Thursday, December 3, 2009

Brief Filed in Court Challenge of
Seattle High School Math Text Adoption

Seattle, Washington – Dec. 3, 2009

Brief Filed in Court Challenge of Seattle High School Math Text Adoption

A brief was filed Monday, Nov. 23, in King County Superior Court appealing a May 6, 2009 Seattle School Board vote to adopt the Discovering Mathematics high school textbook series. The brief contends that the school district acted arbitrarily and capriciously in voting 4 to 3 to adopt a type of textbook associated with a widening achievement gap between minority students and white students, and between low-income students and other students.

Seeking to prevent the school district from adopting this series are plaintiffs DaZanne Porter, an African American and mother of a 9th-grade student in Seattle Public Schools; Martha McLaren, retired Seattle math teacher and grandparent of a Seattle Public Schools fourth grader; and Cliff Mass, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Washington.

According to the brief filed Monday, Seattle Public Schools began eliminating "traditional" math texts in the 1990s, moving toward an approach called "reform," "discovery learning," or "constructivism," among other names. Reform texts rely heavily on written language, presenting complicated, “real-life” problems. Memorization and skills practice is de-emphasized, and calculator work is encouraged from kindergarten on. Students generally work in small groups to devise their own approaches and solutions. With traditional "explicit" texts, however, students are given the opportunity to master key topics through examples, practice and extensive teacher feedback.

The brief claims the district committee chosen to review mathematics textbooks was biased toward reform, and that the textbook criteria were similarly biased, so that the resulting recommendation would be a reform textbook.
The brief also states that the board voted to adopt the Discovering textbook series in contradiction of information presented prior to the vote.

The plaintiffs contend that the district superintendent and school board had access to data and research, including WASL scores, indicating that math skills of minority students have continually declined for all grades since reform textbooks were introduced.
The plaintiffs also claim the school board was informed that the Discovering series was not a good candidate program to reverse this negative trend.

Citizens testifying to the board prior to the May 6 vote emphasized that the Discovering textbook series had been rated “unsound” in a review conducted by the Washington State Board of Education, and that the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction had passed over the Discovering program, instead recommending Holt Mathematics, a balanced textbook series featuring increased explicit instruction.

In Seattle, the movement toward reform texts has culminated in the adoption of the Everyday Math K-5 texts, Connected Mathematics Project (CMP2) texts for grades 6 - 8, and now the Discovering texts for high school. At Cleveland High School, which has 95% ethnic minority and 70% free and reduced lunch students, a similar “Discovery/Inquiry” text was piloted from September 2006 to June 2009. In those three years, the WASL pass rates for Cleveland's Black 10th graders averaged around 10%, while the district average for Black 10th graders was about 22%; scores for limited English students declined dramatically, from 15.4% to 0% of students passing the exam.

The appeal of the School Board's May 6, 2009 vote was filed June 5 by attorney Keith Scully of Gendler and Mann, LLP. A hearing on the appeal is set for Jan. 11, 2010, in the court of Judge Julie Spector.


Contact: Martha McLaren


Joan NE said...

Dan - glad you posted this. I am very interested in following this case. Please keep us updated by posting to this strand.

I have an arcane question for you. It has do with trying to understand the District's rationale for remaining stubbornly committed to a terrible math curriculum.

Reform math is also known as standards-based math, which indicates to me that it was designed with the intent that it would be used in districts that subscribe to the high stakes testing (HST) model for education reform.

If this is correct, then this could explain why this District adopted reform math in the first place, since this District is clearly committed to reform -- in the data-driven decision making/HST sense) -- irrespective of whether the public wants this.

I suspect, but have not yet verified, that the HST regime and standards-based education reform was borne out of Milton Friedman's ideas. Do you know if this is the case?

(MF was long-time professor at University of Chicago, and father of Reaganomics (i.e., supply-side and trickle-down economics), the denationalization (privatization) movement, the school voucher/school choice/charter school/school privatization movement, and the anti-social services movement.)

If I am right, then this leads me to wonder if it is more than mere coincidence that EDM comes out of the University of Chicago. Because in certain specific ways, I see reform math and standards-based reform as being very constructive for serving a school privatization (i.e., charter school) agenda. This is not really an important question to find the answer to, but the coincidence of birthplace intrigues me.

