Friday, June 12, 2009

Appeal of Math Textbook Decision

According to this story in the Seattle Times, an appeal of the Board's decision to approve the math textbooks has been filed in King County Superior Court.

The appeal was filed by DaZanne Porter, parent of a Seattle public school student, retired math teacher Martha McLaren and Cliff Mass, University of Washington professor of atmospheric science.

I don't know if they can get an injunction preventing the District from buying the textbooks until their appeal is heard. I don't know what forms the basis of their case, but I doubt they have much chance of success.


Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm with Charlie; I can't see this going anywhere. I'm confused a bit as well but I'm guessing you can appeal a policy decision by the Board because the Board is an elected entity. Otherwise, I'm not sure what law they are basing the appeal on.

zb said...

I liked Mass's blog and book on weather, but this law suit intervention drops him in my estimation. Not necessarily because I kind of disagree on the substance, but because I think random lawsuits are ineffective and useless. I cannot imagine what they think their case is, and if a case allowed people to intervene in curriculum decisions by a school district I'd be deeply worried.

What next? A lawsuit to intervene about the textbooks that Mass chooses to use in his own classes?

Roy Smith said...

What time is the Cooper hearing today?

Charlie Mas said...

Any citizen aggreived by a School Board decision (or non-decision) can appeal it. That's State law (RCW 28A.645.010).

In the appeal, however, you need a legal cause for the Court to overturn the Board decision.

Here's a funny thing. The decision pretty much needs to violate a state or federal law. It isn't enough for the Board decision to violate a Board Policy. That's because, according to Board Policy F10.00, "It is the policy of the Seattle School Board that no District Policy or Procedure shall be construed to provide a private right of action in the courts. Enforcement of Board Policies and District Procedures shall be the responsibility of the Superintendent and designees."

People had asked earlier if you can use the Court to compel the District to follow their own Policies. This Policy makes it clear that you can't.

Dan has information about the filing so we can learn the basis for the appeal when he posts a link to it.

Charlie Mas said...

The Cooper hearing is at 10:30 I believe.

I spoke with Shannon McMinimee about the District's side of the case and it was pretty strong.

The case turns on the meaning of the word "school" in the law about closures. While "school" may mean the program rather than the building in every other context in the RCW, the District will contend that those don't matter. What matters is what it means in THIS law. And for that, the legislative history is critical. The legislative history for this law, the District contends, has to do exclusively with buildings, not activities. If she is right about this and the Court agrees, it's pretty much over right there.

Furthermore, the purpose of the law is to allow people the opportunity to be heard. All three of the plaintiffs appeared and spoke at public hearings or at Board meetings, so, the District contends, they were heard. I, personally, don't find this argument convincing since the law specifically calls for a separate hearing for each school that is closed.

I wish I could be there but I have this whole work thing I have to do.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

I recall a major lawsuit in Pennsylvania concerning the use of science textbooks that emphasized intelligent design. So I believe there is some precedence—but that was a church & state debate, not fuzzy vs. hard math.

Personally anything that pulls SPS's bad decisions into the light of day is okay in my book. The unfortunate outcome will be less money available to be spent on real education.

dan dempsey said...

Press Release can be found here:

Legal filing can be found here:

It appears the suit is based on the failure of the school district to adequately serve educationally disadvantaged students and all those struggling with Math. There is a prepondrance of evidence showing that explict instruction is the best path to follow. The district continually avoids the proven successful path preferring to continue experimenting on children.

Explicit Instruction is explained here:

Explicit instruction with students who have mathematical difficulties has shown consistently positive effects on performance with word problems and computation

dan dempsey said...

This is hardly about personal fancy in choosing textbooks ... this is about a decade plus of discrimination of educationally disadvantaged students in math.

Over the last decade achievement gaps shrank in reading while math gaps expanded.

From the filing:

Board, and Superintendent and Secretary of the Board Maria Goodloe-Johnson (Superintendent) violated Wash. Const. Art. IX and RCW 28A by adopting a math textbook series and implementation plan that has failed to address the achievement gap between economically disadvantaged students and non-economically disadvantaged students, between non-Caucasian students and Caucasian students, and that has proven to be ineffective in teaching basic or advanced math skills to a large percentage of the student population served by Seattle Public Schools at the High School level.

Here is the article:
It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.

So Melissa your guess was correct that any school board decision can be appealed within 30 days to the Superior court. The violation is of Article IX of the constitution and RCW 28A

seattle citizen said...

You quote Board Policy on Board Policy F10.00:
Enforcement of Board Policies and District Procedures shall be the responsibility of the Superintendent and designees."

Hmmmm.... so the Policies enacted by the duly elected Directors of the Board, which are enacted to mandate the actions (or inactions) of the administration of the schools, are themselves ubsject only to enforcement by that same administration?
That's like saying it's against the law to jaywalk, and then asking the jaywalker to investigate whether she or he is a jaywalker or not...

According to WV, that's the daminist thing its ever seen.

TechyMom said...

Good for them. I hope it works.

