Tuesday, December 30, 2008

High School Math in Seattle

From Harium's Blog since May 2008 there are 227 comments addressed to high school math.
Clearly the High School math adoption situation like almost all math direction in Seattle Schools is an on-going disaster.

Check the confusion for yourself.

Accountability in Seattle .. or NOT

This analysis by Charlie Mas details the SPS failure to follow the Strategic Plan of June 2008.

Exerpts follow....

The Superintendent talks about accountability - and she talks about it incessantly - as if it were something that we should expect next year or the following year. It's something that she is going to insist upon.

Where is the accountability for the Strategic Plan? All of the Strategic Plan initiatives were supposed to have goals set by now - they don't. They were all supposed to have their benchmarks set by now - they don't. They are all supposed to comply with the Community Engagement Protocol - they don't.

* Where is the aligned math and science curricula?
* The High School math curriculum was supposed to be adopted in fall of 2008. It wasn't. Who is accountable for the delay and who is holding that person accountable?

* The High School science curriculum was supposed to be adopted in the fall of 2008. It wasn't. Who is accountable for the delay and who is holding that person accountable?
* Alignment of the elementary and middle school instructional materials to the new State Performance Expectations was supposed to be completed during the summer of 2008. Was it?
* Every math teacher was to be provided with up to four days of professional development to learn to use the online resources included with the Curriculum Guide. Were they? Every math teacher was supposed to get training on the new state standards including math content and materials. Did this happen?

* Were new principals matched with a coach and are they getting monthly support meetings?
* The math and science curriculum alignment team was supposed to have the full scope of their work outlined and timelined by fall 2008. Where is it?
* Expanded professional development programs were supposed to be implemented in the fall of 2008. Were they?

Math in Lebanon, Oregon

Here is an article from the Oregonian by a reporter that follows math closely.


The Northwest Regional Education Laboratory, a Portland-based research and training agency, helped train more than 60 Lebanon teachers in the new math approach.

It is based largely on a teacher training technique called Cognitively Guided Instruction, or CGI, developed by education researchers at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Among the core ideas, according to CGI co-developer Thomas Carpenter:

Young children know more about math than most adults think they do. Ask kids to talk a lot about their mathematical reasoning and then add to what they already know. In Lebanon, teachers strive not to say "That was the wrong answer." They lean toward, "Can you tell me about your thinking?"

Anyone know much about the Math Content of the Oregon tests referred to below:

Lebanon schools shine in math...
Percent of students who met state math benchmarks in 2008:

• Grade 3: 77
• Grade 5: 86
• Grade 8: 82

Similar schools*:
• Grade 3: 77
• Grade 5: 78
• Grade 8: 66

State average:
• Grade 3: 77
• Grade 5: 77
• Grade 8: 69

* Schools similar to Lebanon, where about half the students qualify for federally subsidized meals based on low family income.

-- Source: Analysis by The Oregonian of Oregon Department of Education figures

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Math Gender Gap is real

Here is a well researched article that states the there is a Gender Gap in school mathematics that favors males after puberty when the problems are less than trivial.
Prior to puberty no math gender gap.
This Gap shows up in High School and College.


As an aside there apparently is a Chess gender gap among the best chess players in the world.

Friday, December 19, 2008

State Education Funding cuts could have been worse

For Education things could have been worse.
(Here is the Gov's plan)

The Gov's proposals:

Check the story in the Tribune.

highlight this:

Eliminating the math helping corps and reading corps.

Refocusing two state-funded training days on math and science.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

NMAP aftershock - Edu-Speakers speak

It appears that the National Math Advisory Panel report has ruffled some of the feathers of those who support entrenched edu-speak views.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Math instruction via You Tube

The Kahn Academy is here


From the AP:

Need help with class? YouTube videos await


MIAMI (AP) — When University of Central Florida junior Nicole Nissim got stumped in trigonometry, she checked out what was showing on YouTube.

Nissim typically scours the video-sharing Web site for clips of bands and comedy skits. But this time she wasn't there to procrastinate on her homework. It turned out YouTube was also full of math videos. After watching a couple, the psychology major says, she finally understood trig equations and how to make graphs.

"I was able to watch them at my own pace and if I didn't get a concept, I could easily rewind it," Nissim says. "It was a lot clearer once I watched the video."

YouTube is perhaps best known for its cavalcade of homemade performances and TV clips, but many people like Nissim are turning to it for free tutoring in math, science and other complicated subjects.

full article is here:

Saga of a top 5 high school
as rated by
US News & World Report

The solution of how to improve schools involves better decision making by those running the schools or perhaps changing the decision making structure.

See this letter by Jim Milgrim about a top 5 school:

By far the most interesting school on the list is #3, Pacific Collegiate, which was #2 last year. This school, in Santa Cruz, as is the case with all charters in California, is an open admission school. Santa Cruz is not known for its school system. They tend to be fuzzy, and the cost to the two teachers from Santa Cruz that helped me and Wu with the California Math Framework was to be forced out of their jobs. As a consequence, as you might imagine, the student tend to not be very well prepared for advanced work.

The school had been started by Reed Hastings, but he has not been directly involved for a long time. And initially it wasn't that successful. Then, about 8 or 9 years back they hired Jan Keating as the principal/directore ss. She, in turn, took the perspective that teachers who knew what they were talking about were far more important than teachers with a certificate. So she started hiring subject matter Ph.D's. Some had been retired, others ????, but she got them.

From that point on she had to spend a lot of her time finding ways to keep them, not because they wanted to leave, but because,
being Ph.D's, they refused to jump through Calif.'s certification hoops. And the school started showing results amazingly fast. Within two years they were #1 or #2 overall in Calif. on the state tests.

Of course, interestingly, once the school reached that level, political types on the school board saw that the director position was a valuable commodity, so Jan, more or less totally oblivious to these things, had to start fighting for her position. She lasted another two years before she finally resigned. She's now the director of EPGY's virtual high school.


PCS--A School that Challenges and Rewards:
Pacific Collegiate School ’s mission is to provide exemplary, standards- based college preparatory and fine arts education for public middle and high school students of Santa Cruz County and bordering areas. Our vision is to offer any student the same quality of education offered by the most academically distinguished schools in California . Our graduates will be prepared to enter and thrive at the world’s finest colleges and universities.

In addition to a core college preparatory curriculum, Pacific Collegiate School will emphasize international, cross-cultural, and technological education in order to prepare graduates for life in the 21st Century. Pacific Collegiate students will be introduced to the rich variety of world cultures and become fluent in at least one foreign language. They will become proficient in the basic information technologies essential for cultural literacy in the 21st Century.

Founded in 1999, Pacific Collegiate School is a college preparatory public charter school for grades 7-12 located in Santa Cruz, California, and accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Due to our rigorous graduation requirements, we attract a highly motivated group of students who flourish in the school's academically challenging environment.

Friday, December 12, 2008

SPS second math meeting was 12-11-2008

Here we go again.....second meeting for the coming high school math adoption in Seattle happened on Thursday 12-11-2008.

There can be little improvement without an admission that there is a problem. I am not talking about a recovery from alcoholism or the AAA rated bonds that turned to junk almost over night, I am talking about Seattle Schools math direction.

Over the last decade there has been a widening math achievement gap and an increase in percentage of students in need of math remediation at Seattle Community colleges, the Seattle Schools still operate as if there is no problem. This district has ignored their own policies for over a decade by refusing to offer interventions for those lacking grade level necessary skills in math. Now the district is choosing to ignore the state math standards. The SPS have posted k-8 grade level performance expectations for elementary and middle school on the SPS website. These expectations come from the state math standards. Unfortunately the SPS instructional plans for the classroom have nothing to do with these expectations. K-5 the district prefers to follow the pacing plan from Everyday Mathematics. It seems that to do otherwise would be an admonition that all is not well. That the multimillion dollar Everyday Math adoption was not well planned or researched.

Fact 1: The SPS still has the same defective definition of math guiding them.

Fact 2: The SPS is ignoring the National Math Advisory Panel recommendations in following the Everyday Math pacing plan.

Fact 3: More than 50% of students are coming to high school unprepared to be successful as 9th graders in an authentic algebra class. So look for the SPS to adopt a program like the differentiated instruction integrated math selections that they pushed in the past {perhaps not IMP but something that requires less than a good knowledge of arithmetic}.

Fact 4: There is a High School math adoption coming. Since the SPS has never changed direction or admitted inadequacy it is likely a third poor math selection will be made.
Spring 2006 – Connected Math Project 2 - for middle school
May 2007 – Everyday Math – for elementary school
Spring 2009 - the selection high school selection will probably make the district 0 for 3 on recent successful math adoptions.

Fact 5: The people have lost control of the administration at not just the National Level but also at the local school level.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

TIMSS blog in the Washington Post


Philly Inquirer reports on
Singapore Math

From the end of the article:

Opinions vary on how to best tackle the international competitiveness problem. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics hopes to work with states to narrow and focus what they teach. Schmidt advocates a single national math curriculum.

"What Singapore has," he said, "is a coherent, focused, rigorous set of standards, and that's the competition our kids are facing."

Check it out here:

Bail out Banks or Schools?
....from Robert Reich

Check out this TPM...