It is relevant to remind people that, besides being a very effective agent for reform of large urban school districts, the Broad Foundation, to whom MGJ is indebted, and whose agenda she is carrying out, is all of these things:

pro-school-privatization (pro-charter), pro-HST, pro-merit pay, anti-union, and pro-centralization (meaning favors top-down control model for districts).

The Broad Foundation strongly favors mayoral appointment of school board directors, which is anti-democratic.

The reason I am so concerned about Mike McGinn's expressed interest in getting the power to appoint school board directors, is that it plays right in the the hand of the Broad Foundation, and it reduces the opportunity for common folks to exert pressure on the district.

(I can document every single factual statement in this post, and will do so upon request).

While I am very concerned about the math curriculum and want it changed for the better, my hope is to convince a critical number of people that this battle is part of a much larger war, a war that most of us in Seattle don't even realize is going on. If collectively we are aren't cognizant of this war, it is certain we will lose the war, even if we win a battle here or there.

Losing the war means losing the heart and soul of the district, and I worry that the overall effect for most of our students - irrespective of ethnicity, race, and family income - will be adverse.

I draw this conclusion because of having studied what has happened to students in the many districts around the country that are much further than is Seattle Public Schools along this path of (in many cases, Broad-Foundation-sponsored) regressive reform of public schools.

You can look at to see the charactertics of Broad F. exemplar districts. If MGJ is highly successful, Seattle could win a "prestigious" (as press reports always say) Broad Prize in Urban Education. What an honor that would be for the community.

Anonymous said...

Joan - You are right, this is part of a larger war. American publishers are nearly all controlled by wealthy Southern Baptists and similiar like-minded people. University of Chicago is not an exception. Grand Rapids is a cebter for the Dutch reform movement and math reform. They research 'values-based' education. The outcome of all there research shows that only god can give you mathematical talent.

There is a lot of overlap, particularly when you see research published by David Webster in the 70's.

It is one reason why the movement is so strong in Texas. We will no doubt see, unprecedented drops in school funding when our students don't meet standards.

Standards is one of the strategies for molding socially stratified societies that were extensively written and studied by racialists and psychologists in South Africa.

It is not a coincidence that the political upheavel in South Africa coincided with the standards movement moving overseas.

The movement is strongest in Great Britain, South Africa, Australia, and the Netherlands (many reform authors now work in the confines of Maharishi University on both sides of the Atlantic). Look where math test scores on the PISA have declined most sharply. Look who ran SRI during most of the 60's and 70's. The psychologist from WMU who debriefed the committee that selected the promising and exemplary math programs in 1997, which has yet to be updated or changed.

The lack of a substantive work force will further devalue the US dollar and make this country into a useless human cesspool of waste and fraud.

In a year, the government will not be able to finance nearly $5T worth of debt except by printing money. In 5-10 years, we will all be looking at massive price increases (20 times) that will cause havoc to our economy.

The best picture I can imagine for the US is what South Africa would have looked like when they governed by the East India Company in 1800.

Who was the real estate developer that donated a property to LA Unified that was a superfund site. It cost the district $100 million to build a district facility with non-voter approved bonds. It was S. African Eli Broad and where is the Eli Broad School of Business? Michigan State University in Ann Arbor.

Education in the US is managed by crooks. I wouldn't trust any of their 'research'. Its a crock.

Anonymous said...

Seattle is a textbook example of how standards reform can be practiced without regard to human, social, or economic conditions. It is government malfeasance predicated on dispersing and moving large groups of people out of their communities, leaving developers to buy up land at bargain prices. Why aren't school impact fees being collected? Its being pocketed by the developers.

dan dempsey said...

Joan NE,

Yup ... no doubt Big Brother knows what is best for us. Just ask the powers that be.

Marty said...

It's encouraging to read such insightful comments.


kprugman said...

The real ripoff is when you consider what happenned to ERIC during the early
Bush years - it was privatized?! So now you have to pay to be a patron.

Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) operates the ERIC Project under contract with the U.S. Department of Education. The ERIC contract supports development and management of the digital collection, ERIC Thesaurus, Web site, and associated technologies, as well as outreach to ERIC users. IES has authorized the work of two expert advisory panels to foster ERIC's ongoing development: the ERIC Steering Committee and Content Experts.

Who owns CSC? Bank and Oil Executives

Anonymous said...

The US is a socialist state run by con-artists, faith-healers, and fakers.

