Thursday, April 16, 2009

A New Path to Changes in Math

Under the District's upcoming Performance Management system, schools with strong results will be granted more autonomy. You may wonder what this means in real terms.

Consider this:

It occurs to me that any school where the pass rate on the math WASL is 80% or better should have the freedom to choose an alternative math textbook. North Beach is already doing it, so there is a precedent. In fact, I presumed the 80% pass rate requirement because that's about the pass rate at North Beach. It also occurs to me that it should be easier if an elementary school wants to use the Singapore math books since the District did adopt the Singapore series and does claim to support it.

Let's say that you have a child at one of the many elementary schools where the pass rate on the math portion of the WASL is 80% or better. Let's say that you are dissatisfied with the Every Day Math texts and the reform/investigation/discovery/constructivist pedagogy dictated by those texts. You could seek support within the school - probably starting in the PTA - for a change in the math education at that school, replacing the EDM books (and pedagogy) with the Singapore series (and teaching style). If you can convince the principal to make the change, the District should not oppose it. The District shouldn't oppose it because, under the performance management system, the school should have that freedom. Moreover, the Singapore series was approved and adopted by the Board.

I think you would have a real chance for success in your campaign. First, if the school's pass rate is that high, that means that the school community is probably a well-educated community that generally support education and are involved in their children's learning and are probably affluent. The families are probably well-informed about the math controversy and probably would support a more traditional style of education. You could get a lot of community support for the change. Moreover, at these types of schools the administration and staff are generally more responsive to the community they serve. Also, the school will have to pay for the textbooks and that will take the kind of PTA money that affluent schools can deliver. I know that's a lot of generalities and stereotypes, but let's all just acknowledge that the correlations are high.

There is already North Beach. That makes it easier for the next school. That school, once they have made the switch, will make it easier for the third and fourth schools to do the same. After the change, there is no reason to believe that the WASL pass rates will decline. If the movement spreads it may come to pass that a significant number of the higher performing schools will be using Singapore or some traditional texts and pedagogy. After a few years there will be a new Board, a new CAO, and a new Math Director, none of whom participated in the selection of EDM and have no pride tied to it. To them it will be obvious that the high performing schools are using the traditional texts while the low performing schools are using EDM. They won't know which is the cause and which is the effect and they may make the switch over to Singapore for the whole District.

Once the elementary schools are using Singapore, alignment will practically demand that the middle schools adopt a traditional text as well. Then the high schools will fall in line, too.

I don't know what the chances are to bring change in math pedagogy by trying to influence those in District leadership, but it doesn't look very promising to me. I think the better chance for success is at the grassroots.


anonymous said...

It makes perfect sense to give successful schools freedom of choice in curriculum and/or materials.

Eckstein struck a deal with the district with regard to using the Writers Workshop curriculum. Their LA teachers don't like it, they don't find it effective. They lobbied the district and came to an agreement in which they only have to use WW as a supplement to their more traditional curriculum as opposed to the district mandate to use WW as the sole writing curriculum.

Here is another example: Bryant had a history of teaching math with a lot of "traditional" supplementation. But last year with the transition to EDM and the implementation of pacing guides, they have not been able to continue the supplementation. Their 4th grade math WASL scores took more than a 9 point dip this year. They dropped so dramatically that they are now 6 points lower than what they were back in 2005. I know their are a lot of variables in why a WASL score would drop/increase year to year, but this is definately something to investigate.

anonymous said...

Sorry, I know it's "there" not "their".

seattle citizen said...

Charlie, interesting idea.And perhaps a good route to reform where top-down reform doesn't suffice.
But your plan is predicated on using the WASL as the indicator. This might work, and help the cause of bottom-up reform, but it appears cynical. Many of us have bemoaned the exclusive use of the WASL to measure...well, just about anything. So to use it as the sole measure of "success" to gain autonomy seems to negate arguments against the WASL's efficacy.

The paragraph where you describe the setting of an 80% WASL pass rate makes many assumptions. You yourself indicate that there are many generalities and assumptions, but that the correlationss are high. In that paragraph, you make many statements that leave me somewhat aghast, because they show, according to your vision, what the more affluent communities can afford, the freedoms they can purchase, the depth and breadth of education that the children in these schools can get...while children in other schools are left behind.
Granted, under your plan, eventually these non-affluent, non-"80%ers" would be made whole because the higher-ups would see the error of their ways...But meanwhile...

It's a good idea, but your explanation of what affluence can buy makes me shudder, for the district is 40% FRL.

seattle citizen said...

Furthermore (yes, I go on and on!)

What if a school showed WASL success, 80% success, just because they taught exclusively to the test?

Are those students ready for other things?

Bruce Taylor said...

I like the way you're thinking, Charlie.

But if all elementary school principals signed a letter supporting EDM adoption, and if all secondary principals support adoption of the Discovering series, and if the principal of Roosevelt High School barely consulted his math department regarding the current materials adoption, should we expect principals to be more responsive to their communities than to the central administration?

From the district's perspective, part of the appeal of universal materials adoption (and EDM in particular?) is that a student can move from one school to another and (theoretically, ha ha) not miss a beat in math.

