Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sub-Prime Math Melt Down to Continue?

1-28-2008 ( In a hurry just read the bold )

In any situation in which a decision is to be made, one’s Mode of Operation may leave one stuck with one’s point of view. The Mode of Operation is definitely sticking it to us Washington residents far too often.

Some of the components that are adverse to producing good decisions are:
1... Autocratic Process - which neglects genuine community input.
2... Flawed data, which is cherry-picked to support “the correct” “Group-think” point of view.
3... Political follow the leader decisions rather than searching for better solutions.
4... Always in a hurry -- unable to take the time to perform adequate research and thoughtfully develop plans that can be effectively implemented and are then able to be sustained over time to produce positive results. (Easier to fake the data)
5... Over-reliance on our “employed experts”. Often on the payroll but hardly able to be judged as experts based on current or past practice and performance.
6... Vindictive reprisals against those who do not buy the “Group Think”. This occurs not only at the School District level, even Dr. Bergeson selected almost exclusively "Politically Correct Group Thinkers" to the state math Standards Rewrite Team and employed the Dana Center at six times the cost of a well qualified low bidder.

This “Modus Operandi Nonsense Approach” has produced a continually widening achievement Gap in Math over the last decade in this state for Black, Hispanic and poor children. It leaves many of our children, whether advantaged or disadvantaged, mathematically impoverished despite funding increases and will continue to do so until someone with authority has the courage and initiative to act responsibly.

First a comparison: The sub-prime financial meltdown mess occurred because banks were allowed to write bad housing loans because agencies like Moodys failed to do their job. The banks wrote the bad loans because the credit rating agencies kept writing AAA and so the banks kept writing.

I doubt if any of those highly paid people who failed to make appropriate decisions in regard to stamping AAA are losing their jobs. That does not change the fact that they are responsible for this current sub-prime loan meltdown which is effecting our entire nation and is directly effecting school budgets in Montana and Florida as those states invested state monies in that mess.

Our legislature is supposed to be serving a similar role as a watch dog to protect the public. School boards are supposed to be alert in what is in the best interests of the education community. School boards are supposed to be leaders and major decision makers.

We have a sub-prime financial melt down because Moodys et al. did not do the job.
We have a Washington Math Melt Down for the same reason - abdication of responsibility.

Every nation in the world has math education decision makers who believe that Arithmetic Skills lead to Algebra Skills which lead to Calculus Skills except the USA. Results confirm that we have the worst math education decision makers in the world.

But someone always keeps stamping AAA; on May 30th, 2007 it was the Seattle School Board, so did Issaquah, Olympia, and Bethel School Boards who all recently stamped AAA rated on mathematical nonsense.

Irrational Seattle Schools math thoughts:
1... SPS concerned about achievement gaps in math.
2... Achievement gaps in math continually grew over the last decade.
3... The top preforming math materials in the world from Singapore are written in basic simple English to serve a student population the majority of whom come from homes in which English is not the primary language.
4... Seattle refused to even look at such materials until great community pressure and still Singapore math was not worthy of even primary adoption consideration.
5... Seattle spends millions on Everyday Math materials preferring to never deal with the real statistics in regard to this adoption. “Group Think gone wild”

As of Jan 22, 2008 there is no change in direction anticipated from SPS math decision makers. As the “Group Think faithful” believe that all students can be successful at 8th grade algebra, if it is conceptually based rather than computationally based algebra.

Many districts have only the choice of non-computationally based high school math programs because most of their children are prepared for nothing else coming out of k-8 materials that leave them unprepared to undertake a rigorous internationally competitive math program.

At Seattle Central Community College over the last four years recent high school graduates place into math classes as follows: 3% arithmetic, 17% middle school math, 30% the equivalent of high school math one, 28% the equivalents of high school math above math one, 22% begin with a collegiate level math course that counts for credit.

Clearly the SPS employed district math decision makers have no plan to alter this statistic to any meaningful degree.

Despite statements that the past math curricula has been a mile wide and an inch deep and being excited about increasing depth in math, many math decision makers continue adopting the same non-competitive unfocused programs, with just different covers on essentially the same ineffective material.

Everyday Math has far too many topics per grade level. There is no opportunity for depth because it incoherently jumps from one topic to the next way too rapidly. Linda Plattner of Strategic Teaching (paid $150,000 by SBE for her opinions and excellent work) said that the Spiraling in Everyday Math is no longer considered a best practice. Some parents have definitely figured this out on their own. How can district level administrators continue to ignore high school teachers as Olympia did and continue this downward spiral with the adoption of (Connected Math) CMP2? Books that continue to produce inadequate results continue to be adopted because they are in alignment with OSPI’s defective math standards. How can books with such an incoherent approach to teaching topics possibly be under consideration? The answer is “Group Think”.
It is highly unlikely that school boards will hear the truth very often from the teaching staff, as those who care to tell it get vindictive reprisals from their superiors and are usually ignored by school boards.

