The Oakland school board is back in business. It holds a special meeting at 5 p.m. this evening with the district’s new superintendent to talk strategic priorities, and it met on Saturday as well.
A couple of things on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting, the first regular session since June:
- A new personnel report, in which I learned: Matthew Duffy, the Elmhurst Community Prep principal I profiled in May, is now a Network Executive Officer; Duffy’s assistant principal, Laura Robell, has become acting principal; Elyata Davis is acting principal of REACH; and Claude Jenkins is acting principal of Youth Empowerment School. (The Skyline High School appointment is conspicuously absent, unless I missed it somehow.)
- A hefty $1.78 million, one-year contract for Swun Math, a program first piloted at a handful of elementary schools. This year, if the contract is approved, Swun Math will be in place at 35 elementary and 18 middle schools throughout the district.
Most of the schools using the Swun Math method have seen their test scores rise significantly, according to the charts in this district presentation.
Last year, I observed a Swun lesson in Aijeron Simmons’s class at New Highland Elementary School. It was extremely interactive, structured and high-energy; the kids were really into it. Of course, it was hard to determine how much of that dynamic was created by Simmons — an experienced and passionate math teacher — and how much of it was due to the structure of the Swun program.
Simmons said she liked the Swun method, though she didn’t see it as a magic bullet. She said it essentially teaches only the material that might appear on the state math test, making it almost certain to boost scores. Her kids could crank out operations, she said, but she didn’t know whether they grasped the material on a deeper level.
“That’s the real test of the program: Will these kids pass Algebra in the eighth grade?” she said.
How would you describe your experience (or your child’s experience) with Swun Math? Given its track record on one hand and the district’s tough fiscal situation on the other, is it worth the price?