Tuesday, September 30, 2008

More on the Race for SPI

From the News Tribune...


An interesting wrinkle in state schools race
Published: September 30th, 2008 12:30 AM

Randy Dorn wasn’t the first choice of WASL opponents.
That honor went to Richard Semler, superintendent of the Richland School District. It was Semler who would carry the issue into the election against 12-year Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson.

Semler, who retired in June, wanted to get rid of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning – the test that attempts to assure that students know what we want them to know. He said the test doesn’t do that while consuming too much time, money and psychic energy.
But Semler dropped out when his wife became ill. That left Dorn.

Now, as the former Eatonville principal articulates his positions, it is becoming more clear that he might not be all that WASL opponents – including the Washington Education Association – were hoping for.


A response to the TNT on Dorn - Bergeson from Niki Hayes

Perhaps (your word) "nuance" isn't really the problem when trying to understand the differences between Dorn and Bergeson about the WASL.

States are required to test their students under the No Child Left Behind legislation, or face losing federal dollars. If Washington state wants to give up those federal dollars, then go ahead and drop the student tests. That is bold action, not a nuance.

Meanwhile, remember that we are a test-driven world in which our students' test scores must compete internationally. That is a fact, not a nuance.

The issue is what kind of test is the best test for preparing students for life after graduation, whether that includes college and/or employment, and which allows them to compete globally as leaders and workers.

The WASL, with the same good intentions as most state tests' have been nationwide, has turned out to be lousy in its construction and content. It gives nothing in return for the time and money required to prepare for it, give it, and try to learn something from it, either as a student, parent, or teacher. In mathematics, for example, it tests very little of that discipline, but a whole lot on writing ability. There are other nationally accepted tests that do a much better job of assessing students, for a whole lot less money. And, they would meet the requirement of NCLB as well as give good data for diagnostic teaching.

I know something about this issue. I was a principal and math teacher in Seattle from 2000-2006. I was also a teacher in Texas for 20 years before that, where we have wrestled with the graduation test issue since 1983. Instead of compounding Texas' mistakes (and those of other states in their learning process), I wondered why Washington didn't seek to avoid others' damages to children while we adults "learned."

To say there is "no difference" between the two candidates because they both want "a test" is not a nuance. Student testing is a reality that faces any candidate running for school offices at any level today. Perhaps a story giving more clarity on this issue would be helpful to your readers.

Nakonia (Niki) Hayes
From Peter C. to Niki

Where in the column are the words “no difference?” I assume you read them there because you placed them in quote marks along with “nuance.”NCLB does not require a graduation requirement. It only requires testing to measure adequate yearly progress.
From Niki to Peter C.

My conclusion of "no difference" came from the following sentences in your story:

...Dorn took another position Thursday that blurs the image of him as the WEA’s candidate.
...But Dorn’s positions are not as far from Bergeson’s as first portrayed.

The NCLB still requires statewide standardized testing to which passing to the next grade level may be tied (and has been in several states). The move among many to do away with all benchmark tests in WA schools is behind much of the anger on that very issue: a test should not prevent a student from moving forward, they say.

In today's real world of tests in academic and professional sectors, efforts to rid schools of all standardized testing are misguided. Testing is not bad. It is the content and use of the tests that make them worthwhile-- or not.

Niki Hayes
Peter Callaghan responds to Niki...

Then you exceed what I say. There are clearly differences and I note those. But he is not the anti-WASL candidate he suggests that he is. If the Legislature and if the governor agrees to change tests (and very big “if”), there will still be a “single, high-stakes” test. Schools and teachers will still have to prepare for the tests, they will still have to be administered, they will still lead to failures that will have to be responded to, there will still be a need for remediation, we will still have to alter curriculum (yet again) so it is tied to the test, we will still deny diplomas to kids who don’t meet standards on that test.Educators may see a big difference between a WASL and a new test. But for most students and parents it will look and feel the same.

Monday, September 29, 2008

What if.....? Superintendent of Public Instruction

What if.....? Superintendent of Public Instruction Edition (From: I think a Thought)

It's an idea that I've been playing with for a bit now, and a conversation I had at lunch today helped to spur it along even farther: what would the possible governor/SPI matchups mean for the future of education in Washington State ?

There's a great post up at the News Tribune right now comparing the differences between Terry Bergeson and Randy Dorn based on a debate that happened today. You can get the education platforms for Rossi and Gregoire off of their respective websites.
(An aside: Rossi's is much more fully developed. C'mon, Chris)

So let's dream about the future, shall we?

Scenario 1: The incumbents both win. What changes? Very little. The work of the Basic Education Finance Task Force is finished and promptly ignored, much like Washington Learns. Some version of the WASL remains in place, because there's no way in hell that Terry can back away from that test now. The biggest name in education in Washington State turns out not to be either Gregoire or Bergeson, but rather Rep. Dave Quall and Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, because the legislature has already shown an alarming disregard for our Superintendent and I see no reason why that would change. In that environment your committee heads become that much more important. This isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Results: A WASL, but a different WASL. We keep on keepin' on.

Scenario 2: Same Governor, New OSPI. Fun one to consider. Gregoire has come out in support of the WASL in past years, though that support has become noticably more tepid (especially towards math) as the test becomes a bigger and bigger target for the public. Randy Dorn has come out pretty strongly against the WASL and for ditching the entire system:
For over a decade, OSPI has clung to the test it created--the WASL--which is currently a bureaucratic, exorbitant waste of taxpayer dollars providing no useful information to teachers, students or parents. I will overhaul the assessment system to make it cost effective, less wasteful of precious class time, and capable of providing timely results that aid effective instruction and provide a national comparison of our students' performance. The new system will focus first on improving student learning and the money saved will be put back into the classrooms where it belongs.
Remember that piece about saving money, because it's a Dino plank as well.
A Dorn administration would give Gregoire cover. Don't like the system? Give our new OSPI time to fix it. Hate the WASL? Randy's working on that, too. Randy has some other views (notably merit pay) that would put him at odds with teachers, and it could create an odd dichotomy between the Governor, the WEA, and the OSPI.
In short: the pace of change slows as Dorn tries to shape OSPI in his own image. Governor Gregoire gets more cover. Eventually a new testing system has a chance to grow out of the relationship, but not immediately.

Scenario 3: New Governor, Same OSPI. Pick one to be Felix and the other to be Oscar:
Bergeson: "We've changed the culture of learning in our state and we're on a journey that's not over," she said. "It's well worth the time it's taken to do it." (1)
The first step in improving our education system is to replace the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) with a new test that has clear standards and a proven track record of success. (2)
I have a very, very hard time seeing how the two of them could work together. Bergeson has been pounding the podium for more school funding; Dino refuses to raise taxes. Bergeson would accept changing the periphery of the test; Dino proposes throwing the whole thing out entirely. In a Rossi administration you'd suppose that many of the categorical programs that contribute to the bloat of OSPI could be at risk, and that's not change Terry can believe in.
Rossi points out correctly that ditching the WASL could have the potential to save tens of millions of dollars, money which could be re-invested into the system, but he has his own designs on that money that don't match up with Terry's. Further, if you believe that Dino's transportation plan would siphon money out of the general fund and hurt education spending by making the pie smaller, then Terry's slice also gets smaller by default.
Results: dysfunction junction.

Scenario 4: New OSPI, New Governor. The hardest to predict. Randy and Dino seem to be the most compatible when it comes to the nuts-and-bolts of how to change the testing system. Randy's made some noise about merit pay, which dovetails nicely with Dino.
With a $2.7 billion dollar deficit revenue shortfall staring us in the face, though, ideas are going to be hard to fund. Would this dynamic duo be able to get anything accomplished?
Results: Division of Yalta .
It's going to be an interesting November.
Crossposted from I Thought a Think.

Dorn and Bergeson in the TNT on 9/25/08


Dorn says:

For over a decade, OSPI has clung to the test it created--the WASL--which is currently a bureaucratic, exorbitant waste of taxpayer dollars providing no useful information to teachers, students or parents. I will overhaul the assessment system to make it cost effective, less wasteful of precious class time, and capable of providing timely results that aid effective instruction and provide a national comparison of our students' performance. The new system will focus first on improving student learning and the money saved will be put back into the classrooms where it belongs.

