Friday, February 05, 2010

Encourage the Board to Vote Quickly

It occurs to me that Judge Julie Spector has ordered the Board of Seattle Public School to re-do their review of the adopted textbooks and take another vote on whether or not to adopt.

Given the current makeup of the Board, I think there is an excellent chance that the vote would go 4-3 AGAINST the adoption. If so, that would immediately cut off any appeal or "other actions" by the District to oppose this decision.

So let's encourage our Board members to take prompt action on the judge's order and immediately review the adoption again.

And let's contact Director Patu and Director Smith-Blum and seek their votes.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Again, Charlie, read what the district said. It sounds like they might butt heads on this one.

Now I would think that if the Board wanted to clear this up quickly, they would direct the Superintendent to put any appeal on hold and concentrate on a new and more thorough review of the materials. But I don't think the Board can tell them "you can't work on an appeal while a new review is going on". Again, it's a bit of a gray area because the Board holds most of the purse strings but only up to a certain amount.

This is a big decision for Michael DeBell (as President of the Board). Does he direct them to do both things - the new review and an appeal? Does he ask for the new review and let them do what they want on the appeal?

What would legally fulfill the judge's ruling? Clearly, it would have to be a more substantive and thorough (read not cherry-picked and anecdotal). But do they have to submit it to the judge? Probably not.

The district would fight any review that didn't go their way ( the famous "we're too far down the road") but what could they do if a judge says the original review for Discovering was flawed and a new review rejects it as well?

But I agree with Charlie; write the Board now to take prompt action. It's in everyone's best interests.

Charlie Mas said...

The idea behind prompt action is that it cuts off any other action.

So often we hear that staff couldn't fulfill some commitment or other because they were so busy working on other, higher priority, initiatives, such as capacity managment, closures, student assignment, curricular alignment, etc.

Make the second review a high priority and it will push out other tasks.

Stu said...

I can't imagine, regardless of the board's actions, that MGJ is going to let this go without appeal. It's a direct challenge to her "facts" and no judge is going to tell her she's wrong.

Also, since this ruling only applies at the high school level, can't the board make the argument that Discovery is not only a good program but is a continuation of the existing middle school program? They don't actually have to choose a different program, right? They just have to better justify this choice.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Stu, you're probably right BUT they can't just look only at Discovering. I mean, how would it look to throw a boatload of "facts" about Discovering and not really compare it to anything else? (Silly me they practically did that with NTN.)

I agree with your assessment of MGJ.

concerned said...

There are alot of great school board members throughout the country. We are greatly appreciative of their voluntary service to districts.

I wish they were typically given all available and relevant information in performing their duties, but unfortunately this is often not the case.

What encourages me most about this court case is that it brings to light the fact that board members must revere their positions as public servants.

As public servants, they are expected to consider all relevant research on a matter - not only that which is cherry-picked by individuals in the district hoping to achieve their personal goals.

They don't have time to micromanage everything, but now they should have an idea of who is trustworthy, and who may bring information that requires further (independent) investigation.

Best Wishes!
Hooray for Seattle Math Group!

Stu said...

I wish they were typically given all available and relevant information in performing their duties, but unfortunately this is often not the case.

What bothers me most about this board is that information IS available but they choose not to look at it. When people like Melissa, Charlie, Dan, and Meg, spend hours and hours putting together facts and figures, stuff that's easily available but that the official "staff" seems unable to find, and presents it to the board, that information is, at best, glanced at. The board listens to what the staff has to say, regardless of whether it goes against obvious facts or their own findings, and then basically goes along for the ride.

Look at the most recent STEM vote. STEM might be a great thing but the but the "facts" about NTN, presented by MGJ and staff, were underwhelming at best and an outright lie at the worst. And yet, when presented with accurate numbers, the board defers to the nonsense spouted by the district. How much money did they spend on the APP audit? How could they read that audit and then split the elementary program the way they did? It's as if there's a disconnect somewhere. They'll argue that they pick the most qualified group to look at something and then ignore what the group says.


dan dempsey said...

Stu said:
" (a.)Can't the board make the argument that Discovery is not only a good program but is a continuation of the existing middle school program? They don't actually have to choose a different program, right? (b.) They just have to better justify this choice.

Well .... a and b are a bit more complicated.

a. In following the Strategic Plan, the SPS chose to have a vertically aligned set of materials. The district has already stated that this completes a vertical alignment of k-12 math materials. In public data submitted to the board and from WASL math scores we made the point that over the last decade the achievement gaps have expanded in math yet shrunk significantly in reading. The WASL data for the first year of EDM was available when we filed our suit and it was larger that before ..... Super if SPS wants to appeal as now we have 2009 WASL data and the gaps are even larger. Who would wish to align with that so badly they would file an appeal?