Talking Points Memo

Former Labor Secretary: Invest in schools, not banks
Even as Congress grants billions to Wall Street, public schools face unprecedented cuts, writes former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich in a blog. "It's absurd," he writes. "We're squeezing the main sources of our nation's human capital. Yet America's future competitiveness and the standard of living of our people depend largely our peoples' skills, and our capacities to communicate and solve problems and innovate not on our ability to borrow money."

More on School teachers and Quarterbacks

A response to the New Yorker article...


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

OSPI makes last minute recommendation of Bridges for K-5

Dear State Board of Education Members, Dec 10, 2008

Unlike some members I have been to every SBE Math Advisory Panel meeting. As I carefully watched this math process, it became apparent to me that it turned into something other than what the Legislature intended and what the citizens desire for their children.

I have a lawsuit filed in Thurston County Superior Court because of this matter. The Legislature attempted to remove the excessive OSPI influence over mathematics but this failed in regard to the math standards as they are not the internationally competitive standards desired. ... think about it Singapore Math finished last rated as an outlier.

Now here comes another OSPI surprise Bridges in Mathematics as a last minute k-5 math recommendation.

Read the following carefully:

Acting on the SBE’s advice to revisit Bridges in Mathematics, my staff commissioned two additional, independent mathematicians to review the three mathematical concepts which were called into question by Strategic Teaching’s review. They thoroughly analyzed the development of multiplication, area of a triangle, and fractions over Grades 2-5 for mathematical soundness. Their approach aligned closely with the mathematical review conducted by Strategic Teaching’s mathematician. Dr. Jim King from the University of Washington’s Department of Mathematics and Dr. George Bright, Professor Emeritus from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro conducted OSPI’s review for mathematical soundness. They concluded that the mathematical content in this program was sound and well developed overall.

This is beyond belief. George Bright was hired by Dr. Bergeson to push her math agenda. He was her hired gun. To call him an independent mathematician is fraudulent.

Dr Jim King ran the PD cubed professional development project using NSF funds to push the reform math program Interactive Math Program into Seattle Schools Garfield and Cleveland. Cleveland, Garfield, and West Seattle were all part of PD Cubed. Dr King told West Seattle that WSHS could pick their own project. Then when WSHS selected as a project to use Singapore Math for remediation of incoming freshman.... WSHS was not allowed to do so ... because Dr King wanted WSHS to have a project using IMP and only IMP.

So WSHS chose no project for WSHS had used IMP longer than any high school in Seattle and it does not work if the goal is to produce significant increase in student competence in mathematics. There is lots of data from Tacoma and University Place to support this. Each of these districts adopted IMP and then got rid of it as scores plummeted.

Take a look at IMP results in the two years it has been used at Cleveland .... just a disaster.

To call Dr King an independent mathematician is simply not true.

Before you make a decision

As yourself why you wish to make the next big mistake.

Look at the Cleveland data here.


The Seattle Public Schools have had an achievement gap in math that has steadily widened over the last decade. Certainly some of that can be traced to Dr King's reform math efforts and his close proximity to Seattle Public Schools.

The Stuff that OSPI and the UW have been pushing does not work.

It is time for the SBE to end the support of irrational decision making for the sake of Washington's children.


Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.

SBE Math Advisory Panelist
Math Teacher at Lummi Nations School
Bellingham WA 98226

NCLB Highly Qualified in Math and Chemistry
B.A. Math, M.Ed.

TIMSS Results for 2007 just released

Here is your link:


NPR on TIMSS results:

Monday, December 8, 2008

The New Yorker looks at Teaching

So who would make a good teacher?

The NFL has certainly struggled to be able to determine who will make a good quarterback.... think Ryan Leaf, Joey Harrington, Rick Meier, etc. lots of bonus money but no results.

This New Yorker article looks at teaching and how can we find the individuals that will make excellent teachers .... hey who are the excellent teachers? What is it that they do?


So where will these teachers come from in this Math teacher shortage?
Is it a shortage of teachers or a shortage of good teachers?
Is there a shortage of good administrators?

With poor administration, teachers become frustrated and look elsewhere.
Math teachers can find other employment quite easily.

How much math does an elementary teacher need to know?
How will it be learned by Elementary teachers?

Seattle has offered professional developement but often it centers on anything but math content. Teachers are content weak in math so the SPS offers more classes on teaching methods and technique rather then math.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

High School Adoption Schedule for Seattle.

The first meeting was on December 4, 2008.

March 12 -- Final recommendations from "Core" committee
March 17 -- Final recommendations from "Advanced" committee
March 18 - 31 -- IMC approves final recommendations
April 8 -- Board work session
April 22 -- Adoption proposed at board meeting
May 6 -- Board vote

I am still amazed that a school district that is ignoring the WA k-8 math standards and the National Math Advisory Panel recommendations, expects to be taken seriously about a high school math adoption.

Since the district administration has chosen not to efficiently teach children arithmetic and does not prepare them for success in an authentic algebra class, why would they be having a high school math adoption?
As Director Darlene Flynn said: "The district does not have a good record with math adoptions."

The SPS seems headed to consistent choices .. just one disaster after another.

A better use of SPS money ... from the Colbert Report

A great suggestion from Marta.

Dan Dempsey wrote:

Now a large expenditure of both time and money is producing substandard results but the SPS administrators continue on as if all is going well.

*It is time to end "Club Ed" decision making and focus on making decisions that will produce substantial academic improvement in a cost efficient manner*.


Maybe Seattle should consider this exciting new pilot program in the hopes of producing substantial academic improvements:


I think this idea has merit.

Marta :)

This is from the Colbert Report on Dec 1, 2008
Roland Fryer, PhD Economist from Harvard
offers a plan to improve urban schools currently being tested in NYC, Chicago, and D.C.

It sure looks like this might even be a better idea than spending money on Math Coaches and a bloated Bureaucracy that has failed to provide significant academic gains.

In regard to the achievement gap for African-American students that Dr. Fryer references, I can only say from a Seattle Analysis that "It is the curriculum".
Over a decade of widening achievement gap in Math for African Americans in the SPS and still no change in the reform math ideological thrust pushed by the SPS administration.

For the Superintendent to say that the IMP high school math adoption process only failed because of politics is most enlightening. It shows her continued allegiance to the nonsense peddled by the UW and her CAO.

There can be little doubt as to why Singapore Math was not implemented in the manner expected by the SPS Board during the 5-30-2007 Elementary Math adoption. The Central Administration just did not want to do what the board told them to do.

There is little doubt as to why the SPS has ignored the WA k-8 math standards this year for the k-8 math curriculum. The Central Administration does not like them. In fact it appears that the Math Program Manager and the CAO do not like the National Math Advisory Panel recommendations.

Let us not forget why the Promotion / Non-promotion polices of the Seattle Schools that require defined grade level necessary skills and on-going interventions for those not acquiring the defined skills have been totally neglected.
The Central Administration does not like those policies.

It is indeed interesting that the Board imagines themselves to be anything other than a rubber stamp for the central administration on at least 95% of their decisions.

WOW!!!! get ready for the coming High School Math adoption. Should we look to the board for leadership??

Friday, December 5, 2008

After the recession.... then what?

When we come out of the recession,” Mr. Callan added, “we’re really going to be in jeopardy, because the educational gap between our work force and the rest of the world will make it very hard to be competitive. Already, we’re one of the few countries where 25- to 34-year-olds are less educated than older workers.”



Secretary of Education will be ..... ???

Here is a Washington Post article:

and a New York Times article from David Brooks:



Irrational decision making Cubed

It was reported that the following statement was made at the first meeting (of the current cycle) of the Seattle Schools High School Math adoption committee on Dec 4, 2008.

The Superintendent spoke for a couple of minutes. She said that the last high school adoption process failed because of "politics" and that the actual committee process was just fine.

This is not the case. The IMP adoption failed not because of politics but because the school board acted in a responsible manner.
IMP had previously failed in Tacoma and in University Place. The fact that the UW's Dr James King used NSF dollars at Garfield and Cleveland to implement IMP was hardly a reason to adopt a failing curriculum. We can also see that recommendations in regard to math k-12 by OSPI were extremely flawed. IMP was recommended by OSPI until recently. The fact that the School Board had the courage not to waste millions on IMP should not be viewed as anything other than wonderful. If only they had done the same for Everyday Math, instead of following the recommendations of their hired professionals and wasting millions.

Some members of the administration have apparently cooperated in a conspiracy to subvert the intention of the School Board in regard to the Elementary School Math adoption by neglecting the intent of the board in regard to Singapore Math. Our k-8 students continue to be poorly prepared to take high school algebra because of a very poor k-8 math curriculum. Cleveland used IMP in SY 2006-2007 and SY 2007-2008. Take a look at the WASL Math data from Cleveland for spring 2007 and spring 2008... it is a disaster. This is what happened using IMP with support from the UW directed NSF funds (PD^3 project) and UW guidance. Imagine what the IMP implementation would have been like district wide without additional resources. (Think Tacoma). The SPS IMP high school adoption failed because the selection was extremely flawed.

The fact that SPS administrative politics and deception did not push IMP through was a blessing as this process was terribly flawed. That made the last attempt at a high school math adoption not much different from most SPS math decisions of the last decade with the exception that this recommendation did not become an expensive mistake.

