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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

This Week's Assignment Plan/Math Adoption Meetings

Update (3/26)

There was a blurb in the Times this morning about the math adoption but I can't find it at the Times' website. Here's the lead sentence:

"A math committee has recommended new math textbooks for Seattle's high schools, but it's unclear whether the Seattle School Board will approve them.

At a work session Wednesday, a number of board members voiced concern that the committee's choices might be too heavily weighted toward one side of what's often a heated debate over how best to teach math."

Apparently, Ms. de la Fuente argued that the texts selected strike a balance. Well, there is some disagreement. As has been stated by others previously, OSPI rates the series by Key Curriculum Press (selected for all SP high schools including Precal w/trig and calculus; the lone exception is a book by Pearson Addison Wesley for statistics)is rated highly but a recent report to the State Board of Education concluded they were "mathematically unsound". De la Fuente said other math professors disagree with that report. Okay, I'll bite - who are these math professors?

I'm sure some math professors disagree with OSPI as well. Is there not a series that they all say is worthwhile? It's hard to believe there isn't and I think it troubling to go with a series that someone(s) who know math well think is unsound.

According to the blurb, the Board is scheduled to discuss the recs on April 8 and vote on April 22nd whether to approve them.

Previous post
If anyone attended last night's meeting or goes to the one on Thursday at Ballard, please let us know what happened, what you thought and any new information that might have come from these discussions.

Thursday, March 26, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Ballard High School, Library
1418 N.W. 65th St.
Seattle, WA 98117

53 comments:

dan dempsey said...

Do not forget the School Board work session today at 4 PM in the Sanford Center's auditorium. Everyone is free to observe.

A report would be appreciated from anyone that attends.

MathTeacher42 said...

Could someone post a link to this Ballard meeting?

I was not able to find it on the SPS website in the places I thought to look -

Math Adoption web pages and School Board pages.

thanks,

rmm

dan dempsey said...

At the school board work session today it is reported that:
A district lawyer said (he seemed to be less than 100% certain about it) that the law required the board to vote the recommendation up or down, but that it didn't allow the board to substitute another curriculum.

Do we have any experts who would care to comment.

The "Discovering Series" is recommended. The board needs to reject this and
http://mathunderground.blogspot.com/2009/03/good-idea-for-seattles-hs-math-adoption.html

but can they do so within an appropriate amount of time?

BadgerGal said...

Math Teacher 42,

here you go

http://www.seattleschools.org/
area/newassign/index.html

Scroll down to the Upcoming Quarterly Community Meetings section and there are two links there the presentations.

See you in Ballard!

dan dempsey said...

SPS Math Adoption 8 questions:

http://mathunderground.blogspot.com/2009/03/sps-adoption-8-questions.html

dan dempsey said...

At the School Board work session on the HS math adoption. In the presentation by the administration there was nothing presented to deal with the large number of students coming in below grade level.

The Prentice Hall middle school materials are on the recommended list from the State. Prentice Hall instructional materials for high school are much better than any NSF funded curricula. PH middle school materials could be used to remediate the large number of entering 9th graders with below grade level skills.

It is difficult to take the district math committee's recommendations seriously when they have completely avoided dealing with students with below grade level math skills. Especially when the current SPS k-8 math program guarantees the production of large numbers of below grade level students annually.

ds said...

I will be attending the meeting at Ballard HS tonight and am wondering if anyone who’s been to any of the recent meetings can tell me if Ms. de la Fuente has been referencing the OSPI high school math materials report as support for the adoption committee's decision to adopt Discovering. This report is the one that is based primarily (70%) on alignment with the new WA state standards; it gave the Discovering series a score of .835 out of 1, just behind Holt which received a score of .838.

If the committee is relying on the OSPI report as supporting “evidence” for its decision, it should not be. I read the OSPI report last night and it is fatally flawed. (see http://www.k12.wa.us/CurriculumInstruct/pubdocs/PublishersNotices/OSPIMathHS-IMR-Rpt1-15-09.pdf). Although there are multiple problems with methods of statistical analysis, the biggest problem is methodological: They had 4 raters rate each book, and most of the raters who rated each book were different people from those who rated the other books (I don't think the report explicitly stated this, but it is a logical conclusion based on the fact that each of the 43 texts was only reviewed by 4 reviewers...out of 36). I’m not surprised that they didn’t hammer home this point, as it clearly takes away from the validity of their conclusions....Imagine training people to rate anything—a book, a movie, a school—and then comparing the ratings of 4 people who rated item A to the ratings of 4 completely different people who rated item B. Your numbers will have very little relative value!

