Monday, June 09, 2014

Letter to Seattle Schools Principals from Superintendent Banda

Quick Update:  At the C&I meeting, I had expected more of a kumbaya moment but clearly there are hard feelings and not all has been settled.  I did record that part of the meeting and will upload when I can.  

Generally, there is some confusion over the waiver process, principals thought that the MAC rec was going to be upheld by the Board (despite not having any real good history of committee recs always being upheld by the Board) and Board members are still wary of what is happening.  

There is a previously scheduled building leadership meeting tomorrow and the Superintendent said they will be discussing this.  I hope to be able to attend that portion of the meeting as it has no personnel issues to it so that I can report back on the concerns coming from principals on the math adoption.
end of update

 Also to update: The C&I Committee Chair and staff have agreed to move the math adoption update to first place on the agenda.  So that discussion will be at 4:30 pm, not later as I has reported.

 Letter from Banda (bold mine).  It looks like cooler heads have prevailed...for now.

Dear Principals,

Over the last few weeks there has been extensive focus on the K-5 math elementary adoption. When we started this process, it was our goal to create alignment for our math program, ensuring consistent and equitable materials, which is in the best interest of our students.

We believe any of the top three materials considered by the Materials Adoption Committee would have provided staff with a strong resource to support instruction. The selection of Math in Focus provides an opportunity to ensure an aligned approach to mathematics across the district through our established feeder patterns in regions. The implementation of a single program also ensures equitable access to students throughout the city of Seattle.

I know many of us are frustrated about the process. I want to thank you for your patience and support during the past week. Given the short timeframe and the need for consistency in our District, I must ask you to support the adopted Math in Focus program for the fall. We will provide the funding to fully implement the program and also ensure aligned professional development.

While Board policy allows for the granting of waivers, a key factor in reviewing waivers will be in keeping a single set of instructional materials throughout the district as the best way to serve our students.

All aspects of curriculum and instruction -- resources, standards, assessment, instructional practices -- are key to student success and closing the achievement gap. In an effort to make a difference for students, we will continue to focus on best instructional practices. In addition to the vendor-supported professional development for Math in Focus, there will be an ongoing book study for school leaders specifically related to mathematics, as well as optional professional development opportunities focusing on mathematical practices. 

I want to thank our educators and community members who served on the Materials Adoption Committee. While I recognize there is disappointment that the recommended materials were not approved, I am pleased there was a selection of one strong math program, which will provide an opportunity to ensure an aligned approach to mathematics across the district.

At the end of the day, we know having a single adoption is what is best for our District, and I want to thank you for continuing to support our students.



José Banda
Seattle Public Schools


Anonymous said...

Amen to that.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Jose, for letting reason prevail. I'm glad you did what I hoped you'd do. I'm sure the Board will be pleased as well.

Can we move forward now? I hope so.


Charlie Mas said...

I hope this ends all of the reckless talk about mass waivers.

The superintendent cannot be seen to be in open defiance of the Board. The only thing that protects him from real accountability is the Board's absurdly high priority on "maintaining a positive working relationship". If the relationship were poor, then there would be nothing to keep the Board from actually enforcing policy.

I'm pretty sure he's going to cash this chip someday. For example, the day of his performance evaluation.

Not So Disgusted said...

Thank you Superintendent Banda!

Watching said...

Actually, Charlie, I think this board will enforce policy.

Kudos to both the Board and Superintendent Banda.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm just cynical, but he waited rather late to clarify and consolidate what was obvious. Did he remember his evaluation is around the corner?

The letter from the Stevens principal still stands as the smoking gun to what went on between the gavel falling after the Board's final vote on Wednesday and this late in the game Superintendent letter that comes a few hours before the C&I meeting today that would have likely have permanently damaged his political capital with his bosses. Color me skeptical. Not impressed.


Anonymous said...

Whew, thank you Banda! Do we know he knew what was going on? - Oh, I guess from his comments to MW at retreat. But maybe he didn't have the whole picture in focus (like how wavers were handed out in the past.)

Chris S.

Anonymous said...

It's my impression that a number of schools were having BLT and staff meetings today, and I am thinking that the enVision waiver bandwagon was less full than anticipated...certainly not all schools were on board, so no chance of having "unification" via that route.

So, time to ditch that plan and move on?

Can we please get started with the middle school adoption now? Something that builds on Math in Focus would be nice!

- reality check

Anonymous said...

@Math Counts: Normally I'm as skeptical as you. But I'll give Jose the benefit of the doubt that he simply realized, after weighing it all, that this was the right and far less controversial way to go. His motives are less concerning to me, so long as he gets it right in the end.

But there's no such thing as unhealthy skepticism about SPS. Maybe someday, but we've got a ways to go yet. WSDWG

Anonymous said...

At this very moment my school is meeting to decide which curriculum to adopt.

Clearly a series of not pretty meetings have been going on behind the scenes. And clearly the principals have no idea whatsoever what is going on.

JSCEE as usual looks like a pack of fools.

North of 85th

Anonymous said...

Is there some sort of education blog equivalent of the Pulitzer prize? Because this blog deserves one. If not for the tireless efforts of MW and all those who regular monitor SPS and post on this blog, most of us would never know about important issues like this, much less have a chance to stop the runaway train that was steaming down the tracks over the weekend. My thanks go out to all of you.

--SSS Pulitzer

Observer said...

I still want to know how many BLT meetings happened today at the behest of the Executive Directors.

I am deeply grateful that Dr. Banda wrote a strong and unequivocal letter, and that at least for now, there is a strong commitment from the superintendent to abide by the Board's decision.

