Adoption Cycle

For those who believed that Seattle Public Schools was supposed to be on a seven-year cycle for the adoption of instructional materials, and that we are overdue for a review of the math materials, you are right.

Here is a memo to the Board from Shauna Heath on the status of the adoption cycle.

She intends to use the coming school year, 2013-2014, as a "curriculum mapping year" for K-12 math, then spend the following year, 2014-2015, for "evaluation" with implementation coming in the fall of 2015. She's going to take three years to recommend math texts when the work is already overdue.


Why not allow ALL schools to choose their math path until the work is completed? Several schools have gone off the math script and are getting good results. I can't imagine it could hurt anymore than what is being used now.
Anonymous said…
Why not use the math program at Mercer or a program that has been successful at say Bellevue schools. Why reinvent the wheel?

Charlie Mas said…
There is a legitimate question to be asked about why the District needs to do instructional material adoptions at all.

Why not allow schools and teachers to make the choice for themselves? Why not at least allow them to make the choice from a limited menu of two to four options?

I have heard that having multiple texts complicates the professional development, but I don't see why it should. The District should be helping teachers with how to teach two-place multiplication, not how to teach page 59. Unless the PD is text specific - and there is no way that it should be - then having multiple texts should not complicate the PD.
Anonymous said…
Charlie, the district spokesperson seems to agree with you in her comments reported in Jerry Large's column today. Apparently we can have any old materials because it is the teachers who make the difference. So why not your approach, or the "limited menu" proposed by HP. I believe Bellevue, Shoreline and Renton are all having success with their math programs -- so again, why the continual reinvention?
Linh-Co said…
When EDM was rolled out, teachers were required to take 9 days of PD and it was textbook specific. We were taught how to play the games and how to use the multiple resources from EDM. The PD had very little content.

There are PDs given with content but unfortunately they still have a focus on constructivist pedagogy.

Anonymous said…
That is far too long for better math. Parents and individual schools have asked for better math curricula for years.

The straight jacket approach of all schools doing the same math needs to end. Let more students have a chance to succeed with better approaches — the sooner, the better. Mercer Middle School on Beacon Hill is a great example where a better curriculum proved successful.

Ballard math teacher Ted Nutting was correct in his concerns over the discovery math approach now in place in most Seattle classrooms. He stated in the Seattle Times article today that students end up confused and lacking basic skills.

In my opinion, the discovery textbooks are terrible, especially for students with ADHD or language challenges. Remedial rates in college are unacceptable.

The Seattle School District needs to change course NOW.

S parent
Anonymous said…
S-parent, I was dismayed that in today's article Nutting was portrayed as "elitist" and EDM was given a pass as a versatile instructional material. I don't know Nutting but nothing in the article convinced me that his advocacy of better math is elitist -- quite the contrary. And anyone who has struggled with EDM as a parent or teacher can tell you that there is nothing versatile about it.
unbelievable said…
Does the "evaluation" phase involve piloting materials? If not, I cannot understand the projected time frame. We already have data from schools using different materials and methods. Are they all getting improved results when compared to EDM and CMP?

There is a transition to Common Core Standards and while the WA 2008 math standards will be tested this year and next, I believe the following year's state assessments will align with the Common Core. Wouldn't this be reason enough to get new materials in place following next school year at the latest?
Anonymous said…
Two of the newer Seattle School Board directors know that discovery math is bad. Marty McLaren is a former teacher who worked with many students struggling with this conceptual approach to math.

Superintendent Jose Banda used better math materials in his former district, from what I have been told. He is well aware of the criticism of math in our district.

The problem seems to be that everything gets bogged down with the curriculum administrators. They study everything forever without listening to the actual experiences of parents, experienced math teachers like Ted Nutting and Dan Dempsey, or UW professors such as Cliff Mass. All of us have asked for better math curricula for years.

