Thursday, September 17, 2009

Letter to Seattle CAO 9-15-2009

Dear Seattle CAO Susan Enfield, 9-15-2009

I see that you will be addressing the School Board tomorrow night.

B. Chief Academic Officer’s Update (S. Enfield) - WASL Update
- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Program Update

Normally these addresses about the WASL appear to be exercises in Cherry-Picking, where the good is highlighted and other things ignored. The WASL is not much of a math test but it is about all we have because the SPS has refused to publicly release the PSAT results from fall 2008. Please note the when Everyday Math (May 2007) was adopted specific references were made to closing grade 4 achievement gaps from WASL 2006. After one year of EDM use every grade 4 WASL math achievement gap increased from the already unacceptable 2006 levels and at the end of year two all of these gaps except one had increased even further. Yet no one is held accountable. The fact is these scores are never mentioned except by me.

In the June of 2008 the Strategic Plan stated:
Immediate Actions
• Math: A Math Project Team will develop an implementation plan and timeline for action during summer 2008. Alignment of the elementary and middle school instructional materials to the new State Performance Expectations will be completed this summer.

Except the Everyday Math pacing plan was the k-5 math curriculum during 2008-2009 NOT the new State Performance Expectations.

When I began my year in the SPS (2006-2007) in my initial interview for a “Pathways math” teaching position, it was apparent that the “Stand and Deliver” model was out and the “small group inquiry” “guide on the side” model was in. This “small group inquiry” was the “Best Practice” that the SPS was pushing for mathematics. (SPS ignores PFT, NMAP, and Hattie’s “Visible Learning” preferring make-believe best practices for math)

Despite a continually enlarging achievement gap over the preceding decade, in 2006 and 2007 it was believed that more in-service, professional development, and coaching would bring success.

The PD^3 collaboration between UW math, UW College of Education, and the Seattle Schools centered on small group problem centered inquiry using “IMP” materials. The “PD^3” results at Garfield were unimpressive and at Cleveland disastrous. For ELL students the results could hardly have been worse.

The majority of school directors inexplicably continue to trust that the Central Administration actions in regard to mathematics have merit despite a decade plus of evidence to the contrary. “Club Ed” fads and failed ideology have driven and continue to drive instructional materials selections and practices.

The empirical evidence continually points to the failure of SPS math direction. It seemed absurd to focus on vertical alignment k-12 in the high school math adoption when the k-8 program served educationally disadvantaged learners so poorly. The fact that the k-12 direction, practices, and instructional materials are so far removed from NMAP recommendations and the work of several cognitive psychologists (Geary, Sweller, Willingham) goes unaddressed by the SPS. There is no SPS accountability in fact there is no creditable response.

Here is Daniel Willingham’s Sept 14, 2009 interview from the Washington Post:

On May 19, 2004 the School Board signed a document about institutionalized racism. In the next 5 years the SPS continued to use mathematics practices known to be ineffective for disadvantaged learners (Project Follow Through etc.).

The SPS current definition of mathematics continues this SPS tradition of discrimination:
Mathematics is the language and science of patterns and connections. Learning and doing mathematics are active processes in which students construct meaning through exploration and inquiry of challenging problems.

The State of Washington has a “plan” at OSPI:
Plan to Close the Academic Achievement Gap for African American Students (PDF)
Except this “plan” when read it is NOT a plan for there are no actions recommended that will impact daily life in the classroom. We have in place a large number of agents that do nothing to impact the achievement gaps in mathematics but claim to be involved in that work.

Recently an opinion article appeared in the Seattle Times by Seattle teacher Mr. Michael Sparks: Discovery-based math makes a difference in performance of U.S. students

Mr. Michael Sparks” article is correctly labeled opinion as it has little in the way of logic or correct analysis in his praise for “Discovery-based Mathematics”.