All of the teachers in a building need to be on the same page re the conversion to Singapore, otherwise we'd be back to the pre-EDM anarchy, where every teacher was kind of doing his or her own thing. (At least that's how it seemed to work in our building.)

So: How to get the teachers on board? Do they hate EDM as much as we do? Are there substantial training costs?

anonymous said...

I just looked at the 4th grade math WASL scores for all of the traditional schools in the NE cluster.

Of the 6 schools, 5 had a decrease in WASL scores.

John Rogers, down 13 points
Bryant, down 9 points
Wedgewood, down 5 points
View Ridge, down 3 points
Sacajewea, down 2 points
Laurelhurst, up 1 point

All of these schools had high math WASL pass rates before EDM.

All of these schools were forced to transition to EDM with pacing guides.

All but one of the schools had drops in their WASL pass rate.

These successful schools should have been allowed to continue using the math materials that worked for them.

anonymous said...

Sorry, I should have said I was looking at the drop in WASL rates from 2007 to 2008.

Megan Mc said...

Does anyone know if the tutoring provided by Title 1 is a support for EDM (meaning they use EDM materials and procedures) or if it is an intervention using a standard algorithms approach?

If it is the later, then couldn't schools with low pass rates use that as an excuse to discontinue using EDM?

anonymous said...

Title I tutoring has to meet state standards, EALR's and Grade Level Expectations. They do not have to use EDM. They can use any materials that they like as long as they follow the standards.

seattle citizen said...

adhoc, that's a good point about the delines in WASL scores since EDM, but to me it points to something I've noticed every time I go to the WASL scores on school websites: Inconsistency. Scores rise, fall, flatline...sometimes HUGE jumps or drops.
How can these school scores be used to assess the school if there are such huge, apparently inexplicable rises and falls in scores each year.

Megan Mc said...

If PTA's at successful schools were to try it, I would suggest they collect data about how much time and money they are spending on math instruction outside of school.

Why would the district let schools with high pass rates opt out of using EDM since they need those schools to prove that it is an affective program? They can hold those programs up as proof of success while ignoring that affluent or educated parents are supplementing their child's math skills at home either on their own or through private tutoring.

I would rather see two separate math tracts available and place students based on learning style and preference - one EDM and one traditional.

ParentofThree said...

This idea is so wrong on so many levels.

First, who are the "successful" schools with high test scores? Second, who are the schools with strong parent communities to lobby for a different math? Third, who are the schools who have lot's of PTA funding to purchase math materials?

The solution is to provide all schools with a proven K-12 math cirriculum, not just those who "test" out of the sub-par math materials.

OR maybe, the solution is to allow poor performing schools to select their own math materials and require the district to pay for them.

anonymous said...

I'd never thought about that Megan...two math tracks, one EDM and the other traditional. That is interesting.

Are their any parent advocates of EDM? If so they have not been very vocal? Would their be enough pro parents to choose and fill the reform track?

Charlie Mas said...

I acknowledge that the path I proposed creates a schism. It could lead to one set of schools with high scores, high family involvement, high expectations and the ability to raise funds for textbooks teaching traditional math and another set of schools with lower test scores, lower family involvement, lower expectations, and less ability to raise funds using EDM.

I'm not happy about that either. At the end of this path, however, the District will switch back to real math for all students. From my perspective, this is the fastest and highest probability path to that end. And let me be very clear - the goal is to get effective math instruction to all students.

I only mention the WASL because that is the measure that the District is using. I make no claim for its significance beyond that.

As for the elementary principals being responsive to their communities or being reform math true believers or being tools of the central administration, I reckon that you all know your principals better than I do. You would be able to judge better than I if your principal could be convinced to make the change.

The District is always claiming that the alignment of the curriculum does not demand that every teacher be on the same page or that they even all adopt the same pedagogy. They cannot go back on those statements. Moreover, the freedoms available under the Performance Measurement system are meaningless if they do not extend to this. The District would have to acknowledge that sort of talk was lies as well.

Again, I offer it as one possible path. Take it or don't take it.

anonymous said...

SPS mom, I think Charlie's idea was that "successful" schools would use traditional math. In a few years with new staff and a new board, and SPS's lack of institutional memory, the district would see that the "successful" schools use traditional math and attribute their success to that. It might pave the way to traditional math for all.

SC, the WASL is all we have right now. It's the only data that we can use to compare a schools academic performance year to year. I think we all agree that it is imperfect. We see Randy Dorn working hard to do away with it and replace it with a more relevant, meaningful test. But for now, until change comes, the WASL really is all we have.

seattle citizen said...

adhoc, just because it's the only assessment used by the district doesn't make it right.

Students with more affluent parents, with more enrichment, with more literate families and communities...these students will generally do better on ANY test, because they are being partly educated outside of school.

So more generally educated students would be freed to have more autonomy, while the children of poor, less-educated, less literate parents would be left to languish with worse materials?

How fair is that?

Granted, the plan is that the district would see the error of its ways, and change the curricula to use the better stuff used by the wealthier schools, but would this happen? Alternative schools have routinely shown all sorts of great methodologies to be good: are these then taken up by districts?

