Wednesday, January 28, 2009

PWCS administration knows best about Math.

Coming to you from You Tube...

PWCS administration knows best about Math,
because they say so.

(Don't miss the comments at the bottom ... 27 of them when I visited)

Hey you parents... we may be using programs that are ineffective and out of sync with the National Math Advisory Panel recommendations but WE KNOW BEST.

Now please go away and stop bothering us.
Another group of bizarre folks leading our schools further down the road of NO Results. Who elects these folks?


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

Why is this so hard for school board members and school administrators to understand?

... because "Club Ed" drives decision making NOT thinking.

NSF how about a math focus instead of a Porn focus?

I always wondered how TERC/Investigations and Everyday Math and Connected Math Project got such support. Now it turns out there was a reason the NSF paid so little attention to results.

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

The Stimulus Plan and Education

Stimulus Plan could reshape U.S. education policy

From the International Herald Tribune

The federal investment in education would more than double under a proposed stimulus package pending in Congress -- which includes $150 billion in new education spending -- changing the federal government's role in education. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the money will prevent hundreds of thousands of teacher layoffs nationwide, and money also will go to support early childhood education, repair aging school buildings and improve special-education programs. International Herald Tribune (1/28)
This quotation shows the exceptional ability of those who can spin, twist, and create euphemisms to cover results. Those on the "traditional" side of mathematics education have yet to master this craft. -- Niki Hayes

"When ideas fail, words come in very handy."
--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,
poet, playwright, novelist and statesman

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hidden Flaws in China and India Schools

From Jay Matthews in the Washington Post:

Sadly, even in the days when The Washington Post was flush with cash, there was no money to send the education columnist abroad. But I am happy to report I don't have to go because an upcoming book from education scholar James Tooley goes much deeper into the Chinese and Indian school systems than Bob or I ever have, and takes my side. Tooley shows that India and China, despite their economic successes, have public education systems that are, in many ways, a sham.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Advanced HS Math .. similarities and Differences

From the Washington Post..
an interesting piece that glances at Advanced Algebra as a graduation requirement.

End of course testing is mentioned.

Algebra for All The Push for Higher Math

II Doesn't Always = II

Similarities in Advanced High School Math Courses Often Mask Differences in Standards and Requirements

By Michael Alison Chandler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 26, 2009; Page B01

From Northwest Washington to the suburbs of Fairfax and Prince George's counties, advanced algebra often appears the same from class to class: Students are expected to learn dozens of skills, including factoring trinomials, solving rational equations and graphing quadratic functions.

Skagit Valley Herald .. does title match story??

From the Skagit Valley Herald

The Title:
Most county schools are using state-recommended math curricula

seems to be unsupported in the story. Did I miss something here?

How odd is this ????

From the Seattle Public Schools....

Adoption Committee Application and Selection Process

The goal was to develop a committee representing a wide range of skills, knowledge, experience and working style, reflecting diversity in race/ethnicity, gender, school/student population representation, and perspectives. We asked that potential applicants bring an open mind, with passion about student learning in mathematics, and avoid approaching the process with a specific textbook or set of materials in mind.

It is worth noting that the expressed goal mentions nothing about specific knowledge of mathematics being desired in committee members.

It should be fairly obvious as to why the last two math adoptions produced such defective finalists ... I guess we are now looking for a three peat.

Hey it is hockey season will the SPS go for the hat-trick of incompetence?
We will know in a few months.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Seattle ... thoughts for High School Math
Reality Check

Just remembering that the Seattle Schools Superintendent said that the only problems with the failure of the last High School math adoption attempt were political.

Check out how the Seattle Administration's Recommended adoption IMP .. The Interactive Math Program rated on the recent Instructional Materials rating done by the State of Washington for content alignment with state math standards.

Overall Ranking for All Algebra 1 and 2 Series

Discovering – Algebra 0.863
Holt Algebra 0.841
Glencoe McGraw-Hill Algebra 0.823
PH Math Algebra 0.833
CPM Algebra 0.751
McDougal Littell Algebra 0.786
CME Algebra 0.739
Cognitive Tutor Algebra 0.735
CORD Algebra 0.705
PH Classics (Foerster) Algebra 0.709
PH Classics (Smith) Algebra 0.692
MathConnections Algebra 0.528
Average 0.746

Overall Ranking for All Comprehensive Integrated Math Programs when Treated as Individual Courses

Core Plus Math 0.671
SIMMS Math 0.656
Interactive Math Program 0.490
Average 0.606

Overall Ranking for All Comprehensive Integrated Math Programs when Treated as a Series

Core Plus Math 0.802
SIMMS Math 0.710
Interactive Math Program 0.609
Average 0.707

Would the Superintendent care to issue a retraction?
or was the objective to pick the worst possible program?

Taken from the 9-12 curriculum review and recommendations report

Sure looks like IMP rates as either #15 out of 15
or perhaps #14 out of 15.

Coaches ... by C.R. Hoff

At a recent work study meeting of the Federal Way School Board, no public in attendance, the following question was on the wall. “How does Federal Way Public Schools become one of the best performing school systems?”

The answer may shock you. It is their belief that by providing “coaches” for classroom teachers they can “coach” teachers to become better teachers! While the “old dog new tricks” phrase comes to mind, I do believe that “some” teachers can be “taught” better practices. There has been no mention of “improving the raw material” by “coaching” kids and their parents, which is where I believe the most dramatic improvements can be made.

Let’s look at the “coach” concept a little more carefully. Teachers want to assure us that they are “professionals,” so it might be worth a look at some other “professionals” and how they are coached. Many of you know of my lack of interest in professional athletics, so some of my assumptions might just be a little slanted but here goes.

First we need to remember that in professional football the success rate of the “teams” of “well coached professionals” have only a 50% success rate if winning is the measure of success. How many of you would like to send your kids to a school where the success rate was 50%? Oops! That is well above the success rate of many of our kids in our schools!

The professionals we see on the fields, if we are watching, today are all the products of a mostly taxpayer funded “filtering” system that involves a scouting of high school games, and then on to a mostly taxpayer funded “farm team” system called “college.” As we know all too well around here the “coaches” in the farm teams are very well paid. If at any time the players don’t seem up to the standards of the coaches, they are eliminated from the game based solely upon the opinion of the coach. No “panels”, “studies” “appeals,” just go!

Finally after these almost daily filters have distilled the population down to approximately 1 of the 16,000 beginners, the players arrive on the professional practice field. Here highly paid coaches have an approximately 1 to 12 coach to teacher ratio, they coach them for several hours a day. Still this amount of effort only produces a 50% success rate, and the “drop-out” rates are pretty steep.

Let’s take a look at the “education game.” Here we take some, not all, of the farm teams, (high schools) average players, put most of them in less than competitive training camps, (teacher’s colleges) without even any scouting, and coach to student ratios of 1 to 30 or more. After four or more years of this less than intensive coaching we bring them onto the field with almost no practice and, in the case of Federal Way, one coach for, in secondary schools, up to 80 “players!” Could this be why we don’t have much of a success rate?

But wait! However, coaches are not the highly paid coaches of the college and professional leagues. They have to operate under quite a different set of rules! According to the “rules” for these coaches “they cannot be directed to work with a player by the head coach (administration), and have to be “non evaluative” in their relationship with the player! No benching or red shirting allowed!

How well do you suppose our professional teams would do with these rules? Perhaps the Huskies this year might have looked good!

Educators seem bound and determined that they can “fix” education without pulling the parents into the struggle. What I believe is even more needed is for educators, and lawmakers, to decide what the minimum qualifications are for being a responsible parent. This state has just started an academy in Bremerton for kids who have come to learn that “there are no rules.” In my estimation, based upon what I have seen in classrooms, on the streets, and in the homes where I tutor, this academy should be the largest school in the state! When a student is enrolled there the parents should be attending a parallel program.

While we may have some “poor” teachers we have many more “poor” students, “bad raw material.” President Obama says it very clearly, “No amount of money can buy achievement.” Instead of hiring coaches for teachers, we need to be hiring coaches for parents, no training required for this title, and the coaches need to be able to “bench.”

Math Graduation requirement -My thoughts

I've been in vehement opposition to Advanced Algebra as a graduation requirement.

The State Board of Education is in favor of this. Superintendent Dorn is not.
First let me state that a certificate of achievement stamp should be placed on the diploma.
This lets those employers or colleges who care so, to determine if the kid learned much in k-12.

