Friday, May 20, 2011

We Want Cliff Mass!

You'll have to read it to believe it.  KUOW has fired/let go UW professor Cliff Mass.   If you're not familiar with Professor Mass (he of the perfect radio voice), he did a regular feature on Friday mornings about the upcoming weather in the Puget Sound.  He usually added some kind of science feature to his work and it was usually related to the weather/science.  I actually didn't hear him do this all that much.  He was usually on between 3-5 minutes.

But I guess sometimes he talked about fuzzy math.  (He was part of a small group that successfully sued the district over the math curriculum only to later have it reversed on appeal.)  And I guess that made some people (like UW which owns KUOW) mad. 

Read about it at his blog and how he matches it to the firing of Principal Floe.  He makes some very strong points about how other "regulars," who are on much longer also provide commentary. 

If you like Professor Mass' work on KUOW, I urge you to consider boycotting KUOW and letting them know (1) how unfair this is and (2) how much you enjoy his work.   If you feel as strongly, as I do, please let your family, friends,co-workers and neighbors know as well.

KUOW Weekday:

Steve Scher

Katy Sewall

KUOW News Director:
Guy Nelson:

Chair of UW Board:
Allen Steinman:

Wayne Roth, KUOW President and CEO


basically said...

On the upside, now he will have time to run for the School Board. ;-)

....wishful thinking...

I cannot believe they would let him go. No one doesn't love Cliff Mass' piece on the radio.

Melissa Westbrook said...

One last thing - I wrote to KUOW and encouraged them to bring back Mass BUT create a once-a-week 15-minute segment on education issues. While their education reporter, Phyllis Fletcher, does a great job, their commentary on education (especially on their News Roundup on Friday mornings) is not good.

RogerReadyRanger said...

I love Cliff Mass and hope he gets his job back. But he's got no basis to claim that Mr. Floe was terminated for opposing education reformers. How would he have any idea? It's just fuzzy logic.

Sue said...

If they are going to remove anyone it should be Joni Balter.

Anonymous said...

Automated reply from


I'm on vacation. Check with Sage or Steve if you need something.

See you soon,


Anonymous said...

I generally disagree with Cliff Mass on education issues, including his fuzzy math opinions and analysis. I also think that mixing weather with his education commentary isn't my preference. And, I wouldn't like Rick Steves mixing travel information with legalization of pot, either. I haven't personally experienced it.

I think bringing Cliff Mass back for weather and then having a 15 minute education segment (frankly, at least as many people are interested in education as they are in gardening. I could even see a longer education panel, made up of some regulars + rotating folks. It would be fabulous. We could have decision makers/polticians like Enfield and school board members, the UW education dean, and gadflies like Cliff & Melissa. I'd listen to that show.


Peon said...

Funny Melissa, I just did the same thing. I emailed KUOW and asked them if they'd considered giving Mr. Mass his own segment just for educational issues, separate from his weather segment.

Anonymous said...

OK. I agree that Cliff shouldn't talk math as part of his weather show. But, the solution for those of us who are worried that he's being silenced is to give him a 15 minute segment to talk about education.

I'm not usually a conspiracy theorist, but I'm coming around to the idea that the Broad & Gates money is fundamentally corrupting discourse about education. We now have tendrils in the UW education department, scattered throughout the educational directors in SPS (not to mention the board), KUOW.

It's scary, and I don't know how to stop it.

Thanks Melissa. Keep up the good work. One blog and a woman willing to go through 900 pages of public records request isn't enough, but it's something.


Anonymous said...

Oh COME ON people. Stevie and Susie act like BFF's on the air and have been smoochy towards each other since she first went on his show. All the chuckles & giggles convey an image of footsie under the table, probably while holding hands & winking at each other.

On the one hand, it's a huge improvement over Enfield's Ed-Reform-coded, robotic predecessor. (we have systems (beep), controls (beep) and procedures (beep)...) But on the other hand, Cliff probably made the mistake of blushing at what he witnessed, and they retaliated in defense of their new BFF.

