Saturday, March 28, 2009

Algebra for all by grade 9 .. ??

As the Seattle Public Schools examine a textbook recommendation for high school math instructional materials that include nothing below algebra, I must ask: "Is this reasonable?"

Rather than relying on the Central Admin Spin Factory, I went for common sense and a bit of research.

Luckily this same folly has already been tried in Chicago and reported on in Education Week.

Published Online: March 6, 2009
Published in Print: March 11, 2009
Algebra-for-All Policy Found to Raise Rates Of Failure in Chicago
By Debra Viadero

This article also includes a link to the actual study:

College-Preparatory Curriculum for All:
The Consequences of Raising Mathematics Graduation Requirements on Students’ Course Taking and Outcomes in Chicago

by Elaine M. Allensworth, Ph.D. and Takako Nomi, Ph.D.,

Consortium on Chicago School Research, University of Chicago

This policy that Chicago tried in 1997 seems to be sweeping the country now and not a lot of thought is being given to how it really affects schools,” Elaine M. Allensworth, the lead researcher on the study, said in an interview.

{ Not a lot of thought .. Not a lot of thought .. Not a lot of thought .. Think SPS Central and Math Admin}

From the paper:
Conclusions: Changing requirements led to more students taking and receiving credit in rigorous-sounding courses, but grades suffered slightly and later course-work were unaffected. Thus, most of the benefits of the “College Prep for All” policy suggested by the extant research were unrealized in Chicago contexts.

Until Seattle School Directors decide that they need to take a decisive role in mathematics direction there will be little if any improvement. Leadership by the Autocracy of "Company Men" continues to produce substandard materials and now over a decade of substandard results.

Until the Directors demand accountability and rational decision making, Seattle will continue to waste dollars by the millions and have nothing to show.

In May 2007, the directors adopted Everyday Math which produced a k-8 Denver known failure combination of Everyday followed by Connected Math Project in Seattle. At the EDM adoption Seattle significantly increased instructional time to 75 minutes per day at each k-5 grade level. Spent a large sum on k-5 teacher professional development. The result was that in 2008 the WASL math passing rate of SPS grade 4 students declined by 5.5% and Hispanic grade four students by 10% and Black grade four students by 4.4%.

In April 2009, Seattle is poised once again to continue and extend this massive math mistake.

To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data. I am still waiting for that to happen. Cherry Picked data to support pre-determined decisions is clearly not working.

When will Seattle change from the inquiry and exploration dedicated mind set to a Core Knowledge mind set and begin teaching our students appropriate Mathematics like the high performing math nations of the world?

Chicago was using Everyday Math and Trail Blazers as their two elementary math programs during this time. Very poor preparation for pursing algebra.
Should the SPS adopt the "Discovering" series, they will have completed the copying of other's k-12 math failures.


Anonymous said...

Your solution to use PH is better than SPS's solution - EDM and Connected Math. And I believe it is true that the administrators are representing the publishers best interest, not the public's.

PH is not the best solution. It is an average textbook with an average set of problems. It will never succeed in educating more than above average children.

Singapore Math is a k-12 curriculum (with standards), not a textbook as most people are imagining. It has the power to transform children. The 'Zen' NCTM can go stick carrots in their donkey ears. Hari krishna math anyone?

dan dempsey said...

From the comments....

Although I agree with Ms. Viadero's article, the National Mathematics Advisory Panel did not recommend Algebra at grade 9.

In the "Foundations for Success" report, the panel recommends:

"All school districts should ensure that all preparedstudents have access to an authentic algebra course—and should prepare more students than at present to enroll in such a course by Grade 8. The word “authentic” is used here as a descriptor of a course that addresses algebra consistently with the Major Topics of School Algebra (Table 1, page 16). Students must be prepared with the mathematical prerequisites for this course according to the Critical Foundations of Algebra (page 17) and the Benchmarks for the Critical Foundations (Table 2, page 20"

The emphasis must be on "preparing" students for algebra. Unfortunately, California and Chicago are both mandating algebra without first ensuring that all students have mastered the critical foundation skills.

I believe that parents should encourage children to take algebra early in their educational careers - if they are academically ready. Students who do not take courses covering algebraic concepts early in their schooling risk missing important opportunities for growth. By the end of junior and senior years, students who have not planned ahead, have fewer options in what classes they can take and may not be able to complete prerequisite courses. This can restrict a student’s college options and limit their career aspirations.

-Judy Ann Brown
Math Program Manager for Sylvan Learning

Anonymous said...

This is really much ado about nothing. You have yet to describe what authentic algebra is, much less describe what students ought to know before taking a class like algebra that requires higher order thinking (Not really).

For instance, the difference of two squares can be explained with a paper and scissors proof using the geometry of rectangles (omg). No wonder students are prepared to throw textbooks at their incompetent professeurs. Why do we need graphing calculators to explain the explainable?

52 * 48 = 2500 - 4

Singapore is written simply and it is practical.

Anonymous said...

In keeping with this country's lack of interest in educating their kids - my son (16) has skipped most of high school and is now in the recording industry making music. I told him I'd buy him a car if he finished wasting time at high school.

My daughter (14) with a disability (who by the way hates school completely) is doing an internship with an artist. IEP is a ridiculous waste of time for most kids. The standards movement gives teachers carte blanche for failing kids. That should not be where we focus our attention on 'improving' the system. We are ignoring 80% of our students who can't find anything positive to say about public or private education. Charter schools are just another rippoff (JAR).

In a few years with education cutbacks, most people won't have any place to send their kids for higher education anyway.

Obama is right, parents shouldn't expect much from school. School sucks for most kids, most of the time. Schools could start by adopting curriculum that makes sense for people who are literate.

California is on the right track, only they haven't adopted the right textbook. At least they didn't buy into the math reform spiel, that's a pit filled with snakes and Washington's got a bad case. You've got to feel bad for kids living there.

Anonymous said...

LAUSD is not doing what the rest of California is doing - they have been with the reform movement since its inception and it clearly shows in their lack of results.

Along with the math reform movement comes charter schools, privatization, and merit pay (loss of teacher rights - like tenure). The exodus in student enrollment clearly shows the negative impact these policies have on public education.

The people leading the reform movement need to have their wallets emptied. Give public education back to parents and students. Bush is a scoundrel of the first order.