It seems to me that if a kid can not pass an Algebra I test in spring 2010 they should not get the certificate.

If a High School can not bring a senior to algebra I competence in grade 12 during the 2009-2010 school year, it is likely the kid does not know much arithmetic.

I think that requiring Seniors in 2011 to have passed both an Algebra and a Geometry test is very reasonable.
If this prevents Spring 2011 graduation with the certificate then the student should learn the stuff during summer of 2011 and pass the tests to graduate with the certificate.

If integrated math is doing the job teaching the important stuff, 12th graders will know this stuff.

The really big difficulty with math education is .....
years of social promotion of unskilled students at all grade levels.
I would also eliminate the statistics portion of the Algebra I standards, which have Zero to do with Algebra and move the "additional key content to Advanced Algebra" where most of it belongs.

If we are expected to raise current students to Algebra 1 proficiency, we need to focus on that task. The Statistics is an unneeded an unnecessary distraction from accomplishing the task of teaching the students algebra.

One step at a time .... let us show we can actually accomplish something before enlarging the task. Waiting beyond Spring 2010 for even a minimal math requirement seems like an ill advised plan.


Will the Seattle PI eventually get it?

Here is an editorial from the Seattle PI

WASL Gets a Downhill Test


The PI is one of the many Washington Newspapers that endorsed Dr. Bergeson for re-election.

From the editorial:

We like the sound of Dorn's plan to shorten testing and provide better diagnostic tools on where students need extra help. But common sense suggests that it is easier to get good feedback on students' performance with more test questions, not fewer.
............ so should we have 120 days per year of testing?

Here is comment #23 in the comment section:

Posted by 2Pi
at 1/25/09 12:58 p.m.

Whether this is a step forward or backward depends entirely on what happens next.

I've taught math related courses at UW for a decade. I can tell you incoming freshmen are often grossly unprepared for college level scientific work. I'm not the only one who thinks this.

I've looked at the wasl material. Any high schooler thinking of college should be able to pass the math portion. Anybody thinking of a technical career should be ready for much more difficult exams in their first year (think AP calculus level).

However the current exam is based on some sort of "reform" or "discovery" math and it is not good. Going back to a more traditional curriculum designed by the math pros (and not the math ed crowd) would be better.

On high school math tests, fast grading of right or wrong is preferable to slow grading of their written "explanation". Students need to quickly see which problems they did wrong so they can focus their practice on those areas.

But the most important thing is that we as a society have got to quit facilitating innumeracy by allowing excuses like "my brain doesn't work that way" or "its the teacher/curriculum/textbook's fault" or whatever. The number of deflections used by the modern student (or parent) to justify their non-performance is staggering. In reality they're not doing the two things needed to succeed in math: do problems, and ask questions.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Prince William County .. School Board Circus

Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS) – one of the country’s largest and fastest growing school systems. For the 2008-09 school year, PWCS has over 73,000 students, 88 schools, 10,000 employees, and is the second largest school division in Virginia.

When it comes to math this is even more bizarre than Seattle.

The Prince William County School Board meeting of 1/22/2009

Tonight’s meeting of the Prince William County School Board was an absolute circus. If you have never seen outright and obvious contempt on the part of public employees and even some elected representatives of the citizenry they are supposed to serve, having not experienced the pleasure of visiting a Soviet gulag, you might want to drop in on one of these when citizens are trying to get something fixed. Tonight’s utterly shameful and shocking display absolutely demonstrates a dire need for some major changes in our public school system, as this embarrassment cannot be allowed to continue.

Well...fireworks began at the end.
During the "Board Matters" wrap up time, one Board member went on the attack calling out a parent by name and by association all other parents who've been speaking out for their children and asking for a choice in school and an appropriate math education for their children. A second board member followed with an even uglier tirade against parents - just who do these parents think they are actually asking for accountability and non-junk math programs for their children anyway? Board Chairman actually had to verbally restrain his colleagues who were on a tirade. Again, the video is priceless -- and the major fireworks are in the last 15 mins of the presentation. for the podcast. for the windows media file

On the positive front - on 4 Feb 2009 the PWCS Board will be voting to suspend the planned 2009-2010 5th grade implementation of "Investigations Math" in PW schools. It's a start!

From all of the fantastic parents in Prince William County VA!


Greg Barlow and the PWC Teach Math Right Team!

Nintendo = improved Arithmetic Skills

Here is a study from Scotland
on Student results from playing a particular Nintendo game aimed at improving arithmetic skills.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Reflecting on 11 months ago

Here is an article that appeared in the PI on February 29, 2008

Freshmen's weak math skills worry UW faculty
60 professors write open letter, saying freshmen unprepared


It is interesting how things have changed. Dr Begeson is no longer in office and the Math Educators are now under considerable scrutiny.

From the Article:

None of the instructors from the UW's College of Education, which trains future teachers, signed the letter.

That's not too surprising, UW spokesman Norm Arkans said, because the issue is rather controversial.

"We've got a bunch of different people working on math education, and they don't necessarily agree on what the best approach is," he said.

Even math experts disagree. Ginger Warfield, a senior lecturer in the UW Mathematics Department who served on the committee that helped draft the new math standards, said the "sky is falling" rhetoric is irritating and divisive.

"Washington math isn't a disaster," she said. "By many measures, we're fine, and relative to the rest of the country, we're much better."

Incoming freshmen do need stronger math skills, but the answer isn't to just give up and go back to traditional methods of teaching math -- it doesn't work for everyone, Warfield said.

Mathematicians may mean well, "but they have no clue how to teach math to children," she said. "They know how to teach it at the collegiate level, but it's quite different teaching a first-grader than teaching a freshman."
Little wonder the Dana Center's work on the WA Math Standards was trashed by the legislature with people like Dr. Warfield producing those standards.

If you can not recognize the problem, highly unlikely you will find a solution.

So now it is Randy Dorn's turn to do better.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Seattle Math Update for the board 1/21/2009

This was on the published agenda and scheduled for the School Board on Wednesday 1/21/2009.
Then the actual presentation was pulled from the meeting agenda.
Thus this Math Update has yet to be formally given but was on the SPS website.

If you read the above presentation you will notice that it fails to take into account the New Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn.

The recommendations for k-8 that this update mentions are in need of correction. Mr Dorn has no intention of recommending Bridges to Mathematics for elementary school.

In November of 2008 Strategic Teaching reported

K-5 Recommendations:
Keep: Math Connects
Revisit: Bridges in Mathematics
Add: Math Expressions

6-8 Recommendations:
Keep: Holt Mathematics
Keep: Math Connects
Add: Prentice Hall Mathematics

Bridges in Mathematics was found to be mathematically deficient and Mr. Dorn is not recommending it.

This SPS Math Update is a testament to politics ... the math thought is not very deep.

Everyday Math and Connected Math Project 2 are a defective base to attempt to build a program on, if your intention is to have children be successful at the collegiate level in mathematics.

The November election tossed out Dr. Bergeson but it appears that her inadequate most WASL aligned math programs are still being defended whether they work or not.

I do not believe that the school board selected Singapore Math as a problem supplement on May 30, 2007 but since there is no video and no record of this meeting... who knows. It is my belief that a Singapore Math text book and a workbook were to be purchased for each child in each grade. Instead only a practice book was purchased.

What I do know is that Singapore Math teaches children methods of thinking and these methods are missing from the SPS math plan.

In the Math update I seem to have missed anything about 100% Singapore Math at Schmitz Park elementary and 100% Saxon at North Beach elementary.. If the state begins to test actual math skills ... this could be interesting to follow.

It should be noted that, despite all the coaching dollars expended and the increase in math class time to 75 minutes per day, grade 4 WASL math passing scores declined by over 5%.

I guess we must just wonder about everyone held accountable.
SPS adopts a failing program from Denver and it does not work here, what a surprise. The update let us know that there are no funds to correct this error.

With the high school adoption coming, it is interesting to note that:
1.. the WASL at high school will be gone
2.. course ending assessments will be put in place for Algebra and Geometry
... and Integrated Math I and Integrated Math II
3.. in the preliminary rankings of traditional Algebra .. Geometry .. Algebra II
and rankings of Integrated Math texts, the highest rated integrated text was Core-Plus ... when put in with the AGA ranked books it came in around 5th or 6th.

Mathematical thought in math planning at both the state level and in Seattle is hampered by excessive political nonsense.

