be afraid of?"

I suppose that would depend on what you say and who you say it about.
Some comments can even be regarded as crimes and have led to prosecutions.

"My house TP'ed,"...

I've known that one to happen in the past.

The problem with speaking your mind to people in authority is that the have countless means to vent their displeasure with you, if they know who you are. I would refer you to the recent history of the IRS for example.

"Is this enough to to get a concealed weapons application approved at MVPD?"

Total non-sequitur, the only qualification in California that allows a person to get a concealed carry permit is being politically connected with your local county sheriff. Factual need for self-defense has nothing to do with getting a CCW permit in California.


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