Best practice isn't always adopted (obviously); it's often a matter of politics, economics, excessive discussion by committees...in other words, bureaucracy. Why would this suddenly change, why would the district suddenly take notice of good things happening and change its ways?

If the WASL is used to allow autonomy, then we have the poor being doubly damned: they get crappy, WASL-oriented materials without breadth, and their wealthier classmates in other schools get a pass, get to do better things.


Megan Mc said...

Creating two tracks would give the district concrete data that they could use to evaluate and compare the two pedagogues. If schools aren't filling their EDM tracks then the district would have to take notice of that. Having two programs side by side at the same school would also give important summative data. Does one program meet the state standards better than the other. Should EDM be assessed using a different measure if it isn't aligned with the state's standards?

As for advocates of the program, I think there are students who like it and are able to make the abstract connections necessary to apply it to standardized assessments. Those students enjoy the opportunity for creativity inherent in the program. Kids who are global thinkers who like breaking concepts in to component steps are drawn to it. These kids don't need or want a lot of direction.

The flip side is that the program is a horrible match for kids who need to learn sequentially with concrete models to follow and lots of fluency practice. These kids do better with a part to whole approach where the steps build up to the concepts. These kids need a lot of direction.

As a kid, I would have loved EDM. My kids, however, are baffled by it and despise it and are falling behind in Math.

I don't blame the teacher, as most of the other kids in the class are keeping up pretty good and she is able to articulate why my girls are struggling. The problem is a disconnection between the learning needs of my kids and the instruction inherent in the program. EDM would not have been her curricular choice (if she had one). Maybe there are so few kids who would benefit from EDM that it should be dropped. I can only speak for my family.

I plan on homeschooling them this summer to catch them up on the 2nd grade math skills they are lacking and will also cover the 3rd grade math skills they are not likely to learn next year with EDM (no matter how great their teacher is).

seattle citizen said...

What IS success?

If we want to allow schools that are teaching the basics successfully to have more autonomy, how can we measure success? The WASL seems disfunctional, and its replacement might not be much better.

What did schools do in the past? When I was in school, we didn't have a WASL or anything like it. As I recall, it was up to the parents/guardians to monitor the schools themselves: No one was actively assessing schools' performance, except based on apparent success such as college placement.

Granted, I attended a very well-off district: its parents/guardians were all over it. Active, aware...And, famously, "ninety percent of the students went on to college."

So what's different now? Why are we using standardized state-wide (or national, if you see WASL as NCLB tool) tests to assess schools? Did schools, generally, start to "fail"? Did we become more aware of some bad apples?

"Accountability" in education seemed to arise in the late 1980s.

Response to "accountability" seems to have been these tests. But what are the tests doing? Assessing what? And what have we lost with their use?

Schools used to be all over the place: certain standard curriculum was expected (see the ubiquitous "1890 Kansas Eight-Grade exam"), and granted this was kind of limited and, frankly, often imperialistic and racist, but after that, what was taught? Schools in different states, different towns, had different classrooms and was anyone complaining?

I guess I'm sad because it's become a standardized machine, where you have feds and state telling us what's successful, what's necessary. We've lost the individuality, the flexibility, the JOY of individualized classrooms engaged in all sorts of different activities.

So: If we want to decide what's successful, what do we want to BE successful (what benchmarks) and how might we measure it?

dan dempsey said...

Given the flow of money in the Ponzie Scheme known as NSF Reform Math
http://mathunderground.blogspot.com/2009/04/is-this-ponzie-scheme.html Charlie is correct do not expect to change any thinking DownTown.

An opportunity for a choice would be wonderful. Why schools in socio-economicly less advantaged neighborhoods should be deprived of that chance for choice escapes me. (Is anyone suggesting that this stuff is working anywhere?)

In addition to the lower Math WASL scores for the 5 of 6 Northend schools mentioned, it must be remembered that instructional time for math increased to 75 minutes per day ... and through "EDM fidelity of implementation" the scores still went down.

Does the school board wish to sanction this disaster with the adoption of a continuation of the failure through the use of "Discovering"?

Just like the data predicted EDM - Connected Math combo failed in Denver ... and it is failing in Seattle.
Next step is "Discovering" failed in San Diego ... do we really need to find out if it will fail in Seattle?

ParentofThree said...

Ok, so what if your child was not in a "successful" school for those couple of years?

And really think about it. The "successful" schools are aleady opting out. Adhoc mentioned that Eckstein, "cut a deal with the district with Writers Workshop." RHS uses tried and true math books. A math teacher at WMS doesn't use district mandated math books. Schools running private math classes.

And yet, after these schools have found a way around district mandated cirriculum, with the districts unofficial blessing, they are about to adopt another series of reform math books for our highschools. No talk of duel math tracks, just more of the same sub-par math that does not prepare any of our students for college level math.

And guess what, those same schools will still find away around mandated cirriculum and those other schools....I think they call it the acheivement gap and it will just continue to widen.

dan dempsey said...

