Sunday, March 30, 2008

Authentic Algebra .................
............and Why it Matters

The National Math Panel Lays Out
the Path to Algebra -- and Why It Matters.

Educators should keep it simple: Define a few key topics and teach them until students master them. Students should memorize basic arithmetic math facts and spend more time on learning to manipulate fractions. How teachers achieve the goals is up to them.

The panel had difficulty relying on sound science as they could find so little of it. Few of the 16,000 studies it examined turned out to be useful. Most were of insufficient quality, too narrow in scope, or lacked conclusive findings. The literature has little on how to train teachers and how good teachers help students learn. So exactly what is going on with those Math Coaches in the SPS and the failure of the SPS to even define grade level necessary skills. Wow what is the school board thinking?

The U.S. secretary of education will hold a national summit this year on implementing the panel’s 45 recommendations. Local control over education could allow the SPS to continue on their same defective math path if the people are continually ignored as in the past. Perhaps the Board can do better than their 7-0 vote to continue reform math nonsense and the continual disregard of preparing students for Authentic Algebra.

Looking at success rates in algebra or proficiency in algebraic concepts, it is incredibly clear that students are not succeeding.

Many students have trouble with fractions?

In recent decades foolishly fractions were viewed as less important than other forms of numbers because you can express everything in decimals or in spreadsheets. If a student has no feel for numbers and what a fifth of a pie is, or what 20% of something is, how can they understand the ratio of numbers involved and what happens as you manipulate any ratio?

Schools lost sight of these important things. In Seattle, the School board, the SPS math leadership, and the UW educators of teachers all facilitated this loss of vision and loss of student math skills.

Many math studies are not very generalizable. The panel found a serious lack of studies with adequate scale and design for them to reach conclusions about their applicability for implementation. What does that tell you when the UW or the SPS says research shows when they attempt a change. The questions now must always be: What research and exactly what do you think it showed and why do you think so? The public statements of Dr Bergeson and written posts by several math reformers do not stand up when we search for positive results on a local scale. We have been the victims of Snake Oil Propaganda posing as research.

An excellent question is: Should the Federal Government be paying for more Research? Looking at the NSF's HED department's mindless funding of no results reform math over the last two decades, the immediate response could be NO WAY. If the NSF would stop the funding of all grant proposals that are in clear opposition to the NAMP recommendations, I would be in favor of Government funding to further the NAMP recommendations. If it is just going to be the continuation of Math gravy train nonsense that helped the UW promote math nonsense in Seattle over the last decade Do NOT spend one cent more.

Professional development math programs for teachers have been in large part a total joke. Look at the results of following the SPS math experts and OSPI over the last decade. There has been little attempt to have teachers learn more math content. Now 62% of Washington teachers have masters degrees but still do not know enough content to teach elementary school math. The math knowledge of the average US teacher is abysmal when compared to teachers in the top performing math countries. Most states refuse to pay competitive wages for math experts and have a shortage of math teachers. Contrast that with Korea, and Finland where they expect to have only the top 10% to 30% of math graduates teaching math. Washington has a math teacher and math knowledge shortage in schools and no plan to do anything about it. OSPI and SPS are clueless in this regard.

Look at the SPS Calculator insanity. Ms Santorno spoke of the need for automaticity [memorization of basic facts]; then ordered classroom sets of calculators so the students in the primary grades would have the calculators required for the Everyday Math books. ---- Now consider the money expended on educational math software and the effectiveness of that pedagogical software. Currently there’s no evidence of substantial benefit or damage. It is conceivable that a product could demonstrate effectiveness on a sizable scale under certain conditions; if it did could OSPI or the SPS even recognize that? Given the failure to heed Project Follow Through research it seems most unlikely.

Success in Math creates real opportunities for people and for the well-being of our nation, the fact that Seattle has entrusted Mathematical decision making to Ms Santorno, Ms Wise, and Dr Bergeson, is beyond the comprehension of informed rational individuals. What category will the current SPS seven member school board fall into? -- Three of the current seven members chose to be members of the irrational uninformed camp just 10 months ago. The same uninformed SPS administrative math leaders will soon be presenting a proposed High School math adoption believed to be Interactive Math Program as posted on Harium's Blog. If that is the case the plan continues to be NO AUTHENTIC ALGEBRA ever.

To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data. Prepare yourself for little improvement in the Seattle Schools.

OSPI Press Release on
National Math Panel Alignment

Here is the latest piece of Math disinformation issued by OSPI.
Sorry I guess I had been to busy to notice this piece earlier.
Eleven reasons why this press release is nonsense are numbered below.

Even the title of this OSPI release is nonsense.

Washington’s Revised Math Standards Consistent with New National Report Who is believing this?

OLYMPIA - March 14, 2008 - Washington state’s newly revised math standards are in sync with a number of key recommendations made in a report just released by the National Mathematics Advisory Panel.

The state has no accepted newly revised standards that have been approved [1]

"Substantial and sustained changes" in math education is needed if the United States is to retain its international leadership in engineering, science and economics, the report said. "Sound education across the population is a national interest."

The changes recommended have no similarity with what Dr Bergeson has been pushing for the last decade [2]

Washington State Superintendent Terry Bergeson agrees. "Once our new math standards are implemented, our students will be able to compete with the best students in the nation and in the world," she said.

Highly unlikely this could occur even if really good standards were implemented tomorrow. To be prepared for Authentic Algebra requires preparation. Under Dr Bergeson's math leadership students have been prepared to never take Authentic Algebra. A successful transition will take a long time. It will require a great deal more than Excellent standards. Our current system of math education in WA is in a really distressed condition in a large number of ways. This statement from OSPI is an attempt to mislead the public as to the nature and extent of our current Math disaster that Dr Bergeson and other supposed education leaders have attempted to hide. [3]

The panel, which has studied this issue for two years, recommends that teachers educate students and parents against "the erroneous idea that (math) success is largely a matter of inherent talent or ability," and instead let people young and old know that anyone can be successful in mathematics with effort and support.

Dr Bergeson has advocated for reform math programs that have led to a disconnect between the hard work of actually mastering arithmetic skills and concepts and becoming successful in mathematics. [4]

To achieve "sound education," the panel lists a number of core principles, including:

* Math curriculum in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade should be streamlined and emphasize core math topics in early grades.

All of OPSI most aligned texts have had way too many topics per grade level [5]

* Knowledge of fractions, fundamental for learning algebra but underdeveloped among American students, should be emphasized.

Continually widening achievement gaps for Low Income, Black, and Hispanic students grew in districts that used the OSPI most aligned materials. These texts did not emphasize any real preparation for Authentic Algebra. [6]

* The definition and application of "algebra" should be consistent across the nation.

Most districts could start with a reasonable definition of mathematics, which has been sorely lacking under OSPI leadership. ....i.e. Seattle’s:
.......Mathematics is the language and science of patterns and connections. Doing mathematics is an active process of constructing meaning through exploration and inquiry. Try telling that line to a carpenter, electrician, physicist, or engineer.
Why do we keep electing and paying for decision-makers that spew this nonsense? [7]

* Teachers should be thoroughly prepared for the math they teach.

How interesting of OSPI to bring this up with all the continuing professional development required by OSPI of teachers? Now 62% of the teaching force has Masters degrees. OSPI's continuing emphasis on process over content has produced a situation in which it seems that often neither the teacher nor the students know much math content. Core Knowledge has been deemphasized and largely discarded in favor of methods and process. [8]

* Teachers should incorporate into their instruction the ongoing use of tests, observations and other ways to monitor students, and adjust teaching techniques accordingly to improve learning.

So why did Dr Bergeson fail to submit the MAP test as a WASL replacement for NCLB Adequate Yearly Process. The MAP test is substantially cheaper and easier to use. MAP is in compliance with the above recommendation and the WASL is essentially very expensive and virtually useless in regard to improving instruction as described above. [9]

The national panel report comes less than two weeks after the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction delivered its revised math standards to the state Legislature and to the state Board of Education for review and approval. The state’s new standards, which are scheduled to be final by late this spring, reflect three key aspects of the panel’s report. The standards:

The Legislature removed control of the revision of the New Math standards from OSPI and the $770,000 contractor and turned the process over to the State Board of Education. The reason can easily be found in looking at the Dec 4, January and February 29th, drafts of the standards. OSPI showed little interest in following the Law HB 1906 as written. [10]

* focus on a few key priorities;
* balance computation skills, conceptual understanding and problem solving; and
* teach fundamental skills at or before the panel’s benchmark grade levels. For example, students will learn to add, subtract, multiply and divide whole numbers, fractions and decimals by the end of grade six.

Dr. Bergeson says the national report will help the nation take a big step toward developing a cohesive, consistent approach for the teaching of math.

The question remains as to why Dr Bergeson paid so little regard to what actually works and to recommendations that are based on what actually works. Project Follow Through and the 2004 Mathematics Standards Study Group’s recommendations for revising state standards spring immediately to mind.

Why was Dr Bergeson's Washington Way always to develop everything from scratch in house rather than using proven successes from other countries as recommended by the Mathematics Standards Study Group? The materials, for those high school students that failed the math WASL, the math Modules and the Segmented Math curriculum seem to have suffered from precisely the same short comings that the NAMP lists. Perhaps that may be why WSIPP's researcher Wade Cole found the math modules ineffective in producing improved results.[11]

I do agree with Dr Terry Bergeson that reading the actual National Mathematics Panel’s report is an excellent idea. Reading it would be much better than accepting her spin on it.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Sound OFF at the PI

Here is a Link to the Sound OFF

in Response to a Jessica Blanchard article at the Seattle Post Intelligencer on:

Top Seattle fundraiser for schools changes its course
The Alliance for Education, a major fund raiser for Seattle Public Schools, is changing the way it passes along money.

My Sound OFF contains the following excerpt:

Perhaps the Alliance for Ed can be the "Two by Four" whack in the head these folks so sorely need.

Then perhaps 50% of recent high school graduates will not be placing into math classes at or below the equivalent of High School Math I at Seattle Central and other Seattle Community Colleges. Good Luck to the Alliance for Education on changing this misdirected waste of time effort and dollars. How can anyone pay for decision-makers this bad?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Good News --Questions now allowed for SPS

GREAT NEWS the district that never answers much about anything important when asked, now has a way to submit math adoption questions on the SPS Website.