I testified to the school board questioning how TERC/Investigations, Everyday Math, CMP2 and IMP could be finalists. When four extremely flawed programs are the finalists, the process is a disaster.

The fact that the Superintendent believes the last high school math adoption process was just fine, is a cause of great concern.

Given that the first year of EDM was a statistical and economic failure and that in year two of EDM finds the WA k-5 math standards not being addressed and the NMAP recommendations being ignored, makes the SPS math future look like more of the same disasters of the past repeated.

The thought that IMP was in anyway a reasonable choice for high school level mathematics is unbelievable. This shows how far out of touch the SPS administration still is in regard to math. Where are the results? There clearly is no accountability for bad judgments in the past and as a result it seems flawed decisions are viewed as acceptable. We must stop continued flawed decision making. This district is still avoiding dealing with the k-8 math disaster apparently preferring to think an excessive dollar expenditure is producing acceptable results.

A quick look at EDM reveals that High School Math will be a continuing problem as students are not properly prepared to do mathematics in the critical k-3 grades. Again the district chooses to ignore relevant research on disadvantaged learners k-3 in math. This district has publicly voiced concern about the achievement gap and for a decade usually expanded that gap in math on an annual basis.

Now a large expenditure of both time and money is producing substandard results but the SPS administrators continue on as if all is going well.

It is time to end "Club Ed" decision making and focus on making decisions that will produce substantial academic improvement in a cost efficient manner.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What is the NSF possibly thinking?
My thoughts on PD Cubed (PD^3) follow:

What is the NSF possibly thinking??
My thoughts on PD Cubed (PD^3) follow:

In the 2006-2007 School Year, I taught at West Seattle High School.
The University of Washington was a grant recipient from the NSF for Professional Development Cubed. This was a program that involved 3 cities, 3 Universities, and three high schools in each of the 3 cities: Seattle, Cincinnati, McAllen TX.

Seattle’s three high schools were Cleveland, Garfield, and West Seattle. Cleveland and Garfield started the implementation of planned projects SY 2006-2007. West Seattle did not. In spring 2007 Dr. James King of the University of Washington met with WSHS Math Teachers and asked if we would be interested in beginning a project of our choosing as there were resources available to fund a project. He stressed that we did not need to have a project but if we wanted a project we could choose to have one. He also said we could determine what the project would be.

Later that spring after conversations with WSHS math department head, Mark Drost, and other Math faculty I told Dr King that WSHS was interested in using Singapore Math in a remediation program and that would be our project. Dr King told me that Cleveland and Garfield projects centered on implementing Interactive Math Program and that our Singapore Plan was unacceptable. He made it clear that WSHS need to be planning a project similar to Cleveland and Garfield. When I asked him for data that would be supportive of implementing IMP, Dr King could only provide anecdotes. As IMP was unsuccessful in Tacoma and in University place …. there is data to show this, I was less than impressed with anecdotes being as a basis for a questionable project. This made the WSHS choice very easy. WSHS was the first high school in Seattle to begin using Interactive Math Program materials. Most WSHS faculty had no interest in an IMP project. Thus WSHS had no project. We were denied the opportunity to have a Singapore remediation project by Dr King.

In the fall of 2006, Cleveland began using IMP and received additional resources beyond those normally available. Nicole Davis a UW post-grad student with extensive teaching experience was teaching some classes (perhaps 2) at Cleveland and coordinating the IMP implementation at Cleveland.

So how did it go at Cleveland?

You will find the WASL data on the next page.

My question is why does the NSF fund programs that require projects like IMP and discourage trying something that has not already failed?

I think that Dr King exceeded his authority in requiring WSHS to have a project based on IMP or no project.

Let us take a look at Cleveland WASL math pass rates from two years before the PD^3 IMP introduction. Cleveland enrollment: 55% Black Students and 25% Asian Students
..........Cleveland::Seattle::State for all students
Spring 2005 23.2%:40.8:47.5
Spring 2006 21.1% 55.7 51.0
Spring 2007 17.9% 50.2 50.4
Spring 2008 12.0% 50.3 49.3

..........Cleveland::Seattle::State for Black students
Spring 2005 16.5% 12.9 20.4
Spring 2006 8.5% 21.7 23.2
Spring 2007 11.1% 19.6 22.5
Spring 2008 6.3% 15.9 22.0

..........Cleveland::Seattle::State for Asian students
Spring 2005 38.0% 45.7 56.9
Spring 2006 42.4% 57.7 59.7
Spring 2007 31.8% 51.9 59.9
Spring 2008 25.0% 56.6 61.1

..........Cleveland for Continuously Enrolled Students
Spring 2005 25.3%
Spring 2006
Spring 2007 19.4%
Spring 2008 13.1%

..........Cleveland for Limited English
Spring 2005 8.3%
Spring 2006 18.8%
Spring 2007 15.4%
Spring 2008 4.5%

..........Cleveland for Low Income
Spring 2005 15.7%
Spring 2006 22.2%
Spring 2007 17.1%
Spring 2008 8.8%

Monday, December 1, 2008

SPS letters and thoughts

I got a response from Anna-Maria de la Fuentes in regard to my letter of 11-29-2008which was posted on Nov 30, 2008.

Here is her response and my reply:
--- On Mon, 12/1/08, delaFuente, AnnaMaria wrote:

Hello Dan,

I have written an update for our math website that addresses some of your questions. It is currently being reviewed by the Communications department, and I expect it will be posted within the next day or two. I am also in communications with other local districts (and urban districts across the country) who are using Everyday Math, which does indeed spiral, and who have successfully implemented the materials to support their new standards.

As part of the alignment project, our elementary math coaches are examining Everyday Math materials and determining where the new PEs are mastered, and where they are not. When they determine that a standard will not be mastered at the appropriate grade level, they will be identifying what move to make – either supplementing or actually moving a particular lesson or unit. During this year, they will also be developing model math block lessons that teachers will be able to access.

The elementary math adoption was already completed, as you know. Our current funding allows us to complete our adoption process with high school mathematics, which is in progress now. I appreciate your concerns about student learning. Once the update is posted on our website, I hope you will email me directly with any feedback or suggestions that you have.

Thank you.



Anna-Maria, 12-01-2008

The NMAP is particularly critical of the spiraling within programs like Everyday Math. The fact that EDM spirals is not a strength. I remain particularly concerned with the SPS definition of mathematics, which I believe is a cause of our poor direction in mathematics and has been for the last decade.

Do you think this definition is in need of correction? Please specifically address this definition.

Are you telling me that you believe that the current posting of the Math Grade level performance expectations is NOT deceptive given the current math practices of the SPS?

The funding is present for a high school math adoption ... unfortunately the past two adoptions leave the district currently a long way from addressing the posted Grade level performance expectations. Until the district can demonstrate a reasonable plan to address the posted k-8 expectations, it does not seem reasonable to have a high school math adoption.

The district seems to be very good at going through the motions ... but unable to effectively address how to bring about academic improvement. Why should anyone believe that the high school math adoption if it takes place this year will be any more successful than the recent EDM adoption. It should be noted that current district instructional practices and adopted curricula in math k-8 largely ignore the NMAP recommendations and the new state math standards. Why is the EDM pacing plan still being followed?

Ms. Santorno's testimony of 5-16-2007 indicated that it would be very easy to adapt EDM to any change in state standards. The k-8 standards were adopted in April 2008. It seems the SPS neglected to easily adapt EDM to the changes in state standards, but did post the Grade level math performance expectations and apparently ignore these expectations for SY 2008-2009.

Thanks for the prompt response.



It appears from Anna-Maria's answer that the SPS still believes that EDM is based on sound methodology. This district has a long way to go to improve things. Looks like that definition of mathematics is still in place and the SPS is still on the road to nowhere.

The definition of mathematics according to the SPS.
As found at:


Mathematics is the language and science of patterns and connections. Learning and doing mathematics are active processes in which students construct meaning through exploration and inquiry of challenging problems.

Now you know why we as a nation are doing so poorly on TIMSS and PISA math because many of our nations school districts have no idea what they are doing in math from the basic definition on up. Still no sign of change for the positive in the SPS.

On 21st Century Jobs by Sudhakar

Check out the latest on Sudhakar's blog:


Data driven decisions.... well maybe

Here is a nice piece on the use and more likely misuse of data in educational decision making.

Horse Laughs in Singapore

This is a piece from 2005 that I just saw for the first time.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Conflict of interest ... ya you betcha

This is an interesting piece from Missouri.


from the post:
Understand: The amount of NSF "Research Money" that has been thrown to our largest state university...Mizzou.

The MU (University of Missouri) College of Education is a major national center for advocates of "inquiry-based" and "research-based" methods in mathematics and science education.