In the context of the OSPI methodology, a difference of .003 (out of 1) between Holt and Discovering, or of .015 between Prentice Hall (which Dan has been advocating) and Discovering, is completely meaningless! In fact, the difference between the top series (Holt at .838) and the middle series (College Prep Math at .755...not Dan’s pick, I know), is only .083. Even this difference is not at all reliable if you consider the methods used in this evaluation.

This information, coupled with the clearly biased (toward reform text) criteria that the SPS adoption committee employed when making their own ratings makes me gravely concerned about the rationale for picking Discovering.

seattle citizen said...

ds, are you a math teacher? If not, why not?

good job of analysis, there...

dan dempsey said...

Melissa said:
Okay, I'll bite - who are these math professors?

So far on the pro Discovering Side=
Dr George Bright with a PhD in Education who was hired by Terry Bergeson as her special assistant to push her reform math agenda and Dr James King Math Professor at UW and NSF grant recipient. He has published through Key Curriculum Press.

On the "Discovering" is defective side. Dr Jack Lee, research mathematician UW, Dr Stephen Wilson, research mathematician and head of Mathematics at Johns Hopkins University, Dr Guershon Harel, contracted by Strategic Teaching to evaluate math texts.

This certainly calls into question whether the WA State math standards k-12 really are the SPS curriculum. While "Discovering" had a high topic alignment rating in the initial OSPI topic corelation rating, it is a poor text series if increased student math knowledge is the goal. "Discovering" was not recommended by the state because it is mathematically unsound.

A fine commercially produced program like "Prentice Hall" which features example based instruction will be vastly superior to the mathematically defective NSF funded "Discovery" series.

A noticable oversight by the District Administration is that there were no instructional materials recommended for the students entering grade 9 who are below grade level. Surely with the number of below grade level math students annually entering grade 9 an instructional materials approval from the board is needed. No materials have been recommended for this group. Why does the administration overlook this sizable group? Is it because all the students entering 9th grade met the WA Math Grade level performance expectations for grade 8 and had previously demonstrated knowledge of the k-7 expectations?

dan dempsey said...

ds is exactly correct there is not much difference in the top group of texts. The SBE likely would have reviewed more texts if there had been more funds. As it was Wilson and Harel spent a large amount of time doing analysis of the four series Holt, Discovering, Glencoe, and Core-Plus (even though Core-Plus did not have a high rating). There will be a review at some time of Prentice Hall and McDougal Littell (and maybe more) because OSPI wants to have three text books to recommend.

An additional problem is that the OSPI rating system tends to favor huge bloated books that contain everything under the sun. These large books are often neither cohesive nor coherent in how they present material. Note how of the four texts reviewed three were mathematically unsound and the best one was far from great.

Looking at Dr Jack Lee's review of Prentice Hall, I think it is likely that Pentice Hall will not only be found mathematically sound by the state but when teachers look for usability and clarity they may find it superior to Holt. Congratualations to the District Adoption committee for rating Prentice Hall as superior to Holt.

The district administration has a define preference for NSF funded inquiry discovery programs. This is very clear not just from past adoption recommendations but also from the criteria used in this adoption.

To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data. I guess in the SPS alignment to a failed philosophy is more important.... thus NO improvement.

I there any chance the SPS will ever change that lame math definition?

Mathematics is the language and science of patterns and connections. Learning and doing mathematics are active processes in which students construct meaning through exploration and inquiry of challenging problems.

Elizabeth W said...

on 3/26/09 at 11:01 AM ds said:

Although there are multiple problems with methods of statistical analysis, the biggest problem is methodological: They had 4 raters rate each book, and most of the raters who rated each book were different people from those who rated the other books (I don't think the report explicitly stated this, but it is a logical conclusion based on the fact that each of the 43 texts was only reviewed by 4 reviewers...out of 36). I’m not surprised that they didn’t hammer home this point, as it clearly takes away from the validity of their conclusions....Imagine training people to rate anything—a book, a movie, a school—and then comparing the ratings of 4 people who rated item A to the ratings of 4 completely different people who rated item B. Your numbers will have very little relative value!


