Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Discrimination of Disadvantaged Learners in Seattle

Dear Seattle School Director, 5-13-2009

I keep hearing about a concern for the disadvantaged learner in Seattle. In mathematics I have seen no substantive action from the school board in behalf of the disadvantaged learner.

Attached you will find a document from the SPS 2007 EDM adoption. Contained in this document are statements pertaining to the achievement gap.

Of particular interest is this:

2. There is substantial variability in the mathematics content taught in classrooms, which contributes to the achievement gap. In 2006, the achievement gap between minority groups and white students on the 4th grade math WASL was as follows
(See Appendices for more detail):
I. Asian students: 9.6 percentage points
II. Black students: 44.7 percentage points
III. Hispanic students: 36.3 percentage points
IV. Native American students: 28.5 percentage points
(not mentioned in SPS report Limited English students: 53.8 points)

So after one year of EDM what did those GAPS look like?

Spring 2008 data.
I. Asian students: 11.4 percentage points
II. Black students: 46.3 percentage points
III. Hispanic students: 40.4 percentage points
IV. Native American students: 30.2 percentage points
(not mentioned in SPS report Limited English students: 56.1 points)

You will note after one year of EDM all five categories are worse:

The gaps are larger from the 2006 reference to spring 2008 for
I. Asian students: by 1.8
II. Black students: by 1.6
III. Hispanic students: by 4.1
IV. Native American students: by 1.7
(not mentioned in SPS report Limited English students: by 2.3)

I've spent since Jan 17th 2007 attempting to end this mathematical discrimination of disadvantaged learners. The school board has chosen to do nothing except continue ongoing discrimination.
This is not a recent occurrence the math achievement gap continually expanded over a decade and the school board did nothing, except to continue to approve more reform math materials that expanded the achievement gap.

I've advised you to "intelligently apply" the relevant data and the board has refused to do so.

I've suggested that you heed the message of Project Follow Through, which is the definitive study on k-3 disadvantaged learners but to no avail.

The NMAP recommends preparation for Authentic Algebra through development of understanding and arithmetic skills with rational numbers. The NMAP recommends all children have access to an "Authentic Algebra" class. You just voted approving Discovering Algebra a book that definitely is not Authentic Algebra. A "Discovering Series" supporter, SPU instructor Russ Killingsworth on the Kirby Wilbur show, called the approach of the "Discovering Series" novel.

The board has chosen to ignore D44.00 and D45.00 so that disadvantaged learners do not receive the interventions mentioned. The board condones social promotion rather than the effective interventions of D44.00 and D45.00. The board has now chosen after being misled by Ms. Greta Bornemann to select a book series which is clearly mathematically unsound in the areas of Linear equations, Quadratic functions, and the Triangle Sum Theorem.

In addition the Central Administration published the mathematics grade level performance expectations on the website (Oct. 2008), but the Everyday math pacing plan is followed instead of those posted expectations. Prior to this website posting the school district had a number of years in which there were no grade level requirements for math skills.

The NMAP advises example based instructional materials for disadvantaged learners.

With their adoption vote on the "Discovering Series" Four members of the Seattle School Board clearly endorse continuing the discriminatory actions of the Seattle School central administration. Why continue the decade plus of ongoing mathematical discrimination of disadvantaged learners? These four apparently had no problem with the Central Administration's stacking of the adoption committee through the use of an application form and scoring rubric that produced a committee filled with reform math advocates.

Reading the brochures published by Key Curriculum Press to describe the "Discovering Math" series there is no reference, I can find, to the balance that that Ms. de la Fuente mentioned. This is an exploration, discovery, inquiry series it is not balanced. It does not have enough practice.

The four board members chose to ignore the testimony of two Rainier Beach teachers and one Franklin teacher that directly addressed the deficiencies of this series and the negative effects it would have on the disadvantaged learners they teach.

I sent you the data on the PD^3 projects at Cleveland and Garfield and the disasterous effect these books and program had on Disadvantaged learners. IMP is a wordy book series that devastates English Language Learners and other disadvantaged learners.

PD^3 projects at Cleveland and Garfield were experiments on ELL students and should have had permission from the University of Washington's Institutional Review Board. This experimental disaster should have been stopped after year one. It is now in its third year. Why? The bigger question is why did you adopt "Discovering" given that is has several similarities to IMP and the PD^3 project.

The Seattle School board has chosen a wordy book that is not example based and it is exactly the type of book that has failed disadvantaged learners in Seattle over the last decade. Why are you discriminating against the students you are supposed to be serving?

I guess the only way to get appropriate instructional materials for disadvantaged learners and shrink the achievement gap is through action in court.

Do you have any other suggestion?


Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.

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