Friday, June 26, 2009

July 1 : the only Seattle School Board meeting for seven weeks

Yes indeed....
the school district that adopted the defective Discovering Series
and spent $474,440 on Consumable materials for Everyday Math a series out of whack with both NMAP and the State Math Standards,
the district that believes that class size is not important,
the district that thinks differentiated instruction coupled with socially promoting everyone is a best practice

is having their last school board on Wednesday July 1, 2009.

Beginning at 8:00 AM Monday morning you may call 206-252-0400 and obtain a three minute testimony slot for Wednesday evening.
7-01-2009 beginning at 6 PM.

Else wait until Wednesday August 19, 2009.
Here is my draft for 7-1-09

Dear Directors, I am Dan Dempsey

The WASL pass rate for fourth grade Black students is 28% the worst score since 2002. Everyday Math has no explicit instruction.

The WASL pass rate for seventh grade Black students is 24%. Connected Math has no explicit instruction.

Seattle in continuing their reform math ideology ignores the National Math Advisory Panel’s recommendation for “Explicit Instruction”. The WASL pass rate for tenth grade Black students is 16%. That is one reason the “Discovering Math” adoption is the subject of a legal appeal in Superior court. Why would anyone wish to extend the reform math failure a moment longer, rather than admitting “We got it all wrong”? Please abandon the denialBut you did get it all wrong.

STEM option for Cleveland: Just as it is not possible to build the “high rent” 9th through 12th floors of a building without those below it, a similar situation exists in Seattle mathematics for mathematics is hierarchical. Floors k-8 in Seattle math are in remarkably poor condition especially for educationally disadvantaged tenants.

To improve k-8 math will require attention to the State Math Standards and NMAP recommendations. A great deal more emphasis must be placed on teaching each standard algorithm. The district’s current emphasis on Everyday Math’s focus algorithms is counterproductive and an enormous waste of instructional time.

The Strategic Plan required an alignment to the State Math Standards by Fall 2008 but there was no noticeable alignment in the last school year. Without a large increase in “Explicit Instruction” Seattle will remain ineffective in educating all the children. Thus in violation of article IX of our state constitution.

Upon high school entrance approximately 25% of entering 9th graders are placed in remedial math classes. These classes are NOT the source of their math difficulties thus placing these students into Algebra I upon high school entrance is NOT a solution. But this is the plan for next year. The elimination of remedial classes has already been tried with disastrous results at Cleveland with WASL math pass rates at 12% the lowest in the district and at only 6% for Black students. (2008) Why expand that to every high school?

Let’s try a new plan instead: replace social promotion with effective interventions for struggling students. Then students would have the opportunity to be prepared for an “Authentic Algebra” class in grade 9, if the district ever chose to offer one.

Directors, focus on what works …
Please Stop defending and continuing the current math failure. For Gosh sakes look at the math data and figure it out.

Cleveland STEM looks like grasping for the next straw instead of confronting reality.

Thank you.

1 comment:

Steve Peha said...


Clearly, the practice of social promotion causes many problems. Whether it’s an officially sanctioned process, or one that teachers have merely become accustomed to, social promotion undermines student achievement and teacher morale.

But now let’s look at the situation from where a principal or superintendent might sit. What would happen if we instantly combined high expectations and more rigorous curriculum with accurate grading in low-achieving schools? Over 3-5 year’s time we’d see over-crowded elementary schools and near-empty high schools. Logistically, this is a non-starter. Hence, the culture of social promotion has a practical, albeit pernicious, aspect.

Now, logistical reasons are no excuse for such a heinous practice. But this conundrum does bring to mind a very serious and important issue: we can’t structure out way out of reform. Testing, standards, charters, vouchers, and merit pay are all structural reforms. But school, being the slippery beast that it is, defies restructuring.

Our only hope is to teach our way out.

But we can be even more thoughtful than that. If we acknowledge that literacy is the foundation of academic success, and if we acknowledge the brain window for language learning, and if we acknowledge the traditions of elementary school teaching and the natural separation of instructional styles that seems to occur after 3rd grade, we can make simple plans for solid interventions early enough in kids’ lives that strategies like social promotion would be unnecessary.

There are two key places to intervene in a young student’s learning life: at the beginning of 1st grade and at the end of 3rd. It is perfectly reasonable to get kids extra help in the first half of first grade if they are not yet reading and writing independently. And it is perfectly reasonable to retain less successful 3rd graders for an additional year if they have not yet become confident chapter book readers and conventional writers of multi-paragraph essays.

At the same time, we can do several things that make intervention and retention much less likely. First of all, we could concentrate professional development in literacy at the primary grades. Bringing teachers of young children up to speed with the latest and best methods like Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop would improve outcomes tremendously. Second, we can move our most successful teachers to first and third grade. And finally, we can employ the use of high quality early interventions like Reading Recovery for kids who are struggling out of the gate.

The root cause of social promotion is not poor kids, it’s poor teaching. Until we recognize the connection here and actually do something about it, schools with many under-performing children have no logistically sound approach but to pass kids along year after year. This reality does not excuse what is surely a detestable behavior but seeing it for what it is and why it exists should heighten for all of us the importance of making sure our teaching – especially in literacy at the early grades – needs a serious overhaul.