Saturday, June 27, 2009

Rogue Elephants at OSPI and beyond


Standard Algorithm vs. EDM Focus Algorithms

Dear Seattle Math Program Manager Anna Maria de la Fuente,

It has come to my attention that in Seattle's k-5 mathematics there is confusion around what the State Standards say about which algorithms are to be taught.

As a member of the SBE Math Advisory Panel I've been a careful observer of the development of the Standards and the algorithm language.

In April 2008, I filed a lawsuit against OSPI and SBE because of the failure to follow the legislation in regard to the process of producing the Math Standards. I believe the Standards would be more specific and less vague had the Dana Center not interfered late in the Standards creation. If Math Panel had the required meeting legislated before the final draft was submitted to the SBE for approval the standards could have been far more specific.

While in some areas the standards are vague, the requirement to teach each of the four standard algorithms is extremely clear.

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OSPI staffers have continuously attempted to subvert the language of the standards trying numerous times to get the words "using the standard algorithm" out of the revised standards. They were unsuccessful. ... The Math Panel, Strategic Teaching and the SBE made sure that standard algorithm language was in the revised standards and the only confusion is in the minds of OSPI staffers.... . See this link to Dr. George Bright for he along with Greta Bornemann, Dorian Drury, and Karrin Lewis are responsible for much of the current confusion with continued adovacy for their ideas expressed in their own Algorithms Paper instead of advocacy for the State Math Standards. Unfortunately this advocacy of misguided Algorithm Direction is practiced by many education employees throughout the state and is particularly popular in Seattle.

People need to be aware that any confusion about what the standard algorithms are or whether they should be taught originates in the refusal of certain OSPI staffers to follow the standards. There is and never was any confusion by SBE, Strategic Teaching, or the Math Panel. The final version of the revised standards uses the phrase "standard algorithms" to stand for a particular set of algorithms used for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and long division.... and that these algorithms are the only methods that are specifically required to be taught in the WA revised math standards in regard to algorithms.

The legislature took the final responsibility for the standards away from Terry Bergeson and OSPI in part because they refused to quit sabotaging the standards by using non specific and confusing language in an attempt to continue pushing the fuzzy reform philosophy that permeates OSPI. These attempts at confusion were as subtle as sneaking in an "s" on the end of "standard algorithm" so it would read "standard algorithms". This was an attempt to discredit the notion that indeed a standard algorithm for multiplication and division exist. The inclusion of this "s" raised great debate and it was specifically and purposely deleted from from the final WA revised standards in order to make sure that the one and only standard algorithm for multiplication was going to be taught.....the same argument and remedy was specified for the standard algorithm for long division.

Anyone from OSPI or others doing professional development who try to claim something otherwise about the algorithms specified in the Washington revised standards do so by either ignorantly or willfully misinterpreting those standards in order to continue to push a failing reform philosophy that has caused mathematical chaos in this state. The Bergeson Reform Math direction cased untold irreparable harm to so many students. Seattle's achievement gap differential size at grade 10 math for 10th grade black students is now (2008) greater than 50% but is exceeded by Bellevue's gap magnitude.
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It appears that the Seattle School District considers alignment to be not with the Washington Math Standards as written but instead prefers alignment to a failed reform ideology that has crippled math opportunity for so many children over the last decade. It seems that for Seattle the term alignment often refers to some type of k-12 vertical alignment of instructional materials. For k-5 math, alignment is not and has not been with the Washington Math Standards.

To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data.

-- W. Edwards Deming (1900-1993)

Why in mathematics the Seattle Schools continue to fail to follow Deming's wisdom I have yet to understand.

The mindless pursuit of Andy Isaacs's ideas expressed in "The Case for Everyday Math" is precisely why despite 75 minute math classes student achievement is not rapidly increasing.

It is extremely clear from actions of the past year and current DMI training that Seattle math direction is not anchored in the Math Standards as written but rather still tethered to Dr. Beregson's Math failure.

If Seattle continues to follow the Everyday Math pacing plan, there can be no doubt in anyone's mind that SPS math leadership finds the State Math Standards nothing more than an inconvenient annoyance.


Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.


Anonymous said...

Yes, I can see how outside forces (publishers, professors,...) by interfering with the adoption process would be a violation of due civil process. Neglecting the outspoken concerns of communities would seem the ultimate betrayal of public trust.

If the public opinion is that the textbooks are deeply flawed and the professors who wrote them are crackpots and liars and prevent most children from succeeding in school then there should be some legal avenue for a stay of execution.

Anonymous said...

The office of civil rights are really pathetic.

Anonymous said...

I have said from the beginning - standards are an inconvenience. Its a rubber stamp for textbook makers. There is no quality control because that would be an expensive and time-consuming inconvenience for the curriculum groups that write the textbooks.

What they should be doing is testing the classrooms after they pilot a textbook, not years later when the textbooks get adopted.

Anonymous said...

Rousseau was right at regarding public education where we have all the makings of a revolution, without the revolution. A government that rules foremost needs a social contract with the people, otherwise it will be taken to task. "Viva la Education"