Textbook Errors in Texas

A great idea in Texas
Textbook Error Reporting
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has created a program that will allow the public to report errors discovered in textbooks and other adopted instructional materials used in Texas classrooms. This program, set to begin on September 29, 2008, will also provide the public with access to a list of all of the errors discovered.
Students, teachers, parents, and others concerned about the accuracy and quality of textbooks are encouraged to use the email address textbookerrors@ tea.state. tx.us to report any errors in fact, misspellings, or other inaccuracies. The TEA will review all reported errors, and list those that are confirmed in the Inventory of Known Textbook Errors posted on the TEA website. For each confirmed error, the TEA will notify both the publisher and each district using the materials, as well as release an announcement via the recently established Textbook Errors mailing list. The TEA will also follow up to ensure that appropriate steps are taken to correct the errors.
The purpose of this program is to ensure that Texans who rely on textbooks to educate and to be educated have the benefit of error-free instructional materials. Posting the known errors to the website will support those who use textbooks by providing relevant and timely information about the reliability of those materials.
To learn more about this program, report an error, or sign up for the Textbook Errors mailing list, please visit http://www.tea. state.tx. us/textbooks/ textbookerrors. html.
Tiffanay Waller
Administrative Assistant
Instructional Materials and Educational Technology
Texas Education Agency

Saturday, September 27, 2008

WASL Workgroup (WWG) third session

On Monday, the WASL Workgroup (WWG) held its third session. Before I report on that session, I want to clarify the importance of what is occurring. I want you to think of the relationship of Standards, Curriculum and Assessments as a bridge. Standards and Assessments are the pylons and Curriculum is the span that crosses the chasm. The three are intertwined, and if you don't understand the importance of this, the devious, deceitful, unscrupulous Supt. Bergeson and bloated staff of blundering bureaucrats do. She is doing her utmost to protect her campaign contributors, political supporters and the WASL interests. That is one of the reasons that dishonest Asst. Supt. Joe Wilhoft lied to the WWG when he was if national percentile rankings could be used to determine a pass/fail point. Dishonest Asst. Supt. Joe Wilfoft wrote a position paper on this subject when he was employed by the Tacoma School District. He is too sharp an individual to have conveniently forgotten his efforts. That is also the reason why she did her utmost to subvert the Legislature's directive to give us world class math standards.

In 1991, the previous math standards were replaced by an educational reform package that was initiated by then Gov. Booth Gardner. The new standards became the Essential Learning Requirements (ELAR's) and Grade Level Expectations (GLE's). The wording within these standards was Reform Math oriented. The wording of these standards precluded publishers of conventional math curricula like Singapore Math, Saxon Math and Houghton-MIfflin from submitting bids for school district math curricula, because their curriculum did not meet the bidding specifications determined by the State Math Standards and written by OSPI or the Educational Service Districts. Reform Math has proved to be a disaster for the Public School Students of this State. Results have shown that they have deficient math skills. This is a whole generation of students. Why else would Community Colleges offer more remedial math classes than college level courses, if this wasn't so? If the standards were valid, then there would be no need to replace them. Math hasn't changed over time, should why should the standards?

The State Legislature recognized that there was a problem, even though Supt. Bergeson and her bloated staff of bungling bureaucrats didn't. If she did, she should have corrected the problem sooner. A standards battle has been raging over the last two years, which really hasn't been reported by the news media. The new math standards have been adopted and are in place. Many people are disappointed that the wording of the standards contain too much Reform Math Language, especially since the State Legislature directed Supt. Bergeson to give us world class math standards. Singapore, Finland, California, Indiana and Massachusetts are universally recognized as having world class math standards. The wording of the new Math Standards has been changed enough to allow the publishers of the Math Curriculum that these states use to meet bidding specifications, and allow local school districts to adopt and implement the more conventional curricula of the past.

The Washington Learns Commission, as part of their recommendations, recommended that state math curricula be limit to a choice of three curricula determined by OSPI. Not much has been said about this recently, but I want to assure you that the concept is still alive and well as Representative Priestly mentioned it.

The new battlefield has now shifted to the Assessment. The Assessment determines how the Curriculum is to be taught. Even though many teachers believe or say they don't teach to the test, they do. Teachers have to teach to the curriculum directives issued by Supt. Bergeson and her bloated staff of bungling bureaucrats or to the directives issued by curriculum administrators within the local district. These directives can nullify quality curricula.

As part of Gov. Gardner's educational reform package, the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) was introduced in 1994. The WASL requires that the student solve mathematical problems by using words, pictures, tick marks and everything but mathematical formulation and arithmetic reasoning.

Here is an example off what I mean. This problem was on the 2006/7 3rd grade Math WASL Test. This was an open ended 4 point question. The question asked the student to find the square area of a rectangle. This is a simple question testing for multiplication skills. My youngest daughter wrote a convoluted answer as to how she derived her answer as she was taught to strategize by WASL Standards. She flung the bull and missed the broadside of the barn by a mile. Even I couldn't understand her logic and I know the scorer didn't, because she received no points for answer. Yet, right below her verbal answer, was the equation 3 x 4 = 12, which was the correct mathematical formulation and answer for the problem. The question is, did she get the problem right and does she know how to multiply and apply those mathematical skills to a practical problem. I believe that she knows her math, but her math is unacceptable according to WASL Standards. This is the importance of the standards test and how it influences teachers and students. The convoluted logic of the WASL Standards is the cause of why public school students in Washington State have no math skills.

Supt. Bergeson and her bloated staff off bungling bureaucrats at OSPI refuse to correct test and answer errors, and the WASL contains both, as Asst. Supt. Joe Wilhoft admitted that statements that I made to the WWG were true. That is one reason that many schools are failing to meet the No Child Left Behind Act Standards (NCLB). They are being unfairly assessed. Another reason is that the assessment test needs to be fair and curriculum related. The WASL is not. At the last WWG session, Sen. King, from Yakima, remarked that teachers teach to the abilities of the middle 60% of the students in a class. If the students are learning what the teachers are teaching them, then there is absolutely no reason for the failure rates that are taking place at many schools. The students are not stupid and the teachers are not incompetent, even though Supt. Bergeson would like us to believe otherwise. The WASL is the problem and if another test was substituted for the WASL, our statewide results would be much better. The WASL is a scandal that needs to be exposed.

This brings us to the WWG Session that occurred on Monday. The purpose of this session was to get an indication of what other states are doing and the results of their experiences. The states that were chosen were Delaware, Illinois and Maine. Each state was interviewed separately and had representatives from a high level state educational office take part in an interview.

Deleware had a hybrid system. They use standarized vendor tests, which are supplemented by state tests. Unfortunately, I didn't catch the name of the tests they use, and I don't believe the question was asked. The reason they use standardized tests is because they want to see how their students and school systems compare to others nationwide. There is no national comparison for the WASL, because there is no other state that is stupid enough to use it. Test results are released within 7 weeks. My daughters took the WASL in April and I'm still waiting for the results. Unlike Washington, Deleware does not require a test for a high school diploma. Commercial tests are cheaper to administer and less time consuming to correct, than the wasteful, extravagant WASL.

Illinois was next and they use the ACT for meeting NCLB requirements. The representative was asked why this test was chosen, but did not know the answer, because they hadn't been in the position long enough. The reason is, that Illinois has some outstanding universities within the state and they require the ACT for admission. Also, many of the neighboring states, which also have some excellent unviersities, require the ACT for admission. When asked if the state had a high school graduation requirement, this person made the best comment I heard all day. He said the local school districts determine their own graduation requirements. Illinois officials trust their teachers and local school districts. Superindent Bergeson and her bloated staff of bungling bureaucrats does not. Many of the school districts in Illinois are considered some of the best in the nation, but the state does have a large racial acheivement gap, which is caused by people in wealthy suburbs supporting their schools with property taxes. I did see that in one suburb, the per capita student expenditure was $17,000. Our state average is $8,000/student. Representatives from the ACT were also there.

Maine was the last state that interviewed. Maine is the first state to use the SAT to meet NCLB requirements. The reason they chose the SAT is many students in the state already take the test. What wasn't stated is that the state universities and those of the surrounding states require the SAT for admission. The spokesperson did state the results of the SAT did encourage some students to attend college, even though that was not their original intention. I believe that the Maine public school system is also considered to be very good, or among the best. Don't let the fact that they are last on the SAT list deceive you. By testing 100% of their students, many more average students are taking the test, thereby lowering the average score. The fact that their average scores are what they are, is really a testament to the quality of their public school system. Maine has no high school graduation test at the state level.