Seattle Citizen described anarchy:

All of the teachers in a building need to be on the same page re the conversion to Singapore, otherwise we'd be back to the pre-EDM anarchy, where every teacher was kind of doing his or her own thing. (At least that's how it seemed to work in our building.)Now consider that EDM with a large increase in instructional time and professional development did worse than anarchy.

Everyone is held accountable ... not really ... especially the Central Administration decision makers.

Consider that more of this uniformity is on deck for SPS everything. This demonstrates that each person is an individual and the SPS fails to deal with that. SPS admin chooses to adhere to a failing philosophical bent ... hey when is the next philosophical bent scheduled to run through our mindless school systems ... I can hardly wait for it can not be worse than this one.

reader said...

Actually, the proposal (which would never work) doesn't make sense. If a school using EDM gets 80% success rate.... then what's the argument to change the curriculum? "We're doing great with EDM, so let's change everything." ??? If I were a district official, I'd toss that request right in the garbage. (which is what they are going to do anyway). Schools which have ARE using something else (like Saxon at NB), AND are making 80% or better pass rate (which really isn't all so wonderful for its demographic) has a tiny footing.

Adhoc's information, schools have dropping test scores after EDM adoption is a lot more compelling. However, a drop of 1 - 5, percentages really isn't significant either. That's probably represents 1 or 2 kids. Even 9, isn't too many. So that leaves 1 school with a clear case. Is there nothing else that can account for the 1 significant piece of data? But, I'm sure the school (and/or district) would argue that any change in text, will results in a few years of WASL flux as teachers learn how to teach the curriculum. If I were the district, I would require a few years of a demonstrated success pattern (one way or the other) to permit a change. At that point, the district should then require a change.

I'm also 100% behind SC. WASL is very limited measure. Schools should be free to use others to demonstrate their success pattern.

seattle citizen said...

I think I get your point about anarchy, Dan. In some areas, a certain commonality is called for. What I was trying to describe was a system where the accountability piece is standardized, and thereby forces everyteacher, every school, every district, every state to be in lockstep (and mainly around Reading, Writing and Math) when in the past, in places such as the school I went to, there was no lockstep (tho' there were tests: if you wanted to go to college, you took a standardized test for that track.)

Schools did not spend their time concerning themselves with accountability to the state of the feds. They had to be accountable to parents/guardians, the board...and to whoever hired/accepted a person after they graduated.

Maybe that's the key: The accountability is found in what happens to a student when they're past school. Some colleges have tried this sort of tracking, but it
s hard: ex-students that report back are, well, the sort of ex-student who reports back. Statistically, it's hard to measure if you're getting a good cross-section: likely, you're getting ex-students doing well, and not those who have faded.

So if that sort of post-school, real-world accountability doesn't work, what might we use in its place?

I've been a proponent of portfolios for students, a wide range of materials that, when assessed, can give a deeper picture of various aspects of the student. Same with educators: a "survey team" of professionals, neutral, evaluate educators on a wide range of performance metrics, accounting for a variety of variables.

But assessing a student on one test? On reading, writing and math alone?


anonymous said...

"adhoc, just because it's the only assessment used by the district doesn't make it right."

Didn't say it was right. Said it was all we have.

anonymous said...

"So what's different now? Why are we using standardized state-wide (or national, if you see WASL as NCLB tool) tests to assess schools?"

Standardized tests are nothing new. I vividly remember taking them when I was in school and I'm 45 years old. We have been assessing schools for a long long time, and I think we need to continue. Not all schools have parents "that are all over it", especially lower income schools. Standardized tests are one way that those schools can be held accountable and monitored.

rugles said...

Why not use traditional math as a draw for undersubscribed schools, like a Madrona or Rainier Beach?

Parents who care a lot about math might then decided to send their kids there.

The wait lists at oversubscribed EDM schools might get smaller as parents who care about math whose kids might have gotten in send their kids to madrona or go private.

anonymous said...

Rugles that's a great idea! If the district did that and could study the outcomes for the schools using EDM VS schools using a traditional curriculum they would have some concrete meaningful data.

I saw a lot of enthusiasm when families thought the new Jane Addams, as part of their math and science focus, might use traditional math. Families from all over the cluster were interested. Unfortunately, when they announced at their open house that they would be using EDM with an extra 15 minutes per day for computational practice, that enthusiasm disappeared.

dan dempsey said...

Seattle Citizen,

Wierder yet .. is the idea that presenting the same thing at the same time to all students of the same age has value. The differentiated instruction idea has little value the way that the SPS practices it. For mathematics there are certain pre-requisite skills necessary to understand what is happening. Successful nations have lots of interventions to help students attain those skills so that differentiated instruction works.

All this State run NCLB inspired current WASLing has done is to pour the effort into attempting to get 100% of the population over a very low bar. In the process we have minimized the arts and created more WASL aimed class sections while reducing electives. If I was a kid today amid this nonsense, I'd definitely be in the market for anti-depressants. IMHO .. The WASL can be viewed as an anti-depressant stimulus package.

Until NCLB and the state gets off this High School Grad = College Ready (for everyone) more nonsense will occur.

