Monday, February 25, 2008

Another Math Appreciation Advocate with no data
that's no surprise

Executive Editor Potomac News - Susan Svihilik
Prince William Editor - Ellen Mitchell -
Manassas Editor - Keith Walker -
Editorial Pager Editor - Alex Granados -

Dear Newspaper Professionals,

I have attached some articles and research and I will send you one additional piece. The fact is simply this: What many people including MS Oppenhagen are attempting to pass off as Math Education is only math appreciation. Her article contains no research and I find it extremely difficult to believe she found any research to support her position as published.

The results from PISA 2003 and 2006 (included) and from Bellevue and Seattle make this quite clear. I have a degree in Math. It took me seven years to get it. I was the victim of the New Math my last three years in High School and entered University extremely unprepared in Math as a result.

There is very little doubt that I, is a child of today, would not be able to attain a degree in a highly technical field at the university level in Math, Engineering, Physics, Chemistry, or Computer Science because of the astonishing lack of k-12 math preparation provided to k-12 students.

In Washington State our math remediation rates are now above 75% for recent high school graduates at many Community Colleges and the University of Washington has surpassed the 33% mark. At Seattle Central Community College a full 50% of recent high school graduates can not place above the equivalent of High School math 1. A full 20% of recent high school graduates are placing below high school math 1 for their first math course at SCCC.

I am appalled that commentary with no basis in reality is allowed to be presented as research in Newspapers these days.

Attached is some research much of it original from me.

I sent this research along with the letter below to the author of what in my view is a biased opinion piece attempting to pass as research only because the author calls it research.


Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.


Dear Ms Oppenhagen,
You said:

I have done some additional research into the program

I haven’t seen anywhere in the math program where children would be disadvantaged by participating in Math Investigations. I have only seen advantages.

I have become more sure that this program needs the opportunity to succeed.

Please send me the research that led you to this conclusion. I am speaking of relevant data to which attribution analysis might possibly be applied.
To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data. Your research at this point appears to be little more than delving into shallow analysis of vague philosophical constructs.
I can send you large amounts of data that lead to the exact opposite of your supposedly researched position. The most telling of which come from Bellevue, Washington and Seattle.

Bellevue is a supposed educational leader in the State of Washington-> rich suburb east of Seattle. Bellevue adopted TERC/Investigations, Connected Math and Core-Plus with a fidelity of implementation model. Seattle extensively used Investigations also but without an official adoption. Over the last decade both of these districts have seen a steady widening of the math achievement gap for Blacks, Hispanics, and children of poverty. Bellevue has seen a startling rise in outside school students assistance costs up by 340% for Kumon, Sylvan, and tutors. In short if you do not have knowledgeable relatives at home or dollars for outside help the likelihood of learning much math from most reformed math text series is extremely small.

Wshington State with lots of reform math texts in use now rates #48 / 51 from 2003 to 2007 in achievement gap change for children of poverty at the 8th grade level in math.

The USA increased the use of reform math texts during the last decade. PISA math 2003 showed USA as the poorest performing English speaking nation tested. PISA given every 3 years in 2006 showed a statistically significant decline for the USA from 2003 to 2006 in math. I guess we dropped from really really bad to totally pathetic.

We are the only nation that bought reform math hook, line and sinker.

The Japanese recently refused the sinker. Japan revises their Math Standards every 10 years: 1982, 1992, 2002.

In 2002 Japan made many reform changes. In the PISA test of 2006, which had a complete analysis available in early Decemeber 2007, Japan dropped significantly (note the similarity to the USA).

In recent weeks Japan announced a mid-course correction --- The 2002 Standards are being questioned and the country may return to the use of the 1992 standards.

Denise it must be of "research" like yours that we continue to swallow the sinker and go down down down.

Will anyone ever choose to intelligently apply the relevant data and end this mess?

It becomes extremely difficult with people like you writing opinion pieces and passing opinion like this column off as research.

I do have some faith that if the public gets smacked in the face often enough by the tails of the fish swimming down the politically correct stream often enough, that the public will eventually decide not to drift to the mathematical bottom.

Could you please send me your qualifications that might lead me to take your opinion more seriously.


Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.

BA Mathematics, M.Ed.
NCLB Highly Qualified in Math, Chem, & Science.


Anonymous said...

Here's a pic of her meeting VA Sec.of Education

Rippon Middle School, Woodbridge, VA

Anonymous said...

Here's another pic -- looks like an NSF grant.

Anonymous said...

Oppenhaggen's current assignment
Not exactly a mathematics expert.

Eighth grade physical science and one robotics class in a special math science specialty program for students - "magnet program?"