For me this was also one of the most frustrating sessions that I've attended. Assessment and diagnostic tests are very expensive. The cost of the new revised WASL, even though it is supposed to have fewer open ended items, is going to be 25 - 30% more expensive than the existing WASL. This is occurring at a time, when there are severe budget pressures within the state. The question is, is it more prudent to teach our children or to assess them? There were times I just wanted to scream out: our children are supposed to be taught, not assessed! If all of our money is being used for assessment, what is going to be left for teaching? Local school districts are facing tremendous budget pressures and facing reductions in basic services.

The next speaker was an educational consultant, who was very familiar with some of the members of the WWG. As he talked about assessment and diagnostic testing, and I was reviewing the per student cost of some tests, I was ready to scream, why don't we trust the teacher? The per student cost of some of these tests are outrageous and he was talking like there was money to burn. A teacher appears to me to be in the best position for assessing the abilities of their students. If a teacher is teaching to a curriculum, which is aligned with the state standards, then every time a student asks or answers a question, or turns in their homework or takes a test that is an indication of their strength or weakness. Wrong answers, in this regard, are almost more important than right answers, as they may show weakness, or perhaps a lack of understanding of what is being taught, and the teacher is in the best position to recognize the problem and correct it, before it gets out of control. What good is an assessment test, whose results are not known, until six months after the test is taken?

One day when my oldest daughter was in the 5th grade, I happened to be at school, and the principal and I had an impromptu meeting about her 4th grade WASL. I was told that she was predicted to be weak in Algebra. I couldn't have cared less about this assessment, because I could see that she was not being taught to formulate mathematical equations, because of WASL Standards. She was being taught to strategize and fling the bull, and she flings it very well. Believe me, as I am the recipient of many of her tosses. It appears to me that we are trying to do too much too soon, instead of making sure students learn basic fundamental academic skills and how to apply those skills to practical problems. We appear to be teaching to the calculator, and by doing so, our students are not learning the basic skills needed to solve a problem, if the calculator doesn't work. At one of the Citizens Math Advisory Group Meetings that I attended, a ninth grade teacher stated that she had students that could not formulate a mathematical equation. Last year my oldest daughter took 7th grade Honors Algebra. Her average grade for the year, was 4-. That isn't saying much for the validity of the WASL being an assessment tool.

The next speaker really shocked me as she was the legislative auditor and was asked about the possibility of performing a performance audit on the WASL. As I listened to her answer question from the WWG and explain what her staff has the ablility to do, I'm not sure that a performance audit as she described it, would be effective. These are some of the problems that I've encountered with the WASL and if you've seen others, let the members of the WWG know along with your district legislators. This is how I would answer some of these concerns, by invoking and interpreting the standards that were in place when the problems arose:

1. This error occurred on problem 29 of the 2004/5 4th grade Math WASL. The
student was given a choice of two correct answers on a mutiple choice test,
either of which be correct, as plural values were supposed to be translated
into numerical values. The student is supposed to recognize that Hirato is
very popular, has more than two friends and his brother drives a nine
passenger van or SUV.

2. The aforementioned square area rectangle problem. The student is supposed to
explain the process by which the answer is derived. In this case she did,
mathematically, but not verbally. This could easily occur within the nebulous
Elar's and fuzzy logic of Reform Math.

3. Graphing problems on the 6th grade Math WASL. The student is supposed to
know how to interpolate. This violates the premises of one of the consultants
that spoke at the second WWG session. He stated that test questions should
be consisely and clearly written.

I think you get the idea. I haven't said much about the reading and writing portions of the WASL. Both of my daughters are excellent readers and writers, and with English being the nebulous language that it is, standards and correct answers are even harder to define. If you look at the following four words: read, reed, read and red, I believe you will understand what I mean. These are spelled differently, but pronounced the same; spelled the same, but pronounced differently; spelled the same but have different meanings (present tense and past tense). Neither daughter has received a perfect score for their reading test, but they've missed so little, that there isn't much to judge the fairness of the scoring.

In terms of curriculum directives, these were some that really concerned me. These are not chronological, but put in grade order. It is possible that they have also been rescinded, but if you follow the logic through the grades, I believe that you will see the cumulative damage they are doing to our children. As you review these, consider that this what is happening to mine, the same or worse maybe happening to yours.

1. 2nd grade. The students are being taught to carry in math. The teacher tells
us at Curriculum Night that a new method for carrying is being introduced. This
is an excellent experienced teacher and she has cumulatively taught my
daughters for three years, through 2 grades. She tells us that a new method for
carrying is being introduced and that students will now be taught to carry the
10 for the tens column, the 100 for the 100's ect. We're talking second graders
here, so who among you has seen second graders keep their cloummns in a
straight line? Adults even have a hard time doing it, or at least I do. The
students in her class lost track of the digit that was being carried, and
therefore derived the wrong answer. I knew my daughter knew how to add and
subtract at that time, because she could mentally calculate change from a
$500 bill, when we played Monopoly. Which bungling bureaucrat at OSPI is
going to be courageous enough to take credit for this lunacy?

2. 4th grade. Students are being taught to add, subtract, multiply and divide in row
format instead of column format, because this helps with mental math. What
good is mental math, if you don't know the basics? How is the student going to
learn to manually add and subtract, and multiply and divide larger numbers,
when the situation arises that a calculator is unavailable?

3. 5th grade. My oldest daughter is told to divide 9 into 144. This was a written
assignment. She strategizes her answer by writing, I multiplied 15*9 and was
short, so I tried 16*9. I checked my answer by doing long division. Her long
division was correct. You don't check division by doing division, you check it by
multiplication. I'm not blaming the teacher for this, but the curriculum and the
curriculum directives. This was the TERC Curriculum that has since been
replaced by the Houghton-Mifflin Curriculum in the Edmonds School District.
She received a 4 for this problem.
4. 6th grade. I'm told that 3x3, 4x4 and 5x5 digit multiplication is no longer being
taught. Once again this is not the teacher's fault, but that of the curriculum that
was chosen for her to teach from. CPM2 has replaced this curriculum.
I think you now have a good indication why our childrens math skills are so weak. Add an assessment that forces the student to use English to explain their answers, and you get a better idea why the math problems exist as they do and why so many students have to take remedial math in college.

After the legislative auditor finished, Asst. Supt. Wilhoft gave a presentation about the types of tests that are being used and purposes of these test. This was an objective and informative presentation. After Asst. Supt. Wilhoft was finished, Sen. McAuliffe asked for a side by side comparison of the ACT and SAT.

These are my views and if you either agree with them or disagree with them, I would like to read your opinion, and I would also hope you would forward your opinion to your legislators and the WWG. I am familiar with the ACT, but not so for the SAT. What I know about the SAT is what I heard at the WWG and from what I've read from what I believe to be other credible sources. Both tests are used as a college admissions test, and both tests are very credible. The SAT is used by many of the colleges and universities in the East Coast States. The ACT is more prevalent in the Midwest and South. More Washington State students take the SAT than the Act, but the choice of an out of state college or university really determines which test the student should take. I don't believe any major Washington State University requires either test. Some students take both tests. The approach to testing appears to be slightly different. The ACT is more basic skill oriented, while the SAT is more reasoning oriented. More states use or will be using the ACT for NCLB compliance than the SAT. Both tests take about 4 hours to complete and are administered at one sitting. Compare this with the dubious, worthless WASL that takes two weeks to administer. Individual results are available within 6-8 weeks, compared to the 6 months it takes to get WASL results. High school results are being returned quicker, but that is probably the reason for the exhorbitant increase in the cost of the WASL. Both of these test, even with all of the bells and whistles, would cost about $75/student. The WASL costs in excess of $100/student and that doesn't include the costs that local school districts are forced to absorb. They are intense, but no worse than any college final exam.

Many people abhor universal testing, but that argument is rendered moot, because of NCLB, which requires testing for federal funds. If testing is required, then let's make sure, it is valid, fair, and curriculum related. It should also be economical and provide us with valid information, not only about how are students are doing, both against their local peers, but also against their national peers. Even though many high school students may not intend to go to college, why not give them a test that can double as a college admissions test, if they should realize that they need to go to college. Colorado does it and is one of the states that test 100% of their students with the ACT. I believe that is a common sense and logical approach to mandatory universal testing.

