Wednesday, February 17, 2010

SB 6696

FEBRUARY 17, 2010

Members of the committee—

I'm Ted Nutting from Seattle, speaking for myself. I teach math at Ballard High School, and I've been involved for years in the effort to improve our students' performance in math. We had a huge success a few years ago when the legislature, led by this committee, provided for the development of new math standards to serve as the basis and the measure of our students' learning.

That was quite a chore. First, you, seeing that math education in this state was pretty much a failure, required the state superintendent, Dr. Bergeson, to come up with new standards. She did, and you saw that those new standards weren't much better than the old ones. You then required (by a unanimous vote, as I recall) that the State Board of Education become involved, essentially taking the authority away from Dr. Bergeson.

All this involved a long process that took quite a while, but we eventually emerged with standards which, while not quite what I would like, are far better than the ones they replaced and far better than those of most states. Most of the credit for this belongs to the legislature.

Senate Bill 6696 would throw out those standards, replacing them with ones drawn up by a "multistate consortium" of which Washington is a part, with a possibility of our state's adding 15% more standards specific to our state.

This might make sense if we knew what those multistate standards were and if we liked them. But we don’t! A draft dated January 13 was leaked and has circulated, and it falls far behind our state's standards in quality. Those draft standards are heavy on pedagogy – not a good idea. They don't require use of the standard algorithms for the basic operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Students don't have to be automatic in their knowledge of basic math facts. The high school standards are not organized in a useful way.

What is going on here? How can we sign on to something that will override our own good work when we don't know what we are signing on to? Why is the possibility of significant money being dangled to make us negate our own earlier efforts when we don't even know that we'll get the money? And, if we do get the money, is it even worth it?

Superintendent Dorn assured us last September that changes to the state standards would be made only after an ample opportunity for public review and comment. SB 6696 provides for a comment period, but it requires the Superintendent to adopt the multistate standards REGARDLESS OF WHAT THE PUBLIC COMMENTS ARE! Please don't let this remain in the bill!

One more outrage: the word is that, when the draft multistate standards are released by the Council of Chief State School Officers, the public will have two and one-half weeks to comment. TWO AND ONE-HALF WEEKS! Ladies and gentlemen, teaching is a second career with me; I retired after 30 years in the Coast Guard. In the Coast Guard, I had some familiarity with changing federal regulations. If we wanted to change the opening hours for Seattle's Fremont Bridge, we had to publish notice in the Federal Register and allow 30 days for public comment. 30 DAYS!

Well, it seems to me that changing the learning standards for students in our state and across the country deserves more than TWO AND ONE-HALF WEEKS for receiving public input. What's the huge rush? SIX MONTHS might be more appropriate. Why are we apparently being snookered here? Does this make any sense?

I plead with you – don't pass any bill that doesn't give Washington final say over what its mathematics standards will be. You – and many others – have invested too much in the major changes we've made to throw that all out and buy a pig in a poke!

Thank you.

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