Thursday, April 30, 2009

Everyday Math in Palo Alto vote 3-2

Musings about NAEP

How to Stack an Adoption Committee ... SPS style

A guide on how to continue k-12 ineffective inquiry based mathematics. When will example based instructional materials ever be adopted by Seattle Schools?

I have wondered for over two years how Seattle gets such poor math text adoption finalists. At last I have an answer, helped by an FOIA release. Examine this 5 question form and the scoring rubric. The score from these 5 questions determines which teachers, staff and administrators are on the adoption committee.

In thinking about question #1, keep in mind that until this school year the Standards were the Terry Bergeson inquiry/discovery model standards, which were "F" rated and eventually replaced with the help of the Washington legislature. Is it a good thing for a teacher to get a 4 on the score scale below for question #1?

1. Describe your understanding of and your experience with standards-based instructional materials.

0- No Awareness of Standards
1- Awareness of the existence of Standards
2- Understanding of the Standards
3- Described how they implemented them in their teaching
4- Facilitate other teachers with their use of Standards

In thinking about question #2, remember the achievement gaps have increased for a decade+. These committees continually fail to select materials or devise plans that work for these groups listed.

2. Describe your experience with special needs groups ( eg: Special Ed. English Language Learners, and Advanced Learners) and diverse cultural groups.

0- No experience with diverse learning styles and cultures
1- Limited experience with diverse learning styles and cultures
2- New Spe. Needs teachers –or—Reg. w/ some experience with diverse learning styles and cultures
3- Exp. Spe. Needs teachers –or—Reg. w/ lots of experience with diverse learning styles and cultures
4- Spe. Needs teacher with wide variety of experience with diverse learning styles and cultures

In thinking about #3, remember that 95%+ of SPS math Professional Development is Discovery/Inquiry based.

3. What recent classes or professional development opportunities related to mathematics teaching and learning have you participated in?
(Note this says classes related to mathematics teaching and learning not mathematics (as in mathematics content). Very odd that the district speaks of teachers with math content deficiencies but fails to encourage the taking of math content courses.

0- No Training
1-Limited course work (1 day per year)
2- Some course work (2-5 days per year)
3- Lots of course work (more than 1 week)
4- See self as an adult learner – or – Facilitates others

In #4 these are likely discovery/inquiry based opportunities and good scores go to those with resulting pedagogical changes.

4. How have these opportunities impacted your approach to the teaching and learning of mathematics?

0- No change
1- Changed 1 thing (1 lesson or 1 minor pedagogical change)
2- Some changes (Several pedagogical changes/confirmation of beliefs)
3- Significant change of practice
4- moved to leadership

In thinking about #5, the concern is not about selection of suitable materials. It seems that none of these questions are actually about suitable materials but rather whether the applicant has the appropriate view. Little wonder the recommended instructional materials are poor. What amazes me is that finally we actually have a really good runner up in Prentice Hall.. Think about the Elementary adoption with TERC/Investigations or Everyday Math ...

5. Describe an experience where you were working with someone with a different perspective than yours and explain how you worked toward a common agreement.

0- Never have a problem Or Never dealt with conflicting views
1- Argued until someone gave in
2- “Learned from each other”
3- Worked with a compromise or consensus model
4- Facilitated a group process for decision making


This completes today's lesson on how to stack a committee so that a culture based on ineffective inquiry based mathematics continues on. When will example based instructional materials ever be adopted by Seattle Schools?

In the application form to be on the HS math adoption committee it is especially disturbing that under purpose: alignment is mentioned but not alignment with the Washington Math Standards. In fact there is no mention of the Washington Math Standards under purpose.

Under goal the following appears:
These materials will be aligned with the Washington State Performance expectations articulated across grade levels. I believe that this is k-8 language. There are Washington State Performance expectations for Algebra and Geometry but none for Pre-Calculus or Calculus.

If I were a board member, I would want to see the Algebra pacing plan to confirm that all the Algebra standards are covered. I would be looking for that Geometry pacing plan also. I would not spend $1.2 Million without those pacing plans.
This is High School not k-8.

I would assume that the Algebra and Geometry Standards were passed out to the committee but as to whether a lot of attention was paid to alignment to those standards I would doubt it given the language of the application form.

The really high scoring applicants on the above questionnaire would likely be those who were members of PD^3. PD^3 projects at Garfield and Cleveland produced particularly poor results for ELL and for many other students.

So here we go again ... adopting a math book with little emphasis on fractions, decimals, or percents ... because those mathematically unprepared 9th graders are going to be in "Discovering Algebra" not an Authentic Algebra class ... so students take out your graphing calculators.

PD^3 was a multi-year professional development opportunity that was directed by UW's Dr. James King and heavily slanted toward inquiry based learning. There were many PD^3 participants on the adoption committee.

Now you know why in math the Example Based Instructional Materials that the children need are not in use in the SPS for k-12 students. The committee selection process screens out most teachers who would advocate for example based materials.

The Central Administration is now advocating for the "Discovering Series" which has been found to be mathematically unsound in reviews by independent mathematicians working for the state board of education. In response the district has Dr. James King's claim that these materials are mathematically sound. Look at the results of Cleveland and Garfield for school years 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 ... does Doctor King's judgment produce improvement? He was the PD^3 director.... in those cases NO.
The purpose and goal of this adoption both fail to mention anything about: the math knowledge and proficiency a student needs to achieve in order to move into the workplace or onto college successfully.

Parents want textbooks for their children that will give their kids an opportunity to be adequately prepared for collegiate math success. Clear readable example based books are what is needed. The district's exclusive goal as indicated on the application form is this:

"Develop a collaborative committee of teachers to review and select a set of mathematics instructional materials for grades 9-12. These materials will be aligned with the Washington State Performance Expectations and articulated across grade levels."

No question about it. The district achieved the stated goal with this recommendation of the Key Curriculum Press "Discovering Series".... It is unfortunate the goal did not include the selection of math texts that could be effectively used district wide to adequately teach the children mathematics. The committee clearly neglected what should have been an obvious goal, but Director Bell did not.

You can look at how the books teach Algebra here:

Director DeBell on You Tube.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Retraction of "Glossary" statement

I have been informed that the current edition of "Discovering Geometry" has a Glossary. That is the version that Seattle would receive if purchased. Previous editions had no Glossary. This does not fix the short comings noted by Jack Lee and other independent mathematicians.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sudhakar's Thoughts

Dan -

Only in America....

I have visited many countries, developed, undeveloped, and developing. I have not come across any person or organization that argues what math is. They all seem to have an intuitive grasp of what kids should master by high school. If there isn't agreement on what math is at the fundamental level, we cannot even get past first base. Before Obama and Arne Duncan, or even Dorn, turn this ship around, they need to deal with this massive boat anchor called Ed School Establishment. Pardon me, I know I am preaching to the choir.

Part of what is happening is, in my mind, reaping what we sow. We as a nation neglected teaching the fundamentals for the last three decades. Some of the kids who went through these self esteem days of schooling are now teaching elementary and middle school math. Data show that most elementary and middle school teachers never took advanced math in high school, and did not major in math or science related subjects. I would not expect them to be thrilled about math and science achievement. When these kids end up in middle school, no wonder they need help in arithmetic! It is like ignoring a cold until it turns to pneumonia, and then spending many times the money to treat it. I had to home school my kids to see the difference for myself. The WORST I did was with my eldest son, who passed his AP Calc exam in 11th grade. The best I did was with my second son, who passed AP calc in 9th grade. My daughter is on track to do AP calc in 9th grade as well. What is funny (and sad) is that my daughter's 6th grade math teacher, who taught CMP2, said she did not have aptitude for math. That was the last year she spent in a regular school.

What gets me with the SPS recommendation is the concept of "balance". This is a non-option as far as I am concerned. When someone chooses a curriculum for its "balance", they will lose the bright kids due to boredom, and confuse those who don't get it. I was forced to spend some time with my son in India with his Discovering Algebra 2 book, because we were on a long vacation during school year. The chapter was "logarithms", and I could not find more than one useful formula in the chapter. There were almost no useful examples to serve as models. My son and I gave up on the book, and I taught him what I recalled from memory, going back to my high school days in 1971. He came back to school ahead of his classmates in Logarithms. The teacher was still trying to decide how to make sense of the chapter! He ended up getting tutored by me for the rest of the class, and aced the course.

