Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Various Board Meetings

The Board will be meeting this week for their regular legislative meeting. The agenda is posted here. As you can see, most of the Board's work is either routine approvals as required by law or property management work. They spend very little of their time on learning and teaching and less still on policy work.

The Finance Committee meets on Thursday at 3:30. Their agenda is supposed to be here. As of this moment, however, they have yet to post the agenda. The one they show now is the agenda from their last meeting on March 20.

The Operations Committee meets the same day, Thursday, at 4:30. Their agenda is here. The two elements I find interesting here are the Garfield/Interbay Land Swap (what the heck is that?), and the BEX Communication Presentation. There are other references, here and there, of a BEX Communication Plan, but I can find no plan nor any evidence of a plan. According to the Operations Committee agenda, Don Gillmore will be presenting community engagement opportunities. I wonder if they will be engagement opportunities or communications opportunities. The difference is who is talking and who is listening.

Yesterday the Board had a four hour "workshop" regarding the 2008-2009 Budget and the Southeast Inititiative. I wonder how that went. No materials from that meeting are publicly available right now.

Prior to tonight's Board meeting, the Board will have a "Work Session" regarding High School Math Adoption. That's from 4:00 to 5:30.

On Monday, the 14th, there will be a Public Hearing on Use of I-728 Funds.

So in the span of seven days we have a Regular Board Legislative Meeting, a Board Workshop, a Board Work Session, two Committee Meetings, and a Public Hearing. Busy, busy, busy. The only meeting for which information is available is the Regular Board meeting which may well be the least interesting of them all: mostly routine BEX II and BEX III approvals.

If anyone was at the the Board Workshop yesterday, please do report on it. I expect we'll get a report of this afternoon's Math Adoption meeting from Dan. If anyone attends the Committee meetings or the Public Hearing, I hope they will report on them as well.


Melissa Westbrook said...

The I-728 "hearing" has 15 minutes slotted for it. Not exactly a hearing.

anonymous said...

Looks like Dr. Goodloe-Johnson is rolling out her strategic plan???

From the Nathan Hale website:

Thursday, April 24th our PTSA is sponsoring an evening event with Seattle Schools Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson. Join us at 6:30 on the 24th for Community and Connections (snacks and conversation!) in the Performing Arts Center foyer. The program will begin at 7 pm in the Performing Arts Center. Take this opportunity to hear from Seattle's dynamic new leader as she rolls out her new strategic plan for Seattle Schools!

dan dempsey said...

There should be a longer time than 15 minutes for I-728.

Most districts use I-728 to reduce class size MG-J buys academic coaches for teachers instead.

I think the academic coaching idea is way over rated.


Charlie Mas said...

I stopped in for the end of the High School Math Adoption Workshop and heard the Board members asking the staff for data comparing curricula nationally and internationally - not just the local data that the staff provided. The Board also appeared ready to re-open the middle school math curriculum. They aren't hearing good things about CMP2 and they aren't seeing good results from it either. The staff appears committed, however, not only to CMP2 for middle school students, but IMP for high school students.

Jessica Blanchard was there and I asked her if she had been in the room the day before for the meeting about the budget and the Southeast Initiative. She was there, and she told me that they didn't come close to any conclusions. There's a lot of interest in the Southeast Initiative, but not much money for it. The big ticket item is the bonuses for the teachers. If that was negotiated with the union - and it looks like it was - it could be tough to pull it back. She thought it would go poorly if the District didn't do some of the stuff that was promised in the Enrollment Guide, but she did acknowledge that it would not be unprecedented if they did.

Who had the idea for the teacher bonuses anyway? That wasn't part of the original framework from the Board.

I watched a bit of the Board meeting on TV. Cheryl Chow allowed a group to break the rules on Public Testimony. She allowed a person to cede their time to another speaker without being present (against the rules) and she allowed that speaker to take two turns (also against the rules).