We love to call ourselves a world class city, but in truth, we are so petty and small sometimes, it's embarrassing.


Anonymous said...

As posted on the previous thread, The Broad Superintendents Academy has been advertising on KUOW.

KUOW listener

(time to get out the tinfoil hat?)

Melissa Westbrook said...

Peon, don't give me credit. I read it off one of the comments at Cliff's blog. I thought it was a good idea.

Also, please folks don't ever believe I work totally alone. Don't get me wrong because it's a lot sometimes for one person BUT there are many other unsung heros out here slogging away as I do.

Anonymous said...

How to stop it, zb?

Keep talking about it, writing about it, and exposing it. Messaging, messaging, messaging. Turn the Ed Reformers biggest weapon against them.

One political party is this country is so effective at messaging they win elections they shouldn't have a snowball's chance in hell at. Why? Because like Goebbels "big lie" theory that if you just keep saying something over and over, regardless of it's truth, eventually it will become "common knowledge" accepted by enough of the population to produce the desired result.

If it works with big lies, it ought to work as well or better with Big Truths.

I know this: Before the last round of closures, people weren't identifying the Ed Reform Cartels and calling them out, along with the huge financial stakes Walton, Gates, Broad and others have in public ed. It's not common knowledge everywhere yet, but hundreds if not thousands of Seattle parents now know it when they see it, and have galvanized in opposition, which continues to grow. Keep talking, keep writing, and support the challengers in this years school board elections!


Anonymous said...

KUOW is licensed by the University, so I see this as one department (Ed.) using the UW radio station to censor a professor in another department. Complaints should also be directed to Interim President Phyllis Wise and the incoming President Michael Young.

I hope Cliff takes this up with the Faculty Senate, too.

Anonymous said...

No, no Sue. I like having Joni on, although I rarely agree with her. That show used to be boring, but now we get to listen to Eli try to make Joni's head explode every week. Much more entertaining now!

Word ID target for this post is "oviduc" I'm not kidding. Seems like the Internet agrees that Weekday needs a female. Or a "femal" Is that Latin for "bad girl?"

Scrawny Kayaker

someone said...

I wondered that about the Ed dept. being upset with him - it does seem like an extreme measure to small issue. Of course, just to play devil's advocate - they did give him warnings that continuing to talk about non-science/weather issues would lead to this and he chose to continue. I can't help but wonder how much influence the corporate sponsors of KUOW have on programming choices...

Anonymous said...

Oops, forgot to sign above.

KUOW is licensed by the University, so I see this as one department (Ed.) using the UW radio station to censor a professor in another department. Complaints should also be directed to Interim President Phyllis Wise and the incoming President Michael Young.

I hope Cliff takes this up with the Faculty Senate, too.

Scrawny Kayaker

SolvayGirl1972 said...

I just sent KUOW a pretty scathing email and noted that I've been pretty unhappy with a great deal of their coverage of SPE issues (though I did give kudos to Phyllis Fletcher for trying).

I really will reconsider renewing my KUOW membership if the keep this sort of thing up.

SolvayGirl1972 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Howard said...

Pardon a pet peeve of mine... referring to discovery-style math texts as "fuzzy math".

There is a whole branch of real, not-at-all-sloppy, mathematics often referred to as "fuzzy mathematics". It includes fuzzy set theory and fuzzy logic, and is used successfully in real world control systems (fuzzy controllers). According to traditional logic, a statement is either completely true or completely false; fuzzy logic recognizes that some statements are partially true, and provides a rigorous framework for dealing with that. (or at least that's how I remember it - it's been quite awhile)

"Fuzzy math" is a nice snappy catch phrase; I just wish we had a different one.

Iron Kim said...

A Facebook page dedicated to putting Cliff back on the air at KUOW can be found here:

Anonymous said...