The Mathematics and Science Program is offered to qualified sixth, seventh, and eight grade students at Rippon Middle School. The program provides students the opportunity to become engaged in an intensive program of study in mathematics and science. Students in this program are challenge and motivated to develop their critical thinking skills through discovery and exploration. Express transportation is provided.

You're seeing a trend returning in large school districts to keep high achieving students from leaving the district.

Some Prince William officials say establishing a school like Thomas Jefferson would help the county retain its best students and enhance the school system's appeal to an increasingly wealthy and well-educated demographic. The county system already has a slew of well-regarded specialty high schools that admit students based primarily on their interests. But sometimes its reputation suffers because it has lower average SAT scores than other large Northern Virginia systems.

"It's a matter of prestige," said Prince William School Board member Milton C. Johns (Brentsville), who joined with another board member in the fall to propose an exclusive magnet school. "Right now, we have a lot of students in our math and science programs, but they're not selective. We want to attract the best teachers and families. It also attracts us to businesses."

School administrators are studying the proposal. One idea is to build "schools within a school," perhaps in the western or central parts of the county. One of the schools on the campus could be an exclusive magnet for math and science that admits students based on grades and a test; another could be a standard neighborhood school; and a third could be what is known as a "traditional" school with strict rules and dress codes.

SRI and Rand Corp also have offices located in Arlington.
Alvarado is with Rand.

Anonymous said...

And wouldn't you know it, there's a parent campaign to get rid of Core Plus -- love it. Goldenberg (mathematically insane, NSF grant committee person) for some reason has a babble campaign going on about supporting Core Plus. Yeck.

Goldenburg -
I had to re-read what I sent to find where I stated that YOU were such an opponent or a conservative. My reply was directed to the people who
put together the petition. My curiosity is piqued by your comment, however, in that it seems to suggest that the possibility of some sort of economic threat (e.g., a boycott) by parents should be a serious caveat when K-12 educators select curriculum and materials.

Using that logic, if the majority of parents in town (or just an
active, vocal few who know how to put political pressure into play)
object to teaching evolution in science classes (or NOT teaching
"creation 'science'"), or don't want HUCKLEBERRY FINN taught in high school English (because it uses the "n-word"), or object to realistic sex education (as opposed to the lovely fantasy of "abstinence-only PSEUDO-education [yes, that was just for you, Dom]), the faculty
members in the appropriate departments better think twice, if not more, before defying the "will of the people." When do political
pressure, private interests, narrow political or religious agendas, etc. become substitutes for best judgment and best practices of professionals? Should vocal, activist Christian Scientists be able to
block the use of modern medicine not only for themselves and their
kids (speaking of criminal child abuse), but in public schools (hmm, come to think of it, they don't need to: these days, the school nurse can't even give out aspirin without fear of firing and law suits coming down on his/her head)? Should math teachers be teaching that calculus was invented by Africans(I was in a calculus III class in
which several students were VERY insistent that we should be
discussing the Africans who developed "the so-called Taylor and McLaurin series"!!!!)? There comes a point where professionals have to do their jobs.

I'm sorry you didn't care for Core-Plus. I taught from it for about
two years. I observed its use in classrooms where several student
teachers I supervised from U of Michigan were placed (in Grass Lake, MI) without any apparent problems. I attended a Core Plus user's conference in northern Virginia in 1999 and met many teachers who found it to be an excellent program (at this same conference, Tom Tucker, a mathematician at Colgate, spoke very favorably about the
pilot edition of Volume 4 that was about to be published in a first
edition). I'm not sure how "many" of your colleagues didn't care for
it. But did any of them actually teach any lessons from it? Were the LESSONS lacking in logical structure, on their/your view, or was it the interconnections among and between lessons that you found fault with?

I don't politicize reform. It's been politicized by those who began attacking it in the 1990s. I was very naive when I bumped into it. Based on my recent math education experiences in NYC, I thought most of the ideas fit in well with what some of my professors there were
trying to implement. I was surprised by the vehement attacks against the NCTM standards volumes that were being leveled on nctm-l (the former name of this list) by a few very angry people. This actually predates the appearance here of members of Mathematically Correct and HOLD. While I now believe that there is a major component of the Math
Wars that is politically-based (and mostly, though not exclusively, fueled by conservative think tanks and foundations, sometimes with the
support of a few "liberals" (one must recall that our own Wayne Bishop told us for a good long while that he is a "life-long liberal Democrat," a claim that apparently defies any 20th century meaning of either "liberal" or "Democrat" in the United States) and self- proclaimed Socialists (of whom I'm not one). I'm pretty sure that accusing supporters of progressive mathematics programs of "racism"
wasn't my doing: that charming practice was either invented or
perfected by opponents of reform, some of whom continue to claim and/ or insinuate that it's racist to advocate anything but Saxon or
Singapore Math for minority students.