There was a presentation on the Community Outreach plan for BEX. A bit late, of course. Now that all of the design decisions have been made, the Facilities Department will initiate their Community Outreach. There have been references to this plan for several months in Board Action Reports, but this was the first time it was unveiled. It appears only as a powerpoint presentation. It is much too little, and far too late.

The agenda for the Finance Committee, meeting today, is up on the web site now.

dan dempsey said...

Here is my Math Report on the Work Session of 4:00 PM 4-09-2008

teacher99 said...


Is the Board really going to reopen CMP2 before getting a HS curriculum? Granted, I'm on my way out of SPS but I keep checking in because I'm concerned for the students I'm leaving behind. This math idiocy was pushing me to the edge, and the Denny/Sealth vote was the end and so I'm leaving. Reading the news today in the PI about yet another delay (which was engineered by the district math curriculum manager very intentionally) reassured me that I made the right call in leaving.

14-15 year old textbooks is an embarrassment to the district. Intentionally maligning the entire process year after year despite public outcry for a math political agenda is incredible. I had no idea there would be politics in math entering teaching 5 years back. And I'm one of the guys in the middle - not really totally in line with the Where's the Math crowd either although they sure have some valid points.

Anyhow, my remaining co-teachers need books, the students need books... how about some equity in the district or, God forbid, accountability? I know Carla was sick and tired of me stating it but @ Sealth we had to go get books from 4 other schools to start the year off. We can NOT wait another year... well, the remaining math teaching staff can not wait. While I'd grant it's not intentional, some staff espousing "equity" the most in the district are creating greater equity problems, at least as seen by this front line teacher.

J Wright

anonymous said...

Sometimes teachers that stick to and use old text books are a godsend. Mr. Pounder who teaches APP math at Washington clings to 1980's text books that were from the UNified math series, and they are absolutely fabulous!! I would much prefer a teacher using old text books full of great material, than shiny new CMP2 work/text books.

Charlie Mas said...

First, teacher99, no doubt about it, the math adoption and new textbooks are absolutely put off to 2009-2010. More deferral of action from the Superintendent who was supposed to bring us decisive leadership.

Honestly, I don't think the Board will suggest that the District drop CMP2. What is possible, however, is a secondary adoption of a more traditional curriculum and text. Schools could then choose between the CMP2 and the traditional curriculum. This would mirror the plan for the high schools. To their credit, the Board is actually looking at the results from the CMP2 curriculum and they are, of course, not impressed. In addition, also to their great credit, they are thinking about middle school-high school vertical articulation and they have been told that staff will recommend a dual adoption for the high schools - one more reform curriculum and one more traditional. Students coming into the traditional curriculum in high school should have the opportunity to come out of a traditional curriculum in middle school.

In the case of CMP2 it appears that the Emperor has no clothes. The only students who appear to have success with this curriculum are those who are learning math outside of the classroom - either at home or with a tutoring service. My kids come home confused and frustrated, I teach them real math, they use what I taught them to do well in class and on tests, and the CMP2 curriculum takes the credit. When students without outside instruction fail, and they usually do, the "experts" blame the teachers and faulty instructional practices. The problem is much simpler: the curriculum is crap.

Students aren't given any of the tools they need to succeed. They don't get the algorithms that work, they don't get practice with them, they don't get enough time with the ideas to discover the deeper concepts, and they don't get the opportunity to refer back to anything they learned earlier.

When we want students to build skills in music we don't hesitate to have them play scales over and over and over. When we want students to build skills in sports we don't hesitate to have them perform drills over and over and over. When we want students to build their reading skills we don't hesititate to have them read and read and read. We have them write to build their writing skills. Why in the world wouldn't we have them do math drills to build math skills? How in the world could we expect them to build the skills without doing the practice? That's how skills are built and math competency is a skill. They may not all come to love math and see the elegance and beauty in numbers that I see, they may not be able to perform surprising acts of analysis, but at least they will be able to construct an equation and solve it.