But the Executive directors were out of control from Friday and throughout the weekend, likely via directions from Tolley. And my best guess is that dozens of emergency BLTs happened today at their behest.

Banda needs to address that. The last 72 hours should NEVER have been allowed to occur, and things should never have gotten to the point that executive directors were allowed to pressure principals into holding these meetings today.


Anonymous said...

@SSS Pulitzer: And none of it is by choice, but by necessity. WSDWG

Linh-Co said...

WOOP WOOP!! Thank you Stevens' principal for sending your letter out to the families and thank you "Leaving Stevens" for posting it. I'm sure it helped the cause and showed that the Ed Directors were involved!!

Thank You Superintendent Banda for seeing the truth and supporting the Board.

Kathleen V. said...

Not sure why it took so long but KUOW has finally posted their piece on the meeting last week.

Anonymous said...

The problem remains that the foxes are still in the henhouse. Will Adam Dysart conscientiously work on the Math in Focus program over the summer? Judging by his angry exit after the vote Wednesday and his "stewardship" of the failed enVision fait accompli, I doubt that his motivation to make MiF a success is all there.

enVision was his to deliver. He failed. It seems unreasonable and unwise to keep him at the helm of this new MiF endeavor.

Deja Vu

Anonymous said...

Perhaps there were some good intentions over the last 72 hours. Perhaps this was great theatre to scare MIF into price negotiations. Well, if this was spun in the best possible light..... This might have been a good scramble.

Game Theory

Observer said...

Good point. If Banda wants to signal he is serious about making a single adoption curriculum a success in this district, he needs to reassign or exit all senior staff who actively worked to undermine the Board vote this week.

This letter is a start, but what Banda does next is the real test of his commitment.


Anonymous said...

Hello North Beach families, today we voted unanimously to adopt Math in Focus, our district’s newly announced math curriculum. This is a big and exciting step forward for our learning community! There is no doubt that there will be questions about this shift which we will do our best to answer them over this closing week before summer. Please realize that we will continue to focus our instructional program on doing what is best for our students and communicate that to you along this process. I want to thank our BLT for showing true leadership in reviewing and evaluating this new curriculum shift! We have another meeting scheduled for June 17th where we will focus on our next steps. I will also continue to work closely with Julie Cox to communicate our next steps to our community as we collaboratively develop our instructional plan for the 2014-2015 school year.

RJ Sammons


Anonymous said...

Wow think of all the energy that went into Math wavers at North Beach!

It cost two principles their jobs led to much retaliation from the district against the school. Spawned a math revolt across the district.

Strange to see it end with one email...or is it?


Anonymous said...

Oh BTW BJ is leaving NB for BWT.

Rumor was the district was going to choose EnVision and NB was going to
revolt again, so he was looking for a safe place to land.

Why anyone would choose to leave NB for BWT is beyond my understanding.


#Tolleygonemad said...

Firing individuals that were responsible for the circus that occurred over the last 72 hours seems like a reasonable action.

We don't need to support two individuals making a quarter of a million dollars for these kinds of debacles.

#Tolleygonemad said...

Also noting that Shauna Heath and Tolley used funds as a mechanism to either further or deny their agenda. Throw them out.

Anonymous said...

Things I notice in that letter.

1) No way Banda wrote that letter. He doesn't talk like this in person. It's his communications staff writing it. Which leads to
2) Note how the letter hits the points of the historical waiver process, equitable access and more. His communications people are reading this blog.
3) Note that the letter carefully states "I must ask you to support the adopted Math in Focus program for the fall". It does not say "for the next 7 years." Is this a subtle signal that maneuvering can happen next year when the spotlight isn't on? I'd put money on it. I bet English or another district lawyer had a look at that exact wording, as well as the rest. Which leads to
5) This letter came out either because English and Co. realized staff was about to get into very very hot water on a number of issues, OR because the School Board President took Banda aside today. Given Banda's reaction to Melissa at the Board Retreat (no money for MIF, no big deal for waivers) this massive change of course could only have come from Legal or the Board Majority. And I would place a sizeable bet that Banda did not want to have to take this action/write this letter.
6) Further proof of chaos in the Superintendent's office is that the letter came out right in the nick of time before the C&I meeting. My school, too, was meeting to decide on a curriculum choice this afternoon. Guessing many schools were doing the same. That principals may have been offering their staffs a curriculum choice at the exact same time that Banda was yanking it away means there is no doubt a hornet's nest worth of angry principals in this district who feel they've been yanked around by senior staff and Banda. Bad, very bad, juju. I agree with other posters that Tolley or Heath may take a walk after this episode, because exec directors are also no doubt in an unhappy place.
7) Which leads to my final point. With academic senior staff in an even unhappier place today than right after the Board vote last week, the "Board 4" may have prevailed this round, but the relations between JSCEE and the Board may now be at a recent low. This will not only affect other near-term curriculum adoptions, but every other staff-Board negotiation on priorities, on project ownership, and more. It is a fact, yes it is politics and pettiness, and yes it is going to hurt this district.

Nevertheless, I am convinced that this action had to be taken today, because tomorrow would have been an even bigger step off a cliff if the staff/ED "plan" had moved forward.

Veteran Reader

Anonymous said...

Slightly diverting the thread here - but only slightly - to make note of a fabulous long piece just posted on SLOG re: NOVA. It deserves its own thread!