The list of MU College of Education faculty with multi-million dollar education grant support includes:

Barbara Reys - $25,150,773 on 7 NSF education grants
Robert Reys - $18,193,249 on 13 NSF education grants ( I do not know if he is any relation to Barbara Reys)
Kathryn Chval - $13,693,416 on 3 NSF education grants
Fran Arbaugh - $7,902,368 on 5 NSF education grants
James Tarr - $7,037,981 on 2 NSF education grants
Sandra Abell - $4,773,073 on 8 NSF Education grants
Doug Grouws - $3,407,016 on 5 NSF Education grants
John Lannin - $2,610,009 on 3 NSF Education grants

Letter to the SPS Math Program Manager

Dear Anna-Maria de la Fuentes, 11-29-2008

In the SPS board meeting of 5-16-2007 Ms. Santorno said that should the state reduce the number of topics at particular grade levels we can certainly align our EDM math program to do that. She also said she was very impressed with Singapore Math. She said automaticity of math multiplication facts was necessary by grade 3. Darlene Flynn said the SPS has a very poor track record on math adoptions.

It is my opinion that the Seattle Public Schools are currently deceiving the public by the publishing of New Mathematics Performance Expectations – Condensed format on the SPS website at: http://www.seattleschools.org/area/math/newmathstandardspe/index.dxml

Clearly the Seattle Schools are not focusing the k-8 math curricula on these expectations. It seems fraudulent to post math expectations without action that focuses on them. The continued following of the Everyday Math pacing plan shows the SPS to be in opposition to the performance expectations posted on the website.

For many years the SPS has deceived the public by refusing to follow School Board policies D44.00 and D45.00 in regard to the requirement for defined necessary skills at each grade level that are frequently assessed. The required interventions cannot take place because of continuing district negligence.

The SPS math folly can only continue when the board members believe they are in a position to adopt a high school math program when k-8 the program leaves huge portions of the student population unable to do high school level mathematics because of an inadequate student skill base.

The continuation of total fidelity to EDM, which is a spiraled curriculum that is ineffective, needs a full explanation. Instead of narrowing topics and focusing on mastery as happens in a strand curriculum like Singapore Math, EDM has an extremely large number of topics at each grade level. Why does the district ignore the ideas emphasized by the National Math Advisory Panel and the new WA State Math Standards k-8?

Please provide an explanation if you intend to keep the Mathematics performance expectations posted on the SPS website.

I would also like an explanation as to why the following definition of math is still posted on the website: Mathematics is the language and science of patterns and connections. Learning and doing mathematics are active processes in which students construct meaning through exploration and inquiry of challenging problems.

Is this definition of mathematics that you and the district administration believes forms the core of the learning of mathematics for our students? If so there is little possibility for substantial measurable academic gains in high school level mathematics skills in the next decade. I would encourage the board to provide much better guidance in the future for SPS math program adoptions as the decade of SPS math disaster will be continuing as long as this math definition guides the SPS.

The included attachment contains the following:

Results of standardized mathematics assessments suggest that students in the United States are increasingly deficient in mathematics as they enter middle and high school.

….. If accuracy and fluency in basic skills are necessary for acquisition of higher-level conceptual mathematical understanding (Wu, 1999), could it be that the gradual decline of U.S. students in mathematics as they progress through school is related to the inadequate foundation laid by traditional elementary mathematics basal textbooks?

The spiral design found in the majority of math textbooks does not promote mastery of the fundamental mathematical concepts on which higher-level mathematics are built. The potential for the strand curricula to improve textbooks cannot be underestimated… Although organizing textbooks around strands is not a panacea for eliminating poor performance in mathematics, it is a powerful tool for improving instruction. Textbooks are part of teachers’ toolbox and educators need to improve their “access to tools that work” (Carnine, 1992, p. 1). The strand design is one component of an effective instructional program that increases opportunities for all children to learn.

Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.

Monday, November 24, 2008

About SPS Math ... a letter

Dear Directors and Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson,

I am teaching at Lummi Nations School a k-12 school that used Everyday Math until this year. I am teaching many high school students who only know how to multiply by the lattice method and do not know the standard algorithm for multiplication. Very few students can capably divide as the lattice method is useless for the long division algorithm.

The question now goes back to the EDM math adoption of May 30th 2007 on that evening the board was assured by CAO Santorno that arithmetic fluency would be happening, is it? Given that the SPS is now in its second year of fidelity of implementation to the EDM pacing plan ... I can assure you that the promises of arithmetic fluency are not being fulfilled.

The SPS has chosen to disregard the National Math Advisory Panel recommendations as well as the k-8 math standards. This SPS refusal to depart from the EDM pacing plan and CMP2 usage is harming many of our students substanitally for yet another year. Dispite a large increase in math instructional time in SPS classrooms in 2007-2008 the WASL results for EDM grades were quite disappointing from Spring 2007 to Spring 2008. This increase of time saw White 4th and 5th graders performing worse by comparison with state numbers from 2007 to 2008 and Hispanic 4th graders scored substantially worse.

Why has the school district refused to change direction? Is there some reason to wait until SY 2009-2010 to begin preparing students to do the mathematics needed to be successful on the Spring 2010 math WASL? Why not prepare our students mathematically to eventually be successful in real high school level math rather than wait until next year?


Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Math and Science WASL (just say No?)

Here is an interesting piece...


What are your thoughts?

WOW!!! Just say NO
That sure would give the SPS something to think about as they are not altering k-8 math in anyway for 2008-2009 school year. The NMAP and New State Math k-8 standards came out last Spring.... The SPS did not even notice ...supposedly because of no change in the 2009 Math WASL.

New Jersey and the State Standards fight


is the website for the New Jersey group
attempting to get the "World Class"
Math Standards in New Jersey.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

New WA Math Standards ... Seattle does not care

It is absolutely amazing....
the following comes from Director Harium Martin-Morris:

In talking with the staff, it was explained that the reason the reports still have the old GLE standards for math is because that is what the students for the 2008/2009 school year will be tested on for the WASL. The report card next year will reflect the new math standards as will the WASL

The alignment of EDM to new standards is currently underway according to Ms de la Fuente.

This means that despite the fact that new k-8 standards for math were in place in April 2008 the SPS just decided to ignore this for another school year.

SPS is prefectly content to bumble along with the Everday Math pacing plan for another entire school year. WOW!!! let us just waste another year.
Now since EDM implementation occured with a large increase in math teaching time during the school day in 2007-2008 you would expect an increase in Seattle Math WASL pass rates from Spring 2007 to Spring 2008 vs State where the math content time taught during the school day was likely nearly the same in 2008 as in 2007.

White students in the SPS compared with white students at the state level
... pass rate differentials
grade ... 2007 ... 2008 .. change
3 ... +9.6 ... + 12.2 .. (+2.6)
4 ... +14.7 ... +13.2 .. (-1.5)
5 ... +15.4 ... +13.5 .. (-1.9)

So the EDM implementation year 2007-2008 in which there was a large increase in instructional time ( at most schools from at least 25% increase to a 40% time increase at others ) was accompanied by a pass rate decline relative to state averages for white students in grade 4 and grade 5.

Is the board now telling us that they agree with the Central Staff that a continuation of the EDM pacing plan makes sense for our students..... Please explain that to parents of White 4th and 5th graders.

Let us see what happens when a real math test shows up in Spring 2010. No wonder those 60 profs at UW signed a letter saying that scholastic math k-12 is in increasingly sad shape. The SPS response .... ignore everyone.

Imagine what could have happened with that large increase in instructional time and competent math leadership. .... Keep waiting.....

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Math in Seattle on Harium's Blog

Lots of comments here.


Academic Math Leadership is apparently missing in the SPS.
New standards for k-8 math are making no difference in classrooms.

Also going on the Seattle Public Schools Community Blog at

To SAT or not ... Test passes Colleges fail

From the New York Times:


The Test Passes, Colleges Fail
Stony Brook, N.Y.

FOR some years now, many elite American colleges have been downgrading the role of standardized tests like the SAT in deciding which applicants are admitted, or have even discarded their use altogether. While some institutions justify this move primarily as a way to enroll a more diverse group of students, an increasing number claim that the SAT is a poor predictor of academic success in college, especially compared with high school grade-point averages.

Are they correct?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Parental Rights

Parental Rights??

Being a Washington State resident I am well aware of the difficulty of trying to effectively raise uncooperative children who are age 12 or above in WA state.

The situation descibed next makes one wonder about the sanity of state law.


It requires discipline and effort to learn mathematics.
Discipline and effort contribute to a meaningful life.
Good luck with that in WA.

From the above link:

In the early 1980s, a landmark parental rights case reached the Washington State Supreme Court. The case involved 13-year-old Sheila Marie Sumey, whose parents were alarmed when they found evidence of their daughter's participation in illegal drug activity and escalating sexual involvement. Their response was to act immediately to cut off the negative influences in their daughter's life by grounding her.

But when Sheila went to her school counselors complaining about her parent's actions, she was advised that she could be liberated from her parents because there was "conflict between parent and child." Listening to the advice she had received, Sheila notified Child Protective Services (CPS) about her situation. She was subsequently removed from her home and placed in foster care.

Her parents, desperate to get their daughter back, challenged the actions of the social workers in court. They lost. Even though the judge found that Sheila's parents had enforced reasonable rules in a proper manner, the state law nevertheless gave CPS the authority to split apart the Sumey family and take Sheila away.

AP and IB a Report from Fordham


From November 2007
a 52 page .pdf

On page 40 an interesting explanation of SL IB Math
and HL IB Math.

