Oh to Be Colin Farrell

Here's a good one:

"Gov. Christine Gregoire has agreed to toss out the math section of the 10th-grade WASL, after years of low pass rates and debate over whether it's the best way to gauge students' abilities.

Gregoire signed a bill Wednesday that will phase out that part of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning by 2014. Students instead will take two math tests at the end of classes often taken by freshmen and sophomores, such as Algebra I and Geometry I." from the Seattle Times on Thursday, March 27th.

Can anyone at OSPI or the Legislature make up their minds? Why not just enact it now? Why create new exams? If you passed Integrated 1 and 2, you're done. I can't believe my son is going to sit through 4 days of an exam that is, as of yesterday, going to be phased out.

The rationale?

"One advantage: Students will be tested right after they finish a class, rather than all at once on one exam.

"Math seems a pretty steep hill to climb when you need to climb it all at once," said Larry Nyland, superintendent of the Marysville School District.

Students' weaknesses also can be uncovered earlier, with more time to correct them before graduation, said state Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, the bill's main sponsor.

The end-of-course exams, he said, "will clearly identify that you've learned algebra and you've learned geometry.""

What does Terry have to say about this?

"Those include Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson. She still has reservations about making the change before she has a chance to see how the new tests work.

"We may have better performance, but it's a whole new ballgame," she said.

At the same time, she says the state's new learning standards for high-school math are being organized by class, so it makes sense to test students the same way.

"It's a common-sense approach, and it could be a better way than what we're doing ... so let's give it a shot," she said."

As if she has a choice.

But then there was the sentence I dreaded most:

"The new exams will be homegrown and based on Washington's learning standards. "

"Although organized by math subject, they are expected to include a mix of multiple-choice and the kind of open-ended questions that the WASL is known for."

So they'll be like the WASL but not. Great.

[I mention Colin Farrell (a reformed drinker - courtesy of becoming a father - but not a reformed swearer) because I love the way he says (in the Irish manner) "oh for ****'s sake!" which was exactly my thought when I saw the headline.]


Anonymous said…
My oldest is in 8th grade, so maybe I am just clueless, but this talks about testing kids in algebra and geometry.... but they don't teach those courses anymore (right?) so are they really going to test in Integrated I and Integrated II? Or are they going to reintroduce Algebra and Geometry? Or are they going to teach Integrated and test Algebra/Geometry? What about kids who place into Integrated 2 or 3 in 9th grade, when will they be tested (and on what?).

There seems to be a disconnect here...
Anonymous said…
Some schools (not Seattle) still teach Alg/Geom/Alg 2 Trig. Personally I prefer Integrated as done by some publishers (not SPS). More to your point, there are to be end-of-course tests for either route a student pursues. That said, clearly there is enough uncertainty as to exactly what that will look likeit's no wonder they're allowing until 2014 just to start testing this new way.

Lots of questions - some will not go away. For example, what about the kids in Calculus who have not passed the WASL (granted, usually very close to passing and/or English Language Learners)? Good questions will be: does a 9th grader who passes Integrated 3 with a C but not the end-of-course exam get to go on to precalculus? The answer generally should be yes, although the test may provide some cautions or suggested summer school/tutoring to make sure the student is truly ready to be successful in precalc.
dan dempsey said…

All I can say is read the National Math Panel report released on March 13th.

It calls for Authentic Algebra. As the SPS has tended to ignore Authentic Algebra there will need to be major changes if the new state standards match up with the NAMP which is extremely likely.

Also compounding the problem in the SPS is the refusal to actually define what children are supposed to learn in each grade.

Here is the NAMP view by grades:

Recommendation: The Benchmarks for the Critical Foundations in Table 2 should be used to guide classroom curricula, mathematics instruction, and state assessments. They should be interpreted flexibly, to allow for the needs of students and teachers. (It would be next to amazing if the following ever showed up in D44.00 and D45.00 of SPS policies)

Fluency With Whole Numbers

1)By the end of Grade 3:
students should be proficient with the addition and subtraction of whole numbers.
2)By the end of Grade 5:
students should be proficient with multiplication and division of whole numbers.

Fluency With Fractions

1)By the end of Grade 4:
students should be able to identify and represent fractions and decimals, and compare them on a number line or with other common representations of fractions and decimals.

2)By the end of Grade 5:
students should be proficient with comparing fractions and decimals and common percents, and with the addition and subtraction of fractions and decimals.

3)By the end of Grade 6:
students should be proficient with multiplication and division of fractions and decimals.

4)By the end of Grade 6:
students should be proficient with all operations involving positive and negative integers.

5)By the end of Grade 7:
students should be proficient with all operations involving positive and negative fractions.

6)By the end of Grade 7:
students should be able to solve problems involving percent, ratio, and rate and extend this work to proportionality.