I am all for the state having high well-defined measurable grade level standards and reporting the results and having the schools focus on these. I am not for punishing schools when those standards are not met. To do so creates an enviroment for cheating and other chicanery.

I got out of 8th grade in 1960 in an area with lots of Ft. Lewis and McChord in and out students. I do not ever remember a kid saying I can not do this math because I only know the math from Texas, or Guam, or Alabama, or Kansas. I am not saying that math was great then ... but grade level expectations were fairly uniform at least for military brats etc.

In Math, what the SPS needs is to clearly define what students should learn and then have the teachers bring the students to an understanding of that material.
That has been well articulated by Harium. The Central Admin just will not do it. State Math standards or not ... we get the EDM pacing plan.

hschinske said...

"Actually, the proposal (which would never work) doesn't make sense. If a school using EDM gets 80% success rate.... then what's the argument to change the curriculum? "We're doing great with EDM, so let's change everything." ???"

But it *wouldn't* be changing everything. Many schools with such success rates *are* unofficially using different textbooks and methods. This would make their efforts public and accountable, rather than being a matter of "Psst, did you know they use Saxon math/Unified Math/enrichment/cross-grade math groupings/after-school algebra at Such-and-such School?"

Helen Schinske

reader said...

Many schools are using other methods? I don't really think so. At least none in my neighborhood are using anything but EDM. And if they are using them "under the covers", I still don't see that as any motivator for the powers that be.

ParentofThree said...

Mostly middle and high schools using different materials - and since highschools don't have an official cirriculum they aren't really skirting the "mandated" thing. But middle schools are!

At the elementary level if you are lucky you will get a teacher who pulls back on the EDM and does more skill building. We had that experience last year, this year our teacher is following the bouncing ball. Except for one topic where the EDM did such a horrible job of teaching a concept the teacher was forced to teach "off the books."

anonymous said...

"However, a drop of 1 - 5, percentages really isn't significant either. That's probably represents 1 or 2 kids. Even 9, isn't too many."

I get what you are saying, Reader, but I was looking for a trend. That's why I didn't look at only one school, or one class. I looked at all schools, all 4th grade classes in the entire NE cluster.

The trend is that WASL scores decreased significantly, when you look at all of the schools.

Also, when you consider that Bryant has 550 students, a 9% decrease in math WASL pass rates is fairly significant.

I wonder what math WASL pass rates look like in the rest of the clusters? Anyone else want to do some research? Maybe look at schools in your families cluster and post results here. I found my info on the district website, under each schools annual report. I'm particularly interested in some of the lower income schools. What have their math WASL scores done between 2007 to 2008?

anonymous said...

Sorry, I meant math WASL scores, not "math WASL pass rates"

Charlie Mas said...

It was suggested that schools that are getting good results would be reluctant to switch away from EDM.

I think that those are the schools where the interest in real math would be the highest.

Weren't the families in the Northeast cluster, where the schools are doing well on the WASL more interested in Jane Addams when it was possible that it would offer Singapore math instead of EDM?

We can debate these conjectures from now until we are old and gray without reaching any resolution, but the best determinant would be to try it. It wouldn't take much.

All that would have to happen would be for someone to propose, probably at a PTA meeting, that they assess the community support for the school switching math texts from EDM to, say, Singapore or Saxon. That's how it starts.

That assessment could take the form of a petition to the Building Leadership Team. If there isn't much support then few people will sign the petition and the whole matter ends there.

If there is support, then other facets need to be considered.

The cost of the switch, in materials and professional development would have to be considered and the PTA would have to determine whether or not they would underwrite some portion of those costs. The Building Leadership Team would undoubtedly have to consider the matter, the pros and cons, the ins and outs, and the what-have-yous.

If the school is doing well, then they should not have any trouble garnering the freedom from the District under the Performance Management system, just as North Beach has done. If the District refuses, then that will just reveal Performance Management to be more lies and hype. That wouldn't be anything new, but it would be disappointing.

At that stage the community might have to go to the Board to seek accountability, but that's a long way down the road. Right now, someone has to take the first step and raise the question at a PTA meeting or draft and circulate a petition on their own.

reader said...

Adhoc, 550 students at Bryant doesn't mean 550 are taking 1 math WASL. Was it a 9 point drop in fouth grade? Let's consider 4th grade, since that is the NCLB determining grade.

4th grade WASL drops in 2008, for all of Seattle, was 6 points.

For Bryant. 4th grade:
2007 - 9 failed
2008 - 17 failed, difference 8

Significant? I don't know, I think they would want more years of data.

reader said...

OK. Here's data for QA/Mag since it is a small cluster.

4th Grade WASL math pass rates.
Hay. +13% improvement at 93%
Coe. -16% improvement at 66%
Lawton. -20% improvement at 72%
Blaine. +8% improvement at 80%

So, 2 up, 2 down. The downs look worse, but they were all pretty high to begin with. No where to go but down.

No Charlie, it was not "suggested that schools might be reluctant to switch texts". This choice wasn't made by schools or parents. I'm saying the district would be reluctant to grant an EDM reprieve if it had even the tiniest shred of data suggesting it successful. A school, say Hay above, could never get an EDM waiver because the district would see it as proof of concept. Plus, it wouldn't want successful schools moving away in mass from their decision.

dan dempsey said...