Hey maybe they will even answer some of the questions. There is always a first time. After 14 months of testimony one answer would be a start.

Click HERE to go there.

You will find the Click here at the bottom of the page on the next to last line.
This will then bring up the form to submit questions or comments.

Dear Directors,

Now what??

I sent the following questions in via the Math Adoption web-page to the SPS math gurus.

So this is what I sent:

How can you say that Singapore is a supplement when at Broadview Thompson and many other schools the extra practice books are unused and still in boxes?

Please describe in detail when this Singapore supplementation began. Some elementary teachers are unaware that these books are in the buildings.

The SPS did not purchase either the 2 textbooks or the 2 workbooks at each grade level, how exactly are the teachers supplementing from the extra practice book?

Now that the National Math Report is available and it clearly advises avoiding Everyday Math, what are the plans for k-5?

Now that the National Math Panel has a clear focus on Authentic Algebra; what is the district's math plan? The SPS put a system in place without a focus on Authentic Algebra --> EM, CMP2, IMP or Core-Plus are 180 degrees opposite the NAMP recommendations.

Now What?

Current List prices for Singapore Grade 3 materials

Textbooks: new California Standards edition.
3A $13.30
3B $13.30

Workbooks: new California Standards edition.
3A $10.40
3B $10.40

Extra Practice-
$7.80 for US 3rd Edition (which Seattle Purchased)
$12.00 for new California Standards edition

Challenging word problems grade 3-
$8.20 US 3rd Edition

Why did I see so few SPS elementary teachers at the Singapore training at Broadview-Thompson last Saturday? Three excellent instructors from Arizona were there. Guess the SPS central leadership has little interest in Singapore Math.

More info and prices at:


After ten years of continuing Achievement Gap growth in math in the SPS think about this:

"The education profession has never been particularly interested in results, especially if they run counter to the prejudices of the profession." says Mr. Carnine, who was involved with Project Follow Through when his university served as one of its sponsors.

Are you directors going to do something about this clear disinterest in results?

There has been no data driving many decisions. The last two math adoptions are excellent examples of intellectual fraud as was the West Seattle six period day mandate.

When is this holding people accountable going to begin?


Dan Dempsey

SPS Testimony for 3-26-2008 by Marty

Draft testimony to School Board 3/26/08 from Marty McLaren

I'm here to give you a brief "report from the trenches" from my travels as a math teacher substituting in elementary, middle, and high school classrooms throughout the Seattle School District.

Two weeks ago I presented an Everyday Math Lesson to 4th grade students. 3/4 of them had no idea how to do the day's assignment on estimating distances on a simple map. They lacked the confidence and basic tools to make any attempt to solve the problems that were assigned that day. According to the lesson plan, after my initial presentation, they were to help one another, but they couldn't do that until I had been able to give individual help to half the class, so they idled their time away... I've seen this happen all over the district in K-6 Everyday Math classrooms, in CMP middle school classrooms, and in high school IMP classrooms.

Another time, I was given this graphing problem to present to a different class of fourth graders. You'll notice that each axis has some intervals with irregular sizes. This may seem trivial... but this assignment has the logo "Seattle School District Standards-Based Learning System" -- in other words, the math curriculum specialist who produced this lesson doesn't understand the need for equal intervals in order to create the scale for an axis. This is dreadful -- math lessons that convey a vague idea of concepts don't impart useful skills; they confuse students. Like most of us adults had to do, children have to work very hard to grasp basic math skills ,...... Correct representations of mathematical relationships are essential to them.

At the King County Juvenile Detention Facility, I taught fractions for a week to teenagers who were eager learners. They appreciated the chance to really understand fractions. My sense was that they had figured out for themselves that reliance on calculators is crippling. Yet, Seattle's curricula incorporate calculator use from the beginning.

I have a few observations from teachers: A new teacher who is substituting this year confided to me that the intricacy and confusing nature of learning to teach Everyday Math was the main reason why she elected to substitute rather than take a full time job this year. "It's too much for me as a new teacher," she said. "It's just too much." Two different veteran teachers made identical statements about working with Everyday Math. Each said grimly, "It's very difficult." One pointed out that students are expected to jump from topic to topic, with no hope of mastery or of building on previously learned skills. The other mentioned complex lesson preparation, coupled with brief time on too many topics. A talented veteran middle school teacher no longer brags to me about his math teaching. Instead, he says matter-of-factly that he follows the CMP pacing guide, despite the fact that the students don't master the material. He says, "Sooner or later, the people upstairs will have to figure out that they aren't getting it this way."

As you must know, the National Math Panel has suggested sweeping changes to math standards nationally; our state standards are in the process of being similarly revised. You've heard from many others about the excellent curricula which are available; please, make sure that this district creates a clear plan to quickly push the new, high quality math standards into Seattle's classrooms.

SPS Testimony for 3-26-2008 by Dan

Members of the Board, 3-26-2008

The National Math Panel report, released on March 13th, should have a major impact on this District.

Some of its recommendations:

+ A focused, coherent progression of mathematics learning, with an emphasis on proficiency with key topics, should become the norm.

+ Avoid approaches that revisit topics superficially, year after year without closure. (This means Everyday Math should be avoided, Please Buy more Singapore Math and this time open the boxes.)

Authentic Algebra

+ an analysis of high school mathematics suggests that high school students using an integrated approach to mathematics may find it more difficult to take advanced mathematics course work in their senior year than those completing an Algebra II course in their sophomore or junior years.

+ A basic math education that prepares more students than at present to enroll in Authentic Algebra by Grade 8.

+ The Major Topics of School Algebra should be the focus for Algebra I and Algebra II. (The leading finalists in the High School Math adoption do not have this focus – start looking elsewhere for Math texts)

+ Algebra II by Grade 11.


+ The Panel cautions that calculators impede the development of automaticity and adversely affect fluency in computation. (What can be the possible benefit to calculators prior to grade 6 vs. risks? It is time to box up the calculators and remove them from the elementary schools)

Notice that the last two math adoptions of Everyday Math at elementary and Connected Math at the middle school are not in alignment with the National Math Panel Recommendations – The odds are they won’t align with the new State Standards either.

Many socially promoted children with few math skills are entering high school totally unprepared for Authentic Algebra. What should be done???

This book – A Blueprint for the Foundations of Algebra - with its excellent companion software can be the essential corner stone in building successful students. It can be the anchor point for real Authentic Algebra and a successful High School math program.

It should also be used by many middle school 8th graders next year.

You will notice the book has many math diagrams and examples. It presents the learning of mathematics in a focused coherent way. If a child has A.D.D., this is the book for that child. Sorry, no color pictures of Penguins jumping off Ice Cliffs. This book and its software are designed for success with English Language learners. The software has an impressive record of success with disadvantaged learners. Please investigate this book for our struggling math students, which at this time comprise over 50% of our entering 9th graders.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

R.I.P. planned for Segmented Math
March 2008

March 2008 - R.I.P. planned for Segmented Math.

There will be no Segmented Math for the 2008-2009 school year.

The legislature has chosen to end all funding for the PAS program of which Segmented Math was apart. The data analysis from Wade Cole showed this to be an ineffective program.

A bit of history as I know it. The original math modules were created by OSPI to assist students to pass the math WASL. These were used in the summer programs (2006 & 2007) and to a lesser extent in schools during the 2006-2007 school year. The WA Institute for Public Policy data analysis by C & B showed that students involved in that program that retook the Math WASL had a passing rate not statistically significantly higher than those who retook the Math WASL but were not involved in the program.

OSPI math module creation was done principally by Ron Donovan, of OSPI with some assistance by Dr Jerry Johnson, of Western Washington of University. These materials used Dana Center Materials as a base. The original modules were designed to get level 2 students to pass. An implementation problem may also be part of the poor results.

These modules were then altered to attempt to make them accessible to low level 2 students and level 1 students. The Segmented Math curriculum was going to be the foundation for taking the Math WASL in three segments at spaced thirds of the school year. I believe that preliminary analysis of a portion of the segmented math students done after the first segment revealed that it was not working as expected.
Note how much focus there is on trying to pass one test rather than providing a content rich cohesive math curriculum. OSPI's actions are the equivalent of trying to cure measles or chicken pox with Cover Girl make-up. I think WA math may have reached the small pox equivalent. It is easy to see why the Cover Girl, Dr Bergeson, is having difficulty covering a decade of incompetent math mis-direction.

So another expensive custom-made intervention did not work. Is anyone surprised? Why we continue not to buy off the shelf proven materials preferring to expensively create our own defective stuff is beyond me. (I know Dr Bergeson thinks of this as the Washington way of doing things - that being the case hoppefully a majority of us are looking for effective new leadership). I liked the Segmented curriculum – it just happens to be entirely inappropriate for use with most all of the students for which it was designed.

Too many topics remain a continuing theme with everything that comes out of OSPI. The skill level was still far beyond the majority of the students that used it.

The good news is that the dollars at the school level that went into this discontinued program will now be available for districts to use with less centralized direction from OSPI. WOW!!! Discretion at the local level, who knows, perhaps we may eventually be allowed to teach children as if they are unique individuals. I definitely like the idea of less OSPI control and more local control. I certainly thank the legislators for this section of the budget.

Perhaps someday we will be allowed to use proven math materials that have been thoughtfully developed over decades instead of the defective curriculum materials that OSPI found as most aligned to the Math WASL. Check the data for TERC/Investigations, Everyday Math, Connected Math Project, Core-Plus, and Interactive Math Program --- Would anyone have bought this stuff based on relevant data without NSF incentives for purchase or OSPI pressure?

Our problems are compounded by the lack of Mathematically knowledgeable decision-makers. This is really apparent when job descriptions for math decision-makers include no requirement to know mathematics. Knowledge of Math education is required, but that hardly implies knowledge of Math. It may take more time to get a BA in Education, and MA in Ed, and a PhD in Ed than to get a BA or BS in Mathematics. The knowledge of math in the above PhD in Ed path is minimal - but it gives one the power to make absurd decisions in regard to math curricula, witness the last decade. The District office level is now filled with many math phonies, as are the politically correct math coaching ranks.