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

From Randy Dorn:
In spring 2010, the WASL will be replaced by the Measurements of Student Progress (MSP), administered in grades 3-8, and the High School Proficiency Exams (HSPE), which will serve as the tests to meet the state reading and writing graduation requirements. On a parallel track, we will replace the current math and science tests as we review and refine the standards for those content areas. We must ensure the standards are workable and reflect the real-life needs of our students. I will put forward legislation during this legislative session to delay the effective dates of the graduation requirements tied to those standards and tests until the State Board of Education can make a finding that they are “valid and reliable.” We are also planning to move the spring “accountability test,” which meets the requirements set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act, to later in the spring.

Randy Dorn's WASL plans

Today's news:
Bringing Change and Improvement to the State’s Student
Assessment System
By Superintendent Randy Dorn

Mr. Dorn is certainly not one to waste time.
There is a bill moving through the legislature to end the WASL as a graduation requirement.

Here is today's release from Randy:

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Remove the WASL as a graduation requirement

Here is a bill to keep an eye on.

It removes the statewide assessment as a requirement for high school graduation and dedicates savings realized to close student achievement gaps and motivating students to pursue postsecondary education. (See also Companion HB 1341).

The House version:

and the Senate version:

Look at the ill fated attempts to remediate those who failed the math WASL.

Look at the Collection of Evidence ... which in some places seemed more like an attempt to get all students to graduate rather than teach the students, while in others became a productive way to get students to focus on the task at hand. The amount of energy required of teachers to make OSPI happy often drains teachers and lessens the quality of what happens in the classroom.

OSPI has been a political machine for far too long.
It will be nice if educationally sound actions happen.

A lot of this seems to be founded on the idea that the state knows more about what is good for kids than the parents do.

Singapore Math thoughts from Palo Alto as used at Keys School

I am a math teacher and chair at a K-8 school in Palo Alto, CA, that adopted Singapore Math 4 years ago. We are finding it very successful, especially in teaching children number sense and conceptual understanding.

Having taught several years in Europe, I was alarmed by the rote, algorithmic approach used by US textbooks. I teach middle school, and found that over half of my students were having difficulty transferring all those meaningless, memorized algorithms to the concepts of algebra and higher math.

We knew we wanted a math approach that carefully and conceptually teaches math from the concrete through pictorial to the abstract, and I was very pleased to discover SPM. Here are the major advantages we have found:

1. Strong mental math mastery: math facts are not drilled because they are not *memorized* in SPM, but internalized. Manipulatives are used heavily to train base-10 sense - much more so than in US textbooks. Then there are pages and pages of pictorial representations in the workbooks giving students time to translate their learning into a strong base-10 number sense. Mental math is a fun and challenging component of daily math instruction all the way through middle school. At Keys School, we are
finding that our middle school students now have far greater numeracy skills since we adopted SPM.

2. Depth of curriculum: Each 3- or 4-week long unit has a minimum quantum
of learning, plus additional levels of enrichment. Students have time to
truly understand a concept, and successfully transfer it to the abstract in
their own minds, and therefore do not need re-teaching.

3. Word problem modeling: The visual nature of SPM rectangle models
allows students to tackle word problems with confidence. Even that 1/3 of
any class who struggle with math (and especially word problems) learn to
solve complex problems because they can "see" them.

4. Algebra readiness: Because of the emphasis on understanding of math concepts, rather than memorizing algorithms, students actually transition more easily to algebra with SPM. At Keys we have seen a steady increase in the skills of incoming 7th graders, and a remarkable increase in algebra ability of our 8th graders. Most importantly, the "non-math" students who used to struggle and fail algebra are now succeeding.

The only disadvantage we've discovered is that adopting SPM required training for our lower-school teachers, who needed to discard the algorithms they were taught and teach math from a conceptual, mathematical basis.

Hope this helps,

Kathleen Jalalpour
Keys School and
The Pi Project, Partners in Singapore Math

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Algorithms? OSPI employees author a paper on Algorithms

Having been on the Math Advisory Panel and labored through hours and hours of Algorithm discussions to arrive at the language in the WA Math Standards, I found it interesting that four OSPI employees authored a paper on the subject after the Math Standards were approved. The ideas expressed make me wonder, if these folks support the WA k-12 Math Standards as written?

You be the judge.

Read a four page paper:

The Title is:
Greta Bornemann, George Bright, Boo Drury and Karrin Lewis,
Mathematics Teaching and Learning Team, OSPI

Here is a current list from OSPI of Math employees

Thoughts on Paramount Duty ... Education k-12

Charlie Hoff responds to an article
How much does it cost to do your “Paramount Duty?”

As a former school board member I have to disagree with your editorial, and the Joint Task Force on Basic Education Finance regarding school finance.

I can find no evidence of any school district in this state that is currently spending the dollars that the state and the local community give it on the current definition of “education.” Instead every school district I know of is “enhancing” the education of some limited groups of its children at the expense of those who are in the most needed category.

The “pass rate” for some of our minorities on the most minimal mathematics is less than 20% and the majority of these students are in the “well below standard” category. If school districts were “serious” about “educating” students, “their paramount duty,” schools would look quite differently.

In a past lifetime I taught in one of the most expensive public school districts in the nation, spending over three times what is spent in this state, and I find that the activities that our districts have in common with the wealthy districts are “extra curricular activities!” I guess that is the “paramount duty!” I believe that many of our secondary schools are nothing more than “juvenile social halls” for a very significant portion of the attendees.

How much will it cost to “educate” kids that come to school reluctant to learn?

Until we can enlist the adults in our communities in the “paramount duty” of seeing that all of the kids in the community are coming to school to obtain knowledge and skills that will allow them to become responsible adults further expenditures on education are not justified.

The Joint Task Force on Basic Education Finance regarding school finance needs to start from a different premise. What does it cost to “educate” not only the “learners” but the “reluctant learners” and what does a community have to do to show evidence that they are supporting education for all.

Out here we talk about “All means All,” but our numbers don’t suggest that we are even close. Education cannot be a “passive” activity for students.

President Obama put it quite well when he was in Seattle. “No amount of money can buy achievement.” He is so right! More dollars are not the answer.

The Educator Roundtable

I just bumbled into this:
The Educator Roundtable

Teachers, parents, scholars, and policy analysts have convened this roundtable in hopes of repealing the CURRENT authorization of the ESEA (No Child Left Behind Act). While we recognize that many individuals signed onto the legislation with the best of intentions, it is our hope that we can help them see the damage NCLB has done. While no one has yet leveled an effective, widespread challenge to the law, we are hopeful. We are hopeful that the thousands of disenfranchised educators, disillusioned parents, overburdened students and hyper-regulated school districts will work together to reclaim our free, public, and locally controlled schools. From there we can explore multiple paths of learning...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Latest Doomed Pedagogical Fad: 21st-Century Skills

Not specifically about math but dead on observations by Jay Mathews in the Washington Post.

Peyton Wolcott ( of Texas is right about schools in America being run by vendors. This is the most disgusting example of all--"No Vendor Left Behind" or "Partnership for 21st Century Skills." There is a need to expose Ken Kay, the founder of the Partnership.

Charlie Hoff connects the "21st Century Skills Fad" to Federal Way Schools:

Are our Federal Way school board members living under a rock?

At a recent school board meeting, where there doesn’t seem to be any crisis over achievement, even when only one in seven Blacks can pass the 10th grade math test, the board decided to pass a “Resolution” imploring the Legislature to “increase” the state’s funding of education to a level required by the Constitution to be “ample” and to comply with the lawsuit that the district won, known as “Fair Funding” that costs another $ 850 million.

Perhaps the school board, by living under a rock, hasn’t heard that the state was at least $6 billion short of paying the current costs for the next biennium.

The “ample education” that educators seem to be talking about would cost somewhere between $2 and $4 billion to which they petitioned to add “Fair Funding” at a cost of $850 million. The board went on to suggest that “all school boards” should join them in demanding that the taxpayers and Legislature fund education at these levels. No mention was made of what the school districts would do with this money, or how this additional largess would improve the achievement of the children attending these enriched schools. I guess the Legislature and taxpayers are to buy a “pig in a poke.”

Board member Amye Bronson-Doherty then went on to say that “she wanted her children to get ‘21st Century Learning Skills,’ a new buzz word for the educators, instead of the skills of the 1970’s.” As a product of education of the 50’s and a teacher in the 60’s and 70’s, I can assure Amye that most of the kids I meet and tutor aren’t getting the “skills of the 50-70’s.

