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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Seattle Times on the math textbook decision

The Seattle Times has two different pieces on the Seattle Public Schools high school math textbook decision today.

One is an Op-Ed by the Times encouraging the Board to defer the decision until they can reach more of a consensus.

The other is a discussion by Bruce Ramsey and Lynne Varner on Reform Math. They seem to be debating separate points in that she doesn't exactly support what he opposes and he doesn't exactly oppose what she supports.

18 comments:

anonymous said...

Interestingly there are 16 comments posted to the on line Seattle Times article, and the overwhelming majority of commenters do not want the district to adopt the Discovering Series.

Is anybody, besides Ms. Delafuentes and her team in favor of the adoption of The Discovering Series?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I am quite surprised by this editorial but good for the Times. I so appreciate their comments (these are my words) that the Board is not there to rubberstamp decisions. And, that the public input should be considered.

ParentofThree said...

Is anybody, besides Ms. Delafuentes and her team in favor of the adoption of The Discovering Series?


Yep, the principals.
It's called job security.

SP said...

The principals are told in many different ways that they are employees of the district and are there to support (and not question) district policy. Principals are not supposed to testify at school board meetings against district policy.

With the economy in the pits, principals are not going to risk their jobs. Who is going to rock the boat & speak out against the district's math proposal?

Please School Board Members, think of our students and their need for success and do not support this unsound math proposal by the district!

momster said...

if i were a principal i would be pretty offended by the foregoing - and what has been similarly said or insinuated in other posts - that they would compromise their integrity and their commitment to students on the basis of a possible (not probable, not certain) risk to their employment.

it's a pretty cynical and sad outlook - and if true, we have much bigger problems in sps than this math adoption.

i also object to the automatic characterization (by the times or anyone) of a yes vote as "a rubber stamp". that, too, is an insult to these board members, most of whom bring intelligence, experience, and a signicant understanding of the gravity of their responsibility to this decision and to all of the others being presented them in this term.

it almost seems that people resort to personal insult when they can't persuade - why is that and what good does anyone think it will do?

Charlie Mas said...

This Board has yet to reject even a single staff recommendation.

That doesn't make them a rubber stamp, but it doesn't make them any different from one.

Likewise, there are individual Board members who have yet to vote against even a single staff recommendation. Again, that's not incontrovertible proof that those individuals are rubber stamps, but it is a data point in the discussion.

If the recommendations from the staff are all so freakin' perfect, then why do we need the Board to review those decisions?

In the end, when a Board member says that the staff have been all over and through the data and the best practices and therefore the Board should not even review the staff's decisions before approving them, would it then be okay to call the Board member a rubber stamp? Director Chow has said as much - on at least two occassions - during Board meetings. She has chided her colleagues for "second-guessing" staff recommendations.

If voting any way other than "yes" constitutes "second guessing" then why have the Board vote at all?

ParentofThree said...

Momster, if there is a split among the math committee, and the teachers, one would expect to see some sort of split with the principals.

Yet everyone has been reported to be in support of Discovery Math and not one has spoken out in support. Doesn't that seem a bit odd to you?

momster said...

charlie - i see your point, but also think it's possible that the reason one might not disagree with a recommendation may also be because one had an opportunity to shape it before it came to the point of no return - thus avoiding elements which would be show-stoppers.

not likely with the math adoption, of course, because it's so subject to statutory process requirements - but board members have opportunities to give input and make their views known in a number of ways - committee meetings with staff present, one-on-one briefings from staff, and conversations with the superintendent, etc.

it's actually a waste of time and energy to let things get to the edge of the cliff - the opportunities to optimize the decision are so many fewer then.

i wasn't thinking of dir chow when i said what i said about what they bring to the process - i have no idea what makes her tick, and find that she lets her own ego and emotions run away with her at the expense of logical thought.

spsmom - i don't know enough about the members of the committee - have the teachers on it revealed that they disagreed with their principal and in what ways?

ParentofThree said...

