Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Third of Entering Ninth Graders
are Clueless about Math,
will Seattle attempt a High School
Math textbook selection??

Soon Seattle is scheduled for a High School math adoption.

Great short-term decisions cannot possibly be made because flawed past decisions produced our current sorry state of affairs.

Currently it is not possible to make an adequate math text selection for many students at the high school level. The SPS is producing far too many ninth grade students without an appropriate skill level to do high school mathematics. Around 1/3 of entering High School Ninth graders fall into the "Totally Clueless" about math category = WASL level 1. Recent K-8 Math adoptions are unlikely to significantly improve this situation. Expensive interventions would be far more effective with proven K-8 math curricula, which unfortunately the Seattle Public Schools choose not to use.

The letter from UW Math Professor Dr Paul Tseng should have great relevance for any SPS decision maker.

The Everyday Math adoption in May 2007 ignored the essentials of how Mathematics is actually learned. Some of the reasons this ethnically discriminatory ineffective material was adopted occurred because the SPS senior staff at the district level continually failed to respond to concerns and questions as well as failing to respond to questions asked by the NAACP. Watch the video of public testimony from May 30, 2007 – Oh.. it does not exist. Look on the website for the explanation of how this adoption is going to be implemented. No can’t do that it was quickly posted and removed.

The new school board can hardly expect to build public confidence by allowing their employees to deceive the public with presentations and responses that hide the truth. The current Denny/Sealth fiasco is the latest example of public deception. Put information in the voters guide and on the ballot to approve funding for one thing and then fail to provide what was described. Do the school board directors prefer option #2 at this time?

Dr Tseng’s letter is of great relevance to Seattle.

1...It shows exactly why D43.00 D44.00 and D45.00 should be applied essentially as written with a focus on grade level required necessary skills and effective interventions. Social promotion and the resulting dependence on vague differentiated instruction are the exact opposite of how to create an environment in which mathematics can be effectively learned.

2...When carefully read his letter allows discovery of why Everyday Math is such a poor text selection for Seattle. It also shows why the Everyday Math - Connected Math combination, which was known to be a large failure in Denver, [ via consultants report to Denver Public Schools on April 6, 2007 and made know to the SPS staff in April - which again elicited no response] only contributes to the ongoing slide in mathematical competence of Seattle School attendees.

3...I could go on with many further points from Dr Tseng's letter but Seattle School Directors can find out far more by seriously accepting their duty to children and realizing that Senior Staff often present misleading information and hide the truth.
The events that brought us to this sorry state of affairs are the direct result of vindictive autocratic enforcement of “Group Think”. Intimidation has a long history in the SPS. Consultants even mention it. However no one does anything about it.

The Everyday Math adoption happened because the directors failed to fulfill their responsibility to their constituents by:

1.. Trusting their hired experts.

2.. Believing that political pressures would produce an adequate outcome.

3.. Ignoring relevant data rather than intelligently applying it.

Please do not implement this three-pronged disaster process yet again and do not dump this issue to another agency or board. The Board needs to carefully consider Dr Paul Tseng’s letter not forward it and forget it.

We have already been down this road before. The job of the school director is to intelligently review all the relevant information and apply it for the good of the children.

#1...Trusting your hired experts, in math is not possible. The data from the last ten years indicates you have no experts in a decision-making capacity in mathematics. The SPS has assembled and paid individuals whose primary qualification is to be able to sense the correct direction of the PC wind and face with it.

#2…Believing that political pressures will produce an adequate outcome is not the job of a director and got us in this mess. OSPI ignored all the data to pursue a philosophical direction unsupported by data or merit. The UW College of Education has produced expensive empty rhetoric and no statistical analysis to indicate any of these math curricula they peddle are effective. I strongly think that attribution analysis would show: the positive results that they have achieved at a few isolated locations are due to many other interventions (like more time on math, collegiate students tutoring, reduction in class size, increased planning time, etc.) not the curricula used. That is why these results cannot be reproduced on a larger scale. In the vast majority of Seattle’s classrooms most of those other interventions will never be available.

