Friday, January 4, 2008


{ Narrowing the scope and requiring proficiency }

This project focuses on changes that need to be made so that high school students have better preparation for collegiate level mathematics. Seattle TMP is now in its second year. It is made up of Seattle High School math teachers and collegiate level teachers and administrators.

At Seattle Central Community College over the last four years, only 22% of recent high school graduates can place into a college level math class. A full 50% of those recent high school grads can not place into a class above the equivalent of high school math one.

(This huge math train wreck has occurred as Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Terry Bergeson spent 10 years on expensive WASL testing and then announced in August of 2006 that there was a State-Wide system failure in mathematics. Odd that with all that expensive testing going on this failure took 10 years to notice. Currently, as mandated by the legislature's SHB 1906, Dr. Bergeson is supposed to be conducting a "Rewrite" of Washington Math Standards using the recommendations from the State Board of Education's $150,000 consultant "Strategic Teaching". The Math Standards need enormous change but Dr. Bergeson is not changing things significantly enough. This is occurring because Dr. Bergeson selected a rewrite panel largely in favor of the reforms that she implemented that caused this disaster. She also rejected bids from two contractors for $130,000 and $255,000 in favor of accepting a bid in excess of $750,000 from a contractor more aligned with her math thinking.)

During the last 15 years, the number of topics taught at particular grade levels has expanded, with a decline in student proficiency of many topics. Arithmetic proficiency has dropped significantly at the elementary and middle school level. Despite higher entrance standards at the U of W in terms of GPA the mathematical proficiency has fallen for entering Freshman on the math placement test. NASA finds USA high school grads poorly prepared for entering College and pursuing engineering careers.

Seattle TMP would like to narrow the scope and require greater proficiency in the following topics:

1. Basic mathematics/ Pre-Algebra

2. Polynomials

3. Linear Equations and Inequalities (in one variable)

4. Linear Functions and Relations

5. Systems of Linear Equations and Inequalities (in two or more variables)

6. Quadratic Equations

7. Quadratic Functions

8. Rational Expressions

9. Exponents

10. Radicals

11. Geometry
Students should also have a solid understanding of the following concepts (in addition to those listed above) before entering college at the Pre-calculus level (one course beyond the Seattle Community College District entry college-level mathematics course, College Algebra).

12. Trigonometry

13. Functions (including the definition of a function, domain and range, function notation, algebra of functions, and inverse functions)

14. Higher Order Polynomial Functions

15. Rational Functions

16. Conic Sections

17. Exponential and Logarithmic Functions

The math leadership in Seattle and in Washington State has been deficient in the last decade. Use of TERC/Investigations at the elementary level and Connected Math Project at the middle level, although considered best aligned with the Washington Standards have not prepared children with the skills necessary to complete a rigorous high school math program. (Is no one ever held accountable for a decade of mistakes?)

Seattle TMP thinks that the above topics need to be covered in high school. Not only are major changes needed at many high schools but the k-8 grade level math needs a complete overhaul in many places.

Districts that adopted math curricula most aligned with the Washington Math Standards have done a large disservice to many of our children. It appears that Dr. Bergeson is against making significant changes. The USA ranks worst among English speaking nations in the math proficiency of 15 year olds. Clearly a significant change is needed.

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