Saturday, October 25, 2008

Math Textbook recommendations for K-5
politics and more politics

Dear Board Members and Math Panelists-

Last week we received the attached letter from the Bridge’s Publishers (The Math Learning Center). I have asked Linda Plattner to address their concerns before she writes her final draft report. In addition, the publishers of Investigations contacted Linda to say that there was part of their curriculum materials that Linda had not reviewed, but OSPI’s reviewers had . This was not Linda’s error, the publisher’s contact did not give these materials to her initially. I asked Linda to please review those pieces too so that she would look at the same materials as OSPI’s reviewers. Below is her update to me on her consideration of the issues from both of these programs. I wanted to make you all aware of these issues. I hope to have Linda’s revised final draft report soon and will send it out to all of you.

Have a great weekend!

(Executive Secretary of WA State Board of Education)

From: Linda Plattner
Sent: Friday, October 24, 2008 1:50 PM
To: Edie Harding
Subject: Update on Investigations and Bridges

Hello Edie,

Here is updated information on two of the mathematics programs ST reviewed: Bridges and Investigations. This information will be fleshed out and included in the Final Report and report to the SBE.


As you know, a few days ago we learned that OSPI included some lessons/activities in their curriculum review that ST did not review. Investigations' publishers specifically crafted and identified lessons for Washington that will be soon available in its online materials (similar to Bridges' Washington Supplemental Curriculum). ST did not understand that Investigations had these extra core materials nor did we receive copies of the lessons until October 13, 2008.

We have now reviewed these materials and will include the results in both the content alignment match and the mathematical analysis of the final report on the Study of the Curriculum Review. The extra materials improve Investigations scores in both cases, but it does not change ST's findings. ST findings continue to support OSPI's recommendation regarding Math Connects and elevates Math Expressions, which we believe is the strongest elementary program.

Bridges in Mathematics fromthe Math Learning Center

The publisher of Bridges has expressed its concerns about the ST's review of its program as it was presented in the Draft Report. ST received a certified copy of an Oct. 21 letter to SBE sent by the publishers. We appreciate both the timeliness and the tone of the letter.

We have now looked at the concerns listed and discuss these briefly here.

Reviewer bias/single mathematician

Bridges' publishers are concerned about ST bias. First, to cover everything. There does not seem to be an issue regarding ST bias related to the scores given during the content alignment process. Preliminary analysis shows no bias on the part of the ST reviewers. The analysis in the report coupled with the noise present in any data set that is this small accounts seems to account for the differences between ST and OSPI scores.

It seems that the publishers are more concerned about ST dependence on only one mathematician. We agree that including the review of a second mathematician would have strengthened ST's work if only because it would reduce the appearance of predisposition. Resources are always limited and choices must be made on how much redundancy to build into a system. We decided on one mathematician because math is what math is and Dr. Wilson is not commenting on pedagogy, but rather on the structure of mathematics. ST stands behind his work.

Overstatement of text error

The publishers are concerned about this statement is in the draft report, “The materials also contain a serious math error in a major example used to illustrate a central point.” (pg. 31-CR)

ST's language here is strong, and we will reconsider it carefully, particularly since Bridges informs us it has now fixed this error. But, Bridges offers only 3 examples to illustrate 3 different kinds of fractions problems and one of these had an error. When explanations and sample problems are scarce, they carry a heavy load.

Misstatement re content alignment

The publishers also note this statement from ST's draft report: “Bridges and Investigations, which were judged to be relatively low on content alignment by both OSPI and ST, were also found to be mathematically problematic.” (pg. 3-CR)

This statement will change--we had already noted it-- it is simply incorrect to say that Bridges is "low on content."

Other issues

We will look carefully to be sure our language does not overstate or dramatize an issue, but after re-examining Bridges, we respectfully stand behind our original statements about derivation of formula of area of parallelogram and common denominators. As is well-explained in the background document on mathematical soundness, these threads are not developed in ways that would prepare the typical student to meet Washington's standards and move forward in mathematics.


Linda Plattner,

Strategic Teaching
1573 Millersville Road
Millersville, MD 21108

It should be noted that only four programs were reviewed by ST.
The top four by content alignment from the OSPI selected Spokane IMR Group led Relevant Strategies were TERC/Investigations, Math Connects, Math Expressions, and Bridges in Mathematics.

Unfortunately the IMR k-8 Math Standards alignment found Singapore Math as the lowest rated program and Saxon Math was not in the top four so neither of these was reviewed by ST.

It is interesting that two programs that have significant evidence of their success in widespread use were not considered as top candidates. Thus ST did not review them.

This situation can be directly traced to OSPI and SBE directly violating the language of SB 6534 in the Standards process mandated by the legislature.

The earlier OSPI selected Dana Center, was still tinkering in the Standards process after ST and the panel had been attempted to correct the Dana Center's Standards work, which was rejected by the legislature.

Here is the TEXT of my lawsuit in that regard.
This will be heard on Friday, January 30, 2009 at 1:30 PM
in Thurston County Superior Court
by Judge Hicks.

The SBE Math Advisory panel will not be meeting again prior to the SBE meeting on November 5 and 6 at which time the SBE will be making curricular recommendations to OSPI as required in SB 6534.

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

This state's ability on the part of OSPI to overlook existing relevant data and blatantly disregard the collection of relevant data while spending hundreds of millions on the WASL has placed us in a downward spiral educationally in WA state.

Mathematically it seems hard to envision a scenario over the last decade that could have put k-12 math in a worse place.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hadn't the DOE already settled the issue of standards and alignment with its selection of promising and exemplary curriculum? If US lawmakers had separated the business of evaluation from the business of writing curriculum, states and school districts would not have to go through the misfortune of finding mistakes created by the authors in the first place. Already we know that the evaluations of the curriculum are suspect, yet the system proceeds forward because there is nothing else to do.

School boards no longer have control over curriculum and district staff act clueless, while teachers trudge forward, and kids can do nothing else except laugh. The devil's joke is on all of us.