"The problem is national in scope, but in Washington state our difficulties can be traced principally to Terry Bergeson, superintendent of public instruction for the past 12 years. She oversaw the writing of our state's weak, vague math standards, basing them on a "reform" idea to promote "discovery" learning. This has turned teachers into "facilitators" who "guide" children in learning activities. It has promoted "differentiated instruction," placing students of wildly differing abilities together where some students cannot do the required work, often to the detriment of those who can.
She has moved away from rigorous testing. The "reform" math she champions encourages such things as journals, portfolios and group projects that tend to form large parts of classroom grading systems, while test results are relegated to a lesser role. The math portion of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL), aligned to her faulty standards, tests math skills at a low level. Even so, about half our 10th-graders fail it."He talks about his own experience:
"My experience tells me that we can fix this, and quickly. I am the Advanced Placement calculus teacher at Ballard High School. I don't teach Bergeson-style. I tell my students what they need to know, they do problems to understand how it works, and they demonstrate their knowledge and understanding through testing. Up until this year, we've insisted that our students who take AP calculus actually be able to do the work.
We at Ballard have by far the best AP calculus program in Seattle Public Schools, based on AP test scores. I have no special magnetism or charisma; I'm not a cult figure for teenagers. I have high standards and I require the students to work. If they don't work, they know they will probably flunk. But they do work, and I am proud of them. I also have the benefit of having an older textbook that doesn't fit the "reform math" model, and most of my students have had an excellent pre-calculus teacher the year before."
But he admits most of the other math classes follow the "reform" model and
"Since we find that many students in our classes cannot do the work, we dumb down the courses."
"Unfortunately, things are changing, even in our school's AP calculus classes: We're starting to admit unqualified students, and our program will soon begin to deteriorate."
I don't know if this is an opening shot against the Roosevelt model (via the district's wishes) of putting all students in an AP class.
He does point out the North Beach abandoned the reform model and stuck to Saxon math with great results.
"North Beach did this with reluctant agreement from Seattle Public Schools because the PTA paid for the books and because the superintendent supported site-based decision-making. North Beach's passing rate on the WASL rose from 68 percent in 2000 to 94 percent in 2004 — and yet, every year parents worry that real math will be scrapped. Recently, the school has had to seek waivers to avoid having to teach the district's "reform" math."
He does on to talk about what is happening with state math adoption:
"The Legislature had required that the new mathematics standards be based on (among other things) the standards of Singapore, consistently a leader on international tests, but Bergeson's initial submission of texts ranked Singapore Math, that country's official curriculum (and a superior one), dead last out of 12.
Most school-district administrations have gone along with Bergeson and share responsibility for this mess. Even as an uproar arose nationally against the programs Bergeson promotes, Seattle started using two of them in elementary and middle schools."It may be too little too late but I'm sure glad he spoke up.