Let us all hail the visionaries at Monroe High School. For the 2006-2007 school year, Monroe adopted the Math program that was rated “Least Aligned with the WASL” by OSPI. Their rationale was they wanted books that the kids had a chance of learning useful math from, so the kids would eventually have a successful shot at learning collegiate level math.

That required a lot of guts given where the math politically correct were in the Spring of 2006. Dr Bergeson did not announce the State-Wide Math Meltdown until August of 2006. Nice to see that in Monroe they try to do the right thing for kids regardless of OSPI confusion and pressure. Too bad Seattle(EM), Issaquah(EM), Olympia(CMP2), and Bethel(EM) still had not figured this out by the Adoptions for 2007-2008. Now we get to see the really slow learners in Seattle probably continue digging their hole to math oblivion, with the coming High School math adoption.


Here is a look at the Budget passed by the 2008 legislature:
Click above

Student learning opportunities get about $18 million and the end of the PAS program saves $19.3 million.

Here is the link to the Full Report by Wade Cole of WSIPP on the PAS program.
The entire report is a .pdf download.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Living in Post National Math Panel World

Living in a Post National Math Panel World
by Barry Garelick

Barry wanted the following link printed to go with his comment.

A Blueprint for the Foundations of Algebra
could be the first step in SPS math repair

Dear Seattle School Board Members, 3-22-2008

The recently released National Math Panel Report should be used in giving you appropriate guidance in the coming high school math adoption. The panel’s recommendations reveal that the primary materials from the last two math adoptions are in serious misalignment with the panel’s views. I urge you to consider not just a high school adoption at this time but how the current math direction of the SPS can be corrected. I hope you will find the following information useful.

The recommendations included in “The Final Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel” and the “Report of the Task Group on Conceptual Knowledge and Skills” released on March 13, 2008 should be carefully considered in any Seattle Schools Math Adoptions, especially the items listed here as they are the most pertinent to standards:

A.. Focused, Coherent Progression of Learning
....i...A focused, coherent progression of mathematics learning, with an emphasis on proficiency with key topics, should become the norm in elementary and middle school mathematics curricula. (Get someone to work on D44.00 and D45.00, this neglect is malpractice)
....ii...Avoid approaches that revisit topics superficially, year after year without closure. (This means Everyday Math should be avoided.)

B.. Authentic Algebra
....iii...As called out in NMAP Table 1: “The Major Topics of School Algebra”
....iv...While the Panel finds no basis in research for a preference of integrated versus single-subject approach, an analysis of high school mathematics standards suggests that high school students enrolled in mathematics courses using an integrated approach to mathematics may find it more difficult to take advanced mathematics course work (e.g., calculus or pre-calculus) in their senior year than high school students who are able to enroll in an Algebra II course in their sophomore or junior year.
....v...Universal availability of a basic math education for more students than at present preparing them to enroll in Authentic Algebra by Grade 8. Major Topics of School Algebra should be the focus for Algebra I and Algebra II standards in state curriculum frameworks.
...vii...Algebra II by Grade 11.

C.. K-8 Critical Foundations
viii. As called out in Table 2: K-8 Critical Foundations
ix. Yearly progress to match or beat by the grade level indicated in the critical foundations.
x. The Critical Foundations are not meant to comprise a complete mathematics curriculum leading to algebra; however, they deserve primary attention and ample time in any mathematics curriculum

D.. Use of Calculators
....xi. The Panel cautions that calculators impede the development of automaticity and adversely affect fluency in computation. (What can be the possible benefit to calculators prior to grade 6 vs. risks?)
xii. Calculators should not be used on test items designed to assess computational facility.

E.. Fluency with Whole Numbers
....xiii. Computational proficiency with whole number operations is dependent on sufficient and appropriate practice to develop automatic recall of addition and related subtraction facts, and of multiplication and related division facts.
xiv. Fluency with the standard algorithms for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

F.. Fluency with Fractions
....xv. A major goal for K–8 mathematics education should be proficiency with fractions (including decimals, percents, and negative fractions), for such proficiency is foundational for algebra and, at the present time, seems to be severely underdeveloped.
....xvi. Ensure acquisition of conceptual and procedural knowledge of fractions (including decimals and percents) and of proportional reasoning. This should include:
1. Representing and ordering fractions on a number line
2. Judging equivalence and relative magnitudes of fractions with unlike numerators and denominators
3. Solving problems involving ratios and proportion.
4. Knowing that sums, differences, products, and quotients of fractions are fractions and carry out these operations confidently and efficiently.
5. Understand why and how (finite) decimal numbers are fractions and know the meaning of percentages

G.. Particular aspects of geometry and measurement, especially for middle grades
....xvii. Knowledge of similar triangles
....xviii. The slope of a straight line and of linear functions
....xix. The properties of two- and three-dimensional shapes and the use of formulas to determine perimeter, area, volume, and surface area.
....xx. Finding unknown lengths, angles, and areas (geometry and not trigonometry).

H.. Less focus should be placed on the patterns, data and probability, especially in the early grades.
....xxi. In the Major Topics of School Algebra set forth in the report, patterns are not a topic of major importance; therefore, patterns should be de-emphasized.
....xxii. In asking for redesign of the NAEP, the Panel noted the importance of fractions for the conceptual understanding of probability. The Panel questioned the appropriateness of items related to probability within NAEP at Grade 4.
....xxiii. The Panel recommends that the strand on Data Analysis and Probability in the NAEP at Grade 4 emphasize well-organized representations of data pictorially and numerically and be re-titled as “Data Display”.
Sincerely, Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.

Table 1: The Major Topics of School Algebra
.... (EM and CMP2 are not preparing enough students adequately for these topics.

Symbols and Expressions
• Polynomial expressions
• Rational expressions
• Arithmetic and finite geometric series

Linear Equations
• Real numbers as points on the number line
• Linear equations and their graphs
• Solving problems with linear equations
• Linear inequalities and their graphs
• Graphing and solving systems of simultaneous linear equations

Quadratic Equations
• Factors and factoring of quadratic polynomials with integer coefficients
• Completing the square in quadratic expressions
• Quadratic formula and factoring of general quadratic polynomials
• Using the quadratic formula to solve equations

• Linear functions
• Quadratic functions—word problems involving quadratic functions
• Graphs of quadratic functions and completing the square
• Polynomial functions (including graphs of basic functions)
• Simple nonlinear functions (e.g., square and cube root functions; absolute value; rational functions; step functions)
• Rational exponents, radical expressions, and exponential functions
• Logarithmic functions
• Trigonometric functions
• Fitting simple mathematical models to data

Algebra of Polynomials
• Roots and factorization of polynomials
• Complex numbers and operations
• Fundamental theorem of algebra
• Binomial coefficients (and Pascal’s Triangle)
• Mathematical induction and the binomial theorem

Combinatorics and Finite Probability
• Combinations and permutations, as applications of the binomial theorem and Pascal’s Triangle

I urge you to begin Math Repair mode with the adoption of the Algebra Readiness Textbook and Courseware from the Mind Research Institute. At least 40% of entering 9th graders in Seattle High Schools would benefit from these materials, as these children are too unskilled to undertake the Authentic Algebra recommended by the National Math Panel. These materials could also be effectively used for many children in SPS middle schools. These materials in addition to preparing students for Authentic Algebra will close the Math Achievement Gap that has continually widened in the SPS over the last decade.

I urge you to look at the textbook “A Blueprint for the Foundations of Algebra” and the accompanying software. This can be the foundation of building a strong math foundation for SPS students. It can be the anchor point for real Authentic Algebra and a successful High School math program.

Recommendation: The Benchmarks for the Critical Foundations in Table 2 should be used to guide classroom curricula, mathematics instruction, and state assessments. They should be interpreted flexibly, to allow for the needs of students and teachers.

Table 2: Benchmarks for the Critical Foundations

Fluency With Whole Numbers
1) By the end of Grade 3, students should be proficient with the addition and subtraction of whole numbers.
2) By the end of Grade 5, students should be proficient with multiplication and division of whole numbers.

Fluency With Fractions
1) By the end of Grade 4, students should be able to identify and represent fractions and decimals, and compare them on a number line or with other common representations of fractions and decimals.
2) By the end of Grade 5, students should be proficient with comparing fractions and decimals and common percents, and with the addition and subtraction of fractions and decimals.
3) By the end of Grade 6, students should be proficient with multiplication and division of fractions and decimals.
4) By the end of Grade 6, students should be proficient with all operations involving positive and negative integers.
5) By the end of Grade 7, students should be proficient with all operations involving positive and negative fractions.
6) By the end of Grade 7, students should be able to solve problems involving percent, ratio, and rate and extend this work to proportionality.

Geometry and Measurement

1) By the end of Grade 5, students should be able to solve problems involving perimeter and area of triangles and all quadrilaterals having at least one pair of parallel sides (i.e., trapezoids).
2) By the end of Grade 6, students should be able to analyze the properties of two-dimensional shapes and solve problems involving perimeter and area, and analyze the properties of three-dimensional shapes and solve problems involving surface area and volume.
3) By the end of Grade 7, students should be familiar with the relationship between similar triangles and the concept of the slope of a line.
Source: National Mathematics Advisory Panel, 2008.
(please let the above be reflected in D44.00 and D45.00 by next Fall)

A Need for Coherence
There seem to be two major differences between the curricula in top-performing countries and those in the U.S.—in the number of mathematical concepts or topics presented at each grade level and in the expectations for learning.
U.S. curricula typically include many topics at each grade level, with each receiving relatively limited development, while top-performing countries present fewer topics at each grade level but in greater depth. In addition, U.S. curricula generally review and extend at successive grade levels many (if not most) topics already presented at earlier grade levels, while the top-performing countries are more likely to expect closure after exposure, development, and refinement of a particular topic. These critical differences distinguish a spiral curriculum (common in many subjects in U.S. curricula) from one built on developing proficiency—a curriculum that expects proficiency in the topics that are presented before more complex or difficult topics are introduced. (Everyday Math is a spiral curriculum not built on developing proficiency.)

