Saturday, October 18, 2008

invades Frederick County MD
from the HOT Topic: TERC Math

On April 23, 2008, the Frederick County Public Schools approved TERC Math (now called Pearson Math Investigations), which is one of the worst math programs in the country. They approved this sweeping, controversial change to the elementary grades (K-5) as a part of the consent agenda, with little discussion.

What's wrong with TERC? See below.

* TERC has no interest in giving classroom time to standard arithmetic, and avoids the concepts of carrying, borrowing, and common denominators, and allows calculators in the elementary grades. Watch the video to see TERC in action: Math: An Inconvenient Truth.

* Wilfried Schmid, Ph.D. in Mathematics at Harvard states, "By the end of fifth grade, TERC students have fallen roughly two years behind where they should be." Read more reviews here.

* Bill Quirk, Ph.D. in Mathematics observed, "TERC is totally out of sync with the National Math Panel Recommendations. Furthermore, TERC 2008 Math fails to provide the foundations of algebra." Read the full analysis here.

* Thomas Parker, Ph.D in Mathematics at Michigan State University, "TERC students will hit a wall, probably at the end of middle school. They are not being given the grounding needed to understand the abstractions of high school algebra and geometry. THEIR OPTIONS FOR CAREERS IN SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING ARE BEING CLOSED OFF BY THEIR ELEMENTARY SCHOOL PROGRAM." His summary of concerns is here.

* TERC doesn't even provide students with a textbook. There is a teacher's manual and a box of hands on materials for students. TERC takes hands-on learning to an extreme. See here.

* Dr. W. Stephen Wilson, Ph.D in Mathematics, testified against TERC at the June 11, 2008 Board of Education Meeting: "I am not really here today to talk to the Board, but to the parents. If your child goes to a school that uses TERC Investigations, you should understand that it means your child's school has abdicated its responsibility to teach your child mathematics. By doing so, the responsibility now rests with the parents. Good luck.". Click here for full testimony .pdf file

There is more at the original website linked at the top of this page.


Keep in Mind THAT:

1. Terc/Investigations was a highly recommended choice of OSPI under Dr Terry Bergeson's leadership .... and only about 50% of WA kids can pass the grade 8 or the grade 10 WASL Math test. ( 1/3 of WA kids in TERC, 1/3 in Everyday Math, and at the middle level 80% in Connected Math).

2. Seattle had TERC/Investigations as their #1 choice for adoption until CAO Ms. Santorno forced through Everyday Math, which is also pathetic and expensive in terms of supplemental materials costs, teacher time, student time, and Professional Development costs.

It appears that the voters will hold Dr. Bergeson responsible on Nov 4.

Ms. Santorno, who makes a much higher salary than Dr Bergeson and has clearly engaged in a conspiracy to minimize the 15 minutes of Singapore Math mandated by SPS board decision on May 30, 2007, is not being held responsible for the Singapore conspiracy nor are those who are continuing this fraud, the Superintendent and the Math Program Manger and others. In addition Ms. Santorno, Ms. Wise, Ms. Hoste, Mr. Bernatek suppressed data given to the SPS in April that clearly outlined the failures of Everyday Math in Denver and other locations. The SPS Administration presented misleading presentations in regard to EDM at both the Introductory meeting in mid-May and the action meeting on May 30th. The May 30th meeting was not videoed (amazing that this is the only board meeting out of the last 35 meetings that was not videoed or televised).

Larry Nyland, the Marysville superintendent, said that the selection of an appropriate and highly functioning math curriculum may be a bigger job than most districts can do because of a lack of available resources. I think that Seattle had the resources to make an excellent selection.... however ....

What Seattle lacked and so many other districts apparently lacked was the intelligence to use available data. OSPI certainly lacked this intelligence.

To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data.
--- W. Edwards Deming (1900-1993)

It appears that education administrators and school boards are a lot more interested in playing follow the leader and playing politics than thinking. With the nation's enormous decline in PISA math scores and the high school completion problem, one needs to be exceptionally careful about determining who is a leader that should be followed.

Clearly Dr Bergeson and Ms Santorno have shown an ability to spend large amounts of money and produce little in the way of results. Not the leaders I would be following.

Math Meltdown and Financial Meltdown have a lot in common.
Incompetent leadership .... Who gets to play the part of the politicians Barney Frank and Christopher Dodd et al. and who gets to play the part of the Bush Administration in your local math meltdown?