Originally one of the ideas behind HB 1906, was that it was difficult for kids to transfer within this state and be successful in math because of the wide number of texts in use. The theory was that limiting texts to three or fewer per school level would allow OSPI and ESDs to carefully focus coaching and professional development. { I think the problem is that kids do not know math - that lame transfer excuse was never given when grade level knowledge was required}.

On Jan 22, 2008 the evening of the second draft of the Washington Math Standards presentation, the audience at Roosevelt High School was told that even if Everyday Math is not selected as a recommended text by the state, OSPI will help those who adopted EM and Connected Math with coaching and professional development. I think it is far too expensive to restore a totaled vehicle. Time to buy new, only this time do some research and buy quality.

If you wish to see the height of odd thinking watch the State Senate Committee considering Algebra II as a graduation requirement. This in a state where less than 60% of the high school students in grade 10 can pass the mathematical equivalent of a 7th grade math exam.

Even more bizarre is the testimony of Ms. Shannon Edwards of Chief Leschi school and a member of the Standards Re-write Team in regard to the Algebra II requirement saying it is possible for all students to pass Algebra II and it should be a graduation requirement. Her testimony is at 1 hour 4 minutes on the video Here

Reality Gap at Chief Leschi - Check out the Chief Leschi situation.

2006-07 WASL Results:(percent of students passing)
Grade Level..Reading... Math......Writing.......Science
3rd Grade........ 47.2%.....40.3%
4th Grade........ 60.8%.....21.6%.....51.0%
5th Grade........ 65.3%.....26.5%....................12.2%
6th Grade........ 55.0%..... 5.0%
7th Grade........ 36.2%.....19.1%.....36.2%
8th Grade........ 40.4%.....17.0%....................17.0%
10th Grade....... 57.6%.....11.5%.....84.5%.........13.6%

I believe that this is either Ms. Shannon Edwards first or second year at Chief Leschi.

Things have improved greatly at Chief Leschi schools from 2003
2002-03 WASL Results:
Grade Level..Reading... Math......Writing
4th Grade........ 37.7%.....5.7%.....30.2%
7th Grade........ 16.1%.....12.5%.....8.9%
10th Grade........ 9.7%.....0.0%.....16.1%

Ms. Edwards is typical of the people that Dr. Bergeson placed on the Washington Math Standards Re-write Team. The State Board of Education put together a 20 person math panel that had wide diversity. Note that Dr. Bergeson’s SRT features almost no diversity of views. She had only one industry representative: Jane Broom from Microsoft who has no math background. There was not a single person from industry with a math background on that team. The only reason that “non-group thinker” Bob Dean, Evergreen High School math dept. head, was on that team was after an FOI request for the rubric used by OSPI for the Team selection and the applications. Mr. Dean, who had not been selected despite an extremely high score, was added by Dr. Bergeson by personal invitation after the FOI request.

We will still be suffering through failed math education decision making until someone decides to stop stamping AAA rated on mediocre materials..
In the larger picture, the education reform movement has largely bought into the idea that the state defines what should be learned and then creates or selects materials to learn it. This often times borders on irrelevant minutia. Unfortunately there is little if any analysis as to whether any of this works. It has not worked over the last decade in math - why will this approach work now?

Consider the old days when the book was the curriculum. (not the best plan but far better than what is now happening in many places).

Consider where our schools could be if we just looked at the best books and told the teachers to teach from them with emphasis on particular skills and topics. Then evaluated the results, and provided interventions as needed.

Despite all the education jargon, we now are doing precisely the same thing with “Fidelity of Implementation” except we are following the pacing plan and forcing our teachers and children through very poor materials without any prioritization of topics. In spite of the fact that even Dr. Bergeson insists that no one book can do it all. Seattle persists in having one very poor textbook series do it all. Again no priorities are in place. There are no meaningful interventions instead we have social promotion. Singapore math was adopted as a supplement but through December was unused. Singapore is successful in part because it greatly limits topics in the early grades and requires learning those topics.

I have continually advocated for fewer topics per grade level. In September of 2006 the NCTM focal points were released. The Focal points narrow the topics. Seattle's reform math leadership refuses to narrow topics.