So, "balance" in curricula, in this context, is mediocrity in disguise. Worse, it looks good on the surface, has a lot of fluff, but has no meaningful substance inside. It is as if someone tried to interpret math for the math poor - without much success. In the end, no one benefits. It is a lose-lose proposition, and a recommendation only a mother (in this case, the "mother" is the entity that recommended it) can love. It was the same reason given by Beaverton schools when they went with EDM - "balance". Another generation of Beaverton elementary kids left behind.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Experimentation on Students

Date: April 28, 2009

To: Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson
Math Program Manager Anna-Maria de la Fuente

Cc: ... Director and President Michael DeBell

From: .. Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.
Subject: . Experimentation on Students

It is my opinion that your current plan of action for next year and years following the coming high school math adoption constitutes an experiment on the ninth and tenth grade student populations. You are taking the design from failed PD^3 projects at Garfield and Cleveland and extending them to all the high schools.

The SPS plans to use “mathematically unsound” instructional materials and follow the same organizational plan used by Garfield and Cleveland High Schools in their Professional Development Cubed Projects, which began in SY 2006-2007.

Results on the 10th grade math WASL for ELL students could hardly have been worse for those students at Cleveland and Garfield. Cleveland math scores for all students plummeted over the initial two-year span of the projects and the results for year two of the project were worse than year one. PD^3 is a collaboration between the SPS, UW College of Education and UW Department of Mathematics; were the projects at Cleveland and Garfield approved by an Institutional Review Board? The subjects in this study that were ELL students certainly needed the protection an IRB is designed to afford them. The WASL results for Black Students and in fact all math students in grade ten at Cleveland showed them to be in need of those same protections.

From Ms. de la Fuente’s presentations and statements at recent school board meetings, the SPS intends to use the “mathematically unsound” texts Discovering Algebra and Discovering Geometry, in a program organizationally similar to the unsuccessful projects at Cleveland and Garfield. This constitutes an experiment on the children in grades 9 and 10. An Institutional Review Board reviews research protocols and monitors studies to ensure the protection of the human research subjects. Looking at the results, protections for Black Students and ELL students were inadequate in the recent past. Why is this instructional plan being expanded to all Seattle Schools?

Do you intend to have an Institutional Review Board examine the Garfield and Cleveland data and the texts and then decide if your proposed district-wide experiment for 2009-2010 should proceed? Vulnerable students were poorly served previously, how will they be protected?

Is a pacing plan available for how the district intends to provide instruction in grade 9 with Discovering Algebra and grade 10 with Discovering Geometry that covers all of the Washington Mathematics standards for those courses?
Please send me that plan. If it is unavailable, when will it be available? An Institutional Review Board would need that pacing plan. Will the school board approve this risky math adoption without pacing plans?

As a mathematics teacher, I fail to see how the Geometry Standards will be covered in a satisfactory manner as Discovering Geometry has no glossary, has no written definition of equilateral triangle and does not even mention theorems and postulates until chapter 13. This looks like an experiment from my vantage point. One destined to fail.
1. Were the original PD^3 projects at Cleveland and Garfield reviewed by an IRB?
2. Why is this plan being expanded to all Seattle Schools?
3. Will an Institutional Review Board examine the 2009-2010 proposal before it is enacted?
4. How will vulnerable students be protected?
5. Send me the pacing plan for grade 9 Discovering Algebra that covers all the Algebra standards.
6. Send me the pacing plan for Discovering Geometry that covers all the Geometry standards.
7. Will the school board approve this risky math adoption without those pacing plans?
8. What evidence is there that a high school math adoption without materials below Algebra will be successful for students, when approximately 30% of entering 9th graders could not score above level 1 on their grade 8 WASL math test? This element of the plan was a colossal failure for many students at Cleveland and Garfield.


Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.
Washington State Board of Education Math Advisory Panelist (2007-2009)

In the SPS in 2008 English Language Learners passed the grade 10 math WASL at a 19.5% rate. At Garfield that rate was 0.0% and at Cleveland 4.8%. see pass rates:

Year .. Garfield .. Cleveland .. SPS rate
2006 ... 11.1% ... .. 18.8% ... 16.3% ..Year before project

2007 .... 5.0% ... .. 15.4% ... 13.6% ..First year of project
2008 .... 0.0% ... .. 4.8% ... 19.5% .. 2nd year of project

An Evaluator’s Guide to the IRB J. MICHAEL OAKES University of Minnesota

Sunday, April 26, 2009

19 of 19 principals support their boss .. this is news?

Director Carr,

I was thrilled in Nov 2007 that you had won election and then really pleased when you and Harium attended Dr. Bergeson's math standards roll out at Roosevelt. My hope was you would both seek out and examine the complexities of the SPS math crisis.

Then came your comments on 4-22-09.

I realize that you are relatively new to the job of director but I was deeply disappointed in both your decision and your reasons for that decision.

In regard to 19 principals supporting the recommendation two points:
1. Why would they jeopardize job security by opposing the boss's plan?
2. What do they know about this particular adoption and the issues facing the district?

On Saturday at the market I bumped into one of the 19 principals and asked him a few questions:

What would you guess is the SPS overall 10th grade math WASL pass rate for ELL students? His guess 10% (same as I would have guessed but reality is 19.5%).

Then since he knew the district average was around 20%, I said and for Garfield the ELL pass rate would be?
His guess 22% ( a good guess but reality is Garfield =0% passing ... he was shocked... and you Director Carr are you shocked?)

I then asked him about Cleveland.
He reasoned that Cleveland would have a high ELL population and went with 24%
(actually Cleveland's ELL passing =4.8%)
He thanked me for the information and we parted ways.

There is a significant problem that is continually ignored by math decision makers due to ignorance of the facts. (This has a lot to due with Central Administration's failure to present the facts or deal with them.)

Garfield and Cleveland are now in their 3rd year of using the exact plan that Anna-Maria is advising the district to use with this coming math adoption.

Please read the attached letter I wrote to Director DeBell.

Your anecdote about Art Mabbott's one time lesson and Anna-Maria's assistance is entirely irrelevant to the problems facing the SPS in math.

How would Mr. Mabbott's lesson have gone in a class of 30 in Discovering Algebra of which about half scored at math WASL level 1 as 8th graders? Could he succeed with that mix for 180 school days. The Garfield and Cleveland data says NO.

Please deal with the actual data presented in a meaningful way. Stop authorizing continued experiments on Seattle Children.

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

You will find relevant data in the attached letter.


Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.

The 11th hour - Stop the execution

Dear Director DeBell, 4-26-09

Thank you for your eloquent speech against the adoption of the “Discovering Series”. Unfortunately it appears Seattle will make another colossal math mistake that will damage children. I appreciate on 4-22-09 you cast a dissenting opinion, and backed it with excellent reasoning. I think that you may need additional empirical data to make your point with new board members as three expressed a preference to adopt the Central Administration’s recommendation. I would hope your dissent becomes part of a majority on May 6. The SPS as you well know should not continue in the failing math direction recommended by past and current administration.

It seems that four board members are very uninformed of the District’s Math reality. Three of those are new members and may not have been around long enough to get it. Please help them get it.

Director Sundquist said the process was followed so his job is to vote yes. I am reminded when the Governor steps in to stop an unjust execution at the 11th hour, even though the process has been followed.

On numerous occasions in the past I’ve spoken about the flawed process in adoptions. The district still uses the same poor definition of math and still tilts the table toward that definition and wilts under the weight of the Cash Cow University of Washington NSF reform math bias.

It is beyond belief that the district believes better outcomes for students will ever result from using the same defective process over and over again. Now Anna-Maria is going to follow another UW idea, which is already a proven failure. The UW directed NSF EHR funded Professional Development Cubed projects at Garfield and Cleveland are now in their third year at each school and things could hardly be worse for ELL students and many others.

It was clear to me that you are tired of being fooled by the district in regard to math. You also realize that the amount of money it would require to give the district’s proposed HS math plan even a ghost of a chance at success is just not available.

Seattle is planning to use a mathematically unsound text series, in an overall design plan that is a proven failure. Here is the background and the empirical data.

As you look at the following, keep in mind the volume of money that poured into Cleveland and Garfield, which allowed extra planning time and a reduced class load so that professional learning communities could operate and which should have produced effective interventions. This funding level will not be available for each Seattle High School in a $1.2 million math adoption.

Math program manager Anna-Maria de la Fuente is planning to adopt no texts below Discovering Algebra but there will be lots of interventions to assist the children. In the SPS, 30% of 8th graders cannot score above level 1 on the math WASL. These students will be entering 9th grade. To believe that this plan will succeed seems unjustified. Using an unsound text for students with such poor skill levels without the availability of example based texts and with no adoption materials below first year high school math is illogical. This did not work at Garfield or Cleveland.