On this morning's Weekday show, Steve dropped hints that Cliff may be invited back to discuss broader issues in a different segment. I would very much like to see that, as if they persist in dropping popular commentators because of outside pressure, then I'd have to drop my yearly membership renewals.

Steve did seem pretty teed by Cliff's topic changes based on his comments this morning, though. So who really knows if it was outside pressure, or just a personal decision on Steve's part. However, KUOW is a *public* radio station, and it that needs to air as many public voices as possible. The correct solution to interesting and popular, but off topic, commentary is to mix up the segments, not to drop the commentator. Cliff Mass may be opinionated, but he is also well-educated in the sciences and has a depth to his opinions that offers up a unique and often unheard voice - that of the real, authentic academic who is rarely swayed by the political maelstrom swirling around him (which is why I think Cliff would never run for School Board -- he is about the ideas, not about the politics).

I really hope to hear Cliff's voice on KUOW again, and on a regular basis. I always looked forward to his segments, no matter what he chose to speak about.

-Waiting to Send in My Check Until I See What They Do About Cliff

sp. said...

This may have also something to do with KUOW's censorship of Mass:

Date: November 2009
Purpose: to support coverage of education issues on NPR programs, including the "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered"
Amount: $750,000
Term: 3 years
Topic: Advocacy & Public Policy
Region Served: Global, North America
Program: Foundation
Grantee Location: Washington, District of Columbia
Grantee Web site:

Maybe even this:

Possibly this:

Gates supports corporate ed reform, funds TFA, Inc. (via his Washington STEM enterprise), which is now embedded in UW, and funds CRPE, also based at UW. Critiques about UW-supported weak math, or SPS curriculum decisions might not wash with Bill the Underwriter.

Also, as pointed out earlier on this thread, the Broad Foundation has underwritten KUOW in the recent past. I noticed that KUOW never mentioned Goodloe-Johnson's Broad connections, or the influence of Broad on national education, until the bitter end when MGJ got fired, when Phyllis Fletcher finally mentioned Broad. I can recall parents who brought up Broad on KUOW's call-in shows over the past 2 years getting cut off by the host (Sher? Reynolds?).

And yes, the KUOW-UW connection is also an obvious place to look for the source of squelching Mass.

I think Mass should shop his popular segment to another, more deserving outlet.

Lastly, unless I missed something, Balter, Berger, et al did not mention the Enfield-Floe fiasco in their weekly roundup of local news last Friday. I'm wondering whether that was just bad news judgment on their part, or someone's direction to KUOW to avoid talking about another SPS scandal during an election/levy year.

Hard to know at this point. KUOW's credibility is now in doubt. All in all, very disappointing. Guess I won't be renewing my membership. But KUOW probably doesn't need my money anyway, when it's got Bill & Eli paying its bills.

--Sue p.

Martin Cron said...

This saddens me, I just wrote to KUOW, the main part of my message is below:

I totally agree with Katy Sewall's decision to keep the cranky educational curmudgeon stuff out of the meteorological segment of the show. It doesn't fit there, and the journalistic integrity issues are real. It's a good show and you all do a great job with it.

I also think you're missing an opportunity here. He's a professional scientist and educator who has real opinions about science and education. He likes talking about it and people like listening to it. I'm sure that if you could carve a distinct non-weather time to discuss education with him and others who have differing views, that would benefit everyone in the way that public radio is supposed to.

If there's a way to let the passionate opinionated folks like Cliff Mass (and Charlie Mas and Melissa Westbrook and others) to discuss education without it turning into cable-tv style punditry, I would trust KUOW to pull it off.

Anonymous said...

As a lifelong educator and professional researcher and educator, I find it very difficult listening to "stars" talking about information that is not in their area of expertise. I found this true for Cliff Mass.

I have always been impressed with the comments on this blog- people promoting research based theories and hoping/trying that SPS district works toward implementing them. Cliff Mass talking about his own personal philosophy around math does not make sense to me. It gives me pause, what do people truly think of teachers?

