Sunday, February 10, 2008

State Board of Education
Letter 2-11-2008

Dear State Board of Education Members,

When I came to the first SBE math panel meeting, I brought with me the document: What is Important in School Mathematics? This document was written in 2004 by an NSF funded panel of 12 mathematicians as a Guide to States looking to revise their mathematics standards. I was very impressed with the work of Ms Linda Plattner and the review and recommendations that were produced in August of 2007. Since then things have departed from the Guide to States recommendations in several significant ways. This departure does give insight into the nature of much of the k-12 mathematical futility of the last decade. I urge you to read the guide for further insight into our current situation and possible solutions. I strongly believe based on my widely diverse experiences in teaching that this guide is remarkably accurate in its suggestions for revision of any state’s mathematics standards.

A few significant difficulties follow:

1. Disregard for extremely relevant data - An analysis of WASL math scores for Seattle, Tacoma, Bellevue, and Clover Park School Districts shows extremely poor WASL results for Low Income, Blacks, and Hispanics as achievement gaps grew over the last decade. In fact CPSD Blacks posted their lowest 10th grade Math WASL score in spring 2007 (18% passing same as Bellevue Black students’ score).

2. Dr Bergeson’s misleading public presentations that Washington is doing well in mathematics:
a.) Saying that Washington has a 70% SAT participation rate
The reality is in 2001 53% in 2006 53%
b.) Saying Washington is among the top in the NAEP results
The reality is for WA at grade 4 → two out of five subgroups are at the national average the others are below -Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, American Indians. The NAEP is not to be used for State to State comparison due to uncontrolled variables which effect outcomes substantially. (The fact that Washington has above average percentages for numbers of Asians and Whites, the two highest scoring subgroups, gives WA an above average grade 4 NAEP score). Given Washington’s favorable socioeconomic situation one would predict WA to be above average – except for our poor state spending level and very large class sizes.

The NAEP shows that for within state change in score for children of poverty the gap from 2003-2007 has Washington ranked #48/51 for 8th grade math gap change. In Washington the gap is growing and in the nation as a whole this gap is shrinking.

3. The University of Washington College of Education continues to advocate for ineffective math programs that are responsible for producing many of the above deficiencies.
In the UW’s College of Education 2006 publication Research That Matters 4: Closing the Gap, Dean Wasley in the introduction states:

"The gap in achievement in this state and in our nation resides squarely between races and is demarcated by poverty. In Washington, the dropout rate for most minority students and limited-English speakers is about twice that of whites. Test scores show similar divides. Although their numbers are showing improvement, non-Asian minorities typically score 20 or more points lower than their white counterparts on Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) tests."

Spring 2007 - In Bellevue Blacks scored 55 points lower than whites at grade 10 math, In Seattle 51.2 points lower. These two districts have advocated OSPI aligned materials as favored by UW CoE. Statewide the Black - White Gap is 33.8%. Clearly the CoE needs to pay closer attention to the actual facts of the situation and the harm the UW’s CoE Math position is causing. --- Contrary to what Dean Wasley says: The numbers are not showing improvement.

In addition other districts that adopted materials most closely aligned with OSPI math text recommendations served students of color and poverty poorly as a result – for example Clover Park SD

4. Dr Bergeson selected a Standards Revision Team that had very little balance. Where were the mathematically knowledgeable professionals from the business community? There was very little diversity of opinion in those selected. Despite the charge to follow the exemplar documents from top states and Finland and Singapore, it appeared that the Dana Center made the following decision. New standards should be created by revising the old standards. The Dr Bergeson-Dana Center draft one (Dec 4) bore little resemblance to what the original recommendations from Strategic Teaching advocated.

5. Incorrect and misleading comparisons using NAEP Data. Dr. Kimberly Vincent of WSU, and Dr Bergeson often bring up a California - Washington NAEP score comparison which is completely invalid. Applying the overall ranking without considering socioeconomic factors and accommodations shows a disregard for the intent of the study.

Table of Socioeconomic Indicators for MA, WA & CA (2006)
(From EdWeek’s Quality Counts 2008 with assistance from the Pew Research Center)
State Success Indicators (Early Foundations page 3) by National Ranking:
Family income #5 #17 #32
Parent Education #1 #20 #39
Parental Employment #19 #31 #38
Linguistic integration* #37 #40 #51
Adult educational Attainment #2 #14 #22
Spending (2005) #13 #43 #46
*Children whose parents are fluent English speakers: 86.8% 84.2% 63%
(Adjusted per-pupil expenditures (PPE) –Analysis accounts for regional cost differences)

NAEP accommodations and demographic for MA, WA & CA (2007)
(From NAEP 2007 Mathematics Assessment, 4th grade)

Students identified as
ELL/Disabled and assessed
without accommodations: 6% 8% 33%

Black/Hispanic: 18% 21% 61%

Eligible for National
School Lunch Program: 27% 39% 53%

6. Dr Bergeson continues to advocate for Washington creation of tests and materials rather than using proven inexpensive off the shelf materials.
From 2000-2005 both the WASL and the ITBS tests were given in Reading and Math at grades 6 and 9 the ITBS scores were flat for the six year period, while WASL scores rose continually really rocketing in grade 7 reading. Then after Spring 2005 there was no more nationally-normed standardized testing. Please resume either the ITBS or better yet use the MAP.

Dr Bergeson wishes to create online materials for math. Given the OSPI track record this seems like a very bad idea. Look at the Math modules that were created to help students pass the math WASL. WSIPP’s W.Cole & R.Barnofski found the use of these modules largely ineffective.

Dr Bergeson’s selection of the Dana Center and her revision team selections are spending about $1 million and not following the simple directions they were given and violating many critical points in the Guide to States from MSSG.

I urge you to read the MSSG document: What is Important in School Mathematics? Your reading particularly of sections III A & B (which follow) will enable you to gain a better understanding of how far off the tracks this process has gone since September of 2007.


Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr. SBE math panelist

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

Segmented Math teacher at Alternatives for Individuals High School
Clover Park School District, Lakewood, WA

from What is Important in School Mathematics?

III. Advice for Revising School Mathematics Standards and Curriculum

The design of school mathematics standards and curriculum is a very complex, intellectually challenging task. We offer the following advice about this task.

A. States should seek out the best mathematical thinkers from schools, higher education and the private sector to serve on committees to design school mathematics standards and curriculum.

The outstanding credentials of members of such committees must reflect the intellectually challenging nature of designing of school mathematics standards and curricula. If mathematics education is to be given a high priority by states and they want expert guidance, then we believe that states would be well advised to follow the model used by the federal government, which turns to the National Academy of Sciences for expert advice. The Academy assembles panels of the nation’s experts on a topic. These panels are chosen free of input from governmental officials or interest groups.

Such an expert panel for school mathematics would ideally be composed of distinguished scholars in mathematics and in mathematics education, along with representatives from the schools where the instruction occurs-- practicing teachers-- and representatives from companies and institutions who employ graduates-- mathematical experts from the private sector. The expertise of these groups is needed to design a focused, incremental curriculum, as outlined in the previous section, and to resolve conflicting objectives, e.g., simplicity and age-appropriateness versus mathematical correctness and completeness.

B. State mathematics programs have been redesigned too often. For help in developing more effective, stable mathematics programs, states are advised to draw heavily on successful mathematics programs in other countries, which have been gradually refined for many years.

All countries seek to teach their young people good mathematical skills and reasoning. It stands to reason that the experiences of other countries can be an important resource for U.S. standards developers. In virtually all commercial and intellectual activities, successful strategies incorporate the best ideas of others and then extend them. So it should be with school mathematics.


Anonymous said...

The standards-based curriculum has destabilized communities to the point that it should be considered a health risk to children. Fewer children from all ethnicities are taking fewer mathematics and science classes. The majority of Washington children are not going beyond Algebra and Earth Science. Scores are not showing significant gains because fewer children are attending school. This has created a steep increase in student turnover, dropout and failure rates. As a result many children are unable to complete high school. As these children attempt to enter the work force and have families, this will have an even greater impact on Washington's economy. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Regarding Seattle's teachers efforts to organize and use Singapore math or something in the line of more traditional curriculum.

SPS did not budget for textbooks this year.

What I guess is the textbooks will be paid for by another source, provided one of the standardized textbooks are selected, most likely imp, everyday, and cmp? High schools will be given two choices: dumb and dumber.

So why all the meetings when the leadership knows already the curriculum has been pre-selected.

Wouldn't it better to be on the level and admit publicly the math curriculum is being imposed on communities? The WEA seems as corrupted as Dr. Bergerson and the UW Ed. Department. Where is the leadership?

It would be far less wasteful for OSPI to stop writing standards, stop the WASL, stop hiring expensive consultants in their effort to prove the math/science/ss programs work, when the public knows for a fact that they do more harm to students than good. Far easier for them to run a flea circus.

Without the WASL, SPS would be in dead heat for last. They'd never be able to show their AYP was going up. Why not just say no to the Feds and give up on educating all kids?

Many kids aren't going to school anyway, although SPS says they are. Failure and dropping out are norms and the state punishes children for refusing to cooperate. Watch a board meeting - its chaos. Look at the violence you've created in school. Why would any child want to attend such a place?

You've got many fine, talented teachers that don't have a clue what's going on and many people are afraid to say something. That has been the nature of this debate and it has been extremely one-sided.

Why can't the district think for itself?

NYCS was furnished a $70 million grant from the city, and 20% had to be allocated to private schools, who didn't even use the money to buy textbooks, they didn't need to.

Will OSPI furnish the assistance grant? If so, then I know already what textbooks the district will choose.

That $100? million project to renovate Sealth into a 6-12 school and close down Denny suddenly looks mighty expensive. Had voters known when they voted for a school bond, what Seattle really needed money for was buying new textbooks?

dan dempsey said...

In regard to the UW College of Education and Math - I've decided to speak about that on Wednesday Feb 13, 2008 at the Seattle School Board meeting. I just posted my testimony.

If we keep up the good fight, we will win. It took Gandhi 25+ years to get the British out of India. It took about a decade from the Memphis Bus-boycott until the Civil Rights act passed. There is still along way to go - but stay faithful.

Good math curriculum can become a reality. Eventually logic and reason can overcome power-politics when a large enough part of the populace makes their dissatisfaction known with these pathetic results.

If the internet had been in existence Gandhi could have moved faster. I hope it does not take us 25+ years.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering - what are Linda Plattner's credentials?

Surely she must have a PhD on math, or a PhD in math education? Please enlighten me.