Spring 2010 you will see a different WASL for grades 3 to 8. Those results will be interesting to look at.

h2o girl said...

Just for comparison's sake, I looked up the NW cluster's 4th grade Math WASL pass rates for 2007 & 2008. (Jeez, there are a lot of elementaries over here!) All except one had fairly significant drops. Even North Beach. I was a bit shocked.

Adams: -17 points at 48%
BF Day: -14 points at 47%
Green Lake: +16 points at 71%
Loyal Heights: -14 points at 75%
John Stanford: -16 points at 64%
North Beach: -19 points at 71%
Salmon Bay: -13 points at 76%
West Woodland: -4 points at 86%
Whittier: -10 points at 76%

However, I went back to Whittier, West Woodland, Salmon Bay & North Beach and looked at their fifth grade math pass rates, and all of those went up from '07 to '08, so I think this comparison is somewhat inconclusive.

anonymous said...

Reader said "For Bryant. 4th grade:
2007 - 9 failed
2008 - 17 failed, difference 8"

8 may not appear to be a large number, but lets remember that 8 is 47% of 17.

47% more Bryant 4th graders failed the math WASL this year than last year.

That is significant to me.

Maureen said...

I am not a fan of EDM, but it is probably true that it's really not fair to judge it based on the transition year--it takes a while for a teacher to get really fluent with a new text and to figure out how to supplement etc. Note that Greenlake had quite a large increase (as per h2o's post). I'm pretty sure they piloted EDM before the other schools--if so, their teachers have had more time to adjust (of course their scores probably dropped during their transition year, so the +16 points might have just brought them back up to the score from 2 years ago).

reader said...

Wow. Looks like North Beach needs to be moving over to EDM. Looks very unstellar at 71%... especially given the demographic it serves, which is typically capable of much better than that. If I were the district, I'd be removing their autonomy for lack of performance. Doesn't seemed they've earned anything. Definitely not a convincing vote for Saxon... if that's what they're using. Additionally it seems to be following the trends of all the other schools... if a trend is what we're actually seeing. Which brings us full circle to the question of causation.

reader said...

Rugles says "Why not use traditional math as a draw for undersubscribed schools, like a Madrona or Rainier Beach?

Why not use traditional math as a draw for undersubscribed schools, like a Madrona or Rainier Beach?"
Do you really think that hanging a sign out in front, that says, "New and Improved with Singapore Math!"... would attract anybody? I can't imagine that. Recess cancelled, rapes in the bathrooms.... and somehow Singapore Math (or relative) is going to change the parental choice patterns? No way. The most popular schools, are not popular because of text books.

Charlie Mas said...

reader writes:
"No Charlie, it was not "suggested that schools might be reluctant to switch texts". This choice wasn't made by schools or parents."

No, it wasn't. But under the Performance Management system, schools with good results would earn autonomy, so they could make that choice.

"I'm saying the district would be reluctant to grant an EDM reprieve if it had even the tiniest shred of data suggesting it successful. A school, say Hay above, could never get an EDM waiver because the district would see it as proof of concept. Plus, it wouldn't want successful schools moving away in mass from their decision."

I understand those political considerations, but it would not matter what the District wanted. If the school earns autonomy, then the determinant is what the school wants to do - not the District. Also, let's not forget that the Board made a dual adoption - EDM and Singapore. So the Singapore materials were part of the 2006 adoption.

More than anything else, however, let's not admit defeat before we've even tried.

anonymous said...

4th grade math WASL rates dropped 6 percentage points for the entire Seattle School District in 2008. There was a 9% increase in 4th grade math WASL fail rates from 2007 to 2008. in 2008, 132 more kids failed the math WASL than in 2007.

I asked earlier in this thread if anybody knew if the decline in 4th grade math WASL scores affected certain groups more than others? I wanted to know if EDM works well for some kids. I found my answer in this district PDF


It appears that all groups had a decline in 4th grade math WASL scores between 2007 and 2008.

seattle citizen said...

Charlie and Reader,
I think you're both right: Reader suggests the politics might keep the District from allowing the autonomy; Charlie suggests that the District has already allowed for it by stating it would allow autonomy where success merits it.

Both perspectives are correct, and point to active work to make the whole process, of autonomy and other, well, policies, more transparent and more effectual. For instance, policy could be adopted and codified around this; a simple document that states when and how a school can go its own way. Additionally, schools (and parents/guardians) can follow these policies, explictly and in writing, to demonstrate adherance to policy and to intent.

I'm suggesting that it might behoove both "sides" to stick to policy: district makes it and follows it; schools and others contribute to making it, follow it, and document. This might alleviate some of the political remaifications (where something is only in force, is only "policy," if it benefits either party at the moment.

The idea (earned autonomy, which has also come up in discussions about alternative school assessments) has merit, but only if the broader range of policy and procedure is strengthened. Otherwise, politics will allow either side to follow policy as it is convenient to them.