Since the ACT is a comprehensive skills oriented test, I believe that this test should be chosen to replace the WASL. I'll discuss the math portion of the ACT as I am more familiar with it. I had my oldest daughter take this test and then purchased the test booklet and her answer sheet. This portion of the test consists of 60 problems, which the student has one hour to complete, basically allowing one minute per problem. It is a well constructed multiple choice test and wrong answers do not count against a student's score, where as they do in the SAT. I believe that this is important and tends to penalize the more average student, who would be more prone to getting a wrong answer. The math questions are classified into 3 categories: Algebra, Trigonometry and Geometry. These questions are intermingled throughout the test, with the easier problems being at the front of the test and the more difficult problems being toward the end of the test. No problem is very difficult, if you know how to solve it. It appears to me that this is a test that you cannot study for, as it is a comprenhensive test that tests all of the math skills that the student has learned throughout their schooling and that means K-11, with the exception of calculus. The students can review those areas where they believe they may have a weakness, but if you try to cram for it, you will go insane. It also appears to me that it is quicker to solve the problems manually than using the calculator. In order to solve problems manually, the student has to have math formulation skills. I did self test myself, and my skills have suffered from years of neglect and non use, but I could still solve the problems, as well as many high school seniors in this state, as my score was now on par with their average score. We were taught math in my day, and as a math teacher recently told me, once learned, you never really forget your skills. At my best, as a seventeen year old, my score would have been better, but not among the top. The test scores are converted to a 1 - 36 basis and this score can be translated into a national percentile ranking. There is also a table that can be used to correlate this to SAT Scores. The subcategories can be used to assess weakness. The ACT is also used by this state, as a WASL Alternative. A minimum score of 17 qualifies for passage in this state. The national average is about 21. The minimum score of 17 isn't much below that of the Washington D. C. Public School System, which is under Congressional administration. It seems to me that Congress ought to clean up the mess they created in Washington D. C. and give everyone a model to work from, before they try to tell everyone else how to run their school system. I believe that would keep them busy for at least 20 to 25 years, before they even got their act together and determined how they would approach the problem.

The WWG asked for public comment and I couldn't resist the urge to speak. I didn't have prepared comments, but I did tell the WWG that I believed the purpose of our public school system was to teach and not spend its time assessing. Our school system is structured for local control and that we should trust our teachers to assess and diagnos. Illinois trusts its teachers and I believe our teachers and students are just as good as theirs, but our curriculum and assessment isn't.

The decisions regarding standards, assessment and curriculum are long cycle decisions. Once made they are not going to be changed over night, and our children will be effected by them. Once again, look at the standards battle. The previous standards were in effect for 17 years, and look at the damage that they have done to the quality of public education in this state. Add to that the faulty assessment of the WASL, and it becomes obvious to me how badly many students have been betrayed by their public school system and Supt. Bergeson.

My greatest fear is that even though the members of the WGG are listening to me and that they are probably hearing the same thing from many of their constituents, I don't have any credibility with them. When WWG makes it recommendations, the powerful lobbyists of the special interest groups, the IOU's from campaign contributions, and political power of big powerful corporations and everyone who benefits from the WASL and the destruction of the public school system will come into play and nullify all of the good work the WWG is doing. Don't forget that every greedy overpaid consultant who is filling their silk lined pockets at public expense, will be using every scare tactic and dirty trick in their book as they they try to protect their lucrative fees.

Once again, the managing newseditors have turned their vicious character assissins and hatchet men loose on the Edmonds School Distirct and failed to fully investigate the story, as they purposely try to destroy the credibility of the Washington State Public School System. This is really what happened with the school lunch fiasco.

Each month Supt. Brossoit has a Roundtable Luncheon in which various school problems and programs are discussed. I find these programs extremely enlightening and informative. The June Luncheon occurred just after the Legislature concluded its special session. He explained to us that it costs about $8,000 a year to educate a student, and the state only provides about $5,000 of this amount. The gap is generally closed by Operation & Maintenance Levies, and various federal and state grants, with the problem being that the gap isn't entirely closed. The other problem facing the Edmonds District along with many other districts is declining student enrollments. It appears that we may be on the receding wave of a minor population boom. It is hard for me to believe that this is happening, when I see the amount of new home construction that is taking place in South Snohomish County, but the enrollment figures don't lie. Since the state funds education at a per student amount, there is an automatic reduction in school district budgets when enrollments decline. He made it very clear, that he wanted to avoid the financial messes of the Shoreline and North Shore School Districts. No mention was about the disaster the Seattle Public School System has become. He made it very clear that tough choices were going to have to be made and then he went through the school district budget and aired some possibilities for reductions.

The areas of reduction were:
1. Reduction of librarian hours in some of the smaller elementary schools.
2. Closure of two smaller elementary schools.
3. Elimination of bussing for those students that live within a mile radius of a school.
4. Elimination of bussing for those students that participate in after school activities
at Middle Schools.
5. Increasing the stagger for start and end times at various schools, so that school
bus runs can operate more efficiently, thereby reducing costs.

School transportation is a very sensitive subject within the Edmonds School District, because many of the areas have unpaved shoulders, which double as sidewalks, which makes for a dangerous situation for pedestrians, especially on dark winter nights. There are also sexual offenders residing in some areas. He is forming a citizens committee to study the bus problem. The elimination of the after school middle school bus runs caused an uproar and was later restored. This is about a $200,000/year program. Since this program was restored, and unlike our federal government who can print an unlimitied amount of money, the money to pay for this program has to come from another program or somewhere else within the budget. I'm sure that once this program was restored, Supt. Brossoit gave orders to his accounting staff to propose ideas on how to fund this restoration. As the accounting staff scoured the books, they ran across this recievable for unpaid lunches that totaled about the same amount as the after school bus runs. If this debt could be collected, the problem would be solved.

Each year at the beginning of the school year, parents receive an information packet and within this packet, is an application request for free or reduced lunches. These forms also go out again at the start of each trimester. It appears to me that if the students that did not pay for their lunches were entitiled to free or reduced price lunches their parents would have made the application. If their parents didn't apply, then their parents had the ability to pay for those lunches and the cost of those lunches is a legitimate debt. Evidently some of the dead beat parents were media savy and figured they could get free lunches for their children by embarassing the school district, which they did as the managing editors turned their vicious character assissins and hatchet men loose on the school district, without properly investigating the situation. Adding to the problem are federal regulations.

School lunches are subsidized by the federal government. Supt. Brossoit explained to us at his recent Roundtable Luncheon that the problem used to be controlled by having a cashier at the front of the line and either allowing the student to take tray or not. If the student didn't have a tray, then they would be entitiled to a sandwich. Federal regulations require that the cashier be at the end of line, which resulted in the problem. It's fair game to question how the receivable became so large, but not the debt itself. That is a legitimate debt that is owed to the school district and it is money that the district needs in order to fund some of its programs. Undeserving parents are getting a free lunch for their children, while deserving students in other programs are being harmed, because the funds are not there to fund their programs.

The Edmonds School District could be facing a real financial problem in 2010. The district needs to replace its current Operation & Maintenance Levy at the same time the 9 wise guys that sit on our State Supreme Court redefine basic education. How can any voter have confidence in a public school system that takes away lunches from its students and half the students in the district fail an unfair fraudulent assessment test? Supt. Brosssoit should have been awarded a well deserved Schrammie for the ineptitude of his Communications Director, not for the removal of the lunches, and Ken Schram should give one to himself, for his sloppy reporting and failure to properly investigate the situation. Add to this the problem that is occurring within the financial and housing markets, in which homeowners are feeling financially distressed, and the conditions for a disaster are iminate. Who's going to vote for an O & M Levy, when they have a chance to reduce their mortgage payment, especially those that might not have children in the school system?

We are in the midst of an election campaign for various public offices, but you'd never know it, based on the lack of information that is being reported in the newsmedia about the secondary offices. The quality of Public Education in this state is at a very critical point. The system cannont take another 4 years of Supt. Bergeson's inept leadership and the WASL. Yet the WASL is a scandal the newsmedia refuses to touch, because managing editors are more interested in protecting their advertising revenues than they are in serving the public interest. Too many students are lacking basic fundamental academic skills and are being forced to take remedial courses at the college level. This shouldn't be happening. Curriculum leadership under Supt. Bergeson is a failure. If it takes average students 12 years to learn basic fundamental academic skills, then I don't understand how a single remedial college course is going to correct those deficiencies. Those students will always be deficient and the cause of their deficiencies is a lack of a solid basic fundamental public education.

