Director DeBell Speaks

This has been posted to YouTube. These are Director DeBell's thoughts on the possible high school math adoption and the Discovering Series.

My position is well known. I will post without comment.


wseadawg said…
I agree 100% with DeBell on this one. I am stricken, if not depressed, or outraged at the remaining lock-step/group think of other board members on the subject. Carr's "we must do something" comments appear rooted in political expediency versus reason, even though I think she means well. Have we learned nothing about "rushing" into large, multi-year commitments? Does the board know nothing of its own history? Sundquist's "consensus" comments may be great for politics, but this isn't a legislative compromise. What he calls consensus I call "defecting" and I'd like to know why? Could it be internal pressures, arm twisting or threatened job security that motivates these defections?
There's no turning back for another generation of SPS kids once the materials are adopted. Principle and reason must win out over making nice.

It's as though SPS is addicted to throwing hail-mary after hail-mary instead of 5 or 10 yards at a time.

Admittedly, I've spent only a few hours researching which math is best, but with all I've read, it seems Singapore is the clear, no "contest" winner.

My take on the "discovery" proposal, specifically in SPS's case, is that it makes people feel better as a middle-road, "Goldilocks" compromise, between new math and old math advocates, and I've heard nothing from its proponents to suggest otherwise.

I'm dying to hear "this material or curricula is really great" versus the "we think we can teach this better" luke-warm support thus far.
Now I'm hearing the "we have to do something, the books we are using are too old" argument. It is true but it doesn't make it right to make a bad choice that Michael winningly says will last for a long time after all this Board has stepped down.

But who is the best one to convince - Steve or Sherry?
dan dempsey said…
The board members will either:
1.) Follow the wishes of parents that would like example based instructional materials for their children, in the hopes their children will receive adequate k-12 math preparation to have a shot at collegiate math success and great careers.
Or 2.) Follow the wishes of a Central administration that will deny the children and their parents Example Based Instructional materials.Michael DeBell wants to change math direction with #1 and eloquently states his reasons.

Do Directors Sundquist and Carr really support #2? I just find this hard to believe.
dan dempsey said…
Try the first 15 minutes of the 10 AM hour on 5-04-09 of the Dave Ross show.

I chat with Dave on this podcast.
ds said…
Nice job with the interview, Dan. Has Dorn's press release come out? I don't see it on the OSPI website.
ParentofThree said…
The press release from Randy Dorn:

May 4, 2009

TO: School District Superintendents, School District Curriculum Directors, and other interested parties

FROM: Randy I. Dorn, State Superintendent of Public Instruction

RE: High School Mathematics Core/Comprehensive Instructional Materials final recommendations, pursuant to 2007 House Bill 1906

The purpose of this communication is to communicate the High School Mathematics Core/Comprehensive Instructional Materials final recommendations, pursuant to 2007 House Bill 1906. The state Legislature directed Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), in consultation with the State Board of Education (SBE), to recommend no more than three basic mathematics curricula at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

RCW 28A.305.215 (7)(b) proscribes the following process for the Superintendent to make his curricula recommendations: “Within two months after the presentation of the recommended curricula, the state board of education shall provide official comment and recommendations to the superintendent of public instruction regarding the recommended mathematics curricula. The superintendent of public instruction shall make any changes based on the comment and recommendations from the state board of education and adopt the recommended curricula.”

The recommendations serve as a guide to school districts in the state of Washington regarding which curricula are most aligned with the revised K-12 mathematics standards. Superintendent Dorn’s final high school recommendations are based on both the work of OSPI and the SBE as directed by statute. The final recommendation for high school is: Holt Mathematics. Please note that OSPI has recommended the math curricula as per the legislated requirement. It is not the role of OSPI to direct which curricula a school district may or should select. It is not a state requirement for any district to specifically use the recommended curricula.

It is the position of Superintendent Dorn that SBE and OSPI recognize that additional study and a review of the current recommendation may be appropriate in the next few years after curricula publishers have had sufficient time to make revisions to better align their products with Washington State’s mathematics standards.

On January 15, 2009, Superintendent Dorn made initial High School Core/Comprehensive Instructional Materials recommendations to the SBE. Those initial recommendations were Holt Mathematics, Discovering Mathematics and Core-Plus Mathematics.
The SBE was required to "provide review and formal comment on proposed recommendations" to OSPI regarding math curricula. SBE made their comments and recommendations to OSPI during their March 13, 2009 meeting. The board recommended additional work be done to reconcile differences in two different reviews conducted by OSPI and SBE. In light of unprecedented budget shortfall, funds for continuing this work are not currently available and no further study was possible.

As districts are making adoption decisions, excellent information is available from OSPI and SBE. OSPI’s High School Core/Comprehensive Instructional Materials review and report can be found at:
The final results of the SBE’s review of the mathematics instructional materials are posted on the SBE website:

It is important to note that successful mathematics programs may exist with virtually any of the reviewed curricula. While instructional materials matter, other factors contribute to the success of students in Washington State learning mathematics. Those factors include quality of instruction, parent involvement, available supports and myriad other aspects.

The results of the mathematics basic curriculum reviews is coupled with the results of our recently completed K-12 mathematics supplemental materials review, to build a system of support for districts using any mathematics curricula. This supplemental materials report can be found at: In addition, the OSPI is working closely with the regional Educational Service Districts to convene “like-user” groups for review of the various curricula in use across the state and to determine what supplemental materials are being used and/or need to be developed to ensure better alignment with our new math standards.