(b) They just have to better justify this choice. BIG BIG problem doing that. The judge has already connected the dots. In court Judge asked "What if the district comes back with "Discovering" after their next process? Scully: I'll be right back standing in front of you.

Here are some facts:
Anna Maria repeatedly told the Board and everyone in Seattle that "Discovering is a "Balanced Program". Spector has decided based on evidence rather than "Happy Talk" that "Discovering" is Inquiry Math and NOT balanced.

Judge noticed that "inquiry math" did not meet the requirements of Article IX at Cleveland and Garfield. We filed this suit because we could squeeze it in by 30 days after the Board's decision. {Any school board decision can be appealed in Superior Court within 30 days of the decision... Filing fee $200.) In fact Marty was amazing in putting a huge amount of this together in 5 days so it could be filed on the final day.

wsnorth said...

I don't suppose any board members have issues a statement or even responded to anyone's emails on the math subject?

dan dempsey said...


We have been considering dragging this to Federal Court for a Civil Rights violation and getting EDM tossed out. Can probably also likely win attorney fees back in a Federal Court win.

{When district lost racial tie-breaker at US Supreme Court, they negotiated Winning Attorney Harry Correl's fee down from $1.4 million to $800,000} Does this district care about losing your money?


Consider this: the district likes "inquiry learning" effect size 0.31 rather than "Mastery Learning" at 0.61

The National Math Advisory Panel states students struggling to learn math need increased "Explicit Instruction" so Board Approves a "Discovery Program".

I guess the board thought Discovering was a balanced program as "We trust our hired Professions"**. Judge Spector read the book title and the piece on Page 4 "This is an investigative approach" & saw all the investigations in the book and ruled it was an "Inquiry Program".

I am at a loss to explain why the board keeps on "Trusting".

In the Everyday Math Adoption action Director Brita-Butler Wall told me: "We trust our hired Professions"**.....

This was after I had submitted large amounts of relevant data that could have been applied to making an intelligent decision to reject EDM.

========STEM I like it. I vote YES.

....You must be kidding.


So consider this sequence:

A. Adopt inquiry materials that do not work

B. Expand expensive professional development

C. Hire more math coaches to help teachers

D. Toss in a few consultants to gives use a few opinions.

E. Blame the teachers

F. Talk about the drastic need for a Performance Management system.

H.----- the only performance management system I want is one that will improve decision making by the Directors and those at the JSCEE. I sincerely doubt MGJ is talking about the way performance management is applied to her?

Fulfill 25% of your own goals and instead of beginning fired receive a $5280 bonus ... MGJ may make bad decisions but I'll bet she does not change that "sweet" system.

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris said...

FYI at director Carr's meeting this morning, at least 3 people urged her to discourage a district appeal, and to act quickly. The other 4 or so of us mostly agreed. Only one person spoke, not so much in support of Discovery, but to rebut the idea that "everybody hates it." She said some teachers liked it.

We were not too harsh on her; I find her really hard to be mean to, with those big brown eyes and well-meaning face. It was the first time I had talked to her in a small group and I got the same impression I've gotten from Director Maier: they have a pretty narrow view of what they can accomplish, between budget realities and a district staff that is clearly beyond their control. She seems more interested in addressing specific problems in her district than any part of the big picture. I don't know what I expected; we already know she's not KS-B. It's really a mystery to me how these people can seem to care, yet ingore loads of data in favor of whatever the staff says.

dan dempsey said...

Right now it is as expected....

"We will not comment on current litigation." This is fine as long as they intend to fix a huge problem rather than spending money to legally defend another indefensible position.

The folks issuing the press releases still keep making comments only about process. Appeal ... Appeal what??

Do the spokespersons even know?

Breaking Bulletin to SPS !!!! ... You lost because the selection was a defective program. Inquiry has a long record of failing educationally disadvantaged groups in Seattle Schools.

Until the SPS has a strategy to convince a judge that the inquiry math programs used in Seattle's schools can meet the State Constitution's requirements in article IX why waste everyones time and money on an appeal?

dan dempsey said...

Arbitrary and Capricious means doing something according to one’s will or caprice and therefore conveying a notion of a tendency to abuse the possession of power.

Charlie Mas said...