The next meeting of the WWG is October 13 in hearing room B of the John L. O'Brien Bldg. in Olympia. The WWG is allowing for a large block of time for public comment in the afternnon. I would guess after 1pm. If you have something to say, but cannot attend the meeting, I would email your District Legislators and one or more of the following members of the WWG. These are the members that have attended pretty much all of the WWG Sessions: Sen. McAuliffe (Chairwoman), Sen. Oemig, Sen. King, Rep, Quall, and Rep. Santos.

Reported by Nick Daniggelis


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Columbia Missouri ... math change .. HOORAY!!

Check this Newspaper Article...


Columbia Missouri goes for a more traditional math approach.....
like the high performing math countries.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Lawsuit Progress??

In regard to my lawsuit against OSPI and the SBE for failing to follow SB6534 by neglecting to have the meeting of the SBE MAP as mandated by the Law......

It turns out that there will be a status conference when the Washington State Attorney General's Office files a record and transcript of their response to my complaint.
This status conference will likely take place in Early October. This was to have occured this Friday.

We will do the status conference by phone as I am now teaching on the Lummi Nation School West of Bellingham and it is a long drive to Olympia for a conference that usually takes about 15 minutes.

Once this happens then I think a trial is scheduled or perhaps a hearing in front of Judge Hicks.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Where the Boys were

As we hear about gender equity in education and often in math and science consider the following.......

From the Chronicle of Higher Education, Friday, June 6, 2008, Volume 54, Issue 39, p. A 30. See

Where the Boys Were

Women outnumber them in colleges and the work force, and too many men are failing to keep up
By Thomas G. Mortenson

The recent release of Where the Girls Are: The Facts About Gender Equity in Education, by the American Association of University Women, presents an opportunity to review the extraordinary success of women in education over the last four decades. The release also presents an opportunity to review the failure of the entire education system - from kindergarten through college - to educate boys for their adult roles at work, in families, and as citizens.
Hard data from the National Center for Education Statistics show that young women today are likely to be better educated than their mothers, while young men are likely to be less well educated than their fathers:

* In 1970 there were 1.5 million fewer women than men in higher education. By 2005 there were 2.6 million more women than men enrolled.

* At the end of the education pipeline, when higher-education degrees are awarded and graduates move on to the labor force or more education, the results are similar. In 1970 women earned about 110,000 fewer bachelor's degrees than did men; by 2006 women earned about 224,000 more.

* In 2007, 33 percent of women between 25 and 29 had completed at least four years of college (a gain of more than 20 percentage points since 1970) while just over 26 percent of men had (a gain of 6.3 percentage points).

Such measures are a convenient way to highlight women's success in education using males as a benchmark. It is a wonderful record, one being replicated throughout the world. Women have worked diligently to raise girls' aspirations, performance, achievement, and attainment - and it shows.

The work is unfinished, however, and further progress is being actively pursued in the so-called STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), senior academic and career positions, and pay equity.
By comparison, boys are in a profound education crisis that has grown steadily worse, at least since the early 1970s. That crisis is the result of the failure of boys to get the education they need to qualify for the jobs that are available in the growing private-sector service industries that require extensive postsecondary education. Over the last century the labor market has been losing jobs usually held by men in goods-producing industries. Consider the following:

* In the 1910 census, a third of all workers were either farmers or farm laborers. Today those workers account for less than 2 percent.

* During World War II, about 35 percent of all jobs were in manufacturing. Today only about 10 percent are, and if trends over the last six decades continue, American manufacturing employment will approach zero around 2028.

* Other male-dominated industries like mining, forestry, and other work that depends on big, strong men willing to work under dirty and often dangerous conditions are also shrinking as a share of the work force.

Those jobs paid men well for the work they did, and men did not need much formal education to do them. But those jobs are gone, and they are unlikely to return to the American labor force.

As a consequence, since the early 1970s the incomes of men with less than a college degree have been in economic free fall. The share of the male population that is employed has declined, labor-force participation rates have dropped, unemployment has increased, average weekly hours at work have fallen, and median income for men has flattened. Many more men than women ages 18 to 34 are still living with their parents, fewer men are getting married, and more men have never been married. Male registration and voting have dropped sharply, incarceration rates for men have quintupled (America now leads the world in incarceration rates), and the already high suicide rates for men have surged in the 15-to-44 age group.

Men are in profound crisis. The world is changing, and too many men are not adapting to it. If such conditions affected women, you can bet we would be hearing about it.

The employment that is expanding in America is in service-providing industries like health care and education, business and professional services, leisure and hospitality, financial, and other services. The better-paying jobs in those service industries require a great deal of education beyond high school. The girls get that message. The boys don't.

That is the boy crisis in education. We are educating girls for their futures but not nearly enough of our boys. Currently about 35 percent of all boys get at least a basic higher-education degree - an associate or bachelor's degree. An additional 15 percent do not graduate from high school. That leaves about 50 percent of our boys who at least graduate from high school, or earn a GED, but do not get a college degree. They are the boys whom we are not reaching through education - but who must be reached with higher education and training to prepare them for the jobs that will be there when they enter the labor market.

The American Association of University Women is correct in asserting that education is not a zero-sum game. The progress of girls has not come at the expense of boys. But for the last 40 years we have focused on raising the educational and career aspirations, achievement, and attainment of girls - and ignored the same for boys. Boys do not raise themselves. They too require realistic aspirations and guidance in setting them, consistent and directed support of both fathers and mothers, community reinforcement for academic success, and teachers who understand male development and are trained and committed to providing it.

Creating an educational system for boys as successful as the current system has been for girls will require rethinking how we educate boys. The current system has not worked for boys in 40 years. I am opposed to affirmative action for boys in college admissions because that deals only with the symptoms and avoids the underlying causes of male disengagement from learning.

Instead we should focus on the new efforts emerging from recent brain research that is identifying fundamental, hard-wired differences between the genders. Where such differences influence learning, schools of education must incorporate that relevant new knowledge in teacher-training programs. We must understand and appreciate boys for who they are and stop thinking of them as defective girls.

The progress achieved by girls shows us what we can do when we set our minds to it. It is now time to make similar efforts for our boys. We owe as much to our sons as we have provided for our daughters.
Thomas G. Mortenson is a senior scholar at the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education.

Salt Lake Tribune on Singapore Math

More from Utah about Singapore Math
from this article in the Salt Lake Tribune HERE

Be sure to check out the comments to the above article.
Not from the article but of interest is

Welcome to Utah's Math Future

"My point is simple: There is a chasm of difference in expectations between NAEP and the problems used by world-class mathematics leaders. We expect too little from our children, and by lowering our expectations we lower their incentive to achieve."
-John Hoven, PhD
(Economist, Co-president of the Gifted and Talented
Association of Montgomery County, MD)

The following video shows a Singapore Math example in the classroom. (Please note the reporter's comment at the end slamming Saxon math is made in complete ignorance. There is not room enough to explain here, but please understand Saxon is a great program and 8 of the top 10 scoring schools in Utah use it.)


-67% of UVU's incoming freshmen require an average of 3 semesters of remedial math? (SLCC also has similar figures)
-Utah's above national average math scores are actually in the bottom 6th of the nation when compared demographically?
-Nearly 20% of graduating Utah seniors can't pass a basic 8th grade level math test (UBSCT)
-In L.A. and around the country, schools switching to Singapore are experiencing big score improvements. (LA Times article)


More at:


School Boards and WSSDA = more questions

The Washington State School Directors’ Association isn’t part of the solution!

All members of every school board in the state are required to “join” the Washington State School Director’s Association (WSSDA), and each school district is required to pay their dues. For the Federal Way School District the “membership fee” is approximately $ 20,000 a year or $ 4,000 per member.

What does the board member get for this “membership?” While most trade associations have a lobbying function, even if the government isn’t their source of revenue, since the WSSDA members are all “state” employees they are prevented from lobbying the Government! Does this sound like a “Socialist” trade union? It does to me. When I spent time in Eastern Europe in the socialist era, I quickly learned that “unions” there also had mandatory membership. Yet they were prohibited from negotiating with the government for better working conditions. They just “looked” like unions to western eyes.