The Singapore standards (Singapore Ministry of Education, 2006) provide an established example of curriculum standards designed to develop proficiency in a relatively small number of important mathematics topics, as validated by a recent analysis (Ginsburg et al., 2005). The desirability of emphasizing fewer important mathematics topics in greater depth has also been recognized by some U.S. educators. (but not those making math curriculum decisions in Seattle )

In 2005, the Fordham Foundation report on state mathematics standards (Klein et al., 2005) ranked state mathematics curriculum standards based on mathematics content, clarity, and reasoning, as well as negative qualities, assigning different weights to each criterion for the overall assessment. The standards of California, Indiana, Massachusetts, Alabama, New Mexico, and Georgia achieved the highest ranking. The curricular profiles of the standards of these six states do, on the whole, provide an emphasis on fewer important topics per year than most states; but compared with the “A+ countries” (Singapore, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Flemish Belgium, and the Czech Republic), they all spend a great deal of time in the primary grades on topics other than arithmetic.

A more recent development in the national discussion is the publication of Focal Points (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2006), which offers curricular direction to teachers and administrators by suggesting areas of emphasis for the concepts, skills, and procedures that connect important mathematics topics from grade to grade, and form the foundation for more advanced mathematics, beginning with Algebra. The message of Focal Points is also one of curriculum coherence with an emphasis on fewer important topics per year. Focal Points does not represent a set of standards but calls for a curriculum which reduces the number of important topics per year. In effect, Focal Points asks for greater emphasis on key topics, particularly with whole numbers and fractions and particular aspects of geometry and measurement. Yet Focal Points still implies more time on non-number topics, especially in the primary grades, than is the case in the A+ countries but less than the intended mathematics curriculum as represented in the frameworks of the six states.
The Panel also notes that a state’s (or a country’s) mathematics standards, however highly their quality may be judged, cannot ensure high student achievement. For example, the six leading states in the Fordham study exhibit a wide range of student achievement on the 2007 NAEP mathematics tests for Grades 4 and 8. The quality of a state’s assessments and the extent to which its standards drive sound school curricula, as well as appropriate programs for teacher preparation and professional development, are intervening variables that strongly influence achievement. They may well override the quality of the standards. (It appears that the Everyday Math alignment with failed state standards was the primary motivation for its adoption -- Now what??? -- Mind Institute software could be a start to repairing the Reform Math damage done to students in grades K-8)
MIND Research Institute’s Algebra Readiness is a new, one year curriculum that rebuilds a solid math foundation for struggling middle and high school students who would otherwise enroll in, and fail, Algebra I. The innovative learning sequence and distinctive visual diagrams of its textbook fully explain and interconnect all the essential math concepts and skills from grades 2 through 7 which form the foundation for success in Algebra I. The text is fully integrated with MIND’s unique Spatial Temporal courseware, which engages students who struggle in conventional math programs.

Please click the above link to find out what will bring math success for ELL and most students who are unprepared for Algebra in SPS schools.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

SPS High School Math Adoption
....SPS administration proposes IMP

Dear Seattle School Directors,

Attached you will find Seven Pages of
Crucial Importance that needs to be read
before the March 26th 2008
School Board Work Session on Mathematics.

The attachment is included as an easy to read word document without any additional comment from me. The Blue, Bold, and Italics are mine but the article words are unchanged.

------------ --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- -
From Education Week [American Education's Newspaper of Record],
Wednesday, March 19, 2008, Volume 27, Issue 28, p. 1,12.
....(Click above link for article)
------------ --------- --------- -----
************ ********* ****
Panel Calls for Systematic, Basic Approach to Math

Federal advisory group's proposals may re-ignite debate on 'broken' content and instruction

By Sean Cavanagh
------------ --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- --------- --

I say on Mathematics rather than on the High School Math Adoption. This district's current math direction is so far off the National Math Panel's recommendations that to consider a high school adoption in isolation from the rest of this misdirected k-8 math program, will just mean tossing away more money. Without making the substantive changes needed to create the necessary program improvements, student math achievement can not be expected to improve much from its current pathetic levels.

Our math problems are far more wide reaching than just Seattle but your obligation is to Seattle's children. The math direction from your math decision-makers ignored the NCTM focal points of Sept 2006 and the SBE Math Panel direction at the time of the Everyday Math adoption May 30th, 2007.

Please get informed and do not allow this math decision-making crew to continue their expensive failures any longer.

Attached is Mr. Cavanagh's article.


Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

So What is the Seattle Math Plan Now???

Dear Directors of Seattle Schools , 3-16-2008

The following information from the MSSG report may be of help to you.

Al Tucker's ending comments in the MSSG study "What is Important in School Mathematics? " follow.
------------ --------- --------- --------- --
In most states, committees to make up such standards are composed overwhelmingly of school teachers and lay people. This reflects a belief among elected officials and state education departments that school mathematics standards are a relatively straightforward matter. As noted in the lead chapter, the authors of this report disagree strongly with this viewpoint. We believe that creating good school mathematics standards and associated curricula is an intellectually complicated project requiring the best mathematical minds.
------------ --------- --------- --------- ----

So let us look at the Math Adoption Processes in Seattle that have produced recommendations so far removed from the NCTM Focal Points issued in September of 2006 and the National Math Panel Recommendations of March 13, 2008.

Although I am talking about selecting curricula not creating it, look at what has happened. It is both startling and troubling that High School Math Department heads have such little say in math text selections. What best mathematical minds are making these selections?? It is certainly appears that districts are not following the advice of knowledgeable mathematicians in their curricular selections. Both Seattle and Olympia have defied the wisdom of their High School math department heads in recent adoptions. Preferring to follow the misguided direction provided by their experts who know little math content compared to their high school department heads. I urge you to stop making our children fodder in the UW's quest for NSF grants by using materials that have clearly demonstrated they do not work.

Remember the Saxon in Tacoma comparison with CMP2 in Seattle.

You really need to trash the entire K-12 program and start over as your current direction is nowhere near the national math panel recommendations.

Given that the district had specifically stated that they we interested in closing the achievement gap, why do we keep using and selecting materials that clearly widen rather than close achievement gaps?

Can anyone at the SPS apply the relevant statistics to math selections.
This clearly has not happened in recent years.

The game of follow the leader, OSPI, in math selections must end. The OSPI failed standards are trashed. It is way past time to stop adopting the texts that OSPI recommended as aligned as those produced this disaster, and will continue to damage Seattle children if left unchanged.

The is no modification possible for Everyday Math it is simply a text that should be avoided. It would have been avoided if the school board had made a decision based on relevant data presented prior to May 30th, 2007.

So what is the plan now?

National Math Panelist Speaks

Read the EdNews article by National Math Panelist Sandra Stotsky at

Saturday, March 15, 2008

"Common sense ain't common anymore"

Sang Park of Vancouver, Washington, holder of three masters degrees in technical fields has the following thoughts on on what is happening:

"Common sense ain't common anymore" is what popped into my head while I was reading the NMP report. I am not sure why it required a presidential executive order, 20 scientists/researchers, and two years to come up with this.

And yet the US Dept. of Ed calls it a "ground breaking report". Everything, except computer-assisted instruction and teaching computer programming, was pretty much what everyone knew decades ago. I bet Dan could have written the whole report in a week.
Now that we have something on the paper (although they still suggest more research on some issues) what's next?

I'm hoping this report could be used as some sort of fail-safe mechanism that keeps the nonsensical math teaching from creeping back in, but when I look at the paltry $90 million allocated for this through the America Competitiveness Initiative act I have to wonder if this is just another one of those feel good political showcases that will be forgotten once the current administration is gone.

How do we turn the NMP report into the 11th commandment?


National Math Panel - the Six elements
and Seattle's School Leadership (if any)

Dear Seattle School Directors, 3-15-2008

The National Math Panel report is about 120 pages. I’ve taken the six main elements section and reformatted it for you below. I hope this will enable you to begin to make positive decisions to improve Seattle’s Schools. In my last testimony, I emphasized that a major flaw in educational decision-making is the failure to use a research base in decision-making. You will notice that most of what I’ve been saying since January 17th, 2007 is repeated below by the NMP.
From The National Math Panel Report pages xiii and xiv, beginning at paragraph two in the section Principle Messages:
On the basis of its deliberation and research, the Panel can report that America has genuine opportunities for improvement in mathematics education. This report lays them out for action.

The essence of the Panel’s message is to put first things first. There are six elements, expressed compactly here, but in greater detail later.............

The next section is my analysis of the Seattle School’s performance in regard to past practice as related to these six elements.

1… The mathematics curriculum in Grades PreK–8 should be streamlined and should emphasize a well-defined set of the most critical topics in the early grades.

I’ve repeated the following over the last year:

• Reduce the number of topics per grade level, including a comparison of the number of topics per grade level from Washington Standards and what actually happens in high achieving countries.

• Require the application and enforcement of D43.00 D44.00 and D45.00. The Senior Staff continues to fail to even define the grade level skills .

• Warned that the adoption of Everyday Math was based on its alignment with Washington’s defective standards. It had way too many topics per grade level.

2… Use should be made of what is clearly known from rigorous research about how children learn, especially by recognizing:
a) the advantages for children in having a strong start;

• Repeatedly referenced the superiority of the Oregon direct instruction model from Project Follow Through. Pointed out that the conceptual model is the most ineffective model possible and yet it is what the Seattle Senior Administration prefers to use in Mathematics education

b) the mutually reinforcing benefits of conceptual understanding, procedural fluency, and automatic (i.e., quick and effortless) recall of facts; and

• Attempted at West Seattle to put an arithmetic recovery program in place with the use of NSF funds from PD^3 grant using Singapore Math {This was not the direction that Dr James King and Mr. Art Mabbott preferred to go – apparently although West Seattle was told it could be a program of their choosing that meant IMP or nothing}

c) that effort, not just inherent talent, counts in mathematical achievement.

• Attempted to encourage the adoption of materials that require actually learning mathematics, which is largely based on effort.

3… Our citizens and their educational leadership should recognize mathematically knowledgeable classroom teachers as having a central role in mathematics education and should encourage rigorously evaluated initiatives for attracting and appropriately preparing prospective teachers, and for evaluating and retaining effective teachers.

