.. It’s Swun math, then it gets muddy.

A teacher recently wrote the following to me:

“I found your blog easily since there is so little information about the consistent errors within the Swum materials. This post was written back in February 2015, and here we are in October, [DELETED] my kids have been using the Swun materials. We have seen so many errors that never seem to be corrected and continue to appear year after year. There are clear proofreading errors with language, as well as errors that are mathematically incorrect. Some parents and teachers have made a game of capturing all the errors and submitting to Swun for correction. The correction never comes. Incredible waste of the district’s resources, money ($2M+) and many parents’ time explaining to our kids why the homework is wrong. Makes me very curious to follow the money on this one.”

There are a couple of things to note. First, to protect the identity of the teacher, I deleted a reference that could be used to narrow the scope of those who could have written this note. I did this in case the reports of retaliation against teachers who speak up or speak out are true. I will continue to protect teachers and any other district employees who write.

Second, this teacher wrote, “…my kids…” That may seem like a small point, but it’s not. The attitude of this teacher, that the students in the classroom are “my kids” is indicative of the high caliber of teachers we have in this district. They take this stuff personally. Do not confuse my drum beat of Costa Mesa’s failing Westside schools with a report card on the teachers there. I have written before and will continue to write, that the teachers are not the problem. What is lacking is:

a) Turnaround experts at the head of each school

b) A comprehensive, strategic plan to improve academic performance

Back to Swun math. What does it say about the district administration that teachers are the ones finding errors and reporting them to the Swun people? Shouldn’t that be the job of one or more of the high-salaried executives in the administration? Of course it should. But teachers have probably found that to be a futile effort so they have taken it upon themselves to try to fix the problems. Just one more responsibility they have that detracts from their instructional minutes.

The bottom line, though, is that if there are errors in the program, they never should have reached the classroom. Perfection is not the goal. I once worked for a multiple best-selling author and found a major mistake in one of the books, which was produced by a well known publisher – but the number of Swun errors still being reported indicates a fundamental flaw in their proofreading and math information checking process.

So why hasn’t the district taken action? Why hasn’t the administration suspended the program until the errors are fixed and teachers do not have to spend extra time making corrections?

My answer is, well, I can only guess, but it is consistent with what I have written before. Despite their talk of how much they love our teachers and how valuable they are, blah, blah, blah, they do not value their input. If they did, there would be so many changes in the way our kids are being taught that you wouldn’t recognize the system.

And that – that concept of change – is scary to bureaucrats. They like things just the way they are, even if it affects the academic performance of our students.

So, the district will continue to insist that all is well, even though it is not. Students will be promoted without the skills for the next level and everyone at HQ on Bear St. can go home at 5:00.

Math is connected to everything in life. It is too important a subject to be taught with errors that make it more difficult than it already is for many students.

Steve Smith