#3… Ignoring relevant data rather than intelligently applying it still continues. At the k-12 Math Standards rollout in the small group setting K-12 Math Program Manager Rosalind Wise said the following:

All eighth grade students can be successful in Algebra. It will need to be conceptually based not computationally based Algebra.

Seattle’s continued reliance on a defective narrow definition of mathematics is a disgrace. Math needs to also be a useful tool for everyone: carpenters, electricians, welders, engineers, mathematicians, physicists, accountants, programmers, teachers, health care professionals, computers scientists, homeowners, etc.
This is not happening because in the past the directors abdicated their primary responsibility in this matter.

In the next few months, we shall see if there is any effective new leadership. So far it looks like the extremely defective decision making processes from the past are well-entrenched and unlikely to change.

I urge everyone to review the WASL grade level information below. These figures are for Level 1 performance – the “clueless” level. Then really ask yourself should the SPS board continue to play 1, 2, 3, or actually begin to take effective action on their own to respond to this incredible injustice. The Richland School Board had the courage and was awarded best school board of the year for districts above 5000 by WASDA in 2007.

As always the Directors have my best wishes and support in doing the most important job in Seattle and probably the most difficult if done well,

Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.

Look at the Top Ten Questions Here

Seattle Public Schools 2007 Math WASL results by grade level. I list only unexcused absence, refusal, no scores, and level 1 WASL results by percent and number of students:

I urge you to compare the following data with the number of Grade level non-promotions and effective interventions as mandated in existing Board Policy.
I've never been able to find this data - Good Luck.

Seattle Public Schools (2007)
below level 2 WASL MATH results

Grade 3
Level 1 (well below standard)
446 12.60%
No Score
73 2.10%
Unexcused Absence, Refusal
39 1.10%
Total 558 15.71%

Grade 4
Level 1 (well below standard)
671 19.90%
No Score
66 2.00%
Unexcused Absence, Refusal
36 1.10%
Total 773 22.96%

Grade 5
Level 1 (well below standard)
617 18.60%
No Score
69 2.10%
Unexcused Absence, Refusal
40 1.20%
Total 726 21.89%

Grade 6
Level 1 (well below standard)
863 27.90%
No Score
57 1.80%
Unexcused Absence, Refusal
18 0.60%
Total 938 30.37%

Grade 7
Level 1 (well below standard)
863 28.20%
No Score
69 2.30%
Unexcused Absence, Refusal
31 1.00%
Total 963 31.45%

Grade 8
Level 1 (well below standard)
906 29.20%
No Score
97 3.10%
Unexcused Absence, Refusal
32 1.00%
Total 1035 33.35%

Grade 10 (2007)
Level 1 (well below standard)
675 22.90%
No Score
353 12.00%
Unexcused Absence, Refusal
108 3.70%
Total 1136 38.51%

Grade 10 (2005*)
Level 1 (well below standard)
1146 32.60%
No Score
337 9.60%
Unexcused Absence, Refusal
n/a n/a
Total 1483 42.25%

Grade 10 (2005*) total does not include No Scores in total or percent figured from that total. This would make both the total and percent higher if computed as in 2007.

Grade 10 in 2006 and 2007 had much higher passing rates and lower level 1 rates than in 2005 as in those two years anyone without sophomore credits was actively discouraged (or prohibited) from taking the WASL unlike in prior years when if students had been in high school for two years they were WASL tested. If the old rule was in place, I believe the 2007 grade 10 Level 1 total would exceed 45%. Although passing rate rose from 40% in 2005 to 55% in 2006, 15 fewer students passed the grade 10 Math WASL in 2006.

When you can't make the numerator larger shrink the denominator.

Let me go watch that legislative testimony again -- before the Washington Senate Education leaders with some teachers saying that Advanced Algebra should be a graduation requirement.
What planet are they on? Currently slightly over 50% can pass the equivalent of a middle school math test in grade 10 on the first try. Why don't we try for some arithmetic skills and some high school algebra skills for openers. Are we just trying to motivate 50% of the kids to drop out immediately?

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