University Calculus 1989 and 2006

Here is a comparison of two groups of Johns Hopkins Students.

The test is the same a Calculus final from 1989.
The results for the 1989 group are substanially higher than for the 2006 group.

The results are analyzed under the 1989 grading scale and the 2006 grading scale.

Massive grade inflation is apparent. Who could be surprised?



Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Achievement Gap meeting at Cleveland High on Thursday

Thursday, November 13th, 6-8 p.m. at Cleveland High School
sponsored by the Center for Improved Student Learning (OSPI) . The discussion will be:

"To explore causes and solutions to the African-American student achievement gap. The meetings will let parents, students, educators and community members share their experiences and hopes for the education of African-American students. Feedback gathered from these town hall meetings will inform a comprehensive set of recommendations to close the achievement gap that will presented to the Legislature in late December."

National Standards ... Gates Foundation

Here is an interesting piece...


Here is the complete text:

Gates will fight for national standards and make national tests

by Elizabeth Green

SEATTLE — Here’s another big development: As part of its new approach, the Gates Foundation will advocate for the politically thorny goal of national standards — and will aim to write its own standards and its own national test.

Foundation officials said that the moves are motivated by their frustration with current tests and standards for what children should know, which each state drafts individually as part of the federal No Child Left Behind law. Vicki Phillips, the Gates Foundation’s director of education programs, said the result is a “testing crisis in this country,” in which tests are losing credibility among teachers, who see them as so low-quality that they are useless.

“Let’s admit it,” she said. “We can’t dispense with assessment, but neither can we keep adding low-quality tests.”

How will the foundation jump into the fight? They’ll start with standards, working with states and school districts to develop a common set. Phillips said the goal will be to make the standards “fewer, clearer, higher” and to make sure they match what students need to know to succeed in college.

The next step will be to help create tests. Phillips said the foundation will usher a few trial assessments into development, and then test them out to see which are best at predicting whether students succeed in college. (From what I understand, this would involve having students take the test when they enter college and then following them through the process, to see whether high scores predict college completion.)

Whichever test wins, Phillips said, the Gates Foundation will make it available to any state who is interested — at no cost.

Organizing a Math Curriculum ( or not)

I ran for Seattle School Board last year and did not make it through the primary. I wanted to have the Superintendent and the Board follow policies and state laws that were in place and would have in my view increased student academic achievement. This still has not happened nor does it appear likely to happen in the near future.

Here is a short email chain from Director Harium Martin-Morris's Blog.
Harium said...

On 11/4 you asked if there was any plan to change our K-8 text books. To my knowledge there is no plan to change the text we have just adopted a couple of years ago.

We are not ignoring the state math standards. The work we are doing in math for K-8 is against the state standards.

Policies D44.00 and D45.00 are 23 years old and part of the policies that we will be either updating or deleting during our policy work.

November 11, 2008 10:27 PM

dan dempsey said...

Thanks for the response on D44 & D45. The problem is more than just neglect of D44 & D45.

The problem is the disregard for organizing what students should be learning and the failure to provide effective focused interventions so the students learn the important material.

This is an enormous failing on the part of the Seattle Public Schools. The fact that the board and the Superintendent allow this to continue is absurd. This would be malpractice in any other venue.

The EDM pacing plan in fact does not actually encourage mastery of much arithmetic at any level. A comparison with the K-8 State Math standards and the EDM pacing plan followed by the SPS for k-5 and the CMP2 curriculum for 6,7,8 makes the enormous magnitude of the failure of current SPS Math leadership and their recommended practices very apparent.

This is absurd that the board is considering a high school math adoption for many students who have been failed by the SPS in k-8 math without any attention to fixing k-8 math.

I've got it. After a decade of disaster the SPS will just ignore the problem and hope it goes away.

NO reasonable PLAN is apparent.
The SPS has continually failed to apply the relevant data in any intelligent manner. In the words of Brita Butler-Wall: "We choose to follow our hired professionals." Now that the SPS math plan is out of alignment with the National Math Advisory Panel and the new State Math Standards ... the SPS continues to do nothing of substance.

Let us all wait for D44 & D45 to be revised or discarded. The neglect of these needed policies has played a large part in the current mess.

Public schooling in the SPS has become a sad situation when content is neglected and mastery of important content is viewed as unnecessary. This situation is rampant not only in math but in many other subject areas.

In social studies the emphasis on process over content often leaves students with so little content knowledge many students have next to nothing to process.

November 12, 2008 7:19 AM

Harium's blog can be found at http://harium.blogspot.com
My posting was under Middle School Math.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

No Shift in Priorities at OSPI ... Seattle Times Article

The ideas expressed in the Seattle Times in regard to education reveal a lack of understanding of the situation.

Here is the article:

Here are the comments:

Secretary of Education thoughts

First from Bill....

Regarding my favorite for Secretary of Education, I think Colin Powell would be a terrific choice. My reasons include:

(1) His name has been mentioned, and therefore there is some chance he would accept if offered, and may actually be interested in the job.

(2) He is a registered Republican, and therefore he may take seriously the very strong recommendations regarding early algebra preparation which was made by the presidents National Math Panel under Bush (nobody else is, including the present DOE).

(3) His children are doubtless partially the products of the Department of Defense School System, and although the present DOD elementary school standards seemed to have been fuzzed up, it used to be that the DOD dependents schools were the closest to a Singapore type school system of anything run by a North American entity, and showed exemplary success in educating the children of parents who represented large minority percentages, and who mostly were not college educated themselves.

(4) I believe his foundation is focused on education issues.

(5) Since he is a registered Republican, the DOE would be a good location for Obama to place a Republican in order to have a mixed cabinet.

(6) He, of all possible candidates, is likely to care little about maintaining good relations with the various corrupt “stakeholders” in the education-industria l complex, including schools of education, textbook publishers, teachers unions, etc. He is more likely to be impervious to pressure from the various fuzzy persons who have been mentioned in connection with Obama’s education advisers.


Next from Mike ..........

Please think deeply about what I’m going to say.

We should not recommend or endorse anyone for the Secretary of Education. We should ask Senator Obama to dissolve the U.S. Dept. of Education. It is (as presently constituted & administered) an illegal organization, perpetrating criminal coercion on the sovereign states of the United States . The federal government itself realizes and admits this, and has pointed to the 10th amendment as the limiting principle in law. The only way that it can “compel” the states to comply with federal education reform laws is with “voluntary compliance.” This supposedly “voluntary compliance” is not voluntary at all, as it involves the federal government coercing the states by making receipt of federal dollars conditional on compliance. These “federal dollars” are our dollars, and the federal government has no legitimate authority to use them as a “coercive carrot” in the domain of public education.

..... reform mathematics is not the disease, but rather a symptom of the disease known as education reform. This will never go away as long as the federal government is permitted to continue its coercive social engineering through “education reform.”

... start thinking “out-of-the-box.” If Obama did dissolve the Dept. of Ed (which he won’t), think of both the freedom and accountability this would give Dorn to make the changes needed in WA State. We will never achieve our goals as long as authority & accountability rest in Washington D.C.


From Niki:

I agree totally with Mike's remarks that the federal department of education
should be abolished. The money spent there would be welcomed by states. I
would go further and say all parents should be issued vouchers to choose any
school, public or private. Those public schools that don't get chosen would
be closed. That old business model would be applied about "satisfying your
customers" in order to stay in business.

The public education system doesn't need to be reformed. It needs to be
transformed in every state according to that state's needs and mission
without interference from federal officials. If Louisiana wants to produce
dummies, for example, that's fine. Their business climate will suffer and
people will move to states that are producing capable learners. (On the
subject of transformation, the whole military system was transformed in the
past eight years (with great resistance by many entrenched souls), but
theirs is not a "democracy." They did battle politics. They didn't have to
battle unions, though.)

Since such transformation is unlikely to happen in the present political
climate of expanding federal government, I suggest the following questions
be considered/answered before recommending Colin Powell or anyone else:

1) Are we choosing someone who can be a "politician" and thus knows how to
maneuver within federal circles? Are we looking for a competent manager or a
real leader?

2) How well versed is the proposed Ed Sec in the "troubles" within
education "reform" today? If you were to ask him/her, "What three issues do
you see that need to be addressed immediately? ", would you get spin, a
litany of reformists' claims about "critical thinking" learners for the 21st
century, or would it be serious and thoughtful responses?

3) What is this person's philosophy about vocational education, charter
schools, vouchers, merit pay, teacher preparation (including alternative
programs), testing, etc.?

4) What, therefore, is his "vision" about the role of the fed govt in
public education? private education?

5) Can he/she name five persons or groups s/he would use for resources
and insight? Wouldn't this give us our own insight about his/her "direction"
and "support system" that s/he'll need as the leader?


Friday, November 7, 2008

Mike salutes the Teachers

Although several of them have been my adversaries at one point or another, what I’ve learned about education during the last few years has given me about as much empathy for the teachers as it has for the kids. These poor teachers (especially the younger ones) are spoon-fed dribble, lied to, brainwashed, intimidated into silence and/or compliance, required to spend their own time & money for professional development, most of which is garbage, and that which does have value should have been part of their training before they ever stepped into a classroom.

