Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Long Last Word.... on May 6th

May 10, 2009

Dear Directors Bass, DeBell, and Martin-Morris,

It is clear that whether unintentionally or by intention the district is now prepared to continue their discriminatory practices and use of discriminatory instructional materials in mathematics.

As someone who currently teaches at the Lummi Nation School and has spent several years with disadvantaged learners at various locations, I found the May 6th adoption action of the School Directors highly discriminatory toward disadvantaged learners.

Children of poverty and other less advantaged learners tend to move more often and have higher rates of absenteeism than others. This means that the state math standards need to be effectively taught at each grade level. It is a subject of debate as to whether the same instructional materials are needed district-wide to effectively teach the standards at each grade level. What are needed are instructional materials that work for students. Materials that work for children of poverty, whether African American or not, are never adopted in Seattle. (and only used when flown in under the radar like the PTA purchase of Saxon at North Beach or Schmitz Park’s Singapore use) Rarely are materials that work for children of poverty even considered in Seattle. The largest study in the history of education Project Follow Through showed what works for disadvantaged-learners k-3. Direct Instruction works and the inquiry and discovery model of the cognitive approach does not. The Seattle Schools definition of mathematics is tragically flawed and contributes to this discriminatory situation.

The Washington State Parent Teachers Association sees example based instructional materials for math as an extremely high priority, just behind their #1 item of school funding reform. The Seattle Public Schools continue to head in the exact opposite direction away from what works. The “Discovering Series” adopted on May 6, 2009 had been dumped in San Diego at least partially because it failed to effectively educate disadvantaged learners. The Seattle Schools do not intervene with the effective interventions needed when students are not meeting state math standards. Seattle School Board Policies D44.00 and D45.00 require these interventions but instead large numbers of mathematically unskilled children are promoted rather than educated. For years the Seattle Schools failed to define grade level math expectations. In October 2008, math performance expectations for grade levels were posted but some expectations are still ignored, like the standard algorithm for long division of a four-digit dividend by a two-digit divisor or the standard algorithm for multiplication of two multi-digit numbers. Who should be held accountable for this?

It can be shown that the Seattle Public Schools through their allegiance to reform math materials and ideology has harmed the population classified as disadvantaged learners and continues to harm them.
One way this can be shown is through a widening achievement gap as measured by the Washington Assessment of Student Learning math at grades 4, 7, and ten over the last decade. The district currently still disregards the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Focal Points document by not teaching standard algorithms for multiplication and division. The two high schools, Garfield and Cleveland, using the Reform Math text Interactive Math Program, showed extremely poor performance for English Language Learning students where this failing experiment is now in its third year. (Black students also were poorly served in this experiment.) The district continually disregards what works for disadvantaged learners by refusing to adopt example based instructional materials and refusing to abandon excessive inquiry/discovery approaches.

The district does not prepare students for "Authentic Algebra". The National Math Advisory Panel final report Foundations for Success, states that students need access to an authentic algebra course and that students need to be prepared to succeed in such a course. Adequate preparation includes a sound understanding of rational numbers, which includes well-developed skill in dealing with fractions, decimals, and percents. The Seattle Public Schools have failed and continue to fail to provide the effective interventions mandated in policies D44.00 and D45.00. Thus for a large proportion of students, many of the foundational skills needed for “Authentic Algebra” success are essentially ignored during the k-8 years.

Even at the African American Academy despite significant data indicating that reform math materials had failed economically disadvantaged African American Students, the use of these materials continued.
At AAA the district implemented the full and deficient Everyday Mathematics - Connected Math combination k-8 (with Everyday Math beginning in SY 2007-2008). Math results at AAA remain unacceptably low. Changing from one defective “Reform Math” program to another continued an ongoing failure. The district has recently decided to close AAA.

The Seattle School Board heard public testimony at three school board meetings from many members of the community against the adoption of the "Discovering Series". Of particular interest are the testimonies of three high school teachers: Michael Rice and Glenda Madison of Rainier Beach and Robert Murphy of Franklin. All three addressed what is needed by the disadvantaged learners they serve and that the "Discovering Series" in particular and "Reform Math" in general are grossly inadequate for fulfilling the mathematical needs of their student populations. A science professor from the University of Washington testified about the tragic effects reform math was having upon students and termed the “Discovering Series” a tragic mistake. A UW research mathematician, who has been a been a middle school and high school teacher, spoke about his through review of “Discovering Geometry” and how inadequate this textbook is.

It is clear that whether unintentionally or by intention the district is now prepared to continue their discriminatory practices and use of discriminatory instructional materials in mathematics.

Director DeBell, along with Directors Martin-Morris, and Bass stressed the need for a change in direction because this district has a track record and it is not a good one. The vote on May 6, 2009 was more than just about a high school math adoption of instructional materials. It was a vote on k-12 math direction. Both Directors DeBell and Martin-Morris expressed the need for books that were exampled based, which could be used as references to learn the math. The "Discovering Series" books are not example based and they are poor references.

Through a 4-3 vote the school board has given the approval required that allows the Central Administration to continue failing Seattle students and continue their discriminatory math practices toward disadvantaged learners.

The district has abandoned any plans for an "Authentic Algebra" course.
The National Math Advisory Panel final report recommends that students have access to an "Authentic Algebra" course. The district will not be offering an "Authentic Algebra" course. Instead the offering will be "Discovering Algebra" a pretend Algebra course.