This exact plan is now in its third year at Garfield and Cleveland. The plan was the same as her proposal except “Interactive Math Program” texts were used instead of the defective “Discovering Series” texts.

In the SPS in 2008 English Language Learners passed the grade 10 math WASL at a 19.5% rate. At Garfield that rate was 0.0% and at Cleveland 4.8%. see pass rates:

Year .. Garfield .. Cleveland .. SPS rate
2006 ... 11.1% ... .. 18.8% ... 16.3% ..Year before project

2007 .... 5.0% ... .. 15.4% ... 13.6% ..First year of project
2008 .... 0.0% ... .. 4.8% ... 19.5% .. 2nd year of project

As you are aware the SPS achievement gap in math steadily expanded over the last decade+. Please stop the experimentation on Seattle Children.

The NMAP tells us that example based learning is needed for certain students. The SPS refuses to adopt example based math books. The UW does not like them (for such books are anti-Cash Cow programs). Now Seattle is on the verge of adopting “Discovering Geometry”. The textbook without a Glossary and without a written definition of equilateral triangle (but was found mathematically sound by PD cubed project director Dr. James King). This is a disaster that Seattle children and families are being led into by Central Administrative incompetence.

The Discovering Algebra textbook has a glossary but it is as defective as the geometry text. Look here ( for a PowerPoint on how “Discovering Algebra” handles a topic when compared with Prentice-Hall.

The SBE found the “Discovering Series” defective for actual reasons not political considerations.

Please contact Randy Dorn and ask him to immediately announce that OSPI agrees with the SBE finding that the Discovering Series is mathematically unsound and that OSPI does not recommend using it. It appears at this time the board will vote 4-3 to execute the children and someone needs to intervene at the 11th hour in this horrible process.


Dan Dempsey

SBE Math Advisory Panelist 2007-2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

Data Crunching want some data here it is


It seems beyond belief the Seattle Schools District Administration could have even proposed such poor materials for a HS math adoption. Now it looks likely these may be adopted.

The district is ignoring the National Math Advisory Panel Report that calls for example based instruction, which requires books with clear examples and clear definitions.

Instead the district has decided to continue the math plan to nowhere.

There will be no books adopted below Algebra I..... Yes you heard right ... even though approximately 30% of 8th graders are unable to score above WASL level 1 in math (that is the totally clueless level) there will be no books below algebra I adopted.

The plan is that with differentiated instruction and all kinds of support and interventions all will be well. Rather than just assuming this is more district nonsense based on nothing and will never be fulfilled, I undertook an investigation.

Over the last few years Cleveland and Garfield have been doing almost exactly what is proposed for many 9th and 10th graders. This was part of the NSF funded Professional Development Cubed Project through UW. This provided lots of resources (way more money was spent on Cleveland Math and Garfield Math in this undertaking than can possibly be spent at the high schools in Seattle with this $1.2 million adoption).

This District plan will use the "Discovering Series" from Key Curriculum Press rather than Interactive Math Project (IMP) used at Cleveland and Garfield. Very little difference as both lack example based instruction and clear definitions. Both were also winners in Adoption processes .. although the board had the good sense to not allow IMP to go anywhere Spring 2008.

You can click here for a powerpoint that compares "Discovering Algebra" with an example based book "Prentice Hall Algebra I".

As if the fact that the State Board of Education found the "Discovering Series" mathematically unsound was not bad enough ..... consider the following data crunching (spreadsheet email me for it at

Hey about those supports promised by Seattle Math Program Director Anna-Maria de la Fuente, I hope she has a ton of money to pour into all the SPS schools ... because PD^3 $$$$ coupled with books without example based instruction was a big big failure. So her plan is to extend the Cleveland-Garfield model of differentiated instruction Seattle style to everyone.

Just Say NO!!!!

I took the average WASL math score for Spring 05&06
compared that to the WASL Spring 08 scores for

Black students and Limited English at Garfield, Cleveland and Franklin
Spring Math WASL 2008 minus Spring 05 & 06 average:

Limited English Garfield -10.70%
Limited English Cleveland -8.75%
Franklin +9.95%

Don't be surprised at these results that math books with lots of words and few if any examples do not work well for limited English kids... only SPS admin seems incapable of understanding this.

Black Garfield +0.60%
Cleveland -6.20%
Franklin +3.10%

FRANKLIN WINS !!!! and Franklin got no help from the UW....
Franklin got no additional money from NSF .... but Franklin had a secret weapon they were not using really crappy books ... now just imagine what could happen with good books.....
BUT the plan is for crappy books with a crappy plan for every kid...
Hard to believe but I think the SPS may be able to expand that huge achievement gap.

Do these folks need a discrimination lawsuit filed in court to get them to stop expanding the achievement gap?

I began testifying at Seattle School board meetings on Jan 17, 2007 about the fact that the achievement gap has been expanding annually (for a decade) because of poor decision making by the administration in regard to math materials and instruction.

They still don't get it.



Cold Front Moves Through Hell

Think about the content of following article at your own risk .....
Remember how the Federal Government helped us out with home mortgage lending and other aspects of finance ....
I wonder who will be playing the part of Christopher Dodd, Barney Frank, and the Bush administration in the formation of common guidelines?

Thought it would never happen? It’s not freezing over yet, but the temperature is falling fast.

Representatives from 37 states are meeting in Chicago today, Edweek reports, for “what organizers hope will be a first, concrete step toward common guidelines in mathematics and English-language arts.” Michele McNeil has the scoop:

The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers—the Washington-based groups that are co-sponsoring the meeting—want to build a prototype of high school graduation standards by summer, and grade-by-grade academic standards in math and language arts by the end of the year. The undertaking would start with rigorous math and language arts standards that are aligned with college- and career-ready expectations and made available for states to adopt voluntarily. Following the meeting states ready to support common standards are to be asked to put their commitment in writing within weeks.


High School graduation does not mean college ready nor should it. This has never been the case nor should it be.

We may have the opportunity to watch the drop out rate soar as people with little to no knowledge of reality make rules for others. Focus on high school graduation requirements and helping schools improve educational practices for all students could well turn out to be close to mutually exclusive directions.

I would much rather see these folks immediately put energy into fixing NCLB.

Core Knowledge Resources

Here is a nice set of resouces from NYC.
Pick a grade level from grades 1 through 8
and then a subject.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

SPS meeting on Streaming Video

Here is the Video start with Part I on 4-22-09

The Washington State PTA's position on Math

2. Strengthening Math and Science Curriculum and Education: The Washington State PTA shall:

initiate and/or support legislation and/or policies that strengthen math and science education by

1) providing students access to curricula that has clear examples and explanations, aligns with the new WA math and science standards and national math panel recommendations which include a focused, coherent progression that emphasizes key topics to prepare students for success in authentic algebra and geometry and simultaneously develops conceptual understanding; computational fluency in basic number facts, standard algorithms, and fractions; and problem-solving skills. Parent involvement in all phases of math/science curriculum
adoption is critical.

2) implementing initiatives to attract, train, and retain qualified math/science teachers

3) providing students who are able to excel in math/science opportunities to advance quickly.

SPS Directors need to take another look

Look here please:

Letter 4-23-2009 to SPS Directors

Dear Seattle School Director,

Pretty clear the WSPTA's issue statement on math:
Instructional Math materials with clear examples and explanations that follow the NMAP recommendations.

Pretty clear the State Board of Educations statement:
The "Discovering Series" is mathematically unsound and unacceptable.

Speaking of financial crises and how they can expose weak companies and weak countries, Warren Buffett once famously quipped that “only when the tide goes out do you find out who is not wearing a bathing suit.” So true. But what’s really unnerving is that America appears to be one of those countries that has been swimming buck naked — in more ways than one.

...... from Tom Friedman's column

The Discovering Series keeps the SPS buck naked.


Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.

From Dave ... some thoughts on 1925
.... and the recent lack of data

Related to the issues of math curriculum and pedagogy, I recently saw a math book and thought some of it was highly relevant to the debate.

On page 26, it has a section, “How to Solve a Problem”

It is important that you develop the ability to analyze problems. Those whose daily work requires the solution of many problems must always think out the analyses, even though they do not write them out. In the problems that follow throughout this book you are asked to think out the analysis of each, and often to write it out. Such work will give you needed practice that will help you to solve the problems that arise when you later enter … your profession.