I'm happy to hear that you withhold judgment on programs you aren't familiar with. I've attempted unsuccessfully to explain to a few vocal
anti-reformers (e.g., Arthur Hu) that I do the same thing and will not be baited into taking a position about any program I've not actually seen and had a chance to review carefully. Sadly, this doesn't prevent Arthur and a few others from consistently claiming that I believe (or don't believe) a host of sentiments that they make up and put in my mouth. Quite frustrating, really, and remarkably immature and dishonest.

So I'm pretty careful about assuming what others believe unless they give pretty clear evidence that they do. I certainly wasn't trying to suggest that you disapproved of INVESTIGATIONS, but your comment does appear to give some sort of weight to the threat of economic sanctions, so to speak, by angry parents. And I find that a bad
policy. Fear of mob rule is not the most effective way for a
profession to develop its practices and policies. In the case of public education, it's always very dangerous to let extremists on either political wing to determine what gets taught and how. As long as Americans have the alternative of sending their children to private schools or moving them to another district, there really IS choice.
Guaranteeing that EVERY public school cater to the demands of splinter groups or even a current majority of local taxpayers who get bees in their bonnets is not feasible, nor am I sure that it would be a good idea if it were. (However, as Kirby has pointed out, there actually
ARE options for delivering alternative content and instruction that should be considered seriously and might well help defuse some of this battling).

On Feb 5, 2008, at 11:49 AM, Michael Sakowski wrote:

I did not criticize this particular reform math. I was merely pointing out the possible indirect economic consequences of parents objecting to it.

I have not reviewed the "Investigations" curriculum, so I can not, in all honesty give it any type of approval or disapproval. Who knows, perhaps I might like it, or perhaps like parts of it.

Both myself and many of my colleagues have reviewed the Core-Plus high school level reform curriculum and we found it to be lacking a logical structure needed to allow students to receive clear
instruction. I am a bit surprised at how you seem to "politicize" this whole reform issue. My college professors I had while pursuing my Master's Degree in Applied Mathematics at the University of Minnesota were anything but the "GWB right wingers" you seem to label any
traditionalists as. Yet they delivered clear and organized mathematics instruction. And their delivery method and curriculum choice is something I would want to emulate as an instructor of mathematics myself.

These are my comments, but I think Seattle area parents should be pleased to hear that WTM efforts and various experts campaigns to eliminate standardized math or whatever it should be called are not going unnoticed. Parents everywhere are facing the same nonsensical polical rationalizations being made by progressivists. Even Arthur Hu has been labeled a troublemaker. Well done.

Yesterday, I spoke to a parent who was upset that their child was doing so poorly in school. He is a mechanical engineer and could not see what the devil Core 1 was driving at. I told him it wasn't his fault they couldn't write a book. He is putting together a parent group that is going to set itself upon the school district, like a fire. The superintendent is taking leave this year, we don't expect him back ever. I told him anyway that I could help I would.

Goldenburg's own writing I detect an air of deceit. His own use of Core Plus at MSU in 1999, dates him back to an evaluation study that was criticized by many researchers.

So whatever. You choose your ditch to hang your career on. He's been digging one for the last 8 years.

Anonymous said...

This should not be a surprise either - Bellevues former sup Riley was from Loyola.

The Chicago Systemic Initiative (CSI) Math Center, maintained by Loyola University Chicago School of Education, provides a collection of math lesson plans and activities for grades K-8.

Anonymous said...

Actually NSF opened Pandora's box by not asking researchers to be more accountable or use their integrity. Each of them was allowed to follow the same low standards for considering what worked in the classroom. If students left the program, they were not followed. Only high achieving tracks were studied.

No longitudinal studies were ever implemented in a conrolled setting, before the adoption was improved.

No one questioned the relevance of the curriculum to students.

No one thought about how the effect of integrating strands would change the effect on instruction.

Making up rules for teaching, like the importance of using 8 minute lesson plans (who made that up?), created a volatile situation in urban districts that left communities seething with anger.

The unions, school boards, and districts should have supported teachers in their battle to protect classrooms from lowering standards.

They will never be trusted ever again ever. math and science teachers would be better off going on strike or quitting. Put these suckers out of business.

dan dempsey said...

No response from Denise Oppenhaggen, the author. She's not responded to emails sent to her and not replied to the several comments posted after her published article online.

Looks like just another Newspaper drive by distribution of misinformation.