But it also deserves a shout out right here, because in the face of an immense amount of pride and foolishness happening amongst district leaders right now, Nova Principal Mark Perry shows how to do it right. How to do it right as a building leader. How to do it right as a guider of students, whom he clearly both loves, respects and expects great things from. Nova's record on high school graduation rates and on not falling prey to ineffective and disproportional discipline should be models for the district. (And of course they're not. Because Mark's school looks NOTHING like the Tolley/Heath model of how to run an academic program.)

This is what it's all about. It ain't the math materials. Yes, materials and pedagogy are important, but what Mark has to say is so much more important for the success of SPS students. Go read the interview. It made me feel so much better on a day when I considered truly giving up on SPS.


Anonymous said...

I baloney'd my way into the dot.bomb wild west show in the late 90's cuz I could read, type a bit and didn't drool in the interviews.

It took me about 1/2 an hour to figure out how to use different parts of Survey Monkey, and after 3 very short surveys on my high school staff, I kind of figured out a lot of the functionality.

Why weren't the elementary teachers surveyed?

Question 1. I prefer A. MIF, B. EnVision, C.The Other, D. None of the above. (Pick 1)

Question 2. My household income has been below $65,000 a year for over 10 years of the last 25 years. A. Yes, B. No.

Question 2 seems out of left field. There were appx. 73,476,000 households in the u.s. in 2012 with money income below that level, and appx. 48,984,000 above that level.

There were appx. 193,147,000 with money income under $50,000 in 2012, and about 56 million above that level.

My gut tells me that a huge % of those who diss practice to mastery come from that Rodin-Thinker wannabee class - the ones making over 50k & in households making over 65k - the ones who think they're above and immune from the Dickenson economy millions of us exist in, in large part because they're stunningly unaware of how bad so many have it.

It isn't my crackpot theory that when you can't do percents, decimals and fractions you're complete road kill in the economy, and your real chances of having any kinds of opportunity to change much of anything are really about zilch.

Why weren't the staffs surveyed? Maybe each staff has 2 MIF people, 3 EnVision stalwarts, and the rest are watching Wheel Of Fortune? Maybe it is 6 to 1, or 1 to 10?


Anonymous said...

Anyone remember the staff cuts which fired up SEA & then there was the Jonathan letters and the Banda letters about

'we won't have staff cuts'

and then tolley came out with a different flavor of the week email a few days later ...

and now all kinds of schools are cutting some bodies for next year due to declining enrollment!!!

I'm waiting for Tolley's email explaining how the waiver process will require someone from your school sending in a 3*5 card into JSCEE office ABC with: 1. your school's name on 1 side, with the name of the Principal 2. a big check mark on the other side.

Tolley is running


Anonymous said...

Notes from C&I today

Director McClaren: I understand from vendor there are several schools using EnVM without waiver. Are you thinking these schools will get waivers?

Banda. I don’t think so.

M. Tolley: What was communicated thursday morning is we have an adopted se t of materials, mif. 11 schols currently using, three of which have waivers. Those schools currently using even without waiver if they want to continue to use EnVM, they need to file a waiver. Whether or not it gets approved is another question. The request goes to executive director of schools. We have to seriously consider articulation and effects on mobile students in the region, then a waiver may be denied.
Blandford: Has criteria for approving waivers already been decided.
Tolley: Policy 2020 has five criteria

Blandford: Would you call the approval subjective or objective?
Tolley: Five criteria, schools have to demonstrate the need that school better served by the requested materials.

Peaslee: I was involved in writing the waiver policy. [2012] I made an amendment that added a clause that Superintendent could deny waiver. Intent of policy was that schools using district-adopted materials could request waiver if District adopted material not meeting needs of students. Never intend waiver process to be used as an end-run around adopted curriculum.

Also, 2020 policy requirements for community engage are not specific at all, that is a subjective criterion, so very concerned about that, because we are being flood by emails from parents that something is happening in their building around waivers, but they are not getting asked by principals. Fact is, the way this is being done, in fast track manner, without really serious community engagement is really problematic, because lots of these parents, really happy with mif adoption but now are hearing their principals seeking EnVM waiver.

Thirdly there is no indication that these BLTs requesting waivers have actually looked at MIF, or used MIF. Many haven’t even looked at EnVM. There is a kind of firestorm going here that has nothing to do with making a really well -informed thoughtful decision about instructional materias that will impact every single student in the school. We do need to improve on this policy. Meanwhile I am very concerned that there is an effort to do an end run around the policy. This is an abuse of the policy, not the intent of the policy.

[tbc js]

Anonymous said...

notes from c&i continued...

Peters: purpose of the waiver was for schools for whom adopted curriculum is not suitable, for them to get chance to close achievement gap, get better results for their students, but they haven’t even used the mandated material so this is clear abuse of waiver policy.

Other concern is communities only hearing about this on very short time line, getting lots of S.O.S. emails, “My principal seeming to be doing something without checking in us”, then PASS doing something, this is to subvert the vote of the board. This is a terrible precedent to set. I thank S. Banda for writing his letter to uphold the board decisions

I do feel, S. Banda, you just said that you want to encourage the principals to “consider” taking mif. I have to say "no," they “have” to take MIF. Right now most schools do not qualify based on principles in waiver. I do agree with schools already using EnVM get to continue.

Funding for waivers: has been sporadic and arbitrary, seems like we’re changing the rules all of a sudden in a rush, it’s raising a lot of eyebrows in the community. For unity and strength of district we can’t allow this.

Blandford: I have different interpretation of emails we’ve begun to see. At least some of emails I’ve seen are less about having env or mif, but more about desire to pay attention to process by MAC. Be that as it may, the Board made a decision to not pay attention to that, to overule it, so I think this is opportunity for some principal and some school community. If they have the flexibility to pursue another option, that is what they are doing.

