Saturday, March 15, 2008

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.


Anonymous said...

This is essentially good, but the NSF isn't the only standard for research - Washington could create its own research panel with the goal in science and math of meeting two standards, including literacy.

The concern about curriculum should also include children and parents, since public opinion does matter.

Any adoption should be a single curriculum, grades 1 - 12.

The implementation should start at grade 1 and continue each year, one grade level higher.

Anything less than that, then you should only measure success or failure based on that one base year.

Honesty means you don't give up on a curriculum, but you revise it until it works. Don't use it like a ruler and beat kids over the head with it. Make this a Washington State curriculum. Throw out the consultants and the NSF. And these other professional groups that simply want to squeeze profit margin. Idiot fascists!

It would be cheapest, most practical, and wisest to adopt Singapore. This is plain economics, not an issue over ideology.

Science is built first on a knowledge of mathematics.

Presently, science is in a dismal state. I would liken to uniform low track everywhere. Its dumbfounding, nothing short of the Dark Ages (10th century BC) Until students can make a contribution in math, they cannot achieve very much in science.

Pull the plug on Bergerson and her Puritan thugs, send them back to Michigan. Let them raise hell over there.

Anonymous said...

Literacy is from the child's point of view. If the child can read and comprehend the textbook and there is pleasure gained through comprehension, then I think you have something that will be satisfactory.

The standards should reflect what we want engineers and technicians to be able to grasp before they enter a college or vocational institute.

I think I've just about eliminated all the curriculum except for CPM and Singapore. CPM is only for grades 6 - 12. Also, families with higher incomes are against CPM - so my analysis pretty much the only acceptable curriculum is Singapore.

There are two support curriculums, that would teach illiterate children - Challenging Mathematics and Marcy Cook.

Using a simple system like this without technology would be cheap, efficient, and very practical. The works already been done. Eliminate this other stuff - its all a Tower of Babel.

dan dempsey said...

Wayne Bishop PhD. of Cal State LA, pointed out a problem with teaching Singapore Math. Our teachers do not know enough math.

He proposed a transition of a Saxon Adoption in which the teachers would have an opportunity to learn some math eventually followed by a Singapore Adoption.

The State despite all these requirements for additional classes to keep teaching has failed to require the teachers to acquire any additional math competence.

Looking at how much math is required to get an initial teaching certificate for elementary school will alert you to the wisdom in Wayne Bishop's statement.

Anonymous said...

Its a good point, but I don't think teachers would go beyond Saxon. There is no training that I can think of that goes with using Saxon. To get good results with Saxon you have to be really good at math. You could be terrible at math, teach Saxon and get terrible results. So its possible to fake teaching and still use Saxon. I do Saxon problems in my head just to keep myself interested while I'm teaching. Singapore is a step above that. There's no comparison.

So I would have to disagree with Dr. Bishop, why go to the effort to train teachers with an inferior curriculum and then have them go through another year of training with a superior curriculum.

On the other hand, if there are some college-educated parents that prefer to have their kids learning from Saxon because they say its been proven effective, then by all means do so. But don't expect to get the same results in urban schools where the teacher training is minimal and the key issue is literacy.

What is difficult for students and teachers to comprehend is that Saxon problems usually have two ways of solving - the slow way and the fast way. This is not explicitly stated. The directions for solving are confusing.

I've watched my own children struggle with Saxon, despite my efforts to teach them - their 'teacher' only accepted the 'right way' to solve problems -- so one of the things that troubles me is some teachers advocate only cross-multiplying to solve a ratio problem. Well that's asinine. CPM does a much better job of explaining how to solve ratio problems.

Second, Saxon is horribly weak in geometry and it has to be introduced at an earlier age. That's singapore's strength and you can see the difference when children begin learning formal algebra.

dan dempsey said...

I agree that Saxon Geometry is close to non-existent from my experience with it in the early 1990s. Unless it has changed I would not advocate for Saxon above the algebra I level. But that is just me.

I still think that Saxon is a no brainer to teach and get excellent results for most kids who do the work at the elementary level.

Singapore requires a lot more math knowledge at grades 4, 5, 6 than does Saxon.

Singapore has three series available after Primary 6. New Math Counts would be a good choice for students needing more examples, while the New Elementary Series and the New Syllabus are excellent for the higher achievers.

I really like these way better than Saxon.

However both are incredibly superior to Core-Plus. In comparison Core-Plus appears to be a language arts book because of its shortage of numbers.

Anonymous said...

Yes, lets read about math (Core Plus philosophy) I made it an exercise to see how many times zero '0' gets used in Core Plus 1 - there are two volumes and '0' appears < 300 times. Its awful.

My assumption is the authors are sticking to the superstitions of the Romans. Why? It might have to do with their belief in avoiding perfection - and be satisfied with average.

These are not exceptionally bright people - they are less than average writers, but make up for with above average height.

Anonymous said...

Saxon leaves a whole lot of critical thinking out and its weak by any standard. It teaches basics - and thats not going to make superior mathematicians. Singapore is the most honest curriculum because its a curriculum that was developed using a 'razor's edge' - it doesn't strive for average. Average is standards-based reform. You can't build up professions like science or engineering with a AA counselor's mentality. OSPI is managed by a bunch of screwballs.

I've seen experienced teachers louse up teaching with Saxon. They don't understand the lesson's objectives - I understand what he was trying to do, but I read his textbook and his directions could be more clear. CPM does a better job, but even they admit that some of what they ask students to do is overdone. Cognitive models are an aid or tool for comprehension, not a mode for thinking.

Everyday Math mistakes concepts for tools - they misapply their own ideas. Who would ever consider using binary multiplication as an algorithm for multiplying two numbers together. This clearly shows their own stupidity. What were they thinking about, the Apocalpse?

The simplest ratio problem gets turned into an activity about cross-multiplying. This is not the best way to solve every ratio problem. In fact, I don't recommend it, unless you must use it, because a student is most likely to make errors with it. Tests usually have you simplify one of the fractions and look for a common denominator. Singapore and CPM correctly use the Giant '1' Standardized textbooks fall short in lots of areas, not just solving ratios.