The "Discovering Geometry" book was found inadequate and very problematic in an extensive review written by UW research mathematician John Lee. Dr. Lee had submitted his written review to the school board directors well in advance of the May 6, 2009 decision.

Do the Directors have any interest in stopping the ongoing discriminatory math practices of the Seattle Public Schools?
Perhaps some directors do. As a collective body acting on May 6, 2009 clearly the board authorized the Seattle Public Schools to continue discriminatory practices in the teaching of Mathematics. In the words of Professor Mass the “Trifecta” of disaster is now in place.

Greta Bornemann, director of Mathematics teaching and learning at OSPI, did a masterful sales job on the Seattle School Directors.
In her 9-minute presentation, she mentioned "alignment" six times in her talk. After her talk, were directors aware that Core-Plus was sixth in "alignment" to our new math standards? Here is a chart of alignment followed by the State Board's soundness rating. Please note that: Core-Plus, a discovery/inquiry series, was not considered unacceptable by the independent SBE mathematicians. Thus bias cannot be claimed. Note: that Prentice Hall has 82% alignment to our math standards compared to Discovering's 83.5%.

....................... OSPI Score : : SBE Soundness Rating
Holt ................ 0.838 : : Meets minimum standard
Discovering ....... 0.835 : : Unacceptable
Glencoe ........... 0.826 : : Approaches minimum standards
Prentice Hall ..... 0.820 : : Unknown
McDougal Littell.. 0.783 : : Unknown
CorePlus......... 0.780 : : Approaches minimum standards

The chart can be found at:

Ms. Bornemann seriously misled the directors and then they voted 4-3 to adopt an unsound curriculum for the next generation of kids in Seattle.

The SBE reviewed four text series:
Holt, Discovering, Glencoe, and Core-Plus.
The findings by the SBE in regard to mathematical soundness were:
As shown above Holt = Meets minimum standard
Glencoe & Core-Plus approach Minimum standards
Discovering Series = unacceptable

Despite the frequent statements that the adoption committee was composed of diverse members, they all shared something in common. They had high scores on the 5 questions asked on the application questionnaire. When the scoring rubric is examined for these five questions it is apparent that only applicants with an extreme Discovery/Inquiry “Reform Math” bias are usually selected.

Superintendent Dorn's initial preliminary recommendations after only two days in office on Jan 15, 2009 were Holt, Discovering, and Core-Plus. These recommendations took place before the SBE mathematical soundness review and recommendations. Superintendent Dorn now only recommends Holt. This recommendation was based on the four series reviewed by the SBE and only Holt met the minimum standards for mathematical soundness.

Ms Bornemann’s presentation was almost exclusively about alignment which means nothing if the materials are unsound.
Her 9-minute presentation can be viewed by selecting the SPS Board meeting of May 6th and then clicking down above the sliding arrow and moving to minute 117.

Currently the majority of the Seattle population, with opinions, is angered and disgusted with this board level decision. This mistake will continue to mathematically disable the children for several more years. Had one more director stepped forward we could have begun recovery efforts for our children. Clearly at least one OSPI leader opposes the recovery effort. Ms. Bornemann has an extensive history as a promoter of reform math and mislead the school board members. She like all of the OSPI math section leaders are Terry Bergeson’s people or are recently hired with Ms. Bornemann’s guidance.

If you go to the Access Center site (funded by US Dept of Ed, Special Ed Programs and look at math you will find briefs with the recommended instruction for learning disabled or at risk kids. The explicit instruction described and the rationales for it are not compatible with inquiry learning. Briefs explain why structure is essential for the retention of new skills.

You can't reconcile the 6 Teaching Functions described in the middle school brief with discovery math.

Also look carefully at "What does Direct/explicit Instruction Look Like for Mathematics"? The brief states:

Without textbook examples modeling desired outcomes, I believe there's a good argument to be made that the school system is not meeting it's federal obligation for FAPE.
There is some case law on this point with respect to "appropriate" including explicit instruction in phonetics for dyslexic children if sought. This should be analogous to math since they are essential, tested skills.

Douglas Carnine has written extensively on explicit instruction in math and states that "children of poverty need a structured approach and can't follow process and language heavy new math".


Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.
State Board of Education Math Advisory Panelist (2007-2009)
No Child Left Behind Highly Qualified Teacher of Mathematics


Anonymous said...

This is a bit like the yellow brick road. Are we there yet, Toto?

How about the school board eating their hats when they see WASL results in July? I can't wait.

dan dempsey said...

How about Ms. Bornemann and Randy Dorn explaining this one for us?

dan dempsey said...

Is this what happens in a Republic?

We elect leaders to make decisions about issues too complex for us to take the time to throughly investigate. Then we get what appear to be less reliable decisions than decisions by dart board from some directors.

Why is Ms. Bornemann allowed to deceive the directors? Oh I forgot, its all about process and when it comes to spring time math adoptions the process always includes fooling the school board. Carla Santorno one year now Greta.

Could someone please tell me how we hold anyone accountable? Are we expecting the Superintendent to do that? What if we want our promised Singapore Math, the original promise of Textbooks and Workbooks, not that lame Extra Practice book.

It seems the board's view of accountability would be hands off. Accountability is likely micro-management and out of the board's jurisdiction.

Oh whatever are we to do?