So what does a school board member get for his $ 4,000? There is an annual meeting. However less than 50% of the school districts send even one of their five or more member to this meeting as there are additional costs for this meeting beyond the travel costs! There are also regional meetings. I have attended many of these, though the average attendance is less than 10 board members! Evidently most board members don’t regard the discussions at either of these meetings with a great deal of importance. I attended one held at a nearby school district, and found that there wasn’t even a board member from that school district in attendance!

WSSDA also sends out, approximately monthly, a 4 to 8 page newsletter that tends to focus on peripheral issues to the real tasks that face school boards, and publishes an intensive set of “policy” recommendations for school boards to deliberate on at their local school board meetings. I don’t believe that I have ever seen any articles on successful happenings in other states, or any actions by school boards in this state that would set them off from the “group think” that prevails in most school districts. I don’t believe I have seen any recommendations from WSSDA that would have any impact upon what happens in a classroom. In a state that is dead last by some measures in achievement, this organization isn’t issuing a “call to arms,” but rather is another organization that tries to make school board members “comfortably numb” by many of its activities. Our Board even got an award for something that none of us even were aware of! Very soothing.

So there isn’t any real representation of the local school board’s interests with the largest supplier of its funds and rules, and yet the organization claims to represent the school boards.

WSSDA does offer “board member training” which, from my point of view, has several characteristics of “group think”. The emphasis of this training is on keeping any controversial topics from making it to a public discussion, and insuring that school board meetings are “harmonious” irrespective of the level of accomplishments of either the board or the school district. Board members are encouraged to “support” the vote of the majority even if they are diametrically opposed to the decision. “All decisions are final,” and should not be challenged is a clear mantra. New board members are encouraged to not take any controversial stands and to “get along”. There is no mention, or suggestion, that individual board members should influence the agenda of board meetings, and bring forth suggestions based upon their own research. The general theme is to deliberate, then ratify topics that either the State or the local administration puts before them. In short School Boards should be nearly “invisible” and “look good”.

In this respect WSSDA has been remarkably successful. Since it is very difficult for even the most knowledgeable to determine any significant difference between the programs of different school districts in this state, one has to assume that “group think” is well established.

Through the actions of an individual board member in Federal Way, a lawsuit was filed to force the state to pay all school districts equally. Where was WSSDA? On the sidelines, as there was “fear” from some school districts that this might reduce their handout from the state. Why did it take almost 30 years for this to become a legal issue when there are many lawyers on school boards in this state? Perhaps “group think?”

When I talk to school board members, who attend WSSDA meetings, about their sources of information, I find that most rely on WSSDA and little else, except for what their Superintendent provides them, for their “decision making”. This is at least a “partial vacuum” in my mind.

Is there anything that WSSDA provides that is of value to school board members? Yes, there is, but few seem to take advantage of it. School Board members, and the general public who might be concerned about education, can check their website each day for a summary of some of the newspaper articles that are relevant to education. I have learned a lot from these postings, but I find that most school board members are not taking advantage of this.

Next week we will explore school boards, or is it the “partial vacuum?”

.... Charles R. Hoff

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Geometry for Enjoyment and Challenge by Rhoads
Has anyone used this??

I am looking for information on the Textbook
Geometry for Enjoyment and Challenge by Rhoads
from McDougal Littel
now part of Houghton-Mifflin

A math forum posting HERE

Chess for Improving Math and Reading

In Idaho from USA today ...


Spending to affect achievement in Federal Way .. by C.R. Hoff

Here is a draft of Charles R. Hoff's coming testimony for the Federal Way School board meeting of September 23, 2008
1. Last board meeting there was some recognition of the three National Merit Semi-finalists. While I do not want to diminish the recognition of these three scholars I would like to point out that nationally this honor is accorded to about 1-2% of each high school’s senior class. For this district this would be a number somewhere above 16 and there are only 3? And we have one high school that I believe has never had a single semi-finalist!

Why could this be? Could it be that the level of instruction in our secondary schools isn’t high enough to adequately prepare our best students? Probably so!

2. Looking at the agendas of the school board meetings since December of last year I cannot find any discussions that even address the quality of instruction in this district. The state law makes this the responsibility of school boards and it would seem that there is little interest in taking on this responsibility.

To night’s agenda is a clear example of this.

3. At your last meeting I showed you the decline in mathematics achievement of our 10th graders by two separate measurements and suggested that some minorities have already reached close to the bottom. Was there any action item, or other measures initiated? Not that I can see.

This evening I would like you to look at this slide from a paper on Washington’s higher education system that shows the dramatic attrition that is taking place in our schools. Only 14.3% of our 9th graders are finishing college! Note that 30% are gone by high school graduation time. The Nation has about 23% of its adults holding a college degree and this state is producing 14%! Why isn’t this a matter of concern for our school board?

4. On tonight’s agenda is a discussion on supporting a lawsuit sponsored by the League of Educational Voters, the WEA, several other school boards, and the PTA.

At your last meeting you ask for public comment on this matter and yet you have not indicated that there will be any time for this when this subject is before you. I believe that the Soviet Politburo would probably use a similar tactic!

Let me refresh your memories about the sentiment of the voters of Washington. There have been two referendums 102 and 884 on this subject in recent times and in both cases they have lost by substantial margins. Could it be that the voters of Washington do not believe that the resources that are currently allocated to education are being spent on achievement? It certainly would be true for at least one observer. In fact there are very significant dollars being spent on activities that have no basis for such according to the educational funding provisions of this state.

Were I to be in the Legislature I would also question the allocation that local school boards are making of the taxpayers funds when achievement is in such rapid decline.

This Board sponsored a lawsuit to demand that all school districts be funded according to the same rules and when the courts ruled in the district’s favor the state promptly appealed this as the cost of the remedy was estimated to be $ 850 million dollars or about 4% of the entire state’s budget.

The lawsuit that you are considering expending up to $ 30,000 to support has no cost estimates for the taxpayers of this state instead would appear to be a “blank check” with no specifics on how this money would be spent or on what outcomes would be expected.

The levels of expenditures on education in this state have risen dramatically and yet the level of achievement has either remained level, as the optimists would suggest, or declined.

Why are you considering adding our dollars to this lawsuit that has little chance of affecting the achievement of our children in the near future.

At this time the state is forecasting a $ 3.5Billion dollar deficit with its existing expenditures. Why would either the Legislature or the Courts want to consider adding unknown amounts for an organization that cannot either define what it wants to spend the money on, follow the current rules for expenditures, or make any warranties on outcomes?

Isn’t it time that this school board clean up its own house by spending its current dollars on measures that will affect achievement instead of spending it on “wishes” from the tooth fairy?

The Dr A.H. Heineken Prize Winner
for Cognitive Science 2006
says Reform Math is a misapplication of cognitive psychology

From the Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences...
The Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for Cognitive Science 2006
went to Professor John R. Anderson for 'his ground-breaking theory of human cognition'

'… In many recent publications in mathematics education, much of what is described reflects two movements, "situated learning" and "constructivism", which have been gaining influence on thinking about education and educational research. In our view, some of the central educational recommendations of these movements have questionable psychological foundations. … We see that influential schools have arisen, claiming a basis in cognitive psychology, but which have almost no grounding in cognitive theory and at least as little grounding in empirical fact. This is particularly grievous because we think information- processing psychology has a lot to offer to mathematics education. … The evidence for such information-processing approaches to education, however incomplete, is enormously stronger than the evidence for the opposite approaches … that are currently dominating discussions of mathematics education.'

Taken from the following:

The Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for Cognitive Science 2006
The work of Professor John R. Anderson presented by Professor Jacqueline J. Meulman, Chairperson of the Jury of the Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for Cognitive Science

Prize citation: for 'his ground-breaking theory of human cognition'

Professor Anderson,

The jury of the Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for Cognitive Science 2006 has unanimously decided to award this year’s prize to Professor John R. Anderson, Richard King Mellon Professor of Psychology and Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. John Anderson was the first to develop a formal theory of human cognition, the ACT-R theory, an integrative theory of the computational operations underlying human thought processes and intelligent behaviour. Professor Anderson’s work has had an enormous influence on both theory and experimental studies in many different areas, including cognitive psychology, artificial intelligence, neurocognition, empirical economics and decision-making, behavioural and evolutionary biology, and in a number of applied fields, such as cognitive ergonomics and computer-aided tutoring systems for learning mathematics and computer skills. Most recently, Professor Anderson has begun to explore the neural basis of cognition, seeking the brain mechanisms that underlie the abstract computational operations identified in his cognitive theory.

