Tuesday, November 13, 2007

From Peter Maier

After the election, I invited all the newly elected School Board members to post something on this blog. Peter Maier is the first to send his piece in.

"With most of the votes now counted, I have been elected to the Seattle School Board by a majority of over 63%. I thank the voters of Seattle for the trust they have placed in me.

I recognize that the incumbent Sally Soriano had the support of a significant number of voters, including some contributors to this blog. With the election now over, I hope we can put it behind us and unite around our common goal of achieving a quality education for all Seattle public school students across the city. For my part, I will listen carefully to all persons who care about our schools, regardless of which candidate they supported in the election.

Now the hard work begins. We are fortunate to have School Board members, both new and old, who are dedicated to improving our schools and to sustaining the many good things that are already happening. I am hopeful, and excited at the prospect of trying to solve these policy puzzles.

I believe that the School Board has an ideal opportunity to work together with the Superintendent and her staff to identify key priorities and then move forward with them. This is more than just campaign talk. With largely new leadership in the SPS senior staff, and with four new Board members, we have a unique window of opportunity to establish these priorities. Just what these priorities will be I cannot say at this point because I myself do not yet know. I am very aware that I am one of seven Board members, and that the Board must be aligned with the Superintendent. My own suggestions would be:
  • turnaround plans for selected schools;
  • improving math instruction;
  • financial health of the district;
  • strengthening middle schools and 9th grade transition; and
  • completing the assignment plan changes.

These priorities are likely to emerge in the next few months through the interactions of the Superintendent and the Board, and with plenty of public input and discussion.

Thanks, and I look forward to working with and representing all of you.

Peter Maier"


Anonymous said...


Congratulations on your election.

Please read these policies which have been long neglected but have the potential to greatly improve mathematics, middle schools, and the 9th grade transition. D43.00 D44.00 and D45.00

Please read state law RCW 28A 600.020 and get it applied in the SPS

Peter it would be a good idea if you actually wish to make data driven decisions that you find someone reliable to acquire data and review it yourself. The supposed data driven decision on the Elementary math adoption of Everyday math was a fraudulent presentation of carefully cherry-picked data and had nothing to do with data driven decision making. Ditto for the district's autocratic mandate that West Seattle High School must move to a 6-period day.

Charlie Mas said...

Congratulations and welcome!

The list of priorities looks great.

The Board has just a bit more work to do on the math instruction by selecting a high school curriculum. I sure hope the student assignment decision process continues to show the sort of community engagement it has featured so far. An open and data-driven practice will go a long way to reduce the contentiousness that is likely to follow any decisions.

I don't really see the Board's role in strengthing middle schools or easing the 9th grade transition. I'm not sure what more the Board could do to secure the District's financial health - other than occassionally say "no" to a change order so we can keep capital projects on budget. The choice of capital projects might do with a review as well.

We already have Policies in place regarding District level intervention for struggling schools. These Policies have been largely neglected of late. Perhaps the new Board will find a way to enforce Policies.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Peter, and welcome!
I like your list of priorities and am eager to see the board roll up their sleeves and tackle them. Especially strengthening our middle schools. They are truly the weak link, and our students deserve better.

And, thank you for reinforcing the need for much public input and discussion.

Welcome, and thank you!

Anonymous said...

Charlie, the Board has much more than "a bit more work to do" regarding strengthening our math instruction. They're job is not limited to simply selecting a HS math curriculum, as you state. They have to monitor the districts attempts to work on alignment and smooth transition between Elem and MS and MS to HS. They need to assure that our HS students are properly prepared for college math! And they need to hold the district accountable by monitoring the newly adopted elementary math curriculum, Everyday Math, to assure that it is challenging and appropriate for ALL students. They need to be prepared to hold the district accountable when any issues with these new curriculum's arise (and they will).

There is a lot of work to do to strengthen our math instruction. Saying that the only step left for the board is choosing a HS math curriculum is an understatement.

Peter, thanks for tackling this, and making it one of your priorities!

Charlie Mas said...

I can certainly understand how and why anonymous wants the Board to do more work in support of math education.

The Board's role in "alignment and smooth transition between Elem and MS and MS to HS". is to choose a High School curriculum which aligns with the recently selected middle school curriculum.

Likewise, the work the Board can do to "assure that our HS students are properly prepared for college math!" is to select a high school curriculum designed to meet that goal.

The Board's role in each of these efforts is, as I wrote, selecting a curriculum.

