As I go thru this thread, some of these thoughts will sound familiar as I quickly went thru the 11(?) threads I wrote for the comments. Some of these thoughts are your thoughts and I thank you all for hanging in there and writing them down.
I note that, as of this hour, the Seattle Times has not one single thing to say on this story.
Update: I did query the Board office about notification to Board members about changes to the agenda. Here is the reply:
It is the Board Office practice to send the Board an email the afternoon of the agenda posting (Friday), and additional emails on the afternoons of following days if there are additional revisions to the agenda, prior to the Board meeting. Directors were sent an email at 5 pm on Monday and Tuesday to note revisions to the agenda, and Tuesday's email did note the addition of the second amendment to the Math Adoption item.
End of update.
I believe the democratic process worked and really, that was for the best.
Our district needs to operate as the public institution it is. This was one of the single biggest decisions this district could make for students and academic outcomes.
As someone else said, staff is there for professional input and the Math Adoption Committee was there to bring expertise and fresh eyes to the materials. (But it was interesting that one reader said that it almost seemed like no real math was examined by the Committee- just alignment to Common Core and costs.)
Math in Focus will cost more money. How much more is open to debate but we'll see soon enough. (Some advertisers might say this: math curriculum - $6M. Higher K-5 math scores across all groups? Priceless.)
But the district is a public institution and the public - from experts to parents to teachers/administrators - all get to weigh in. There was some disagreement on how many people DID weigh in and what it meant. (I note that the last time that the public could see the materials was over a vacation period. ) But the SCPTSA did not think parents got enough of a chance. Director Blanford thought it was some small "subset" of people who weighed in and to that I can only say that in a public process, it is nearly always that way.
In the end, some of the Board - Peters and McLaren - went the extra 100 miles to do their own research - examining the materials, asking staff questions, asking educators questions, benchmarking and then comparing all that evidence. Their work came at the end of a process but their work was still part of the process. That it all seemed late lies in the hands of staff who managed all the process except the Board's work. The district does this "running late" dance on nearly every major decision.
This time, it backfired.
The entire Board - save Director Blanford - had done their homework. I was pleased that none of them went to the "process well" that one speaker during Public Testimony wanted them to go to. (They may get dinged for some governance issue but again, their job is oversight, not rubberstamping. They did their job.)
They all acknowledged and thanked the staff and the Math Adoption Committee.
By my count, three of them - Peters, McLaren and Peaslee - also apologized for asking tough, direct questions of staff, even challenging them on some statements.
To my long-term advocate eye, all were professional, save Director Blanford.
Sue Peters and Marty McLaren were nothing short of magnificent. They were calm, answered on points and were clear about the passion they have for the subject.
Betty Patu was great and in two ways.
One was her plain-spoken questioning about costs. It was interesting because Director Carr, because of her work at Boeing, seemed to think that once the choice was made for a curriculum, that the district would lose any negotiating ability. Betty seemed to challenge that by saying, look, when I buy something that is negotiable, the instant you make the decision it doesn't leave you with no wiggle room. Carr and Patu being at difference places in their experience doesn't make either wrong. (But, for the record, I spoke very briefly with one of the Math in Focus vendors and I was told that of course, there was still negotiating to do).
Two, Patu - among all the directors - had the most direct experience with trying to learn math as an English as a second language speaker. She said she learned best when there were pictures or diagrams, not just words. The struggle to read AND learn a math concept at the same time was very hard for her. She also mentioned parents being able to help their children. She brought that prospective to the table.
Harium Martin-Morris was his usual big-picture self. He was right that the most important thing is the teaching. But to say the book is a "shiny object" misses the point. It's the curriculum given to the teacher plus how the teacher presents it. You really can't separate the two. He was right, though, about professional development and supports needing to be there for teachers.
Sharon Peaslee, while still getting her Robert's Rules of Order sea legs, kept things going. She waited for her colleagues to ask their questions first. She ran for office, promising to give a lot of attention to the math issue. I don't think she had the time to do the kind of research Peters and McLaren did but I think she made sure she asked the right questions and reviewed input. I'll be honest; I really didn't know how she would vote. I'm sure as Board President, it was difficult to go against staff's recommendation.
Sherry Carr was her usual detailed oriented self. Her questioning was good and she pressed staff for clarity. Her reasoning for picking enVision was fine but the evidence to back it up seemed lacking.
Not enough public input to take it seriously? She didn't seem to wonder - as a parent and former PTA president - why more parents didn't weigh in.
More schools currently using enVision over MIF? There could be many reasons for that and since the staff didn't explain why any school was using a different math than EDM, I'm not sure that works as an argument.