Here's a quick test. If I say "28" do you instantly think of the factors of this number? Can you even think of 28 without thinking of seven and four? I can't. Does this series of numbers mean anything to you: 1, 4, 9, 16, 25, 36, 49, 64, 81? I know it seems like a dumb question, but try it on your kids. This sort of instant recognition is necessary for true math competency, but our kids aren't getting it in school. Do they recognize this series:
1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64? Do they know this set of numbers: 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, 37, 41, 43, 47? Do they know, without thinking, that one-half is .5 and 50%, that one-fourth is .25 and 25%, and that one-third is .33 and 33%? Can and do they instantly multipy or divide any number by 10 simply by moving the decimal point to the right or left? Do they know that fractions are one way to express a division problem? Do they know that the words "of" and "at" mean multiply (as in "one half of ten" or "twenty at 50 cents each")?

And don't you think that they should have all of these skills by the sixth grade or so?

mary s said...

I've reproduced below part of an e-mail I sent to members of our elemetary school's math goal team. I'm hoping we can at least get on the same page in recognizong that there is a probelm, but I'm not hopeful.

The National Mathematics Advisory Council (NAMC) determined that pre-K through 8 education should focus on preparing students for the study of Algebra. Specifically, the focus should be on computational proficiency and conceptual understanding of whole number mathematics and fractions, and understanding of certain fundamental geometric concepts such as perimeter and area of two dimensional shapes.

Both TERC and Everyday Mathematics appear adequate at providing students with a conceptual understanding of concepts such as place value and the commutative, distributive and associative properties. Parents are finding, though, that they do not provide enough practice for students to achieve computational proficiency. I know that teachers are providing additional practice beyond the curriculum. Still, many students are not developing automatic fact recall or fluency in standard algorithms.

Savvy parents are providing the necessary practice at home. Many are using tutoring services such as Kumon, while others develop their own practice opportunities using tools such as flash cards or timed exercises. This means that the curriculum may appear more successful than it is in actuality. It also, however, raises an issue of equity. Students whose parents do not have the knowledge, time, or resources to provide additional learning opportunities may fall behind. As the NAMC determined, conceptual understanding and computational proficiency are mutually reinforcing. Students who do not become fluent in computation, therefore, are likely to fall behind in other areas as well.

Knowing the shortcomings of the curriculum informs any discussion of best practices for teaching. As much as we may deride “drill and kill”, it has its place in short doses. The NAMC report also suggests that there may be a place for instructional software in developing fluency. It might even be helpful to simply acknowledge to parents that this is a hole in Everyday Math and to provide resources for filling the gap at home.

dan dempsey said...

Dear Mary S,

The hole in EM is the whole process.

The National Math Advisory Panel said to avoid spiral curricula.

Need I go further - just AVOID it.

dan dempsey said...

John Wright,

Sorry to see another good guy packing it in. I am really pleased with where I am this year. I hope you will find a great place next year. Great places are hard to find for math teachers because of the OSPI decade of math destruction.

In regard to old books. I started teaching in 1968 in the second month I went to the high school and got a full set of Algebra I by Hart copyright 1946 -- thus 22 years old. I based my curriculum on it for most of my 7th graders. It was a fabulous book. My kids learned a great amount of math. I could verify this by test scores and also by their achievements as adults.

2008 - 22 = 1986

Perhaps that would be a good place to look for books copyright 1986.

A friend of mine graduated from Ingraham in 1962. I was talking with him this last weekend. He said wow Hart Algebra I, I used that book it was great.

It was also small enough to carry as it had no color pictures of people or animals - it was a math book.

mary s said...


I'm aware of the problem with the spiral curriculum. Teachers at our school really don't have the power to change that, unfortunately. I agree that EM was an unfortunate choice, but for now the schools are going to have to work with what they have. I don't believe that the district will revisit this issue in time to make a difference to kids who are in elementary school today. Given this as a fact, I'm pushing to recognize the flaws and deal with them in the best way possible. Frankly, I plan to home school for math and see a whole lot of other folks joining me.