WV has a hetbed, so one guesses its not glbt!

dan dempsey said...

From the Mathematical Association of America....
something to thing about
http://faculty.salisbury.edu/~despickler/mddcvamaa/HS_students.html in regard to the high school math adoption.

rugles said...


Would it attract anybody?


Would it attract manybodies?


Would it benefit those already there anyway?


Any other questions?

Jennifer said...

anytime a district changes curriclum a three - four year drop in scores is expected.

While EDM is not my most favorite curriculum i'm even less supportive of Singapore being the required text. If teachers are using the math standards to guide thier teaching and the kids are in the end being assessed on the same standards the curriclum used matters less then the solidness of the standards.

Charlie Mas said...

Let's keep the nomenclature straight.

Curriculum is the body of knowledge and skills that is taught and that students are expected to learn. Here in Seattle it is essentially the state standards and performance expectations.

Textbooks are the materials used in support of the curriculum. They are not the curriculum. They should work in service to it, not dictate it.

Pedagogy is the teaching style and techniques.

The math curriculum is the same regardless of the materials or the pedagogy. It doesn't matter if the teacher is using investigations or direct instruction, it doesn't matter if the books are EDM or Singapore, the body of knowledge and skills they are supposed to develop in the students is the same. There was no change in the curriculum from 2007 to 2008 - the state standards and performance expectations were the same in both years.

I know that the District often confuses these in their communications, but we should hold ourselves to a higher standard and endeavor to keep them straight and use them correctly.

hschinske said...

I don't get why there would inevitably be a three- or four-year slump after adopting a new math text. Half to all the kids would be *gone* from the school by the time you got through that cycle. How is this supposed to work? Surely the teachers don't take as long as that to get up to speed with a new tool?

Helen Schinske

dan dempsey said...

Charlie makes clear the distinction between Curricula and instructional materials. Nicely done.

If the SPS math Curriculum were the WA State math standards, I would be much happier. The standards changed for the 2008-2009 school year. The SPS did not change a thing k-5 in response to this supposed change in curriculum. The rationale being that the math WASL will not change until Spring 2010 for grades 3 through 8.

Any doubt as to whether the standards are the curriculum? SPS follows the EDM pacing plan not the math standards. Maybe next year when the Math WASL changes the SPS will teach the standard algorithms for long division and for multiplication ... but it is not happening now.

The SPS clearly needs a math plan to somewhere.

http://mathunderground.blogspot.com/2009/04/dear-seattle-school-directors-4-17-2009.html Dan

ds said...

I have posted the following on Director M-M's blog, but I think the information is relevant here, too:

I asked Director Debell about what would happen if the board rejected Discovering. He indicated that Dr. G-J has some latitude and could ask the existing committee to submit a 2nd recommendation (particularly in light of the State Board "mathematically unsound" report), but "that is the Superintendent's prerogative." In other words, not only do our letters need to go to the board, but also to Dr. G-J.

He also indicated that "funding for HS Math adoption has rolled over and will continue to roll over as restricted reserves until it is spent on math adoption."

If the board rejects Discovering, this does not necessarily mean one more year without math texts, and it does not mean that the money goes away!

dan dempsey said...

ds thanks for releasing the hostages... us.

The principle reason for adopting "Discovering" was we need books NOW.

Thanks for eliminating the only reason for the adoption of "Discovering"

The need to adopt defective "unsound stuff" immediately is now gone. Thanks.

dan dempsey said...

Dear Abby G.,
You said:
"While EDM is not my most favorite curriculum I'm even less supportive of Singapore being the required text.I am interested as to what contact you've have had with Singapore Math instructional materials. Please explain why you are less supportive of Singapore Math than EDM.



anonymous said...

Dan, don't be so defensive when someone does not favor Singapore or Saxon. Everyone has different opinions, and I for one want to hear them all.

I don't like EDM myself, and I would like a return to traditional math. But some people do reform math, they value an inquiry approach to learning, and that is OK. I was just talking to a friend the other day, who had such a bad experience with traditional math when she was a kid, that she wants anything other than traditional math for her kid. Please try to be understanding and supportive of other people's opinions. We listen to yours over and over and over again, so give other people a chance too. They are not launching a personal attack on you, they are simply sharing what works for them.

dan dempsey said...

Adhoc said:
Please try to be understanding and supportive of other people's opinions. I am trying to gain a better understanding of other people's opinions and on what they base those opinions. To be supportive of someone's opinions it helps to understand on what they base their opinions.

That it why I asked:
I am interested as to what contact you've have had with Singapore Math instructional materials. Please explain why you are less supportive of Singapore Math than EDM.Sorry if that appears to be an attack on someone's opinions, it was a quest for understanding and nothing more.

Dorothy Neville said...

Adhoc, Dan can be defensive and offputting, but I don't think he was here. He just asked for data. I am dubious myself of Singapore, I think people think it will be a miracle cure, but it's not.

I can sympathize with your friend who found math awful when she was a child, but do have to ask, in what grade is her child now and how much exposure to math education, traditional of reformed has her child experienced?