The question is who financed our math meltdown????
It sure was not political contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac.

Look at the Federal government again for screwing up the local scene with NSF grants pushing reform math through schools like UW. Follow the money to Book publishers.
Very poor test books require on going professional development which the book publishers will be happy to provide (for $$$). EDM had representatives present at the SLC meeting in early May as well as the May 30, 2007 adoption of EDM.

Then we need half-days for more professional development so our kids receive even less time in school for proper instruction. EDM requires according to Ms. Santorno fidelity of implementation so every teacher must follow the pacing plan to get through these massively bloated books. Seattle has 75 minute daily math classes that have been entirely devoted to EDM (no Singapore Math last year).

Keep in mind we have new State Math Standards for grade level expectations but these are ignored in favor of the SPS sanctioned EDM pacing plan and fidelity of implementation. (There is no time for Singapore because 75 minutes of daily math class still can not get through EDM effectively .... Seattle 4th grade WASL math scores actually declined versus the WA state change despite this enormous increase in class time).

The Seattle School Board swallows this EDM nonsense approach hook line and sinker .... is the math bailout ever going to occur?

Guess not.

SPS is now onto a high school math adoption with no fix slated for the k-8 math mess that Ms. Santorno brought us.

For K-8 math Seattle is in extreme mis-alignment with the National Math Advisory Panel recommendations and k-8 Seattle is ignoring the state math standards choosing instead Fidelity of Implementation to the EDM pacing plan.

No one seems to ever be held accountable. Why not?


{For all the achievement gap talk in Seattle, this district keeps picking math materials hostile to those on the low end of the achievement gap .... (these materials are hostile to almost anyone who has to rely on school without tutoring or parent support for real mathematics instruction)}

In May 2007 at the adoption meetings the Math Program Manager Rosalind Wise actually talked about EDM being selected as an exemplary program by the US Government.
This selection was based on ZERO data and highly prejudiced. It was clearly just another attempt to mislead the public and that recommendation has been rescinded.
Look here:


Anonymous said...

This could become a very important case:

Thursday, Sept. 4, 2008
Parents call for ethics probe into math book decision
New textbook keeps causing controversy for Board of Education

Members of parent advocacy group have requested an ethics investigation from the Board of Education's ethics panel to determine if the process that Frederick County school staff used to select and test the textbook, violated school system policies on testing new materials.

Contrary to school board policies on pilots and new courses, Neumark said, the Board of Education did not seem to give approval to test the textbook at Lincoln Elementary.

"When you conduct a pilot, you have to collect data," he said. "They didn't do that."

Neumark said his group raised the same concerns earlier this year, and school staff told them the textbook had not been piloted, but been field tested, a process that does not require the collection of specific data.

This sounds so like reform. Positively a bunch of asseholes. I wonder if Santorno is taking notes.


The school board has no policies pertaining to field testing, and therefore school system staff members had no authority to conduct it, Neumark said.

"If staff is permitted to conduct field tests in the absence of a policy or regulation authorizing and governing their conduct, the board has effectively abdicated its oversight role," Neumark wrote in his request for investigation.

"If staff can substitute the phrase ‘field test' for ‘pilot,' what is to prevent staff from substituting other terminology to avoid other policies and regulations?" he wrote.

"This is a slippery slope," he said. "It looks like they are skirting the rules."

Anonymous said...

The comments by Bonnie Borsa, vice president of the Frederick County Board of Education, in The Gazette's Sept. 4 article, "Parents call for ethics probe into math book decision," that the public outcry against TERC math was "grasping at straws" was for me the final straw.

A banker's model for school - "We who know more; will teach those who will never know nothing." - PF

Nationalize the curriculum - One world-class standard, one 'best' textbook for everyone. Singapore did all the relevant research.

The US should learn what educational research means - it is not some arbitrary, non-productive, wasteful process - like cows farting.

Anonymous said...

This is one of the best analysis of reading in mathematics problems that I have come across by Jerome Dancis at University of Maryland. Close to Frederick.

To society's detriment, the best explanations tend to be a bit more heady, but what better way to have something explained well.

Danis -
Influenced by the Math Reform movement, students are now expected to read word problems. But some textbooks still provide lists of words that suggest "addition" or "subtraction".

