Thursday, January 28, 2010

"Arbitrary & Capricious" is more of that coming?

Dear Director DeBell,

I am extremely concerned about the Superintendent's ongoing failure to supply answers to questions. This indicates either a failure to research or a failure to disclose the results of research.

I am astounded that this NTN STEM Cleveland idea could have even gotten started, given what one weekend of online research at revealed to me.

The $800,000 New Technology Network presentation given by the CAO on Jan 20th, indicated why other models were rejected. It certainly seems that more than a casual glance would have led to the NTN model being rejected as well.

What is going on here that the Superintendent has pushed this apparently broken buggy this far down the road .... without inspecting anything?

At this point in time it certainly appears that any vote to approve this $800,000 NTN proposal would be "Arbitrary & Capricious".

Please see my attached letter for a fuller explanation of this situation as I see it.


Dan Dempsey

P.S. More data to come .... as the Superintendent has thus far been unable to provide much.

Dear Director DeBell, 1-28-2010

I congratulate you on the tremendous growth you’ve made since the Everyday Math adoption. You have been asking and are asking many of the right questions. Unfortunately the Superintendent and her staff are not answering.

At the Cleveland STEM Open House on Saturday January 23rd, I handed Michael Tolley a Cleveland data sheet, which consisted largely of data from the California Department of Education and is easily available online at This sheet contained many of the answers to the questions Tolley and the Superintendent were asked yesterday at the board work session but had no answers for.

It is my opinion that the research that should have been done before this $800,000 Contract proposal was ever initiated should have been done a long time ago. It either was not done or it was concealed. It took me a weekend online to find out that the great majority of the NTN schools are either underperformers or miserable performers in math.

The Superintendent has yet to provide anything to the contrary other than 85% of New Tech Sacramento students pass the CAHSEE math test. That is the California High School Exit Exam, which is about the equivalent of an 8th grade algebra test with a sprinkling of Geometry thrown in. Passing this exam only indicates that Students likely are ready for a lot of remedial Community College math classes. This is NOT an assumption on my part. I can back it up with data. In 2009 at New Tech Sacramento 50 students took the Algebra II exam: 18 scored below basic and 29 scored far below basic. That is 58% of those tested scored far below basic on an Algebra II End of Course Exam. Those students and a lot more will be headed into remedial math if they go to college. The passers amounted to 4% at basic and 2% at proficient. Keep in mind this is not just any NTN school, this school started in September of 2003 it has demographics similar to Seattle’s and has been selected as a New Tech demonstration school. It also spends more per student than the Sacramento High School average and has smaller class sizes.

It was clear that in the Everyday Math adoption the board chose to ignore the data presented by the public and trust their hired professionals. Was that an “Arbitrary & Capricious” decision? I have no idea but it certainly was a bad one and an ethnically discriminatory one.

Yesterday Kacey Guin in her presentation regarding City of Seattle expenditures to help educationally disadvantaged learners at the pre-primary and primary school level pointed out that the Achievement gaps in 4th grade Math are staggering. The Board is wondering what to do? I am sure that TEAM MGJ would try to sell you the $1.2 million “Broad Funded” performance management in her strategic plan. Is this in fact the reason that MGJ does nothing rational in regard to making math proposals that are rationally based via making intelligent decisions based on relevant data? Is it so she can sell you directors on her version of performance management?

I’ve spent three years telling you that the largest study in the history of education, Project Follow Through, is relevant to explain the SPS math follies. PFT was specifically designed to determine appropriate models to use in efficiently and effectively educating educationally disadvantaged learners in k-3 and pre-K. K-4 determines what happens k-12 and the disaster at k-4 creates the k-12 disaster. Especially when the high school adoption is based on a poor k-8 program, with the rationale for adoption being vertical alignment.

In PFT, 9 models were rigorously scrutinized over 28 years. The percentile average of these disadvantaged students was that they normally exited the third grade at the 20th%-ile. The results were that students using the best model, The Direct Instruction model leave grade 3 at the 48%-ile in Math, while the worst model the cognitive model used by Seattle had students exiting grade 3 at the 12th%-ile. The Seattle Schools problem is obvious. They reject the wisdom provided in John Hattie’s analysis of 800-meta analyses by choosing to educate students with strategies and interventions of marginal effectiveness. While they allow the Superintendent to reject proven instructional materials and practices with much greater efficacy. If the board wants better academic performance, then stop rubber-stamping the Superintendent’s actions and proposals.

Until recently I was unaware that School Board members cannot do whatever they wish in regard to decision making. They must base their decisions on a rational position. They CANNOT ignore the relevant data just because they wish to do so. They must have a reason otherwise the decision is “Arbitrary and Capricious” and can be over turned in Superior Court.

