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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

High School Math Curriculum Adoption

As regular readers of this blog know, I have been teaching mathematics at Rainier Beach for the past two school years. During this time, I have heard how the district was on the verge of going to a uniform curriculum for mathematics for all the 10 comprehensive high schools in the city. There are supposedly three finalists (Interactive Math Program (know as IMP and used at West Seattle, Hale and I think Garfield), Core Plus (I don't know if any school uses this), and College Prep Math (known as CPM, which we use at RB)). Since we are in the middle of the summer, I thought this would be a good time to contact Ms. Santorno and Ms. Wise to see where we were in the process. I sent the following e-mail on July 30th:

Hello Ms. Santorno and Ms. Wise: I teach mathematics at Rainier Beach High School. Since I started teaching at RB in the fall of 2005, I have heard that the district was in the process of a curriculum adoption for high school math. Yet, as we enter the 2007-2008 school year, nothing has been finalized. I was wondering where the process was? I can remember reviewing three curricula in the spring of 2006 (IMP, Core-Plus, and College Prep Math), but as far as I can tell, nothing has come of this. Is a decision going to made soon? If it is, how is the decision going to be made? I teach College Prep Math and I think is it far and away the most rigorous of the three curricula that are under consideration.Thank you for your assistance in this matter and I look forward to your response.
Michael A. Rice
Rainier Beach HS

I have not received a response yet. I know that many people connected to the district (including at least 2 Directors) read this blog. I was hoping they would be able to give me some information about where we are about the new curriculum.

42 comments:

Jet City mom said...

I think that elementary school math is being tackled first

It is confusing isn't it?

IMO since high school students may not get any math after they leave high school- I think that needs to be supported first- if it is going to take so long to figure out how to teach math to all.

http://www.wheresthemath.com/blog/
2007/05/31/success-in-seattle/#more-79

Anonymous said...

I've been following the math controversy for some time now and it seems pretty obvious that SPS/OSPI leans far to the conceptual end in the debate and the math adoption process is being in large part reviewed by people that already have a bias toward that curriculum.

The SBE (State Board of Ed) was hired to review state math standards and they gave them a 1 out of 4 and said that they are far to much on the conceptual side and should stress more basics.

Even with that reveiew and all the criticism from WheresTheMath.com , and lots of surrounding districts going back to more traditional curriculum, it seems that Seattle isn't going to move in that direction. I know they added Singapore textbook as a supplement at the elementary level in their math adoption process, but I think elementary school teachers, who generally do not have strong math backgrounds, will have a hard time trying to come up with a curriculum that bridges the two.

It's really sad.. There was an article on WheresTheMath.com about students at a highschool that adopted CorePlus and a student that graduated with a 3.97 GPA and A's in math was put into remedial math in college because she did so poorly on their placement exam.

I have a son that is good at math and would likely continue to take math in college. I am not going to risk having him ill-prepared for college level math and am pulling him out of public school math and homeschooling him with a more tranditional curriculum.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Just to let others know, it is possible to pull your student out for one subject and have them still be enrolled in a school.

I had problems with my son's LA curriculum in 8th grade and after half a year of frustration, we pulled him out of that class. We were able to rearrange his schedule so he didn't have a hole in it. I taught him after school. Did the administrators like it? No, but I also had no problems with them. Did my son like it? Partially because he was not happy with the work either but on the other hand, Mom was his teacher now.

Anonymous said...

I've arranged to have my son to be pulled out for 1st period every day at his middle school and we do math at home during that time through an online curriculum.

I've never considered homeschooling before and wouldn't do it if I didn't feel it was really necessary. But it was between that and paying for a private school that had a math curriculum that I supported.

Recently I've learned about the K-12 Virtual Academy for students in Washington State (http://www.washva.org/). You can get a full curriculum, textbooks, online access to teachers, etc all for free and you can do it for individual courses. I haven't done any of them yet, but have been considering it for math because they appear to use a more traditional math curriculum and the one we are using is pretty expensive.

Anonymous said...

WAVA is a program through the Steliacomm School District. If you choose to access it, you have to turn in a interdistrict release form, thereby becoming a Steliacomm student, and Seattle cannot contiue to serve you.

Steliacoom mislead a lot of parents last year into thinking you could access thier programs and still be primarily served by your resident district. It was a total mess. OSPI finally explained to me that there is no way for two districts to claim the same student to the state for funding purposes, even if it is just part time. So, beware that if you choose to acces WAVA, you will give up being an SPS student.

Anonymous said...

I didn't know that! I called them and asked about using it for part-time and they didn't say anything about being in their district. Thanks for the info!

WenG said...

Melissa & Anne: I had no idea you could pull out for one class but stay enrolled. Anne, even before you finished with your comment about your unhappiness with the math curriculum, I was thinking home schooling, because there are so many resources that support it. Singapore Math is widely used in the home schooling community. (We used Miquon and Math U See.)

It's good to know that if a subject is problematic, we can schedule a block of time at home.

Anonymous said...