It states: “And 12 years later down the road of reform? How goes it? Although we have now shot up — exponentially, by any stretch of the imagination —“
It ends with: “All things considered, however, the critics have failed to fully engage, discern, understand and appreciate the value and marvelous qualities and outcomes of programs like Connected Math2 when done well.
However one views the performance of the Seattle school district in these matters, the CM2 program itself, for all its imperfections, is of a world-class lineage and quality.”
The comparisons made are between TIMSS results in 1995 and 2007. The link between improved results and reform math is NOT demonstrated as:
1.. How much more reform math was in use in 2007 than 1995?
2.. Was there the exponential improvement that Mr. Sparks mentioned?

Previously I’ve informed the board that the 1995 nations and the 2007 nations are markedly different groups. The 1995 to 2007 difference is every nation added was academically weak with the exception of Taipei, Taiwan.

There was no measurable change in the percentage of either U.S. fourth- or eighth-graders performing at or above the advanced international benchmark in mathematics between 1995 and 2007 (grade four: 9 v. 10 percent; grade eight: 4 v. 6 percent).

Seven countries had higher percentages of fourth-grade students performing at or above the advanced international mathematics benchmark than the United States. The percentages in these countries ranged from 16 percent in the Russian Federation to 41 percent in Singapore.

Seven countries had higher percentages of eighth-grade students performing at or above the advanced international mathematics benchmark than the United States. The percentages in these countries ranged from 8 percent in the Russian Federation to 45 percent in Chinese Taipei.

A major goal should be to increase the mathematical preparedness of students a significant measure of this is the ability to score at or above the advanced international benchmark.

When the USA at grade 8 goes from 4% advanced to 6% advanced and the USA at grade 4 goes from 9% advanced to 10% advanced over 12 years, this is NOT exponential growth. In 2007 at grade 4 USA 10% scored advanced and Singapore 41%. (at the current rate of improvement of 1% every 12 years the USA will be at 41% in 372 years)
In 2007 at grade 8 USA scored 6% advanced and Taipei scored 45%. (at the 2% improvement rate the USA will be at 45% in 234 years) This is clearly not exponential growth on the part of USA mathematics. Why Mr. Sparks would think so is beyond my understanding.

Hong Kong, Singapore, Taipei, Seoul, and Seattle are all major cities but only one of these refuses to use an internationally competitive mathematics curriculum and thus the poor results to show it. Why does the SPS continually refuse to adopt an internationally competitive math curriculum that uses internationally competitive materials and practices?

The good news for WASL 2009 k-12 SPS math is that only 26.3% (in 2006 this was at 32.4%) of students now fail to score above level 1 on the 8th grade math WASL (ELL = 62.6%, Blacks 47.5%, Hispanics 44.4%, Low Income 44.4% these are all improvements from 2006). The significant bad news is that at grade 10 in WASL math only Cleveland (at 21.2% passing) saw an increase in math WASL pass rate in 2009. All other comprehensive high schools saw declining WASL math passing-rates as did Nova -4.0, Center -17.5, and Summit -22.2.

There is neither accountability nor transparency when it comes to math education in Seattle. I hope that you begin to address this ongoing failure. If I may be of assistance please contact me. The PSAT results from fall 2008 would be a great starting place for increased transparency.


Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.

Social Promotion comes to Graduation
Wake Up Seattle!!!!

The Seattle proposal to make 1.0 good enough for graduation is not about the kids rather it is about the money. The WASL math & science achievement gaps continue to expand for almost all minority children as a direct result of discriminatory instructional decisions. Rather than fix ineffective practices that have adversely effected educationally disadvantaged learners for over a decade, the proposal is to lower the bar because the SPS wants our money. If the SPS was interested in more effectively educating children, then they would revise their poor practices and lousy instructional materials, but such remedies are never even considered.

For Team MG-J the money is more important than providing a quality program for kids. As Dr. Carol Simmons testified 1.0 for graduation is needed because this district does such a poor job of educating kids. I say until the leadership steps up and admits they do a lousy job, they should not get more money. Those in denial never fix a problem.