In fact I would like to suggest that they don’t have the skills of the 17th Century children. While it is conjecture I would like to suggest that many, if not most, of the children in the Federal Way School District would be hard pressed to do Arithmetic with the children on the Mayflower of 1620.

When I was a school administrator, in the late 60’s my responsibilities included attendance at the 13 Amish schools, origins in the late 18th Century, and one Mennonite school in our district. These schools, taught by “uncertified” young unmarried Amish women, were turning out, in one room school houses without lights or running water, kids who were better prepared to calculate a 20% discount than the public school students nearby. No fancy curriculum, no “collaboration,” no “projects,” no “coaches,” or any other recent development for “improving” education.

Why do I think this is true? In both the case of the Mayflower children and Amish children, the adults in their lives have made education a clear priority for their children. Children were, or are, not permitted to diminish the importance of acquiring the skills that are needed to be a responsible adult.

Parents and other members of both of these communities all share the belief that children must prepare themselves for responsible adulthood. The use of some pretty “negative,” by current standards, actions such as “shame” and the “dunking stool” make it pretty clear to children that their society expects, or demands, that they apply themselves to their education. There isn’t any “special education” among Amish children, and I don’t think that it was even thought about in the time of the Mayflower.

Director Tony Moore stated at the Board meeting that this financial crisis was also an “opportunity” for the district to improve the education of our children by adopting different ways of educating children. With 6 out of 7 of our Blacks and 3 out of 4 of our Hispanics not meeting the minimal standards that this state defines it would appear that a different approach is needed, instead of asking the Legislature for the “pig in a poke.” Director Moore also stated that he felt that we could not wait for the Legislature to act to start making changes in our system.

In the early 1900’s Robertson Davies, a noted author wrote, “Education is hard work, not 
play, and its rewards are a seriously informed, wide ranging attitude towards real life, and the beginning of a great adventure." I believe that both the Amish, and the Mayflower passengers would agree with this. In fact there are many adults today who would concur.

More recently “Larry the Cable Guy” is thought to have written, “Hard work pays off in the future, laziness pays off now.” I fear that this motto is held in high regard by a very significant portion of our youth, and is not countermanded by the adults in their lives.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Today is Randy Dorn inauguration day

Randy Dorn is officially installed as SPI today.

Keep a watch on the OSPI webpage to see when Randy Dorn's picture replaces Dr. Bergeson's .... 'cause if it does not happen on the iNet is it true?

As of noon 1/14/2009 Randy's picture is on the website.

Here is Randy's agenda:

Randy Dorn speaks to House Education Committee

Randy introduced himself to the House Ed committee. He outlined his top 5 priorities and introduced his top staff.

Chief of Staff- Ken Knickenburke

Assist. Supt’s:

K – 12 Ed – Alan Burke

Deputy Supt of Communications – Robert Harkins

Gov’t Relations – John Altman

Federal Liaison – Tom Lopp

Public Policy and planning – Bob Butts

Finance – Jennifer Perdy

Randy begins at the 18 minute mark.
[8 things covered in his talk, in the order covered]

The new vision will be a bit of an older vision.

1. WASL needs to be replaced, it needs to actually show children's progress.

2. WA is 42nd in funding for schools. We need to improve. 25th in four years seems to be a reasonable goal. Education and WA budget are in crisis.

3. Drop Out Prevention and Recovery..

Early childhood education - Options for drop-outs
but retention for many kids comes with interest in extras
Arts & Drama, sports, FFA, etc. these keep many kids in school.

We have lots of options and this needs to remain so.

4. Career and Technical Ed.
Needs to be present in comprehensive high schools
(which has been in decline) as well as skills centers and running start.

5.Early Childhood ... all day kindergarten
private partnerships ... other acquistions

6. Data acquisition, retreival, and disemination will be improved.

7. Government needs to reduce (or eliminate) unfunded mandates on Education.

8. I will give you a different OSPI

In the questions ...
Randy made it clear that Algebra II for all is not a reasonable idea.


Randy will have Dan Newell long time Blaine High School principal heading to Olympia to work with secondary education issues. This is excellent as Dan Newell was my principal when I taught at Blaine HS for seven years. Dan is the ultimate people person and has a realistic view of reality. He will be a refreshing change from the increasingly detached from reality OSPI of Dr. Bergeson.

Congratulations to Randy Dorn on a great start.
Randy also stated that his transition will take about 6 to 8 months as he is not going to send a lot of current OSPI employees out looking for Education jobs in January in this economy. As education hiring happens in the spring and summer for most jobs, Randy felt it was unfair to treat current employees to unemployment in January.

It looks like as Randy mentioned during the campaign .. what you see is what you get.

His House Ed. Committee address covered the same things his campaign covered.
No bait and switch.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Is there an Achievement Gap Industry?

In looking at the latest report out of OSPI

I am beginning to think that there is actually little interest in Closing the Achievement gap but lots of interest in generating reports.

you can find a .pdf of the report linked from this page.

Below you will find the Seven Experts listed from Appendix C. (seemingly no math connections here)

In the fall of 2008 I went and listened to Expert Dr. Paul Riuz at the WaMu center in Federal Way. His premise was that the achievement Gap could be closed by putting the correct goals in place. He stated that Superintendents and education administrators were sharp folks and they would find a way to meet the goals if they were in place.

I asked the third question:
Dr. Ruiz, I see no evidence that goals are realized by Superintendent's programs. The SPS has had a goal to narrow the achievement Gap and in math in the SPS the achievement gap has continually expanded over the last decade. The poor math curriculum is a major part of this problem.

Dr. Ruiz informed me that yes that could be true but curriculum was not the subject of his presentation.

How can closing the achievement gap be the topic and the curriculum not be a part? .. this report seems to have missed the curriculum component in the Achievement gap as well.

I also attended the community meeting at Cleveland High School,which is mentioned in the report. I raised a point that school improvement is related to curricular improvement and that the math curriculum pushed by OSPI over the last decade certainly had a hand in the current achievement gap. [The final report seems to have missed that fact.]

Also listed as an Expert is former superintendent of Clover Park SD Dr. Doris McEwen Harris. Over the last decade the CPSD has perhaps the worst math performance in the state. CPSD were early adopters of TERC/Investigations and Connected Math.
By what stretch of the imagination is the former CPSD Superintendent an expert, in regard to closing the achievement gap?

Also listed as an Expert is the Federal Way Superintendent. FW math results for African Americans are a disaster.

If you read through this paper on closing the achievement gap you will notice that it is absent any mention of math curricular recommendations. To solve a problem it would be good to investigate all of its causes.

Poor math textbooks are a significant part of the achievement gap but those who selected these defective materials for our children are not about to admit it. This seriously impacts the usefulness of this report in closing the achievement gap.

The legislature spent $150,000 on this report. The production employed a lot of people but I think this document looks more like a menu to spend lots of dollars than a plan to make current schools more effective.

The 7 Expert Consultants

Dr. Anderson is Gutgsell Professor and head of Educational Policy Studies at University of Illinois at Urbana-Campaign. An expert in educational history, Dr. Anderson’s scholarship and teaching explore and interrogate the institutional policy and intellectual trajectory of education in the United States. His in-depth and wide-ranging work examines crucial themes, including the history of African Americans in education in the American. Dr. Anderson is the author of several books and serves a keynote speaker on the achievement gap for African American students.

Dr. Ferguson is a Massachusetts Institute of Technology-trained economist whose three decades of work has focused on economic, social and educational challenges in urban America, with particular focus on issues of racial and ethnic inequality. For the past decade, Dr. Ferguson’s research at Harvard
University has focused on racial achievement gaps, and has appeared in publications of the National Research Council, the Brookings Institution, the U.S. Department of Education, the Educational Research Service and various other books and journals. He is the creator and director of the Tripod Project for school improvement and the faculty co-chair and director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard (

As Professor of Education at the University of Washington-Seattle, Dr. Gay teaches multicultural education and general curriculum theory. She is nationally and internationally known for her scholarship in multicultural education, particularly as it relates to curriculum design, staff development, classroom instruction and intersections of culture, race, ethnicity, teaching, and learning. Her writings include numerous articles and book chapters. Her professional service includes membership on several national editorial review and advisory boards. International consultations on multicultural education have taken her to Canada, Brazil, Taiwan, Finland, Japan, England, Scotland, Australia and Benin.