Other things besides analysis are necessary if you are to solve the problems you meet. Your computations must be rapid and accurate; otherwise your work is of no value. …

Below you will find a suggested method for attacking, that is, analyzing a problem. You should study this carefully and learn how to apply this method to other problems. Although there is no one best form of analysis, the one given here is a very good guide as to what an analysis should be. …

The book has a great variety of word problems for students and among other things it has a nice section on graphing data, including broken-line graphs, bar graphs, Circle graphs and Picto-graphs. What is the title of this fine book?

The Brown-Eldredge Arithmetics – Book 3

Joseph C. Brown, A.B., A.M.
President State Teachers College, St. Cloud, Minnesota
Former Supervisor of Mathematics, Horace Mann School, New York City

Albert C. Eldredge, B.S.
Assistant Superintendent of Schools in Charge of Junior High Schools.
Formerly in charge of Elementary Schools,
Cleveland, Ohio.

Copyright, 1925. Row, Peterson and Company, 12th printing.

It then notes in the introduction:

“In each of the vocations and professions some knowledge of arithmetic is necessary, and one who has not acquired a high degree of accuracy and a reasonable degree of speed in computation is usually at a great disadvantage.

If wisely used, the drill exercises in this book will be of value to you because they will enable you to increase your speed and accuracy. Strive to excel your own best record. Realize that you are working for yourself, and that the knowledge and skill which you acquire will be of great value to you in the years to come.”

Very wise words. This begs the question:

What sort of “science of education” do we have when basic instructional techniques for learning math which worked well for humans in 1925
(written by teacher educators of the day in a book in its 12th printing) are discarded or discredited in the 1990’s only to get revived by those outside the college of education community 10 or 15 years later due to widespread math illiteracy. This should serve as a warning to those looking up to the college of education community for advice and insight into math education. Maintain a healthy skepticism and ask for some hard data, the emperor is not fully dressed and it’s not a pretty sight.

Seattle Math decision postponed

Unbelievable .. what a sad day.
Postponed 'til next time, when the nonsense will likely be accepted.

Please see my comment at #138 on Harium's Blog

and at #61 and following on
the SPS community blog

Friedman's Swimming without a Suit in the NY Times
connects directly to School Directors voting without a clue.

Speaking of financial crises and how they can expose weak companies and weak countries, Warren Buffett once famously quipped that “only when the tide goes out do you find out who is not wearing a bathing suit.” So true. But what’s really unnerving is that America appears to be one of those countries that has been swimming buck naked — in more ways than one.
I will now wait until the streaming video is posted on Friday and post the link here.

Was there any rationale behind NOT voting to REJECT the mathematically unsound "Discovering Series"?

Pretty clear the WSPTA's issue statement on math:
Instructional Math materials with clear examples and explanations that follow the NMAP recommendations.

I guess some SPS director's don't believe either the SBE or the WSPTA knows much.

You can read the NMAP report here:
all 120 pages.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Budget sending FHS to 6-period day
from 4x4 to straight 6

Fife High School is moving from a Four-period day to a Six-period day.
Fife has for a long time had 4 ninety minute classes per day.
Students take four classes a semester.

I taught at Fife High 2005-2006.
The schedule worked well for math but in 2006-2007 the math scheduling was far less effective due to the intrusion of the WASL Math prep classes and WASL math scores plummeted in spring 2007.

Here is the Superintendent's letter about budget reductions forcing changes.

TIMSS 2007: Where are we? MAA newsletter

Nice little piece (4 pages) from Mathematical Association of America
Feb/March 2009 Newsletter.

International Exams yield less than clear lessons

About those SPS Math testimonies

Dear Sherry,

Sorry to have missed you two weeks ago. Hope you are feeling better. At that time there were 15 math testimonies:
11 to reject and 4 committee members for the recommendation but no one else.

On 4-22-09 as currently scheduled there will be 7 math testimonies, likely 6 will say reject and one a committee member will say good stuff approve the recommendation.

Not one Seattle teacher unless on the committee has testified in favor of it.

Despite the fact that opposition to the recommendation in the political environs of the SPS is not appreciated by Central Administration (believe me I know) look at the teachers testifying for Rejection:

Ted Nutting - Ballard
Bob Murphy - Franklin
Glenda Madison - Rainier Beach
Mike Rice - Rainier Beach
Linh-Co Nguyen - North Beach
Pat Bailey - Schmitz Park

Six teachers for rejection and only three teachers all committee members for it:
Jim Heliotis - Special Ed consulting teacher
Alayne Cartales - Ballard
Amber Matheis-Nelson - Sealth

Please reject the mathematically unsound "Discovering Series".

The fact is that no one in the general public testified for the recommendation. Harium's Blog and the SPS Community Blog confirm that almost no one finds this recommendation acceptable.

Thank you,


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Weather and Seattle Math advice from Professor Cliff Mass

Math Education: Seattle School District is poised to make a big mistake

Finally, a little editorial. Some of you may know that I feel strongly that math education in our state has declined during the past decade or so. Students are coming to the UW without basic competency in math and some wanting to major in atmospheric sciences can't do so because their math background is so poor. Anyway, the Seattle School Board is on the verge of making a huge error in the selection of high school math textbooks... picking the extremely poor "Discovering" Algebra, Discovering Geometry Series by Key Curriculum, which are weak fuzzy/reform math texts.

3 min on KPLU :SPS HS math adoption§ionID=1

Doing what works

High School Math texts in WA

Since the SBE reported that most of the 4 text series they examined were "mathematically unsound" what is next?

Politically I have not a clue as the SBE Math Advisory Panel is no longer in existance. Onward with Randy Dorn and OSPI is my guess.

Currently the SBE has only recommended HOLT for High School and OSPI has yet to be heard from.

Holt is a compromise. It has a mild reform flavor while being mostly traditional. ...

The best (as in traditionally sound but still with activities)
High School AGA books are

McDougal Littel Larson series
Prentice Hall

These books teach real Algebra, Geometry and Algebra II
They were slightly dinged in the OSPI review because they are light on statistics.. .. (which shouldn't be in an Algebra Book) and because they didn't have the fuzzy flavors that many of the reviewers favor.

Two inexpensive books that would give students most of what they need for Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II are the 7th and 8th grade Singapore books.

Meanwhile in our quest for internationally competitive mathematics, Seattle will decide on Wednesday April 22, 2009 whether to adopt the mathematically unsound "Discovering Series" from Key Curriculum Press ....

Perhaps then Seattle can go looking for a $535,000 grant for how to teach teachers how to teach Algebra when that $1.2 million selection is a failure.

NSF EHR damages mathematics learning in USA

Here is perhaps a reason that 320 teachers from University Place, Fife and Peninsula school districts need a $535,000 grant to learn how to teach fractions, decimals, and percents.

May 7, 2002
Wilfried Schmid
Professor of Mathematics
Harvard University



In contrast, EHR has pushed faddish, unbalanced mathematics education programs. My daughter's school uses what is possibly the most extreme of these, "Investigations in Number, Data, and Space". EHR got this K-5 curriculum started with an initial $7,000,000 grant to the authors. Subsequent grants were given to local school systems, encouraging them to adopt "Investigations". In this brief message I cannot describe all the defects of "Investigations". Let me mention only that the authors strictly oppose the teaching of all standard algorithms, such as long addition, and discourage memorization of basic number facts, e.g., memorization of the multiplication table. Instead, students are made dependent on calculators and mental crutches, including fraction strips and counting on fingers.

A thought from a cyber-visitor

Dr. Bergeson made it so financially attractive to follow her methods of madness, that greedy districts like mine and Spokane couldn't/wouldn' t resist. She never forced our district to choose Core+, she just made them really, really want to. If the traditional/ authentic Math publishers had the money that the NSF Math publishers had, perhaps the incentives would be there for all districts to choose the Math that focused on content.

Assisting Students Struggling with Math

From the What Works Clearing House....
Assisting Students Struggling with Mathematics

or is it ....
"Students Struggling With Stubborn Administrators, Fuzzy Curricula, and Skewed District Priorities."

Fractions needed = $535,000 grant

How can schools improve middle and high school math performance?
Start in fourth grade with fractions.

That’s part of the thinking of a new $535,000, three-year federal grant that aims to help teachers in several South Sound school districts improve their teaching of fractions, percentages and other math fundamentals.

More than 320 teachers and student teachers could receive training in week-long summer institutes and additional sessions during the school year under a grant that was recently awarded to University Place, Fife and Peninsula school districts and the University of Washington Tacoma.
What math texts are used in grade 4
in University Place, Fife, and Peninsula?