There's really not much problem with having each reviewer review only some of the books. The important things are having high quality reviewers, a sound set of reviewing criteria, and several reviews for each text.

I believe it would be nearly impossible to find any reviewer who could rate forty three books without rating criteria fluctuating and interest and attention flagging. Furthermore, the folks who would say "yes" when asked to review forty three math text books will not be your best reviewers.

GIven a numerical rating system, it is possible to correct for each reviewer's tendency to rate higher or lower than the average for the set of books read. This process is more accurate when you have more reviews per book, as well as when you have more reviews per reviewer. It is not more accurate if you have the same reviewers read the same set of books -- you want to assign reviewers randomly.

Four reviews per text book doesn't sound like enough to me. I'm not a statistician, nor an expert in reviewing textbooks, but I'd be a lot happier with six to eight reviews per reviewer and about sixteen reviews per book. This would likely make reviewing cost four times as much, and make the results twice as accurate. Additionally, by asking reviewers to review more books, your pool of available reviewers will decline.

Dorothy Neville said...

I have previous plans and cannot attend tonight, but here is the letter I sent to the board this afternoon. (and in rereading it for here, I see I put a sentence in the wrong paragraph. oh well. Not that I have ever gotten a response before, who knows if the board members actually read it.)

I guess my summary would be using the anecdote with my son. He now loves math and can tackle harder problems with confidence because he knows that it all ought to fit together logically without guessing or magic. He has had experience seeing teachers and me demonstrating this again and again, and now can build on this strength to understand and work out problems on his own. But students without this core experience from teachers and from their texts do not develop this confidence or skill. That's the irony with "discovery" mathematics.

------
Dear Directors,

I have a Masters in Mathematics, have taught math to high school and college students and currently privately tutor middle school and high school students in mathematics. I also have a 10th grader at Roosevelt currently taking Honors Precalculus.

Please rethink the High School Math text book adoption recommendation. Good teachers will be able to work around the flaws in the Discovering series, but it will take extra effort and excellent teaching skills and excellent mathematical skills and experience. Not all math teachers have all those qualities, especially experience. New teachers deserve quality materials. Students deserve good tools, they deserve a quality text that they can reference on their own, that their parents can help them with and that supports comprehensive achievement. Additionally, do not be swayed by comments that the reading level of the Prentice Hall text is too hard. A quality math text, you will see that the sample problems to motivate the ideas are clear and mathematical. While good reading comprehension is always ideal, it is not necessary in order to follow a quality math text and learn the math. A teacher can better motivate good mathematical comprehension skills with a quality text.

The middle school students I tutor all have college educated parents, but all of whom concentrated in the humanities and work in non-math fields. The middle school texts are so befuddling that their well-educated parents cannot read them and help them with their homework. They don't see the bigger picture that the text is trying to teach -- because the books do a great job of hiding that goal. That's where I add value. While helping the students with their homework I know what the book is trying to teach, so I can focus. I usually also have to help them correct the erroneous assumptions that they have made from the "self-discovery" curriculum. Plus I take the time to insist on followup and practice with fluency -- that they do not get at school. I get results, but it is with only a few students. It is so frustrating to know that many other kids are in the same boat and do not have access to a parent or tutor like me who can help them overcome their math classes. Someone with limited reading skills would be much better off with a clear and comprehensive math text than one that requires any reading and discovery.

My son had uneven, mostly poor, math education in elementary school (APP). He hated math and was discouraged and confused by it. My solution was to homeschool him part-time for middle school. First he completed a semester of logic, an rigorous on-line course equivalent to a semester of college. Only after that breather from "math" did we pick up an algebra text and he discovered that it made sense. Roosevelt Math department has been terrific for him. But he completely credits my intervention with his love for math. He specifically credits my confidence that mathematics all fits together into a cohesive whole and my iterative examples demonstrating that over the years. That's what is missing from "discovery" math, and ironically, the very principle that "discovery" math purports to teach.

What you need to see is that a "traditional" math classroom actually has a lot of discovery, there is a lot of motivating the next step, clarity of goals and tools for students to make conjectures and synthesize the material. Very clearly paced, very clearly structured to build on previous material and rigorous -- the very qualities we want in a curriculum. I have not seen that at all in the "discovery" materials. Instead, confusion, no summation to ensure knowledge, and way too much bouncing from one topic to the next. It took the best mathematical minds 500 years to develop modern algebra. We now get ordinary kids to learn it in three years. They can, and they can understand it deeply and fluently. But they shouldn't be expected to discover all of it on their own. That's not pedagogically sound, nor practical.

