Monday, February 18, 2008

P-I Story on New Math Standards

There was a story in the P-I today about the new State standards for K-12 math.

You can read it here.

Significant elements from the story include:

An expert hired by the State Board of Education says that the standards for high school students has serious problems.

Seattle Public Schools intends to adopt high school math curricula and order textbooks before the standards are complete and before the OSPI announces the recommended curricula they will support. Apparently the OSPI announcements will be too late to be effective for the start of school in fall 2008.

Seattle Public Schools will make a dual adoption - one conceptual math curriculum and text and one traditional math curriculum and text - and each school can choose one of them. What happened to the district's claim that they could only effectively support one curriculum?

Despite the fact that Seattle Public Schools adopted Singapore math at the same time as Everyday Math, the Singapore math has not been used in any classrooms yet. The District says that they are almost ready to roll it out - soon. Gee, and the school year is only a little more than half over.

Ms. Wise hopes that student families will reserve judgement until the high school textbook proposals are presented to the School Board in March. After that, I guess we are free to judge. But won't it be too late by then? Won't we have gone too far down the path to turn back? Won't we be out of time? Won't the order reach the publishers too late to get the books in time for the fall? You should be wary anytime the District staff ask you to hold off on your input. Historically, they want you to hold off until after your input can no longer have a role in the decision. They don't want you to swing the bat until after the ball is safely in the catcher's mitt.

The District staff is now promoting "balance" in math curricula saying that what works for one student might not work for another. However, there is only one curriculum for all elementary schools and only one curriculum for all middle schools. How can this statement and this fact be reconciled?

The story also referenced the liklihood that the math requirement for graduation will be increased to three years and advanced algebra. This would require the District to hire another 63 math teachers when we are not able to fill the existing positions for math teachers. Of course, every other district in the state will also be trying to hire more math teachers at the same time.


Anonymous said...

Will there be, or is there, any recognition of how worthless the math training has been?

If there is not any recognition of how worthless the training has been, then we math teachers will continue to get worthless training instead of school policies which will really help our kids.

The current 'training', curriculum and standards allow districts to just dump kids into almost any class, and, if the kids aren't learning it is because the teacher did not properly implement:

1. seasame street classroom managment 'technigues' (we get techniques which work for that ONE troublesome 6 year old child in the rich kid district, NOT 8 or 12 troublesome 14 and 16 adolescents who are a few years from being legal adults)

2. differentiated instruction (which allows mixing vast skill differences so some kids are really really bored and some kids are really really lost, and whcih allows the districts to avoid figuring out what the kids don't know and figuring out how to actually solve the problem of what they don't know)

3. groupwork, which with seasame street classroom management and differentiated instruction, = all kids are learning !!

of course, the studies justifying seasame street techniques on 15 year olds and the studies on differentiated instruction and the studies on groupwork are conducted by affluent ed school profs who haven't taught that 90% who aren't enamored with school, profs who haven't a clue what that 90% lives are like because ed school profs are part of the 10% who liked school!

Ms. Wise is correct that people learn differently. Unfortuneately, she and other math policy makers in seattle seem to be still drinking from the same blame-the-teachers 'reform' math kool aid coming from the ed schools and ospi.

We need better curriculum. However, with the same inept training driven by the same flawed reform blame the teacher philosophies, lots and lots of our kids are going to come out of school unable to compete with the affluent kids on the other side of the tracks, and most kids from any side of the globe.

anon mon

dan dempsey said...


What is happening here? I thought that it was necessary to go through a long extended process which involved committee upon committee to get any text approved as the official A#1 primary All-star book.

Wasn't that Ms Santorno's (excuse) reason for why if it wasn't to be TERC/Investigations it had to be Everyday Math because these where the only survivors left. The math adoption gauntlet had hacked all the other would-be king's to death.

Now are you telling me that Ms Wise is simply going to pull a rabbit out of a hat?

I tend to think that our three finalists of Core-Plus, Interactive Math Program. and College Prep Math, will be next month's beauty queen candidates.

The problem is perhaps complicated by experience as well as logic and reason (the last two do seldom play an SPS part but hope springs eternal).

Rainier Beach has done wonders with College Prep Math and has the data to back it up. Garfield, Hale, and Cleveland are IMP users - In large part because of UW & NSF actions.

If the K-12 Standards re-write is anything near internationally competitive, IMP and Core-Plus are toast. If Anderson's amendment to a current bill actually moves into law, the WASL Math in high school would be replaced by an Algebra test and a Geometry test.

Despite MS Wise's affection for conceptually based algebra - I believe that dog is dead. The running dog will be computationally based algebra. Because the skills that produce successful carpenters, electricians, computer scientists, mathematicians, Engineers, Health care professionals, home owners etc. are currently in demand. The tools of the Philosopher King seem to only be needed by edu-crats and other district office wanta-bees. Thus the legislature may not allow Dr Bergeson to push this past them one more time.

[International comparisons will show that the reasoning skills that the reform math is supposed to be producing is not happening for USA. PISA test scores which were very poor in 2003 tanked even further in 2006 and PISA is largely a conceptual test.]

Currently about (1/3) of the kids arrive at ninth grade knowing "NO Math". That would be failing to score even at level 2 or above (3 and 4) are passing. WASL level 1 = "Clueless".

So how would it be possible to teach this third with a non-reform curriculum? Any text that is computationally based requires students who have computation skills.

The Board's problem is that in the past they have trusted their hired math experts. The data reveals they have had no math experts in a decision making capacity at the district level in their employ for the last decade.

To add further complication for logical rational individuals attempting to come up with an acceptable solution to this mess (unlikely that group would include Ms Wise or Ms Santorno given past actions) Is the fact that 7 high schools in Washington State have been awarded grants under the National Math and Science Intiative to increase both the numbers and success rate of students in AP English, Math, and Science and pre-AP programs. West Seattle High School is a part of this 6 year 13.2 million dollar grant. They will be working with Sharon Cade, who knows AP Math and how to teach it. That makes her light-years away from the JSCEE math minds. To increase AP success in Seattle over six years the starting point would be to begin the study of mathematics at all levels and end the continuing thrust for math appreciation classes.

Ms. Wise is undoubtedly correct when a group never listens to anyone about anything there is little point in wasting time waiting for a recommendation. The recommendation will be disregarded or misunderstood when it does arrive so why wait? YES - we may just as well blunder forth now as later.

So where is this "traditional curriculum" going to come from?

I thought the plan was internationally competitive standards and curricula to match.

Ms Wise is correct - (she won't understand why wait?) blunder on Seattle.

I wonder when Dr MG-J will start holding people accountable?
Stupid me I forgot those are just empty words like data driven decision making. I am so gullible.

Anonymous said...

You can't be objective when the data collected is corrupted. To begin with no school uses the same protocols, so its useless for making valid comparisons.

Secondly, the assessment or survey adopted by the school, including the WASL is realigned each year, invalidating the scores obtained from previous years.

Finally, students are not tracked and most low performing students are eventually excluded from the test, mostly by attrition.

It is ridiculous to have a standardized test, when almost a 1/3 of all students drop out before graduation.

Before the WASL was mandated, the state should have established support programs that met high school standards and actually graduated students. 20% graduation rates, if true, are nothing to write home about.

If Washington was interested in raising the level of standards for all children, they would implement one proven academic curriculum for all children and not leave it up to the textbooks's hand maidens making house calls.

Anonymous said...

Yes, this is more than a Hydra. Math/Science Reform is like beating Typhon. It will take another mountain, like Etna, and a hundred thunderbolts before this beast gets buried. Math research is incestuous.