Sunday, April 5, 2009

American Diploma Project and Seattle
a letter to Seattle School Directors

Dear Seattle Schools Directors, 4/5/2009

The Achieve American Diploma Project Standards.
The URL for this is

From the inside cover, a quotation from a manufacturing and distribution executive:

Increasingly, the computer will do the computation ...
[but] thinking about the problem, developing the problem, understanding the problem, looking at it from all sides, deciding what important information is relevant to the problem .. is the harder part ... You can't do that without an understanding of the computation."

With the approval of the "mathematically unsound" Discovering Series for high school students, the SPS will have in place a k-12 program that leaves students unable to do the computations much less understand them.

In the (above linked) American Diploma Project document:
Ready or Not: Creating a High School Diploma that Counts

The Math Benchmarks begin on Page 52.
On page 56
I.1 The high school graduate can compute with rational numbers fluently and accurately without a calculator.

The SPS administration would like us all to believe that the current struggle is between Traditional Math and Reform Math and that the SPS admin will select the optimum blend.

The reality is that the struggle is between parents that would like to see their children have a reasonable chance of success with collegiate mathematics and an SPS administration that refuses to adopt materials that can give children the k-12 preparation for such success.


Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.


Anonymous said...

The Achieve Standard is Seattle's Blueprint for success! Don't be misled. The ADP is part of the the PROBLEM, not the SOLUTION.

Anonymous said...

The Boeing Foundation and Achieve, Inc are behind the America Diploma Project. Its a blue-collar diploma. Uniform standards is one of the cornerstones of Duncan's call for reform. At the heart of this debate is defining what uniform standards will be. Michael Cohen's standards represent the Governor's Roundtable and it calls for a radical departure from public education.

dan dempsey said...

No, Seattle fails miserably at even meeting what Achieve looks for.

Anonymous said...

Then let me quote your friend, Bill Hook -

World Class Elementary School Math Standards and Textbooks -
Serious Doubts about the Bellevue Claims
William Hook, May 2, 2006
1.0 Summary

"The claims of “outstanding academic success and rigorous international math standards” for the Bellevue school district are a major barrier to the adoption of true world class international math standards and textbooks for the critical elementary school years in the state of Washington, according to the math activist group “Wheresthemath”. This is because many state and local political figures and school boards believe these claims, and are inclined to follow the example of Bellevue in establishing “world class” math standards and purchasing textbooks. ‘Wheresthemath’ has asked me to examine these claims. The primary purpose of this paper is to document my findings as they relate to a possible state adoption of a new set of math standards.

I conclude that the Bellevue model will not provide the state of Washington with a world class K-12 math program, and most of the claims about curriculum and textbooks found in their public documents are inaccurate or greatly exaggerated. State legislators should exhibit a healthy skepticism about these claims in considering new state math standards, particularly since there are other North American models which have shown stunning success with an entire range of students and school districts, including school districts more similar to Seattle, Tacoma and Spokane than to affluent Bellevue."

The Achieve Standard is a blueprint for a blue-collar math standard that is being used by UW/WSU staff to rewrite Washington's standards (pro-reform, pro-Everyday, pro-SPS). Remember the new-Algebra 2? I was there and I saw it on some people's laptops. The teachers and parents all commented on the new standards lack of rigor (e.g. no logs, no trig).

This is from the Gov's Roundtable (Libertarian business-framed think-tank -Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Carolina)

Anonymous said...

2006 - Bellevue had been using Core Plus for almost two decades. Had been the regional center for training all Core Plus teachers. Its a scam!

dan dempsey said...

I agree hard to tell whether Core-Plus or Interactive Math Program is the worst math series ever published. I think Discovering Algebra may be able to give them a run for worst first year high school math book ever.

Anonymous said...

A good part of the problem is the US model being used to create textbooks. It goes something like this - I've got some NSF grant money and a textbook that I need to have evaluated. Would you mind trying it out on your classroom for me? Just let me know how you liked it. If its good I'll submit it back with my evaluation of what we did with the grant. Whoa! Only in America.