Please do the right thing and choose Prentice Hall Mathematics over the Discovery series.

BadgerGal said...

Dorothy,
thank you so much for sharing your letter. I am going to the meeting tonight and will use some of your points, as well as many of the others listed here, if you don't mind.

My husband and I both have Master's in Engineering - our first grader is very bright but we are already seeing the EDM curriculumn causing her frustration and confusion. We supplement a lot at home with the kind of structure you mention in your letter because we can - so she will be fine. I worry so much about those kids who don't have that support. This Discovery Series sounds like more of the same as EDM.

thank you again to all of you who are so passionate and informed for providing the talking points to those of us who KNOW something isn't right but don't have the experience to articulate it quite as well.

Dorothy Neville said...

Yes, Please use my talking points if you are going to the meeting or interacting with the board or staff. That's the reason for sharing. I think that my views are well founded in experience. If they fit what believe, please use my experience and conclusions as well.

(Of course my husband will debate the "all math builds together in a cohesive whole" by bringing up Godel's incompleteness theorem, but we can let that slide while kids are still in elementary and middle school.

And the 500 years bit. I calculate from around 1200 when Fibonacci introduced the Zero to the West to the discovery of The Calculus, which was second half of 17th century, yes? So technically a few years short of 500, but a little estimating and rounding doesn't hurt. :) )

Charlie Mas said...

The Board may grumble and they may demand excuses or try to extract promises of improvement (that they won't demand in future), but you can be sure that they will vote the way that the Superintendent tells them to vote.

If the staff recommends Discovering... then that is what the Board will approve. Remember that there are two Board members who never question the staff's recommendations. After them, it only takes two more Board members who are willing to give the staff the benefit of the doubt to form a majority. And there are two or three Board members who - no matter what their foreboding - will give the staff the benefit of the doubt. I don't think there are more than two who expect well-reasoned decisions based on data, sound rationale, and best practices. Of course they all should, but they just don't.

So the Board will act like the rubber stamp they are and they will approve whatever the staff trots up there. In this case, math textbooks from Key Curriculum Press.

anonymous said...

i just received this email - looks like they are beginning to draw boundaries....

On March 26th from 6:30-8:30 SPS is hosting a community
engagement meeting (see below). Among other things they
will be discussing the new Student Assignment Plan. Part of
this plan involves evaluating the boundary lines for Eckstein.

There has been discussion at the district about busing all
kids coming out of Wedgwood, View Ridge and Bryant Elementary
School to Hamilton for middle school. Hamiliton is just south of
Wallingford Park. The Community Engagement meeting will be a
great opportunity to voice
your opinion.

dan dempsey said...

Charlie,

You said:
but you can be sure that they will vote the way that the Superintendent tells them to vote.


So why is the administration so dedicated to defective instructional materials?

StepJ said...

Wow -- WW, VR, and Bryant are the three current areas where you can easily, at least most areas, walk to Eckstein.

Is this the reason why the the board is being asked to vote to approve the plan before all the details are known?

Then what high school would all these kids attend? Some other school they can't walk to?

Will they adjust the assignment plan year by year to adjust to make sure your children cannot walk to school under any circumstances?

jp70 said...

StepJ - My thoughts exactly!

WenD said...

@adhoc: Thanks for posting this. I'm stunned.

I have now officially given up on moving back to Seattle for middle/HS for my kids. The schools they'd like to attend are either defunct, endangered, fully enrolled with little hope of entry for September, or moving around like a planchet on a Quija board. Even if I move a mountain to find a rental within attendance boundaries this month, (a legal rental, none of this second address jive), why bother? SPS keeps changing the game in new and illogical ways. I'm too old to keep second guessing this bunch.

North End Mom said...

Does anyone have a report from the Ballard meeting? Thanks.

anonymous said...

The email that I posted was not official, it was forwarded to me by a friend. Did anyone go to the Ballard meeting? Can anyone confirm what was in the email? Did they speak about the Eckstein (or any other) boundaries?

