Thursday, April 23, 2009

Math Instruction Theory of Action

At the Board meeting of April 22, Anna Maria delaFuente made this presentation during the Superintendent's update. Key to Board member's support of the adoption of the math textbooks from Key Curriculum Press were the commitments listed on slide #3, Theory of Action.

Here is the text of the slide:
Theory of Action
• Common Instructional Materials that are well-aligned with the new State Standards for Mathematics
• Professional Learning and Support for Teachers, Administrators, and Support Staff
• Family/Community Engagement, Support and Involvement
• Accountability: Assessments and Indicators
• Direct Student Support: Intervention and Acceleration; Team Math
• District-wide College Readiness Focus
• Effective Teacher Recruitment and Retention through Strategic Partnerships with University Pre-Service Programs

It was clear that Ms delaFuente was telling the Board that it is okay for them to throw the kids out the window because the District staff are down below and they promise to make a net to catch the students.

The problem, which would be clear to anyone who has observed the District for more than six weeks, is that the District absolutely cannot be trusted to do anything that they say they will do and the Board has neither any interest nor any mechanism to compel them to do it.

It's clear that the Board will approve this textbook adoption at their next meeting. I do not expect any of the Directors to change their minds and I do not expect Director Chow to be anything other than the rubber-stamp she has always been.

So then what? Then we need to press the Board to press the superintendent to press the staff to actually fulfill this fantasy Theory of Action. Directors Sundquist, Carr and Maier will have a special obligation to see this Theory of Action implemented. It could define their service on the Board and determine their re-election.

The funny thing is that if they actually come through (yes, I'm indulging a fantasy), it could lead to their taking similar action to enforce other commitments and they could suddenly become an effective Board. That would be wonderful. This Board could suddently start demanding accountability on the Strategic Plan. They could start demanding that the District make their decisions through a legitimate process. This disaster could be the start of something really good. - Naw, I'm just dreaming. They're still rubber stamps.


anonymous said...

I expected Peter Maier and Cheryl Chow to be faithful rubber stampers, and I expected Harium to be somewhat of an activist. The three of them have, for the most part, fulfilled my expectations.

The two directors that I have been most disappointed in however, are Sherry Car and Steve Sundquist, both of whom have children in this district. I really expected more of them. I really thought they would be effective. But I couldn't be more wrong. Director Carr and Sundquist have become faithful rubber stampers too, neither of whom ever challenges a word the staff throws at them. It's shameful, really.

Charlie Mas said...

Sherry Carr hasn't done anything to distinguish herself, that's true. And the total of her "no" votes is still less than five. She continues to mystify me. It sometimes appears that she isn't able to give her Board duties her full attention. She always seems to have just arrived, late and distracted, and not completely confident about the topic of discussion. That's just a vibe I get from her.

I had hopes for her, but they have faded away.

I continue to have hope for Director Sundquist. There are times when it appears that he... well, he doesn't quite get it yet, but he suspects.

I found his explanation for his "yes" vote on the math materials to be thoughtful, principled, and valid. Of course, now that he has defined a duty for the Board, his position continues to be principled and valid only if the Board actually fulfills that duty. They haven't taken a single step in that direction to date.

Director Sundquist has started to show some signs of skepticism about the willingness of the superintendent and the District staff to actually do the things they promise to do. Again, his position on the Board's role only remains principled and valid if the Board fulfills the role of providing accountability and confirming that the district fulfills its commitments. I'm not holding my breath.

Jennifer said...

Anyone know why the district isn’t using any of the already completed data on math curriculum from OSPI? There are three strong recommendations for middle school curricula that match best with the new math standards. Also recommendations for elementary math, EDM and Singapore are not on the recommendation list, FYI.

Web site with recommendations:

Dorothy Neville said...

"Anyone know why the district isn’t using any of the already completed data on math curriculum from OSPI? There are three strong recommendations for middle school curricula that match best with the new math standards. Also recommendations for elementary math..."

Because we have books already thanks to the recent adoptions. See, we spent that money and there's no money left. It's not like Nordstroms, we can't claim it doesn't fit and return it for a refund. Do not expect a new elementary or middle school math materials adoption for years. and years. That's the reality that seemed to hit DeBell --- that adoptions last and last. He'll be gone, MGJ will be gone, Ms De la Fuente will be gone and we will still have EDM and CMP2 in the classrooms. Except maybe in a few years they'll slack up on enforcing it and more affluent PTSAs might cough up for new books for their schools. Same old - same old. Mind the gap.

Do we really also want to have Discovering in the classrooms as well? You buy a sixty buck chair from Ikea and if you don't end up loving it, well, that's too bad, but sell it at a garage sale, give it to your kid, get another chair for yourself. Spend real money remodeling your kitchen and you darn well better be happy with it, because you don't get a second chance.