Dr. Mapp, a Lecturer on Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, has research and practice expertise in educational leadership and educational partnerships among schools, families and community members. Dr. Mapp is the author of a number of books, including the most recent book on family engagement, Beyond the Bake Sale: The Essential Guide to Family- School Partnerships. Dr. Mapp is a favored keynote speaker on issues of parent engagement and developing effective family-school partnerships, with particular interest to communities in poverty and communities whose primary members are people of color.

Since January 2000, Tom Murphy has been the superintendent of the Federal Way Public Schools, the third largest school district in the Puget Sound region. Superintendent Murphy believes that in education, “All Truly Means All”: that all children in Federal Way schools deserve equal access to a quality education that prepares them for productive, meaningful lives. His steadfast resolve has inspired teachers, staff, parents and the community to work together to maximize each student’s growth. These efforts have put FWPS ahead of the curve in work to close the achievement gap and increase student success. (who fact check this statement?)

Dr. McEwen Harris served as the superintendent for Clover Park School District from July 2000 until 2008, when she resigned to accept a Distinguished P-12 Educator position at the University of Washington in Seattle. At the UW, Dr. McEwen Harris’ duties include coordinating the program’s community college partnership, overseeing the Zesbaugh Scholars initiative that supports economically disadvantaged students interested in teaching, and working with superintendents, principals and other school leaders to improve teaching and learning. In addition to this work, she speaks at conferences around the state about the achievement gap, with particular emphasis on working with African American students.

Dr. Ruiz is senior advisor and co-founder of the Education Trust, Inc., and is recognized for his proven ability and extensive knowledge in guiding and helping schools and school districts in their efforts to improve academic achievement and close gaps. He has devoted more than 35 years of professional and advocacy work to the education success of all students. Working from San Antonio, Texas, Dr. Ruiz promotes high academic standards for all students at all levels, especially in schools and colleges serving large concentrations of low income and/or African American, Latino and Native American students.

Questions for Arne Duncan

Here is an interesting article from the Heritage Foundation.

Question 1: The Appropriate Federal Response to State Budget Challenges

Question 2: Reforming, Not Expanding, the Federal Role in Education

Question 3: Cutting Waste from the Department of Education's Budget

Question 4: Reforming Federal Early Childhood Education Programs

Question 5: Supporting Parental Choice in Education

See the article for discussion and commentary.

The New Way for Physics at M.I.T.

In the New York Times:

At M.I.T., Large Lectures Are Going the Way of the Blackboard

Paul Dunham's mini-analysis follows:

Key points:
Failure rates have dropped by 50% (but they were only 15% to start with. These are MIT students, after all, not you average American teenagers)

Attendance is up (but it is now counted towards the students grade, where it wasn't before)

Given a glancing mention in the article is a statment that students don't like the change. This is discussed more in the comments after the article, by recent MIT graduates. Mentioned ONLY in the comments is that the grading standards have been relaxed as well.

Once again, pop-ed methods are being credited with watershed improvements in learning while the data behind the conclusions is clearly confounded.

Chess in grades 2 and 3 (one hour a week)

I just stumbled onto a organized effort to have 2nd and 3rd graders playing chess for one hour a week in the regular school schedule.

Here is the link to the First Move program:

They list a lot of schools in the Seattle area as being part of this program.

Educators resist even good ideas from outsiders

In the Washington Post..

Educators resist even good ideas from outsiders

by Jay Matthews

With two massive parental revolts nearing victory in Fairfax County, and mothers and fathers elsewhere in the area plotting similar insurgencies, it is time to disclose a great truth about even the best educators I know: As much as they deny it, they really don't like outsiders messing with the way they do their jobs.
I asked some veteran parent activists who have passed my truth tests many times what they have found most annoying about these brushoffs. John Hoven, an advocate for gifted education in Montgomery County, said he joined a parent-staff committee to reach consensus on vital issues but after a year saw it was just a bureaucratic shuffle. The committee chairman, who worked for the county, encouraged trivial agenda items and insisted on formal presentations that left little time for discussion.
Fairgrade co-founder Megan McLaughlin, a former Georgetown University admissions officer, thought officials would be interested in her view that the county's narrow grading scale and lack of extra grade points for honors classes was hurting Fairfax kids. Instead, she said, her credentials were ignored, an out-of-date study was cited as gospel and a school board member said her complaint was "not a majority concern among parents." Now she has 8,500 parent signatures and a new county report that opens the way for extra grade points, and maybe everything else Fairgrade wants if it keeps pushing. The county says it wants to keep its grading system to fight grade inflation, a losing cause if there ever was one. Only independent national grading systems, like AP, International Baccalaureate, ACT and SAT, keep us honest.
I think I speak for most parents when I say we would appreciate a more willing suspension of disbelief when we pitch a suggestion and an openness to data before school officials make up their minds. Is that going to happen? I doubt it. And if you don't like this column, well, you're just ignorant.
In regard to math, I find the educational administration far more resistant to outside ideas than the teachers (remember I am a teacher, thus the bias). The administration seems to view ideas presented by teachers that run contrary to the current flow of edu-speak as particularly worthy of their opposition.

It seems that ideas presented by math teachers that run contrary to the current flow of nationally pushed math flim-flam are particularly ignored. Despite administrative recitations of accountability and transparency little evidence of either is present in many administrative decisions that influence math decisions. Unfortunately in Seattle there is little mathematical expertise guiding math decision making.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Lattice Method for Multiplication needed for Teacher Testing in Mass.

Check out problem 17 in this practice test.

This is really odd that a multiplication method which has little use is required for teachers. I guess because Everyday Math, which has the lattice method is used in some schools, it follows that all teachers are required to know the lattice method.

Feel Good Everything or
SuperNanny and Penalty Box?

From Charles R. Hoff a piece that could as well apply to Elementary School math programs that fail to teach arithmetic and High School Math programs that fail to teach algebra.

Should the City of Federal Way buy a Performing Arts Center or a “Supernanny” and a “Penalty Box?”

The City seems to be involved in a debate over how to spend taxpayers’ dollars to make this a “better city.” Numerous writings have appeared supporting the idea that a performing arts center, such as the one in Auburn or Burien, is just what the city needs to “become a better city.” Many of these writings tout that a center “will bring many dollars” into the community, presumably from outside of the city. Must be a lot of loose money out there!

In the past the city has “invested” in many community projects including Celebration Park, Camp Kilworth, Knutsen Theatre and most recently the Community Center. All of these projects, I believe, have not been able to support themselves from their current income, and certainly have not been able to repay the invested cost. In addition the County has “invested” in the Aquatics Center. I do not know if it pays for its current operating costs. The community, mostly the “movers and shakers” also raised the funds to build and operate the “EX-3” Teen Center for the Boys and Girls club.

What has been the driving force for these investments, and the proposed Performing Arts Center? Largely the small group of “movers and shakers” who have some concerns about the “appearance” of Federal Way to some of the outsiders and their own personal, and family preferences.

Most of there facilities are recreational in nature. These people, the movers and shakers, have kids, or grandkids, who use the soccer fields and other recreational facilities that have been built by the city, and they attend the arts performances in the Knutsen Theatre.

The “movers and shakers” seem to be overlooking what I believe are two of the most significant reasons why the city cannot seem to attract high wage employers. Both of these have to do with a group of youth that these previous projects have not impacted.

I happened to watch “Supernanny” this week. As usual she was faced with a group of kids who were out of control by any adults. They did what they wanted to when they wanted to. Sound like some of the youth of Federal Way? Just read the police blotter or look at the test scores of our kids, and you will have an idea that we have a group of youth in the city who are “making their own rules” and “living their own lifestyle.” It would seem that there are no limits to what kind of mischief that they can find.

Supernanny took the parents to task for their “laziness;” and developed the Soccer analogy to include the “yellow and red cards” and the “penalty box.” I would like to suggest that this is what our City Council might be looking at to make Federal Way a lighthouse for prospective employers. What if the City were known as a place where behavior was outstanding?