Regarding the revised K-12 mathematics standards, there are no immediate plans to revise these newly adopted standards. However, we will continue to monitor nationwide efforts to develop a consistent set of standards that would be commonly used across the country. School districts should move forward with strong implementation of the new mathematics standards.

Questions concerning this communication may be directed to the Teaching & Learning Mathematics Office at (360) 725-0437 or Greta Bornemann, Mathematics Director for Teaching & Learning, at The agency TTY number is (360) 664-3631.


Ken Kanikeberg Alan Burke, Ed.D.
Chief of Staff Deputy Superintendent

ParentofThree said…
From the High School Mathematics Curriculum Study, March 11, 2009

Do not recommend Discovering because it was found to be mathematically compromised within the scope of this project.

Link to study:
Charlie Mas said…
The two studies of high school math textbooks on the State Board of Education web site are not complimentary to the Discovering... series from Key Curriculum Press.

Here is the first.

Here is the second.
ParentofThree said…
Sadly, neither one looked at Prentice-Hall.

Anybody have a read on the vote count tomorrow?
Since I was out of town, I missed a lot of this. But I wrote to Steve and Sherry today and here is partially what I told each (I'm leaving out the background stuff):

What I thought I understood from people about your comments were that you feel that the Board needs to act as a governing, not managing, body and that as long as a due process was followed by staff that you felt you needed to vote yes. I understand this thought and yet it frustrates me.

I just happened to have a talk yesterday with Michael McGinn who is running for mayor against Greg Nichols. One of his planks is public education. I told him I felt that it is very hard for everyone involved in K-12 public education in Seattle because of the lack of clarity about what the School Board Directors can (or should) do. I feel like some people with good qualifications get elected because some voters perceive that they will be overseeing and not managing the Superintendent and her staff but I feel like some get voted in because voters think they WILL be challenging the Superintendent and the staff.

What has ended up happening here is it seems like some votes are about that while others are about the actual math itself. I ask you to please reconsider how you may vote. This is decision that, as Michael pointed out, will live with us probably for decades.

What has ended up happening here is it seems like some votes are about that while others are about the actual math itself. Your comments indicate that it is about the math and I think that's good.

However, you can probably guess that I'm not happy with the math choice. Nor is my husband who teaches computer science at UW and is an end user of the students of SPS. Nor is Cliff Mass, also a professor at UW who has been pretty vocal on this issue.

I ask you to please reconsider how you may vote. This is decision that, as Michael pointed out, will live with us probably for decades. It cannot easily be reversed unless it is a disaster. A quiet failure shouldn't really be something to live with anyway. I realize that we need new books but saying we have to hurry up and pick is not a good way to select something so huge to so many students.

A 4-3 vote outcome should give the entire Board pause. What does it say about the math adoption (not the Board) that the Board cannot agree on it? It would seem that this should be an easy vote, one that makes sense along the lines that you have originally put forth. But it doesn't to 3 of your colleagues and I suggest that having a 4-3 outcome is no vote of confidence for the math adoption.

I don't know how any of the people who lean towards "yes" are feeling. I don't know if they feel that changing their vote (and who knows? maybe a leaning "no" vote might change) would be seen as a sign of weakness. Or maybe if someone DOES change their vote, that person could say, "I listened to parents, teachers, etc." and found that I can't live with a 4-3 vote. It is not a vote of confidence in materials that will be used for years to come."

We can only wait. My guess is that Cheryl comes in and seals the deal.
Just to be clear (and I wasn't, my fault), the last two paragraphs were NOT in my e-mail to Sherry. Those two are my read on the situation.
dan dempsey said…
Here is my letter to Sherry on:
"Authentic Algebra" or
"Pretend Algebra" It contains:
What “Discovering Algebra” will do is cover for a Central Administration’s inadequate system of k-12 mathematics education for a little while longer.Does anyone actually think that students with little knowledge of fractions, decimals, and percents can be placed into a real first year algebra program and be successful? NMAP indicates not possible.
dan dempsey said…
Best outcome is DeBell, Martin-Morris, Bass and a few more.

Harium and Michael have carefully looked at the books and done the research. Mary Bass has seen it all in 8 years on the board. She knows there is not enough money in Seattle to save this with the interventions and modifications it would take to make this sorry plan fly.

Cheryl Chow made statements that are flat out wrong... This is also about what is happening to Calculus and Pre-Calculus students. Cheryl thinks they are doing great.

The district wants to push more kids into AP Calc. The AP test is scored from 1 to 5. There are no scores below 1 and yet we have had high schools averages below 2.

I have no idea what research basis the others are using.

The adoption committee was stacked.A "Yes" voter may just be a rubber stamper and that is enough justification for their vote, as they trust the District's hired professionals. It would be wonderful to have some sound reasons presented for each vote.
dan dempsey said…
Check out these two links to the Seattle Times on the Math Adoption:
another mom said…
"The district wants to push more kids into AP Calc. The AP test is scored from 1 to 5. There are no scores below 1 and yet we have had high schools averages below 2."

Dan, please cite where you found this information. Is it public? I have looked on the SPS website and was unable to locate it. I agree that the district is trying to increase the number of students taking AP Calc and the exam, but it would be useful to know which schools have no students getting above a '1' or '2' on the AP Calc. exam. Are these the same schools that have been using the discovery math? BTW,I am in agreement with you on discovery vs. example based math. Just as a point of reference, an AP exam grade of '3' is considered passing.

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