SPS Teacher

Anonymous said...

SPS teacher, I never thought his commentary was strictly personal. Dr. Mass is a UW science-based professor who sees the results of K-12 math instruction. He also teaches college level math and science material hiomself. Whether I agree with him or not, he does have standing based on that basis.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the typos :(

Should have correctly spelled "himself", and the last line should be "Whether I agree with him or not, he does have standing on that basis."

Martin Flynn Public Affairs, Inc. said...

Steve Scher receives a salary from the state of Washington of more than $7,000 per month, Katy Sewall more than $4,200 per month, Guy Nelson $6,500, KUOW CEO Wayne Roth $11,500 and Arvid Hokanson, assistant program director and chief apologist, more than $5,900. This does not include generous pension and medical benefits.

RogerReadyRanger said...

Martin Flynn -- what does Cliff make? We're paying his salary too.

RogerReadyRanger said...

If this post ( ) is correct, then in 2009 Prof. Mass earned 13,498 x 9 months, for a total of $121,482 for the year. I don't know if he always is paid for only 9 months, and of course, we don't know what additional sources of income he may have as a result of his status as a professor.

In any event, vastly more than just about everyone from KUOW, assuming Martin Flynn's numbers are accurate.

Syd said...

I don't think that comment is fair. Cliff Mass did provide on his blog a lot of research links to back up his understanding of the current state of math education. You can disagree with the research he chooses to put forward, but you can't just dismiss/ignore it.

As well, he uses math. Everyday. And he is in a position to see the quality of math education when kids get to college, and how that has changed over time. He is an educator, and part of what he teaches is how math is used in science. I don't understand the statement that math education is outside his expertise. Are you saying that one who has an education degree has more expertise in math education than, say, a mathematician?

Patrick said...

SPS Teacher, how is the state of math education not an area of Professor Mass's expertise? He's a teacher, too. Every year he has to teach a mathematical science to students who don't understand the laws of exponents or trig identities. This is not comparable to Linus Pauling recommending megadoses of vitamin C for everybody.

someone said...

Martin Flynn's numbers come from the 2009 Washington State Personnel Detail - put out biennially by OFM - so yes, those are accurate as of Jan. 2009 - I'm sure they've gone up a bit since then.
@SPS Teacher - ummm, he's a science professor - how could he possibly NOT be qualified to judge math skills of students?

Johnny Calcagno said...

Count me as one who will financially boycott KUOW over this decision. Not so much because I support Cliff in particular (although I do, and I especially appreciate his outspoken views on math and other subjects), but because it appears to send a chilling, censorous message to anyone who doesn't toe the line.

When will NPR learn?

A True Progressive said...

Cliff Mass is/was a zealot who was often off-topic on his segment. He was specifically granted his slot on KUOW to share his expertise on weather and meteorology --- that's it. As is typical of the "Where's the Math?" crowd, Cliff used his one-way format to promote a narrow, and often radical, point of view on math education and the state of mathematics performance of WA students and to STIFLE debate. This format provided NO ONE with the opportunity to debate his point of view. He has consistently used his position and title to bully others.

I am glad he is gone. His behavior was wholly inappropriate.

Anonymous said...

SPS Teacher

I do not understand the disconnect between SPS and UW math/science professors when it comes to math education.

Kids who get into the UW are not failing math students. They are A students with 4 years of math, many with AP math. They are capable kids who have been led to believe that they have mastered high school math.

Yet, they get to UW and find out that they have not mastered the math needed to progress in college level math & science. The math & science professors have not changed their expectations of students math skills over the years, but have watched as successive classes of students have fewer of the required skills.

SPS charts continued student growth in math from increasing WASL scores to increasing AP math classes. They say that students are better prepared in math.

Someone has it wrong.

At least I know about it, because of Cliff Mass & others at UW. So I can help my kids bridge the difference. But there are a lot of other kids who are being done a great disservice by keeping it quiet and unexamined.