It is up to parents to keep the pressure on. Talk to the directors in your areas and ask for a faster timeline for better math. We need a fundamentally sound math curricula and further delays are inexcusable.

S parent
Kate Martin said…
The only purpose of summative end of course type of testing - like MSP and HSPE - is to inform changes to curricula and instruction. They have the data regarding results from what they have been doing in the way of math. It hasn't informed changes as there haven't been any changes. It really should be a continuum of evaluation and a series of course corrections, not pendulum swing periodically, IMO. I'd like to have them audit how many families use tutors and at what cost. Also would like to see the elementary teachers take the Compass test so we could know what we have on our hands as far as gaps in the K-5 teacher's math skills so we can make amends at the instruction end.
Anonymous said…
A match made in heaven ...

If you look at Jerry Large's column, you have a tell from Zombro - she uses that great "drill and kill" phrase.
In my not humble opinion, her use of that phrase gives her about a 85% chance of being a re-form-ie.

Given both are 'new' to these positions, they've just figured out how to keep their mortgages paid for 3 more years! Heaven forbid there be some open monthly meetings and people look at what successful districts have done and issue a Purchase Order by 1 July!

Charlie - you're off base on your PD idea - even good books have glitches - I like going through the text with teachers who will be using it. However, if you're defining PD as the typical theoretical high-level-useless-U crap ...

Po3 said…
Didn't they ramrod that discovery high school math through in less than a year?

Anonymous said…
It has been 14 years since our last elementary LA adoption and many of our elementary schools are still using Whole Language methodology to teach reading, disguised as "balanced literacy." There is so much evidence to prove it's the absolute worst methodology you could ever use, yet we soldier on with these terrible A-Z leveled books like they are fabulous for our early readers. The fact that it is 2013 and there are no phonemic awareness and phonics materials in every Seattle K-2 classroom is beyond embarrassing. The fact that my kindergartener (who is currently placed in F level books hasn't been taught how to decode basic words, makes me furious. On a daily basis he is handed books loaded with complex phonics patterns that he has not yet learned and is told to guess the words by looking at the pictures. I don't understand why there isn't more outrage about this???? Sadly, I've realized most most of the teachers and administrators at my child's school don't even know better. I'm not thrilled about the Common Core, but the CC standards for K and 1st are VERY phonemic awareness and phonics heavy (as they should be)- so how in the world are our teachers supposed to teach those skills without materials to do so? It isn't something that you can just make up. It makes me sick that this isn't even being mentioned by the district.
Stunned again!!!
Anonymous said…
Yes, whole language and discovery math. Two failed methods still popular in the Seattle District.

They are getting the most out of existing a huge cost to each student.

If you are tired of tutoring it is time to complain to the highest people at the district.

S parent
Anonymous said…
Po3 at 6:04

What they did was diddle around for a year with this stacked-deck consensus thing where people were either worn down or hand picked to arrive at a pre-determined destination.

If you've been a math teacher for 10 or more years, in a few weeks you should be able to skim through 5 or 15 different texts in 1 level, do some googling, and pick #1, #2, and #3. If you need to spend months being a proof reader or copy editor, you need to quit and go write your own book, or stop being a self important pompous ass. If you have 10 teachers who define themselves as NOT reformies, 10 who are proud reformies, and 10 in the middle, you could have a survey monkey ranking in no time.

Algebra 2 or 1 or Geometry isn't ... designing a commercial airplane out of tape and glue - or traveling to Mars.

3 years of farting around to do ... what? Keep

Anonymous said…
My 6th grader rarely brings home the CMP textbook because they have to stay at school. When it does come home, we shudder at the evening ahead of us because it is unintelligible most of the time. What does come home regularly are photocopies of math worksheets from a variety of other sources that are due at the end of the week. What a pathetic excuse for a math curriculum! A really lousy textbook that we cannot bring home and then photocopies of worksheets each week with nothing to refer back to. Every night, we have to spend time googling math concepts and problems to help our kiddo out because there is no textbook to refer back to--only worksheet packets that are turned in each week. I know that this is not the case at all the other schools. I want to scream at the thought that we have to go through this for three more years while the district diddles around. It is truly pathetic.