Under the grant, teachers will learn such techniques as how to analyze student thinking in math. Some training will bolster teachers’ own math knowledge. Less than a quarter of surveyed kindergarten through seventh-grade teachers in UP, Fife and Peninsula had “strong confidence in their ability to teach an array of six fraction and decimal skills,” the grant proposal said.

So if the current books were any good at teaching these skills and concepts would not the teachers have learned the material? WOW !!! what chance do the kids have as they use poor to marginal textbooks and are directed often by teachers who do not have a good command of the material?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Teaching: No Fall back Career .. NY Times

..... Today more than five million newly unemployed may find themselves contemplating these options. They should be encouraged to try teaching but should also realize that there is no way of knowing if they’ll be any good at it, the statistics say there is a big chance that they will quit within five years, and the president of the United States may try to get them fired. ...

Math Wars: the Western Front ..January 2008

Teachers are feeling better
a survey says so .. from MetLife

They also view academic standards and curriculum as stronger, and students as better prepared. The survey reveals that a majority of today’s teachers (62%) are very satisfied with their careers, compared to 40% in 1984. Two-thirds (67%) of teachers think that the training and preparation teachers receive does a good job of preparing them for the classroom, compared to 46% in 1984.

Why does the USA perform so poorly on International Math tests?
With teachers feeling so good how is this possible?

Calculators .. Don't Answer

From the Blog-o-sphere

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Is the math text readable and/or useful?

Neither black nor white students read their math textbooks. Only foreign students read the math textbooks, and they do so, Uri Treisman discovered, to improve their English!

That there is little value in reading school textbooks was documented in Harriet Tyson-Bernstein's book: The Textbook Fiasco; A Conspiracy of Good Intentions.

In Ref. #5, Paul Davis, Teaching mathematics and Training seals, SIAM News (the newsletter of the [professional] Society for Industrial and Applied Math.), (March 1987) page 7.
Prof. Davis of Worcester Polytechnic Institute wrote:
"The [high school precalculus textbook] ... is no more mathematics than the noise made by trained seals is music. But the trained seal approach abounds in textbooks and in classrooms. It never provides a foundation of fundamental ideas ... . It never offers intellectual challenges, or chances to build confidence and problem-solving skills."

from ...

Callaghan in the Tribune on Reform

School reform turns politics upside down

Published: 04/19/09 12:05 am

He finds traditional roles reversed.
Mentions the coming Elephant in the room:
Despite the rhetoric, the bill gives the state a defense against a lawsuit set for trial in August that claims – quite accurately – that the state violates its constitutional duty to amply fund the education of all students.

A better idea Proof before more fads

The group,, suggest six ideas that represent true education reform.

IDEA 1: Education schools often promote well-intended but misleading myths about teaching and learning. For decades, education schools have promoted fads like "brain compatible instruction, " "multiple intelligences" and "21st-century skills." These buzzwords sound sophisticated, but have been debunked as rhetoric to dress up a lack of subject matter content and solid teaching approaches.

IDEA 2: Teacher certification is based on education schools' well-intended but misleading ideas. Four decades of research, including several studies released this year, show that certification does not make teachers more effective. Without streamlined routes into the profession, especially for areas like math and science that lack candidates, our schools are closing their doors to the teachers that our children need.

IDEA 3: Administrators are influenced by the prevailing ideas in education schools, which too often leads them to pick weak academic programs. The trend is to de-emphasize important content — try finding much history in elementary school, or even carrying and borrowing in math — and claim that students are developing "critical thinking skills" and "deep conceptual understanding. " These phrases, which educators don't clearly define, are wrongheaded. Students can't think critically or conceptually about a topic unless they first acquire a lot of knowledge about it.

IDEA 4: Parents and other "outsiders" often have different views of what constitutes a sound education, but have little influence on the public schools. Parents cannot opt out of the controversial TERC math program, and to opt out of the "body safety" curriculum parents must justify their objections by meeting in person with their principal. Instead of the schools respecting what parents want for their children, parents are expected to defer to the schools' decision-making.

IDEA 5: School choice empowers parents to select schools that reflect what they want for their children. Frederick 's only charter school, which unfairly receives less funding per student than the other public schools, has a waiting list larger that the school's capacity. Until parents have more choices, which creates competition that drives improvement, the government-run school system faces little incentive to provide what parents want.

IDEA 6: School choice is necessary to improve public education, but it's not enough. Education must also transform itself from a belief-based profession into an evidence-based profession. Research supporting systematic phonics instruction in reading and a more traditional approach to education in general has largely been ignored for decades because it doesn't fit with schools' prevailing philosophical beliefs.

All of this takes us full circle to education schools, where the lack of regard for evidence continues to give rise to fad after fad. Until this circle is broken, education administrators will continue to seek greater funding instead of a better set of ideas to guide our schools.

The Legacy of R.L. Moore and TERC

History Lesson from 1970 and its impact today.

concludes with ...
We modestly suggest that each mathematics major should have the opportunity to take at least one course taught by each of these methods during his undergraduate career.

From the modest suggestion above ... how did we get to TERC/Investigations etc.?

Helping Women reach their potential in Math ...... NY Times article


Stefanie says:
Her methods sound a bit like Kumon...

Ms. Thomas’s style of teaching has been called math boot camp because it emphasizes traditional basics: memorization of multiplication tables, for example, and the use of timed quizzes and tests. By mastering fundamentals in rote learning, she said, math becomes second nature and inspires confidence.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Connected Math out in Kennewick

Positive News....

Connected Math will be discarded in Kennewick
. CMP is used by 64% of WA middle school students. This is because of Dr. Bergeson's promotion of CMP as WASL aligned. It was hardly the result of adoptions based on the success of others in using CMP.

Now we see the emphasis turning to increasing student math competence. Testing of actual math skills and knowledge to measure that competence should drive out CMP or force significant supplementation until the CMP materials can be replaced.

Friday, April 17, 2009

SPS needs a Math Plan to Somewhere

Dear Seattle School Directors, 4-17-2009

Anna-Maria de la Fuente has made reference to a disagreement of mathematicians, which to you may appear to be a split decision. This disagreement is not a split decision.

OSPI had their instructional materials reviews done by a diverse group, mapping curricula to the WA math standards. Then an independent review was done by two mathematicians of the top three + 1 curricula, looking for mathematical soundness (an overview of the quality of each math program as a whole). When Dr. Steve Wilson was criticized as not independent, another mathematician was hired on the other side of the nation Dr. Harel (CA) and he was harsher than Dr. Wilson on the overall quality of the reform math programs.

Over twelve years Dr. Bergeson's math direction never changed. SBE intervention into the math standards was required by the legislature because Dr Bergeson and her $700,000+ Dana Center consultants were unable to deliver meaningful standards. OSPI's direction has never been for internationally competitive math programs but you as a director should be steering the SPS to develop an internationally competitive math program.

There was no reason for OSPI to hire additional mathematicians
but OSPI did. OSPI hired two known biased individuals, George Bright and James King, to counter the assessments of the independent mathematicians. They were clearly brought into play for the sole purpose of keeping reform math alive in the state.

Dr Bright with a PhD in math education is not a "Mathematician" . He was biased from square one. He was Dr Bergeson's special appointee to help her get the math situation right.

Over the years Dr. King brought in significant dollars to the UW through NSF EHR grants all of which supported reform math. His current career is somewhat reform math dependent (again check the Cleveland IMP data). To call Dr. King an independent mathematician is dishonest. He has published through Key Curriclum Press.

The above appears to be OSPI selecting two people to produce a pre-determined result.

You now have an additional mathematician who is certainly independent Dr. John Lee of UW. His analysis of "Discovering" was very close to that of the other two unbiased mathematicians.

So what is Anna-Maria de la Fuente's point? Why the "Discovering Series"? Why not Prentice Hall?

Seattle has suffered through increasing amounts of unsound math materials and approaches much of it developed and promoted with NSF EHR funding. During this time the achievement gap widened and college remediation rates rose. It is your job to act in the best interests of our children. Look at the books. Look at the SPS results of the last decade. It is time to end the math plan to nowhere.

A lot of parents would like a math plan to college
... Seattle Schools have no such plan at this time. Please develop a plan. Do not just buy more stuff to continue going nowhere.

Attached you will find a Maryland petition from 57 real mathematicians or users of real mathematics. I submit the petition in support of my position that the adoption of reform programs will only compound the current k-8 damage. Please reject the "Discovering" series.


Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.
SBE MAP (2007-2009)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

How to Raise the Standard in America's Schools

Time Wednesday, Apr. 15, 2009
How to Raise the Standard in America's Schools
by Walter Isaacson,8599,1891468,00.html

National standards have long been the third rail of education politics. The right chokes on the word national, with its implication that the feds will trample on the states' traditional authority over public schools.

We may find out what works someday ....
Three school R&D centers are in the works

http://ies.ed. gov/funding/ pdf/2010_ 84305C.pdf

Institute of Education Sciences


For the FY 2010 Education Research and Development Center competition, the Institute invites applications for three National Education Research and Development Center topics. (a) Under the topic of innovation in education reform, the Institute invites applications for a research and development center focused on effective schools – National Research and Development Center on Scaling Up Effective Schools

. (b) Under the topic of assessment, standards, and accountability research, the Institute invites applications for a research and development center focused on the academic curricular area of mathematics – National Research and Development Center on Mathematics Standards and Assessment. (c) For the national goal of improving science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, the Institute invites applications for a research and development center on improving mathematics instruction – National Research and Development Center on Cognition and Mathematics Instruction.

Perhaps the research that comes out of this will guide the future direction of math ed in the US. Hopefully it will be led by people who really know some math and are results focused, not just the current NSF EHR funded drones.

SAT at War with self


"In a speech here Wednesday at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Atkinson said that while the changes had resulted in "significant" improvements, he was decidedly unimpressed with the results. He said that the essential criticism he made in 2001 -- that colleges need measures of achievement and knowledge, not some sense of students' aptitude -- was still valid. "

Is this a Ponzie Scheme?
...................NSF or Bernie Madoff?

As strange as the Seattle Schools definition of math is:
Mathematics is the language and science of patterns and connections. Learning and doing mathematics are active processes in which students construct meaning through exploration and inquiry of challenging problems.
Do NOT expect it to change anytime soon ..... an explanation follows.

Follow the Money here:

In regard to the development of reform math text books that are inquiry and exploration oriented:

The NSF provides the Universities with grants to develop materials (A few years ago the total was over 80 million bucks and rising). A university like Michigan State that developed Connected Math or Western Michigan that developed Core-Plus is then free to sell these materials to a publisher and put those dollars in the University back pocket.
Everyday Math and UCSMP make a k-12 combo for University of Chicago.

Other universities apply for NSF grants aimed at professional development of teachers in using these materials.

How could we expect Universities to do much else but support these materials whether they worked or not with a $$$ deal like the above.

We are now well into if not through the second decade of this plan. The University budgets have benefited but the students have not.

Ruth Parker’s MEC is another beneficiary of NSF funds.

The Mathematics Education Collaborative (MEC), under the leadership of Ruth Parker and Patty Lofgren, recognizes the critical need to improve mathematics education for every learner.

MEC works in partnership with schools and communities, providing powerful mathematics workshops for parents, teachers, administrators, business and community leaders, higher education faculty and others. MEC’s leadership development component builds capacity to implement and sustain continuous mathematics improvement.

The data indicates that in regard to NSF reform math:
It has not resulted in a sustained continuous mathematics improvement.
PISA and TIMSS reveal a continued math decline for much of the lifespan of this push toward NSF materials. It seems the futher the use of these materials spread the worse our USA results. {Dr Bergeson pushed WA Math deep into reform math the result was NOT anything close to a continual improvement. UW math placement scores declined and Dr Bergeson lost in Nov 2008 accompanied by lots of frustration about WA math results and direction.}

Japan, which changes their standards every ten years, even changed their standards to be more Reform like in 2002. The results from this were so bad that they are now going back to 1992 standards.

For Math Education team USA it seems the $$$$ engine of the NSF is too big to change direction, regardless of the results.

The losers in this Ponzie Scheme are the kids and most of those citizens who love mathematics (don't forget the math crippled nation that will need to replace NASA scientists with native born .. national defense security issues etc.). It seems that only a strong parental uprising will stop this decline, but the NSF does not fund the parents.

This has become more about parents that would like their children to have a chance at Science, Engineering, Technology, Mathematics success at the collegiate level and school districts that refuse to use the math materials that will provide students with a k-12 foundation for that success.

Bobby Knight:
Many have the will to win,
Few have the will to prepare to win.

Many school districts have little idea what proper math preparation for collegiate success looks like.

Will Title IX be coming to a math class?

From the article:
Is it true that women are being excluded from academic science programs because of sexist bias? Some researchers agree that bias is to blame; others, perhaps a majority, suggest that biology and considered preference explain why men and women gravitate to different academic fields. But researchers who dispute the bias explanation played little or no role in the Title IX conferences, summits or congressional hearings.

...... The fields that will be most affected -- math, engineering, physics and computer science -- are vital to the economy and national defense. Is it wise, to say nothing of urgent, for the president and Congress to impose an untested, undebated gender parity policy at this time?

Fed Stimulus spares job loss for 2000 in LAUSD

From Teacher Magazine:

WA unemployment just hit 9.2% and the big cuts in government spending have yet to start with associated reduction in jobs.

From the LA Times:,0,4362057.story

NCLB to allow 5th year for graduation

As NCLB sanctions are increasing, it appears that instead of using four year graduation rates schools will be allowed to use graduation rates for percent of students graduating five years after entering grade 9.

Of course in WA state, SBE is trying to raise credits needed to graduate to 24 credits with core 24. Thus any student who fails even one course who chooses not to go to summer school will not graduate in four years. What a motivation to take the easiest courses possible. {raising the bar often has unintended consequences}.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Legislature needs to keep education reform on track

From the Tri-City Herald.

Legislature needs to keep education reform on track
Advocates for fixing Washington's dysfunctional education system couldn't have picked a worse time to push for reforms.

The $9 billion hole in the state budget is an insurmountable obstacle for any proposal that would increase government costs, and basic education bills moving through the Legislature would cost billions to fully implement.

But despite the obstacles, it's important to start making progress.

Education Standards toughening.. maybe .. NY Times

Education Standards Likely to See Toughening

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the administration was “laying the foundation for where we want to go” with the No Child Left Behind reauthorization.

Published: April 14, 2009
WASHINGTON — President Obama and his team have alternated praise for the goals of President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law with criticism of its weaknesses, all the while keeping their own plans for the law a bit of a mystery.

Circular Puzzle

The circular puzzle how can we escape?

The argument goes as follows:

The teachers do not know enough math to be able to teach Singapore Math.
So Singpore Math can not be adopted.

The teachers do not know enough math because they do not have enough academic classes in actual math content. To increase these math classes prior to graduation would mean something has to go. A likely starting place would be the classes taken in the college of education.

Is the college of education likely to advocate for more math content classes for teachers taught by the math department, when it would mean a likely reduction in classes taught by the College of Education?

Thus professional development consists of more tips on how to organize games in your classroom and heavy topics like thinking about your student's thinking. Not that thinking about thinking is not valuable, it is just that the math content needs improvment so the kids have more to think about.

Believe it or Not .. the studies

As I reflected on the fact that NMAP found an extremely small number of math studies to be of value, a friend sent me the following link:

It looks like we all need to be looking at the raw data as salesmanship often trumps truth.

Believe it or not .... the data shows NOT about 96% of the time I suppose .. well maybe but let me check once again ... tell me the audience I am addressing and I may reconsider.

Oh those uncontrolled variables .... like how much will I get for the next study.

Studies show exactly what needs to be shown to get the next grant or contract in a vast majority of cases..... this statement is unable to be verified by actual testing.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What is a math credit or a diploma?

During the break last week I visited OSPI. Two math credits are currently required for graduation. These credits are to be aimed at the 9th and 10th grade math standards.

A credit is to be a course with a minimum of 150 hours of instruction.
So 1 school year = theoretically 180 days of instruction (do you believe this?)
At 50 minute classes 180 days x 5/6 hours per day = 150 hours.....
but wait what about absences is there a minimum number of hours of attendance required? NO.

Is a Core-plus Integrated 1 and 2 two credits worth the same as a
Dolciani and Brown Algebra 1 and Geometry? In the eyes of the state yes.

So today I bumped into roughly this same question at the University level here:

Colleges in 3 States to Set Basics for Degrees ... what a plan.
Atta boy to the Colleges.

Meanwhile back in Olympia the legislators were all sitting around the campfire cooking up a way to try to get the math train somewhere near the tracks.

Given that NCLB requires testing of the State math Standards and that some element of this is needed to graduate from high school according to the NCLB high grand pooh bahs, what is a legislator to do?

