Last year the State of Washington re-wrote the state Math Standards and the Grade Level Expectations. You may remember that the State first released the revised standards and performance expectations for grades K through 8 (approved by the State Board of Education on April 28, 2008) and then, after some delay, the revised standards and expectations for high school on July 30.
Seattle Public Schools delayed the adoption of high school math materials for the release of the new state standards. This delay was entirely unnecessary and now, over six months later, we still don't have a material adoption decision.
But it's actually worse than that.
Seattle Public Schools has yet to adopt a revised math curriculum. That's curriculum - not materials.
Let's be very clear about this. The curriculum is the set of knowledge and skills that the teachers are supposed to teach and the students are supposed to learn. For example, in Grade 3, students are expected to be able to round whole numbers through 10,000 to the nearest ten, hundred and thousand. So by June of the third grade students are expected to be able to round a number like 3,467 to the nearest ten (3,470), the nearest hundred (3,500) and the nearest thousand (3,000). The materials are the textbooks (and other media) used to support the learning and teaching.
It is the Board's duty to adopt curricula. The Board has yet to adopt any revised math curricula following the revision of the state Standards. This may be because on the WASL this year students will still be tested on the old standards and grade level expectations, so in preparation for the test the District will continue to teach to the old Standards. That, however, would be the most egregious proof that the District is devoted to teaching to the test rather than teaching to the Standards or to what is best for the Students. It is far more likely, however, that no revised curricula have been adopted because no one on the Board knows that they should be doing this work and no one on the staff cares whether the Board does it or not. The K-12 Mathematics Program Manager, Anna Maria delaFuente, has made it clear that she believes that the curriculum is set by the State - not the Board.
So let's set aside, for the moment, the Board's negligence and indolence in failing to adopt a revised math curriculum and focus instead on the District staff's efforts to align instruction with the revised curriculum (as set by the State).
According to the Strategic Plan: "A Math Project Team will develop an implementation plan and timeline for action during summer 2008. Alignment of the elementary and middle school instructional materials to the new State Performance Expectations will be completed this summer." This work is supposedly done.
Is it? Part of the State Standards for Grade 5 is this: "5.1.C Fluently and accurately divide up to a four-digit number by one- or two-digit divisors using the standard long-division algorithm." As we all know, this skill is not among those covered by the Everyday Mathematics textbook. Perhaps it is covered by the Singapore Math supplemental material. It is valuable to note that in the Fifth Grade, division is covered in Section 4 of the EDM text and that the District's pacing guide shows that the students will be working on Section 4 for eight days of instruction from November 10 to November 26. Can anyone with a fifth grader confirm that their student was taught the standard long division algorithm during the two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving?
So what's going on? Why is it that the revision of the state math standards for high school had such an impact on our choice of materials but the revision of the state standards for grades K-8 didn't impact our choice at all? Why is it that the Board has not adopted an updated math curriculum? How, in the absence of an adopted curriculum, can we adopt materials? Is the math instruction in Seattle aligned with the new state standards or not? And if it is, then where is the long division in the fifth grade? What - exactly - is the District aligning math curricula to? How has math instruction in Seattle changed in response to the new math standards and grade level expectations adopted by the state?
I see a lot of flowery statements and lot of assurances that work has been done, but I can't see any of the actual work (the instructional guide is not available to the public) and I can't see any evidence of the work. It is very hard for me to share in the District's confidence in the absence of this evidence.