In this room a month ago several principals said this is what would happen. It seemed to me the message we should take is that it would behoove us to listen total.

2nd comment. What is the interpretation of your email Jose, and whether or not principals have clear guidance as to whether or not there is a wiaver process or not, because I hear there is a lot of wiggle room. We need to eliminate wiggle room. Many principals out there are trying to prepare waivers. I want some clarity.

Banda: We listened to some PASS leadership earlier today. We are aware there is a lot of work being done to consult the BLTs, we don’t want them to spend unnecessary time dedicated on that. So I think tomorrow will provide a good opportunity to talk about this. We need to hear from principals, there is a lot of unsettlement around the whole adoption. Our responsibility to hear them out, but also share with them our focus, to come o gether. We have to move forward can continue to have this creating conflict.

Peters. I must correct the record. Stephan, you said we did not pay attention to the process. I beg to differ. We took it very. Seriously. That’s why we brought dual adoption. The principals union gave us strongest reason against dual. Staff gave us many reasons against dual, so we withdrew the dual, had everything to do with board policy. This was not a frivolous decisions. Now we have principals ironically are trying to get a a dual -- the very thing they didn’t want.


Anonymous said...

notes from c&I, cont'd

Blandflour: I need to correct your correction. The principal response says both that they don’t want a dual, and they want the MAC recommendation to be respected and adopted. That was a decision for mif. My interpretation is quite different. Our principals were very clear in wanting the recommendation of the MAC to be honored and that has caused this dissention that is in the air right now.

Peaslee. 1st of all I started asking Ron English what are our options, long before there were any disputes. Ron told MAC as well as various Board directs that Board free to adopt any materials reviewed by MAC. We were well within our rights to do what we did. The MAC is advisory. We are under no obligation to follow the MAC. The recommendation of the MAC was not unanimous, didn’t reflect community input, was completely devoid of benchmarking. Our reasoning was very sound.

My thinking just to put it out there: MIF, which is based on singpore math, comes from top math performing nation in world. US is nowhere near the top. I think that it makes no sense to me for us to spend this amount of money and time we spend to adopt a curriculum that is not proven in any manner to budge the achievement gap, to budge the achievement of diverse learners.

When we have opportunity to adopt materials that have taken Singapore to top of the world, those opportunities only comes around every 7 to 10 years. In my mind, our students deserve a world class math curriculum, and we would be doing then an emormous disservice just to give them something just because it costs a little bit less. I don’t consider that frivolous.

McClaren: Lessons learned. I do regret as author of dual adoption amendment, that we did not pursue in depth conversations with staff in development of that amen. early on. There was consultation. We knew Dir. Peaslee was consulting with Ron English, working together we do tend to come together in agreement for betterment of students in district. I plan to be more proactive in future.

Thank you very much.

Peaslee. I want to thank Jose for writing the letter. I received several phone calls thanking you[Jose] for the letter.

[js. end of notes]

Anonymous said...

I got rare glimpses of Tolley and Heath's faces. I saw no sign of embarrassment, shame, remorse.

These people never admit to having made a mistake, do they?


Anonymous said...

The totality of the problems at SPS should result in the dismissal of at least one or more administrators.

Tolley's finger prints are all over this and the SPED problems. Ron English is the main reason no one in the school system can admit a mistake apologize and fix the problem.

Banda should terminate both Tolley and English or resign.

I believe the 4 board members can keep Banda in line, but Banda can't seem to control Tolley or English!


Charlie Mas said...

Mr. Tolley and Ms Heath would admit to making a mistake if either of them ever thought that they had made one.

They haven't made any such admission because neither of them believes that they have made any mistakes.

mirmac1 said...

Blanford (or Blandflour...I like), if the "several" prescient principals who spoke at C&I want that then they better start lobbying to change the law to take curriculum adoption out of the hands of democratically-elected school boards.

Also, you might start reading the RCWs, WACs, SPS policies and procedures. I'm tired of your bone-head questions.

Anonymous said...

Any count yet in how many emergency BLT meetings there were today?

-- curious

Anonymous said...

"Recommendation," Director Blanford.

Look it up and stop making a fool of yourself trying to curry favor with insubordinates who disobey the law as badly as you ignore it.

It's becoming fairly obvious that Blanford has taken over DeBell's role of casting fellow board members in negative light.

Bad move, Stephan. And they're adding up.


Charlie Mas said...

I saw a very suspicious email from the principal at B F Day with a survey for families about their priorities for math materials.

What makes these people think that the question is even open?

Anonymous said...

"Blandford: Has criteria for approving waivers already been decided.
Tolley: Policy 2020 has five criteria

Blandford: Would you call the approval subjective or objective?
Tolley: Five criteria, schools have to demonstrate the need that school better served by the requested materials."

From the notes, it's hard to tell...Is Blanford unfamiliar with Policy 2020, or is he just trying to get Tolley to spell it out?

I would agree with Director Peaslee that the community engagement piece is too subjective. There needs to be minimum requirements of community notification, education (about the materials), meetings, surveys, etc... Having one parent rep on a BLT does not constitute community engagement.

- North-end Mom

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melissa Westbrook said...

I think Veteran Reader got it right on most points.

Here the principals may have thought the staff was coming to their defense/rescue as experts only to find at the nth hour....not so much. That leadership meeting tomorrow could be quite interesting.

No one likes their chain yanked. Don't ask principals to rise up and do something only to say "never mind."