Rick Burke said…
There is value to having a common adoption across the district. There are too many schools on autopilot using the current junk programs. The schools who are already taking the initiative themselves don't need an immediate adoption, but they are the minority.

The directors on the C&I committee (McLaren, Peaslee, Debell) requested that the textbook review process be completed by November of 2013 prior to the election of new board directors. Unfortunately, when JSCEE staff stacked up the timeline, the process (starting this month) would conclude with a board vote in March 2014 on selected programs. Books would be in schools by fall of 2014. It's a rather involved process, governed by Policy #2015. There is no possibility of an official district-wide adoption to complete by fall 2013 without violating policy and we know that isn't the norm in Seattle.

Within the next month, the adoption committee should be formed and selection criteria developed. If you are a teacher, parent, or community member who is passionate about math and can peel back the layers of education-speak to bring forward sound math options, plan to submit an application for the committee.

Rick Burke
Anonymous said…
I'm sure an old coastie knows more about math than those eggheads at u. of Chicago.
Look, Nutting states that he is labeled elitist as he only accepts high performers in his classroom. How does he get away with that? Maybe cause he's seventy?
Jerry Large says his kid appreciates all the conceptual stuff as a college junior. Wouldmjis son be so excited about math concepts at that level without the exposure from "discovery" type materials at an early age?
Read today's column about math in the Times, how solving hard to solve problems with your kids is the most important thing to do for your student.
I mean really, having to google to help your kid with math is a minus? Sounds like the best lesson they'll ever get.
Then there is Mr. Mass. Great guy, but math is his windmill. His rants got him canned from KUOW and he isn't a mathematician. Ya, he sees lots of kids needing remedial math, but I'm not sure that is from not doing old math. I'd bet its more a case of lower quality instruction due to large class size and poor working conditions for math teachers, which keeps the really bright ones in colleges or private sector jobs.
We want students who get the concepts, the history, the why and what for. For crying out loud, has no one noticed we have these little computers with us all the time to do the actual computation.

Math good
Charlie Mas said…
Math good, no one opposes teaching concepts, just as no one opposes teaching computational competency.

The problem with math education in Seattle is that by leading with the concept and de-emphasizing computational skill, many students are learning neither.

Moreover, the greatest flaw of CMP II is the "spiraling" curriculum. Students are not allowed the time and opportunity to achieve mastery of any of the concepts or skills because the focus changes and there is no opportunity to refer to earlier work.

Students receive a workbook and spend two or three weeks doing absurdly simple tasks. Then they are expected to make a huge leap to understand a complex math concept. They then spend a week attempting to demonstrate their understanding of the concept. Then the entire topic is dropped and not referred to again.

This teaches students to hate math for wasting their time with pointless, time-consuming, childish tasks and writing out essay answers to ridiculous questions. Then it teaches children that math concepts are unattainable. Then it teaches them to fake it for a week confident that if they can just get through a week of pretending to understand the whole thing will go away.
Anonymous said…
For crying out loud, has no one noticed we have these little computers with us all the time to do the actual computation.

Yes, they're called brains.
Patrick said…
Math Good, Professor Mass teaches a highly mathematical science. Too many of his undergraduate students can't even start to learn about weather because they don't know the math they should have learned in high school or junior high. Of course that concerns him and of course he used a little bit of his air time to talk about it. KUOW should be ashamed of themselves for not allowing it -- they're supposed to be UW's station and the community's station, not a mouthpiece for reform ideas that haven't actually been tested very well.
Patrick said…
Oh, and using computers to do the actual computation is a bit like teaching music without actually playing an instrument. There's no way to thoroughly understand all the steps without doing them.
Anonymous said…
Math good, I've seen it in action myself. My 7th grader often tries to understand her math assignments as "what series of keys I use on the calculator" rather than getting the underlying concept. The textbooks seem to encourage this point of view.
"I mean really, having to google to help your kid with math is a minus?"