John R. Anderson was born in Vancouver, Canada. He obtained his B.A. at the University of British Columbia in 1968 and received the Gold Medal of the Governor-General of British Columbia. He obtained his Ph.D at Stanford University in 1972. After leaving Stanford, he held positions at Yale University, the University of Michigan, and again at Yale. He then accepted a position at Carnegie Mellon University, first as Professor of Psychology and, in 1983, as Professor of Psychology and Computer Science. In 2002 he obtained the Richard King Mellon Chair of Psychology and Computer Science, the most prestigious Chair that Carnegie Mellon has to offer. Professor Anderson’s work forms the foundation of Carnegie Mellon’s reputation as one of the world’s leading centres for research into human learning
and the development of cutting-edge education technology.

John Anderson is a fellow of both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is a Past President of the Cognitive Science Society and a member of the National Research Council on Sciences of Learning, the National Research Council on Learning and Instruction, and the Advisory Panel of the Office of Naval Research on Virtual Environment Training Technology. He is an Associate Editor of Cognitive Science and the only person to have served on its editorial board continuously since its foundation in 1977.

As mentioned earlier, Professor Anderson is receiving the Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for Cognitive Science for his work on ACT-R. ACT stands for Adaptive Control of Thought, and the R, which was added later, for Rational. His theoretical work, which began with a model of how we search our memory for information, evolved throughout the first ten years of his career into a complete theory of learning,
memory and problem-solving. Crucial to this work are methods for learning systems of condition-action rules that allow the initial formation and gradual strengthening of problem-solving skills. In 1990, Allan Newell called ACT 'the first unified theory of cognition'. ACT-R evolved into a system that can perform the full range of human cognitive tasks, capturing in great detail the way we perceive, think about, and act
in the world. One important feature of ACT-R that distinguishes it from other theories in the field is that it allows researchers to collect quantitative measures that can be compared directly with the quantitative measures obtained from human participants. ACT-R research has united scholars from very different disciplines in a worldwide research community that strives to understand how people organise knowledge
and produce intelligent behaviour.

John Anderson is not afraid to put the cat among the pigeons. In a joint paper, John Anderson, Lynne Reder and Herbert Simon criticise particular fashionable programmes of educational reform that misapply cognitive psychology, and I quote:

'… In many recent publications in mathematics education, much of what is described reflects two movements, "situated learning" and "constructivism", which have been gaining influence on thinking about education and educational research. In our view, some of the central educational recommendations of these movements have questionable psychological foundations. … We see that influential schools have arisen, claiming a basis in cognitive psychology, but which have almost no grounding in cognitive theory and at least as little grounding in empirical fact. This is particularly grievous because we think information- processing psychology has a lot to offer to mathematics education. … The evidence for such information-processing approaches to education, however incomplete, is enormously stronger than the evidence for the opposite approaches … that are currently dominating discussions of mathematics education.'

John R. Anderson has received many honours, including the Early Career Award of the AmericanPsychological Association in 1978, a Research Scientist Award from the National Institute of Mental Health in 1989, and the Distinguished Scientific Career Award from the American Psychological Association in 1994. In 2004, he received the David E. Rumelhart Award for Contributions to the Formal Analysis of Human Cognition, and in 2005 the Howard Crosby Warren Medal for Outstanding Achievements in Experimental Psychology. Today, the Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for Cognitive Science 2006 has been added to this impressive list.

Exporting Nonsense for profit -- by Niki Hayes
Lummi Text Choices .. your thoughts?

I sent this message the other day, but I realized today I had overlooked a prime reason to take the "successful American K-12 education model" overseas: It's not just about arrogance (although that plays into it). It's about MONEY! Think of the professional development, curricular materials, and increased stature for academia folks that can be developed by marketing America's education programs to new customers! One can't help but wonder about the amount of damage that will be done by this move into the rest of the world. (Israel learned this the hard way after adopting the American reform ideas in the late 1970s and dropping precipitously in international math scores over the next 20 years. It was around 2000 that Israel began adopting Singapore Math to try to get their students back on track in math.) The burden of our not having accurate oversight of our education system is now being passed around to others. Well, at least we'll all be equitable in our plight.

November Conference in Turkey to Provide Middle East Educators with Broader Definition of Achievement and Accountability

Schools can be key players in forming a better and more peaceful world for future generations by introducing teaching and learning strategies that allow students to grow personally and academically. An upcoming ASCD Middle East International Conference, "Valuing the Whole Child: Embracing a Global Vision," will connect educators from the region with leading education researchers and school improvement consultants to explore practices and programs that ensure all students are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. The conference will be held Nov. 8 to 9, in Istanbul, Turkey.
Excerpts: Attendees will learn how to assess the professional development efforts in their schools and discover which learning models and practices build instructional capacity that leads to results-based school improvement.
Conference sessions will address the holistic, as well as academic, needs of every learner. Sessions will also focus on ASCD's major professional development programs: Differentiated Instruction, Understanding by Design, and What Works in Schools.

Dan's Thoughts.....

Our American education system has become incredibly inefficient during the last 30 years. The dollars pumped in could be used more efficiently.

We've heard all kinds of excuses as to why the academic results are less than expected. It is the demise of the traditional family. It is the rise of gangsta rap, & MTv. It is the drug culture. It is the glorification of slacker culture. etc. etc.

We rarely hear about defective curriculum and pointless professional development.
China at the secondary level has a longer school day and a full month longer school year, meanwhile many US schools have half days for teacher training. Consider the reduction in instructional time in US schools compared with 30 years ago.

This year, I am teaching at Lummi Nation School we just received a large grant from the Bureau of Indian Education. The stipulation was that we needed to use one of the two math programs that had statistical evidence that they actually work for Native Americans. Both programs use direct instruction. Lummi chose Saxon k-6.

To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data.

I chose to use Mind Research Institute's Algebra Readiness program at the high school level. This is an Intervention that is carefully crafted to teach all the math from grade two to grade seven that has been neglected in programs like Everyday Math, TERC/Investigations, and
Connected Math Project. Students who transfer in from High Schools using Core-Plus, or Interactive Math Program seem to have very weak arithmetic skills.

At Lummi our school has used Everyday and TERC for a decade.

For Algebra we will be using a traditional algebra: Foerster Algebra (2006)

I am looking for a good Geometry Book that in not particularly reading intensive.
UCSMP Geometry given their other books I've used would seem to be reading intensive.
I am looking for Example based instruction where possible.

For our post Geometry Algebra Class or traditional Advanced Algebra, I am looking at texts used in Math 99 at local community colleges.

Comments and Suggestions Welcome.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Higher Education in Washington
an external assessment

Here is a great piece for data lovers on Washington State higher education.

One of my my favorites over 30% of the adult population of our state has at least an undergraduate college degree but currently of 100 freshman who complete Freshman year of high school about 70 graduate from high school and 30.4 are College continuers but only 14 become college graduates within 10 years of completing freshman year of high school.

Good thing Microsoft, Boeing and other employers bring college graduates in from out of state or out of the country so our Washington adult population is slightly above 30% college graduates. There is also a portion of the population that takes more time to either begin or complete college.

I must say that there are many jobs in the local economy that do not require a college education. I find the idea that all high school graduates should be college ready an extremely strange idea.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bellevue Settlement an opinion -- C.R. Hoff

Will the settlement of the teachers’ strike in Bellevue improve education in Washington?

After a little over a two weeks strike in Bellevue the School Board caved in to most of the demands of the teachers’ union. Will this improve the education of Bellevue’s students? I think not! Just as a note the athletic teams did practice and play during the strike, so we do know what is really important!

What the teachers’ union was looking for was more money, better health coverage, and control of the curriculum in a school district that has the highest ratings of any school district in this state when compared to other school districts in the nation. While it is the legal right, according to Washington’s laws, that school boards have this right to determine curriculum, this has just become another unenforced law, like the teachers’ ability to strike, in a state that has been very good at enacting laws and then not enforcing them.

