Monday, June 9, 2008

Materials Review Process as of 6-09-2008

Danaher M. Dempsey Jr.’s response to Instructional Materials Review criteria R draft#2

Historical Background:

Only about one half of the states use an adoption process most of those are in the West or the South.

The adoption processes tend to emphasize to process (over results) and it is believed by process boosting proponents that fidelity to the adoption process will produce an excellent outcome. There is little if any evidence that this belief is correct.

The State of Washington needs to select math materials that will allow teachers to have a shot at providing an internationally competitive mathematics education to those children that have the interest, intellectual capacity, and dedication to attain levels of mathematical skill, knowledge, and understanding to do so. All children should have the opportunity to learn as much mathematics as they are capable of learning and the system should ideally inspire and enable them to do so. Currently Washington is largely failing in both of these duties to children. Looking at what has happened thus far with IMR it appears highly likely this failure to serve children will continue.

The primacy of process over content was certainly in evidence during the last several years, as Math Coaches did not need to be particularly knowledgeable about mathematics. The USA’s standing on International Math Tests revealed a disaster underway as TIMSS Math at grade 4 and grade 8 along with PISA Math for 15 year olds showed continuing inadequacy. In fact USA PISA Math scores got significantly worse. It must be noted that the USA has a singular belief that K-12 school mathematics needs to follow the groundwork laid out by the NSF and NCTM during the mid 1980’s and pursued with singular dedication up to the September 2006 publication of the NCTM Focal Points document.

I say singular belief, as the USA was almost alone in the belief that this methodology of learning was the best. The improvement of other nations and the decline of the USA in the above-mentioned International tests made little difference, in altering out of the mainstream belief. Japan adopted some USA style reforms in their math standards of 2002 and then saw their PISA scores drop from 2003 to 2006 by a statistically significant 11 points.

Simply stated the rest of the world believes that instruction that is Example Based is superior to that based on Exploration and Inquiry. Arithmetic understanding and skills leads to Authentic Algebra skills and understanding. This proficiency with authentic algebra then opens the door to all of the mathematics above Authentic Algebra: Calculus, Trigonometry, Statistics, Probability, Topology, etc.

It is of particular interest that Nobel Physics Laureate Richard P. Feynman stated that there was a huge amount of arithmetic involved in higher scientific thinking. He was involved in the 1964 California Math text adoption.

Current Background:

There again appears to be a lack of interest in content. There is also little interest in providing either the time or satisfactory personnel to do this job of bringing the highly effective instructional Math materials to the students of Washington. The SBE and OSPI have pushed time lines far ahead of the legislature’s time lines.

OSPI contracted with Relevant Strategies, to facilitate the IMR process. Porsche Everson of Relevant Strategies has little background in school mathematics but appears to be a process and political expert. She has demonstrated significant skill in both those areas to me during our short acquaintance. She is highly skilled but without the math background needed.

OSPI selected a panel of 22 persons to form the IMR criteria team. There were no applications nor was there an announcement that this was happening. These 22 produced IMR draft #1 before the SBE math advisory panel was even aware of their existence. The members of this IMR criteria panel were selected because they had experience in the adoption process. Knowledge of mathematics was not a requirement to be on this panel. I wonder how many of these 22 individuals would meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind as High Qualified to teach High School Mathematics. So we now are left with a committee of 22 with almost all not knowing enough Math to teach it, but they are going to decide upon the correct criteria for math books.

Of further difficulty is that the results from draft #1 revealed a clear bias to produce more of the same that OSPI has provided over the last decade in the way of recommendations. This is hardly surprising as the majority of the members of this 22 person panel were responsible for k-8 math selections within their districts that gave us the Statewide Math Meltdown announced by Dr. Bergeson of August 2006. Thus it is in their best political self-interest at the local level to promote something close to the same. In fact on page 7 of draft#2 appears this: One of the goals of the Content/Standards Alignment process will be to identify the necessary supplementation for existing materials to meet state standards. Neither HB1906 nor SB6534 ask for this. Why is it here?

What Has Happened Thus Far

In looking that HB 1906 and SB 6534, OSPI seems to have a lot of latitude to conduct analyses, processes, and recommendations. The legislative control comes at the end with thumbs up or down. The Math Standards work that OSPI did over the period from September 2007 on was judged poor by the legislature. Thumb down.

Disturbing to me is that the IMR criteria team dropped the ball immediately with draft #1. Draft #1 appeared to put the WA k-8 Math Standards in a minor role. It looked like IMR criteria were going to produce their own version of what the materials need to do.

Particularly disconcerting to me is the fact that all 22 members of the IMR team apparently failed to read either HB1906 or SB6534. On page 2 of each of these laws is stated that the NCTM Focal Points are to be used. The NCTM Focal Points were not included as a reference document in draft#1,
A few others, and I brought this up, so the Focal Points are now present in draft#2. Unfortunately what draft#1 did include were many of the same reference documents that produced the Washington State math failure as well as our national decline in mathematics and all of these are still listed in draft #2. Three primary sources

• Washington Revised Mathematics Standards (4/08)
• National Mathematics Advisory Panel Foundations for Success
• NCTM Curriculum Focal Points

The following additional research and publications were used as secondary sources to inform the process.

• Math Educators Summary of Effective Programs
• Park City Mathematics Standards Study Group Report
• Framework for 21st Century Learning
• How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School
• How Students Learn: Mathematics in the Classroom
• NCTM Principles and Standards for School Mathematics
• Choosing a Standards-Based Mathematics Curriculum – Chapter 6: Developing and Applying Selection Criteria
• Choosing a Standards-Based Mathematics Curriculum – Appendix: Sample Selection Criteria

The difficulty is that much of the current thrust of draft #2 is supported by neither the Three Primary Source documents nor SB6534.

A detailed analysis is provided in the attached document: Specific Problems with IMR criteria draft#2.


Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.


Anonymous said...

Porsche Everson has a certified therapy poodle, standard size. Porsche takes her poodle to facilitation sessions. The dog can immediately sense anger or tension in a room and comfort those who are emotional. It's pretty amazing to hear her talk about it.

Anonymous said...

I've heard her talk about this poodle, but never seen it despite the fact she keeps pointing at something in a corner that looks like a dirty towl claiming its a poodle - I call it invisible Cujo with a fancy haircut. Doesn't strike me as a terribly keen way to start a meeting. what sort of facilliating does porsche do? Maybe Cujo needs some ritalin?

Anonymous said...

Take a bite out of math, one standard at a time.

Where's Washington's Fantastic math standards? My invisible dog ate it, We're all waiting for Cujo to cough it back up.

Anonymous said...

Can't graduate from high school?

Cujo says: You gotta friend in connected math!