Highline versus Shoreline? Let's ask Susan Enfield in Highline if the number of mobile/immigrant/F/RL students in her district works for the use of MIF rather than enVision. In fact, as one reader pointed out, the South Seattle area probably has the most number of mobile students and the fact that Highline and Seattle districts will have the same math may work in their favor. (And again, where were those mobility numbers? Staff presented none.)
Money? It was firmly acknowledged that MIF was going to cost more than enVision. But math and reading are the core of all learning. Of ALL the places to skimp, math is not one of them. Carr believed all the cost analysis given by staff and I think that was a mistake.
Stephan Blanford was an embarrassment. I continue to see what must be the slowest learning curve in Board history.
I am attempting to find out how it missed his notice that there was a second amendment to this issue. That he seemed upset about not knowing was even stranger. Did he not realize how it would sound to say that outloud? Then he said he decided to use the same remarks he had written about a dual-adoption for this new issue. Also odd.
He was the most combative person at the dais and spoke of "math wars" and parents wanting what was best for their child and not considering the other children in the district.
I have no quibble with individual parents considering their own child but I think most parents who weighed in were probably thinking of their child's entire school. It's the staff's job, the Board's job and the Committee's job to consider the whole district.
I note three things on costs.
One, I attended one half of one MAC meeting. Shauna Heath was present and was asked about costs. She said the district had about $2M to spend on the math curriculum. So it was with surprise that I saw that number inflated - for enVision - to about $3.6M. And then MIF was double that. We will know once we see the contract.
Two, Director Peters really nailed it - again, doing her homework - when she observed that enVision only has paperback-type books for K-2 while MIF has hard cover books for K-5. She asked if hardback books would not last longer so, in the end, cost less in replacement. Staff admitted it was a good point.
Three, this was one place where it was quite clear that staff were trying to put enVision in the best possible light and MIF in the worst.
I know it was a difficult night for staff. They had worked hard and, because of the amendments, had to scramble to provide a response. But again, it's part of a process. If they did not consider the possibility of a challenge, given the number of Board members who had ran for office with math as an important consideration, then they erred in their thinking.
Listening to the responses was truly puzzling. These are smart people - I know that because I've spoken with most of them enough times. But they did not do a good job in presenting their responses.
A decent apples-to-apples chart comparison, especially around costs, would have aided them (the one they had was not easy to follow).
Not leading with the academics? Very puzzling because the main issue is not to save money but to get better outcomes.
Charles Wright, deputy superintendent, admitted that he got pressed into service very late. His job was to try to explain what might have to be put on hold if the Board chose a more expensive math adoption. He started with science/Advanced Learning issues. He also stated that the district had no dedicated recruitment person, no one who just reviews invoices for errors and no one to go after private grants. (It's 2014 and our district has none of these types of issues covered?) He then moved onto Special Ed help (including medically fragile students) and threw in archival needs.
As others have stated, how about fewer administrators at JSCEE first? It's all about the priorities.
Math Adoption Committee
First, thank you. I know what that work is like and it is a tough position to be in.
Next, don't be too tough on anyone for not speaking their mind. You have to understand that you are part of a team. It feels that way, it's expressed to you when you apply and are selected and you can be loathe to be accused of "hurting the process." I can say I do regret not speaking out when I was on the school closure committee.
It was a big team and I have no doubt they had differing opinions.
I have no idea what is going on because one slide staff presented clearly stated that some schools using math curriculum other than EDM do NOT have waivers.
As I said previously, there was no info presented (except for arguments about Schmitz Park) about why any school went off-script, how they paid for it and how they chose the curriculum they were using. That would have been pretty helpful info to know.
Also, fun fact that I didn't know: according to Michael Tolley, Ex. Directors approve math waivers in their regions. Why, I don't know.
Will we continue to see waivers? Maybe but only if the school pays for it and if the curriculum chosen is Common Core cozy.
A big thank you to Rick Burke, Joan Sias, Linh-Co Nguyen, Cliff Mass, Dan Dempsey, and every single one of you who spoke out to the Board. I hope you now believe that you, yes YOU, can make a difference.
A special shout-out to Ballard High teacher, Ted Nutting. Mr. Nutting has been speaking out for more than a decade about math in SPS. I have read many letters to the editor at the Times from him on this subject. I have heard from so many parents of his students who believe he is a great teacher. He is retiring this year. Thank you for your service.
As for me, well, it was one of those nights where you could see democracy in action. You heard civic discourse and saw elected officials doing their oversight job. I was glad to be there to witness it.