Thursday, February 18, 2010

Key Press Publisher writes about Judge Spector's decision
Part I

From the Desk of Steven Rasmussen:

The Seattle School District, in a series of adoption decisions over the last several years, has adopted new mathematics programs for elementary, middle, and high schools, most recently Key Curriculum’s Discovering Mathematics series and Foerster’s Precalculus and Calculus texts. I am the publisher of these high school textbooks (except the statistics text).

Our materials reflect current educational research and experience that establishes that students learn mathematics best from materials that simultaneously develop strong
conceptual foundations, skills, and 21st Century problem-solving strategies. Like educators around the world, I believe that when materials combine these important elements, students are engaged, challenged, and leave school with a solid mathematical foundation that will serve them in their college and university studies and ready them for the world of work. Our materials are used in every state in the United States by thousands of schools with diverse student bodies. For almost forty years students have found success with our materials.

When Seattle’s textbook selection process, composed of administrators, educators, curriculum and instruction department staff, parents, school board members, mathematicians, chose our materials over all of the other possible programs, I was proud. And since September, when the new school year began, our staff has worked well with Seattle teachers to support the district’s investment in our materials. Yet, I followed the Seattle textbook adoption process closely enough to know that not everyone in Seattle was happy with the Seattle School Board’s decision.

Suddenly, and surprisingly, as a result of a court decision in a case brought against the Seattle School District, Key Curriculum Press finds that our materials are “front-page news.” If you are reading this Web page, you are most likely here because you have heard about the issues in this case. Let me express a few of my own thoughts.

1. One thing is certain regarding the events in Seattle. The plaintiffs, who organized the suit against the Seattle School District, are clear about their goals: they want “explicit instruction” pedagogy used exclusively in Seattle mathematics classrooms. In their brief, the plaintiffs assert that the textbook recommendations of Seattle schools “promote an inquiry-based mathematics teaching model over an explicit instruction model. The District and Board have used an inquiry-based mathematics model for several years, despite evidence that it is an ineffective teaching method.” This challenge to Seattle schools is about instructional pedagogy. The quality of our textbooks hardly seems to enter into the picture.

2. Ignoring the preponderance of educational research conducted in the United States and around the world over the last decades, the plaintiffs justify their belief that only “explicit instruction” works in the classroom with a couple of vague claims. They state, for instance, “Ernest Boyer, then-U.S. Commissioner of Education, conducted an evaluation of mathematics teaching methods and acknowledged that an evaluation of relevant research found that only one (Explicit Instruction) of the 22 models which were assessed in the evaluation consistently produced positive outcomes.” Yet, Boyer, a professor of speech pathology who later went on to serve in the Carter administration, conducted the vast majority of his research over 30 years ago. What was the context of this evaluation? Has our student population remained the same over the past 30 years?
What is meant by “acknowledged”?

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