Saturday, June 6, 2009

In Court "Discovering Math" decision appealled

{Seattle's discrimination of educationally disadvantaged learners in Mathematics must end.

Seattle has failed to intelligently apply either their own students' data or the recommendations of the National Math Advisory Panel and in so doing chooses to continue ongoing discrimination.

It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.

What follows is in the court filing.

1. Plaintiffs Da-Zanne Porter, Martha McLaren, and Clifford Mass (Plaintiffs) allege that the Seattle School District No. 1, in King County, State of Washington (District), its Board of Directors (Board), and Superintendent and Secretary of the Board Maria Goodloe-Johnson (Superintendent) violated Wash. Const. Art. IX and RCW 28A by adopting a math textbook series and implementation plan that has failed to address the achievement gap between economically disadvantaged students and non-economically disadvantaged students, between non-Caucasian students and Caucasian students, and that has proven to be ineffective in teaching basic or advanced math skills to a large percentage of the student population served by Seattle Public Schools at the High School level.

2. Plaintiff Da-Zanne Porter is African-American, and the parent of an African-American child currently in 8th grade who will be using the math textbook at issue here in succeeding years. She is concerned that her child will be unable to succeed academically or professionally if he does not have math skills on a level with peers from other school districts using different textbooks, and on a level with Caucasian students in this District. She will be adversely affected by having to hire tutors or tutor her child herself in order to compensate for inadequate math instruction, or by having a child who is unable to succeed academically, including unable to get into the college of his choice, if his math skills are below those of peers using different math texts.
3. Plaintiff Martha McLaren is the grandparent of a Seattle Public School child, and a resident and taxpayer within the Seattle School District’s geographic boundaries. She will be adversely affected by having to hire tutors or tutor her grandchild herself in order to compensate for inadequate math instruction if her grandchild is unable to effectively use the curriculum chosen by the District, or by having a grandchild who is unable to succeed academically, including unable to get into the college of his choice, if his math skills are below those of peers using different math texts. She is affected by being a resident of the region who wants racial equality, and is concerned at the widening achievement gap, opportunities for advancement for economically disadvantaged persons and persons of color. She is aggrieved and adversely affected as a taxpayer, because a well-educated population increases the tax base of the region, thereby lowering personal taxes.
4. Plaintiff Clifford Mass is a University of Washington atmospheric science professor. Atmospheric science and atmospheric science instruction involves both basic and advanced math skills. He has had to lower the math level of his classes due to the declining math competency of students entering the University of Washington. Important material can no longer be taught in elementary classes such as ATMOS SCI 101. Some students are unable to major in atmospheric sciences because their math background is so weak. The use of "integrated" and "inquiry-based" math curricula in school districts such as Seattle are a major cause of these problems. The adoption of the "Discovering" Math series, "inquiry-based" textbooks found to be unsound by the State Board of Education, will deepen and extend deficient math backgrounds of students in the Seattle School District.
5. Plaintiffs’ interests are among those the District was required to consider when it made its decision.
6. A decision in favor of Plaintiffs will redress the harm done to Plaintiffs by the Board’s decisions.
7. Plaintiffs have exhausted their administrative remedies to the extent required by law. There are no further administrative appeals for Plaintiffs to exhaust.
8. Defendant District is a public corporation organized under ch. 28A, RCW.
9. Defendant Board is a body of elected officials charged with administering the laws of the State of Washington relating to common schools as they pertain to the District, and forming and administering the District’s policies.
10. Defendant Superintendent is the appointed executive of the District and the Secretary of the Board.

11. This Court has jurisdiction under RCW 28A.645.010 (Review of School District decisions).
12. Venue is proper in this Court under RCW 4.12.020(2) and RCW 4.12.025(1).