• Mathematically knowledgeable classroom teachers are continually ignored in the SPS. At the Seattle TMP project a Math Department Head expressed the sentiment that it would be nice to have someone at the SPS Central Administration in a math decision making capacity who was a least capable of teaching all the real high school level math classes making math decision instead of the current crew.

• When Ms Santorno visited WSHS in regard to the retaining of the 4 period-day and its effect on mathematics. She brought up things that needed to change. Mr. Drost, WSHS Math Department Head, pointed out that most of what she mentioned had already been changed. She then treated him rudely with her responses.

• The board has ignored almost 100% of what I’ve been telling them since January 17, 2008. Instead preferring to just keep following the path advocated by the SPS Central Administration, which advocates for using math programs and practices that the research continually reveals do not work.

4… Instructional practice should be informed by high-quality research, when available, and by the best professional judgment and experience of accomplished classroom teachers. High-quality research does not support the contention that instruction should be either entirely “student centered” or “teacher directed.” Research indicates that some forms of particular instructional practices can have a positive impact under specified conditions.

• Ms Wise and Mr. Mabbott have been continual advocates for the philosophically enlightened abandonment of the “Jaime Escalante practice of Stand and Deliver”. They saw replacing it with 100% group based inquiry and exploration as the correct process for which student math learning should take place. The exact opposite of Project Follow Through research. It appears that Mr. Escalante’s results have not been challenged and will not be challenged by Seattle’s philosophy as we continue to demonstrate a wider achievement gap each year for Black, Hispanic, and Low Income students each year at the high school level. I urge you not to continue this practice with the adoption of IMP at the high school.

5… NAEP and state assessments should be improved in quality and should carry increased emphasis on the most critical knowledge and skills leading to Algebra.

• The SPS continues to down play the necessity for computationally efficient arithmetic skills as the necessary foundation for algebra. As recently as the January Washington Math Standards rollout at Roosevelt, Ms Wise announced her preference for non-computationally based algebra for all 8th graders. The NMP report makes it very clear that some of the necessary foundations for success in algebra are skills with fractions, decimals, and percents.

6… The nation must continue to build capacity for more rigorous research in education so that it can inform policy and practice more effectively.

• Yes more research is definitely needed on the national level. It will make little difference in Seattle until someone actually uses the research. The last textbook adoption ignored mountains of research that I left with Ms Linda Host for 10 days. There was so much research showing that Everyday math would be an expensive disaster for Seattle. My original testimony on Jan 17, 2007 cited seven things that had changed since the mid-summer of 2006, that the SPS should not ignore. It is now over a year since that testimony and the SPS continues to ignore the 7 things I mentioned.

Positive results can be achieved in a reasonable time at accessible cost, but a consistent, wise, community-wide effort will be required.

• Need I mention the $2 million sunk into Everyday Math, and the in-service to prepare for EM that covered close to zero math content but lots of methods. Let us not forget the ongoing money poured into academic math coaches for teachers, many I suspect know the politically correct line to procure such employment, but not enough math.

• The idea that OSPI has $30 million ready to go to explain the new standards to teachers this summer is an excellent example of how to waste money and get little return. We are now going to be in math repair mode for years. A bulk purchase of FlashMasters at 3/ $100 would allow the purchase of 900,000 FlashMasters. Then if each district hosted a one day in-service on the use of the FlashMaster before the start of school in the fall, that would produce a statistically significant improvement in math achievement, unlike Dr Bergeson’s proposed expenditure.

Education in the United States has many participants in many locales—teachers, students, and parents; state school officers, school board members, superintendents, and principals; curriculum developers, textbook writers, and textbook editors; those who develop assessment tools; those who prepare teachers and help them to continue their development; those who carry out relevant research; association leaders and government officials at the federal, state, and local levels. All carry responsibilities. All can be important to success.

• The board finally needs to assume some responsibility for effective mathematics education. The continual ducking of this responsibility has been evident for several years.

The network of these many participants is linked through interacting national associations. A coordinated national approach toward improved mathematics education will require an annual forum of their leaders for at least a decade. The Panel recommends that the U.S. Secretary of Education take the lead in convening the forum initially, charge it to organize in a way that will sustain an effective effort, and request a brief annual report on the mutual agenda adopted for the year ahead.
The President asked the Panel to use the best available scientific research to advise on improvements in the mathematics education of the nation’s children. Our consistent respect for sound research has been the main factor enabling the Panel’s joint conclusions on so many matters, despite differences of perspective and philosophy. At the same time, we found no research or insufficient research relating to a great many matters of concern in educational policy and practice. In those areas, the Panel has been very limited in what it can report.

• A plan to use research would be a great idea for math in the SPS, this has not happened in years.

The Panel lays out many concrete steps that can be taken now toward significantly improved mathematics education, but it also views them only as a best start in a long process. This journey, like that of the post-Sputnik era, will require a commitment to “learning as we go along.” The nation should recognize that there is much more to discover about how to achieve better results. Models of continuous improvement have proven themselves in many other areas, and they can work again for America in mathematics education.

• Makes me think of Boeing and Russell Investment but certainly not SPS math or SPS much of anything.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

NPR listening on Math

So Seattle Schools............
............. Now What Move is Next??

Dear Seattle School Directors and Dr. Goodloe-Johnson,

Last night in my testimony, which is attached, I outlined why the decision making model of the SPS needs great improvement. The just released National Math Panel report confirms my observations. I've included 10 recommendations at the end of this communication.

The National Math Panel report was released today.

It contains the following:

Schools must streamline their math courses, focusing on "a well-defined set of the most critical topics" from early elementary school through middle school. "Any approach that continually revisits topics year after year without closure is to be avoided," the report says.

Now that we have wasted a year and a few million dollars are you still dedicated to going the wrong direction?

I strongly advise the following:

1.. decision making based on the intelligent application of relevant data, needs to replace the model of aligning all change to philosophy that has yet to produce significant improvement in Math.

2.. defining grade level expectations in mathematics.

3.. providing the necessary interventions as per D44 and D45 of SPS policy.

4.. The realization that approximately one third of entering 9th graders next fall will not have tested above level one on the Math WASL. That would place them at perhaps grade three on the Singapore placement tests, and more at grade two than at grade 4.
Why is this continuing to happen in a district with D44 & D45 on the books?

5.. the immediate abandonment of alignment to the philosophy and the practices that saw a continual widening of the achievement gap in math for low income, Black, and Hispanic students.

6.. the abandonment of expensive largely useless custom assessment instruments like those produced by Edusoft. These must be replaced by off the shelf inexpensive assessments that are nationally normed like the Iowa tests or better yet the MAP test as given by the Highline school district and others.

The MAP can be given two or three times per year and each child's progress is easily measured and the MAP is a diagnostic test - thus it may be suitable for determining where necessary interventions for particular students need to occur.

7.. Since each child is an individual, abandon following the pacing plan - "This Fidelity of Implementation Model" did not work in Bellevue for Low Income, Black, or Hispanic students over the last few years.

8.. By the adoption of better curricula the necessity for expensive interventions often of little value can be reduced. More teachers less coaches please.

9.. The implementation and training for Everyday Math had little to no emphasis on improving math content knowledge of teachers. This needs to happen. Teachers need improved math content knowledge how ill this occur?

10.. The reading of Don Orlich's:
School Reform: The Great American Brain Robbery

There are lots more but 10 is enough to start with after a decade of neglect.

I would appreciate the courtesy of a response.

Thank you,

Dan Dempsey

National Math Panel - USA Today's article
& full copy available below

Here is the USA today's story:

Pick up your copy of the full report HERE.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Seattle's Decision Making Stinks
School Board Testimony 3-12-2008

Good Evening - I am Dan Dempsey. 3-12-2008

Successful large corporations employ professionals and follow processes to produce optimal outcomes. Boeing and Russell Investment are both famous for results. Large Urban School districts despite following process produce poor results. Why?

A profession is characterized by decision-making that improves both practice and results. This improvement comes about by the intelligent application of relevant data. Large corporations invest heavily in their professionals.

You, School Board Directors, are very big on following process and approve almost every decision that moves before you.

Why are we NOT in the same class with Boeing and Russell as decision-makers?

In Seattle process is followed but flawed. The flaw is that education is not a profession. The board follows the direction of administrators who are not professionals.

Education is not characterized by decision-making that improves either practice or results. No improvement comes about because the relevant data is regularly ignored. The ignoring of relevant data is now standard practice for Seattle decision-making.

The job of a school director is to notice when a process is seriously flawed and do something about it. Please do something.

A…. The last two math adoptions were a disaster – the process was followed and the results were pathetic. In Math, Seattle and Tacoma both used new Middle School adoptions in 2006-2007. The results for Low Income middle school students revealed Tacoma’s Saxon Math far superior to Seattle’s Connected Math adoption.

B…. Dr Goodloe-Johnson’s West Seattle six-period day mandate is contradicted by almost all the relevant data.

C…. The Denny-Sealth co-location process failed to show any examples of successful large urban middle / high schools. Facilities planned this without even one successful similar example. Now this board has approved spending $135,000,000 on an idea without an example or even a prototype. Boeing would never be in production without a prototype. Why are you?

The public has been told to get involved earlier in the process. Exactly when would that be?

The board does not require the administration to justify their whimsical decisions. So What would be the point of earlier public involvement?

Vast quantities of data were presented over several months in the Elementary School math adoption. The NCTM Focal Points and the State Board Math consultant’s recommendations all pointed to the folly of Everyday Math. It then became the primary math text for elementary schools. The board approved it 6-0.

One third of students entering Seattle high schools cannot test above level 1 on their 8th grade math WASL. The district administrators know better than to recommend a real math book, so Interactive Math is still the high school candidate. I urge you to change this defective process and vote NO. Please overturn the reform Math Hoax, by adopting real mathematics books. Please put effective decision making in place. {–For further insight watch the documentary movie “Flunked” coming soon.}

Thank You, Dan Dempsey

High School Math: not adding up in college
• More than half take Remedial Classes

High school math not adding up in college
• More than half take remedial classes

By Sarah Koenig
Enterprise reporter

At Edmonds Community College, new students take a placement test for math. Of about 1,100 high school graduates who enrolled for 2006-07, only 48 percent tested into college level math and the rest had to take pre-college math to catch up.

Statewide, 46 percent of high school graduates who enter two-year colleges right out of high school need to take pre-college math.