What if every youth, and their parents, knew, by the actions of the school and community, that violations of laws and rules would have a “lifestyle altering” consequence? No more “community service” unless it were conducted in a prison jump suit alongside of the road, No more “deferred sentences” or “adjudications” for violations of laws. To do this one has to have a “penalty box” that is large enough to accommodate the “red cards” for long enough for them to reconsider their actions. In schools if you violate the rules detention altering your social calendar would be assigned such as Saturday starting at 0600. If you violate laws in a school setting let the police handle it. No “extenuating circumstances!” Whatever laws could be used to bring the parents into the penalty box for lack of supervision should also be fully enforced.

Perhaps the Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, could offer us some advice on building a penalty box. Sheriff Joe Arpaio is well known for his housing of criminals in low cost facilities that inmates find less than comfortable. This tends to reinforce the “avoidance” syndrome.

At first the volume of “red cards” might be more than the city could handle in a permanent penalty box. We might want to start this program in the spring to take advantage of some temporary facilities for overflow. Once the program was established, I would predict that volumes would decline rapidly.

Would there be some screaming and hollering? You bet! When consequences are effective, there is “stress” upon the offender, their families and friends.

Think what Federal Way could be like if there was very little youth crime, and the schools were known for their achievement levels throughout the nation. I would bet that employers would be knocking on our doors.

“Federal Way, where all means all” would take on a new meaning. Great community, well educated workforce, work ethic, honesty prevails. Could be a great seller!

by Charles R. Hoff

Math minus Algebra = A grade

From the U.K.

School league tables to be published this week are set to be overshadowed by claims that pupils are awarded high grades in the subject despite missing out vital topics.

Changes to the maths GCSE introduced last summer have allowed pupils to gain good grades by answering easier questions, avoiding more challenging areas like algebra.

As schools are judged on how many pupils achieve five good GCSEs, including maths and English, any improvement in maths will push more schools up the rankings, allowing the Government to claim standards are rising. But the headline figures mask a dumbing-down of the exam, according to critics.

Roger Porkess, the chief executive of Mathematics in Education and Industry, an independent curriculum development body which works with hundreds of schools, said: "You can get an A* by doing very little algebra now, and there is very little challenge at the top end. There is an awful lot of fear that the new exam is going to lead to people not being prepared to go on to do A-level."

Friday, January 9, 2009

Off Task .. Seattle Post Intelligencer

The Seattle P-I newspaper is being put up for sale. Steve Swartz, president of Hearst Newspaper Division, told the newsroom that Hearst Corp. is starting a 60-day process to find a buyer.

If a buyer is not found, Swartz said, possible options include creating an all digital operation, or shutting down the paper.

I love the PI.
Please do not shut down
if all digital is an option.

The PI has wonderful writers covering the local scene,
especially Jessica Blanchard on education.

"Freedom of the Press" to hold the elected accountable ... I see Newspapers doing this more than TV etc. on the local scene.

OK nothing has been able to hold the SPS accountable.
The PI covers the SPS much better than the Times.
The Times cut back a lot more on SPS ed coverage than the PI.

Guess I need to look forward to a digital PI,
much better than no PI, if digital still has good local coverage by good writers.

Kentucky Math Legislation is moving forward

SJR 19 (BR 804) - D. Kelly, K. Winters, J. Westwood

Direct the Kentucky Department of Education to use the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics report recommendations to revise mathematics core content standards and materials in grades prekindergarten through grade 12 by August 2009, and revise math assessments accordingly by the 2009-2010 school year.


SCS - Retain original provisions except direct the Kentucky Department of Education to consider rather than incorporate the 2008 findings of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel in its revision of core content standards.

Jan 7-introduced in Senate; to Education (S)
Jan 8-reported favorably, 1st reading, to Calendar with Committee Substitute
Jan 9-2nd reading, to Rules

The links:

Math Resolution hits the Kentucky Senate:


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Education a Civil Right?
by C.R. Hoff

Is Education the “Civil Right” of the 21st Century?
by Charles R. Hoff

I keep hearing this phrase in current writings about this country. Certainly there is plenty of documentation that would suggest that success in American life is far more common among those who have had some success in learning during their early life.

But wait! We now know that the current generation of Americans is the first in our history that will have LESS education than the previous generation! More money has been spent on “education” of the current generation than any previous generation. Yet the results are less than impressive. Girls now account for 60% of all college graduates, and in this state, only 14% of 9th graders will graduate from college in 10 years. Washington State has approximately 32% of adults who have a college degree, but only 14% of the current generation are on track to replace the current adults.

Does this sound a little like the declining reserves of petroleum? The suggestion that we “drill” for more oil might also be a good suggestion for what we might need to do about education!

Our minorities, an ever increasing share of our population, seem to have “suffered” the most in this race to get an education. In fact one has to ask if our secondary school system, as it currently operates, isn’t more of an “entertainment center” for minorities.

Using 10th grade statistics from Olympia, as this is the only high school grade that is measured by the state; we find that 48 of 210 Blacks in Federal Way can meet the minimum standard in Mathematics as set by the state. Among Hispanics the numbers are only slightly better. 66 of 187 students can meet the state standard. 879 out of 1402 students in the Federal Way School district can meet this standard. A little math here would suggest that 283 of the 523 students in Federal Way that did not meet the minimum standard were either Black or Hispanic. 54% of those not meeting the standard were either Black or Hispanic, however these two groups account for only 28% of the student body.

Couple this with much higher discipline rates for these two groups, and you should be able to make a case for the concept that many of these students are not coming to school with the idea of learning much in a classroom setting. Some are quite forthright in suggesting that their vocational goals are either in athletics or “music,” and they don’t mean attending Julliard!

Last spring the Superintendent commissioned a study of “Black Achievement” by a “task force” largely of educators and not including as far as I could see, anyone who might be critical of current practices, to “study” this problem and to seek a solution. They read the McKinsey report on minority education, then came up with a series of recommendations to reduce the “gap” in achievement.

Sadly, in my opinion, these recommendations followed the usual educators’ solutions to any problem. Instead of a “head on” addressing of the situation, they suggested adding “math coaches” to each secondary school and no consequence for lack of achievement! They totally neglected to think about any serious discussions with the adults in these kids’ lives.

The idea of “consequence” for attitude and motivational shortcomings never seemed to cross the Task Force’s mind. We have become a nation where “consequence” is not something that we are willing to discuss in absolute terms.

The “defense” for offering athletics, the most expensive courses per student, and participated in significant numbers by minorities, in our schools is “that there are kids who wouldn’t even come to school, let alone do any work, if the threat of not being able to “play” was not hanging over their head. Many of these kids will try to do at least the minimum amount of work, during the athletic season of concern, and then revert to non participation in academics when “not in season.” Another rationale for athletics is that “scholarships” are available for great chariot racers and gladiators.” The fact is that there are far more scholarships, thankfully, available for “scholars,” than there are for “gladiators.” Many minorities seem to only understand part of this equation.

Our fixation with athletics has led us to some pretty interesting priorities. Why does the football coach at UW make more than the president? Why is the academic admission standard for gladiators over 300 points lower on the SAT for many colleges? Why do we have a college in this state that offered a scholarship to a student in Federal Way who hadn’t passed his high school freshman courses? It goes on and on and yet this is the aspiration of many of our minority students.

What is the solution to the “minority gap?” I think it has to do with a far more realistic approach to success in school and consequences for a lack of effort. For most of us success in the adult world revolved around “effort” in something other than athletics or music. The knowledge that we gained in high school was vital to our adult life. To be able to “read, write and count” gave us a leg up on others. Sadly there seems to be little “discomfort” for non-achievement in secondary schools.

Yogi Bear was fond of saying that “He was smarter than the average bear,” and he was not far wrong for most of us. We know that this generation is less well educated than the past generation, so this should make Yogi’s saying very applicable. The forest seems to be more populated with “dumb bears” than ever, and this is an age where “smart bears” are doing well. Could it be that our training ground for adulthood is a “sheltered workshop” for most kids? If so, this is leading to a long life in the minimum wage, or a worse lifestyle, portrayed on Judge Judy almost every day.

In the latest flyer from the League of Educational Voters they state, “You can get a 4.0 GPA and not be able to get into college in this state!” That is unless you are a chariot racer or gladiator!

If education is a “civil right” then we ought to make sure that all are “getting it!”

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

If Content was important, then ......

The situation below reminds me of when "The Stranger" gave Dr. Bergeson some WASL questions to answer as part of their interview during her campaign for re-election. (She went 0 for 3)

If content was important, then think about the following situation?