In watching board testimony it seems like some teachers are for DM and some are against. That is where I have gotten this conclusion.

MathTeacher42 said...

'consensus' and seattle, and, math.

Before this math teacher thing started for me in 2003, I had worked for 25 years outside of K-12 and education. I've done ...

ahem ... community organizing at various grunt levels. even though I was 10 or 11, I remember "Four Way Street" as a new albumn in the house. Consensus in that era meant a bunch of people talking and talking and talking ... while just those grunt peee-on base people went food shopping, made dinner, did the dishes.

I watched 'consensus' in some Politically Correct liberal organizing stuff in Boston in the 80's -- it ALWAYS meant that those willing to outlast everyone who wanted to get somethign done, other than bloviate, would outlast everyone AND then declare 'consensus'.

I saw consensus in work at NSCC and UW in the mid 90's ... whoever was willing to waste more time than anyone else WON. I've seen the same thing in plenty of left politics here in Seattle.

Consensus is a crock. There is combination of variables which go into getting your own way, they are:

1. how many people actually agree with you?
2. how many people can you bamboozle or misquide?
3. how many machiavellian obstacles can you put in the way of opponents?
4. how many people can you barter votes with?
5. how many people can you actually persuade to change their minds?

WOW! "Consensus" is just a new name for good old politics, except, "consensus" has a warm and fuzzy and NOBLE aura, therefore, those call the b.s. on "consensus" aren't noble, warm or fuzzy!

This editorial is somewhat silly.

Let's make the RIGHT decision, and Director Debell has outlined 1 of the best cases, leveraging many of the best arguements against the Discovery of yet another Disaster.

I know committee members, and they did work hard. There were some decisions made which could be defined certain ways, depending on how things are defined!

I have NEVER seen a poll of math teachers. IF I'm in a minority of 15 out of 200, I'd gladly shut up - but, I do NOT know.

I don't think there was such a need for the committee to work that hard - Take the algebra 1 books of states doing well, label a bunch of straws with the books' names, draw straws, and call it a day.


R. Murphy

Anonymous said...

MathTeacher42 SHINES with one of the best quotes of the month:

"Consensus" is just a new name for good old politics, except, "consensus" has a warm and fuzzy and NOBLE aura...

Great examples, love it.

ds said...

As expected, Discovering passed 4 (Chow, Sundquist, Maier, Carr) to 3 (MM, DeBell, Bass). Very unfortunate. Cheers to the dissenters for standing up for what is right for our kids and their future.

I remember seeing a newsgroup post many years ago that indicated that families could homeschool kids for certain subjects in middle and high school. I am seriously considering doing this for math when my child begins middle school next year. Does anyone have more information about how one goes about arranging this with the school? Is there district policy on this, or is it school-by-school?

Melissa Westbrook said...

DS, it really depends on if you are home-schooling one course or many. Do NOT exit your school for one course; you may not get back in. I homeschooled my son for one course one year in middle school.

Check with the Home School resource department (your best bet) and your school (probably little resistence but also little help in navigating) and be very sure of what you need to do to get your grades accept into the district.

dan dempsey said...

With all of Steve Sundquist's talk of NMAP, he missed the huge point made by NMAP: That students need to be prepared for an Authentic Algebra course and have access to an authentic algebra course.

Then he voted for "Pretend Algebra",
in the most bizarre behavior of the night.

Good thing the explanations do not have to match up with the vote or Peter Maier would be in trouble also.Peter is very happy that no more integrated math with topics coming and going ... the Algebra book will be just algebra .... Peter must have been looking at some other algebra book than Discovering Algebra. As DA is filled with probability and Statistics .. histograms, box and whisker plots, how to use your graphing calculator etc. very light on Algebra.

Maureen said...

I received the below as part of an email from the APP listserve, I find it interesting that APP parents are being told that Discovering will be good for their kids:

....With respect to APP, the Advanced Learning/APP math consultant and former Washington Math Department Head and teacher, Dr. Fritzie Reisner, served on the District's adoption committee that selected the Discovery series. She believes it will be a good text for APP students, and she has already been working on adapting the curriculum for APP students.