I remember when Charlie Mas was predicting boundaries - he predicted that the Eckstein boundary would start at NE 145th and go south to about 75th or 80th. And families living south of 75th would go to Hamilton. And when you think about it, it makes sense. There really is no middle school, other than Eckstein, that is even relatively close for the families that live in the North part of the NE cluster. The families south of 75h are much closer to Hamilton and it would make sense that they go there. Of course they are much closer to Eckstein than Hamilton. But, Eckstein can't hold everyone, so someone is going to get bumped. Sadly, Jane Addams won't really releive any pressure - the MS is too small.

On a positive note I was very impressed with Hamilton this year! The new principal was inspiring, and seemed fantastic. The addition of the APP program will bring a strong music program, and INT math I, II, and III next year, which they never had before, and it is open to all, not just APP kids. Once they get their new building in 2010/11, I bet it is as over crowded and popular as Eckstein. Harium has already posted that they will be discontinuing busing kids from SE Seattle to Hamilton year after next - I guess they are predicting that the school will fill with N/NE families.

anonymous said...

And, I should add that when (and if) the families from WW, VR, Laurelhurst and Bryant go to Hamilton, along with the north end APP kids, Spectrum, and the John Stanford immersion kids (they get a preference to Hamilton), it's probably going to be a fantastic option! And in a brand spanking new building! It wouldn't surprise me if it replaces Eckstein as the be all, end all school.

old salt said...

I have been to some of the assignment plan meetings. There I have heard parents, PTSA reps, teachers & school staff discuss which elementaries should get into Eckstein. I have heard Tracy Libros repeat & clarify their opinions. I have not heard her offer her own opinions.

She said that preliminary high school boundaries will be released on April 29th. I think that is the first boundary information we will get from the district.

If transportation is not a consideration in the new assignment plan then there is no reason not to bus kids who live in a walk zone. Though I think it will add to transportation costs & I can't understand why saving transportation money was important enough to change all the start times, but not important enough to influence the assignment plan.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I doubt there were any boundaries discussed. Charlie and I attended the first meeting and there were no maps so I doubt they would have done differently for the next two.

ds said...

Right, no maps were presented last night at Ballard...the assignment part of the meeting was primarily focused on soliciting community input.

h2o girl said...

ds,
Was there discussion of the Ballard High boundaries? i.e., the rumor that the northern boundary will be the school itself, so that it should actually be called QA/Magnolia High School?

Sorry, I am rather annoyed about that one.

Charlie Mas said...

Please remember that we are due a Phase II of Capacity Management that is supposed to reduce the excess capacity in grades 9-12.

We haven't forgotten that, have we?

So they are doing the assignment plan ahead of the Capacity Management for high schools after they did the Capacity Management first for elementary, alternative, and middle schools. Hmmm. I guess it doesn't matter to them which comes first.

ds said...

I think some individual groups discussed this, but the district staff did not say anything to the larger group about that specific issue other than that those were the types of issues that they'd be exploring.

Since it's still early in the process, I think the staff is open to suggestions.

ds said...

I'm not sure what to say about the math part of the meeting last night. I still have concerns about Discovering, but I haven’t seen PH (I asked Miss de la Fuente to bring the materials last night but, because it is not the text that the board is voting on, she did not), so I can’t offer an informed opinion here. I got in on this too late.

It sounds like the math adoption committee members who supported a more traditional approach felt that they could make Discovering work and that it was probably a better choice for the district as a whole. Apparently the committee reached a decision by consensus. It would be really nice if these teachers would share their ideas with other teachers and with families.

I asked Ms. de la Fuente about the lack of worked out problems in Geometry, and she agreed that that could be problematic. She said that there were supplemental materials that could be used, and it sounded like she might be willing to work on developing that supplementation as a standard part of the materials. I'll be following up with her on that.

If Discovering is approved, I think those of us who are concerned about the success of the series should be in communication with Ms. de la Fuente about what can be done to improve the chances of success, whether it’s requiring the use of specified supplemental materials, monitoring what is and isn’t working, communicating with families, etc.

BadgerGal said...

I was at the meeting last night. there were about 100 people there...? I guesstimate based on at least 10 tables of 10, could have been more.

A few thoughts/comments.

1. I downloaded/printed the materials from the website right before the meeting - but they were not what Tracy presented so that was frustrating/hard to follow. But it did seem that the changes made were in response to comments from the previous 2 meetings - a plus and consistent with Tracy being open to feedback and comments.