In the current HS math adoption action in Superior Court, the district submitted 1100 pages on which the School Board supposedly based their decision. [Note the NMAP “Foundations for Success” was not among them.] Oddly none of the material included any public testimony or letters. Upon examination the plaintiffs submitted about 200 pages of relevant data that the district did not find relevant to the decision. In court on January 26th, Judge Spector asked some questions based on the material submitted by the plaintiffs.

The part of the hearing I found most interesting was when Judge Spector asked questions about English Language Learners. Was the board aware that the inquiry program used at Cleveland and Garfield saw declining pass rates for English Language Learners and at Garfield it went to zero percent passing?

Shannon McMinimee’s response was that that data is not relevant as the program used there was investigative and “Discovering” is a balanced approach. Also the WASL is not a valid test of math skill. Scully’s response: Judge the WASL is all we have. (Sure would be nice to have those fall 2008 PSAT results.) Judge in the Algebra book on page four the publishers clearly state that this is an investigative approach to teaching mathematics. Take a look at lesson after lesson in these books they are investigations. The only place you will find a balance would be in the supplemental compact lessons, but how many students will ever see any of these?

Michael even though you and I know lots more than we did back in early 2007, this has had no impact on Seattle Schools math direction. I am about creating a better environment in which students can learn math and teachers can teach math successfully. I have failed miserably in that attempt as the Superintendents have way more power than the public in this game. Mother Teresa says my job is to stay faithful, as success is in God’s hands not mine.

So here is the plan. The Superintendent said all 41 NTN schools are successful via the CAO’s presentation to the board in the NTN introductory item on Jan 20th. TEAM MGJ has provided little in the way of data to support this claim. I will provide the Board with even more data and nicely organized that shows this claim that all 41 schools are successful is incorrect. It is in fact a fraudulent claim.

These schools are so ineffective in teaching mathematics that to claim the NTN model is a good foundation for a STEM school is preposterous. As of today if any director voted for this $800,000 contract, they had best have an excellent reason for doing so because an examination of all the relevant data and the actions of the superintendent indicate that such a vote for approval would be arbitrary and capricious. Should this NTN proposal passes with the board’s approval, good reasons for any vote to approve this proposal must accompanying a director’s vote, or you can count on this action item decision being appealed in Superior Court.

On the longer range, it has been stated that access to quality math & science education will be the civil rights issue of the next decade. The Seattle schools continually ignore what works for educationally disadvantaged learners in math; clearly this needs to go to Federal Court if the district fails to fix the current mess. Currently, Low Income students and students in several ethnic groups are harmed by district instructional materials and practices. The staggering 4th grade math achievement gap cited by Ms. Kaycee Guin at the work session exists despite Ms. Santorno’s claim that the gap would be eliminated in 5 years with EDM. In fact as I have pointed out on several occasions two years of WASL Math 4th grade testing shows the achievement gap increasing since the EDM adoption for each of four ethnic groups as well as Low Income and ELL.

Thanks for your continuing efforts to correct this ongoing mess. Who knows someday we may have a positive impact on math education that actually impacts Seattle’s students.


Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.


GHUG said...

This is the best thing you have written. way to go

Maureen said...

Dan, can you please post the link to that cool WASL points by school compared to trend line (from SPU?)site you linked to on the Seattle Community Schools blog? I failed to book-mark it.

I have been trying to create that very thing myself, but haven't been able to get over re-entering the data. (I am both a data geek and a terrible typist!) Thank you!

dan dempsey said...

Thank for the ATTA BOY. I needed that. WOW with MGJ no blogger will ever be lacking for material. This lady is absolutely unbelievable.

This could be the turning point on Feb 3.... will the board step up and actually direct the superintendent?

I think so.

I am unsure of what you refer to. Can you be more specific.

Here is the link to Cliff's Blog posting.

Also if you write me at
I will get you hooked up with David Orbits the best math data wonk.

Maureen said...

Dan, it is a tool created by an ed dept (SPU?) with a grant from Gates(?) that lets you look at scatter plots of school or district level WASL scores vs. FRL rates. I think you posted a link to it in a very short Seattle Schools blog comment: Something like "Look at this, it's cool." with the link.

I like how it lets you see that a school like Maple really seems to be adding some value, whereas some of the wealthier schools are scoring lower than you would predict.

But I forgot to book mark it and can't google it back into existance!

dan dempsey said...


I think I figured out what you want... well maybe..

Check out Crappy Chart Thursday posted on Jan 20 a Wednesday.

On Meg Diaz blog:

Anyway while you are there check out the latest Crappy Chart Thursday on the ongoing growth of Central Admin expenditures.

dan dempsey said...


Now I know what you want I will run that down for you.

I'd forgotten all about it as I was distracted by the NTN STEM contract fiasco.


dan dempsey said...


I just posted what you want as Cool Tool....