It looks like we will be seeing an End of Course test for year 1 math that will be made up of the standards that an Algebra Course teaches that are also taught in some integrated 1 classes. YUP you guess it the lowest common denominator strikes again as there are not a whole pot full of standards in common.

On the positive side of this is the fact that there will be only 1 test and that all high schools can then be compared and perhaps some judgments can be made about how well different materials and approaches work.

Yes, this is miles away from that talk about internationally competitive math standards and assessments that evaluate the learning of those standards, but hey its Olympia needing to interface with NCLB .... not to mention parents.

Anyway this bill still has a bit more back and forth coming before signing.
The net result of this may well be that High Schools forget about teaching anything except those common standards ... forget the rest of algebra 1 and in other districts forget the rest of Integrated 1. {Reality crunch time get those kids to pass}

I think I shall make a killing by publishing the WA State year 1 High School math text. It will cover only what will be tested. It can be really small and easy to carry. Thus a low shipping cost. No it is not going to prepare a kid for college but then we just went through years of Terry Bergeson math that did not prepare kids for college either so that should not be a problem.

About Conceptual Understanding Claims

Dear Steve,

The reform math movement makes lots of claims about increasing Conceptual Understanding better than other programs. There is little in the way of empirical data to indicate this claim is valid. Given the huge quantities of NSF EHR funds poured into reform math materials, I believe if this claim was true the WWC would have empirical evidence to support it.

The following is from Diane Ravitch.

A few selected quotes from Diane Ravitch--

"There is nothing new in the proposals of the 21st century skills movement. The same ideas were iterated and reiterated by pedagogues across the twentieth century." "For decade after decade, pedagogical leaders called upon the schools to free themselves from tradition and subject matter." "They left American education with a deeply ingrained suspicion of academic studies and subject matter." "This deeply ingrained suspicion - hostility, even - towards subject matter is the single most significant reason for the failure of the standards movement in American education over the past generation."

"For the past century, our schools of education have obsessed over critical thinking skills, projects, cooperative learning, experiential learning, and so on. But they have paid precious little attention to the disciplinary knowledge that young people need to make sense of the world." "We should have been educating future teachers to study their subject or subjects in depth." "Instead, we have numbed the brains of future teachers with endless blather about process and abstract thinking skills."

A return to subject matter is important. Please direct mathematics in the Seattle Public Schools toward the learning of actual math content through the adoption of instructional materials (like Singapore Math and Prentice Hall Mathematics) that facilitate this learning process rather than impede it (like Everyday Math, Connected Math Project 2, and the "Discovering Series").

Dan Dempsey

I am reminded of a Seattle Math coach's pooh poohing of the "Stand and Deliver" approach of Jaime Escalante. The coach is one of the NSF enlightened ones. I clearly have not spent sufficient time beneath the Bohdi tree.

I remain convinced that Jaime Escalante knew what he was talking about as math content counts.

Garfield High school in East Los Angeles went from a rating as one of the worst schools in California and in danger of losing its acceditation to the high school that produced the most students passing AP calculus exams in the USA. It took Esalante seven years at Garfield before he had an AP Calc class with a passing student. Learning content takes time. Creating an effective efficient system takes time.

Escalante created the Garfield success by assembling a team of content oriented instructors not just at Garfield but at feeder Junior Highs and Cal State LA summer programs. He eventually left Garfield as his original very supportive principal left. The replacement principal managed to alienate enough content oriented teachers that Garfield has returned to near its previous dismal ranking. Escalante went to Sacramento and is now retired and living in Bolivia.

There is no current high school anywhere using the enlightened vision that Seattle Central Math Admin possesses that is achieving anything like what the Escalante Dynasty achieved with its focus on content.

As long as Seattle stays aimed on "The same ideas were iterated and reiterated by pedagogues across the twentieth century" do not expect much in the way of results. The alienation of many content oriented math teachers continues as the ideas prompted by Dr Bergeson and her lackeys are still believed by central administrations. The thrust of the NCTM focal points and the recommendations of the National Math Advisory Panel made little impact on the zealots or the administration.

{Thar's Gold in Them Thar Hills ... Professional Development and NSF grant dollars..}

To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data ... adherence to a failed philosophy just does not cut it.

If there was a large increase in the academic subject content preparation of prospective teachers accompanied by a reduction in required education classes, there would be a decrease in the size of the faculty at colleges of education. Unlikely that Colleges of education will support increased learning of content for prospective teachers.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Singapore Math in the Education Onion


Time to write your legislator in Olympia or call.

April 13, 2009

Will We Throw the Math Race at the Finish?

After an overwhelming public cry of outrage over the pitiful state of math education in the state, the legislature two years ago formed a math advisory panel which together with the state board of education worked tirelessly to establish excellent and rigorous math standards, and identify good curriculum examples for teaching the new standards.

Now almost across the finish line, the legislature is about to throw it all away, and accept a watered down end-of-course assessment for algebra and geometry.

Reality is that schools “teach to the test”. Only a comprehensive rigorous assessment will assure the math standards we worked so hard to create, and the public demanded, will be taught to our children.

Our children’s futures depend upon solid preparation in math and science to be competitive in the future. It is important that we the taxpayer let our legislature know that we will not settle for a watered down substitute. We’ve already had that disaster and don’t want it again. Contact your legislators today to strengthen end-of-course testing in Senate Bill 5414.

Tim Christensen

SBE Math Advisory Panelist
Sr. R&D Engineer
Otis Orchards, WA 99027

TMP direction ... more of the old OSPI math failure coming our way

Looking at the following posting about the Transition Math Project, it looks like the current legislative direction toward more internationally competitive math will not be happening in Washington State.

Read this:

Some high points (or low points) are:

We recruited a national advisory group of math leaders/experts to help us formulate/sharpen a Phase III agenda and advocate for it:

Uri Treisman, University of Texas and director, Charles Dana Center

Kay Merseth, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Jo Boaler, University of Sussex, math educator and researcher

Mary Kennedy, Michigan State University

Kurt Kreith, UC Davis, professor emeritus in math

From the excerpt below it appears we will see more funding to extend the current Washington State math disaster.
We’ve also met with a variety of key math educators and researcher from the public baccalaureates in Washington to explore how TMP might connect to their current projects, including Ginger Warfield, UW math faculty and leader of the Washington Teachers of Teachers of Mathematics, WaToToM, and Ruth Parker, from the Math Education Collaborative-- , who have developed a thoughtful plan for extending Ruth’s excellent work, focused to date mostly on K-8, to high schools with key higher education partners (the proposal was submitted to NSF but turned down); Anita Lenges, The Evergreen State College and Rosemary Sheffield, UW Educational Outreach; and Lani Horn, UW secondary math education, and Jim King, UW math, who are leading a variety of efforts both in Seattle and nationally. You can see a solid if incomplete list of baccalaureate-led math-related projects in a report from WACTE, the organization of the colleges of teacher education.

WOW!!! a report from WACTE, the organization of the colleges of teacher education. Dr Sandra Stotsky is correct as long as education is controlled by folks like those above there will be little if any improvement.

The above folks are responsible for much of the current math nonsense in wide-spread use in Washington State. They openly advocate plans that are anti National Math Advisory Panel recomendations and seem to have had little use for the ideas expressed in the NCTM focal points prior to their publication.

What we have now appears to be a TMP direction for more of the same.

Here is a link to the WACTE report:

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Chain of command oversight nets principal two days of administrative leave.

Puyallup principal receives two days administrative leave for email to school board.

No wonder school boards are so poorly informed.

In Dec 2006, in a conversation with Sally Soriano I pointed out that SPS Central Administration claims about West Seattle High School Interactive Math Program use and enthusiasm differed from reality. She invited me to testify at a school board meeting.

The question now is... should the Puyallup principal have testified at a school board meeting? Of course not .. even his email was unacceptable.

So what does all this tell us about Sealth Principal John Boyd's public support of the "Discovering Series" at the SPS school Board meeting on 4-08-09?

News Flash !!! Building Administrators support Central Administration.
Is there anything more useless?

It looks like a good two days of administrative leave should accompany anything less than the support of central administration.

I guess it is really important to keep the school directors in the dark.
Dialogue is taboo.
The bumbling continues as directors continue to be the directees, and Central Administration directs the directors by controlling the flow of information.

Open and transparent is a goal?
It's best that Board directors only be informed by senior staff...its both best practices and a high leverage move.

Macy's CEO, Terry J. Lundgren, says more Math for B-school.

From an Interview with Macy's CEO, Terry J. Lundgren,
in the New York Times.