WenG-

There was a law passed fairly recently that allows home schooled students to access a school district on a "part time" basis. A lot of people in Seattle choose to use SPS's Homeschool Reasource Center part time, and some access a "typical" school for some of the day.

The big change was that the state now funds school districts for part-time students (before, school districts could not claim students who attended only part-time absent health reason), meaning that schools don't loose money educating less than full time students.

Anon above is correct, one thing that has not changes is that you can be part time in a school and part time at home, but you can't be part time in two different school district, even if one of those programs is a virtual program. I found this out when I tried to access both the HRC and WAVA.

I will say that Cynthia at the HRC (and even a lawyer for the district, Shannon) were very helpful, and spent a lot of time explaining why Steliacoom was leading people astray and what SPS could and could not do for part time students. They even forwarded me an email from OSPI that explained the whole situation.

Anonymous said...

This is a rant about parents and math instruction...I hope that you all are not proposing returning to the old days of math instruction. I remember the old days and they were brutal and they still are (excpet at Nathan Hale). The only people allowed to pursue math were the math students, My high school math teachers were the worst of all my instructors. They taught like they learned! They could only connect with those students that learned like them. To me this issue of reform vs. traditional is more about creating valuable learning opportunities for all students, not just math students. My work is high schools has only confirmed this. The web sites you quoted are dedicated to traditional math instruction, which means they are committed to a style of instruction that is exclusive to most students. You think we have a high failure rate on the WASL now, wait until these "traditional" students have to use math in the real world. Is it not the elementary teachers that need the help, it is the high school teachers who refuse to teach that need help.
I know parents mean well, but they are killing an essential change in math education, a blanace of concepts and algorithms.

Anonymous said...

I was not a "math" student, but had a great experience, and great teachers that took the time to make sure we "got it". Math, though not my strongest subject, made sense to me. I like straight, traditional math. I'm not opposed to mixing it with "fuzzy" curricula as I understand that there are many different learning styles, however, I truly believe the foundation should be a solid, straight forward curriculum such as Singapore.

Most of the country tried reform math. It did not meet expectations, and now all states except for WA and CA (please correct me if I'm wrong) have gone back to a traditional curriculum.

WA state got an F in math. It is time for change.

As for the WASL, teachers will still drill WASL test skills into the kids in the 6-8 weeks preceding testing, and the kids will do just fine.

And, just maybe with a more traditional math curriculum, A+ HS math students won't have to go into remedial math when they reach university.

Just some food for thought.

Anonymous said...

I love how urban myths become facts. A+ students taking remedial courses is a myth that traditionalist are chanting. My "fuzzy" math son scored 98 percent on the SAT.

And even more...Singapore Math (American style) is not even the version they are using in Singapore. They are moving to a blended conceptual curriculum because their students can't apply the concepts to real situations.

Also, labeling something we don't understand (like teaching math concepts = fuzzy) is a simple way of marginalizing the discussion. Maybe we should call it "harder" math or "complex" math.

Michael Rice said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Rice said...

Hello

I would like to respond to the ranting parent. I see the results of the way SPS teaches math in the elementary and middle schools every day. All I can say is that it is an abject failure. When a high school freshman gets to me, the great majority of them cannot do simple multiplication without their calculators (things like 8 times 6), have no concept of what long division is, cannot add, subtract, multiply or divide fractions, and don't have a clue that 1/2 is .50 and 50%. This is because the curriculum's at the loer grades don't teach these things, they teach children to "discover" things on their own. This does not work. There are certain algorithms that need to be taught to students so they have the basic skills mastered. Once the basic skills are mastered, we can go on to discover things. I have found that when I give the freshman some structure in their math instruction, they are able to start mastering the basic skills and as their time in high school goes on, we are able to get them up to grade level and give them a chance to have success on the WASL. It is a shame that we have to do that, but these are the students I have and I need to be sensitive to their needs. I have to do everything I can, so they can become productive and informed citizens.

I'm sorry to hear you had a brutal experience in math. I did also. I barely passed geometry in high school and to this day, I do not want to teach it because of that experience.

As for the supposed non-brutal math experience at Nathan Hale, all I can say is that I had a Hale student during Summer College this year and she did not know what the equation of a line is. Somehow in all of Algebra 1 and Algebra 2, the math curriculum at Hale never bothers to teach that. Since that is a GLE and is a big topic on the WASL, it seems to me that the math curriculum at Hale is doing the students a disservice by not teaching such a basic algebra concept.

I belong to the Transition Math Project. This is an attempt by the SPS and the Seattle Community Colleges to align curriculum to stop the large number of SPS students in the Community Colleges that have to take remedial math because they have not mastered the basic math skills necessary to be successful in college. The "fuzzy" math being taught at most of the high schools do not align with what a student needs to know when they get to college. Because of this, too many students are in below college level courses in math and it take them extra time and money to get there degree. I think we owe it to our students to have them be prepared for college as possible.