Here’s a toast to all you teachers out there. You certainly earn your way, and are endowed with a much better temperance than I.


A message from Bob ...
then back to normal programming

Out of the trenches where the real work is done
comes a message from Bob:

good riddance terryb.

trying to stay 'positive', whatever kind of sugary pap that means, I say to people --
I applaud their efforts to try something new,
I applaud their efforts because they worked really hard,


The results were a disaster for our kids,
and their response was to blame teachers for NOT implementing unproven practices.

While some of these practices could be good supplements, they are NOT the cure alls the philosophy turned ideology and turned dogma promised.

I can NOT applaud their efforts in digging in their heels AND I OPPOSE
their efforts blaming those of us doing the job 50++++ hours a week OUT IN REALITY.


p.s. back to our normal programming - GOOD RIDDANCE.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Tim's SBE testimony on 11-06-2008

November 6, 2008

Honorable Superintendent and Board Members,

Thank you for the privilege of serving on your Math Advisory Panel. It has been an interesting and rewarding experience.

Today you will be making your final recommendation to the SPI on the Math Curriculum programs. There has been a lot of heated rhetoric and sour grapes from both sides. I’ll not add to that part of the debate.

As an engineer from the High Tech Business & Industry sector, I would offer you another more practical viewpoint. I urge you to make a good business decision.

You have before you two excellent K-5 programs, Math Connects and Math Expressions, upon which there is no disagreement. You also have before you three 6-8 programs, Math Connects, Holt Mathematics and Prentice-Hall Mathematics, about which again there is no disagreement. These five programs will serve Washington children and teachers well. They are programs which are high quality, complete, supportable and affordable. I believe that Math Expressions will quickly become a tasteful delight to both reform and traditional palates.

I fully concur with the findings of Strategic Teaching.

The point of contention surrounds the Bridges in Mathematics program for K-5.

From a good business decision standpoint I ask you if Bridges in Mathematics rises to the same level as the other five programs.

Desire for Quality. Washington students, parents, teachers and districts deserve to have only unquestionable quality programs recommended to them. Not withstanding the publishers’ mathematicians’ comments, it remains clear from Strategic Teaching’s independent findings and mathematical analysis, that there are serious questions about the mathematic quality of Bridges. Does Bridges in Mathematics enjoy the same high level of confidence in quality which Math Expressions and Math Connects enjoy? If not, how can we burden the tax payer with a questionable recommendation?
Complete. K.I.S.S. principle. Bridges’ publisher concedes to requiring heavy supplementation, and Strategic Teaching finds that Bridges has gaping holes in its mathematics which would require even more extensive supplementation. It is unquestionable that Bridges is incomplete. Washington is already littered with incomplete programs that are supplemental puzzles for the teacher to navigate, make sense out of, and present in some sort of coherent way. Why would we add another puzzle to the list?

Cost Containment. Bridges represents an open ended investment in hidden costs. These intangible costs of providing supplementation to such programs are already evident in existing adoptions throughout the state. They require more teacher prep time, much higher professional development investment, more resources for oversight and management, and higher untracked costs associated with home-grown supplements, duplication and distribution. Supplementation puzzles require “more of everything” to make them work. These are hidden costs which quickly spiral out of control.
Supportability and Sustainability. In districts where supplementing programs such as Bridges has worked, you will also find the story of a strong champion exerting almost super human effort to ensure success. You will also find that when the champion steps out of that role, the program quickly collapses. It is very hard to duplicate success, because it is so dependant upon that strong champion. On our panel we have a very experienced member, Brad Beal, who has shared with us that very scenario in which he was the champion. You as directors and administrators have seen the same in many districts. Extensively supplemented programs such as Bridges are brittle in their nature, difficult to support, and almost impossible to sustain.

The Bridges program is tainted in too many ways. It is a 2nd generation reform program which in terms of a quality, completeness, cost effectiveness and supportability, is just not there yet. I am encouraged that 3rd generation programs such as Math Expressions demonstrate that achieving high quality in these critical business aspects is doable. I believe we will see more of these 3rd and 4th generation high quality programs emerge over the coming years. But Bridges in Mathematics just does not live up to the expected threshold of quality, completeness, cost or support expected by our state.

On these practical business principles, I would urge you to clearly discourage adoption of Bridges in Mathematics.

Most Respectfully,

Timothy Christensen

Math Advisory Panelist
Sr. Research & Development Engineer
Agilent Technologies, Inc.

Parent East Valley School District

Dorn up by 39,000 votes

As of 10:30 PM 11/05/2008
In the race for Superintendent of Public Instruction:
Randy Dorn leads the incumbant Dr. Terry Bergeson by 39,000 votes and appears to be pulling away.

Curriculum and the Supplements by Niki Hayes

If mathematics curricula need supplemental materials all year to make them productive in terms of student learning, then those base materials need to be thrown out and new ones selected that can stand on their own. It's about starting with cake and adding some frosting if necessary, rather than starting with frosting and trying to build cake underneath it.

The extra costs to coordinate and integrate different learning materials continue to suck away valuable teaching and learning in terms of money, time and energy. Teachers know this all too well.

This "rebuilding" of curricula represents both a lack of critical thinking skills and “real world” application. (Time is money in the real world.) It is a prime example, however, of government work: That is, paying twice or three times for the same work. Continued acceptance of bad behavior enables it.

Supplemental services and materials may indeed secure many new jobs for professional development and tutoring, but that is not the purpose of public education. It is about children, not about teachers. It is about families, not unions. It is about our future, not our present.

Mike's Thought:
Well said Niki.

Niki Said… “Time is money in the real world.” I would add, “… and the currency of education is (should be) student academic achievement.”

I chose the words “academic achievement” instead of “learning”, because “learning” has been co-opted to become an umbrella concept, encompassing both cognitive and affective domains.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Vote Counting week

Well it looks like a razor thin edge (+ 22,000) for Randy Dorn over Terry Bergeson at this time.
I wonder if votes will be found (weeks later)like in the Rossi-Gregoire Contest four years ago.

The lead has grown as of 2:50 PM 0n 11/5/2008
Dorn leads by 25,000

In the primary this same type of thing happened ...
as time passed Dorn got closer to Bergeson.

Hopefully he will continue to get a larger lead.
Randy's lead has increased by 3,000 votes since this morning.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Real World .. Advanced math ? Washington Post

Try this:

In the Real World, Advanced Math Doesn't Always Add Up

Digital Math Texts

Check this out:


We as a nation sure have lots of technology ....
but do we have much in the way of expectations for either learning or behavior?

Look to succeed ... involves desire coupled with effort... Sustained effort over time.

We have massive numbers of programs aimed at improving things but "Where's the Beef?"

Chicago has a Plan to get Teachers ....
Using NSF Money


NORMAL, Ill. -
Illinois State University is offering two years of free tuition and $10,000 a year to education students who commit to teaching in Chicago.

The new scholarship program is being funded by a $750,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

Under the program, students have to commit to teach math or science in the Chicago Public Schools for two years.

Healing America's Sick Schools .. Boston Globe

Check this one:


GROVER WHITEHURST, who heads the research arm of the US Department of Education, says that the quality of education research today is the rough equivalent of medical research in the 1920s. That's a scary thought. After all, Americans of that era enjoyed not much greater than a 50-50 chance of benefiting from an encounter with the medical system.

"We're trying to fill huge deficiencies in knowledge," says Whitehurst, the director of the federal Institute of Education Sciences. "The problem is out in front of the research."

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Message from Ed, Sudhakar, and Dan

Ed writes the following:

> Math Education is only political. We have been formally teaching mathematics since > the temple schools of the First Dynasty, if not before. While I do believe there
> are some issues with learning disabilities, the vast majority of children are
> perfectly normal and we know, and have long known, everything there is to know
> about teaching mathematics to young children.
> Need I add that this long march of history has included a few intellectual
> giants? It is simply laughable to think that some know-nothing at a "school
> of education" has some deep insight that will revolutionize the practice.
> Rather, the Ed School Ayatollahs have something else in mind, some other
> agenda, and effective math instruction plainly is not a part of that. That
> William Ayers surfaces as an ed school professor speaks volumes in this
> regard.
> The only socially relevant education question is, "Who are these
> educationists and how do we get them out of our lives?" And that is an
> entirely political question.
> Ed

As Sudhakar said:

In India they've been teaching math for thosands of years. They use what works and discard what does not in this incremental improvement process.


I sure hope the USA figures out that the Better Idea in Math ED from the ED Schools is not working (a decade of data and TIMSS and PISA results are clear as are math remediation rates after high school graduation) . The National Math Advisory Panel has figured this out, but with Jeanne Century as an Obama education advisor don't expect the obvious to be carried out should Sen. Obama get elected.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

NMAP thought - Curriculum Matters !!!

Here is an interesting analysis from the National Math Advisory Panel.

On p.26 of the report:
"Conceptual understanding of mathematical operations, fluent execution of procedures and fast access to number combinations together support effective and efficient problem solving...

Studies of children in the United States, comparisons of these children with children from other nations with higher mathematics achievement and even cross-generational changes within the U.S. indicate that many contemporary U.S. children do not reach the point of fast and efficient solving of single-digit addition, subtraction, mulitiplication, and division with whole numbers, much less fluent execution of more complex algorithms as early as other children in many countries. Surprisingly, many never gain such proficiency.

