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Friday, February 05, 2010

A Few Math Bits and Pieces

The district clearly thinks it is still right:

"Seattle Public Schools followed an extensive process in adopting these materials, which were thoroughly vetted by a diverse group including mathematicians and teaching
professionals."

But the judge thinks your vetting was not good enough. The tone in this press release is pretty unbelievable but I'm thinking the district is so sure they will win on appeal, that they don't care.

Now, of course, the district still has to go on teaching math. That doesn't stop because this case was decided. So what does it mean? I'm not a lawyer and I really don't know. Here's my guess.

What it seems to do is direct the Board to do it over. If the judge believed in the process but thought it wasn't thorough enough, he probably wouldn't have used words like "capricious and arbitrary". So it's back for review. However, here is an interesting turn of phrase by the district in their press release:

"In addition to any action the School Board may take, the district expects to appeal this decision."

So does that mean the district is saying to the Board, "Do what you want but we're still appealing." ? It could except for one tiny detail. The Board authorizes the money. The Board can say no to paying for an appeal (but there could be wiggle room for the district if the amount isn't a lot but for most court cases, it is).

Now would be the time to pressure the Board. Tell them to do their review but make sure they do it differently than last time because that didn't work for the judge. Tell them to tell the district NOT to appeal.

I'm confused at this point. The district wants to appeal the review? Why? If it doesn't stop the district from teaching what they want but only directs the Board to review it again, what's the problem? Could the problem be that a REAL review might show the weaknesses they tried to disguise or hide the first time and the Board would have to (albeit reluctantly) change the book?

Also, Dick Lilly, who was a former School Board member, weighed in at Crosscuts and boy, he's funny. What he and other people don't get is that the judge doesn't need to be an expert in education or math. He wasn't judging the math. He was judging the process. He also had a whopper during a recent interview on the Seattle Channel. He was there with the Superintendent and the Seattle Council PTSA President to discuss the state of the district (I'll have a link elsewhere). They were discussing using a D average to graduate and he said,

"You take the courses, you take the test and you should be able to graduate."

He was asked, you mean you take the test and pass, right? No, he said take the classes, take the test and graduate. He believes in the seat time "A for effort" diploma. Unbelievable.

This from the Times:

"Earlier this school year, some Bellevue math teachers piloted two textbook series: Holt Mathematics, often described as a more traditional approach to math, and the Discovering Series of mathematics, described as inquiry-based. Groups of students were taught using lessons from each of the texts, then tested to see what they learned.

The district's math committee will review the results of those tests during a meeting this Thursday. They're still a ways away from deciding which books to order, said district spokeswoman Ann Oxrieder, but she described it as a thorough vetting of the two books and said at this point the judge's ruling about Seattle's choice of books would probably not affect Bellevue's process. The new texts will be purchased for use in the 2010-11 school year."

"Everyone was taken by surprise by the ruling," Oxrieder said. The Discovering series is used in the Lake Washington district, and was Issaquah's first choice for textbooks last year. (Issaquah put its decision on which textbook to adopt on hold.)"

From a previous post:

Please help Martha McLaren (one of the plaintiffs) defray the costs of this court case. She has posted the following to the Seattle Math Group's website ( seattlemathgroup.blogspot.com ):

"Help with the bills?
Would you like to help defray costs for our appeal? Donations to reimburse my expenses would be deeply appreciated. So far (not including the January bill), the total cost of this lawsuit has been $11,320. Donations from 32 individuals have totaled $3796. If you would like to help, you can donate in one of three ways:

"Send a check to Seattle Math Group,

"c/o Martha Mclaren
7020 18th Ave. SW, J22
Seattle, WA 98106

"Donate directly to the Seattle Math Group Account at any branch of Washington Federal Savings and Loan

"Donate via email, through Paypal, to mmcl@pugetridge.net; donations will be transferred directly to the Seattle Math Group account."

3 comments:

Charlie Mas said...

I think I'm reading this decision differently from everyone else.

The judge wasn't saying that the books are no good.

The judge wasn't saying that the Board didn't have enough information.

The judge wasn't saying that the information wasn't thorough and vetted.

The judge wasn't saying that the process that brought these books to the Board for their approval was faulty.

The judge was saying that the Board's decision was arbitrary and capricious because it was made without much regard to the information and with no sense of which bits of information were important and which bits of information were trivial.

Here are some pointers:

A sample one-on-one lesson with the best math teacher in the district worked just fine for a well-prepared, motivated, high performing student. That's trivial.

The books are judged "mathematically unsound" by the State Board of Education. That's important.

The Head of the District Math Department says that books can be used to support any kind of pedagogy. That's trivial.

The books themselves clearly state that they intended to support a single pedagogy. That's important.

A May 6, 2009 report from the OSPI that does not recommend the books. That's important.

Actual test scores from actual Seattle Public School students. That's important.

The National Math Achievement Panel report. That's important.

In the end, all of the Board members who voted to approve the adoption of these books ignored ALL of that and relied entirely on the recommendation from the Materials Selection Committee.

Actually, not even that. They relied on the confirmation from another committee that the Selection Committee followed a proper process.

That is capricious and arbitrary.

Here's the thing. All the Board has to do is repeat the review and vote again.

Of course, there has been a change in the Board and if they vote again, instead of going 4-3 in favor of adoption, it is likely to go 3-4 against it now that Betty Patu is sitting where Cheryl Chow used to sit.

If the Board votes and votes against the books there will be no action for the staff to take to resurrect them.

Josh Hayes said...

So, does this have some sort of cascading effect for non-HS math programs, please please deity of choice or none if you prefer?

By the time this all gets sorted out at the classroom level, my son will probably have suffered through another year and a half of crappy materials - which we've supplemented, but how many families can't do that? A cock-up can't be fixed by painting its toenails.

wseadawg said...

It bears mentioning as well, that the court found (at Cleveland and Garfield) that:

"WASL scores overall declined using the inquiry-based math texts, and dropped significantly for English Language Learners, including a 0% pass rate at one high school"

Given that hard data, it will be hard to argue that ever selecting inquiry based texts is not Arbitrary or Capricious with regard to those students. The Board is in a serious jam on this one.