Now I know you are thinking, not all students go to college. This is true, but aren't basic math skills as fractions and percents necessary to have any sort of chance at a job that can pay a living wage? If you can't do fractions, you can work in the construction industry or in the aerospace industry (to name two fields that a living wage is available to someone with a high school diploma).

In closing, I just want you to know that I firmly believe that discovering and investigating is an important part of any mathematics curriculum, but it should only come after the students have mastered the basic skills underlying them. When the students have mastered the basic skills, what they discover will then mean something to them.

Anonymous said...

I'm not an educator, so don't understand how to teach math to kids. But, I do know that simply applying algorithms, or repeating math facts does nothing for the way that people have to use math in my own field (I am a scientist).

I've looked at the problems in Singapore math & conceptual math homework/tests, and the "singapore" math can _look_ "harder", but often, they require mapping into a pre-determined algorithm, that can be determined by certain keywords (for example, this is a train/speed problem, at which point the problem just becomes a plug-in). The conceptual math problems _try_ not to do this (and don't, for me, but that might be because my background more closely resembles algorithmic training).

I don't know if math as it's currently taught is failing to teach kids to do math the way I need them to, but I do know that older systems were not better (they seem to have relied on teaching some folks rote rules, which they could repeat, and saving the flexible thing we who use it call math for a select few). Maybe that's all the average person is capable of, but if so, that's not going to be good enough.

nssp

Anonymous said...

Oops, I appear to have simul-posted with Michael, so I couldn't read his comment first.

As I've said, I'm not a K-12 educator, but what I need from K-12 education in math is for people to be able to apply the math to problems other than the one's they've seen before. Yes, it's good if they "know" that 6X8 is 48, but they need to know _when_ to multiply 6 & 8 together to get the answer to the problem.

I think the old teaching methods didn't do too well at it (though they were pretty good at getting people to chant 6 times 8 is 48). Going back won't be good, because we need to do something new -- to teach lots of people how to deal with numbers in our complex world. We never tried to do that before.

nssp

Anonymous said...

I'm not a math teacher, and I truly don't know which curriculum is better, fuzzy/conceptual or traditional?

I will say that my son was in 6th grade last year, and went to an alternative school for all 6 years (AEII and Salmon Bay). They used only fuzzy math as far as I know.

My son has mastered his times table, can do pretty complex problems in his head (no paper and no calculator), and know the basics of long division. I just asked him to show me on paper three different ways to show a half. He wrote 1/2 .50, 50%.

Now my son is bright, and was an A+ math student, but did not test into Spectrum or APP, which leads me to believe that he is in the average category.

I wonder if Michael Rice's students are coming into RBHS with very limited math skills not due to the curriculum but because they are mainly lower income students, feeding into RBHS from poor performing schools elementary and middle schools? I must wonder how an average kid like mine can master the skills without any outside help (tutoring, Kumon, etc), and other kids can not? Could there be other factors besides the curriculum?

I started this post saying that I am not a math teacher, so don't know enough about curriculum to even presume to have any anwers. I'm not advocating for any one curriculum, but will say that we have been satisfied with the "fuzzy" math thus far. We have been mystified at times by the long, quirky, lumbersome process to get to the end result, but in the end it seems to have worked. I do love the idea of mixing two curriculums, if teachers can be properly trained on how to apply it.

Finally, Michael you sound like a fabulous teacher with a lot of heart and itegrity. I wish all kids were lucky enough to get a teacher that cares as much as you do. Keep up the good work!!!

Anonymous said...

I’m talking to myself, but I started having thoughts about the emphasis on calculations that seems a part of traditional math (as cited by Michael, who worries about high school students who don’t know what 6X8 is and who can’t add fractions). I’m not proposing or supporting any particular curriculum or approach, because I simply have no idea how to get people to the level of math understanding I use & need (yes, like the bad high school math teachers who can only talk to people who “get it”; but, fortunately I don’t teach high school math).
I think learning the times tables & learning to add fractions teaches math concepts, to those of us who understand what those things mean. The concept of a common denominator is deep, for example, and times tables train you in thinking about how numbers fit together (6X8 48, and I verified that by remembering that 3X8 is 24 and 2X3(6)X8 is 48). Those of us who use math got the concept from the techniques and calculations we were taught in the “old” math.
If someone doesn’t get the concept, does it do me any good that they can _say_ 6 time 8 is 48? In my case, I don’t think so. If someone gets the concept, will they be able to do the calculation? They should, but they might not be able to do it as fast as the person who knows how to say it.
As I was writing these posts, my 3 year old (who could easily be taught to say 6 times 8 is 48 -- he likes repeating word strings to amuse and amaze), actually did demonstrate his current level of math understanding. He came up to me and asked me to make a cube with a square piece of paper. I told him that I needed six pieces of paper to make a cube. He then went to get/color more pieces of paper. He counted out six more pieces of paper, colored them in (he now has seven), but then brought me back six, telling me that he had one more, an extra. This process tells me far more about his math ability than rehearsal of words does (counting to reach a goal, subtracting simple numbers, knowing that 6+1>6).
I also strongly agree that kids should learn how to add fractions, but not so that they can add fractions. I use math a lot (and I guess, I occasionally add fractions). But I would rarely do it by finding the least common denominator. First, the numbers one actually encounters are rarely tractable to that approach. Second, we have imense computational power available easily that makes these calculations tractable when they are much more compicated than they used to be. This plays out at higher levels of math, too, practically. For example, I rarely need to calculate integrals (or differentials) analytically. For most approaches, these calculations are done numerically these days. Does that mean I think learning calculus is useless? Not at all, because calculus is about teaching concepts of integrating and differentiating. In the same way, we need to understand fractions as a concept, not as a technique. The techniques used to solve simple math problems need to be taught for the concepts that underly them, but their practical use has gone the way of keeping written records in copperplate.
Techniques are easy to measure. But, conceptual understanding is not. I’ll be disturbed if we trap ourselves into being satisfied with techniques because they are easy to measure, if the concepts don’t come with them.
Again, the point of my post is outcomes -- I really don’t know how to get there, and I am certainly open to the arguments Michael lays out -- that techniques & calculations are necessary to provide the base for further understanding of math concepts.