According to Dr. Reisner, if the Board adopts the books the committee recommended, there will be two great gains to APP students
compared to what they have been getting.
In the move from Integrated 1-2-3 to Algebra 1 (APP 7th grade) - Geometry (APP 8th Grade) - Algebra 2 (APP 9th Grade), APP students should
experience a much more serious treatment of geometry than has been offered in the Seattle Public Schools for many years.
In addition, the Algebra 2 book will provide APP students with a higher level of algebra content than does the book series currently in use at the high school level.
In particular, the new book, in addition to covering traditional Algebra 2 content, delves into topics more normally found in precalc and in AP Stat classes.

The series before the Board has the additional benefit of integrating data analysis and modeling into the algebra courses in a way that links
the mathematics with common applications in a way that none of the book series in recent use has done.

APP students will take a course through the books that is tailored to their particular needs....

ds said...

Maureen, The funny thing here is that Harium says that he reviewed all three finalists (Disc, PH, CPM) and felt that PH was superior to the others, in part because the teachers' edition provided very clear differentiation content...how to supplement for kids who need extra help and how to supplement for kids who need "more." It's water under the bridge now, and I guess the goal will now be for SPS to make the text work as best as they can.

Dorothy Neville said...

there will be two great gains to APP students
compared to what they have been getting.
That's because Garfield uses IMP, extremely fuzzy, I believe. Roosevelt, on the other hand, is moving from solid traditional texts to weaker ones. C'est la vie.

APP students should
experience a much more serious treatment of geometry than has been offered in the Seattle Public Schools for many years.
Correction: Better than most, but not all SPSchools. Geometry at RHS up until now is from a solid, serious text. Discovering's inductive approach is not a serious treatment. Better than IMP for sure. That's like saying salmonella is better than arsenic. Getting really sick is sure better than dying, eh?


In addition, the Algebra 2 book will provide APP students with a higher level of algebra content than does the book series currently in use at the high school level.
In particular, the new book, in addition to covering traditional Algebra 2 content, delves into topics more normally found in precalc and in AP Stat classes.
Again, salmonella is better than arsenic. What does "delving into" more topics get you? More mile high and inch deep? We will see how useful those topics prove.

The series before the Board has the additional benefit of integrating data analysis and modeling into the algebra courses in a way that links
the mathematics with common applications in a way that none of the book series in recent use has done.
Didn't I see someone specifically pointing out how this is a *bad* thing? That the algebra book does all this fancy curve fitting (using the calculator of course, nothing analytical) but gives no sense of when it is and is not appropriate to do the curve fitting?

Moving on. The proof is in the pudding. Let's see that Theory of Action in Action.

Jennifer said...

I’m finding the conversation about the math curriculum and the two schools of thought (inquiry based vs. not) to be similar to the debate about reading instruction, phonics vs. whole language. I have always found the argument to be tiresome. If you lean too far to either side you do a disservice to kids and potentially set them up for a struggle. The same goes for math instruction, if you only have them memorize facts and formulas and don’t help them to understand how and why they work, you will have kids who, please excuse the over used term, can’t think outside the box. They will be stumped by problems that don’t fit into the one model they have been taught. I have never, ever used a curriculum that hasn’t needed some kind of supplementation. EDM, TURK, Saxon, Singapore, all of them are missing something. The discussion about materials used for in classroom room instruction, should be more focused on the math standards and whether they are covering the skills needed. As far as at home instruction goes it is the responsibly of every teacher to create and facilitate the distribution of appropriate homework. If a student is being sent home unfamiliar materials and is expected to either teach themselves or have a family member teach them, the distributing teacher is failing to do their job. Work sent home can stretch a skill level and help build a stronger base knowledge, but shouldn’t be new material with no teacher driven instruction linked to it.