Thursday, April 17, 2008

Math Melt Down Alarm Still Sounding .... OSPI remains deaf

Dear State Board of Education Members, 4-17-2008

I am new to politics but I am an experienced teacher of Mathematics having started forty years ago in 1968. I am a Math Advisory Panelist.

I am sounding the Washington math meltdown alarm for clearly it has not been heard.
From all my experience and since 2003 in urban Los Angeles, in urban Seattle, with rural Eastern Washington children many of Hispanic descent, and this year with Alternative High School students, I can tell you that math with more words and less numbers is an astonishing failure (paragraphs 5 & 6).

Dr Bergeson, Dr Bright, Dr Seeley, and Dr Triesman would have you believe otherwise. I have the data (& lots more). From both my experience and my collection of data I can assure you they are wrong. Nationally the math disgrace is worsening. Why are we the only nation that uses these failing ideas?

I urge you to delay the Standards approval decision for at least another month.

The children that other teachers and I teach deserve a fair shake in this deal and are not getting one. The children have not received a fair shake for a long time.

Despite Dr Bright’s claim on KIRO radio that this reform math has broadened student access to mathematics, the exact opposite is the case. Despite Dr Triesman’s claim that “Fidelity of Implementation” (at 5:20) is what is needed, the data from Bellevue and other places shows the opposite to be true.

I have no idea why Dr Bergeson has guided this train down the wrong tracks for a decade, and even less of an idea as to why she is rushing this process (see #4) through today. Please do not finalize these K-8 standards this week.

OSPI’s choices for the math materials most aligned to the WASL have done great harm to large numbers of the very populations that Dr Bright claims are served by these materials. The cognitive model (graphs) of exploration and inquiry is defective.

Today we are in a hurry after enormous delays caused by OSPI’s failure to follow the law. Things were moving along quite well until the Strategic Teaching handoff to OSPI in September of 2007.

Since that time:
1… Dr Bergeson hired the highest bidding Dana Center for $770,000 over the $255,000 and $130,000 competitors.

2… Selected a Math Standards Revision Team who largely agreed with her math direction of the last decade. The SRT included few if any mathematics experts from industry. It bore little resemblance to the composition recommended by Strategic Teaching or the 2004 (.pdf) Mathematics Standards Study Group. (.html - see part III . A) → also see Introduction I. paragraph #4 where OSPI continually misses the essence of mathematics.

3… The Draft of December 4, 2007 ignored exactly what HB 1906 had called for: the construction of Standards based on specific internationally competitive standards. This first draft was just a time-consuming attempt to rework Washington’s failing standards. Ignoring what HB 1906 said to do wasted huge quantities of time. Why are we panelists being deprived of time because OSPI wasted it?

4… By the time the third draft rolled around it looked a lot like starting over again rather than a careful refinement.

5… The State Legislature chose the HB 1906 option of rejecting the standards and sent them to Strategic Teaching for repair.

6… A great deal has been made by OSPI that the Standards were judged greatly improved by ST. I attended an in-service on math curriculum direction in the Clover Park School District led by Maria Flores, CPSD math program manager. I mentioned that the improved statement was highly misleading as that statement was not based on content alignment with the international standards but on other factors. Strategic Teaching had not contracted for content analysis at the time and made no claim that this improved rating had anything to do with content improvement.

7… So here we are today, as my dad would say: Victims of the bum’s rush.
The Advisory Panelists have been denied an opportunity to collaborate and discuss what you are being asked to approve. Most of us on the panel work daily, we are panel volunteers. I have had little opportunity to inspect what you are being asked to approve today. A year ago I was informed that no one on the SBE had a degree in a mathematically intensive field and the comment was made why would we trust you to guide us out of a math disaster? I believe the answer must be because you have good judgment.

8… The authors of Washington’s math meltdown are now asking you to quickly approve their version of a repair. Use good judgment, just say NO.

I thought the intent of the (2008) legislature was to have the SBE correct the poor direction given by OSPI in this process. Please do so.

Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.

BA mathematics, M.Ed.; NCLB Highly Qualified Math, Chemistry, & Science
Teacher at Alternatives for Individuals High School, Clover Park School District

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