nssp
PS: Michael -- does Ranier Beach have a formal tutoring program that accepts volunteers?

Anonymous said...

Oops, sorry for that long run-on post (My computer deleted the paragraph marks, and I realize it's too long anyway).

But, in case anyone is skimming, it isn't a rant :-).

nssp

Anonymous said...

To Michael Rice..;
Your response is a typical hs math teacher response. There is always a claim that if only the lower grades did a better job then they would do better in my class. I have taught for 20 some years. I know what is happening with math instruction in the schools. I see the elementary and middle school teachers working very hard and accompolishing much more than the high schools. The college math teacher are no different than the HS teachers. They want the students "knowing" basic facts and not concepts so they can get through their curriculum for that semester. That means starting at the beginning of the book working to the end. Math is a language that some people struggle with, like reading and writing. Reform math is trying to move math instruction towards a balanced approach, not just reciting numbers. In that process, students all along the way have to understand the concepts for utilizing the numbers, not just how to solve one problem over and over (25 - 50 times). Integrated 1 and 2 only provide practice for doing math problems. They have little to no opportunity to practice the real use of the concepts.
You would find that the math teachers in the early grades do very well. And I am betting that you would all the "basic facts" are covered.

Jet City mom said...

I would agree with Michael

I can't tell if anonymous has read my post before- because I don't know who the heck they are- but my child has the unfortunate circumstance of having two teachers in a row in elementary who didn't teach math.
One actually told the class of parents at Open House, that they wouldn't be doing much math ( in 5th grade) but they would be doing things like writing their own scripts for videotape instead.
Wonderful.

Subsequent years ( she was at same school through middle school) the math curriculum was not any better.
Eventually, despite teachers advice to the contrary, I hired weekly tutors for her, in an desperate effort to fill in the math holes before high school.

While she went to a tutor weekly for almost the last two years of school, she was still two years behind, when her high school adminstered the placement exam.
( this is after never getting below a B in math)
In high school- she and her teachers worked extra hard- to get her caught up to grade level, despite starting two levels behind.

In 10th grade- she recieved a 1 on the math WASL-( same score as 4th & 7th) however she was almost caught up, and after taking a summer course inbetween 10th and 11th grades, she was now at grade level. She retook the Math WASL in 11th gd.
If she had received 10 more pts- she would have received the highest score- a 4.
But from 2 years behind, to passing the math WASL in three years and at grade level is pretty good don't you think?

BTW the CPM looks pretty good- I see that the Issaquah district also uses this curriculum

Anonymous said...

anonymous @ 3:30 writes "The college math teacher are no different than the HS teachers. They want the students "knowing" basic facts and not concepts so they can get through their curriculum for that semester."

It is true that I want my students knowing quite a bit of math before they get to my classes (I don't teach math, but i need them to know math). It's also true that I can't teach my class the curriculum I'm supposed to be teaching them if they don't understand multiplication and fractions. My job is to teach my class the curriculum (not multiplication). And, what's more, I am completely unqualified to teach them multiplication.

So, although I agree that it's easy for us who teach "terminal" levels to bemoan the lack of preparedness of the students who come to us (this happens within college curricula as well). It's not unreasonable of us who teach at the end of hierarchical trajectories to expect that people who reach us know certain things. I think the critical question is thinking carefully about what those things are.

I've said "math facts" are not it for my courses, a deeper conceptual understanding of math topics is what I need. But, I can't teach that in _my_ class -- they need to know it already.

nssp

Anonymous said...

As much as I appreciate michael rice's educator perspective, I am concerned about his classifying the entirety of 'the way SPS teaches math in the elementary middle schools every day' as 'an abject failure' on the basis of his very limited (and likely skewed) sample size at Rainier Beach.

And about his drawing a conclusion about Nathan Hale's math programs on the basis of one student in Summer College.

And that this is a mathematics teacher making fairly sweeping and unscientific conclusions - an educator in a non-quantitative discipline, I could maybe understand.

