Saturday, December 29, 2007

Background for 2008 Math actions

School mathematics k-12 for 2008 in Washington State promises to be very interesting. During 2007 The State Board of Education spent around $150,000 to hire Linda Plattner's Strategic Teaching to review and make recommendations in regard to the Washington Mathematics Standards. Ms. Plattner's efforts were reviewed and assisted by a 20 person State Board of Education (SBE) Math Advisory Panel of which I was a member. Then (by law SHB2 1906)Dr. Terry Bergeson was supposed to follow these recommendations in selecting a contractor and rewrite team to revise the Washington EARLs and GLEs by following the recommendations put forward by the SBE contractor Strategic Teaching.

Things seem to have gone hay-wire in this hand-off from the SBE to Dr. Bergeson's OSPI. It appears that Dr. Bergeson rather than bringing the Washington standards up to international standards (as required by law) prefers to leave these standards far from an internationally competitive position.

Despite the fact that Dr. Bergeson announced a state-wide system failure in math in August of 2006, she has failed to take responsibility for her part in this disaster.

Instead she is running for re-election for a fourth four year term as Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Her run for re-election appears to have necessitated that she promote the idea that the OSPI math standards are only in minor need of revision. In fact they need close to a complete trashing to bring them to an internationally competitive position.

The current math standards have greatly increased the achievement gap for Black, Hispanic, Limited English, and Low Income students in the Seattle Public Schools in recent years. Many of the textbook series found most aligned with the current OSPI math standards have not prepared anyone particularly well for the college level mathematics. The mathematics preparation required for careers in mathematics, physical science, engineering, nursing, medicine or computer science is greatly lacking.

In the last four years recent high school graduates entering Seattle Central Community College have placed in the following math classes:
22% into college math and
50% can not place into a class above the equivalent of high school math one.

At the University of Washington over the last decade, despite more selective entry requirements, entering students are less prepared mathematically.

The following comes to you from the Seattle Public Schools:

Welcome to the Mathematics Home Page
Revised: 8/30/07

Mathematics is the language and science of patterns and connections.

Doing mathematics is an active process of constructing meaning through exploration and inquiry. --------------------------------------------------------------

This is an extremely narrow definition of the mathematics that is used in the industrially developed world today. Exploration and inquiry describe the cognitive method of instruction. This is among the worst methods of mathematical instruction for Black, Hispanic, Limited English, and Low Income students.

In the PISA international Math testing of 15 year olds given every three years:
In 2003 the USA scored the worst of every English speaking nation.
In 2006 the USA scored statistically significantly worse than in 2003.

The only significant industrially competitive nation that the US surpassed was Italy.
This is may be an argument against lowering the drinking age in the USA but it certainly indicates a large change in the direction of school k-12 math education is in needed.

Unfortunately Dr. Bergeson has no intention of making this large change in Washington State mathematics. It will be interesting to see how the Washington legislature will view Dr. Bergeson's apparent defiance of SHB2 1906, which requires her to follow the recommendations of the SBE's consultant.

The last time I checked most folks saw mathematics as a great tool for accomplishing technical tasks as well as useful in everyday living. It appears that Seattle's and OSPI's math definition of "Mathematics is the language and science of patterns and connections" has ignored this fact. The selection of OSPI's most aligned materials of TERC/Investigations, Everyday Math, Connected Math Project, Core-Plus, and (IMP) Interactive Mathematics Program have produced excellent business for publishers but inadequate mathematical knowledge and skills in our children.