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.

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