He does qualify when he gets to the detail, i.e., "the great majority cannot..." but I still have an objection to that level of generalization (if not hyperbole) in opening remarks that ideally should educate and inform others in a discussion - and he clearly has much perspective to offer.

Maybe it's just for effect - my husband argues this way and it is mostly baffling to me.

Anonymous said...

"but my child has the unfortunate circumstance of having two teachers in a row in elementary who didn't teach math.One actually told the class of parents at Open House, that they wouldn't be doing much math ( in 5th grade)"

How can this be??

Don't schools/classes/grades have to follow the EALR's and the curriculum??

Did all of the 5th grade teachers "not teach math" or was it just the one teacher?

Did you speak to the principal? If so, what did he/she say about that?

This is a tragedy, really, and such a disservice to the children.

Are you comfortable saying what school your child was in? It may help other parents look closer when they go to tour it.

Was this an alternative school, such as AS1,that let's you know up front that their focus is on the whole child, social emotional, democratic school model (blabber for a weak academic program)?? As it is in my neighborhood, I went to tour AS1 years ago, and the principal, Earnie Seevers, said that a mixed grade (3rd - 8th grade)class, decided and voted on not taking math that year. When he saw my horrified face, he reassured me that the kids who were interested in math could take it as an elective.

How can this be allowed in a public school?? I could understand if it were private school, but in a public school aren't all children REQUIRED to take math, learn to read, write, etc???

Anonymous said...

Sometimes one teacher will be way out of sync with what other teachers are doing. One of my kids once had a teacher who taught exactly one new concept in math all year: a brief unit on stem and leaf plotting. Everything else was a review of what had been covered the year before (and the year before's teacher hadn't been amazing at math, just competent). At most they were doing problems with another digit.

WenG said...

We moved from SPS to Northshore, and will be moving back, so I wasn't totally pleased when I heard about the adoption of Everyday Math for lower grades. (I guess it falls under fuzzy math.)

It's described as a spiral curriculum, and for my youngest child, it wasn't the best way to present concepts. She didn't have enough time to master one concept before the class moved onto another. I didn't see any linkage and the text was confusing to me.

Northshore stands behind it, saying math scores have gone up since its adoption, so it's not going away. In her 3rd grade class, the teacher and parent assistant made time for working on facts, dare I say drills. They had to. We also did them at home, so I guess there's no one curriculum that will cover every learning style, and I think that's always been the challenge.

I don't envy an elementary level teacher who has a class of 30 and one curriculum package. I agree with what's been posted before, that the curriculum requirements by grade level require too much in the lower grades, instead of building a foundation for junior high and high school. Perhaps this is what Mr. Rice is seeing firsthand, kids who never got their foundation. It takes time for most kids, with work outside of school, to build this foundation, at least in our experience. I also hear what anon at 8:07 pm is saying, that reform vs trad is about bringing instruction to all students. At the end of the day, I think most teachers have to do whatever it takes to help students learn math. If they're not comfortable with the method of instruction, it shows. That's why I keep going back to self-passed lab instruction with tutoring, as a support for students who just aren't clicking with what's going on in a general class.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like both concepts, traditional and conceptual math have their flaws. Neither seems to reach all children, as pointed out by the previous posts. I like the idea of a mixed conceptual/traditional curriculum. If teachers are properly trained it could work, and may reach a larger blanket of kids, giving the flexibility of utilizing components of both concepts.

Jet City mom said...

One of the issues at my Ds school during the 6 years that she was there was that the building had three different principals.
Principals that weren't very focused on what was going on in the classrooms- because they were getting ready to retire- using the job as a stepping stone in the district- coming from another area and just wanted a fill in job till retirement.

These are my impressions BTW but I did contact the principal often and the district and got a lot of flowery language and hopes that things would improve with the next principal or teacher.

It is a fine line- because you want to work with the "professionals" you don't want them to target your kid or feel that it is a battle, but eventually we found we had to change schools, to get improvement.

What made it worse was those two years that set her back so much academically- I did NOT want those teachers- and made my preferences very clear.
HOwever- those teachers were also well known in the school and apparently parents who had, had older children had already gotten assigned to the preferred teachers & since the preferred classroom had mixed grades- my kids and several others were stuck with the teachers that taught single grades for several years.

This was an alternative school- Not AS#1, and why we CHOSE the school was because of the mixed grades- but our concerns as parents were ignored- not really even given lip service to.

Other parents had a great experience, or anyway more positive- but if this community prides itself on a family environment- well- its a pretty dysfunctional family.

Incidentally WASL scores for this school are
4th grade-39% passing three tests
7th grade-26% passing three tests
10th grade-23% passing three tests

this is for the 2006 year.

Anonymous said...

With few exceptions, alternative schools generally do not fare well on standardized tests. They do not teach to the test, don't do WASL prep weeks before the test, and not all families have their kids tested. But it's not just tests, some alternative schools have so much of a focus in the arts, social justice, community service, democratic governing, etc. These wonderful attributes come at the expense of something else, usually academics. Alot of families that start out in alternative schools change schools before their kids graduate. They eventually realize that their kids are not academically challenged, though they may love the community and inclusiveness of the school. At least this was our observation at an alternative school.

