Saturday, February 16, 2008

Singapore Math:
Top Ten Big Questions
about Seattle Schools,

Singapore Math is the result of a very careful curriculum development process over decades. This program continually produces 4th grade and 8th grade TIMSS math scores that lead the world. Many people that I've met have lots of excuses about how the USA math system is really the best for us because we have a diverse culture.

Consider the following:
Canada has a very diverse population demographic but has not bought into the US reform math. Canada is a much better performer than the USA. Alberta developed a very internationally based math program and reports excellent results even when compared internationally.

Singapore is hardly a monolithic nation. Mathematics is taught in English in Singapore but over 50% of Singapore's students come from non-English speaking homes. These carefully developed math books are written in basic English as many students come from homes where the Primary language could be: Mandarin Chinese, Malay, or Tamil (and a few others). In kindergartens and pre-schools Children learn two languages, English and their official mother tongue (Chinese, Malay, or Tamil).

Now come the big questions:
1...Why have the Seattle Schools spoken about the achievement gap in math and never even considered Singapore for a Primary math adoption and only as a secondary adoption because of political pressure by math activists? The Seattle Schools have had a continually widening Achievement Gap over the last decade in Math for Black students, Hispanic students, and Children of poverty. Is anyone ever held responsible for anything in the Seattle Schools in regard to decision making? Why are calculators used in grade 2 in Everyday math?

2...Why did OSPI never have Singapore as a reviewed text when looking for alignment with the OSPI produced GLEs and EALRs? There were books that were most aligned with the WASL that were pushed on school districts almost all of which work extremely poorly for Black students, Hispanic students, and Children of poverty. Check the data. The recommended texts prepare no one for collegiate level mathematics.
The elementary school TERC/Investigations or Everyday Math followed by Middle School Connected Math and then Core-Plus or IMP at the High School will assure the nation of a continuing need for math professionals from other countries- not to mention Doctors, Engineers, Physicists, and other specialists.

3...Why, when I was at West Seattle High School last year, did Dr James King of the University of Washington come and address the Math teachers and tell us that the UW would assist us in a project of our choosing. Then when we chose something other than Interactive Math Program materials (IMP) refuse to help us?
What was the Professional Development Cubed Project supposed to accomplish - I guess even though it was billed as professional development, it appears a secondary goal was to push the IMP curriculum upon us. Funny that was never stated in the brochures.

4...At West Seattle last year we knew many of our students were greatly deficient in number sense and arithmetic that is why we wanted to develop a program using a Singapore Math component to address these difficulties. Does the UW's Dr King have a particular aversion to Singapore Math or is it just the idea of arithmetic competence? The Math Modules that OSPI produced were shown to be ineffective by (WSIPP) Cole and Barnofski's study. West Seattle has had IMP in use longer than any other Seattle High School. It worked its way into the building initially without faculty enthusiasm. IMP has failed in Tacoma and in University Place. Why is Dr King attempting to use NSF funds to force it on West Seattle High School? We just said no thanks to a project. If it was to be IMP or nothing, we chose nothing.

5...What in the World is going on with the College of Education at the UW? In their annual publications:
Research That Matters: #4(2006)Closing the Gap and
#5(2007) Taking Measure, Does Modern Math Education Add Up?
there is very little of substance. The relevant math data in the state of Washington is avoided. Philosophy is preached and what actually produces positive statistically verifiable results is seldom if ever mentioned. The key idea of attribution analysis is missing from so much of this Math discussion, this appears to be a Math Hoax not a war. If it is a war are not both sides supposed to have real ammunition? Where is the data and the attribution analysis. I thought the UW was a great research university, what happened to math in the College of Education?

6...On the math panel I came to quickly realize that a person from a University who often criticized Singapore materials, had never looked at them. Why is this? No publisher dollars from Singapore powering the gravy train?