Keep in mind this article is over a decade old. It seemed like a great idea but have we seen anything similar elsewhere ... (content seemingly is NOT important)

Consider what happened in a Long Island school district that used Regents exams as a filter for hiring new teachers.
------------ --------- -

Of the 758 applicants, only about a quarter passed: just 202 could
correctly answer at least 40 of the questions. A35754C0A961958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all

July 8, 1997
Teacher Applicants Fail What Students Must Pass
School officials in the Connetquot district were not surprised this spring when they got hundreds of applications for 35 vacancies. Since at least the 1980's, the supply of Long Island teachers has far exceeded the number of jobs available.

But what did surprise the officials was how many of the job seekers could not pass the new test the district had devised to prevent any complaints of favoritism -- 50 multiple-choice reading comprehension questions from old Regents exams in English given to high school juniors. Of the 758 applicants, only about a quarter passed: just 202 could correctly answer at least 40 of the questions.

''We didn't think it was an outrageous standard for the teachers,'' said Robert J. Long, Connetquot's assistant superintendent for instruction. They were asked to pass a test like the ones they would be preparing their students to take, he said. ''And regardless of what they are teaching the children, they should be able to communicate on an 11th-grade level.''

The test was not the only standard by which the job applicants were measured. The process also included a review of credentials and academic transcripts, a writing test, interviews and teaching demonstrations. Specialists in subjects like math and science were also tested on their topics. But anyone who did not pass the Regents test was immediately removed from consideration.

''To be honest, I thought more people would get 40 or more correct answers -- after all, these are people that have baccalaureate degrees and state certification to teach, and some have a master's,'' Mr. Long said. ''I was a little surprised.''

More and more states and school districts have expanded testing and evaluations of existing faculty members in recent years. But education experts say the Connetquot district, which covers Oakdale, Bohemia and Ronkonkoma, a typical middle-class area near MacArthur Airport in central Suffolk County, is one of the few places that have used such a test for new applicants.

''This is the first time I've heard of a multiple-choice type test, though there may be others out there,'' said Chris Pipho, a spokesman for the Education Commissioners of the States, a nonprofit group based in Denver. ''I have heard of some districts doing a writing test, and requiring a writing sample from applicants is fairly common.

''Personally, I think it would be a good screening device,'' Mr. Pipho said of Connetquot's approach. ''If you're hiring teachers to teach children to pass tests, it's hard to build an argument that they shouldn't be able to take it themselves.' '

Leaders of the Connetquot Teachers Association supported the use of the hiring exam, and teachers helped draft and administer it, Mr. Long said. Officers of the association did not respond to a request for an interview.

At the American Association of School Administrators, a nonprofit group in Arlington, Va., a senior associate executive director, Gary D. Marx, said the high failure rate has ''immediate shock value.'' He said, ''Giving 50 Regents questions is a fairly unique idea -- not that it's a bad idea.'' But he added that a multiple-choice test was not enough, because teaching involves many skills, like the ability to interact with students.

Even experts can be humbled by tests. ''It's easy to embarrass people on this,'' Mr. Pipho said. In a seminar with 100 school superintendents, he gave a sample quiz in teacher competency that some of them flunked. ''I posted the results and got all kinds of rationales and excuses -- like 'I got here late because of the snowstorm,' and 'I didn't know you were going to do this,' '' he said.

Connetquot's test stemmed partly from local complaints about the qualifications of some teachers, especially those whose relatives were school board members when they were hired. But new members of the board wanted ''an absolutely level playing field,'' Mr. Long said.

The Connetquot district serves 6,800 students in 10 schools. Teacher pay ranges from $31,686 for beginners to $84,625 for teachers with 30 years of experience and a doctorate. The pay scale is similar in neighboring districts, Mr. Long said.

Hiring became a crucial issue this year because of an unusual surge in retirements. At the same time, a glut of trained teachers seeking work produced an enormous pool from which to pick: about 2,500 people initially asked about the 35 vacancies.

''The job market on Long Island is very competitive, and the board felt we wanted the brightest teachers we could find,'' Mr. Long said.

The new process was proposed by a freshman board member, Fran Hohenberger. ''I'm just thrilled ,'' she said. ''It was basically one of my issues when I was running, for hiring based on what you know, not who you know. I couldn't have done it alone. It was a supportive board, and once we stepped back and let the professionals take over, it worked beautifully. ''

The school board is expected to hire the finalists formally at its next meeting later this month. In the end, Mr. Long said, ''I interviewed some of the finest candidates that I've ever seen in 31 years'' in education. ''We will bring some of the finest teachers to Connetquot. I couldn't be happier.''

I would be a lot happier if Math Program Managers knew enough math to pass
a Trig test and could demonstrate some Calculus proficiency.

If a person can not do that ...
then how can they make competent decisions that affect the curriculum ....
when they do not even know the content of the curriculum

How Fuzzy are we?

According to the somewhat inaccurate OSPI survey
in response to the legislative mandate,
it turns out:

for middle school
64% use CMP or CMP2,
6% Math Thematics,
4% College Prep Math,
3% Mathscape,
3% Passports,
2% Glencoe,
2% Saxon, etc. Or according around-- 77% fuzzy.

In comparison K-5 is 85% fuzzy
(34% EM, 32% TERC, 9% Growing with math, 7% Trailblazers, 4% Bridges).

Inaccurate because Mercer Island uses Passports in 6-8 and OSPI has them using CMP; which they use in a single class.

There may be other inaccuracies also but these are the OSPI figures.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Thought for the Day

"Did the group doing the study contain both believers and nonbelievers?

One of the few things that is usually true in the study of education goes something like this:

1) Innovative methods OFTEN work well in the hands of the innovators.

2) Innovations SOMETIMES work well at large.

3) Studies of how the innovation works done by the innovators ALWAYS report that it works great."

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Curriculum Audit .. one year later
Not much change for the better

Seattle Schools had a Curriculum Audit done by Phi Delta Kappa.
You do not hear much about this currently as the district has largely neglected this audit. It was completed about one year ago in January of 2008.

Here is a piece from it: (page 226)

Overview of What the Auditors Found in the Seattle Public Schools

This section is an overview of the findings that follow in the area of Standard Four. Details follow within separate findings.

The auditors found that the district has parts of a comprehensive student assessment and program evaluation plan embedded in various board policies and bylaws, in several job descriptions, and different district plans. The fragmentation of the planning does not allow the district staff to take a coordinated and rational approach to evaluating student achievement in all grade levels and subject areas or to evaluating programs that are designed to increase student achievement.
Finding 4.1: The district lacks a comprehensive student assessment and program evaluation plan to guide decisions for improving student achievement.
Comprehensive program evaluation plans provide the board, district administrators, and teachers with information that allows them to make effective instructional decisions. Without such information, programs that are ineffective or marginal are allowed to continue to use resources that could be better used in other ways to address student needs. Without such information, interventions become more numerous and often result in little change in student achievement. More time, money, and effort are spent with no real increase in student success.

If you would like to see more of what the Curriculum Audit found, you can find it here:

All 396 pages of a .pdf... SPS spent $125,000 on this ... so why the neglect? This audit is rarely referenced.

Is it because the audit clearly outlines what needs change and the SPS is not about clarity?

No Standards in Seattle Math

Gordon said:
But isn't the district interested in students meeting WASL standard at 3-8? This might qualify as a "standard" if one chose, and the district does supply math coaches in addition to regular ed math teachers. Not to defend their practice, but to note that there appear to be SOME standards.
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The SPS current practice is to follow the Everyday Math pacing plan k-5.
These adoptions of EDM and CMP2 were done because OSPI at one time rated EDM and Connected Math as most aligned to the WASL Math standards, there was no data that these programs actually work very well. In fact EDM and Connected Math were known failures in Denver prior to the Boards 7-0 vote to adopt EDM in May 2007.

If there are currently " SOME standards.", they are not the current WA k-8 math standards. The district has posted Math Grade level expectations (from the WA k-8 math standards) that the SPS ignore. The math coaches only advocate following the EDM pacing plan for k-5 teachers. These coaches do not know much else I guess.

The SPS is doing something entirely different than what "Excellence for All" advocates.

The following is from "Excellence for All"
Immediate Actions

• Math: A Math Project Team will develop an implementation plan and timeline for action during summer 2008. Alignment of the elementary and middle school instructional materials to the new State Performance Expectations will be completed this summer. Teacher leaders from each elementary, middle and high school will be trained during the summer of 2008 to facilitate professional development sessions for their schools around the mathematics content and the pedagogy needed to support implementation of an aligned program. Every math teacher will be provided up to four days of professional development to learn to use the online resources included with the Curriculum Guide.