2. Math - I was disappointed that this was a presentation only. I had to leave right at 8:30pm so didn't have time to give my comments on all the reasons I don't like the Discovering Series - I will email them instead.

3. Assignment Plan - the current set of guiding principle, "Rules", etc were covered by Tracy - quite quickly but as best she could. Then we broke into small groups to discuss/capture feedback. The timeline as I understand it is that the "rules" will be finalized in June and the actual boundaries won't be discussed until the fall of this year. They need the rules done so the computer programming can begin (but they don't need the boundaries for that yet).

Regarding ANY school boundaries, no, they have not been drawn yet.

Specifically to Ballard HS- quite a few people were at the meeting who heard via an email chain that the boundaries were set and that kids in Ballard wouldn't be able to go to "their school".

Regarding Eckstien - this didn't come up during the general discussion OR at my table.

BUT - if the district holds to the principle that no child will be bussed past one school to get to another (and I think they will hold to this), all you have to do is look at the map of where each Middle School and High School are located - it becomes very clear that there will be kids that live within a walk zone of a school that will be going somewhere else.

this is a link to the best map I can find on the SPS website.

http://www.seattleschools.org/
area/m_schools/index.dxml

Finally, economic diversity as a tiebreaker was flagged as problematic by several of the breakout groups during their report outs.

The only board member there was Michael DeBell.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I find this interesting that there is a report that Michael De Bell is now talking about spreading out the Queen Anne/Magnolia students, in essence giving them a school to call home, but at different schools depending on where they live.

I had been under the impression that the district was going to give those neighborhoods a school of their own (and that it would likely be at Lincoln). I could wonder what happened but I can also guess.

One, Facilities said "no, no! We must have Lincoln for on-going rebuilds." (the only one I can think of is Eckstein because after Ingraham appearing on all the BEXs, I doubt they will get a rebuild). Or they want to have a huge reserve building in case of an earthquake (no kidding).

Two, they have other plans for Lincoln (although I can't think of one much better than giving the Queen Anne/Magnolia people someplace to call their own. As well, it would give the Fremont/Wallingford kids a school.)

Three, they think it will look bad to open a new high school (albeit in an existing building) if they need to close another. If you have capacity needs in one area of the city, then that's what needs to happen. If they need to close a building in the south end that doesn't mean it might never be used again.

Maureen said...

(Sort of related to QA/Mag HS issue) At the Tuesday night meeting there was a dad who was there only because he had heard that the Center School was going to be moved to Rainier Beach. Some one said--'no that came off the table' and some one else said 'actually it's back on'...but I don't know who said what and haven't heard this rumor anywhere else (so I'm spreading it here--sorry!).

anonymous said...

Where are all these "rumors" coming from? Is the district holding meetings behind closed doors, and someone is leaking what has been discussed? Or are all of these things simply rumor and conjecture?

I have heard from parent after parent that the Eckstein boundary is going to be drawn at 80th ave NE, yet I have seen nothing official to confirm or deny it.

Charlie Mas said...

Nature hates a vacuum. Rumors emerge in the absence of news. Someone says it once as conjecture and it gets repeated as rumor.

If there were more news there would be less rumor. But there is only one source of news, the District. And the District is notoriously uncommunicative.

As Mark Twain said, "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."

dan dempsey said...

Dear ds at 10:22 AM,

This is a much larger question than Prentice Hall or "Discovering".
It comes down to a vote to continue a failing k-8 exploration and inquiry program through use of "Discovering" or not. The rejection of Prentice Hall instructional materials that are better aligned with NMAP's call for "Authentic Algebra" by the committee shows a preference for philosophical alignment instead of results.

This district is miles away from an emphasis on "Core Knowledge" and mathematical content knowledge.

The SPS has 10+ years of math futility. An adoption of "Discovering" is a vote for extending math futility through at least 2014.

Food for thought at:
Twelve point foundation for change at
http://www.educateforachange.com/12points.htm

Please write a letter.
http://mathunderground.blogspot.com/2009/03/your-help-needed-write-now.html

It is particularly disturbing that the Administration and the committee have recommended nothing lower than "Discovering Algebra".
Read this for the latest research on that decision:
http://mathunderground.blogspot.com/2009/03/algebra-for-all-by-grade-9.html

Dan

dan dempsey said...

I should point out that "Discovering" may not have been developed with NSF funds but uses the same failing exploration and inquiry model as NSF funded materials.