No, Tolley and Heath didn't look at all remorseful. Banda did look irritated but I get that.

The gamble - whoever took it or pushed it - lost.

Wow said...

Tolley, per previous poster:

"We have to seriously consider articulation and effects on mobile students in the region, then a waiver may be denied."

If his lips are moving..he is lying.

Teacher said...

Our school met at our principal's request. The majority of teachers said they supported MIF over EnVision math but our principal still requested that we reach consensus about not supporting MIF unless the district showed how it tied to the common core. It seemed as if this is the direction he wanted to take us and that he wouldn't let us go home until we reached consensus on this so we agreed. At least we didn't vote to do a waiver-the staff came out strongly against a waiver. We just agreed to not support MIF until we were shown how it tied to the CCSS. Still, who is going to get this letter of no confidence that was somewhat coerced from our staff, how will it be used? I hope not to convince the Board to go for dual adoption. As a staff, we really felt we didn't have a choice and that we weren't being heard when we said we liked MIF.

Good Luck said...

At the school board mtg, Blanford gave compelling testimony AGAINST dual adoption. Let's watch him during the waiver process.

Anonymous said...

@North end mom

Dr. Blanford is pretty much unfamiliar with everything, so far. "He's new" is not an acceptable excuse. Look at Ms. Peters. She can run circles around him, even without a pedigree that includes a PhD on Ed policy. Actually, she's so well prepared and thorough, that she can run circles around some of the others who've been there 6 years. New is not a reason to not do your homework and get up to speed. Ms. Peters proves that.

This is white hot controversial, and he sits on the C & I subcommittee, so for him to be as incurious as to not know how rigorous and specific the waiver policy is or how few schools have actually been granted waivers and what they had to do to get them is just ...sheer incompetence. He cake walked onto the board, and he has said numerous things on many occasions to demonstrate his lack of preparation and understanding.

Yes, he really had no clue. He wasn't trying to be rhetorical.

Not Impressed

Anonymous said...

@Teacher: And some will argue that there was no intimidation, so, here's a test:

Teacher: Will you please provide us with your name, your principal's name, and/or your school?

Or, are you afraid there will be retribution if you do so?

Is everybody watching this? Let's see if Teacher is comfortable revealing any of this, or afraid.

And thank you ahead of time, Teacher, for your cooperation.


Anonymous said...

Sue's been doing her homework since long before she got on the board and will rarely be caught unprepared. You don't have to agree with her or share her values, but she won't be outworked by anyone. Not even staff who earn 25 times her pay grade.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Teacher, there is NO math curriculum that is "tied" to the Common Core. There is NO math curriculum fully aligned to the Common Core. Not a one.

There is no real way to say this because there is no real arbitor to give a gold star to any curriculum. There is no group to give that approval. Each company gets to look at the standards and say if they believe their curriculum fits those standards.

MIF, for their newest addition, is even more aligned than previously.

I think the real issue - and I believe CC is red herring - is the style of curriculum that teachers/principals feel best meets the needs of their learners.

I invite you to look at Math in Focus and their website as the experts.

Charlie Mas said...

I really wish a qualified person had run for the School Board in District V in 2013. That person would have won easily.

If Director Blanford had asked me what the waiver policy said, I would have respectfully directed him to the web site to read it for himself. Seriously. How lazy can a person be?

Anonymous said...

Charlie: I think he was grand-standing to get it on the record. Eliciting talking points, essentially. Probably for future use as he attempts to "DeBell" (my new verb: to undermine colleagues and convince the public they are dysfunctional) the board.

I don't know, but I'm sure he'd read the policy and knew what they said. I'm thinking he was just "leading" the witness, so to speak.


Lynn said...

Cliff Mass's comment on the weekend drama: Some folks don't believe in democracy.

Anonymous said...

@Teacher: I hope I'm clear that I'm not trying to call you out or reveal your identity. I just want to know if you or others are afraid of retribution if you spoke out publicly, in opposition to your principals.

I apologize if that wasn't clear in my prior post that seemingly put you on the spot. I really want to know if people are free to speak their minds and vote as they wish, or are feeling the pressure to conform and not rock the boat, which I suspect.


Observer said...

Teacher was very clear they they were not free to cast an independent in the BLT meeting this morning. The principal pressured his/her staff to suppress their support of MiF.

I wonder how many other times this played out in BLT meetings today.


Observer said...

Sorry, that first sentence should have read:
"Teacher was very clear they were not free to cast an independent *vote* in the BLT meeting this morning."


Anonymous said...

So we got our new board. All hail Peters and the wonderful country of Singapore.Just donT spit your gum out or you' ll get caned. Not by Peters, she'll just give a tongue lashing.
I donT think anyone is saying the board acted illegally. They just acted boorishly and with a heavy hand.
Peters can say she did her research, but she wasn't on the MAC, she may have already made up her mind and just found statistics to back her narrative. I donT care if Singapore is #1 in test scores. Test scores are not the end all. The real difference I see between the two choices is the writing. Some people want math with less writing some with more. The MAC thought more was better. I've looked at both and think they're both as weird as EDM. But envision wants those pesky written explanations. I donT like doing them either, but I have feeling they help kids communicate. I mean if you can explain a math problem, you have pretty good literacy skills. Does it penalize ELL kids or encourage them? The samples I saw have optional explanations for EEL students that would help them learn English in math class. Is that good or should language acquisition stay in LA subjects or at least stay out if math and let kids succeed without the language problem holding them back? I can see,it both ways. Learning English is going to make the biggest improvement in most kids lives as opposed to math, but not necessarily for the kids who end up in the sciences.
I also feel that enVision and the wordier curriculums tend to demystify math and make it less mechanical. When I hear people say that there are only right answers in math, I'd say sometimes. True 3x33 =99 and kids need to know that is always true. But when they hear about fractions and why you flip one over to divide them, if they can think it through and see what's happening, that it's both a convenient parlor trick like the lattice method but also intensely logical, also like the lattice, that's where you you get a mind working in new directions that helps the whole educational experience.
Same with early calculator use. These kids will use computers to do their math, on the phone or eyewear or goddess knows how, but they won't be scratching on paper with a sharp piece of graphite. Math needs to be more than that, and even if some ELL kids struggle with the wordiness, many will taste the true discovery of knowledge that the Singapore styles are short on..