Q. Anything you would like business schools to teach more? Less?

A. In our business, there’s not enough emphasis on math. Coming out of college, we really like to have kids who like math, study math and get it. And so I’d like to make sure that there is an emphasis on math. I think there is a strong emphasis on marketing already, and we want that and we need that. But to me, the math piece is weak in most business school educations, and I’d like to have more emphasis on that.

Q. But somebody might say, “That’s what calculators are for.

A. And that’s exactly the problem. Because when, at least when I was in school, we didn’t have the computer technology that we have today to do a lot of the work for us. And so I think there’s logic that has to go into this. And I don’t think you should actually have to have a calculator for every decision that you make that has numbers attached to it. Some of that should just come to you quickly, and you should be able to quickly move to your instincts about that being a good or not good decision.

Seattle's High Leverage Math teaching practices .... Lacking empirical evidence

You can find these: High Leverage math teaching practices here:

which Seattle plans for developing models for effective mathematics teaching through the use of High Leverage teaching practices and differentiation activities.

The problem here is again the lack of Empirical Evidence.
NMAP informs us that there is no reason to believe Seattle's "high leverage practices" will bring about improved academic gains.

Once again the SPS avoids teacher math content preparation in favor of more unproven pedagogical professional development.

My problem with Seattle's differentiated activities can be found here:

What is NCLB going to produce?

NCLB’s Ultimate Restructuring Alternatives: Do they Improve the Quality of Education?
Author: Mathis, William J.
Year: 2009

This brief reviews the independent research on the ultimate sanctions and provides recommendations designed to enhance school improvement.

SPS Director Steve Sunquist said:
Where is the Empirical data?

SPS Director Steve Sunquist wisely asked:
"Where is the Empirical data?"

The NMAP related that the finding of Empirical Data is close to impossible because Empirical Data is for the most part non-existent.

Hook-Bishop-Hook did a huge study comparing reform elementary school math results from LAUSD and San Diego SD, which continued along the reform math path with other districts with similar demographics that moved to California's new internationally competitive standards and matching instructional materials. The reform materials produced vastly inferior results when compared with districts moving to internationally competitively curricula.

When Hook-Bishop-Hook, despite the previous peer-reviewed study, submitted funding requests for another study that was to examine how these same students fare in high school math classes given their k-8 preparation, the funding request was turned down.

This again appears to be just another example of the refusal to find results that contradict the prevalent mindless allegiance to materials that are not producing internationally competitive results, even when accompanied by large expenditures for professional development and coaching etc.

The only best practice I can find (from NMAP) is that the use of example based instructional materials seems to be effective.

Seattle thus far demonstrates a particular avoidance of example based instructional materials.

The Depth of the Mess

From comments floating about cyberspace comes the following:

As an elementary school math teacher, my eyes roll when I see the youngins (teachers) who think EM is the cat's meow. Thank God, we only have it in K, 1, and 2. All those teachers should have to teach a fifth grade class and see the non-fruits of their labor.

It wouldn't help. They would not see anything but "engaged" students. You have to remember that Ms. XX was only talking about half the problem. The full ed school products with the "advanced" degrees in administration and who knows what else, are the ones that put TERC and EDM in place. But it is the rest of the ed school products, the half-trained, content deprived teachers who deliver this junk and don't know any better who are the rest of the problem.

The sad thing is that with this second group, you can't blame them. It's not their fault, but it's virtually impossible to give them the needed content knowledge once they start teaching.


In China....

When asked how they had attained their mathematical knowledge ...
these teachers referred to "studying teaching materials intensely
when teaching it".

Later, they make it clear that it is not the teacher's manual, but the student text that they really study.

If a teacher does not have 4th grade math knowledge when they
start teaching, they have no hope of getting it if they do not have
a good text. A good text might not suffice, but it gives them a chance.

Looking at:
Seattle's Everyday Math that avoids many of the Washington Math Standards particularly standard algorithms,

Connected Math Project 2 that fails to coherently present or develop much in a coherent fashion,

and the recommended "Discovering Series" with few clear examples or definitions,

it is unlikely Students or Teachers are going to efficiently advance their math content knowledge. Clearly another case of Opportunity Lost.


The US government pays for the NSF reform-inquiry math programs. It funds them, sends money to the NSF EHR, and then standards are set, tests written, etc and then the money goes around and around in a big circle. UW receives NSF EHR grants to provide inquiry based professional development. Teachers are forced to get a masters, so their money goes back in the pot via the universities and they are taught the value of the programs the government pays to develop. Who cares about results? There are no checks and no balances.

It is all just like Sandra Stotsky said:

It is the job of the Seattle School Directors to free the children of the city and their families from this continuing disaster.

"In the valley of the blind the one eyed man is king." -- used by Steve Winn.

Can we find anyone in Seattle in a decision making capacity having to do with math that has at least one open eye?
Find out in the evening of April 22, 2009.

Where is the coherent cohesive Math Plan for Seattle? ..Funding?
.... Where are the state standards?

If adopted the recommended instructional materials will saddle SPS students and families with yet another set of expensive substandard materials, which top off an already ineffective k-8 math plan.

The District is still looking at a large operating deficit.

The adoption cost is announced as $1.2 million. No instructional materials below “Discovering Algebra” are included. The instructional materials require that students below grade level in math will enroll in Algebra I and be served by additional interventions and in class small group instruction etc.

Dan Dempsey spent the last two years futilely trying to get action on effective interventions for math k-8 {SPS board policies D44 & D45 are still not followed}. It is a fantasy that in a budget restricted environment, enormous expensive interventions are going to happen and that the district is prepared to pay for these annually. Many years of expensive interventions will be needed because k-8 keeps producing this fairly constant stream of math-disabled students. Interventions are needed long before grade 9. Were those teachers and principal John Boyd, from Sealth HS testifying (4-08-09) for this math recommendation, aware that Sealth 2008 WASL grade 10 math showed 40% of the students at level 1 and 12% with no score?

Directors need to reject the “Discovering Series” and adopt materials that are clear and readable. Clear readable materials that are coherent will not require vast quantities of expensive professional development and will enable more parents to help their children.

The state will have required end of course assessments {EOCs} of the High School math standards in spring 2011. Seattle has no plan to effectively teach many of the students the material necessary to pass those high school math course-ending assessments. A sound k-8 program is the foundation for high school success.

Part of the k-8 math failure can be attributed to Seattle’s focus on mathematics as: the language and science of patterns and connections, which is then coupled with the belief that learning and doing mathematics are active processes in which students construct meaning through exploration and inquiry of challenging problems. This "focus" is an ongoing recipe for poor instructional materials, poor pedagogical balance and continued failure.

I was a part of Seattle’s Pathways program in 2006-2007. All around the state the OSPI prepared Math Modules were being used with many students who had failed the grade 10 math WASL. This was part of the PAS program, which was abandon prior to school year 2008-2009. (WASL math passing as a graduation requirement was not delayed until a decision in April of 2007} . The findings of Washington State Institute for Public Policy’s Wade Cole and Robert Barnofsky indicate that the OSPI math modules were only marginally effective.
For most students High School is too late to correct the k-8 math mess.
In the SPS the State Math Standards continue to be ignored:
Math k-8 must be focused on the Washington Math Standards. Just posting the Standards on the SPS website and ignoring them is not enough. Although an ignored portion of “Excellence for All” states: Alignment of the elementary and middle school instructional materials to the new State Performance Expectations will be completed this summer (2008), the recently revised Math Adoption Home Page makes no connection of alignment to the state math standards.

Seattle Public Schools (SPS) will adopt an aligned curriculum for all grades in math and science. An “aligned curriculum” means that students in any one grade in the District are held to the same high expectations (with the same high quality materials) and that those expectations build on one another as students advance from one grade level to the next.

The use of words “with the same high quality materials” seems odd for the SPS as Everyday Math and Connected Math Project2 are materials in use. These materials do not align well with the state math standards. The SPS has chosen "fidelity of implementation" to Everyday Math, by using the EDM pacing plan, over the State Math Standards.

Or am I incorrect as another portion of the website says:
The Math program is working to align elementary and middle school adopted materials with the new mathematics standards. In addition to updating pacing and instructional guides, this work includes alignment of assessments and learning targets to the new standards, and developing models for effective mathematics teaching through use of High Leverage teaching practices and differentiation activities.

So what exactly is alignment and when will it happen and what will it look like?
These are not rhetorical questions. I am lost in the Edu-speak amid the Edu-fluff.