The transition to college math can be rocky for several reasons, said Pat Averbeck, Edmonds Community College math instructor.

"The catch is that some of our math is geared traditionally toward the science/math/engineering track," he said.

In contrast, high school students throughout the state are taught reform or "inquiry-based" math, which relies on student exploration and real life context rather than direct instruction and drill.

The issue isn't confined to community colleges.

Click on the article author to continue your reading
in The Enterprise Newspaper - Mill Creek edition

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Not a Math WAR but a Math HOAX

The following letter contained lots of Data Hyper-links and 5 attachments.
Being pretty tired at the moment I will finish these later Hyper-links later.
Many of the links are to reports on this blog.

Hi Dave,

I went to one of your presentations at the OSPI summer institute in August 2006 at Highline CC. I profited from your workshop, greatly enjoyed it and thank you for your efforts.

It has come to my attention that you are a major player in the standards revision process. As a member of the SBE Math Advisory Panel, I think the SRT has largely failed to follow in the productive way necessary the recommendations of Ms Plattner to produce truly competitive world class standards. I believe that many of your beliefs cannot be supported by relevant data and that your beliefs influence the WA Math Standards revision process in a negative way.

I spent the 2006 -2007 School year in the Pathways math program at West Seattle High School spending most of my time teaching 11th graders who failed the math WASL at level 1. I found the lack of effective direction in math in the SPS extremely troublesome. I started running stats and discovered a continually widening Math achievement gap at grades 4, 7, and 10 over the last decade for Blacks, Hispanics, and Low Income students in the SPS. I brought this up and got nowhere with SPS math leadership, so I joined the Seattle NAACP. I now serve on the Seattle-King County NAACP Education Committee. My opinions in no way are a reflection of NAACP thinking - I do not speak for the organization in this letter.

The same Gap growth I saw in Seattle exists in Bellevue. The "Fidelity of Implementation" model used in Bellevue has not changed the growing achievement Gap in Bellevue. Although Bellevue does have a small population of Black students it is still interesting to note that on the Spring 2007 Grade 10 math WASL Bellevue's Black students scored their lowest pass rate ever. -- 18% passing. Whites passed at a 73% rate for an achievement gap of 55%.

This result was not particularly unusual since both Bellevue and Seattle have used a lot of TERC/ Investigations and Connected Math Project, I found Seattle Blacks passed WASL Math grade 10 at 19.6% and Whites at 70.8% achievement gap= 51.2%. The Clover Park School District uses this same combination with results just as bad if not worse.

It is interesting that you feel that the Internationally Competitive Standards advocated by WTM would lead to a growing equity gap. In my statistical research I've observed the exact opposite to be true. As I noted above your thought that reform math reduces the equity math gap has certainly not been true in Seattle and Bellevue.

Last school year was the first year of official adoptions in Seattle of CMP2 with accompanying training etc, The 2006-2007 school year was also the first for Tacoma using Saxon Math. When the results from WASL 2006 and 2007 are viewed for grades 6, 7, 8 for Low Income students Tacoma's Saxon provided better results than Seattle's CMP2. For the supporting data look here.

I found it interesting in your letter to Rick Burke that you sent him to the UW for data rather than providing the data yourself. I was part of the Professional Development Cubed project last year headed by Dr James King. We met once a month at UW and watched a math video and discussed classroom practice. Garfield and Cleveland had selected a project for 2006-2007 implementing IMP. West Seattle had not chosen a project. Dr King visited WSHS in Spring 2007 and said we could select a project and UW would support us. When WSHS suggested Singapore we were told that it would be better if we used IMP for the project. When we asked for data of IMP success all Dr King could provide were anecdotes. WSHS decided on no project rather than more IMP as IMP had been in use at WSHS for five+ years.

The UW College of Education annually produced the publication Research That Matters for each of the last 5 years. So I went looking for data in the last two publications. 2006 Research That Matters 4: Closing the Gap: New Strategies for a Changing 21st Century Classroom
and 2007 Research That Matters 5:Taking Measure, Does Modern Math Education Add Up?

I found no data in either of these publications. The only research appears to be in the titles.

Dave - I do not cherry-pick data. I am looking for better solutions for kids.
I am very disappointed in the Math Standards Revision process thus far.
The attachment McJobs_USAr2 will further explain my disappointment.

If you know of relevant data send it. On many occasions Dr Bergeson has stated data that will not survive fact checking. These have to do with Washington SAT participation rates and Washington NAEP statistics.

You might find it interesting that despite your statement to Mr Burke about equity, the report Quality Counts 2008 produced by Ed Week & Pew research Center found that while the nation as a whole was closing the equity gap for low income students from 2003 to 2007 in both 4th grade reading and 8th grade math, Washington's gaps were growing.

For Gap change in 4th grade reading WA ranked #42/51 and for 8th grade math WA ranked #48/ 51

W. Edwards Deming said to improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data. The UW has not provided any.
Can you please provide some relevant data to support your positions?
I would be most appreciative.

All the data I have found thus far seems to substantiate the findings from Project Follow Through in regard to educating disadvantaged learners K-3 and also the Hook Study done in California. I went and looked at the actual data that led to the faintly positive recommendation of Everyday Math by the WWC and can only say that McGraw Hill must have some political pull to get that data to merit a positive recommendation.

You make an interesting point about Integrated Math and the rest of the world. I urge you to down load some placement tests from Singapore Math.

Check out the elementary math placement tests. I am familiar with both IMP and Core-Plus. I believe the integrated math used by the top performing countries in the world has very little in common with widely used and NSF pushed integrated texts in the USA.

Dr Vincent of WSU, who is unfamiliar with Singapore Math textbooks, told me that Japan was headed toward a more reform centered approach. Japan revises their standards every 10 years last done in 2002. Late 2007 the PISA results were published for 2006. PISA is given every three years. From 2003 to 2006 Japan had a statistically significant drop of 11 points. Japan is now investigating immediate changes to the 2002 standards as they are not going to let this dropping continue through 2012.

The fact the USA is in a virtual PISA math free fall seems hardly to have any Washington math curricula decision makers batting an eye. The decade of math disaster for the disadvantaged in Seattle and Bellevue has gone unnoticed by you.

You might also find it of interest how poorly the Everyday Math - Connected Math materials are performing in Denver and in Colorado Springs.

In WA when Seattle was considering the adoption of Everyday Math I ran data on the WA districts that had adopted Everyday Math that were larger than 1000 enrollment. It was not a pretty sight especially for disadvantaged learners.

Education is clearly not a profession. In professions objective research is used to improve practice and improve results. In education USA math decisions are based on the whims of the decision makers. The relevant data is seldom available in this state much less intelligently applied. If it had been, then Dr Bergeson wouldn't have needed until August of 2006 to announce the State-Wide Math Meltdown. You would not have made the equity statement you made to Mr. Burke.

I am always amused when someone attempts to use NAEP data for state to state comparisons, especially when they bring up California.

Dr. Kimberly Vincent of WSU, and Dr Bergeson often bring up a California - Washington NAEP score comparison which is completely invalid. This is an incorrect and misleading use of NAEP Data. Applying the overall ranking without considering socioeconomic factors and accommodations shows a disregard for the intent of the study and is a clear attempt to fool the audience.

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%
CA is #51 at 63%
Texas is #50 at 73% ( CA is an outlier for Linguistic Integration)

***(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%

You will find five attachments with this email, some that contain relevant data.
This is a lot more than I've been able to get from UW or McGraw Hill.

I would urge you to become familiar with the
2004 NSF funded study done in Park City Utah by 12 mathematicians-
the Mathematics Standards Study Group.

The MSSG paper entitled:
"What is Important in School Mathematics?" is intended to give states guidance in revising their math standards.

Please send me some substantive data.

Thanks for your time,

Dan Dempsey
Teacher at Alternative for Individuals High School
Clover Park School District

The Math Underground


I am particularly distressed about several passages in this letter as I've been attempting for over a year to find data that supports your positions and been unable to do so.

{ Below is Dave's letter to Rick with my comments in italics. This was part of my letter to Dave and the italicized lines were in red on Dave's letter from me.}



The WTM Exemplar Standards are not pedagogy free. Nor do they promote equity. In fact, they dictate a traditional, unidimensional instructional approach. In addition, they dictate a traditional algebra/geometry/algebra 2 sequence (while nearly all of the rest of the world uses a comprehensive or integrated approach).

Dave if you look at the integrated programs in use in high achieving countries - these programs bear no resemblance to IMP and Core-Plus or most other reform math integrated curricula pushed by OSPI and NSF.

This unidimensional approach I mentioned above is indeed the pedagogy of the 1950s. That can be established both using mathematical logic and a bit of research. Dictating in a standard that students will use the "standard algorithm" is not pedagogy free. (Nor is it clear to any of the math educators that I have spoken to in the past few months what exactly the standard algorithms are! This statement in the WTM document lends a lack of clarity to your standards, and unfortunately to our new ones.)

Currently, WA State has a relatively narrow equity gap in education when compared to other states.

Dave I suggest you look at the data from Bellevue and Seattle as well as Quality Counts 2008 - your equity gap statement when applied to the reform math hot beds of Seattle and Bellevue is totally without support.

Establishing the WTM standards in the State of Washington will widen the equity gap.

There is no data to support this statement. Look at the Hook study in California. Look at Tacoma's implementation of Saxon math in 2006-2007. Read Project Follow Through. Just because a lot of people who do no research say it is true does not make it so.

I think that can be demonstrated by looking at data from the State of California.

I suggest you read carefully the data, which I provided above about California.

I think there is also considerable cognitive neuroscience data that would support a conclusion that the WTM standards work adequately for children primarily from upper middle class white families and that the kind of standards proposed by OSPI under the direction of the Dana Center reach a much broader range of learners. Notice I said that there is research data to support this.

Dave - I hear this repeatedly from the reform camp. This is not about tribalism this is about research results. As I have said I have yet to find this research. Every piece I have seen that has even the slightest glimpse of success has been due to other extensive and often expensive interventions. This is particularly true of the UW's actions in Seattle.

Whenever I talk to a WTM person about research, they don't have any.

Dave read this letter look at the attached spreadsheets visit my blog.