7...Why is the NSF continuing to fund so many programs that are without positive results and in fact producing programs like PD^3 to coerce high schools into using these ineffective materials? or was Dr King a rogue PD^3 administrator?
Click HERE to see one of the many ways the NSF spends our money. The NSF spent about 100 million dollars funding the development of various reform k-12 math materials.

8... How long will it take for the NAACP to bring a class action lawsuit based on much of the above and the following:
a..the fact that the State of Washington was ranked #48/51 in achievement Gap change from 2003-2007 by Quality Counts 2008 for 8th Grade math
b.. and most of the US is closing the achievement Gap in Math for children of poverty but Washington's is widening
c..Washington ranked number 42/51 in gap change for grade 4 reading.

9... Why when we know how to teach children do we just refuse to do so?
Project Follow Through the largest Study in Education history specifically addressed the learning of children of poverty in grades k-3. From its findings, it can easily be seen many of the things that OSPI and NSF and SPS have been attempting will not ever work. PFT ran from 1967-1995. What does work is a greater amount of direct instruction. This is exactly the opposite of what OSPI and SPS have been pushing and look at the math gap grow. I guess we are just too arrogant to learn from the top performers in the world and the largest study in education history because we have better ideas which are based on absolute nonsense.

10...College entrance math placement into initial math courses clearly declined over the last decade. The average from Seattle Central Community College shows initial math placement for recent high school graduates as:
3% into Arithmetic
17% into the equivalent of middle school math
30% into the equivalent of high school math one
14% the equivalent of a second year high school course
14% Math 98 - equivalent to Advanced algebra
22% a Community College math class that counts for credit

The above results are similar to other community colleges.
Given that OSPI spent enormous dollars on WASL math testing over a decade, why did it take until the summer of 2006 for Dr Bergeson to recognize we had a statewide math meltdown?

Why did Dr Bergeson attempt to subvert the will of the legislature by rejecting the low bid of $130,000 the next bid of $255,000 to accept a bid of $770,000 from the Dana Center to continue with reform math?

Why did Dr Bergeson select a Standards Revision Team with so little diversity?
Where are the mathematical experts from industry?
Why did the Standards Revision Team ignore HB 1906 and clearly not use the exemplar standards from other states and nations to compose the first Standards Revision draft of Dec 4, 2007? This failure to do so wasted lots of time and now the revision has not been completed on time.
Why in February is the current Standards Revision document so incredibly far away from the grade level content required to be internationally competitive?
Why are the middle school standards so lacking in content and rigor? and why do these standards resemble a "Connected Math" syllabus?
Whatever happened to topic reduction so that material could be mastered like in other internationally competitive nations?

The legislature and the Governor can begin to really fix this mess in the next month or they can allow the nonsense to continue. We clearly need a new Superintendent of Public Instruction. We also need to end the current math appreciation and instead have our children begin the study of mathematics.


Anonymous said...

Dr. King knows full well the issue is over grant money. The NSF stipulations for funding are that his department's staff development training is tied to the textbooks on the DOE's list of exemplary curriculum and neither Singapore or Saxon are on that list.

Dr. King is selling the grant that funds his department. He's not volunteering his services.

It would be far safer and more productive to turn down Dr. King's offer and adopt Singapore. The teachers and students will at least be able to read what they are learning.

Anonymous said...

Far wiser for Dr. King's department to not apply for a grant who's purpose is to derail public education by providing textbooks to schools that have no business being in the classroom.

By using reform textbooks you are doubling the amount of time a student will take math in order to reach calculas - perhaps that's why less than 3% of children under 18 ever take calculas in high school. There are more children in Singapore taking calculas than in the US. Don't figure does it. NSF is a POS propagandist for progressive educators who think its ok to enslave our society by hobbling them academically. Create ignorance, spread fear, spend more money.

Anonymous said...

If I was average public joe, I'd sure be asking Obama and McCain more questions about their education agendas because from the rhetoric I don't see any difference between these two candidates and Mr. Bush. Our politicians lack two things - honest intellect and vision.