Steve Scher's Vampire said...

From Stranger Slog Comments:

"I'm surprised, um, that Steve Scher, um, managed, um, to um, complete a, um, thought at all, um. Let alone, um, one, um, as complex as firing, um, someone. Um.

I didn't even know Cliff Mass was on Weekday, because I have to change stations when Scher is on. That halting, um-filled style induces road rage. Even if I'm in my apartment."

I knew there was a reason why I quit listening to Scher years ago.

Anonymous said...

WOW! Math & Weather? Who'd a thunk?

I used this google thing, and found

Maybe Prof. Mass neglected to point out that Calc 126 is a pre-req for many of the Atmospheric Science classes?? Maybe he forgot to mention that the horrible skills of our kids mean those kids will NEVER have a clue what to do with the following from the Applied MATH department -

"mathematical methods for studying the hydrodynamical instability of shear flows, transition from laminar flow to turbulence, applications of fractals to turbulence, two-dimensional and quasi-geostrophic turbulence theory and computation, and large-scale nonlinear wave mechanics."

C'mon people ...

Math and Weather don't mix?


Anonymous said...

Discovery math is NOT a research-based theory, it's a failed hypothesis. Science means when your results don't match the hypothesis, you reject the hypothesis.

The hypothesis was: Inquiry based math will engage all students better, improve math understanding and close the achievement gap. We've done the experiment: Seattle adopted fuzzy math at all levels, students arrive at college less prepared and the achievement gap widened. Cherry-picked studies don't change this fact. It's time to discard the hypothesis, not cling to politics.

Convective turbulence

emeraldkity said...

Shouldn't a lifelong educator and professional researcher and educator, know this? ---->
ummm, he's a science professor - how could he possibly NOT be qualified to judge math skills of students?

WSP2 said...

Mr. Mass is a fine weather prognosticator. An expert in K012 education, he is not. KUOW will get my dollars for stopping his rants.

Listener said...

We wouldn't even know who Cliff Mass was if KUOW hadn't put him on the air to talk about the weather every Friday for a few minutes. I think if Vaughn Palmer, the weekly Canadian correspondent, insisted on talking about Puget Sound weather half the time, the outcome would have been similar.

BTW, I agree with Mass on most educational issues, and you can't blame a guy for trying to take advantage of his situation, but trying to make himself a martyr over this is pretty pathetic. His own account shows that KUOW talked to him about what they wanted. It isn't his show.

(And don't worry about your tax dollars. KUOW is almost entirely self-supporting.)

Anonymous said...

That's right, we should leave the expert commentaries on education to the experts. We have lots of PhD expertise in SPS adminstration. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson is an expert. All wealthy philanthropists are experts. Cathy Thompson is an expert. Bree Desseault is an expert. All KUOW and ST journalists are experts. Science professors are most definitely NOT. OK, I get it.

Under current math curriculum, I have 2 kids who didn't learn their multiplication table by grade 3 until we taught them at home (contrary to expert's opinion). They learned to figure out mean, mode, range, and median though. They don't have a clue what these terms mean, but hey, they are shiny according to their teachers! (Take that Singapore Math.) Then again, neither do most grown up and mainstream media when they look at statisitical data (real estate, home prices, income, test results, etc.) Which is perfect, as it keeps us plebians dumb and fixated on reality TV instead.

I am no educational expert, but I am fast becoming an expert BS spotter when I see and hear one.

-Learning on the curve

Chris S. said...

RogerRR said "But he's got no basis to claim that Mr. Floe was terminated for opposing education reformers."

On the contrary, I thought that was pretty obvious. Bree Dusseault = Ed reformer. Floe failing to kowtow to boss = Firing.

dan dempsey said...

More about what Listener said in regard to $$$ support of KUOW.

Sources of Applied Revenue, FY10:
Individual Support $5,532,743
Business Support $3,495,403
Institutional Support $879,993
Other Support $226,743
TOTAL $10,134,882


dan dempsey said...