Of course the Board should monitor "the newly adopted elementary math curriculum, Everyday Math, to assure that it is challenging and appropriate for ALL students." All decisions should have feedback loops that measure results and trigger revisions as necessary. Let's not forget that the Board also adopted Singapore math as 25% of the elementary math curriculum. It would be wonderful if data were collected on the effectiveness of these curricula and used to refine the Board's curriculum choice decision.

I'm sorry that I neglected to include the ongoing work of monitoring the impact of decisions.

Of course, all of these Board actions are related to the selection of curricula, which is a Board level decision.

With anonymous, I would love it if the Board could "hold the district accountable when any issues with these new curriculum's arise (and they will)." However, I can't see what action can the Board take to hold the district accountable. Could the anonymous commentor please return to describe the actions the Board could take to fulfill this task?

Anonymous said...


Why would the board reopen a can of rotten worms for which they are responsible?

The math adoption action took place at a school board meeting that was not videoed. Mr. Manhas was still technically the Supt. as it was May 2007.

The Math Adoption report that was on the SPS website was quickly taken down. For good reason as it was as bizarre and illusionary as Rosalind Wise's Math Update at the recent Wed 11-14-07 board meeting.

It is currently impossible to select a high school curriculum that will prepare students for Collegiate level mathematics, because k-8 we are not preparing our students to be successful in such a high school mathematics program.

On Jan 17 I informed the board of seven significant events that had taken place in mathematics in the previous 6 months. These included Dr. Bergeson's August announcement of the state-wide math system failure and Septembers NCTM focal points document.

At the first Board meeting in February Ms. Santorno announced there would be no further math adoptions until further guidance from the state. She then did the exact opposite over the following months.

She has during her tenure in Seattle adopted two of the most aligned textbooks with Washington's failed math standards:
Connected Math Project (6,7,8)
and now
Everyday Math (k-5)
[I leave out Singapore because she had zero interest in that]

Mrs. Santorno has no math background and Ms. Wise is a former Middle School Bellevue Science teacher.

At the last Seattle Transitions Math Project meeting which is largely composed of Seattle High School and Community College math teachers. Ms. Wise had attended momentarily last year but dropped out. It was brought up that to prepare Seattle high school students for math success at the collegiate level (which is the goal as currently only 50% of entering recent high school graduates can place above the equivalent of high school math one for their first class) Seattle math leadership should at least be qualified and competent to teach all high school level math classes.

The State Board of Education has around 16 members - not one has an undergraduate degree in Math, Engineering, Computer Science or a Physical Science.

Dr. Bergson stopped taking high school math after Geometry. She attended Emmanuel College in Boston, graduating in 1964 with a B.A. in English. In 1969, she earned a master’s degree in counseling and guidance from Western Michigan University. While studying and working as a graduate teaching assistant, she successfully completed a research project to increase mathematics and science enrollment of females and ethnic minorities in secondary schools. She was selected to serve as chair of the National Education Association’s Women’s Caucus and implemented a National Women’s Leadership Training Project.

It appears that we are led by people who know very little math but know all about how it should be done. Unfortunately none seem to care about results.

Ms. Santorno's selections are performing very poorly in Denver and in Colorado springs and are totally out of whack with the 2004 Mathematicians Standards study groups recommendations for what needs to be happening when States revise their math standards.

Nope it does not look like the board will want to revisit this anytime soon.

As Brita said: We need to trust our hired experts.

So they did and here we are.


Anonymous said...

Anonymous here again,

Charlie in answer to your question "what can the board do if they find that the curriculum is not challenging and adequate for ALL students"?

They can choose to have the curriculum supplemented with another curriculum as they do now with the 25% Singapore supplement, or they can decide that the curriculum is not working and adopt an entirely new curriculum. I doubt that will happen, but it is their option and responsibility to monitor and assure that these newly adopted curriculum's are working.

Charlie Mas said...

I think the key here, and it is one that Mr. Maier and his colleagues may well be able to introduce, is the idea of establishing feedback loops to evaluate the quality of their decisions and to trigger revisions when the data indicates they are necessary.

Those with management experience, such as Mr. Sundquist, Mr. Martin-Morris, and Ms Carr, or those with a stated interest in accountability, such as Mr. Maier, would know how to create the structures for this feedback and would be motivated to implement them.

Perhaps it could be a required element in the "Timeline for implementation / evaluation" section of every Board Action Report/