The reasons for differences in computational fluency of children in the U.S. ... are multifaceted. They include quantity and quality of practice, emphases within curricula, and parental involvement in mathematics learning... Few curricula in the United States provide sufficient practice to ensure fast and efficient solving of basic fact combinations and execution of the standard algorithms."

Clearly Standard Algorithms and a good curriculum matter. Both are of huge importance.
It would be nice if the Seattle Public Schools believed this obvious fact. Seattle has yet to effectively deal with k-8 mathematics.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dunham on the Math Ed Meltdown

Here's a good David Brooks editorial on the financial meltdown that could easily have been written about the math ed meltdown:


It starts out:

Roughly speaking, there are four steps to every decision. First, you perceive a situation. Then you think of possible courses of action. Then you calculate which course is in your best interest. Then you take the action.

The editorial is an analysis of some quirks of human nature that have helped generate the current financial crisis. The premise is that too much focus has been on the choice between possible courses of action and too little on the perception of the situation. If this first step is botched, the end result will be also. With a few word substitutions, this editorial applies quite well to the situation we face with math ed in America.

Brooks describes a few pertinent human weaknesses. These are, in his words:

"..our tendency to see data that confirm our prejudices more vividly than data that contradict them; our tendency to overvalue recent events when anticipating future possibilities; our tendency to spin concurring facts into a single causal narrative; our tendency to applaud our own supposed skill in circumstances when we've actually benefited from dumb luck."

In other words, we have a tendency to believe things that aren't true. We construct little castles in our minds, and then dig moats of stubbornness around them to protect them from invading ideas.

I'm not saying I'm any different. I'm human too and have held onto bunk ideas somewhat beyond the point at which it had become obvious to others around me. I've learned that the sooner I recognize, acknowledge, and correct my mistakes; the easier it is to recover from them.

Alan Greenspan, in his remarkable testimony last week, said, "I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations … were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders." Thanks, Mr. Greenspan. We wish you'd been able to see this a little earlier. But faulty perceptions that become the creed of an organization become even more persistent. Challenge to the creed is heresy. Only in the harsh light of obvious and colossal failure was an admission of this magnitude possible.

The financial meltdown occurred in a dramatic flameout. It isn't going to play out that way in math ed. Instead, we have a slow smoldering flame eating away at our national prowess in mathematics, while those who are feeding oxygen to the embers deny that it's burning. We are sending an entire generation into the global workplace less prepared than other nations, whose perceptions of what constitutes an education clearly differ from ours. The consequences are clear to those who allow themselves to see. At what point will the scale of the meltdown be such that our education establishment adjusts its perception of what the problem is?

by Paul Dunham

Monday, October 27, 2008

Mathematics : The Most Misunderstood Subject

The following link was recommended by Bob McIntosh, the math program manager of the North Thurston School District.


Mathematics : The Most Misunderstood Subject
© Dr. Robert H. Lewis

Professor of Mathematics, Fordham University

For more than two thousand years, mathematics has been a part of the human search for understanding. Mathematical discoveries have come both from the attempt to describe the natural world and from the desire to arrive at a form of inescapable truth from careful reasoning. These remain fruitful and important motivations for mathematical thinking, but in the last century mathematics has been successfully applied to many other aspects of the human world: voting trends in politics, the dating of ancient artifacts, the analysis of automobile traffic patterns, and long-term strategies for the sustainable harvest of deciduous forests, to mention a few. Today, mathematics as a mode of thought and expression is more valuable than ever before. Learning to think in mathematical terms is an essential part of becoming a liberally educated person.
-- Kenyon College Math Department Web Page

"An essential part of becoming a liberally educated person?" Sadly, many people in America, indeed, I would have to say very many people in America, would find that a difficult and puzzling concept. The majority of educated Americans do not think of Mathematics when they think of a liberal education. Mathematics as essential for science, yes, for business and accounting, sure, but for a liberal education?

Why do so many people have such misconceptions about Mathematics?

The great misconception about mathematics -- and it stifles and thwarts more students than any other single thing -- is the notion that mathematics is about formulas and cranking out computations. It is the unconsciously held delusion that mathematics is a set of rules and formulas that have been worked out by God knows who for God knows why, and the student's duty is to memorize all this stuff. Such students seem to feel that sometime in the future their boss will walk into the office and demand "Quick, what's the quadratic formula?" Or, "Hurry, I need to know the derivative of 3x^2 - 6x +1." There are no such employers.

What is mathematics really like?

Mathematics is not about answers, it's about processes. Let me give a series of parables to try to get to the root of the misconceptions and to try to illuminate what mathematics IS all about. None of these analogies is perfect, but all provide insight.


When a new building is made, a skeleton of steel struts called the scaffolding is put up first. The workers walk on the scaffolding and use it to hold equipment as they begin the real task of constructing the building. The scaffolding has no use by itself. It would be absurd to just build the scaffolding and then walk away, thinking that something of value has been accomplished.

Yet this is what seems to occur in all too many mathematics classes in high schools. Students learn formulas and how to plug into them. They learn mechanical techniques for solving certain equations or taking derivatives. But all of these things are just the scaffolding. They are necessary and useful, sure, but by themselves they are useless. Doing only the superficial and then thinking that something important has happened is like building only the scaffolding.

The real "building" in the mathematics sense is the true mathematical understanding, the true ability to think, perceive, and analyze mathematically.

Ready for the big play.

Professional athletes spend hours in gyms working out on equipment of all sorts. Special trainers are hired to advise them on workout schedules. They spend hours running on treadmills. Why do they do that? Are they learning skills necessary for playing their sport, say basketball?

Imagine there're three seconds left in the seventh game of the NBA championship. The score is tied. Time out. The pressure is intense. The coach is huddling with his star players. He says to one, "OK Michael, this is it. You know what to do." And Michael says, "Right coach. Bring in my treadmill!"

Duh! Of course not! But then what was all that treadmill time for? If the treadmill is not seen during the actual game, was it just a waste to use it? Were all those trainers wasting their time? Of course not. It produced (if it was done right!) something of value, namely stamina and aerobic capacity. Those capacities are of enormous value even if they cannot be seen in any immediate sense. So too does mathematics education produce something of value, true mental capacity and the ability to think.

The hostile party goer.

When I was in first grade we read a series of books about Dick and Jane. There were a lot of sentences like "see Dick run" and so forth. Dick and Jane also had a dog called Spot.

What does that have to do with mathematics education? Well, when I occasionally meet people at parties who learn that I am a mathematician and professor, they sometimes show a bit of repressed hostility. One man once said something to me like, "You know, I had to memorize the quadratic formula in school and I've never once done anything with it. I've since forgotten it. What a waste. Have YOU ever had to use it aside from teaching it?"

I was tempted to say, "No, of course not. So what?" Actually though, as a mathematician and computer programmer I do use it, but rarely. Nonetheless the best answer is indeed, "No, of course not. So what?" and that is not a cynical answer.

After all, if I had been the man's first grade teacher, would he have said, "You know, I can't remember anymore what the name of Dick and Jane's dog was. I've never used the fact that their names were Dick and Jane. Therefore you wasted my time when I was six years old."

How absurd! Of course people would never say that. Why? Because they understand intuitively that the details of the story were not the point. The point was to learn to read! Learning to read opens vast new vistas of understanding and leads to all sorts of other competencies. The same thing is true of mathematics. Had the man's mathematics education been a good one he would have seen intuitively what the real point of it all was.

The considerate piano teacher.

Imagine a piano teacher who gets the bright idea that she will make learning the piano "simpler" by plugging up the student's ears with cotton. The student can hear nothing. No distractions that way! The poor student sits down in front of the piano and is told to press certain keys in a certain order. There is endless memorizing of "notes" A, B, C, etc. The student has to memorize strange symbols on paper and rules of writing them. And all the while the students hear nothing! No music! The teacher thinks she is doing the student a favor by eliminating the unnecessary distraction of the sound!

Of course the above scenario is preposterous. Such "instruction" would be torture. No teacher would ever dream of such a thing, of removing the heart and soul of the whole experience, of removing the music. And yet that is exactly what has happened in most high school mathematics classes over the last 25 years. For whatever misguided reason, mathematics students have been deprived of the heart and soul of the course and been left with a torturous outer shell. The prime example is the gutting of geometry courses, where proofs have been removed or deemphasized. Apparently some teachers think that this is "doing the students a favor." Or is it that many teachers do not really understand the mathematics at all?

Step high.

A long time ago when I was in graduate school, the physical fitness craze was starting. A doctor named Cooper wrote a book on Aerobics in which he outlined programs one could follow to build up aerobic capacity, and therefore cardiovascular health. You could do it via running, walking, swimming, stair climbing, or stationary running. In each case, he outlined a week by week schedule. The goal was to work up to what he called 30 "points" per weeks of exercise during a twelve week program.

Since it was winter and I lived in a snowy place, I decided to do stationary running. I built a foam padded platform to jog in place. Day after day I would follow the schedule, jogging in place while watching television. I dreamed of the spring when I would joyfully demonstrate my new health by running a mile in 8 minutes, which was said to be equivalent to 30-points-per-week cardiovascular health.