Actually, Discovering... is NOT vertically integrated with the middle school program because there are a significant number of students coming out of the middle school program ill-prepared to do Algebra. For materials to be vertically integrated they must include something for the students who are not working at grade level and Discovering... doesn't offer anything in that range.

grousefinder said...

It is interesting to note that EDM was not selected by the Math Adoption Committee. The facilitator used a process whereby any individual member on the MAC committee could state that, 'he/she could not accept a final cut list that excluded a particular curriculum.' Conversely, any MAC grade-level subcommittee could eliminate a curriculum from the final cut list, even if ONLY one member of the subcommittee did not want a particular curriculum on the final cut list.

What happened is this: Saxon was eliminated within thirty minutes of breaking into grade-level subcommittees by TERC proponents. Every other curriculum, but TERC, was eliminated in the first round. TERC had been selected. However, the facilitator then asked: "Is there anyone who cannot live with this decision? To stop the TERC train, two committee members stated that they could not live with a list that did not include Math Expressions as a finalist. This was a fallback position for Singapore/Saxon supporters. Math Expressions was summarily eliminated by the group for lack of support.

TERC had won until our next meeting when Rosalind W. came back and introduced EDM (previously excluded) onto the list. The process was clearly circumvented at this point and taken over by Santorno and Rosalind. The TERC followers bowed to Rosalind and EDM was selected. My recollection is that it was added to the list, promoted by Rosalind, and subsequently voted into the number one spot. No member dared cross Rosalind and Carla. It was very intimidating.

Another very interesting point is that MAC members were screened based on math experience. Most, if not all, elementary teachers on the committee had been trained in constructivist mathematics. I questioned many committee members when it was clear the deck was stacked against Singapore/Saxon and found almost all MAC members to practice inquiry-based math in their own classrooms.

Singapore Math Textbooks were not even available for the committee to examine. I asked why and was told that the publisher did not submit the materials in time. I called the publisher's rep. and asked if this was true. He said, "We were never even contacted for samples." Oddly, I had sent over a complete set of Singapore math books which I later found in the textbook room on the floor.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Wow, Grousefinder. Did you tell the Board this? They should know about it.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Wow, Grousefinder. Did you tell the Board this? They should know about it.

Dorothy said...

I am very glad that Grousefinder explained the EDM adoption procedure. I have watched and rewatched the relevant board meetings and public testimony surrounding the EDM adoption and several people spoke of how the committee was rigged, but no one clearly explained HOW it was rigged. This is the first time I have seen a clear explanation of how the committee was rigged/hampered by process. I've always been curious.

reader said...

You know the whole thing is pretty ridiculous. It isn't about the textbooks, however "unsound" they may be. If you actually look at what "unsound" means, it's pretty unsound itself. It means the proof of an abstract concept may not come until after it has been introduced. So what? And gee whiz, might not be presented at all in some cases. Should we spend millions on new textbooks to fix that? Should we just go back to integrated math? Should every board decision be held up to a microscope because a constituency is unhappy with a result? Can we count on hired professionals to do anything?

The real problem is the definition of "arbititrary and capricious". I think this judgement will not stand up under appeal. The judge, herself, just happens to have a beef with the curriculum. Just what does "arbitrary and capricious" mean? Should we get rid of school staff and replace it with the board? Or the judge?

Melissa Westbrook said...

"The judge, herself, just happens to have a beef with the curriculum."

And you know this how? And where can we read about it?

And what is an "abstract concept" in figuring out what curriculum to teach?


Abitrary: capricious; unreasonable; unsupported:subject to individual will or judgment without restriction; contingent solely upon one's discretion

Capricious: subject to, led by, or indicative of caprice or whim; erratic:

"Should we get rid of school staff and replace it with the board? Or the judge?"

Well, the way things are going, this just might give McGinn the ammo he needs to someday have the City take over running the district.

Jan said...

I haven't taken up Charlie's excellent idea yet and emailed board members, but I will.
Here is what I find most mystifying about the District's reaction to Judge Spector's decision. The decision is aimed at BOARD action -- not district staff action. (I realize of course that underlying it is the fact that the district totally blew its analysis and its presentation to the board -- in my opinion, there was not, in the presented facts, a reasonable basis on which to find in favor of the Discovery materials -- for ANY students, but at a minimum, for ELL students and others who are known to do best with a more direct instruction approach.

But it seems to me that the arbitrary/capricious action was the BOARD's action --- so how can the District, without input from the board, decide whether or not to appeal. Does not the Board need to review the judge's decision and make an initial determination as to whether, based on this new input, they agree that their decision was insufficiently grounded in process and facts to pass muster? Why is that determination MGJ's call? How could it possibly be?