John Stanford, former Superintendent of Seattle was quoted as saying, “This is the only place I have worked where we make all of the decisions for the benefit of the employees.” In Bellevue, and many other places, Superintendent Stanford’s statement would seem to be quite accurate. Who loses in this case? Students and taxpayers are the losers. I will predict that achievement will decline in Bellevue and the costs will rise. We could call this “reverse productivity.”

The former superintendent of Bellevue led an often lonely crusade to bring Bellevue’s schools up in achievement to that of other similar school districts in the nation. He was assailed by many parents who found his idea of excellence was “too stressful” for their children, teachers that didn’t seem to be able to recognize excellence, and those with a “compassion” for those students unprepared for any major exertion in the academic sense. There were actual lawsuits over this.

Where does this come from? Let me suggest a few possible contributors.

1. This state has no accreditation system that sets any minimum standard for a high school diploma, at least until the WASL came along, and when this got to the point where it would have prevented those who could not do mathematics from graduating, our gutless Legislature made sure that this didn’t happen. In other states school boards live in fear of losing accreditation by their actions, or inactions, which might compromise the education of their children. Here there is no fear of this.

2. Many of the teachers in school districts of this state are graduates of institutions that have the lowest admissions standards of any colleges in this state. Nationally there is some pretty good data suggesting that most of the talented graduates of high schools do not attend this type of college, and they do not major in education. Could it be that many of these Bellevue teachers do not have a solid vision of excellence and have a full dose of “compassion?”

3. Graduates of most of the finest colleges and universities cannot get a teaching position in this state. Neither can those who have outstanding accomplishments in their fields without paying a ransom to our educational institutions. The example often used is former President Bush; elected member of the House of Representatives, Ambassador, Director of the CIA, War Veteran, and Vice President. He could not become a Civics teacher in a Washington high school!

4. There is a joke, which is more truthful than one might think, that the first name of every Social Studies and Driver Training teacher in Texas is “coach!” In my experiences in public schools it was not hard to find a group of teachers who were far more concerned about athletics than they were about whatever subject they were teaching.

5. Teachers’ unions have long suggested that reductions in class size would bring about improvements in achievement. The school district has suggested that this agreement will result in a reduction of 60 positions. So much for reducing class size!

Where will this strike lead us to? My guess is that school boards will become even more reluctant to address the issues of quality education than they are at this time. In the case of Bellevue they will compromise on curriculum, use money that is now used to support this excellence to pay more salaries to all teachers who are left, not just the ones who excel, and otherwise dilute the educational effort while continuing to work on excellence on the football field.

Elsewhere in the world those who are watching this issue will shake their heads in disbelief and continue to work on having even more of their children surpass Americans.

Spock and Piaget’s books will continue to sell poorly in India, Korea, Singapore and China and the intellectual abilities of these children will continue to surpass our children.

by Charles R. Hoff

Monday, September 15, 2008

American Schools: Troubles and Hopes - PBS

Contrast this with the views from the Career Switcher....

It helps to be close to the action rather than a remote participant.

Television Review 'Where We Stand'
American Schools: Troubles and Hopes
Published: September 14, 2008

Maybe Bill and Melinda Gates aren’t going to save the world after all.

“Where We Stand: America’s Schools in the 21st Century,” Monday on PBS, a look at American education financed by the Gates’s foundation, isn’t exactly brimming with fresh insights. It’s the same anecdotal hodgepodge that every attempt to assess the country’s schools ends up being: a few teachers who seem to be doing good things are heard from; a few programs that might be making kids smarter are profiled; the laundry list of familiar problems is checked off.

Though Geoffrey Canada and his Harlem Children’s Zone get some airtime, the program concentrates on schools in Ohio, both rural and urban. But every state has initiatives like those highlighted here. Educators might have an interest in comparing their own specialized programs with those on view, but the broader message, if there is one, isn’t clear.

More interesting are the troubling trends the program notes in how American education ranks internationally. The United States, we’re told, had the world’s best college-graduation rate as recently as 1995, but 10 years later ranked 15th. Not that the program offers anything like a concrete suggestion as to what to do about this. Instead one of its experts, Chester E. Finn Jr., president of the Fordham Institute, leaves you wondering how relevant the statistics are.

“It would be ridiculous, ostrichlike behavior to not look at how other countries are doing in terms of the results they’re producing,” he says. “That does not mean we should slavishly emulate the Japanese education system or the Finnish education system.”

America’s Schools in the 21st Century
On most PBS stations on Monday night (check local listings).

Rebecca Haggerty, producer; Ronald Thorpe, executive producer; Judy Woodruff, host. Produced by WLIW, New York.
A version of this article appeared in print on September 15, 2008, on page E2 of the New York edition.

A View on Teaching from a wealthy career switcher

Dallas Morning News EDUCATION
12:00 AM CDT on Sunday, September 14, 2008
Diane Stafford, McClatchy Newspapers

"In early 1995, quite deliberately, I stepped down as CEO of H&R Block, where I was making nearly a million dollars a year."
So begins Stand for the Best, a new book by Thomas M. Bloch, son and nephew of the co-founders of the largest income-tax preparation service in the country.
In recent years, Mr. Bloch has worked for no pay at all.
Tom Bloch evolved from corporate executive to middle school math teacher, first at a small Catholic school and now at University Academy in Kansas City, Mo., a charter school made possible partly by his family's money. Along with the Helzberg family, Mr. Bloch helped lead efforts to create the preparatory school, largely for inner-city residents, with the goal of teaching, graduating and sending students on to college.

Mr. Bloch's experiences have given him some strong opinions about teaching and the U.S. education system.
He acknowledges that few people enjoy the financial pillow he had to leave a job and spend a year or two in midcareer retraining, not to mention have the resources to help finance a personal desire "to make a difference ... to find meaning at work."
While Mr. Bloch has more than enough money to teach without drawing a paycheck, he is greatly concerned about the relatively paltry paychecks of fellow teachers. To him, increasing teachers' pay – and funding for public education in general – is crucial.
"We do not respect or pay teachers enough," he said.
"Elevating public funding of education is our biggest problem and most important priority. We must be able to attract more talented people to education."
If he could wave a magic wand, he said, master teachers, the best in their craft, would earn $100,000 a year to teach in public elementary, middle and high schools.
Lagging. He believes in higher taxes – progressively higher for the wealthier – and especially in taxes to fund public education.

"U.S. student achievement is lagging compared to other countries, especially in the sciences and math," he said. "The problem is acute in the inner cities. We can't continue to do what we're doing. There are two Americas in terms of our education system, and that can't continue."
That is partly why he took a year off from teaching to write the book.
"If I can help elevate teaching in importance, if I can draw attention to the matter of public education, maybe I can direct conversation. As it is, we spend a lot of money in this country on things that aren't important. We need to do better."

Mr. Bloch long ago lost any rose-colored glasses he might have had about his ability to make a quick difference. He's faced apathetic students and combative parents. He's had his temper strained to the max by surly and unruly middle schoolers. He's been shocked at the lack of respect and caring granted fellow educators.

His second career also cemented his opinions about American education, including a horror of social promotion, in which students are passed to the next grade even if they have not met minimum requirements.

He wants more accountability for teachers. No Child Left Behind is an effort in that direction, he said, but it didn't get the evaluation formulas right.
He is not in favor of paying teachers more just because they have been on the job longer or obtained another degree. Their pay should be based on how well they teach and how well their students learn, he said.
He is also distressed at grade inflation, which, because of parental demands, college admission pressures and teacher practices, has "made far too many students straight-A or honor roll students. ... It's almost meaningless anymore."

Underlying many of the large problems, he believes, is the need to pay higher salaries to attract more good workers to teaching.
In the book he writes:
"We can't depend on filling enough classroom vacancies with able individuals willing to make a financial sacrifice. Kids deserve better. So do teachers." __._,_.___

Speaking of social promotion try this:

Report: High schools don't prepare students for college challenges

One in three college students need remedial classes, costing colleges and taxpayers more than $2 billion annually, according to a Strong American Schools report released today. "These students come out of high school really misled. They think they're prepared. They got a 3.0 and got through the curriculum they needed to get admitted, but they find what they learned wasn't adequate," said former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer, who chairs the group.
The New York Times/Associated Press (9/15)