That's what makes so much of Ms de la Fuente's shameless "Theory of Action" so incredible. It's the same old song in the same old key. Promise that we will measure the success, hire outside firm to hold focus groups, prove that the Discovering system has cured all our ills. Absolutely no recourse if it doesn't --- so what is the use of the measurement? Does anyone think that we'd be having these Theory of Action promises if we only were choosing a plain vanilla decent reference text? Would we need them?

Sherry Carr has a sophomore at Roosevelt, yes? So that's the guinea pig group for AP HG. Does she remember all the promises made about that? Depth, rigor, relevance, funding from outside sources for field trips and other extras? And a quality college level curriculum. And performance measures, accountability and yes-it's-a-pilot-and-if-it-isn't-successful-we-won't-continue. How's that going for her? Has she actually seen any performance measures? Has she seen any performance measures or any accountability on anything, anywhere? (other than Nordstroms.)

Charlie Mas said...

That's what Directors DeBell, Martin-Morris, and Bass know - that the District staff won't really follow through with their promises to provide all of the support that the Key Curriculum books need to be successful. In the absence of that follow-through, the books are worse than worthless; they are damaging.

Books that include the standard algorithms and explain them clearly, such as the Prentice Hall books, require less supplementation (if any), less professional development (if any), and can stand on their own if they don't get any of that Theory of Action stuff.

We can only hope that either Director Sundquist or Director Carr figure that out in the next two weeks.

That's the problem with Seattle Public Schools - lots of Theory of Action, but very little Action.

dan dempsey said...

I find Director Sundquist's statements about process interesting but irrelevant to his duty at this time.

I began public testimony that included the fact that the process to select math curricula was defective and in fact responsible for extremely poor math textbook finalists at all there levels in the Spring of 2007.
I have pointed out that the SPS definition of mathematics is defective and leads to the recommendations for defective textbooks.

So my question is does Director Sundquist plan on doing anything about changing a defective system selection process? (if so he should have started sometime ago ... but better late than never ... but not much better for for math at HS if he votes for Discovering and it is selected).

Is the job of director to be sure that defective processes are run according to written plan?

If so then I guess the job of director is to get out the big rubber stamp.

I ran against Mr. Sundquist in summer of 2007 and I thought he waged an excellent campaign and had good qualifications except he had no teaching experience. The lack of recent teaching experience or no teaching experience could be a hindrance to being an effective director.

The directors appear on the verge of another colossal mistake. Ms. de la Fuente's presentation is nonsensical. There is no recommendation for materials below Algebra I. Director DeBell gets it. Take a look at San Diego here. They get it.

As Charlie points out with an adequate textbook we might see improvement that is significant. It appears that the NMAP report was just cherry picked as a mentioned support of this plan.

Director Carr with a college education and her daughter were given a one shot presentation from Art Mabbott and then given individual assistance from Anna-Maria. How is this in anyway relevant for the 30% of incoming 9th graders unable to score above level 1 on the WASL.

19 principals support the adoption, how irrelevant is that. NEWS Flash!!! company men support company recommendation. So they like staying employed is that worth mentioning.

Sorry but this looks really like a staged piece by folks with little knowledge of what is needed in school mathematics.

As an aside.... Ruth Parker our sometimes advisor to the SPS gave a presentation at the National NCTM meeting yesterday in which she said the NCTM focal points got it wrong. Standard Algorithms hurt understanding and should not be taught.

So why is it that the SPS has failed to teach the standard algorithm for long division in grade 5 as required by the state standards?

uxolo8 said...

THEORY of Action? How about PLAN of Action? Maybe Mr. Sundquist and his pretense of professionalism could look up the word THEORY and read us a quote from the dictionary.

dan dempsey said...

A Plan of Action .. a great Idea.The board needs to request a plan of action for Discovering Algebra year 1. The Discovering Algebra pacing plan that will cover all of the State Standards for Algebra I.This is a necessity as the District has an established track record with EDM fidelity of implementation that ignores many of the state k-5 math standards. (The EDM pacing guide is the curriculum not the State math Standards as actions speak louder than words).

Due to the inefficient time consuming process that an excessive number of explorations often take will the state standards be covered?
Currently teachers have difficulty covering EDM with 75 min per day and some math standards are ignored.
Given that no high school textbook has perfect standards alignment how will the SPS plan to cover all the grade 9 Algebra math standards? Where is the pacing plan?

What about the socially promoted children unable to score above math WASL level 1 = 30% of the entering ninth graders most of whom will be placed in Discovering Algebra. Where is the support for them? It sure isn't the book. Check the district's professional development proto-type at Cleveland. The UW's Professional Development Cubed (PD^3) trained Cleveland teachers to use IMP; a Grad student (with lots of salaried teaching experience) nearing a Doctorate was placed at Cleveland part-time. A variety of resources came with PD^3 participation, which were far more expensive than a $1.2 million adoption will provide for multiple schools.
The Cleveland data was and is an absolute disaster. Scores dropped and then dropped some more and yet a rerun of this looks to be very close to the SPS plan with "Discovering".No classes below Algebra I (substitute IMP 1), students will be assisted to meet high school year 1 expectations. ... this did not work at Cleveland .... why believe it will work on a larger scale with fewer dollar resources?Looks like lawsuit time from a civil rights organization is the only way to stop this continued insanity. Wake up Directors!!!
Check out San Diego .... there are classes below Algebra 1 as they abandon "Discovering" ... "Discovering" is Mathematically Unsound but good enough for the SPS Director's as some of them like to believe in fairy-tales.

dan dempsey said...