I get the desire for something better than what some of us experienced, I get the desire to couple conceptual understanding with the drill. I just do not see the current materials and pedagogy of reform math as working for either the conceptual understanding or the fluency of computation.

I taught HS near Chicago in the mid '80s. At several regional math teacher conferences, we heard the PI of the Chicago Math Project speak. It was wonderful. The goals, the ideas, all sounded great. But somehow, Frankenstein gave birth to a monster. What happened? I do not know.

--- Oh, and your earlier question about math tutors. I think there are a number of options that won't break the bank. Several people I know really like Aleks.com, but I haven't spent enough time there to know more. I also just found out that 826 (in Phinney Ridge) has math tutoring for free. I had thought it was just humanities/writing.

anonymous said...

Thanks for the tutoring options Dorothy, I'll check them out!

My friend who does not want traditional math for her child has a 4th grader in Spectrum. She hated math as a kid. She says she always wanted to know "why" something worked, or "why" it had to be done this way, or "why" it was necessary, and felt that traditional math didn't go deep enough for her. Though she "learned" math, she never felt satisfied. She was more of an inquirer.

I, on the other hand just wanted the formula. I didn't really care "why" something worked, I just wanted to know "how" to make it work, figure it out, and move on. I'm a cut and dry, give me the formula, get the job done kind of person. Traditional math worked great for me.

I'm on your side, and I'm on Dan's side. I want traditional math for my children. But I don't want to discount other peoples opinions. Sometimes people, especially people who do not have a math background, don't have data or proof to back up their experiences or opinions, but they do know it didn't work for them, or it doesn't work for their child. i want them to feel that they can post here to.

Dorothy Neville said...

I don't think either Dan or I really want "traditional" math, just sound math that aligns conceptual understanding with computational fluency.

Connected Math actually has some great activities and some great leading questions to help explore the Why. However, it stops short in very frustrating ways and in more than one instance is painfully unsound. What ends up happening is completely scattershot learning and a good deal of wasted time and erroneous conclusions. No wonder that when Mr Ellis said there was one topic he explicitly taught, it was because he "didn't leave that to chance."

"My friend who does not want traditional math for her child has a 4th grader in Spectrum. She hated math as a kid. She says she always wanted to know "why" something worked, or "why" it had to be done this way, or "why" it was necessary, and felt that traditional math didn't go deep enough for her. Though she "learned" math, she never felt satisfied. She was more of an inquirer."

I totally can see this and sympathize. My suspicion though is that her frustration had nothing to do with the curriculum and everything to do with the fact her teachers didn't know the Why. "Reform" math is supposed to get around the fact that elementary school teachers don't really understand the Why themselves and therefore give the scripted step-by-step inquiry lessons. Thus the big push for fidelity of instruction.

Is her son getting the answers to those Why questions? I would posit that has more to do with the quality of the teacher than the quality of the materials.

When I taught HS (mostly geometry and algebra 2) I had never set foot in an education classroom, but did have a BS in math and four years of grad school math. I took those Why questions seriously and sometimes had to wrack my brain in order to give a reply that would make sense, be mathematically correct AND answer the question. When students derived their own formulas or conjectures, I sometimes had to work very hard figure out if their method was sound and if not, how to provide a useful argument to them as to why.

I know from tutoring that there are math teachers who do not do that. Do anything but use the exact algorithm the teacher taught --- it's wrong. No credit, no learning.

Dorothy Neville said...

Another reason why it's the teacher and not the materials: kids rarely ask the Why question you are prepared for at the time you are prepared for it. The fully programmed fidelity of implementation driven curriculum of inquiry based math claims that it can get kids to understand the Why, even if the teacher is not an expert. Well, that may happen in small doses at intervals. The rest of the time, the kids are making connections, asking questions, demanding the Why off the script. If the teacher is not very comfortable with knowing the why and how to explain it in at least two ways, then it ain't gonna happen.

How many of us thought we were prepared for to answer the birds and bees question, but then the actual question turned out to be something else entirely, throwing off our entire planed response? :)

dan dempsey said...

Dorothy makes excellent points about better teachers being needed to answer those why questions. Unfortunately it hardly looks like that is the direction for the teaching profession.

I have used a lot of "Reform Math" materials. I find many of these excellent as supplements. I particularly like "Algebra through Visual patterns". These materials do not make an adequate base of instructional materials for skill development and complete sound student understanding ... they are supplemental.

I am an advocate for defined grade level expectations and having teachers bring students to those skill and understanding levels as best they can.

TERC, EDM, and CMP2 are inadequate. CMP2 is nice for supplementing but I would choose visual mathematics or Math in the Mind's eye.

This nation needs internationally competitive math programs. The SPS is currently miles away from this.

dan dempsey said...

The question needs to be where is OSPI the agency that created the math mess? Dr Bergeson's 12 years of reform math pushing may be over but all of her staff is still working in Olympia.

The fact that OSPI math head Greta Bornemann made no statement confirming that the SBE's "Discovering Series" finding of "mathematically unsound" is correct. Seems like support for Ms. de la Fuente's misguided refrom math recommendation. The question now is where is Randy Dorn planning on heading WA math?