We moved our kids to a "good" neighborhood traditional school, and the academics are so much stonger. The variance in academic expectations and performance between the two schools is scary.

This is why alternative education is by choice. In my experience the alternative schools are pretty straight forward in telling parents what to expect. They don't beat around the bush and don't pretend to be highly academic institutions.

This is why alternative schools should never be reference schools. This is also why I think Hale needs to either become a traditional comprehensive HS and leave the alternative stuff for alternative schools, or declare themselves officially an alternative school.

Anonymous said...

so, classof75's school (where s/he had such a terrible experience with daughter's math instruction) must be summit (the only school with 4th, 7th and 10th grade WASL scores).

And/but it sounds like (if daughter is now a senior as I somehow think I remember from classof75's posts), the experience was from 1998-2003, from 3rd-8th grade? (Going on statements s/he made re 6 years in the school and attending through middle school).

It helps me as a reader to sift through information if, when people talk about schools, they say specifically which school, and what the timeframe of their experience is (was it last year - or 10 years ago?)

for those who are squeamish about "naming names" - it's not slander, name-calling, or otherwise below the belt when you factually state your experience and call it yours (not generalizing across time and space). In my opinion, it's a service -

Jet City mom said...

Yes- I realize that by mentioning the 10th grade- obviously it is clear it was Summit- but it is precisely because I value alternative schools and I attended an alternative high school myself- that I am frustrated at the state of alternative schools in the district.

When my oldest daughter was elementary age, we tried to get her into Summit, but it was a very popular school- and she ultimately went private. When we were looking for a change for her sister, 8 years younger,( and about 12 years since I had visited Summit), we were happy to find a space for 3rd grade. I was interested in the K-12 ness & didn't realize that changes in the district meant that some things Summit had been unique in, in the past ( experiential field trips, art emphasis), were not that unique in the district anymore & also at Summit, the meaningfulness of the field trips depended on the class room teacher and support of the parents.
The things that I felt were very important- the winter ski program, with the opportunity to build physical skills and learn to take risks in a controlled environment, as well as weekly swimming lessons which I also felt were an important skill and acted as whole body therapy especially to help squirrely primary students get more out of their day- were under siege the whole time we were there and the swimming program actually had been stopped & the ski program all but.

I feel Summit had so many possibilities- good building- lots of performance space- multiple art rooms, huge potential for utilizing outdoor space- not just sports fields and playgrounds, but gardens and access to public pool.
That I was very disappointed that the school wasn't alternative in many respects and that they didn't have a clear vision of what the school was.

And to bring it back to math discussion- I was furious that instead of finding a way to help students pass the WASL- the emphasis was " this test will be dropped so we don't really have to pay attention to it".
When IMO they should have used it as a wake up call that students weren't getting the instruction they needed and deserved.

Anonymous said...

I am a math teacher at Franklin, last year was my 2nd year teaching high school math and the prior year I taught in Federal Way.

Mr. Rice and I were in the same program together, and, we've frequently enjoyed different views on stuff ;)

I've tried to be as open minded as possible about the ... fuzzy math. I was taught in the traditional methods, and there were a lot of people needlessly chucked to the side when I took high school math 30 years ago.

I look at the changes in the job market and world economy of the last 30 years, and I honestly can not see that individuals will have much life choice and much career opportunity if basics in math aren't mastered.

It has been my experience that for kids who find 12/16 = .75 = 75% a deal breaker, the cooler problems from any field do NOT happen. When 7 * -4, or 7 * 4, or -7 * 4 all equal random numbers most times they are calculated, um ... what happens to understanding in chemistry, biology, the daily statistics of life and demographics and paychecks and physics ...?

So far, the greatest success of fuzzy math seems to be in the consultant videos promising everything and sliced bread, or, with the kids who are going to do well regardless of what we the adults do.

ONE thing that HAS to change - whatever ideas people are proposing, those ideas need to be paid for.

And to pay for the ideas, it MUST be calculated how much time it takes to do the idea.

For EACH idea:

How much time for each student contact in class
TIMES how many times each student is contacted
TIMES how many classes a day does this idea get applied to
TIMES how many days a week

I student taught in a Highline middle school, and everywhere I've seen teachers working really hard.

I've taken 100's of hours of training since Mike and I started this adventure in Sept. 2003.

All teachers need ideas which are going to work in the 24 hour reality day. We do NOT need more vague hand waving powerpoint slides of edu-babble.

Jet City mom said...

I like the idea of a mixed conceptual/traditional curriculum. If teachers are properly trained it could work, and may reach a larger blanket of kids, giving the flexibility of utilizing components of both concepts.

Isnt this how they teach reading?

