Monday, May 6, 2013

"We Don't Have A Communication Problem"

Today all the candidates spoke at the Washington County Public Affairs Forum.   I don't think there were too many surprises-- most of the candidates have made it pretty clear where they stand by now-- but I was amused by my opponent's attempt to refute my point about needing clear and open communication.  [paraphrasing] "We do not have a communication problem, we are great at communicating with the public:  just take a look at our website!"  I think that's a great idea-- please take her up on her challenge, and try to find information about the new Common Core math adoption on the district website, .

To start with, you need to figure out what term to put in the search box.  Actually, before we continue, I should mention that 6 months ago the search box was not there-- it was added as a result of a request from myself and other curriculum committee members.   But OK, it's there now, so I guess we can give the district credit for that.   All our communication problems are now solved, right?   Ummm... maybe not.

I can pretty much guarantee that whatever term you type in, you will get a bunch of apparent matches-- mostly links to powerpoint presentations full of fluff, that happen to mention the math curriculum adoption process in passing.   If you pore through the many useless matches, you may find your way to such exciting documents as the April board packet at , which mentions the curriculum discussion on page 43, or the "listening session" presentation at , which mentions the adoption in passing.     Will you even get far enough to understand that the issue was discussed in a Curriculum Committee meeting?   Where will you find out what happened in the discussion, or why one committee member abstained from voting?   I don't think there's even enough information there to know who to ask.

The real question is:  where would you find a detailed discussion of what were the key issues surrounding this new curriculum?    It would take a lot of work poring through search results in the current system, and as far as I can tell, nobody has been tasked with clearly explaining this new curriculum and the issues surrounding it to the public.   Maybe the district is planning on something later-- but the changes to the middle school math curriculum are a radical restructuring from top to bottom, fundamentally changing the way middle schoolers learn math, and likely to create a parental uproar that dwarfs last year's "grading reform" fiasco.      If we don't clearly explain what it going on now, it will lead to confusion and anger later.

It looks to me like my blog at is the only attempt to explain the key issues surrounding this new curriculum.   We need to be willing to explain and involve the public in ongoing issues like this, not just wait until the decisions are all made and publish a sanitized summary.    Take another look at my blog posts, and I think you will agree that this is a different type of communication than what we currently get from the school board-- and it's the kind of communication that we need in order to truly involve the community.

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