Jan said...

To continue -- doesn't the Board (since its deliberative process was at fault here) need to decide whether they want the District to repeat the presentation, and then just do a better job of documenting a deliberative process, based on existing materials, that justifies Discovery (I happen to believe that Discovery is a bad set of texts, and am not sure that they COULD justify it -- but that is THEIR call, not mine, and not MGJs.)

And, what if they conclude is that what they want the district staff to do is (1) put together a better, more grounded presentation, and (2) specifically address some of the objections raised (findings that the curriculum is mathematically unsound, allegations that specific subsets of students will do badly with the materials, the fact that there is no material for students not ready to start Algebra, etc.) so they can take another crack at approving the books the District wants them to adopt?

Or, maybe the new board already knows they want to disapprove the adoption committee's recommendation and ask for a different recommendation? Personally, I think they should adopt Holt, and then give teachers the option of adding as much discovery math as they find appropriate. That way, they could at least START with a set of books that is NOT mathematically unsound -- and add as much stuff from the discovery side as the teachers are prepared to teach, and their students are capable of learning from.

Frankly, nothing short of tossing Discovery in favor of Holt will make me happy. I don't want to see a "better deliberative" process that winds up with Discovery math again, and I don't want to see the wonderful people who have helped get this to this point have to sue yet again on the grounds that the District has again chosen, and the Board has again approved their choice of, a curriculum that is so disadvantageous to minorities and ELL students -- because the other "silent" problem here is the one Cliff Mass points to -- LOTS of kids are winding up at college in remedial math, and not all are disadvantaged minorities and ELLs. I want the Holt curriculum because it is better at preparing ALL kids for calculus and college math. But that is not my decision.

Also -- for what it is worth, Saxon and Singapore are not the same (though both are better than fuzzy math). As I understand it, Singapore is a mastery system -- like Kumon. You stay with one concept until you master it. You may (and probably will) use that knowledge later, but the problem sets do not assume you need to "review" it every few days, while you are ostensibly learning something else. Saxon uses spiraling, where the problem sets go back and continually spiral through past concepts. Some kids do well with spiraling but some absolutely HATE it and are bored silly. Some kids may need it, I don't know. With my older kids (very good in math), Singapore/Kumon was definitely the better approach. I am currently using Glencoe's Geometry with the third. It does some "spiraling" (though less than I recall with Saxon) and he seems to need and benefit from it (but the amount of spiraling with Saxon also drove him crazy when he used it in middle school).

wseadawg said...

Reader: I don't know what you're venting about or why. But if you take a look at HMM's blog where he hosted a thread on the math adoption, you will see, clearly and overwhelmingly, that a large number of the "constituency" are upset, frustrated, and fuming over this math adoption. On HMM's blog, its about 95% in the anti-inquiry camp.

I am thankful for the efforts of those who stand up against an arrogant, indifferent board that carries the water for its cronies (4 members hauled in over 150k in big money donations vs about 25k for their opponents), while giving its constituency the middle finger.

You might be happily residing in the minority of those who don't think the texts matter. But its pretty darn clear from opinions AND FACTS that it DOESN'T WORK WORTH A DAMN. It's sad that it takes a judge to whack the board upside their heads, but when they ignore the facts and evidence, and choose to follow the recommendations of a rigged adoption committee, what do you expect.

uxolo said...

Would someone be willing to write and post an example letter that we can all copy and send to the Board?

Charlie Mas said...

I wrote to the Board and this is what I wrote:

Members of the School Board,

I strongly encourage you to take prompt action in response to Judge Spector's decision regarding the adoption of high school math materials.

Prompt action by the Board will save the District time, money, effort, and distress. It will not be necessary for the District to appeal the decision if the Board complies with the judge's order. Also, prompt compliance with the judge's order will model good citizenship for our students and our community. The order only requires Board action; there is no need for the already overburdened staff to take on yet another task.

The Board should now provide the superintendent and staff with leadership and direction by making a decision regarding the high school math materials wihtout delay.

Thank you for your attention,

Charlie Mas

dan dempsey said...

Here is a real corker of a letter. The author will be anonymous:

Let's quit fighting and give the kids REAL, time-tested math curricula!

The prospect of the school district planning to appeal the ruling re: its selection of a ridiculous math program frustrates me as much as the selection of the math program in the beginning. I've been in the district long enough to know how much money has been wasted in lawsuits that were absolutely, positively unnecessary. Our school buildings could have been repaired, and thousands of textbooks replaced for what has been spent over the years in foolish lawsuits, some of which the district lost.