Math Good, I have no idea what school you are attached to but guess what? There are actually people who do NOT have a computer at home. Who don't know how to use a computer. Whose own math skills could be lacking.

To supposed that every parent can have the ability or time or notion to teach their child is naive. It's just not possible for a variety of reasons. It's also not really the parents' job to teach basic math skills. That's what they pay taxes for so the state hires people who do this job.

Just because you have and know how to use a computer and have the time to do it, doesn't mean all parents do.
juicygoofy said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
juicygoofy said…
Charlie's comment at 5:39 is EXACTLY the experience my daughter is having with EDM.

But, regarding using MSP for evaluating effectiveness...I personally know 5 classmates who are currently receiving private tutoring in math. Another chunk of parents supplement at home with workbooks and videos. There are also students who aren't meeting standards, so they qualify and receive school provided tutoring. In the end, our school is performing very well on standardized tests, DESPITE a horrendous math curriculum.

My point is, test scores are not necessarily an accurate device for evaluating curriculum (or at least solely.)
Anonymous said…
Teachers or schools should not be authorized to choose which math books they want to use. Materials should be consistent across the district. Criteria for choosing textbooks should make the first priority the mastery of math skills needed for the next grade level, not for how many pictures of minority kids they include or for being "fun" to learn or teach (both of which were factors in SPS flawed math textbook adoption last time).

My kids were in a school where teachers could choose math books. One teacher with a liberal arts background chose a "fun product" which didn't prepare his class for math skills at the next grade level. That group stayed behind in math for the following year. Parents knew this and tried to get their kids into the other class.

Schools should not choose their own math books either. Otherwise one school with higher FRL numbers may decide that minority kids hate math and are hard to teach, so they choose an easier, watered-down textbook series. Meanwhile parents at the upper-class neighborhood across town push for stronger materials at their school. More of those parents had college math, and know their kids will need to be prepared. But the achievement gap gets wider.

Consistency of materials means that kids who move or switch schools or teachers won't get behind in math. It means parents can help their kids with homework without learning a new math system for each child. It gives parents a way to know if a concept topic or chapter was skipped by the teacher.

Teachers at each grade level should be comfortable teaching from the same math books used at every other school, regardless of student demographics. As long as the books are well-written and don't require specialized training and materials to use! Teachers still have flexibility for how they present the material, but a good textbook provides the framework and basis of knowledge to be covered.

The ROOT CAUSE of the math problems we have now is that our math books were chosen by teacher committee!

The solution? Stop wasting taxpayer dollars on ineffective SPS textbook adoption committees. We already have results from the excellent research done by the Washington State Dept. of Ed, their process and results are detailed here:

NOTICE that the books rejected by this qualified group were exactly those adopted by SPS! Every district which followed these OSPI guidelines has scores higher than SPS!

Don't re-invent the wheel!

-Math mom
Anonymous said…
This is an opportunity for MAP scores to actually be used for something useful. The district needs to look at scores from Mercer, Thurgood Marshall, and other schools that have dumped EDM and CMP. Have their scores gone up? Are there improvements among both high- achieving students (APP, Spectrum) as well as kids who may have been struggling in math? How are these schools doing in terms of closing the achievement gap since dropping EDM and CMP? My kid is in a school that switched it's math curriculum this year and his MAP score shot up 30 points in one year - a huge I crease compared to the norm for year-over-year improvement. The curriculum really does matter and I think the MAP data will bear that out.
-- let's use MAP data for something useful
Benjamin Leis said…
@Math Mom

While I agree allowing individual classrooms too much latitude with the curriculum can lead to alignment issues and/or watering down the material, if I took your philosophy to its logical extreme then every school should have a completely identical curriculum across all subjects.