"Discovering" is characterized by the following:
Lacks clear definitions.
Lacks sufficient clear examples.
Lacks enough problem set practice.
Lacks the coherence and cohesion necessary for readability (thus it is hostile to both Parents and Students)

There were reasons the "Discovering Series" was rated mathematically unsound by the State. These reasons are not being addressed by the administration.

In May 2007, Director DeBell said future adoptions would likely be influenced by the State .... well only if the School Directors listen to the State.

Maureen said...

It is particularly disturbing that the Administration and the committee have recommended nothing lower than "Discovering Algebra".
Dan I'm not sure what this issue is here, wouldn't they just use the 8th grade book from CMP2 for the kids who aren't ready for Discovering Algebra? I hear they plan to use the Algebra book for 8th graders who would have been taking Int1. What do the 'remedial' 9th grade classes use now?

At the meeting I expressed my concerns about English Language Learners, given the texts' dependence on reading comprehension. She pulled out a paperback book that goes with the series that explains all of the concepts in straightforward terms with more mathmatical language and less English. I asked why they couldn't just all use that book and scrap the big, heavy, expensive hardbacks!

Elizabeth W said...

Below is the text of a comment I left on Harium Martin-Morris' blog under the "New Student Assignment Plan" topic. It seems like it might belong here as well.

I attended the public meeting at Ballard High on Thursday evening.

Like most of the other attendees, I was pleased by the fact that the new system does not require families to use the choice system. You're guaranteed to get a place at your "attendance area school" (a new term replacing "reference school"). If you like your local school there's no call to take the time to go school shopping and list making -- just turn in a simple enrollment form and you're done. (Well, not really all that simple, because you have to document your address and fill out that immunization form yet again, but you get the point...)

One important thing to note about the proposal is that it effectively switches the relative priority of sibling and attendance area in getting into a school.

Here is a small example. Please note that I had to draw a couple of educated inferences, and the plan is constantly changing. If you hear something different from official sources, believe them first.

Consider a family living in UW student housing North of U Village. They enroll their older child in Kindergarten at Bryant, which is their attendance area school.

A few years later they buy a house in a different attendance area just before their younger child is due to enroll for Kindergarten.

In the current system, siblings have highest priority and the family could keep the older child at Bryant and take advantage of early sibling enrollment to guarantee their younger child a spot in Kindergarten at Bryant. (Well, not actually guarantee -- they could be out of luck if there were more siblings than total spaces, but that is statistically highly unlikely...)

Under the new system, the family has two choices if they wish to have their children attend the same school.

* They may keep the older child at Bryant and use the new choice process to try to get the younger sibling in. They have highest priority for available space after attendance area families. Some years there may not be enough choice spaces available to accommodate all out-of-attendance-area siblings.

* They may take a guaranteed placement for both at their new attendance area school.

Some folks in this situation will be disappointed, but it seems practical to me. Many parents in over-crowded reference areas have specifically asked for it on the quite reasonable grounds that they should not be displaced by folks no longer living in the area.

However, there's also the question of what happens to a family who doesn't move at all, but finds themselves in a different attendance area as the result of a moving boundary. As I understand the proposal, these folks will have the same options as the family who made a physical move.

I think this is going to result in a lot of disgruntlement among the affected families. Imagine establishing your child in the local school the district "wants" you to be at and then being told to start over again if you want to keep your kids together!

However, I also think that the Enrollment Department would rightly balk at having to process these two families differently. It would greatly complicate the system, requiring documenting an address history and sibling enrollment history since before the last re-draw of the lines. Ugh! There goes the simplicity, clarity, and maintainability of the system.

Any system is going to include these sorts of gotchas. I think the current proposed plan is quite good. However, I don't envy the district the task of explaining why they have to do this to families. I hope they will put more effort than they have in the past into making their explanations empathetic in addition to explaining why the resulting assignment was necessary.

anonymous said...

harium has just started a new thread on the math adoption.

dan dempsey said...

Maureen,

In regard to the discussion and information below, your guess is as good as mine.

The district has been on a big push for differentiated instruction. They also have yet to show that their version of "Differentiated Instruction" is getting positive results.

I expect to see almost every below grade level kid in Discovering Algebra if "Discovering" is a high school instructional materials adoption. If the admin is intending to use something below "Discovering Algebra" for a large portion of the population it needs to be recommended and approved by the School Board. The SPS Admin has no recommendation below Discovering Algebra.
------------------
It is particularly disturbing that the Administration and the committee have recommended nothing lower than "Discovering Algebra".