Stop the execution:

Go Eagles said...

I was suprised that the Algebra math book did not contain the definition for the word Algebra. However, the definition for Geometry was found in the Geometry math book.

Ms. Charles

dan dempsey said...

Ms. Charles,

Unfortunately the Geometry book does not contain a written definition of Equilateral Triangle.


seattle citizen said...

An equilateral triangle, Dan, is one that has equal sides and angles.

You're welcome.

Dorothy Neville said...

"An equilateral triangle, Dan, is one that has equal sides and angles.

You're welcome."

Actually, that is not the definition. The definition just means equal sides. Equil-Lateral. There is also an equil-Angular triangle. However, in Geometry class, one proves that equilateral triangles are also equilangular and vice versa. It is very important to distinguish between definitions and theorems.

seattle citizen said...

ah, it's all coming back to me, that proof that one is the other. But if one is the other, than an equilateral triangel IS one that has equal sides AND equal angles....
But the definition, I suppose, DOES refer specifically to the sides...
I stand corrected (at a 60 degree angle)

Dorothy Neville said...

YES! See, that's the crux, the important lesson of geometry and logic. Some things you define, but other things absolutely positively must be true (or false). They were not part of the definition, not part of human intervention, they simply must be (once you have determined your axioms and definitions). How do you determine those things that must be true? How do you construct a proof so that other people will agree, so that you yourself are completely positive you have proven something true for ALL equilateral triangles everywhere?

In other words, if you define equilateral triangle to be one with sides equal AND angles congruent, what do you call a triangle with equal length sides but does not have congruent angles? (Ie, how do you know that such an animal doesn't exist?) And what would be the definition of an equilateral four sided figure? (If you think it's a square, think again.)

Clarity, rigor, critical thinking, logical thinking. I really liked teaching Geometry.

seattle citizen said...

That's very expressive, Dorothy! Thank you for sharing your enthusiasm!

(a parallelogram OR a square is a four-sided equilateral form?)

WV suggests that a mass of valuable metal that is NOT shaped as a rectangular block is, in Latin, an ingnolo.

Dorothy Neville said...

A parallelogram might be an equilateral quadrilateral. A square must be an equilateral quadrilateral, but neither classification accurately describes all equilateral quadrilaterals.

Precision of language, terminology and meaning is key in so many fields. Geometry is^H^H was a wonderful course for making such precision and logical thought accessible to high school students. Alas, poor Geometry, I knew her well. Unless there's any hope of getting another director to see the (il)logic of the Theory of Action.

(Don't you just love the last bullet point about being more effective partners with local universities and therefore getting better teachers? What would have to happen for us to be "more effective?" That's certainly not a well defined term. What specifically should/would the district do differently to be more effective in this area?)

dan dempsey said...

I had a great email back and forth with a long time Los Angeles USD geometry teacher.

Her comments brought to mind the existence of unintended consequences.
In California when graduation requirements changed requiring an Algebra credit and a Geometry credit, the nature of Geometry class changed. She said that "Discovering Geometry" became a reasonable choice because many students were unable to do real geometry.
She said that a very experienced Geometry teacher can make this book work.

So the SPS has failed to offer the effective interventions needed and instead socially promoted large numbers of students. The result is larger numbers of mathematically unskilled students entering high school. The solution for the district is "The Discovering Series" ... the latest dumb-down offering.

Let all the children feel good about what is passing for high school math.

Students ... welcome to high school ... do not bother about fractions decimals or percents let us just turn on our TI-84 graphing calculators.

Thinking who needs it?
Central Admin does not do it ... perhaps you will not need to either.

dan dempsey said...

Speaking of savings and coaching ...
here comes the Gov.

dan dempsey said...

Looking for example based instructional math materials in the SPS? You are unlikely to find it coming out of math adoptions.
You can read how the committee is selected here:


dan dempsey said...

Charlie said about Director Sundquist:
I found his explanation for his "yes" vote on the math materials to be thoughtful, principled, and valid..

Does the textbook adoption process need to be fair for Charlie's stated opinion above to be principled and valid?

Read the above comment (on example based instructional materials) and follow the link, if you are looking for more than an introduction to logic 101 question.

north seattle mom said...

I have heard from several sources that Sheri Carr is on the fence with her vote and if she gets enough feedback could change her mind. Otherwise, it will be 4-3 this week and the adoption will pass.

If you care about, this please contact Sheri this week.