Sunday, November 30, 2008

Letter to the SPS Math Program Manager

Dear Anna-Maria de la Fuentes, 11-29-2008

In the SPS board meeting of 5-16-2007 Ms. Santorno said that should the state reduce the number of topics at particular grade levels we can certainly align our EDM math program to do that. She also said she was very impressed with Singapore Math. She said automaticity of math multiplication facts was necessary by grade 3. Darlene Flynn said the SPS has a very poor track record on math adoptions.

It is my opinion that the Seattle Public Schools are currently deceiving the public by the publishing of New Mathematics Performance Expectations – Condensed format on the SPS website at:

Clearly the Seattle Schools are not focusing the k-8 math curricula on these expectations. It seems fraudulent to post math expectations without action that focuses on them. The continued following of the Everyday Math pacing plan shows the SPS to be in opposition to the performance expectations posted on the website.

For many years the SPS has deceived the public by refusing to follow School Board policies D44.00 and D45.00 in regard to the requirement for defined necessary skills at each grade level that are frequently assessed. The required interventions cannot take place because of continuing district negligence.

The SPS math folly can only continue when the board members believe they are in a position to adopt a high school math program when k-8 the program leaves huge portions of the student population unable to do high school level mathematics because of an inadequate student skill base.

The continuation of total fidelity to EDM, which is a spiraled curriculum that is ineffective, needs a full explanation. Instead of narrowing topics and focusing on mastery as happens in a strand curriculum like Singapore Math, EDM has an extremely large number of topics at each grade level. Why does the district ignore the ideas emphasized by the National Math Advisory Panel and the new WA State Math Standards k-8?

Please provide an explanation if you intend to keep the Mathematics performance expectations posted on the SPS website.

I would also like an explanation as to why the following definition of math is still posted on the website: Mathematics is the language and science of patterns and connections. Learning and doing mathematics are active processes in which students construct meaning through exploration and inquiry of challenging problems.

Is this definition of mathematics that you and the district administration believes forms the core of the learning of mathematics for our students? If so there is little possibility for substantial measurable academic gains in high school level mathematics skills in the next decade. I would encourage the board to provide much better guidance in the future for SPS math program adoptions as the decade of SPS math disaster will be continuing as long as this math definition guides the SPS.

The included attachment contains the following:

Results of standardized mathematics assessments suggest that students in the United States are increasingly deficient in mathematics as they enter middle and high school.

….. If accuracy and fluency in basic skills are necessary for acquisition of higher-level conceptual mathematical understanding (Wu, 1999), could it be that the gradual decline of U.S. students in mathematics as they progress through school is related to the inadequate foundation laid by traditional elementary mathematics basal textbooks?

The spiral design found in the majority of math textbooks does not promote mastery of the fundamental mathematical concepts on which higher-level mathematics are built. The potential for the strand curricula to improve textbooks cannot be underestimated… Although organizing textbooks around strands is not a panacea for eliminating poor performance in mathematics, it is a powerful tool for improving instruction. Textbooks are part of teachers’ toolbox and educators need to improve their “access to tools that work” (Carnine, 1992, p. 1). The strand design is one component of an effective instructional program that increases opportunities for all children to learn.

Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Last 6 weeks, fractions with the majority of my ninth graders using mathimagination and marcy cook. Screw the standards, keep the kids learning and happy... We made fraction strips today. I haven't looked at a textbook for 12 weeks.