When I cite solid research, they look at each other and say "Oh, the data effect!" For a group that is made up of so many scientists, they certainly don't seem to be concerned with scientific methods to get to the heart of this issue.

Dave you have cited no solid research for me nor has Dr King.

Perhaps a good discussion would be to explore the diversity that makes up the WTM membership. Whose interests are they promoting? And do they have data to support your answer?

In your email, and I quote:

"Producing these standards was a significant effort for
a volunteer team on a zero budget, and we thank you in
advance for your consideration."

I would best describe this process as plagiarism (without acknowledging the source) of the Indiana Standards, but leaving out some of the better aspects of these standards. I have not looked at the most recent draft, but the first draft contained numerous mathematical errors. I am hoping that you were able to find and correct these.

As a math educator, I choose to spend my energies preparing kids for their future, not your past. It is unfortunate that WTM has chosen to use their sharpened political skills in an attempt to damage and hinder achievement for mathematics for all kids.

David without some data and some responses to the data I've presented to you, I see this as only tribalism.

I still view this not as a Math War but rather a Math Hoax. In a war both sides have ammunition. I've yet to see your tribe armed with the relevant data. Your principle weapon appears to be political clout not rational logical argument.

Dave Thielk

Parent of Two boys in public schools
M.S. in the Sciences from U of W (The Use of Differential Pulse Anodic Stripping to Measure Copper SPeciation in Natural Waters)
Math Educator and Curriculum Specialist
Successfully self employed prior to my current position.

Great News
Legislators say NO to Dr Bergeson
and Shift Math Standards revision from OSPI to SBE

Last week in Olympia the Legislature told Dr Bergeson that it was time for Pencils UP.

After OSPI spent about $1 million, in the production of three flawed drafts of the Math Standards the Legislature said:
1... No more time
2... No more money

The State board of Education will now finish the job.

In September OSPI was handed the 7 recommendations of the SBE Expert Linda Plattner.
Ms Plattner had produced a 50 page report complete with recommendations by listening to the Math Panel members and doing relevant research.

The OSPI handoff was when things went hay-wire. Dr Bergeson rejected bids of $130,000 from StandardsWorks and $255,000 from WestEd preferring instead the $770,000 bid from the Dana Center. The Dana Center from University of Texas at Austin had previously worked with OSPI on other projects. Dr Bergeson then selected members of the Standards revision team that included not one math expert from industry. It appears that the principle requirement for OSPI SRT members was to be a GroupThink Tribe member.

The Dec 4, 2007 draft appeared to ignore both HB 1906 - the law that was supposedly being followed as well as Plattner's recommendations.

The Jan 2008 draft looked at the law but failed to deliver on the Plattner recommendations. Instead of internationally competitive math standards that used the exemplar standards of places like Singapore, we received more of Dr Bergeson's same old stuff.

The Middle School Standards resembled a Connected Math Program syllabus more than anything else.

The Feb 29, 2008 draft instead of being a fine tuning, as most third drafts are, had incredibly large changes as only about 15% of the material was unchanged from the January draft.

Perhaps this is the beginning of a return to sanity.

English Language Learners
have great Math Success
with Singapore Math


At L.A. School, Singapore Math Has Added Value

By Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
March 9, 2008

Here's a little math problem:

In 2005, just 45% of the fifth-graders at Ramona Elementary School in Hollywood scored at grade level on a standardized state test. In 2006, that figure rose to 76%. What was the difference?

If you answered 31 percentage points, you are correct. You could also express it as a 69% increase.

But there is another, more intriguing answer: The difference between the two years may have been Singapore math.

At the start of the 2005-06 school year, Ramona began using textbooks developed for use in Singapore, a Southeast Asian city-state whose pupils consistently rank No. 1 in international math comparisons. Ramona's math scores soared.

Friday, March 7, 2008


Time to attach numbers to state’s math problem
Published: March 7th, 2008 01:00 AM

Washington’s community colleges have long complained about the large numbers of incoming students who need remedial math instruction. But when University of Washington professors join the chorus, you know our math problem has reached epidemic proportions.

A group of 60 math, science and engineering professors recently issued an open letter warning that a growing number of UW freshman can’t do even middle-school math.

Continue your reading at:

Instructional Staff Survey
of Seattle Public Schools

To: SPS instructional staff
Date: March 4, 2008


Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson commissioned a survey of instructional staff in February
2008 to inform the strategic planning process for Seattle Public Schools. At the
superintendent’s urging, several open-ended questions were included in the survey
to allow instructional staff the opportunity to provide candid feedback.

Several overarching themes emerge from this survey:

 Instructional staff report feeling overextended and would like to be able to
focus more on providing individualized instruction for students. Smaller class
sizes, additional support staff, fewer administrative responsibilities,
collaboration with other staff and more planning time are cited as ways that
would help staff provide each student with a higher-quality education and
reduce work-related stress.

 Staff would like professional development that better addresses their needs.
They would like more relevant content and time to implement professional

 Many instructional staff feel disconnected from decision makers in Seattle
Public Schools. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson is leading an effort to create more
opportunities to authentically engage instructional staff in the decision
making process. This survey provides critical information about how best to
do this.


Pyramid Communications conducted an online survey of instructional staff for
Seattle Public Schools from Feb. 8–14, 2008. With 1,385 instructional staff
members participating in the survey, the response rate was approximately 28
percent. A good mix of staff participated in the survey, although the results cannot
be statistically generalized to all instructional staff.

Participants were not required to answer every question; as a result, the sample
size varies with each question. There were several open-ended questions that
generated more than 6,000 responses overall. These responses were analyzed
thematically rather than statistically because of their depth and breadth.


Learning and teaching

The vast majority (90 percent) of instructional staff are confident in their ability to individualize learning and teaching. Overwhelmingly, instructional staff (88 percent) say their school uses student achievement data to inform school planning.

Feedback about several other areas of learning and teaching indicates areas for

 Twenty-four percent of instructional staff say their schools do not have
adequate resources for student interventions.

 One-in-five (20 percent) say their school lacks the resources to provide
students with a high-quality education.

 Twenty percent say their school does not have uniform curriculum materials
for grade and subject areas.

 Sixteen percent of instructional staff say their school does not have a clear
scope and sequence for grade and subject areas.

Instructional staff were asked what actions district leadership could take to improve
teaching and learning in their schools and close the achievement gap. Several
important themes emerge from the 1,060 open-ended responses:

 Large class sizes are a significant obstacle to providing a high-quality
education for every student. Providing individualized instruction is
challenging for those with larger class sizes. Some teachers report having
nearly 30 students in their classes.

 More support is needed for math and reading programs. Specifically,
instructional staff would like the district to place more of an emphasis on literacy early in students’ careers. They would also like to see more math curriculum options; the Everyday Math program is not uniformly embraced.

 Teachers do not have enough time to dedicate to planning and instruction.
They would like the district to hire more support staff—such as tutors,
instructional assistants, technology personnel and clerical assistants—so they
can focus on teaching.

 The district should provide more resources for students who are not in
special education but need extra attention for their learning or behavioral
issues. Instructional staff say lower counselor-to-student ratios, more
effective interventions
and more resources for families of special needs
students would be helpful. They would also like to see additional resources
dedicated specifically to meet the needs of special education.

Building-based decision making is popular among some instructional staff
who would like the district to continue to support this model

The district needs to do a better job of addressing the achievement gap.
Some instructional staff say they would like to see the district focus more on
economic than racial disparities.

 The district also needs to do a better job of ensuring a fair and adequate
distribution of materials as well as improving physical spaces.

Support for standardizing or aligning curriculum across the district is mixed.
This issue is discussed in more detail later in this report.

“Reduce the number of students each teacher is responsible for,
so we can indeed provide the amount of support each student
needs to achieve excellence.” —Middle school teacher

“Provide funding for interventions for struggling students, such
as after school programs.”
—Elementary school teacher

Professional development

Approximately three-quarters (77 percent) of instructional staff say they have
“access to effective professional development programs and resources” at their
school. However, just 27 percent say this statement describes their school very

There is room for improvement in specific areas of professional development:

 Instructional staff would like more time for professional development and
collaboration with other staff. One-third (34 percent) say staff at their
schools do not have sufficient time for these activities.

 Instructional staff would also like to see more mentoring opportunities in
general; 38 percent say effective mentoring opportunities are not available
to instructional staff at their school. There is a particular concern that all
new staff members are not getting the professional support they need.

 Less than half (46 percent) say instructional staff at their school have career
path options.

 More than one-quarter (28 percent) of instructional staff say they do not
have access to instructional coaches at their school.

More than 900 instructional staff members provided open-ended feedback
regarding what the district should know to help improve professional development.
Several themes are prominent:

Professional development should be relevant and focused on specific content
It should help instructional staff do a better job of meeting students’
needs in the classroom.

 Professional development should be more individualized. Staff should be
allowed to determine their own professional development needs.

 The district needs to provide time for instructional staff to collaborate with
other staff (intra- and inter-school collaboration).

 The district should also allow more time and support for implementing
changes in professional development or new materials. Many instructional
staff members say the district introduces new programs before the older
programs have had a chance to be successfully implemented.

 Professional development should be structured and well-organized. Some
instructional staff say more advance notice should be given. When they
attend disorganized programs, they feel their time is not being respected.

 Professional development activities should be held on-site during the school
day. Many instructional staff lack the energy to attend professional
development sessions after they have already worked a full day.
They would
be more likely to attend on-site professional development activities if a
greater number of qualified substitutes were available.

 Traveling to off-site professional development programs is costly and time-
consuming. Instructional staff interested in attending off-site programs
would like to be reimbursed for their time and program costs.

Trainers should be experts on the given topic. Instructional staff would like
to see more local trainers; some do not understand why the district pays for
trainers to travel across the country.

 The writer’s workshops developed by Columbia University’s Teachers College
Reading and Writing Project are cited by some instructional staff as an
example of a high-quality, worthwhile program.