Consider three items:

1. NCTM Curriculum Focal Points for mathematics in Pre-kindergarten through Grade 8 (free online download available)
2. Everyday Math Learning Goals by grade level. (Excel spreadsheet)
3. The 2004 MSSG paper: "What is Important in School Mathematics?"

Read the MSSG paper, then look at the Focal Points, and finally look at the EM learning goals by grade level. It will be most apparent why our current direction in Everyday Math and many other reform programs (but not all) is both ill advised and largely ineffective. (Seattle, Issaquah and Bethel adopted EM just this year instead of waiting for state guidance or employing rational decision making).

During Seattle’s May 16th 2007 Elementary Math Adoption introductory meeting, Math administrators said that the EM roll out would be very similar to the CMP2 rollout that was going so well. Referring to coaching, increased parent contact, teacher training etc.

Look at SPS middle school math scores from Spring 2006 to Spring 2007.
(I hate using WASL for math competence but that is all we have had since 2005).
The spring scores for 2006 and 2007 are given in relationship to the state averages

grade level: ............ 6th ............. 7th ............. 8th

Spring 2006 .......... -0.2% .......... -1.1% .......... -1.4%

Spring 2007 .......... +0.1% .......... -1.3% .......... -0.1%

net change ........... +0.3% ......... -0.2% ......... +1.3%

For Seattle’s limited English speaking students grades 6,7,& 8 and Hispanics at grades 6,7, & 8 the performance of each of these six groups was worse than the previous year. The Seattle School district is still widening not closing the achievement gap for Hispanics and Limited English students in mathematics.

It appears that this Seattle adoption of the CMP2 curriculum accomplished nothing positive as there were positive tactics employed in addition to the curriculum change and still no positive statistically significant results were obtained on the WASL.

Tacoma left CMP and adopted Saxon for fall 2006. I had great doubts about this as most WA children by middle school are already computational failures in many WA districts. At Grade 3, I thought it would be reasonable but Saxon success at middle school most unlikely and at high school just flat impossible.

Here are Tacoma’s results for grades 3 through 8:

grade level... 3rd ... 4th ..... 5th .... 6th ... 7th ... 8th ... 10th

Spring 2006 -12.6%. -15.9%. -10.1%. -16.9%. -15.5%. -14.1%

Spring 2007..+5.9%. -12.4%.. -5.8%.. -9.4%. -11.3%. -14.2%

net change..+6.7% .+3.5% .+4.3% .+7.5% .+4.2% ..-0.1% .+4.4%

Tacoma has very impressive year to year changes except for grade 8 using Saxon Math.
Not bad for a book series supposedly not well aligned with the State Math standards according to OSPI.

In Tacoma at grades 6, 7, and 8 WASL results show the following for the limited English speaking students grades 6, 7, & 8 and Hispanics at grades 6, 7, & 8 the performance of each of these six groups improved the exact opposite of Seattle.

Limited English (net results) grades
6th.... +8.9% ... 7th... +1.4% ... 8th... +3.4%

Hispanics (net results) grades
6th... +12.6% ... 7th... +5.5% ... 8th... +1.3%

It seems clear to me that the math “Group Think” of the last decade is continuing in Seattle. Remember all these groups scored worse in 2007 than in 2006 in Seattle despite the additional support provided during the Connected Math implementation year 2006-2007 in the SPS.

At the time Seattle adopted Everyday Math. It was already known that the Everyday Math - Connected Math combination was failing in Denver and in the Colorado Springs area.

The question now becomes:
Will those who have the decision making power in Washington Schools continue to stamp AAA and continue this defrauding of the public?

Seattle has absolutely no business making a High School math adoption when they continue to pass unskilled students into high school without the mandated provisions of Seattle School Board policies D43.00 D 44.00 and D45.00 being in place k-8. Despite the Focal Points plea for narrowing topics SPS math leadership refuses to do so and instead buys materials that are the exact opposite. There are no effective interventions because there are no necessary skills defined. The public is pacified by social promotion.

Dr. Bergeson and many school boards have managed to fool most of the people for the last decade, is the plan to continue?

Will the Washington legislature finally say the buck stops here?
by saying: "Sorry no AAA stamp this time" or instead allow the Great Washington Math Meltdown to continue?

It is extremely unfortunate that many in the public are buying into this current situation as a battle between traditionalists and reformers. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is about decision making based on:
1. Blind philosophical allegiance or
2. Rational decision making based on what is working in the most successful nations in the world at mathematically educating their children. {Finland, Canada, Singapore, etc}

This is not a contest between the Luddites and the philosophically enlightened. The matter is now whether Washington State decision makers have the courage to put our children on the very well documented track to math success or not.