Anonymous said...

Reform mentality: It doesn't take intelligence to fire a gun, just give kids videogames.

Yes, Who needs people in the US who can think, they cost too much and there's always trouble anyway.

CSC is the reformer's tool.

Joan NE said...

Thank you for the answer to my question, Anonymous. I am afraid I currently know too little to understand much of what you wrote. I have much to learn, I see.

Ithe comment on the climbing debt is distressing - makes the fight to save schools almost pointless even, as our problems are likely going to become far bigger than the state of our schools.

So Elijah is a fundamentalist!

Anonymous said...

Reformed Judaism - historically it parallels other reform movements and european migrations from the early 19th century.

The Tanakh is the same as the Old Testament only the stories are compiled in a different order. Reformers, whether they are Jews, Christians, Sikh, Bahai, Islam are monotheists. Contemporary (reform) Hindus parallel monistic theism. UU's are monotheistic and our textbooks are a product of that philosophy of science which go back to Platonists.

Read an elementary science textbooks and their explanation for what makes objects move? Its nothing more than Platonic mumbo-jumbo.

The emphasis on 'measureable' statistics and number fuzziness are all ideas that were emphasized by the Greeks. How easily we forget though that the Greeks got it wrong most of the time.

Public school's widespread -rejection of traditional mathematics teaching is prescriptive and I believe based on these primitive religious beliefs stemming from the biases of college professors and publishers.

Paul may not know this but Ginger Warfield is a specialist in trajectory hermeneutics or exegesis. Her father-in-law's father was BB Warfield, who broke with the Presbyterian Church in 1929. Her father is EJ McShane, past president of the MAA and famous promoter of the New Math.

RL Moore (Austin) was America's topologist for six decades, and he was a outspoken racist. The Moore Method or Discovery Learning was his little contribution to math teaching. The first research papers done with minorities in cooperative groups stemmed from Austin and were done by professors from Ohio State University - most of them are now working at Kalamazoo.

Look at the Dana Center with Uri Treisman and his army of gunslingers. Texas cannot do a thing about it.

The adoption of textbooks by small districts has largely been parochial, and not on the superiority of one textbook over another. They are all considered equal to each other. With larger districts the adoptions might as well be random, although one could say decisions depended on family and friends.

School board leaders continue following the slippery slope of distinguishing between curriculum versus textbooks. We are no closer to solving our problem than we were 20 years ago and, the problem keeps growing worse.

Joan NE said...

I talked to the head math curriculum person (Ms. Anna dela Fuente) at district yesterday. One reason was to tell her that even the kids in APP are unhappy with everyday math, that some of the exercise are ill-conceived, that especially girls in APP are losing confidence in their ability as mathemeticians. This effect will not show up in the state WASL scores, due to the state test not being challenging enough to reveal this effect, if it is happening.
I also told her that several parents have commented that their children have stopped trying to master math topics, as they have figured out that the topic will change in short order, and that mastery is not required.

She explained how the District has aligned the curriculum to state standards, and supplemented where necessary. I argued that these fixes do not begin to address the structural problems and pedagogical problems with EDM. Here response was that the decision to adopt EDM was made before she arrived. Furthermore,....

...Ms. dela Fuenta was very firm in stating the position that it is NOT the materials that matter, it is the QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION.

I didn't really recognize, until I got off the phone, that the argument, in essence, was this:

"If the instruction is good, the students will succeed, no matter what materials are used. If EDM doesn't correlate with improved math scores, the CAUSE is NOT quality of material, it is the fault of the TEACHER!!!!"

Talking to Ms. dela F. was rather like talking to a machine. She was adept at adhering to her talking points - she was well-rehearsed. Her position is perfectly aligned with the District agenda for merit pay and high stakes testing.

Anonymous said...

Administrators come and go - I watched a reform group dismantle one of the largest, most successful magnet programs in the US (San Diego) - it took them less than five years. Principals terrorized staff. Teachers sat through weekly meetings, sometimes until 7PM.

After this failure at reform, the next superintendent took control of the Title I money and he started schools that forced at-risk students to take buses out of their neighborhoods.

District enrollment dropped as families abandoned their neighborhoods and moved into neighboring communities. The financial mismanagement he created is still being investigated.

That's the politician's game for reforming education. If you want to manipulate test scores and lower property values then attack schools.