How hard can it be? What exactly are they learning when they are earning their education degrees?
We need to be lined up with the schools of education in this state.
As a parent who has been on hiring committees for both teachers and principals, and as a parent whose child has taught in the private sector
LookSmart's FindArticles - Innovation, Collaboration, and Education
Presidency, The, Spring 2004, by Bassett, Patrick F
Ive been pretty much- shocked and appalled reading resumes and doing interviews.
It may be that because Seattle hired after other districts that we got the bottom of the barrel, it may be that Seattle, as expensive as it is, with a difficult district that has many challenges, I was seeing applicants who were new enough to teaching that they just wanted to get their foot in the door.
I am not saying all of SPS teachers are incompetent. But I did see patterns on the applicants. For example to name names- IMO- the weakest teachers were from Western Washington University- the next weakest were from the UW. ( and Evergreen OMG)
The strongest teachers IMO- were from Pacific Oaks and Seattle University.
This shouldn't be, potential teachers should not have to pay private schools to get the courses they need to teach in the public sector.
Our public universities should have strong programs and graduates should be ready to go.

Dan Dempsey said...

Read this document:

"What is Important in
School Mathematics?"

From the NSF funded Mathematics Standards Study Group summer of 2004 at Park City Utah.

http://www.ams.sunysb.edu/~tucker/LeadEssay.pdf.

It gives some good perspective on the above conversations.

There is a reason that Singapore rules on the TIMSS test. It is not just the culture. It is the materials. The earlier statement about US Singapore materials not currently used in Singapore is correct but their curriculum changes very little over time.

I find the statement about the problem solving abilities of Asian students very uninformed. Talk to any employer in the technical sector instead of repeating rumors from PhD Math Ed. professors riding on the NSF gravey train. Most of those folks have not even carefully looked at Singapore Materials much less taught from them. Check out challenging word problems.

Look at the data. Check the Townsend Mass. adoption of Singapore and other places.

If you think that Singapore is a return to the practices of the past, you clearly have not carefully examined the materials. This is the best stuff out there. I've purchased almost all of the current stuff available in the US.

If you want to know about something invest the time and do the research. It takes more than listening to others opinions to get informed.

I know several excellent teachers who are leaving the teaching of Mathematics because of Core-Plus.

If you think that students will slide right into Collegiate level mathematics at the level needed for engineering, or science from Core Plus you've not looked carefully at the books, spoken with many teachers, or looked at the results.

Unfortunately when you look for data on the SPS 2.5 million dollar Everyday Math adoption, it is extremely poor. The only thing good are the anecdotes.

Dan

Anonymous said...

Dan:

Your cite, though interesting, doesn't actually recommend a specific curriculum. Can you cite to the research that connects that outcome to a particular curriculum?

You make two specific statements: 1) a modified version of the singapore math curriculum will yield desirable outcomes (I think the outcomes outlined in the cited PDF seem quite reasonable), and 2) that "CorePlus" won't, and that the research supports that contention. Please direct us towards the research.

thanks,
nssp

WenG said...

Here's a statistic I'd like to see: the number of students receiving supplemental math tutoring outside of school, paid for by parents. Kumon, Sylvan Learning Center, private tutor, etc.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see stats on the tutoring also -- preferably broken down by which students were getting remedial instruction, and which were getting challenging material that wasn't available in the classroom. I have heard of at least one student doing Sylvan/Kumon (I have forgotten which) for the latter reason, and suspect it wasn't an isolated case.

These days, by the way, many much cheaper options are available for a motivated student who wants remediation or a bit of extra challenge. No need to pay the big bucks unless your student has serious issues to get over, or needs an outside adult to enforce real work. For a math prodigy, a math mentor rather than a by-the-book tutor is probably more appropriate.

Helen Schinske

Charlie Mas said...

My observation has been that the conceptual math curriculum mystifies the students and their families and is so without guidance or substance that no one could possibly learn from it.

My observation and experience has been that the students who succeed in that curriculum are those who are well-supported at home - either by a family member or a tutor - who basically re-educate the student in the more conventional style concurrent with the conceptual instruction.

For example, my daughter comes home with her CMP workbook on discovering the volume of geometric solids and she is in tears because she doesn't get it. Nowhere in the book does it give the formula for anything - the volume of cube, a rectangular solid, a cylinder, a cone, or a sphere. She is supposed to "discover" them.

I can see how we could reasonably expect a student to deduce the volume of a cube or rectangular solid. They might even be able to use that information, along with the formula for the area of circle (not provided) to discover the formula for the volume of cylinder. A diligent student might, through experimentation, get close to the formula for the volume of a cone (1/3 times the height times pi times the radius squared), but I don't know any student, regardless of their genius or diligence, who could discover the formula for the volume of a sphere (4/3 times pi times the radius cubed). Yet this is the expectation - not for gifted students, but for all students.

How did my daughter do it? I re-taught her the lessons through the traditional method and then, equipped with that knowledge, we were able to discover the concepts. I also had her start a reference book in which she wrote down the formulae so she wouldn't have to re-discover them every time she needed them.

All of this, of course, was in direct contradiction to the rules that the conceptual math was supposed to work by.

