Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Bob Dean says.... NO NO!!!

Sorry about the formating but if you wish it as a correctly formated word doc write me at


Comments on the Algebra II Edited Expectations
Developed by Strategic Teaching

A Report to the State Board of Education ... June 2008


In general, strong content standards provide clear guidance to teachers, curriculum and assessment developers, textbook publishers and others, so that one person’s interpretation of the central knowledge and skills students should learn at a particular grade will be comparable to someone else’s.

American Federation of Teachers

Sizing up State Standards 2008

What makes a good math standard? How is it used? What makes a bad math standard? What are the affects of bad standards? I hope to answer some of these questions in the brief report that follows.

I will start by saying I am deeply disappointed in the revised Washington Standards as edited by Strategic Teaching. I find the standards to be unsatisfactory and although slightly better than our existing Washington standards, they are a long way from being good standards. Good standards direct teachers to a common target. These standards fall far short of that goal.

The table below contains examples of both good and bad standards. The good standards come from Indiana and the American Diploma Project. The bad standards come mostly from the Strategic Teaching Algebra II edited expectations.
You should note the specificity of the strong standards. They include immediate examples in the standards. They are clear and directed and will insure that teachers are targeting students towards the same content. The weak standards provide no examples as part of the standards. They also are so vague that they provide teachers no clear direction. Teachers around the state using the weak standards will not teach students the same content. It is impossible to make an assessment from the weak standards that will fairly measure what all students might have been taught.

Examples of strong and weak content standards
Strong Standards Weak Standards

Examples from American Federation of Teachers MATH Understand how real and complex numbers are related, including plotting complex numbers as points in the plane. Example: Plot the points corresponding to 3-2i and 1+4i. Add these complex numbers and plot the result. How is this point related to the other two? (Algebra II)
Model and analyze real-world
situations by using patterns and functions. (Grades 9-12)

WA Algebra II Standards A2.1.A Select and justify functions and equations to model and solve problems.
WA Algebra II Standards A2.1.B Solve problems that can be represented by linear functions and systems of equations.
WA Algebra II Standards A2.1.C Solve problems that are represented by quadratic functions, equations, and inequalities.

WA Algebra II Standards A2.3.B Solve quadratic equations and inequalities, including equations with complex roots.

Indiana Algebra II Standards A2.3.4 Graph quadratic functions. Apply transformations to quadratic functions. Find and interpret
the zeros and maximum or minimum value of quadratic functions.

Example: Find the zeros for y = x2 - 4. If y = x2 - 4 has a maximum or minimum
value, give the ordered pair corresponding to the maximum or minimum point.

American Diploma Project Algebra Standards J3.5. Solve quadratic equations in one variable.

Example: Solve x² − x − 6 = 0 by recognizing that
x² − x − 6 = (x − 3)(x + 2) can be factored to obtain the two solutions x = 3 and x = -2

Example: Solve x² + 4x + 2 = 0 by using the quadratic formula or by completing the square.

The Edited Expectations contain few standards that measure up to the strong standards listed above. When standards are weak, assessments made from those standards are weak. The major flaw in our existing math WASL test is that the existing math standards are so vague it is impossible for a teacher to know what might be on the WASL test. This makes it impossible for the teacher to know what they must teach students.

I have given an example below that is typical of what teachers face with weak standards. The example is a WASL release problem from OSPI’s website. First, consider the standard that the problem is derived from.

Use concepts and procedures from multiple mathematics content strands in a given problem or situation; relate and use different mathematical models and representations of the same situation.
Washington GLE 5.1.1 & 5.1.2

After reading the standard, try to imagine what type of problem a student might be given to illustrate mastery of the standard. Now look at the problem below.

There is nothing wrong with the problem above. However, how would anyone know that this is the problem a student was supposed to know after reading the standard? How would a teacher know what to teach students? The plain fact is they wouldn’t know. In fact, teachers could teach almost anything and comply with the above standard. This is the major reason why students have not performed well on the WASL. Teachers have aligned to the standards but the standards have given no direction to teachers or students as to what they needed to learn. The example I have given above is typical of WASL problems.


The Washington Revised Standards that were presented by OSPI on March 5th contained the same flaws that I have pointed out above. Unfortunately, Strategic Teaching was instructed to revise those standards instead of totally rewriting them. This flawed foundation has led to flawed standards. The edited Algebra II standards are even worse than the March 5th standards. These standards should be rejected and rewritten in clear and concise language that anyone can understand. That is exactly what the original report by Strategic Teaching called for.

I want to go on record as being strongly against these standards. It is my recommendation that the State Board of Education reject them because of their lack of clarity and specificity. There are numerous other flaws in the revised standards but due to time limitations I will not bring them up in this report.

If the State Board of Education believes that it would be a drastic action to reject these standards after the time and money that has been spent on this process thus far, I would offer the following: We have spent over a billion dollars during the last decade trying to get students to pass the WASL. Much of the problem has been caused by poorly written math standards. Can we afford to start another decade with poorly written standards in order to come to a political compromise? Can we afford to have curriculum chosen and purchased based on these flawed standards? I think not…… I think the children of this state deserve better……. I hope you do too.

Bob Dean
Math Dept Chairman
Evergreen High School
State Board of Education
Math Advisory Panel
OSPI Standards Revision Team

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Washiington should adopt Singapore standards and then students won't have to worry about standards or curriculum. So long as you have the UW/WSU TEP staff manipulating math content to align with the DOE's textbooks etc. Washington will never have the highest standards - currently Washington is aligned most closely with the Achieve Standard (the lowest standard).