This is still essentially the Key-Word method.

Some college students regularly look for key-words -- to their detriment. They will point to a paragraph of explanation and then trivialize it as "If I see the [key] word ..., then I do such and such".

This over-simplification often ignores one of the hypotheses, which leads to wrong answers. The "Key-Word" bad habit is hard to break.

I would add key-word is a start but teachers rarely have time to go beyond that. Formal algebra is a subject that lends itself to learning as a model that tests the logic of an assumption. Something we are failing to teach the majority of students. This is what the Ministry means when they say Singapore is a thinking curriculum.

Key-word is actually a traditional strategy applied in a broader sense, where problem-solving is based on recognizing patterns that are then repeated over and over (spiraling or until mastery used in a traditional sense) and why the list of topics in math eduation looks so formidable (structural approach).

Adage holds true: Teach smarter; not harder.

Here's Stephen Wilson's resume and at the end of it is a horrific timeline similiar to what I have experienced regarding math programs. I hold a Masters degree from a top-notch university, work with disadvantaged kids to get them ready for college, and my own children can't get a high school diploma because they look Latino and can't do math beyond grade 8. I teach and write for a living and the pen is mightier than God. Math reform is going to be turned into a pretzel, before I'm through.

Anonymous said...

We are having our own local math war.

Our group of concerned parents in the Plainview - Old Bethpage (NY) school district are opposed to the TERC Investigations Math curriculum being taught to our children. Our most recent NYS math scores were horrible!

To make matters even tougher for us, our Superindendent of Schools is Martin G. Brooks the co-author of “The Courage to Be Constructivist” with his wife Jacqueline Grennon Brooks

We are making progress. We had 250 parents at the last Board of Ed meeting, and we have definitely turned up the pressure on our BOE.

We set up a website to educate our community

I would appreciate your feedback on it and any help or advice you can give us.

Thank you,

dan dempsey said...

The parallels between the Frederick quest for accountability to the Financial Meltdown are interesting. Notice how neither presidential candidate has really looked to investigate a financial fraud that was 35 times larger than Enron's collapse. Each political party had too much involvement in the Freddie Mac / Fannie Mae fiasco for them to want to shed any light on the subject.

So it goes with the Math meltdown those responsible are hardly going to investigate themselves.

We are definitely making progress in fixing the math mess (very surprising given the School Boards and Administrations opposition to improvement). Take a look back at something I wrote when I was at West Seattle (about 2 years ago):

Since then the National Math Advisory Panel report came out and the WA State legislature showed some leadership. Unfortunately the shenanigans by OSPI continued .. hopefully there will be a Randy Dorn victory on November 4, 2008.

dan dempsey said...

it was said:
To make matters even tougher for us, our Superintendent of Schools is Martin G. Brooks the co-author of “The Courage to Be Constructivist” with his wife Jacqueline Grennon Brooks.

You sure the Supe is not Mel Brooks
The ignorance must be unbounded for a Supe to continue with pure constructivism given the results from international math comparison data and Project Follow Through data.

Do Not Confuse me with facts my mind is made up. These folks clearly belong to Club Ed, where politics trumps rational decision making.

dan dempsey said...

In response to the folks at:

Your site is very clean and looks nice. Remember that if rational argument was all that was needed to bring a solution we would not be in this mess in the first place.

"Where's the Math?" in Washington State realized early on that only massive political pressure was going to bring about substantive change that would significantly improve student learning.

The truth needs to be spread so that the public can mobilize against the "Folly" that has been perpetrated by those with most of the resources. Unfortunately without enormous public pressure we are left only with the faint hope that those that created the disaster will improve the situation.
"That is pure insanity".

The French revolution occurred in a very short time frame. It is amazing how rapidly public dissatisfaction led to "heads rolling". Although many of those in power have been able to be more connected and many are much more devious than the public would care to believe. It is now becoming apparent that the internet is enabling opponents of the powerful to expose incompetent and/or fraudulent decision making.

Soon public accountability will be more common place.

{Check out Peyton Wolcott's movement to get school district check registers online at:

To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data. Those who choose to do otherwise and produce failure should be held accountable.
....Seattle School administration needs to have some rolling heads.

Anonymous said...

First, OSPI then SPS. EDM, Disconnected, and IMP are going to be curbside on trash day in December.