Charlie Mas said...

seattle citizen, thank you. This misplaced confidence in self-regulation and self-policing is as misguided as confidence that District officials will "hold themselves accountable".

The Board must retain the authority to enforce Policy and they must develop some mechanism for them to do so. Right now, they have no means for enforcing Policy. What would they have to do? Vote to approve a motion directing the Superintendent to comply with a specific policy? The Superintendent is already directed to comply with Policies.

Policy B61.00 says that the Superintendent shall:

"Carry out all policies of the Board of Directors through administrative procedures and regulations. Recommend adoption of new, and revision or elimination of outdated policies."

Roy Smith said...

So the Cooper hearing was today, but apparently (according to the West Seattle Blog) the ruling will not be issued today. Any legal scholars want to weigh in on what that means/how long until we know something?

If the court rules against SPS, does that mean Meany, Summit, and AAA will get a new lease on life as well?

dan dempsey said...


From talking with a Cooper teacher I learned that Cooper has perhaps a better argument than Meany, AAA, and Summit.

Thus I am not sure how a Cooper victory would impact those other schools.

Roy Smith said...

I'm curious what that "better argument" is?

dan dempsey said...


As best I can remember it Cooper's better argument had to do with dates and committments. If I remember correctly Arbor heights was to be closed but instead the SPS decisded to close Cooper. Isufficient time for some process was involved. There may be much more involved here.

It would be great if people would post the legal filing. I posted the Mass - McLaren - Porter, math lawsuit filing for them.

rugles said...

While I was under the impression that SPS had already purchased/agreed to purchase them, good luck to them.

The other day a young woman got on my bus at the Seattle Community College stop carrying a book called College Algebra.

The advantage of not teaching it well in high school. You get to charge them to learn it at the community college level.

Syd said...

Way to go Cliff Mass!

dan dempsey said...

Meanwhile back to the Math Lawsuit:

In 1967 Lydon Johnson's great society started a study aimed at finding out what works for disadvantaged learners in grades k-3. In looking at nine education instruction models by far the most successful was direct instruction and the cognitive model of inquiry and exploration was dead last. {This was the largest study in education history} The achievement gap in mathematics expanded greatly in mathematics in the SPS over the last decade. The SPS has pursued the exact opposite of Project Follow Through recommendations .

The Lawsuit is about high school instruction not k-3, but the same faulty thinking is employed by the administration and four members of the school board.

The National Math Advisory Panel looked at 16,000+ studies over two years and produced their final report. There were very few things that were recommended as clearly as "Explicit Instruction" for mathematically struggling kids.

Once again this time by picking the Discovering Math series the SPS chooses to ignore the needs of disadvantaged learners. The plaintiffs believe this continued refusal to do what is known to work in math for these students violates the State Constitution article IX.

Keep in mind that one year's use of Everyday Math expanded the already large achievement gaps for each of the following groups: Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, American Indians, Low Income, and English Language Learners.

....your thoughts?

Since 2003 I've sought out jobs dealing with mathematically struggling students. The SPS discrimination whether caused by neglect, ignorance or intent needs to be ended. I applaud Porter - McLaren - Mass for going forward with their legal complaint.

Please offer them financial support, when the time comes.

hschinske said...

College algebra has been around for a long time. To the best of my knowledge, it's not just a repeat of high school algebra, but much faster paced and more in depth, covering more advanced topics. More like precalculus. I'm sure someone else can explain it better than I.

Helen Schinske

Cliff Mass Weather Blog said...

Perhaps this is a quixotic quest, but the math textbooks selected by the Seattle School District are really hurting our children, and particularly underpriviledged and minority students. Should we be silent about this? Better to try and fail then not try at all...cliff mass

Charlie Mas said...

"quixotic". Now there's a word you don't get to use everyday.

I sympathize.

As I often say, the fact that all of your efforts are futile does not excuse you from the obligation to make those efforts.

rugles said...


You may be right. But from course descriptions from Seattle Central, precalc was specifically labeled precalc. Those labeled Algebra did not seem "fast paced".

Here again, the stress is on "understanding concepts rather than only memorizing rules. Students are often allowed to work in groups on problems that are designed to extend their understanding and provoke new questions. Students are encouraged to use calculators for routine calculations and for investigation of concepts."

dan dempsey said...

I've often wondered how Seattle makes Math instructional materials decisions. For two years + the Central Admin tried to get IMP past the school board.

The expensive UW PD^3 school project to implement IMP at Cleveland was an absolute disaster. The WASL results for (year 3) Spring 2009 will be available Thursday. So now the same Central Admin that pushed IMP have come back with a new flavor they claim to be balanced.

The good news is:
The Seattle Public School District has 20 days from June 5 to deliver the record of information available to it in making its adoption decision.

At last some insight into how terrible math decisions are made. To bad no one sued over Everyday Math. I would love to see the rationale behind that pick.

Thanks to Cliff, DaZanne, and Martha we get to see the record of information available in making the "Discovering Math" series adoption decision.