Its PC to talk about standards, but avoid ever mentioning the textbooks. Do we have a pink elephant in the living room or what? Textbooks, students, and teachers are evaluated the same way. We're all treated equal, except some are more equal than others. Its the height of arrogance and stupidity.

Anonymous said...

I had to look at Discovering Geometry - and I opened chapter 3. You are correct the subject matter looks very similiar to Core Plus (use of recursion and line plots in a chapter title Linear equations). It looks to be about the same reading level as Connected Math and from MSU (Why am I not surprised?) Could it be this is the sequel to CM?

I did some further scouting and found that the author is against the traditional way mathematics has been taught - not surprisingly. J. Murdock wrote an editorial to the Record-Eagle a newspaper near Corvalis, Or and this is one of the responses he got from Bill Bogley, Associate Dean of the Honors College OSU.

The real question: To sink or swim in math class?

A May 9 Record-Eagle forum article by Jerald Murdock addressed the question of whether a "traditional” mathematics curriculum should be available in Traverse City Area Public Schools in addition to the current "reform” curriculum.

Mr. Murdock argued against such a step. A traditional alternative was restored to the high schools in 1999. I am writing to advocate that the same be done for K-8.

Mr. Murdock expressly values the educational benefits of inquiry, hands-on engagement, connections, communication, teamwork and problem-solving. These are indeed essential but must be based upon knowledge and skill, and not just in mathematics. In all walks of life, good decisions demand good information.

Mr. Murdock mentioned specific mathematical concepts only in the context of what "many of us learned in traditional school mathematics.” There, he cited "computation procedures for whole numbers, fractions, solving equations, and even dividing polynomials.”

Such things are the essential stuff of mathematical content and must remain at the center of mathematics learning.

In contrast, the learning environments of reform mathematics are process-fueled and content-starved. Student teams are "challenged” to "discover” solutions without first developing conceptual knowledge or computational skill and experience. Imagine an analogous approach to swimming instruction in which groups of neophytes are tossed into the deep end to sink or swim.

This sink-or-swim feature of reform education is socially destructive. Public schools exist to promote educational attainment for all students, especially the less privileged. Children from advantaged families tend to have greater learning support at home. Children from hard-pressed families rely on schools to provide learning opportunities. When schools fail, prospects for achievement and success are restricted to the privileged.

Mr. Murdock cites Advanced Placement credit earned by TCAPS students between 1997 and 2006. More comprehensive data paints a different picture. A 2006 Michigan State University study published by the American Mathematical Association analyzed the college records of graduates from four Michigan reform-based school districts, including TCAPS. As reform implementation progressed, college math placement scores dropped, entering students enrolled in lower-level college math courses, and fewer students went on to complete a technical calculus course. Most earned lower grades, except for a small group of top students.

The impact of sink-or-swim reform education is to significantly reduce academic achievement for all but a few.

The impacts of sink-or-swim math instruction are potentially more dangerous for K-8 than for high school. Within the prevailing K-8 reform curriculum, one local elementary teacher advised that home tutorial is the only way for children to learn multiplication tables. Eighth-graders who have not yet internalized math facts and basic arithmetic will be barred from technical career paths, including business, medicine and engineering.

Reform mathematics has stirred considerable controversy in the nationwide community of mathematics educators, scientists and professional mathematicians. I urge education leaders in Traverse City to continue the work begun in 1999 and reinstate a traditional content-focused and skill-based mathematics curriculum at the K-8 level. It's best for the kids.

About the author
Bill Bogley of Corvallis, Ore., is a 1977 graduate of Traverse City Senior High School. He is now professor of mathematics at Oregon State University, where he also serves as the associate dean of the university Honors College.

I am glad that Michael Serra (Discovering Geometry) has nothing to do with Discovering Algebra - he's really an okay guy and a heck of an instructor.

I have not heard 'sink or swim mathematics' before now, but that seems very appropriate when the math curriculum is so poor that its more of a handicap to put students through it for a year. They won't ever want to take math again.

Anonymous said...