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If the CAO would only share what the real Math Grade level expectations are, which the students are really expected to meet (then the SPS would have some standards).... what is posted on the SPS website is a total fiction.
Her actions leave teachers, parents, and students confused if they believe that classroom direction k-5 has anything to do with what is posted on the SPS website as Math Grade level expectations.

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Sure wish I knew what some standards currently are.
The EDM series has way too many goals per grade level. The SPS continually ignores all the evidence and just does whatever the "Club Ed" professionals choose.
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There may be a plan of action but there are no standards.


Sudhakar Reviews the Two Million minutes Trilogy

I do not write documentary reviews very often, but I decided to make an exception for these two DVDs that were released in December. The two DVDs, as their titles mention, are in-depth reviews on the educational systems of India and China, the two countries that have been absent in the traditional international comparisons of educational achievement, such as TIMSS and PISA. However, these countries are becoming hard to ignore, since they have taken much larger global share of the manufacturing and intellectual capital in the last decade. The conventional wisdom in the US is that the labor costs are the sole drivers for this shift. The documentary sheds a totally different light on the issue. It suggests that the quality of graduates coming out of schools and colleges is fundamentally better suited for the 21st century knowledge economy. Putting two and two together, the shift in manufacturing and software may have initially happened because of cost (which continues to be an advantage for both nations), but the growth in those countries is happening because of the fundamental difference in the quality of human resources. Putting it bluntly, “those jobs ain’t comin’ back”. Another hard-to-ignore fact is that put together, these countries have roughly eight times the number of students in their K-12 system as the US. Historically speaking, this is unprecedented. The US high school graduate now has to compete in a tremendously larger pool of qualified job seekers or college applicants.

For those who are just getting introduced to 2 Million Minutes, it was a DVD released earlier in 2008. The producer of the DVD, Bob Compton, is a venture capitalist and an angel investor in several technology companies worldwide. His venture funding includes several companies in India and China. Bob mentions that when he visited these companies and met their employees, their “well roundedness” and the depth of general knowledge impressed him. He then proceeded to look into the K-12 education system, and was impressed even more. His passion for the topic of education led to the first documentary “2 Million Minutes”, which depicted the time a typical high school student spends in the four years (which add up to roughly 2 million minutes) in the US, China and India. Although a bit light on the statistical aspects, the videos highlight the important difference between the US and the emerging nations – amount of time spent in gaining knowledge and skills. The DVD puts the Chinese students first, Indian students next, and the US students last, in the rough proportions of 3:2:1. The first DVD was screened at several high power conferences, to education leaders and governors of several states, and even to Barak Obama. This was one powerful documentary in its own right.

In the new DVDs, probably produced in response to questions raised after the first one, Bob Compton delves deeper into the time spent on each subject, the high level curriculum in the last four years, and interviews with the principals of two schools, one in Shanghai, China, and another in Bangalore, India. Again, the focus here is on main differences between the US system and the systems in the other two. I particularly liked the interviews with the principals. The Chinese gentleman was particularly impressive, with his vast knowledge of the school system, curricula, and the command of English language. (I cannot imagine a typical principal in the US doing an interview for a Chinese documentary in Mandarin, unless he/she is of Chinese descent). The lady who was the principal of the Indian school was equally impressive because she had a master’s degree in Physics, and other than a slight accent, her command of the English language was comparable. This boiled down to their students as well. They felt comfortable enough with English to crack jokes, use slang, and debate their American counterparts. There is enough meat in the hour or longer in each video to whet the appetites of people wanting to get an introduction to high school education in both countries, and I recommend them highly.

But that is not what I want to spend my time on in this blog. Having been born and educated in India, and raised three kids in the US education system, I can highlight a few important differences between the two based on my personal experience. A few comments I will make on the Chinese system are based on research, not first hand experience. For example, China hardly has any private schools, and segregates their top performers early so that they can get advanced education, and go on to college. The US has about 12% of the students attending private schools, the rest attend public schools. A small but growing number of students are home schooled. India has roughly a third attending for-profit private schools, another third attending schools built with public-private partnerships, and the last third attending government run schools. I have categorized my comments in “myth busters” format. Please read on.

1. Myth - Kids educated in India and China are not “well rounded”. Reality – “Well roundedness” has different definition in different countries, and it is very subjective. In the US, someone who is active in athletics, and maintains a decent GPA may be considered “well rounded”. The emphasis tends to be decidedly tilted towards sports in the US, and towards academics in both India and China. It does not mean the kids grow up with no exposure to the arts or athletics. The kids from both countries in the videos play sports, musical instruments, and engage in social activities with their friends. I think this is fairly typical of India, from my personal observation.

2. Myth – Kids in 3rd world countries have poor English language skills – Reality - While this may be true for immigrants from some nations, India has had a long tradition of dealing with the British, and continues to mandate English as a second language in all schools. China has started doing that as well. The top one third of the students (more than twice the total number of students in the US) get top notch English education – including penmanship, spelling, grammar, essay writing, modern literature, and the classics. Recently, more and more schools have started offering English as the only language of instruction for all classes. Ironic, because they end up taking their native language as a second language! And because of large populations, both China and India, by some accounts, each have more English speakers than the US.

3. Myth – Countries like India and China do not educate their entire population – Reality: Both China and India have mandatory primary education, and will soon have mandatory secondary education. Coverage is poor in the rural areas of India, which is comparable to the high school dropout rate in the US. What gets lost in these claims is that both India and China have been able to produce enormous growth rates with what they have already accomplished in education. When they eventually get to 100% secondary schooling, it will only serve to increase the contrast between themselves and the US.

4. Myth – Students are stressed out in the Asian countries. Reality - Stress can come from various sources. In Asian countries, the sources of stress are few and are academically oriented. In the US, the stress sources include divorce, relocation, drugs, sports, peer pressure, jobs, and physical relationships, on top of academics. Those who ignore academics in school get a double whammy in college – high cost of education, and high failure rates. The suicide rate for college students in the US is much higher compared to Asian countries that maintain similar data.

5. Myth – Schools in India and China only teach to the tests. Reality - Testing, or more accurately assessment, is the only measurement tool that systems have for making sure students have retained the skills and knowledge they are expected to have. Without ascertaining a minimum competency at each grade, the students are not allowed to proceed (no social promotions). Over time, this system ensures more students graduate from the system well prepared for college or life. Actually, I contend the vilification of “teaching to the test” is more an indictment of poorly designed tests, than the concept of testing itself. Once a student goes on to college, or gets a typical private sector job, there are tests and assessments galore. Having a competency based promotion system just reinforces this reality much sooner in life.

6. Myth – Our top students can beat their top students. Reality – Maybe a decade or two ago, but no longer. The sheer numbers of students from China getting awards in ISEF (Intel Science and Engineering Fair), an international competition for high school students, is staggering. One study estimates the number of students in the gifted programs in China outnumbers the total number of students in the US. Even when American kids do well, a large proportion of our top students who compete in math, science, chess, spelling bees, geography bees, science fairs and so on, are children of first generation immigrants from China, India and other countries. Apparently, these students do well in spite of our public education system, and not because of it.

All in all, the whole 2 MM trilogy has a lot going for it in terms of raising the awareness of the emphasis placed on education in the two emerging giants. Kudos to Bob Compton for taking time out of his busy schedule to champion this cause.

Posted By Sudhakar to It's Action Time at 1/04/2009 11:46:00 AM
More from Sudhakar Kudva at:

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Infuential Groups lay out Plans (US News)

More Plans ...
as reported in US News and World Report

From the article:
If the United States wants to keep those jobs at home, the authors of the report say the government should focus more resources on education and import best practices from top-performing countries.

That's the approach that other countries have taken. Germany, for example, put together a team of experts to study what other high-performing countries were doing. The investment led Germany to adopt several reforms, including opening 10,000 all-day schools, that led to higher student achievement. Singapore, which now leads the world in math and science achievement, made a similar investment after trailing other countries in similar international comparisons in the mid-1980s.

In contrast, the report says, the United States has largely ignored the international benchmarking movement in education.

There's plenty of room for improvement, the authors say. The curriculum that the typical American eighth grader studies is two full years behind the curriculum that students in the top-performing countries are studying.