13. On May 6, 2009, the Seattle School Board adopted the High School Mathematics Committee’s Recommendations for Algebra, Geometry, Advanced Algebra, Pre-Calculus, Calculus, and Statistics (the “Recommendations”). These recommendations set the course of instruction for high school math, including selection of student and teacher edition textbooks and guidance in specific classroom instructional methods.
14. The Recommendations promote an inquiry-based mathematics teaching model over an explicit instruction model. The District and Board have used an inquiry-based mathematics model for several years, despite evidence that it is an ineffective teaching method.
15. Since the early to mid- 1990’s the Seattle School District has gradually phased in non-traditional math texts, starting with the “INTEGRATED” series of high school math text books, continuing in 2000 with the “CONNECTED MATH PROJECT” texts for middle schools, and with the “TERC INVESTIGATIONS” series in elementary schools in the late 90's, followed by “EVERYDAY MATH” in 2007. In addition, several high schools have piloted the “INTERACTIVE MATH PROGRAM” texts following the same implementation model adopted in the Recommendations. These programs all promote inquiry-based learning, rather than explicit instruction.
16. Corresponding with the introduction of these inquiry-based texts in the 1990s, student achievement in mathematics has stagnated. In particular, the achievement gap among ethnic minority students has increased over time.
17. There is currently an achievement gap between Caucasian and non-Caucasian students in the Seattle Public Schools. There is also an achievement gap between economically underprivileged students, including students who qualify for free and reduced lunch, and more affluent students. The achievement gap is present in standardized test scores and other measures.
18. The Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) is delivered annually to compare student performance against state academic standards. Seattle and the four largest districts in Washington with similar demographics to Seattle were analyzed for reduction in achievement gap. The WASL results show larger achievement gaps for Black and Hispanic students as opposed to White and Asian students at grades 4, 7, and 10. Seattle had the largest achievement gap growth in 5 of the 6 analysis subgroups evaluated by the WASL between 2003 and 2007.
19. Evidence in the record before the Board demonstrated that the inquiry-based teaching methods used in the Recommendations do not work for disadvantaged students, including low-income students, and non-Caucasian students. Inquiry-based teaching methods work for only a small percentage of students, and leave the rest behind.
20. Project Follow Through (PFT) was a federally funded study that compared different education models. PFT was ignored by the Board in adopting the Recommendations. Specifically, PFT showed that the Explicit Instruction model was the only instructional approach what actually helps disadvantaged students. The “cognitive model” and the “inquiry-based” model, used in Seattle for the last 8 to 15 years, were among the many models that clearly were shown not to be effective. Project Follow Through remains the most comprehensive study ever undertaken in this country, and the statistical validity of its design and conclusions is unquestionable, yet the District has ignored its findings.
21. In 2006 Cleveland and Garfield High Schools began projects at their schools using the Interactive Mathematics Program materials and an exploration/inquiry instructional model. These projects continued for three school years. Cleveland produced markedly worse math scores on the 10th grade 2008 Math WASL. West Seattle High School participated in the Interactive Mathematics project, but never had a school project.
22. The Board chose to ignore uncontroverted evidence that the program adopted in the Recommendations would not work for disadvantaged students. In regard to English Language Learners the 10th grade 2008 Math WASL pass rates are:
District average 19.5%
Cleveland 4.8%
Garfield 0.0%
West Seattle 19.0%

23. The National Mathematics Advisory Panel (NMAP), a federal body convened by the President, wrote a comprehensive report in 2008 on different methods of mathematics instruction. The NMAP report found that “[e]xplicit instruction with students who have mathematical difficulties has shown consistently positive effects on performance with word problems and computation.” By the term ‘explicit instruction,’ the Panel meant that teachers should provide clear models for solving a problem type using an array of examples, that students should receive extensive practice in the use of newly learned strategies and skills, that students should be provided with opportunities to think aloud (i.e., talk through the decisions they make and the steps they take), and that students should be provided with extensive feedback. The explicit instruction described by the NMAP panel is found in explicit instruction teaching methods, and not in the inquiry-based mathematics adopted by the Board.
24. Ernest Boyer, then-U.S. Commissioner of Education, conducted an evaluation of mathematics teaching methods and acknowledged that an evaluation of relevant research “found that only one (Explicit Instruction) of the 22 models which were assessed in the evaluation consistently produced positive outcomes.”
25. The Washington State Board of Education has deemed the Discovering series, the series adopted in the Recommendation, as mathematically unsound. This series is fundamentally inquiry-based and is not aligned with instructional practices recommended for disadvantaged learners. Of the four texts submitted for review in 2008, only one, by the Holt Company, was deemed acceptable. The “Discovering” series was found to be the least acceptable of the four.
26. The Board failed to adjust its curriculum to address the achievement gaps between economic groups and non-Caucasian and Caucasian students, and failed to address the patent failings with the inquiry-based learning model.

Cause of Action
(RCW 28A.645)

1. Plaintiffs incorporate by reference Paragraphs 1 through 26 above.
2. Plaintiffs, severally and collectively, are aggrieved by the Board’s decision to adopt the Recommendations.
3. Plaintiffs, severally and collectively, are aggrieved by the Board’s failure to adjust its curriculum to address the achievement gaps between economic groups, and between non-Caucasian and Caucasian students, and failure address the patent failings with the inquiry-based learning model.
4. The Board and District’s decision to adopt the Recommendations was clearly erroneous as a matter of law, violated Wash. Const. Art. IX, RCW 28A, District policies, rested on errors of fact, and was arbitrary and capricious.

WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs request the following relief:
a. That the court order Defendants to rescind the decision to adopt the Recommendations and re-open the consideration process for a math curriculum for high school.
b. Such other relief as the court may deem just and equitable.
Dated this 5th day of June, 2009.

Respectfully submitted,

Keith P. Scully
WSBA No. 28677
Attorney for Plaintiffs

RCW 28A.150.230
Basic education act — District school directors' responsibilities.

(1) It is the intent and purpose of this section to guarantee that each common school district board of directors, whether or not acting through its respective administrative staff, be held accountable for the proper operation of their district to the local community and its electorate. In accordance with the provisions of Title 28A RCW, as now or hereafter amended, each common school district board of directors shall be vested with the final responsibility for the setting of policies ensuring quality in the content and extent of its educational program and that such program provide students with the opportunity to achieve those skills which are generally recognized as requisite to learning.

1 comment:

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