Dan I'm not sure what this issue is here, wouldn't they just use the 8th grade book from CMP2 for the kids who aren't ready for Discovering Algebra? I hear they plan to use the Algebra book for 8th graders who would have been taking Int1. What do the 'remedial' 9th grade classes use now?

dan dempsey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dan dempsey said...

You be the Judge is "Discovering Algebra" mathematically unsound?

A Power Point:
http://www.mathunderground.net/Prentice-Hall_vs_Dissolving-Algebra.ppt

Maureen said...

Does anyone (Dan?!) know if the IB programs are required to use whatever math texts the District adopts? That doesn't seem possible given the structure of the courses.

hschinske said...

Ingraham uses Unified Math (an out-of-print but well-regarded math series that integrates algebra and geometry, but is otherwise fairly traditional) for its algebra/geometry sequence. I don't know what Sealth uses, nor what either program uses for IB-specific math. (I don't any longer remember exactly when IB math kicks in -- whether as part of the algebra/geometry sequence, or not until the precalculus/calculus portion.)

Helen Schinske

dan dempsey said...

Maureen,

Helen is right on. The IB program trumps the math adoption recommendations.

Dan

Maureen said...

But IB doesn't start until 11th grade. I wonder if they can keep Unified Math for the "pre-IB" classes in 9th and 10th? If so, I'm seeing a big reason for North Beach families to be happy they won't be assigned to Ballard anymore! I'm also seeing a reason for Addams families to push for a primary IB program.

dan dempsey said...

Maureen,

I agree a primary IB push might be a good idea.

Here is a link to middle school IB:
http://www.ibo.org/myp/

or check out the IB primary school program:
http://www.ibo.org/

It looks like IB can start at age 3. This could be the only way other than private school that many families can avoid the SPS k-12 math disaster. (as well as other SPS curricular disasters) Hopefully North Beach can keep Saxon Math and Schmitz Park can keep Singapore Math.

It would be nice if the SPS started an emphasis on Core Knowledge. As things stand now in many areas there is so much emphasis on process that the students have nothing to process.

dan dempsey said...

Some second thoughts on IB.

It may be that IB is so inquiry based that it misses significant Core Knowledge.

From Science News...
Try a few thoughts about science education here:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090326114415.htm

Charlie Mas said...

Oh my gosh!!

I checked out the PowerPoint that Dan posted and I am shocked!!

For me, the fundamental exercise in algebra is to solve a single variable equation by isolating the variable. The Prentice Hall book teaches it rather elegantly. The Discovering Algebra text is a total mess. It is worse than useless because it actually confuses the issue.

I'm convinced that adopting these textbooks would do untold damage to students that would last them all of their lives.

The Board needs to reject these textbooks and they need to reject them soundly.

Karrie said...

Dan posted:

"You be the Judge is "Discovering Algebra" mathematically unsound?

A Power Point:
http://www.mathunderground.net/Prentice-Hall_vs_Dissolving-Algebra.ppt "

I have an advanced degree in math and the discovering series confuses me. This CANNOT be allowed to be our HS text.

Who is the best person for me to contact? My board member? I'm new to this blog and need help on how to stop this madness.

ds said...

Can you please post your powerpoint to Harium's site, Dan? It really hammers home the point, and I think as many people as possible need to see it...and then write the board ASAP (I think the vote is 4/22...does anyone know for sure?)

Sherry Carr sherry.carr@seattleschools.org

Harium Martin-Morris
harium.martin-morris@seattleschools.org

Peter Maier
peter.maier@seattleschools.org

Cheryl Chow
cheryl.chow@seattleschools.org

Steve Sundquist
steve.sundquist@seattleschools.org

Mary Bass
mary.bass@seattleschools.org

Michael DeBell (President)
michael.debell@seattleschools.org

dan dempsey said...

ds,

Introduction on April 8 and vote on April 22. If you wish to testify on April 8th call 206-252-0040 at 8AM sharp on Monday April 6. Meetings start at 6 PM. Three minute testimonies are usually done by 7 PM. Watching the Admin's pitch for Discovering will be better in person than on TV, so plan to stay awhile. Better yet make a sign and bring it.

Live political theater what a treat.

Dan