Geometry and Measurement

1)By the end of Grade 5:
students should be able to solve problems involving perimeter and area of triangles and all quadrilaterals having at least one pair of parallel sides (i.e., trapezoids).

2)By the end of Grade 6:
students should be able to analyze the properties of two-dimensional shapes and solve problems involving perimeter and area, and analyze the properties of three-dimensional shapes and solve problems involving surface area and volume.

3)By the end of Grade 7:
students should be familiar with the relationship between similar triangles and the concept of the slope of a line.

A Need for Coherence ----
There seem to be two major differences between the curricula in top-performing countries and those in the U.S.—in the number of mathematical concepts or topics presented at each grade level and in the expectations for learning. U.S. curricula typically include many topics at each grade level, with each receiving relatively limited development, while top-performing countries present fewer topics at each grade level but in greater depth.

In addition, U.S. curricula generally review and extend at successive grade levels many (if not most) topics already presented at earlier grade levels, while the top-performing countries are more likely to expect closure after exposure, development, and refinement of a particular topic. These critical differences distinguish a spiral curriculum (common in many subjects in U.S. curricula) from one built on developing proficiency—a curriculum that expects proficiency in the topics that are presented before more complex or difficult topics are introduced. (my comment Everyday Math is a spiral curriculum not built on developing proficiency.)
Anonymous said…
Go to http://edpubs.ed.gov/ProductCatalog.aspx and type in:

Foundations For Success: Report Of The National Mathematics Advisory Panel (Final Report) (Math Panel)

You can order this report no charge - it's the full Math Panel report in the media several days back.
Anonymous said…
make sure your kids are getting prepared to take the SAT / ACT.

If they are doing o.k. in college prep math, they can easily transition to math for plumber or math for roofer or math for cook or math for car sales or math for clothes design or or or or ...

unfortuneately, in seattle, you will have to push your kids to take the psat and you'll have to push to find supplementary resources and ...

- this isn't a huge problem for affluent families, since they generally know a lot about how the game works, and a lot about how to make the game work for them, and they have this money / time / skill stuff to make things happen... like they did 30 years ago when I was in high school and I was competing against affluent kids.

integrated whatever supposedly covers the same concepts as what we old timers are more familiar with - algebra 1, geometry, algebra 2.

who knows how they'll sort those end of course tests out -- at least Terry and complete failure with their WASL Washington Math have been rebuffed.

if any of you works with technical people from around the globe, you'll hear that their accents might be a Slavic Russian or Pole or Ukraine or Romance language French or Spanish or Mandarin or Hindi ...

and they communicate with each other in an international math english, an english of math.

Terry and her afraid of all math and any math crowd -

afraid of plumber math or chef math or rain gutter installer math or architect math or aerospace engineer math or computer science math or biological modeling math or finance math or operatations research math or accounting math or ... the generalizations of 'pure' math ...

Terry and her afraid of all and any math crowd - have really cheated tens of thousands of kids with their afraid of any math and all math, which is WASL Washington Math.

Good riddance, they should all be fired.

anon so I don't get fired.
Anonymous said…
"2)By the end of Grade 5:
with the addition and subtraction of fractions and decimals.

3)By the end of Grade 6:
students should be proficient with multiplication and division of fractions and decimals."

A minor issue compared to the insanity of Gregoire's announcement, but...
Adding and subtracting fractions is more difficult than multiplying and dividing. These benchmarks are from our experts?
Anonymous said…
to anon at 7:18 AM

I'd define your point as a relatively minor tweak versus the current disaster.

We have tens of thousands of high school kids who have NO chance of getting and keeping the most lowest paying jobs because they have NO skills ----

NO skills, at all, with fractions, with decimals, with percents, with positive and negative numbers = a low chance of getting hired, a lower chance of staying employed, and little chance of getting ahead.

While there aren't enough people qualified to take those 4? 40? jobs a year in university pure math departments as old timers croak, tens of thousands of kids will barely be able to manage a minimum wage job successfully.

anon at 7:40 p.m.
Anonymous said…
I help tutor kids (3-5th grades). I am not a math teacher, I have 4th and 8th graders of my own. I have at most 30 minutes a week with the kids I help. I can send home worksheets, but they don't necessarily get done.

What should I focus on? My inclination is math facts--recall-level knowledge of addition, subtraction, multiplication 1-12 and division, 1-144. THEN multi digit multiplication and 'long division.' THEN fraction to decimals, back and forth. THEN dividing and multiplying fractions and decimals.

I base this on the issues my 8th grader has had with algebra. Am I on the right track? Are there resources (online? FREE?) I should be aware of?
Anonymous said…
.... NO skills, at all, with fractions, with decimals, with percents, with positive and negative numbers = a low chance of getting hired, a lower chance of staying employed, and little chance of getting ahead.