The great day came. I started running at what I thought was a moderate pace. But within a minute I was feeling winded! The other people with me started getting far ahead. I tried to keep up, but soon I was panting, gasping for breath. I had to give up after half a mile! I was crushed. What could have gone wrong? I cursed that darn Dr. Cooper and his book.

I eventually figured it out. In the description of stationary running, it said that every part of one's foot must be lifted a certain distance from the floor, maybe it was 10 inches. In all those weeks, I never really paid attention to that. Someone then checked me, and I wasn't even close to 10 inches. No wonder it had failed! I was so discouraged, it was years before I tried exercising again.

What does that have to do with mathematics education? Unfortunately a great deal. In the absence of a real test (for me, actually running on a track) it is easy to think one is progressing if one follows well intentioned but basically artificial guidelines. It is all too easy to slip in some way (as I did by not stepping high enough) and be lulled into false confidence. Then when the real test finally comes, and the illusion of competence is painfully shattered, it is all too easy to feel betrayed or to "blame the messenger."

The "real test" I am speaking of is not just what happens to so many high school graduates when they meet freshman mathematics courses. It is that we in the U. S. are falling farther and farther behind most other countries in the world, not just the well known ones like China, India, and Japan. The bar must be raised, yes, but not in artificial ways, in true, authenic ones.

Cargo cult education.

During World War II in the Pacific Ocean American forces hopped from island to island relentlessly pushing westward toward Japan. Many of these islands in the south Pacific were inhabited by people who had never seen Westerners; maybe their ancestors years before had left legends of large wooden ships. We can only imagine their surprise and shock when large naval vessels arrived and troops set up communication bases and runways. Airplanes and those who flew them seemed like gods. It seemed to the natives that the men in the radio buildings, with their microphones, radios and large antennas, had the power to call in the gods. All of the things brought by the navy, radios, buildings, food, weapons, furniture, etc. were collectively referred to as "cargo".

Then suddenly the war ended and the Westerners left. No more ships. No more airplanes. All that was left were some abandoned buildings and rusting furniture. But a curious thing happened. The natives on some islands figured that they, too, could call in the gods. They would simply do what the Americans had done. They entered the abandoned buildings, erected a large bamboo pole to be the "antenna", found some old boxes to be the "radio", used a coconut shell to be the "microphone." They spoke into the "microphone" and implored the airplanes to land. But of course nothing came. (except, eventually, some anthropologists!) The practice came to be known as a "Cargo Cult."

The story may seem sad, amusing, or pathetic, but what does that have to do with mathematics education? Unfortunately a great deal. The south Pacific natives were unable to discern between the superficial outer appearence of what was happening and the deeper reality. They had no understanding that there even exists such a thing as electricity, much less radio waves or aerodynamic theory. They imitated what they saw, and they saw only the superficial.

Sadly, the same thing has happened in far too many high schools in the United States in the last twenty five years or so in mathematics education. Well meaning "educators" who have no conception of the true nature of mathematics see only its outer shell and imitate it. The result is cargo cult mathematics. They call for the gods, but nothing happens. The cure is not louder calling, it is not more bamboo antennas (i.e. glossy ten pound text books and fancy calculators). The only cure is genuine understanding of authenic mathematics.

Confusion of Education with Training.

Training is what you do when you learn to operate a lathe or fill out a tax form. It means you learn how to use or operate some kind of machine or system that was produced by people in order to accomplish specific tasks. People often go to training institutes to become certified to operate a machine or perform certain skills. Then they can get jobs that directly involve those specific skills.

Education is very different. Education is not about any particular machine, system, skill, or job. Education is both broader and deeper than training. An education is a deep, complex, and organic representation of reality in the student's mind. It is an image of reality made of concepts, not facts. Concepts that relate to each other, reinforce each other, and illuminate each other. Yet the education is more even than that because it is organic: it will live, evolve, and adapt throughout life.

Education is built up with facts, as a house is with stones. But a collection of facts is no more an education than a heap of stones is a house.

An educated guess is an accurate conclusion that educated people can often "jump to" by synthesizing and extrapolating from their knowledge base. People who are good at the game "Jeopardy" do it all the time when they come up with the right question by piecing together little clues in the answer. But there is no such thing as a "trained guess."

No subject is more essential nor can contribute more to becoming a liberally educated person than mathematics. Become a math major and find out!

So What Good Is It?

Some people may understand all that I've said above but still feel a bit uneasy. After all, there are bills to pay. If mathematics is as I've described it, then perhaps it is no more helpful in establishing a career then, say, philosophy.

Here we mathematicians have the best of both worlds, as there are many careers that open up to people who have studied mathematics. Real Mathematics, the kind I discussed above. See the Careers web page for a sampling.

That brings up one more misconception and one more parable, which I call:

Computers, mathematics, and the chagrinned diner.

About nineteen years ago when personal computers were becoming more common in small businesses and private homes, I was having lunch with a few people, and it came up that I was a mathematician. One of the other diners got a funny sort of embarrassed look on her face. I steeled myself for that all too common remark, "Oh I was never any good at math." But no, that wasn't it. It turned out that she was thinking that with computers becoming so accurate, fast, and common, there was no longer any need for mathematicians! She was feeling sorry me, as I would soon be unemployed! Apparently she thought that a mathematician's work was to crank out arithmetic computations.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Thinking that computers will obviate the need for mathematicians is like thinking 80 years ago when cars replaced horse drawn wagons, there would be no more need for careful drivers. On the contrary, powerful engines made careful drivers more important than ever.

Today, powerful computers and good software make it possible to use and concretely implement abstract mathematical ideas that have existed for many years. For example, the RSA cryptosystem is widely used on secure internet web pages to encode sensitive information, like credit card numbers. It is based on ideas in algebraic number theory, and its invulnerability to hackers is the result of very advanced ideas in that field.

Finally, here are a few quotes from an essay well worth reading by David R. Garcia on a similar topic:

Americans like technology but seldom have a grasp of the science behind it. And the mathematics that is behind the science is regarded as even more mysterious, like an inner sanctum into which only initiates may gain entry. They see the rich and nourishing technological fruit on this tree of knowledge, but they see no deeper than the surface branches and twigs on which these fruits grow. To them, the region behind this exterior of the tree, where the trunk and limbs grow, is pointless and purposeless. "What's the use of math?" is the common query. "I'll never use it." When a nation's leaders are composed primarily of lawyers, administrators, military men and stars of the entertainment industry rather than statesmen, philosophers, the spiritual, and the men and women of science, then it should be no surprise that there is so little grasp of the simple reality that one cannot dispense with the trunk and limbs and still continue to enjoy the fruit.

..... What is it that would cause us to focus only on this external fruit of material development and play down the antecedent realms of abstraction that lie deeper? It would be good to find a word less condemning than "superficiality", but how else can this tendency be described in a word? Perhaps facing up to the ugly side of this word can stir us into action to remedy what seems to be an extremely grave crisis in Western education.

.... The first step toward [progress in crucial social problems] is to recognize the deceptive illusions bred by seeing only the surface of issues, of seeing only a myriad of small areas to be dealt with by specialists, one for each area. Piecemeal superficiality won't work.

... Teaching is not a matter of pouring knowledge from one mind into another as one pours water from one glass into another. It is more like one candle igniting another. Each candle burns with its own fuel. The true teacher awakens a love for truth and beauty in the heart--not the mind--of a student after which the student moves forward with powerful interest under the gentle guidance of the teacher. (Isn't it interesting how the mention of these two most important goals of learning--truth and beauty--now evokes snickers and ridicule, almost as if by instinct, from those who shrink from all that is not superficial.) These kinds of teachers will inspire love of mathematics, while so many at present diffuse a distaste for it through their own ignorance and clear lack of delight in a very delightful subject.

Bob Brandt's thoughts:

Bob McIntosh,

Thanks for the link to the article by Dr. Lewis. I have a few comments: In his parable of the Scaffolding he doesn't really point out that without the scaffolding, the building would simply fall down, and fall long before it attained the desired height. In his parable of being Ready for the Big Play, he uses an almost disconnected exercise. Let me point to a better one. John Wooden was the coach of the UCLA basketball team for more than a decade. During that time he won more NCAA tournaments than any other coach in history. How did he do it? Often the individual talent on his teams was not nearly as good as competing teams. But together, synergistically, they played better than their opponents. That was because coach Wooden focused on mastering the basics, while teaching love of the game. He taught new players how to put their socks on properly and how to tie their shoes to avoid getting blisters. And he had them practice the fundamentals of the game over and over (no show boating) so that those fundamentals became second nature to each player and could be executed in any situation without thought or pause. So, when it became time for the "big" play, they could focus on it completely, and usually win the game! Finally, in his discussion of the difference between education and training, he makes the following statement: "It (an education) is an image of reality made of concepts, not facts." I submit that an education is an image of reality made of concepts built upon facts! I think Dr. Lewis made some fine points in his article. But the reason we're engaged in this activity in the state of Washington at present is not only due to the superficiality of mathematics education, but also because the response to that problem was to throw away the scaffolding, the building stones, the facts, and the practice entirely.

Regards, Bob Brandt