Anonymous said...


"But when they hear about fractions and why you flip one over to divide them…"

I think you mean, find the reciprocal of the divisor. You can't "flip" the 3 in 5/7 divided by 3. It doesn't flip. That is not standard mathematical language. And, you certainly would not want a student to flip the dividend (7/5).

That little Singapore Math lesson takes less than a half-page of examples to teach. No parlor tricks, just math.

South Ender

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Hippy: You got me trippin!

My mind is a teeter-totter inside a kaleidoscope riding on a ferris wheel right now. Is that The Doors I hear in the background?

That is one big ball of string you've got going there.


Charlie Mas said...

There are surveys making the rounds right now - very suspicious surveys that ask families to rank their priorities for math textbooks. The surveys are written in a way that allows the results to be interpreted however the principal chooses.

So, no matter how you answer, your answer will be interpreted as support for the principal's favored materials.

Teacher said...

Of course I'm afraid of retribution. No, I won't even tell you what region I teach in and the principal of our building is actually a "she" not a "he", that's how much I am not able to speak freely against my boss' wishes. But look at it this way, she is being coerced, too. She obviously had a directive to get some form of dissent from us. How ironic, the ones actually responsible to teach the math and this is the only time we are asked directly which curriculum we feel is the best support for our teaching. Why are teachers so little involved in this whole process? I'm the one who has to use the curriculum daily. I do want to thank the active community who brought the Board to their senses in picking MIF. I don't know what hippy is talking about--MIF is a much different curriculum than EnVision. It has much more depth, is so much more conceptual, scaffolds extremely well. EnVision does not scaffold and not conceptual enough. The reason our staff so strongly supported MIF is because they have either used it or seen it used. It is a curriculum that believes strongyl in equity for all children in class-it teaches to mastery (there, said the M word, get over it) because math is the one subject (research backs me on this) that keeps students from graduating. We have a right to ensure that all children (low-income, esp.) have equal access to education, equal access to success. This is not ancient Greece, math understanding should not be for an elite few. All children should have mastery and it is actually one subject where this is possible. It is so very teach-able given the right curriculum. EDM was a nightmare to teach and I could tell you so many stories of so many tears cried by 8 year olds in class who came to me with their hopes and beliefs only to have them dashed on the rock of "Imstupid". We need MIF--it lifts children up to not just an understanding of math but a belief in themselvs. It is by far the most equitable curriculum. Hippy, you need to look deeper--what idiocy you've just spouted. Just on another note, a teacher in our building was a little too open about her opinions about our principal and she no longer teaches--she was "let go". This has nothing to do with cowardice on my part--retribution in Seattle SD is very real.

Counselor said...

I want to understand how the Board making a decision against the recommendation provided through an equitable process is a good thing? There is no explanation in the Super's letter to Principals as to why the recommendation was thrown overboard. I'm flummoxed as the Staff at my school overwhelmingly voted to go with envision after reviewing curriculum options. Are someone's pockets being lined... Or is it just a matter of inflated ego - a power trip? Don't put forth a legitimate process only to ignore the results. Ridiculous. The district leaders sing a song of equity, while ignoring the voices of those who actually do the work creating equitable schools that are successful.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Look Hippy, of course a Board member wasn't on MAC. That would be improper. But she and McLaren did their homework and there is not a single member of the Board who would disagree.

"I mean if you can explain a math problem, you have pretty good literacy skills."

But is that the point of learning math? What about ELL students? What about Betty Patu's moving testimony about her own struggle to learn math as she was learning English?

Counselor, are you sure that the make-up of the committee was done equitably? I'm not. It's a good thing when democracy follows its course.

For the last time, the Board is the legal and final voice. Don't like that for curriculum? Change the law. Don't like the Board members? Run other people for office.

Also for the last time, do you know how many committee recommendations have been ignored by Boards and staff? A lot. This is nothing new. And the Board did not "throw" anything "overboard." They got valuable feedback on all of the top three finishers via the Committee's work.

Anonymous said...

I'm having a hard time understanding the misinformation about MIF and CCSS alignment. It's especially hard to understand in light of EDM and CMP's poor coverage of current state standards. Where was the outrage when "mathematically unsound" texts were adopted for high school?

MIF will provide a solid math foundation. Both MIF and Envision made the list of approved math texts for the State of California, and they had a much more robust review process than SPS. None of the current SPS math programs are on the recent list of adopted texts in CA - no EDM, no CMP, and no Discovering Algebra.

According to the 2014 CA Math Adoption Report, "the criteria included a requirement that the instructional materials provide comprehensive teaching of the content standards [including the Standards of Mathematical Practice]." The standards needed to be met in "the core materials or via the primary means of instruction, rather than in ancillary components."

Who is instilling this CCSS fear? If anything, you should be concerned for students' performance on upcoming CCSS assessments because they've been using EDM and CMP all these years.