Consider the growing Math & Science achievement gaps noticed at last night's board meeting. “Project Follow Through” was the largest study in the history of education. PFT specifically dealt with finding the best instructional methods to serve educationally disadvantaged learners k-3. The SPS does the exact opposite in math and science of PFT recommendations. “Exploration/Inquiry” does not work for educationally disadvantaged learners and the SPS continues to ignore this fact.

The SPS ignores lack of progress by students, fails to provide the effective interventions specified in school board policies preferring social promotion above education. The school board chooses to endorse the use of ineffective discriminatory math materials and ignores Project Follow Through, the National Math Advisory Panel's final report, and the failing results of their three year math collaboration with the UW.

The SPS continues to violate article IX of the state constitution: “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.” The last thing these educational decision-makers need is more money. What they need is a lawsuit big enough to get their attention but the ACLU, NAACP, and others are silent.

This is all about keeping more kids on the attendance rolls and the money that comes with it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Seattle "Accountability" = Propaganda
School Board Testimony 9-02-2009

Directors, I am Dan Dempsey

The new school calendar states:
"Every person employed by the District is accountable to contribute to our central goal of student achievement."
(page 2)
This quotation while laudable is only "Propaganda". The word “Accountability” has no basis in reality it is only "Propaganda".

USA medicine is the world’s most expensive but it is also arguably the best. It is evidence based. USA education is also the most expensive but NOT the best. In Seattle k-12 math education is NOT the best and is NOT evidence based.

In Seattle we have a pathetic decision-making model, which features no evidence and “ZERO” accountability.

Directors – I urge you to prove me wrong.

At the Superintendent’s urging four of you voted for a high school math adoption that produced a vertical alignment of k-12 instructional materials. Empirical evidence fromVisible Learning”, “Children’s Mathematical Development”, NMAP’s “Foundations for Success”, and “Project Follow Throughall point to the poor quality of that decision.

Directors Bass, Martin-Morris, and DeBell to their credit stated that the k-8 direction needed change …….. the exploration and inquiry model DOES NOT work. The current situation is dire for educationally disadvantaged learners but ……..NO ONE CARES enough to act.

With the adoption of Everyday Math two years ago Seattle traded a bad k-5 instructional program for a worse one. The large unacceptable grade 4 WASL achievement gaps prior to Everyday Math’s adoption all grew larger after one year of use and larger yet after two. (Black Gap is now 50 points.) Who was held accountable? Is anything changing?

I wrote to Chief Academic Officer Enfield:
The SPS has a clear record of futility in Closing achievement gaps and a clear pattern of Expanding achievement gaps.

It is time for a plan based on what works for disadvantaged learners.

I would like a plan of practices from you that will be used and measurable goals that can be measured annually to assess progress. Given the track record of the last decade saying the SPS will focus on anything in math without a written plan and goals is unacceptable. A significant change in direction is needed.

This district has used poor practices and poor materials and has the results to prove it. A written plan to change a decade of futility is in order.

………. looking at NMAP, Project Follow Through and effect sizes from John Hattie's "Visible Learning", it is very apparent that SPS math is misdirected.
She wrote:
Like you, we are committed to closing our achievement gaps and will continue to focus on this very important work in the months ahead.
(same story of the last decade)
So …. Will anything change? Where is the Accountability?
Directors, will we ever see action … or just more propaganda?
end of testimony

From John Hattie we can analyze the up-side-down world of Seattle Math thinking:

SPS pushes the following
Inquiry-based teaching: d=0.31
Differentiated Instruction: not a single study has been done
Problem-based learning: d = 0.15

Things Seattle rejects:

Problem Solving teaching d = 0.61
Direct Instruction d = 0.59
Mastery Learning d = 0.58
Worked Examples d = 0.57

Little wonder the SPS math results are pathetic.

The horrifying part is that the directors continue rubber-stamping administrative decisions based on “Club Ed” Fads, and a prevailing politically correct ideologically rather than examining “Empirical Evidence”.

The nonsense continues because the school board refuses to make decisions based on empirical evidence.