We recognize that kids have different learning styles and need different pacing all across the offerings in the district. In addition, parent's are continually clamoring for options, not standardization.

Rather than mandating a single textbook, I think the current process of reviewing any school's exemptions to make sure they meet a common standard is sufficient to make sure kids aren't short shrifted.

That being said, the price to opt-out is pretty steep and usually being covered by PTSAs. I also assume the district gets better rates on textbooks when buying in bulk. I don't think its a realistic district wide policy to expect widespread math textbook exemptions.


unbelievable said…
The linked review of math texts also rates Discovering Algebra highly when considering alignment to 2008 math standards. Some more traditional algebra books (Foerster, for example) have lower ratings, even though they may be stronger texts. As they state, no text will align perfectly. The WA state standards include some concepts that would be considered pre-algebra (data and probability), while some would be considered Algebra 2 (arithmetic and geometric sequences). A more traditional text that excludes these topics may get lower ratings, even though the Algebra 1 is quite strong. This is why the mathemetician's review of the texts is so valuable. They can parse out some of the rating criteria.

In CA, the state creates a list of approved texts and the districts only get funds for texts purchased from that list. Here, OSPI can only provide guidance on suggested texts.
Patrick said…
Math Mom, consistency of materials is only good if the District adopts a decent textbook! Because of the horrible textbook adopted last time, the whole district suffers, except for a handful of schools that somehow got to do their own thing anyway.
Anonymous said…
The CMP math text books are so so bad. They make the Everyday math books look like works of genius. It dumbfounds me that Mercer has some of the highest middle school math scores after dumping CMP - and yet the other middle schools are still stuck with CMP. Taking 3 years to adopt new text books is ridiculous. And will just exacerbate the gap between schools with well-funded PTAs that can go ahead and buy their own text books and schools that can't afford to do so.

Anonymous said…
Is the math adoption being stalled until publishers have texts aligned with the new Common Core Standards?

Charlie Mas said…
The delay in the math materials adoption is due to budgetary issues and not any tardiness by publishers.

It may also be due to the turmoil in the District academic leadership - too many changes at the top. Enfield to Thompson to whatsherface who had the job for a couple months to no one to Tolley all in two years.
Anonymous said…
Tips on adopting the Singapore Math curriculum:

Anonymous said…
"This is an opportunity for MAP scores to actually be used for something useful...."

This is probably the only beneficial and appropriate use of MAP data, despite all of this product's shortcomings.

I am 99% sure that folks downtown would NEVER endeavor to use MAP for this purpose. They do NOT want to use data in a way that might make their decisions and policies look non-efficacious.

Still, there is a way to get this analysis done:

1. a public disclosure request to get the de-identified student - or classroom or grade level (disaggregated by school name)- MAP data,

2. An spreadsheet program

3. Some data analysis know-how

4. write-up and dissemination of results.

Signed, Public Disclosure
Anonymous said…
Is it better to let schools/teachers choose or district choose curriculum?

Unfortunately, neither policy alternative guarantees good curriculum.

The need for parents to advocate for good curriculum will not go away, regardless of which approach is adopted.

Parent & Math Tutor
Krom said…
This was my letter to the curriculum people at SPS. I would suggest more parents write to them.

Dear Ms. Heath and Ms. Zombro,

I have read that the math curriculum will be studied for two years, for implementation in 2015. This is far too long.

We do not need further study on math. Parents have been telling the district for many years that the discovery math curriculum is failing their children. If the District had listened to parents, the Discovering textbooks in high school would not have been adopted. Now we have a conceptual approach from elementary through high school, leaving students confused, frustrated and testing into remedial classes in college — if they make it that far.

Ted Nutting had it right in the Jerry Large Seattle Times editorial this week. The discovery approach does not teach fundamentals or concepts well. Even good teachers cannot overcome such a fundamentally unsound curriculum.