WSP2 said...

That Prof. Mass is not an education expert.....

WSP2 please show me the data that backs your opinion ... do you have any facts?

WSP2, Do you find the recommendations of the UW CoE to be better than those of Prof. Mass for math?

Here are some data point trends that you need to explain:

In regard to UW Professional development =>

The Math Damage caused by UW CoE Math Education Project>

Check out these results in regard to reading and math.... in Seattle =>

4th Grade Math
OSPI annual Pass rates
Year ..... WHITE .:. BLACK ..::.. GAP

04 WASL 78.00% : 36.40% :: 41.60%
05 WASL 79.60% : 33.10% :: 46.50%
06 WASL 76.00% : 31.30% :: 44.70%
07 WASL 79.80% : 32.00% :: 47.80%
08 WASL 73.90% : 27.60% :: 46.30%
09 WASL 78.80% : 29.10% :: 49.70%
10 MSP 77.70% : 28.20% :: 49.50%

4th Grade Reading
OSPI annual Pass rates
Year ..... WHITE .:. BLACK ..::.. GAP

04 WASL 87.50% : 55.70% : 31.80%
05 WASL 90.90% : 61.60% : 29.30%
06 WASL 90.50% : 61.60% : 28.90%
07 WASL 90.20% : 64.90% : 25.30%
08 WASL 87.80% : 56.80% : 31.00%
09 WASL 89.80% : 53.60% : 36.20%
10 MSP 84.10% : 43.30% : 40.80%

10th Grade Math
OSPI annual Pass rates
Year ..... WHITE .:. BLACK ..::.. GAP
04 WASL 58.70% : 11.30% : 47.40%
05 WASL 57.10% : 12.90% : 44.20%
06 WASL 72.20% : 21.70% : 50.50%
07 WASL 70.80% : 19.60% : 51.20%
08 WASL 68.30% : 16.00% : 52.30%
09 WASL 69.90% : 16.30% : 53.60%
10 HSPE 68.10% : 12.50% : 55.60%

In Seattle HS .. Prior to Spring 2006 all students in HS for two years took the WASL as Grade 10 students.... effective Spring 2006 only students with sophomore credits were allowed to take the WASL and be considered as 10th graders tested. Thus the big bump up in Spring 2006.

Note the Pass rate for Black students with Sophomore credits has bombed out at 12.5%

.. looks like Mass can read data and draw reasonable and logical conclusions ...

What say you in defense WSP2?

Sahila said...

On NPR: Car Talk this morning sponsored by BROAD FOUNDATION Superintendent Training Program, with that ad followed IMMEDIATELY by an ad for the GATES FOUNDATION.....

Josh Hayes said...

News stations have a responsibility to present various viewpoints on matters of opinion. They have no such responsibility, and in fact MUST NOT present various viewpoints on matters of fact.

The FACT is, admitted undergraduates at UW have abysmal math skills. The FACT is, student performance on standardized math tests has fallen with the introduction of "exploration-based" math texts. The FACT is, students admitted to UW have outstanding credentials, and those who fail to gain admittance have distinct weaknesses.

I can see how these facts offend some people, but then, I'm used to dealing with religious zealots, and I recognize how difficult it is when one's faith is challenged by reality.

I've been a supporter of KUOW for 20 years. I'm done. I think I'll send the money to the National Center for Science Education instead (

We Love You Cliff! said...

KUOW is a two-bit operation and this just proves it. Cliff was completely within his rights to talk about math. I like my son's Everday Math and I don't know about Discovery Math, but to fire him? Totally absurd. The guy is a professor and the only one who was on regularly. Why not get an opposing prof from the Ed dept. tp talk about education each week? KUOW is truly a sorry excuse for public radio. I hope Cliff tries to get on KPLU in Tacoma and give Steve and Katy a verbal thumping.

We need new blood at KUOW