“Allow time, not only for the actual professional development
opportunities, but also paid work sessions for teachers to get
together to give feedback and help problem solve to make
implementation succeed.”
—Middle school teacher

“Professional development should be meaningful. Much of what
passes as professional development is trivial or repetitive.
Professional development opportunities often come at the
expense of classroom time with students. Additionally, the hours
needed to adequately prepare for a sub are uncompensated. It
is an additional burden on the already over-worked classroom
teacher. I'd rather be in my classroom.”
—Middle school teacher

Work-related stress

Generally, instructional staff feel the burden of many demands on their time. Their
single biggest cause of stress is “too little time to meet instructional goals;” 94
percent cite this as stress factor, with 61 percent saying it causes them a lot of
stress. The complexity and range of student academic needs also cause the
majority (56 percent) of instructional staff to experience a lot of stress.

The following factors were cited by instructional staff as causing them “a lot” of

 Complexity and range of student non-academic needs (50 percent)
 Cost of living in the Seattle area (45 percent)
 Lack of time to collaborate with other instructional staff (40 percent)
 Preparing students for standardized tests (38 percent)
 Student classroom behavior (33 percent)

Additional causes of “a lot” of stress include:

Disharmony or lack of trust among staff at your school (23 percent)
 Commute to and from school (11 percent)

More than 900 instructional staff commented on other stress factors and ideas for
reducing stress. The following causes of stress were repeatedly mentioned:

 Instructional staff have too many responsibilities and demands on their time.
Specifically, they say they are required to complete too much administrative
paperwork. They feel that new requirements are added to their workload but
nothing is taken off their plate. Instructional staff say it can be difficult to
keep up with new programs and requirements. Many feel they lack adequate
planning and preparation time. Having large class sizes adds to this

 Due to the high cost of living in Seattle, instructional staff are stressed by
their compensation, which they say is too low.

The district is perceived as having a top-down management style. Some
instructional staff say there is too much “busy work” created by the district,
which adds to their stress.

A lack of support for dealing with behavioral issues also stresses
instructional staff.

“I believe that my class size directly adds stress to my workday.
I just don't feel like I can reach each child (and family)
effectively. There's too many of them!
” —Elementary school

“My husband and I are both teachers in Seattle and can barely
afford to live in our district. Two-thirds of my paycheck goes to
childcare. Our contract says we are required to work until 2:45
pm—we are here until almost 5:00 pm daily. It would be nice to
be compensated for the job that we are doing.” —High school

Teachers are expected to wear so many hats beyond teaching
academics … The range of needs, both personal and academic,
in the typical classroom is frequently overwhelming.
adequate support in these areas, the teacher easily burns out.”
—Elementary school teacher

To reduce work-related stress, instructional staff recommend the following actions:

 Allow more time for collaboration among instructional staff.
 Create smaller class sizes.
 Encourage principals to have more direct involvement in classrooms.
Promote flexible and collaborative leadership at the central office.
Continue building-based decision making.
 Allow more time for preparation, planning and curriculum development.
 Increase instructional staff salaries.
 Hire more people to support instruction, such as instructional assistants,
discipline specialists, counselors and technology support staff.
 Reduce paperwork and documentation requests from instructional staff.
Eliminate irrelevant and redundant meetings and trainings.
Create consistent expectations for student behavior, and provide the
resources and support necessary to enforce them.

The single most important factor for reducing stress in a school
is additional staff support, i.e., instructional or admin assistants.
The job of educational professionals requires far more nowadays
than purely academics, and one can't be everything to every
child all the time.
” — High school librarian

Community and family engagement

Instructional staff value community and family engagement and have many ideas
for strengthening partnerships with families. They feel strongly that, “Community
members—even those without children—are partners in strengthening our school.”
Ninety-four percent of instructional staff agree with this statement.

Ninety percent agree that, “Staff members at my school work hard to build good
relationships with families.” A similar number (87 percent) agree that, “My school
regularly communicates with families about how they can help their children learn,”
and 82 percent agree that, “Families are actively encouraged to visit classrooms
and observe the instructional program at my school.”

More than 700 instructional staff provided open-ended feedback to the district to
help schools strengthen partnerships with families:

 Compensate staff for conducting family engagement or hire others to do the
work. Some staff are willing to make phone calls to families and conduct
home visits, but they want to be compensated for their time. Other
instructional staff members say they do not have time to conduct family outreach and would like family support workers or other specialists to conduct this outreach. Instructional staff would like to see family support workers hired in every school.

 Find more ways to engage low-income families who are not able to
participate in regular family events.

 Provide additional resources and dedicate extra time to engage parents or
guardians who do not speak English. They say there is a great demand for
additional interpreters at meetings and events, and many families need help
understanding written materials that are sent home with their kids.

 Make events and conferences more accessible to all families by offering
food, transportation, childcare and interpretation. It is important that
families of disadvantaged students have a voice in the decision-making

 Encourage families with Internet access to use The Source.

“During the school year there have been many times when a
home visit would be a good idea but I do maybe five. It's just
too much … Our Family Support workers have been wonderful
and we really appreciate them.” —High school teacher

“[The district] should know that not all families have the same
access to school as others (work schedules, transportation,
childcare issues). They should know how time consuming,
frustrating and at times impossible it is to get interpreters (any
language, including SEE and ASL).” —Elementary school speech-
language pathologist

“The more 'neighborhood' based we can make our high school,
the more families and community members will participate.
When students commute from across the city, the ties aren't
there for extra-curricular involvement. We need neighborhood
schools in Seattle.” —High school teacher

Strategic planning process

Faced with 11 possible initiatives for the district to emphasize, instructional staff
were asked to select and rank only three of the initiatives. They spread their
support fairly evenly, although a few initiatives stand out. Almost half (46 percent)
select “provide adequate facilities” as an initiative the district should emphasize
(22 percent say this is their first priority for the district).

Three other initiatives receive relatively broad support from instructional staff (the
percentage represents the proportion of staff that select this initiative as one of the three they would like the district to emphasize):

 Provide on-site professional development, such as instructional coaches (38
Provide useful student achievement data to help shape instructional
(35 percent).
Effectively measure central office performance (32 percent).
 Provide uniform instructional materials (30 percent).

Staff express a range of opinions about the issue of standardized curriculum. About
one-quarter (26 percent) select this initiative as one the district should emphasize.
In previous open-ended questions, some instructional staff express an interest in
aligning or standardizing curriculum. Others do not like the idea and say the district
should make this initiative less of a priority. There are most likely a variety of
interpretations of what it means for the district to align or standardize curriculum.
This issue should be explored in more detail in future research with instructional
staff, particularly in light of the recently completed Curriculum Audit.

More than 600 instructional staff offered feedback on other priorities that should be addressed in the strategic plan, including:

 Reducing class sizes
 Making facility improvements (particularly in South End schools)
 Providing adequate materials, including current books for all content areas
 Ensuring adequate staffing, with an emphasis on attracting and retaining
high-quality instructional staff
 Arranging more planning and implementation time
 Hiring more support staff, such as family support workers, counselors,
tutors, nurses, etc.
 Ensuring a more equitable distribution of resources in schools and
opportunities for students

There needs to be a process for letting poor performing
teachers and administrators go.
There are so many talented
teachers who want to teach for Seattle Public schools. We need
to retain and reward strong teachers and weed out those who
are not meeting the needs of the students.” —Elementary school

“Provide methods/funding for reducing class size and providing
social service support.” —High school teacher

“Maintain buildings adequately, particularly new roofs and floors
instead of patches. Replacing malfunctioning pipes and ducts
should also be a priority.” —Elementary school teacher

Nearly 600 instructional staff offered feedback on priorities they would make LESS Important if they were the superintendent, including:

 Standardizing and aligning all curricula
 Generating decision making with Central Office staff
 Holding teachers and principals accountable for student achievement (this is
perceived as too simplistic)
 Preparing for standardized tests
 Collecting quantitative data on student performance
 Measuring instructional staff performance

Some of these priorities—such as standardizing curriculum and collecting/providing
student achievement data—are selected by some instructional staff members as
initiatives the district should emphasize. These are not necessarily contradictory
findings and should be explored further in future research.

We absolutely do not need to all be held to uniform or standard
curricula. We do not teach identical students; we should be
expected to shape our classes to meet the needs of our students
… standards and standardization have nothing in common.

—High school teacher

“Be less preoccupied with quantitative data of student
performance, and more with qualitative discussions of what they
are learning or how they are performing.” —High school
substitute teacher

Communication with Central Office

Two-thirds (66 percent) of instructional staff say they do not have enough
opportunities to provide feedback to decision makers in Seattle Public Schools.

More than 400 instructional staff provided the district with recommendations for
communicating more effectively:

Engage in more two-way communication. Instructional staff members want
to be consulted before important decisions are made and would like to be
assured that district leadership is thoughtfully considering their input.

 The superintendent and district administrators should visit buildings and
classrooms more frequently. Instructional staff would also like to have an
open line of communication with district leadership.

 Communicate more frequently with instructional staff, but keep messages
succinct. They do not want to be out of the loop, but many receive a high
volume of email and need to quickly discern what is most important.

Demonstrate respect for instructional staff. Notify them of important
developments before they are reported in the media. The tone of
communication pieces should be honest and straightforward; they
sometimes feel the district leadership “talks down” to them.

 Consider updating the internal and external SPS website to make them more
intuitive and easier to navigate.

Surveys and other forms of staff feedback are meaningless
unless they are taken seriously and not conducted just for show.

Prove to us that you have heard what we have to say and
haven't already chosen a course of action.
The people most
affected by a decision MUST have some say in the decision-
making process.
How will you enable us to be effective
teachers?” —High school teacher

I think communication should be a priority before decision
While I know and trust that the people making
decisions are both competent and student-centered, I still think
the more we can collaborate together, the smarter we can be. I
think it's important to at least hear input from those of us who
are in the classroom and schools every single day with kids.” —
Middle school teacher

A majority of instructional staff prefer to receive information about what Seattle
Public Schools is doing through their principal or supervisor (65 percent) and
through emails from the superintendent (53 percent).

Approximately one-third of instructional staff prefer to receive information from the
district website (37 percent) and Seattle Education Association (34 percent).

Additional sources of information tested include:

 School Beat e-newsletter (27 percent)
 Classroom Connection e-newsletter (22 percent)
 Meetings with the superintendent (22 percent)
 Other instructional staff (13 percent)
 TV/radio/print (10 percent)
 Families (4 percent)