The goal of this standards rewrite was to be to bring the Washington Math Standards from a grade of "F" to being internationally competitive.

The Washington Exemplary Mathematics Standards 2008
can bring our children closer to being mathematically competitive internationally.

Dr. Bergeson's Washington K-12 Mathematics Standards are improved but can not produce the desired outcome for our children.

TIMSS International Scores are here.

PISA International scores of 15 year olds


Dan Dempsey


Anonymous said...

"coaching" is NOT more help, it is just imposition of failed pedagogy with more work based on failed pedagogy

oh! I was redundant!

Many Washington residents work in technical jobs with people from all around the country and all over the globe.

In non English speaking countries, people in science / math / engineering programs learn English so that they can speak MATH English with the rest of the world.


Because of Ms. Bergeson and her cohort of math phobes, the State of Washington has non standard Math English for its kids,


it is so poorly implemented that most 10 graders can barely do what they were supposed to have learned by 8th grade, so they spend the last 2 years of high school taking more and more middle school math.

Ms. Bergeson's ideas and implementations have had over a decade to prove themselves, and they have failed - worse, they have failed kids who don't even know what they don't know, or what they should know to have a chance of competing.

When I took math as a youngster decades ago there was a lot wrong with what they did back then. In the earnest and noble desire to make things better, we've thrown away what worked and we've adopted psycho-babble, BUT

we have what we had 3 decades ago!

The affluent just buy their away around the system's failures with money that buys tutoring, supplements, ...

and everyone get ????????


gizwiz said...

A week ago at Roosevelt HS, Dr. Bergeson said "We've done our very best.... to avoid pedagogy" in the writing of the standards.
I think a more accurate description would be that they've done their very best to obscure the pedagogy embedded in the standards, so that it is not visible at all to a parent, a legislator, or other casual reader, but still clear to those able to glean the code from the text.
Another, less cynical interpretation might be that they wrote the standards in such a way as to allow currently popular pedagogically intense curricula to survive in place, while opening the door a crack to allow others. I'd like to believe that this one is more accurate, but I'm from Missouri, and you have to Show Me.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, the Show Me Center in Missouri another group of freebooters and swash.

What do they do with all their free time? Write form letters?

Perhaps your district has received letters from parents or organized advocacy groups attacking standards-based, progressive curricula. It is not always easy for teachers and administrators to answer such "attacks" in a timely fashion. Joe Merlino has asked colleagues for input in answering one such letter that was received from parents criticizing CMP curriculum in the North Penn school district of Pennsylvania. We provide the letter that was received as well as carefully crafted responses by Judy Anderson, Diane Briars, Jim Fey, Steve Kramer, Joe Merlino, and Lucy West. This document will be of great value to all LSCs as they address the increasingly important subject of public engagement in order to keep parents on board with an LSC's vision.

Thank you to Joe Merlino (Greater Philadelphia Secondary Mathematics Project) who, through this effort, drew on the strengths and resources available within the LSC community to address such an important topic and who then realized the importance of sharing such a document with the entire LSC community through LSC-Net.

University of Missouri, Columbia

Barbara Reys

Fran Arbaugh
Ira Papick
Robert Reys
James Tarr


Hyman Bass, University of Michigan
Diane Briars, Pittsburgh Public Schools
Mary Lindquist, Columbus State University
Sid Rachlin, East Carolina University
Linda Rosen, Consultant
Ed Silver, University of Pittsburgh
Jane Swafford, Illinois State University


Cindy Langrall and Edward Mooney
Illinois State University


Robert Bates, MA
Jenny Bay-Williams, KS
Peg Bondorew, MA
Murrel Brewer-Hoover, WV
Judd Freeman, CO
Rebecca McGraw, AZ
Nancy Mumaw, OH
Ron Preston, NC
Gay Ragan, MO
Linda Selwood, DE
Sharon Stenglein, MN
Linda Tetley, MO

Connected Mathematics Project Satellite
Betty Phillips, Director

They want to let the public know that they did their best and they deserve their royalties.

Its the teachers fault that their students can't divide or multiply. And if its not that then it was kids fault. Fidelity of curriculum - why don't we start preaching reform instead of teaching.

After all, reformers like Calvin regarded creeds and traditions as ways to protect fidelity to the Bible rather than subvert it. What is your creed?

That's it, kids just don't want to learn. It couldn't be anything else but that. May your dreams be filled always with millions of burning textbooks.