I do not understand why the district administrators insist on using a math curriculum that so many parents and community members have protested. This is another situation where district bureaucrats act like know-it-alls and assume that no one outside the Stanford Center knows what's good for kids. My second child graduated last June, and I was ready to pop corks on champagne, to celebrate for me as much as for her---we as parents have been exasperated with the way we and other parents have been condescended to (when not ignored) through the years. Somehow the bureaucrats don't realize that these are our children, and our dollars that you are experimenting with, and that just because we don't have doctorates in education, our opinions are not worth considering. (Even though many of us have much more real world experience with the subject matter in question, and some, like me, also have extensive teaching experience at the university level.)

Not only is the new math program just plain goofy, it renders a child untransferrable. And that's a situation I know a little about. My daughter moved from private school to Blaine and when I realized that her second grade math was at the same level as her kindergarten math at Pacific Crest Montessori, I started calling private schools to see where we could move her. She was far, far behind even the most basic parochial school math!

Very unhappily yours,

dan dempsey said...

Jan, As I have been very heavily involved in all this, I will explain. This is essentially our baby.. The our is Marty Mcl. and I.

#1... The process was flawed in more ways than at the Board's end.

#2... It is going to be really difficult to get by the Mathematically unsound finding of SBE.

#3... The board did not use the testimony and letters submitted in making their decision. Confirming as correct those who think the board pays no attention to testimony. The material that they did not submit was nicely rounded up by the plaintiffs. A lot of it was mine showing how the inquiry math approach had been a disaster in Seattle for Blacks, Hispanics, Low Income etc. ... Especially damning were the results from 3 years of IMP in UW NSF projects at both Cleveland and Garfield. The Judge seems to have reached the conclusion that inquiry programs do not work for educationally disadvantaged learners. She definitely stated that "Discovering" is an Inquiry math program, NOT the balanced program that Ms. de la Fuente described.

#4... Plaintiffs also submitted the National Math Advisory Panel's final report: "Foundations for Success". The SPS did not use this report in selecting "Discovering". That gives you a clue how far of base the district is on this deal.

#5... There is no way the Board can carefully review all the materials and come up with Discovering as their choice .... because

there is insufficient evidence for any reasonable Board member to approve the selection of the Discovering series.

and there is no way that they will find supportive evidence,
Our Attorney gave us little chance of winning at the beginning because the educators use a lot of crazy stuff so how can anything be ruled unacceptable....

Well... if it can be shown it violates article IX of the state constitution it is "Arbitrary & Capricious." I knew this was Ahearne's strategy in the "NEWS' lawsuit over state's inadequate funding of schools ... so why not do the same with Seattle's inadequate math programs.

We originally were looking to take the whole k-12 mess into Federal court and then found out about the 30 day appeal of any School Board decision. Judge Spector is an extremely sharp judge absolutely fabulous questions. Keith Scully our lawyer was top notch.

We will be using a different math text series in High school, of that I am sure. ... again what were Sundquist, Maier, Carr, and Chow thinking?

Thanks to them Marty spent $13,000 on legal fees... Marty has raised about $4,000 in donations.

dan dempsey said...


You are not well informed.
Arbitrary and Capricious is a legal term there are certain standards that must be met.

The term Mathematical soundness was also defined by both W. Stephen Wilson and Guershon Harel

Check it out. Here is what Wilson and Harel said about "Discovering"

No I do not think that anyone is going to be able to reverse each of these independent findings.

OSPI had Bergeson's Math Crony George Bright who has a PhD. in Math Education not Math and UW Dr. James King (the planner of the IMP math disasters at Cleveland and Garfield - check out that rate my professor rating) [a real mathematician who hasn't published much in the last two decades] write simple summaries that said all the books are wonderful and then Ms. Bornemann ran around presenting them as equivalent to the reviews of Wilson and Harel. Ms. de la Fuente said that the SBE finding of Mathematically Unsound was in dispute because of the OSPI reviews by Bright and King.

George writes books about education and math ... the same fuzzy stuff we have been living through... Wilson and Harel do math.

UW Professor Jack Lee found the Geometry very problematic. He spent a lot of time on that. He had applied to be on the adoption committee as he teaches a lot about Geometry. Since the SPS is not really interested in content knowledge this volunteer in many after school programs was not selected. We sure don't want somebody who knows a lot about content.

The SPS had reform math advocate Robin O'Leary of SPU on the selection committee.