Anonymous said...

I'm the parent rep on our school's BLT.

Our process was a bit different from "Teacher's."

Our BLT met yesterday morning, before school. It was not a regularly-scheduled meeting. We were tasked with making a math materials recommendation. Our choices were Math in Focus or enVision.

Our BLT recommended Math in Focus. I haven't heard the outcome of yesterday afternoon's staff meeting, but I am hopeful that we will not be applying for a waiver.

At our BLT meeting, there was discussion about the process, that this wasn't a normal waiver process, that there hadn't been significant community input, and that the waiver issue had not come from anyone (staff, parents, etc...) from within the school itself.

There was also discussions around how the Board voted in a sole-adoption, not a dual adoption, so why were we called here to make a recommendation?

There was also a discussion about the costs, should we decide to jump on the waiver. Our PTA should not be put in a position where it is expected to cover the cost of instructional materials if the waiver is not fully-funded (our principal did not have concrete information about the funding of the waiver).

Math in Focus was recommended because we thought it was the best fit for our school.

We have ELL and a relatively-high FRL. We are not a technology-rich school, so the less-wordy Math in Focus is a good fit. There also were concerns expressed that our school, and our families, did not have the tech resources to support enVision.

- name withheld

Anonymous said...

@Teacher: Thank you so much for your "testimony" of sorts, about how things really are. I've seen many teachers transfer, be let go, or driven out by good and bad principals, because they bucked a system, plan, or bad idea, instead of going with the flow. I know retribution is real in SPS, because I've seen it happen numerous times.

Some here just can't believe the discrimination and retribution against not just whistle-blowers, but anyone who questions power-tripping principals with their HUGE inferiority complexes.

I urge you to tell other teachers to comment here with their stories, without revealing identities, just so people can understand the kind of real "arm twisting" teachers are put under everyday, which comes from the district and is passed through the principals.

Thanks again for speaking up.


Anonymous said...

@Counselor: Do you too need to be reminded what "recommend" means?


Anonymous said...

@ Michael:
Maybe it would be good if you got the facts instead of spreading rumors about why RJ (not BJ) is leaving NB for BVT (not BWT).
Broadview has a lot of really great things going on, strong staff, lots of innovation and services for a high need population. I know it's off the main topic, but I couldn't let that comment go by and not respond. I teach at BVT and I love it. You should come visit some time.
BVT teacher

Anonymous said...

What's the point of having a MAC if the directors do their own assessment? They don't have staff, they don't have meetings, there are no minutes, no paper trail. How much and what does any particular director look at? Who do they consult? Are they in any way required or expected to their own research?

Ragweed said...

Whoknows -

The survey uses 65,000 because that is the median family income for urban families. It is not the median household income, because household income includes many households that are not "families"; "family" being defined as two or more people living in the same house, related by birth, marriage, or adoption. Household income includes lots of single people, wheras family income includes lots of 2-income families, which moves the median up.

Ragweed said...

hippy et al.

I just don't buy this defense of Everyday Math. My kids are at a school where differentiation, critical thinking, and social justice are part of the founding core values. Where we consider every child to be gifted - because each has unique gifts that we must find and nurture.

I have been talking with our elementary teachers and our MS math teacher. They generally agree that it take both basic-skills and inquiry-based approaches, and some use an inquiry-based approach exstensively, depending on the needs of the students (as I said - lots of experience with differentiation).

And as a rule they all hate EDM. Even if you support an inquiry-based approach, Everyday Mathmatics is poorly written and confusing. It bounces around with this so-called "spiral method" that is so poorly structured that it does not actually reinforce past skills. Its questions are poorly written and poorly designed.

If you believe that an inquiry-based approach provides a deeper level of understanding, or allows for greater differentiation, or whatever - by all means do so. But EDM is just a bad example of an inquiry-based approach. There is nothing progressive about it.

Ragweed said...

@whoknows - Actually though, families with children present have a national median income of only $59,000. That would probably be a better figure to use in a survey of parents.

Anonymous said...

@Hippy and Lois

Good comments.

Why in another thread does Melissa say the survey questions aren't suitable for lay-people and then support lay people over-ruling the MAC with their own selection?

Also, Singapore is far from a panacea. By middle school 40% of Singapore students have a math tutor (American average is 10% and that's probably distorted by private school figures) and 90% are engaged in out of school math activities, including math olympiad and robotics. (See The Raytheon Study) Clearly intensive supplementation and cultural preferencing have a lot to do with their world math ranking, in addition to universal health care and lack of poverty.

Selecting a math adoption that bi-passes a language/literacy component deprives our ELL students of the opportunity of greater literacy enrichment.It is a travesty that these children and, in fact all the children, will now have math that lacks an integrated language component.

For progress

Listening said...

@ For Progress

When you say Singapore is not a panacea, can you cite EVIDENCE (I keep asking you) for the comparative performance of Singapore vs. Envision vs. Others. Where is you data? Please share so we can have an informed constructive conversation. You say that kids are not prepared and then draw a causal link to Singapore. Please share the links to your data to substantiate. Otherwise it's not productive.

Anonymous said...

For progress,

Your argument about wordy math curriculum helping with literacy is odd. Reading MAP scores in Seattle should be off the charts after all these years of EDM. What? They're not?

People really need to stop talking about the board overriding the MAC. This MAC was there to advise, NOT DECIDE. It has been said over and over, but it is not being understood.

Admittedly, if I disagreed with the decision I would likely be frustrated, but it is the process. I have been on the other side many times over the years, but it has not made me unable to understand the process.