These textbooks have few examples for students to follow. They are especially damaging to children with ADHD or language difficulties. Parents with means turn to tutoring to help their children but too many parents do not have the resources to do this. To keep failing the majority of students for several more years is unacceptable.

Look at the improvement at Mercer Middle School when the math curriculum was changed. Think about how many parents would choose Seattle Public Schools if they had more confidence in the math curriculum.

Math is the weakest link in the Seattle Public Schools. It is time to fix it and there is no time to waste.


Georgi Krom
Parent of graduates of the Center School and Ballard High School
Anonymous said…
My guess as to Mercer's success is a large population of motivated but english challenged parents who help their kids. EDM and CMP are very challenging for non native speakers, so for Mercer kids to get help at home, a less wordy curriculum works better.
I would look at the parents of Mercer kids as the game changers there, with the more traditional materials being a way for them to be effective.
As far as the idea that the district is fully responsible for a child's education, well, parents are expected to step up as much as possible and there are mechanisms in place for kids who just can't get family help. I was reading a teacher's web page at Mercer and they(non gender specific pronoun) said they would make home visits to kids with missing or incomplete or failing work. Home visits! I mean this is trying out stuff for a economically poor but motivated population and it is working.
For schools with parents who are primarily english speakers, I think discovery type math is more rounded.
I've done tons with my kids and I find it fascinating and the spiraling particularly so. The stuff these kids know about probability by the end of middle school is impressive and very important. Statistics is a huge washout course in college and I think these kids will get it, when the time comes.
as for the basic computational skills, go get a singapore book at any store or online or ask a teacher for a few worksheets. The irony of it all is folks on this blog bemoaning their 6th graders missing out on Algebra 1, while at the same time trashing the EDM and CMP that got the kids to working a mere two years above grade level.
I want my kids not just to do Calculus, but to understand calculus; to know how Newton and the other guy figured it out and what the heck people use it for. Obviously I know neither the math or the history, but I look forward to learning it with my children.

Math good
Krom said…
Math good, I do not think parents should have to supplement a lousy math curriculum. I also think many English speaking kids have plenty of trouble with Everyday and Connected Math. They do not understand the concepts and do not get enough practice to get proficient. The lack of examples in the books is harmful. Many kids simply need a direct approach to move forward.

Mercer Middle School may have great parents, but the change in math curricula cannot be ignored. Other schools have asked for different materials but they have to wait until the District studies this for several more years.

A few years ago 60 math and science professors at UW wrote a letter expressing their concern over the poor math skills of incoming freshmen. If they think we have a problem, I believe them.

G. Krom
Anonymous said…
Math good - Curriculum does matter, even with the most engaged parents. You could not get a more engaged group of parents than the APP parents at Thurgood Marshall. Yet I hear MAP scores for math at TM shot up this winter -- after only a half year of dropping EDM and CMP (TM had CMP for 4th & 5th grade APP last year). Many more of this year's 5th graders have the option of taking 6th grade algebra due to higher winter MAPs. Same parents, same teachers, same kids, different results. The only change was the math curriculum.
-- curriculum matters
Anonymous said…
The math change at TM was for all students, not just APP students. It will be interesting to compare MSP scores come Fall. Anecdotally, our child had a significant jump in math scores when we began homeschooling for math with more traditional books (middle school level). We were simply able to cover more material in the same amount of time. The CMP texts lacked the depth, practice, and examples that the traditional texts offered. With CMP, there were mind numbing exercises requiring 100 flips of a coin, or pasting shreds of paper into a circle, or folding fraction strips, or other time consuming exercises that assumed students couldn't make the conceptual leap. My child still cringes when I mention "Wumps."

-books matter
Anonymous said…
Review and criticisms of both EDM and CMP:

Illinois Loop math reviews

You will note that some of the articles are about 10 years old...Seattle is somehow stuck in time.

-books matter

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