Gosh jolly gee whiz, and here we all thought the unemployment rate was less than 5%!
dan dempsey said…
Dear Volunteer at 9:31,

Your plan is spot on.

The NAMP calls for a huge improvement with rational numbers. That means fractions decimals and percents. You can not really do Authentic Algebra without this.

I've seen some excellent online resources from the Mind Institute but they cost money. Go for a test drive HERE. Perhaps you can get your district or we can get the state to pick up the tab. That seems to be the least they could do to compensate the children for the decade of malpractice for which they've been used as Dr Bergeson's guinea pigs.

As researcher Bill Hook says:
"When I do an experiment, I need to fill out paper work and send it to the FEDs. That is the law."

An experiment is when you try something with a particular population which has yet to have any demonstrated positive effects.

So why were Dr Bergeson and the SPS not filling out mountains of paper work over the last 10 years?

Of particular interest is the Everyday Math adoption of May 30th 2007. When combined with CMP2 this was a proven failure in Denver. Ms Santorno and Ms Wise should have been filling out Federal paperwork. Look at the WASL results for Seattle CMP2 vs Saxon in Tacoma Spring 2007. Again a Federal notification should have been filled out as CMP has no record of success for Black, Hispanic, and Low Income students. Without bright parents with a lot of time on their hands or private tutoring the CMP results are sub par for all populations.

Good Luck and thanks for your efforts on behalf of the children,

dan dempsey said…
If Ms Santorno and Ms Wise try to continue their practice of using materials that have produced failure elsewhere on our children, without filing Federal paperwork for an experiment expect a delay for court action requiring them to do so. They can not begin using an experimental program until 90 days after filing the paper work.

Should the district attempt to adopt the proven failure IMP, which failed in Tacoma SD and in University Place SD, without filling out the Federal paper work for another experiment unlikely to bring success, I fully intend to seek a court injunction against implementation of IMP until the Federal forms are filled out and approved.

[It should be noted that the 1999 listing of IMP as an exemplary program (so often invoked by Ms Wise) had not a single piece of evidence from successful implementation. This exemplary rating was entirely based on the American Bandstand method of "I looked at the book and I really really like it". Wow!! totally scary - sounds like an SPS math adoption.]

Claims of success at Garfield, where teachers are given extra planning periods from PD^3 funding from NSF funds through UW and access to resources that are not available in the broader situations, are likely to reveal that any small success that can be verified by testing is likely due to expensive interventions not the curriculum.

A little attribution analysis can go along way in avoiding disasters.
dan dempsey said…
Dear Anonymous at 7:18,

The algorithm for multiplication of factions is considerably easier than adding fractions that do not have the same denominator. However it must be remembered that since multiplication is only repeated addition, it may be a good idea to have students be able to add before they multiply.
dan dempsey said…
Note with the National Math Panel recommendations being unanimous and Liping Ma on the panel, this is not the type of nonsense generated by OSPI. If any set of math recommendations can be bullet proof, this set is it.

Look for the Washington Standards to be similar and closely aligned to NAMP recommendations.
Anonymous said…

But then there was the sentence I dreaded most:

"The new exams will be homegrown and based on Washington's learning standards. "

"Although organized by math subject, they are expected to include a mix of multiple-choice and the kind of open-ended questions that the WASL is known for."

I second that dread. Homegrown = BAD. We'll just have another train wreck coming in a few years. When I was a kid, if you got the right answer, you the credit.... if you got the wrong answer BUT provided your reasoning, you could also get a significant amount of credit. Can't we just go back to that? We really don't need any "open ended" questions for standard high school math.
dan dempsey said…
Anon at 7:15,

You are right on the money. When Cole & Barnofsky analyzed the correlation between the Multiple choice and other parts of the test. It was so great you have to wonder why we continue to pay for the really expensive part when it provides so little additional information.

I still think that with the advent of the NAMP recommendations it will be easy to come up with off the shelf testing for all this. It seems we could just pay a fee and use what California comes up with to align to the NAMP recommendations. Remember that the WA High School standards were essentially the worst part of the OSPI - Dana Center Standards train wreck -- Until Linda Plattner and Strategic Teaching finish the High School Standards and the SBE accepts them this is all just speculation.

Time to put a Semler sign in the yard.
Anonymous said…
you have to wonder why we continue to pay for the really expensive part [,the open ended part,] when it provides so little additional information.

The other problem with the open ended part is that it requires so much language, without really assessing mathematics. This really works to the disadvantage of anybody whose English is weak or not completely mainstream, and for students with language based disabilities.
dan dempsey said…
This is exactly why the SPS needs to adopt the Algebra Readiness package from the Mind Institute.

It takes most of the language difficulty out of play in learning mathematics.

Not only do we have the WASL math difficulty but we also have the huge language problems associated with Everyday Math and Connected Math curricula.

Find out more about A Blueprint for the Foundations of Algebra at


or write me at


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