Sleeper said...

It does not deprive ELL students of greater literacy achievement. It just does require that they be grade level proficient in language skills in order to progress with math skills. Requiring grade level skills in all subjects in order to progress in all other subjects is a horrible trap to set for struggling students. I can't imagine we'd ever add math skill requirements to trip up language arts progress like this. Some of those kids might be (are certainly!) quite talented in math and would be able to experience some academic success if they could only have access to a curriculum which allowed them to make single domain progress as easily as possible while they caught up in reading. Instead we insist they fail in every subject until they can bootstrap their way up, and then have to catch up in math, too?

I don't think Envision is a terrible curriculum. I think MiF is better, but not that Envision is terrible. But I can never get on board with adding extra literacy skill requirements onto math students beyond the necessary.


Anonymous said...

Does NOT require that they be grade level proficient I language skills in order to progress. Sorry.


Melissa Westbrook said...

"They don't have staff, they don't have meetings, there are no minutes, no paper trail."

Lois, you are mistaken. The Curriculum and Instruction Committee has public meetings and minutes. You can file a request for a log of meetings directors attend and who they meet with. You can file a request to look at e-mails.

For progress, you seem to think that saying that a survey uses a lot of ed-lingo means I think parents are dumb. It doesn't. It means, though, that not all parents are up-to-speed (hence our acronyms guide or is that insulting).

Parents are the experts on how their children are doing in school. They are entitled to give their opinion based on that issue alone. Some may have expert backgrounds even if NOT on the Committee.

FYI, the WASL was terrible precisely because the math part was more about reading than writing (my own kids said this the one time they each took it).

No one has said - anywhere - that ANY math curriculum is a panacea. It's just a choice based on what is best for our district and that choice - for the last time - is legally in the hands of the Board.

Anonymous said...

For progress --

I am sorry, but this is starting to get plain silly -- like throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks.

1. "Why in another thread does Melissa say the survey questions aren't suitable for lay-people and then support lay people over-ruling the MAC with their own selection?

What does the appropriateness of survey questions sent to parents on math curricula have to do with the ability of the School Board (many of whom are NOT lay people, and ALL of whom are expressly tasked with the responsibility of MAKING a decision -- which might mean adopting, or not adopting, the MAC committee's recommendation) have to do with each other. The false equivalences here are mind boggling.

2. "Also, Singapore is far from a panacea. By middle school 40% of Singapore students have a math tutor (American average is 10% and that's probably distorted by private school figures) and 90% are engaged in out of school math activities, including math olympiad and robotics. (See The Raytheon Study) Clearly intensive supplementation and cultural preferencing have a lot to do with their world math ranking, in addition to universal health care and lack of poverty."

Singapore, like many Asian cultures, has a very different approach to educational competition than US schools. But how that sheds light on whether they have developed a good math curriculum is a mystery to me. You seem to be arguing that their test scores may reflect much more than whether the Singapore materials are good. And I suppose it does. Just like SSD math test scores are skewed by all the parents who home school after school with better materials, drive their kids to KUMON, hire tutors, etc. But that still doesn't speak to whether the materials are great or not. It seems to me that a "math-mad" nation like Singapore with really high stakes exams would be very likely to demand, at a minimum, that the stuff their kids get from school is top notch as well.

3. You said "Selecting a math adoption that bi-passes a language/literacy component deprives our ELL students of the opportunity of greater literacy enrichment.It is a travesty that these children and, in fact all the children, will now have math that lacks an integrated language component." I have never seen anything, not a drop or shred of evidence, suggesting that language challenged kids (ELL but also many Sped kids with language processing issues) learn language any faster when their math classes are turned into language classes as well. Frankly, this argument is so lame I cannot believe that you make it seriously. A "travesty" that a 2E kid with language problems is prevented from excelling in math (which he is great at), because he has trouble communicating in English? Wrong. Just wrong.


Anonymous said...


Apologies if I have appeared to be ignoring your enquiries. I did respond, but, probably due to inattention on my part, they disappeared into the cloud.

It's not possible to compare the success rates of Envision v MIF/Singapore here in Seattle just yet, and I think it will be difficult for a while as there are so many variables. I can only say that Seattle students made gains using the constructivist EDM (look at SWK's comments on other threads if you are still following) and overall Seattle students beat the state averages. In 2013 (Seattle Times, June 10 2013) SPS "increased its lead in nearly all grades, especially eight grade math and sixth grade reading."
The children in these grades are the ones who have had the immersion in EDM. By the macro data it's a success, validated by reporting in the mainstream media and not just in an obscure statistical archive. Many of the claims on this blog of EDM failing the students are false, and in some cases deliberately so, as there is little excuse for those who are vested enough in the issue to be unaware of what the local news sources are reporting. In addition these gains took place in the throes of a recession, which make them even more of a success, as the impact of economic stagnation on many students cannot be discounted.
Now we are adopting less progressive materials, which require less teacher classroom preparation, allow for less student creativity, with little room for different methodologies, points of view etc. In addition to the thinness of the scheme, which I fear will limit children's creative mathematical impulses, we may find that it will also limit their teacher's. Constructivist math pushes teachers to think and teach differently.I believe that impacts all aspects of their teaching. Teachers who were less comfortable with this, can now go back to the same old, same old. This is another regressive aspect of choosing MIF.

For progress

Lynn said...

Seriously? Every family in my neighborhood with elementary age kids in public school either attends a school with a waiver, teaches their kids after school, or pays a tutor.

How's EDM doing for families who can't do those things?