Thursday, February 18, 2010

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

"..3.." Personally, the most troubling aspect of the brief and suit prepared by the plaintiffs is their contention that offering students of color anything other than a diet of “explicit instruction” is “racist.” This is a sad throwback to an era where education was segregated—rich experiences for the privileged, a dry and “learn-as-you-are-told” curriculum for those who are not. All students deserve engaging and well-developed materials that offer them access to powerful learning strategies—especially the students who have been denied such experiences for too long. The plaintiffs claim that: “Evidence in the record before the Board demonstrated that the inquiry-based teaching methods used in the Recommendations do not work for disadvantaged students, including low- income students, and non-Caucasian students. Inquiry-based teaching methods work for only a small percentage of students, and leave the rest behind,” is patently false. The notion that the plaintiffs have determined what teaching methodology works for all non- Caucasian students is ridiculous. Labeling those who do not adhere to their view as “racist” is abhorrent.

"..4.." The plaintiffs blame the achievement gap on “inquiry-based teaching methods” and because the textbooks published by Key Curriculum Press are labeled as “inquiry-based,” they must be barred from Seattle classrooms. Many, including the Seattle School Board, don’t think that this argument holds water. After extensive review, our mathematics texts were chosen in Seattle because of their potential to serve a diverse set of students and improve mathematics achievement. The Discovering Mathematics materials are not uni-dimensional in approach—just as mathematics activity is not uni-dimensional in its nature. Mathematics is an important branch of the physical sciences. Inquiry is a fundamental aspect of science. Painting “inquiry” as an instructional pedagogy to avoid at all costs makes as much sense as taking aim at “conceptual understanding” or “skill development.” Learning intertwines all of these.

"..5.." Finally, the Seattle court documents make clear that the essence of the Seattle School District’s defense is their belief that the school district—teachers, staff, parents, advisors—and its elected directors are responsible for determining educational policy, under state law. The Seattle decision, if upheld on appeal, will set a precedent that a judge can over-rule those school board decisions. That prospect frightens me.

After the court’s decision in Seattle was picked up by the local and national press, I was as curious as you probably are to learn of the specifics. I asked our staff at Key Curriculum Press to get the court arguments from both sides. I’ve read them and urge you to read them, too. We have posted them on this Web site so you can easily access them and make up your own mind on the issues. I suggest you start with the document that begins “DA- ZANNE PORTER, MARTHA MCLAREN, and CLIFFORD MASS, Plaintiffs, v. SEATTLE SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 1, IN KING COUNTY, STATE OF WASHINGTON, BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF SEATTLE SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 1, and MARIA GOODLOE-JOHNSON, Superintendent and
Secretary of the Board, Defendants.” It articulates the case from the plaintiffs’ perspective. You can continue to read the Seattle School District’s brief and then the two counter-briefs, and finally, the judge’s decision.

In addition to the court documents, we will use this site to post some of the letters we have received as a result of the publicity in Seattle.

Again, I urge you to read the court documents rather than rely on press accounts or even my own opinions to understand what’s going on in Seattle. Feel free to send me your own thoughts.

Steven Rasmussen
He is a free expression of my own thoughts in regard to
A... I provided lots of data to the school board over 3 years of testimony and letter writing. When I lived in Seattle I was a member of the NAACP education committee. In over 30 years of teaching in 4 states and a variety of situations including 2 Indian reservations, Summer school in So. Central LA, A year teaching on the renamed Compton Blvd., a year in a High Hispanic Population High School in Eastern WA, I rarely ever heard much of the racist tag.

B... The exception to that was when I sent the CAO of the Seattle Schools several questions in an email about Everyday Math after she offered to meet with me. In less than 24 hours she told me face to face that she would never meet with me because I was rude and impolite to her and likely because she was Black woman.

So what happened. My data had shown that EDM was a poor choice for educationally disadvantaged learners. She maintained that it would eliminate the achievement gap within 4 to 5 years. She bullied the board into adopting the materials.... and even though Math achievement gaps were very large from TERC/Investigations, EDM expanded those gaps for each of the following 6 groups Black, Hispanic, Asian, American Indian, Low Income, and Limited English students. As measured on the 4th grade WASL Math test, which was the measure that the CAO used for measures.

C... I've watched achievement gaps grow with Inquiry Math materials, our upscale suburb of Bellevue used reform math eventually with several years of TERC, and Connected Math, and Core-Plus for much of a decade. The results were staggering for Math gaps exploded for Black and Hispanic students at grades 4, 7, 10. The Gaps in English and Writing in many cases narrowed during the decade, further accentuating the large Math gap growth.

D... Project Follow Through was also mentioned by the plaintiffs, it was the largest study in education history. It aimed at finding the best instructional models for educationally disadvantaged learners k-3. Even though PFT was a k-3 study, it shows that the poor results from inquiry materials in both Seattle and Bellevue were to be expected.

E... From past experience I would rather see relevant data than see the word "racist" used.

F... The remark about steady diet .... misses the mark. Plaintiff McLaren has advocated for increased "explicit instruction" for students struggling to learn math. She and I have seen the inquiry failure upclose and personal. We have also tracked growing achievement gaps in schools near us. The fact that Publishers and Education experts think this inquiry is great stuff hardly compensates for the fact that it is failing kids that we care about. Read THIS from Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark on "Why Minimally guided instruction Does NOT WORK!!!

G... The University of Washington and the SPS collaborated on an NSF funded 3 year implementation of an inquiry program at Cleveland and Garfield High Schools, which despite lots of resources for each school for implementation miserably failed Black students and Limited English students. This project used Problem Based Learning and Inquiry based teaching. So if a particular practice like minimally guided inquiry instruction serves educationally disadvantaged students poorly, everyone needs to keep quiet just like during the last decade with Seattle's and Bellevue's reform fiasco. Is keeping quiet when things don't work a sound idea for improving instructional materials and practices?

"..4.."I first used "Discovering Algebra" in SY 2000-2001. It was the paper back black and white pre-hard cover edition. I was underwhelmed. Just as NMAP speaks about preparation for and access to "Authentic Algebra" this book seemed to be avoiding authentic algebra. I had hopes the hard cover color book would be improved. Take a look here. This is less than the coherence and structure I was looking for. More disturbing to me was the minimal coverage given to solving a system of two simultaneous equations in two variables by substitution and by elimination (linear combination) this happened all in only one section. This series in my opinion is short on examples and very lacking in practice. Three teachers who teach in Southeast Seattle high schools testified about the lack of practice and advised the board not to adopt these materials.

"..5.."What frightens me is that a school board can ignore 200+ pages of material submitted by the public. The Board did not send this material to the court when asked to send all the materials the decision was based on. They sent 1100 pages but ZERO pages from the public. The other thing that frightens me is a publisher seemingly endorsing this practice by saying: "The Seattle decision, if upheld on appeal, will set a precedent that a judge can over-rule those school board decisions. That prospect frightens me".

I would be far more frightening if judges endorsed Board decisions, which were made without examining and using all the evidence.

As Hattie says "Medicine" really accelerated when the public demanded that decision making be based on evidence. Hattie is still waiting to see education advance from the infantile stage to a mature profession where evidence drives decision making. That will be the true Victory from Judge Spector's decision if School Boards are required to make decisions based on all the evidence and do so.

No comments: