Thursday, March 6, 2008

An Article in Need of Facts,
once again

Dear Linda Thomas,

I really enjoyed reading your blog in the Seattle PI. Your article in Seattle Child is short on accurate facts. I believe that readers of the article rather than being informed will be confused. I found your blog to be an excellent addition to public knowledge. Unfortunately your Seattle Child article on Math Education is not.

Your article is short on substantive data.

That 60% passing score applies only when some members of the class have had several WASL math retakes.

The passing rate on the initial Spring WASL for 10th graders in 2005, 2006, & 2007 are as follows:
(these scores include 10th graders that passed the WASL in grade 9).

2007 = 50.4%
2006 = 51.0%
2005 = 47.5%

The above research required two minutes on the OSPI web-site.
I believe your article needs immediate modification.

It is incredible that in addition to using the 60% figure you called into question Ms Wright's 50% figure.

In regard to Dr Warfield there is very little in the way of objective research that will support the efficacy of her positions. The last decade of decline in Math skills should be sufficient evidence of the folly in her positions.

The USA's - PISA math scores are still in free fall.
Only 22% of recent high school graduates can place into a college level math class at Seattle Central Community College (average of four recent years which was fairly stable from year to year) a full 50% of the recently graduated entering students could not place above the equivalent of High School math one.

A full third of entering 9th graders in Seattle's high schools were unable to score above math level 1 on their 8th grade Math WASL. They are Math "Clueless". Grade level promotion in the Seattle Schools appears in most cases to require only the ability to breathe.

One thing that can be said about education is that it is clearly not a profession. A profession is characterized by improving decisions and practices based on objective research - note the progress in medicine over the last 60 years and how this progress occurred.

Now look at math education over the last 60 years in the USA. If medicine was based on whims, as math education clearly is, about 50% of those currently alive in the USA would be dead.

I've attached several documents that will explain precisely why what Dr Warfield advocates does not work successfully on a large scale. Positive math results that the UW often attributes to curricula are, in almost every single case, most likely caused by costly interventions not the curricula. These particular interventions that can not be produced on the larger scale.

I urge you to start looking at relevant data - rather than promoting the unsupportable positions of Dr Warfield et al. I call these positions unsupportable because there is not data to support them. If there was any data, surely the two expensive glossy documents called Research That Matters 4: Closing the Gap and Research That Matters 5: Taking Measure, Does Modern Math Education add up? produced by the UW College of Education over the last two years would contain some data. They do not.

A good place to begin researching this math education topic from a data driven perspective would be my blog at:

The Math Underground


Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.
NCLB highly qualified in Math, Chem, Science
SBE Math Panelist.

Teacher at Alternative for Individuals High School
Clover Park School District


Anonymous said...

I would like to know more about Project Seed and how the Dallas School District stole the math reform movement with their study on the math improvement of 10,000 minorities. How did it go from being used as a model for elementary school then to high school and then used for remedial education at UW?

What is the curriculum? Or is it based solely on Socratic teaching? And how were OSU researchers able to get such amazing results? This is one of many hoaxes.

The next reform is going to be a revolution. You will need to destroy everything that was done against children for the last 30 years. These people will be branded as educational tyrants - their greatest fear was that their secret would be revealed to everyone and that is exactly what we are doing here. Hopefully this will be a new beginning.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Guthrie (d. 1959), once the Dean of Psychology at UW is known best for his Principle of Recency.

Linda Thomas's article is oversimplying the differences between Thorndike and Dewey. Guthrie is also of the same timeframe and his studies are relevent for software programmers, attempting to model good teaching habits. I don't think Thomas has done enough research and she makes it sound like an either-or problem, sounds like Math War propoganda to me.

Guthrie believed that the recency principle plays an integral role in the learning process.

This principle states that which was done last in the presence of a set of stimuli will be that which is done when the stimulus combination occurs again.

He believed that it is the time relation between the substitute stimulus and the response that counts.

Associative strength is greater when the association is novel. When two associations are present with the same cue, the more recent will prevail.

Guthrie's novel approach is now called cognitive dissonance.

Contiguity theory implies that forgetting is a form of retroactive or associative inhibition.

Associative inhibition occurs when one habit prevents another due to some stronger stimuli. Guthrie stated that forgetting is due to interference because the stimuli become associated with new responses (Internet, 1999).

He believed that you can use sidetracking to change previous conditioning. This involves discovering the initial cues for the habit and associating other behavior with those cues.

Sidetracking causes the internal associations to break up. It is easier to sidetrack than to break a habit. Other methods used to break habits include threshold, fatigue, and the incompatible response method.

Fatigue is a change in behavior-altered chemical states in the muscle and blood stream. It has the effect of decreasing the conditioned response.

The stimulus conditions the other responses thus inhibiting the response. The threshold method involves presenting cues at such low levels that the response does not occur.

The stimulus is then increased thus raising the response threshold. The incompatible stimulus method involves presenting the stimulus for the behavior we want to remove when other aspects of the situation will prevent the response from occurring (Thorne and Henley, 1997).

Excitement facilitates learning and also the stereotyping of a habit.

It is the conflict responsible for the excitement that breaks up the old habit. Breaking up a habit involves finding the cues that initiate the action and practicing another response to such cues.

I'm sharing this, because most people think of Skinner and Pavlov's dogs salivating when they think about stimulus-response.

But its more complex than that. The principles apply equally to discovery learning as they do for traditional learning, which I view as two extremes, and not surprisingly you see these in approaches to religious teaching. So in one case, you have the Puritan teacher, enforcing rules and guidelines and at the opposite end of the spectrum, there is the Pastoral teacher, who is explicating his interpretation of the textbook, so his students can interpret better what they're reading.

The difficulty I have with the Progressivists and their textbooks is they emphasize reading without any guidance from the teacher - that's the discovery approach. They are even more literal-minded than traditionally trained teachers. Deborah Ball is perhaps the most vocal of this group, and I think our schools are suffering for it.

Anonymous said...

Some approaches to learning, that involve breaking old habits - as an example, 7 x 7 = 47.

The direct approach would be to break the habit through fatigue - using flach cards.

Guthrie would argue that was not the best approach. To break a habit, you introduce a novelty.

So one technique is to employ deduction - by removing possible answers, so then you are left with only the one correct answer, the one that is not your own - self-corrective feedback.

That's what powerful learning is, and most teachers use these words every day, but they don't have a clue what they're talking about.

Anonymous said...

Here's another subtle approach, that uses cognitive dissonance - this is prescriptive, so we're assuming the student already gives the incorrect response 7 x 7 = 47.

7 x 7 = _ 9

The interesting point of this problem reveals that some students have not yet learned the reverse -

49 = 7 x 7.

So you might get 39, 59, 69, or even 79.

But if you rephrase the problem

7 x 7 = 4 _

Then often you get 44 or 47 as a possible answer.

So once again, much of good teaching involves learning how to break kids of habits formed through improper conditioning (mostly classroom neglect).