I looked up Traverse City and its in Northern Michigan, ah yes! and the story gets even better. In 1998, Traverse City was one of five cities that was studied by the DOE and NSF during phase II to determine if standards-based mathematics was working.

"Across the 17 districts, we noted three general models for coordinating district-level resources,
including Title I money. Each of the districts we interviewed described some variation on one of
these models. One way to clarify key differences in the structure of organizational models is to
give them familiar visual referents. In this case, we likened each model to some variation on the
human hand. The complexity of the “hand models” for resource coordination varies with the
level of personal interactions they entail. This, in turn, correlates to some extent with the size of
the district."

What coordination model would you describe for Seattle?

Tight fist? How about a small-minded school board mentality for governing a large school district.

Anonymous said...

Being even a great teacher, does not mean you can be a great 'textbook' writer! The US methods now seem so antiquated because that's how business always got done before. Now you have groups like Singapore's Ministry of Education that give their 'textbooks' a different treatment, much like Occam's razor. First they identified their audience (sheltered english speakers) and then they tested their problems and improved upon their product repeatedly. Singapore is 'super-integrated' combining geometry and algebra k-12 instruction and merging standards, textbook, and assessment all into one package. Its ready and easy to use. We become better teachers when everyone understands what we're teaching (including ourselves).

dan dempsey said...

It was said:
I looked up Traverse City and its in Northern Michigan

Well sort of true.
Traverse City is in the Northern Part of Lower Michigan. I consider Upper Michigan to be Northern Michigan and Traverse City is not in upper Michigan.
My Great-Grand parents were Michiganders. Dollarville in Upper MI and Ludington and Manistee in Lower MI.

Anonymous said...

I was getting my information from off the newspaper article (The Record-Eagle). I thought it was interesting that the author of Discovering Math would throw himself into the public spotlight.

This is from the key press website:

Discovering Algebra was released in 2002 after five years of creating, field-testing, and refining a preliminary edition. The Discovering Algebra curriculum developed as a cooperative project between authors at the Interlochen Arts Academy and Key Curriculum Press. Discovering Algebra was shaped by what the authors learned from writing Advanced Algebra through Data Exploration and working with students and teachers. Some work for the book was based on the Graphing Calculator Enhanced Algebra Project, developed in 1991–1995 and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

They also provide an account of the development process (iterative development model? haha!)

I think we are very close to the Center for Inquiry (think Paul Kurtz and HP. Blavatsky and the Interlochen Arts Academy)

Anonymous said...

Its would be laughable if we were to find out our textbooks were written by Theosophists who had hijacked our institutions for their own selfish needs.

dan dempsey said...

I'd been wondering about possible NSF connections.
Thanks for the heads up on:
Some work for the book was based on the Graphing Calculator Enhanced Algebra Project, developed in 1991–1995 and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

I used Discovering Algebra in School year 2000-2001 at Blaine High School, Blaine, WA.

Anonymous said...

The Graphing Calculator Enhanced Algebra Project (Waits and Demana from Ohio State University) is connected to Texas Instruments and the Governor's Roundtable. Don't forget Ohio State professors did the important study in Austin School District that concluded inquiry-based or discovery learning improved achievement in Title I schools (Webster) - those professors are currently in Kalamazoo at the Evaluation Center.

Anonymous said...

Since you used DA in Blaine, you probably noticed the textbooks 'iterative' approach to lines as opposed to the 'traditional' approach. An iteration is a recursive loop and a seed. Students have to be able to write the iterative rule and the seed and then deduce the correct equation for the line. Core plus answers are in non-standard format y = A + Bx (my mother age 70 claims she learned this form in hs back in the 50's.) The idiotive approach is Waits and Demana's contribution to reform math's fishnest. Its also in the Core Plus series where you might as well forget about parabolas. Everyone stays confused just learning how to draw lines using the idiotive approach (with or without calculators) Some schools compromised and bought $15 Casios to use with the books to teach kids how to draw lines. Right. How can these people act so backward? Anyone know Neanderthal? Didn't they do any math back in the day? If I wanted to know how many legs of sheep I had in my herd, I wouldn't count the legs.

Baaah... sheeeeep math... Baaah