My observation, which I will acknowledge is limited, indicates that very few students are learning math in their math classes. My observation is that they are learning it after school and that the CMP is exacerbating the academic achievement gap between students who are supported at home and those who are not.

Anonymous said...

Adding to Charlie's post, we also tried to supplement the conceptual math at home with traditional math. When the students began to learn division, it was apparant to me that they were ill prepared. My son struggled through the concepts, and began to get frustrated. He could get to the answer, but the way he was taught (drawing bubbles, grouping numbers, etc) mystified us. We finally showed him basic long division, and at age 9, he looked at us and said why don't they teach us this at school, it makes so much sense. After we taught him long division, his teacher began commenting at how much he had improved in math. When we proudly told her that we taught him long division, she actually became upset. She told us that it "undid" everything that they were teaching, and that it confuses the kids, and that we should not attempt anything like that in the future without discussin it with her. Needless to say, we chucked that advice, and continue to assist our son at home with what we call "practical" math. Argh!

Anonymous said...

We left SPS for private school for this, among many other issues. Not a fancy school, just a small parochial school. We have been astounded at how our children's math skills and understanding of complex concepts has improved since the change. The reason? Probably the fact that they are not teaching TERC and CMP.

Imagine - a program where they teach simple concepts and algorithms first, and then move on to the complex concepts when the basics are set. The problem for us is that child number one is now entering the public high school, and has to go back to the fuzzy math.

I was most dismayed,but not surprised to hear that SPS has chosen to adopt a math program that is now out of favor with most of the country.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know whether the math units listed at http://www.seattleschools.org/area/math/advancedlearning/spectrum.htm and http://www.seattleschools.org/area/math/advancedlearning/app.htm are actually being implemented at those levels yet? In Spectrum, are the units listed taught to all Spectrum students, or are they only available in certain schools?

If that degree of acceleration becomes the norm for Spectrum and APP, the impact on middle and high school math could in theory be quite noticeable -- with many more students prepared to start middle school taking Pre-Integrated or Integrated 1 in sixth grade, resulting in many more arriving in high school ready for Integrated 3 or whatever follows (precalculus?). (Of course in practice a number of students drop down a level on entering middle school math, and some go up a level, regardless of program.)

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

nssp,
the research on core plus is perplexing because so little has been done. A two year videotaping study failed to produce any videotapes of a core plus classroom. the matched study published on the Core plus website cites the OSPI web site as its only reference. The author is a former teacher in Washington and sells core plus textbooks - matched study comparing standardized books with traditional books. Its a hoax old boy.

The best study I can find is a science fair project done by a ninth grade student in Everett, who wanted it removed from the face of the planet. Most teachers faced with the prospect of using it or else, move on.

Few departments allow core plus materials to go home, because they don't get returned - my suggestion is schools should use Core 1 in health classes, because the books contain more pornographic drawings by students than actual math problems.

The books generally get thrown into low performing classrooms with new teachers, because in one teacher's words the damage done is minimal and nobody knows the difference.

Cheers

Anonymous said...

The partial quotients method used by everyday is taught until the sixth grade. It only works for whole numbers and the fraction has to be improper. These kids will not meet the standard or pass the WASL unless the teacher or parents have supplemented instruction with long division. Children in private school using traditional textbooks have had 3-4 practice with long division and consequently will always perform better on the WASL.

Student with Everyday will round fractions, rather than write them as decimals. They cannot use the decimal as a placeholder because they haven't been taught.

The most interesting research that relates to the authors reasoning is that students progress through a series of understandings to rise to their level of ability. These people literallly believe that children are inspired with knowledge from heavan when they're born. In this case, the teacher is an impediment to learning and the book is what inspires the child to uncover what they know. Its a belief practiced by ancient romans and rejuvenated by authors like Mortimer Adler.

That's the philosophy behind programs that were started in Michigan, like Outdoor Life, AP, and GATE, by reformed orthodox immigrants more than a hundred years ago.

This is why controversial authors like Blavatsky are becoming repopularized and there is an abundance of interest in logic and statistics.

This mathematics has always been associated with othodox religions, for purposes of finding calendar dates and such. Napier used some of the same mathematical techniques to predict the dates of the apocalypse. Core plus uses statistical techniques that date back to the 30's and are now considered obsolete by mathematicians - mean absolute deviation.

Not to mention interest in debating points of morality - the new pilot unit on OJ Simpson is one example. TERC's unit on alcohol I piloted 10 years ago. Core plus's investigation of mortality rates of different races was controversial and I don't teach it, but its a prominent topic in Core plus.

This is why there is so much interest from orthodox faiths - krishnas, vedics, jews, baptists, the Moons and all of them have a vested interest in the publishing industry. Intelligent Design is headquartered here in Seattle. Noetic Sciences has several networks in the region. Breakfast prayer meetings were started in Seattle.

This region is ground zero for all kinds of reformed religious groups as far as education goes and you shouldn't ignore them because they are extremely well-organized, funded, and politicized.