Hi. For those who don't know me, I'm the 'new kid on the block' [Algpow coordinator] this past year. My comment will be more of a 'complaint' than a 'compliment', but please hear me out first before judging me too harshly.
First, I was properly forewarned by Judy et al. that being a coordinator and/or a mentor was hard work. So I accepted that from the beginning; I'm not afraid of hard work, especially if it is *important* hard work. In fact, it is an honor to be working with such a fine team of dedicated professionals.
What became a pattern of negativity (to me) was the volume of correspondence from a number of students, sometimes expressed in very demanding, indignant, or stressful tones regarding why they hadn't received a reply from a mentor regarding their submission faster -- like the next day or so -- because their teacher was needing it to figure it into the grade card grades. And without it, they would get a low grade on their grade card and it was our (Pow's) fault!
Little did they, or their teacher, know much about our staff's workload and structure, especially that many, in fact most, of the mentor graders are pure volunteers, giving of their free and valuable time to help students learn math. How were we to know when it was grade card time? Why was the teacher using PoW as assignments or test-grade equivalents? It seemed to me that our problem solving with communication of "how it was done" was producing a different approach and effect on the teaching of math. It, and of itself, was a beautiful, laudable concept; but stress was building in the minds of these students as it was just another "hurdle" to jump over on the way to getting a higher report card grade. And, in my humble opinion, perhaps some of the teachers were "using us" -- a free service, conveniently available -- as a way to "get grade numbers" to store in their grade books, not fully realizing just how short-handed we were at doing what we did -- which I think, was pretty darn good.
Before this gets too long, let me say, I feel we must get a clearer message out to the students and schools who avail themselves of our services that PoW is different than regular textbook math in many ways, meant to teach a different, deeper, more thoughtful approach to mathematics. Yes, it can be used to help one's grade card grade, but more as an informal bonus, as opposed to required work. I would have done it that way had I had it available in my time, especially knowing what I know now; or else I would have stepped in to the circle of mentors to do my part of the work involved.
[Please excuse me if I have stepped on anyone's toes. These are just thoughts that come to mind as I relect back on my *rookie* year as a member of the PoW team, a darn good bunch of dedicated people trying to bring out a positive change in math education. I could say more, but maybe this is enough for now. I await any response to this to see if I should say more, or just hold my peace.]