Middle School Math Update

From the Superintendent's Friday Memo of August 28, 2015:

Math Materials Field Test Proposal

In keeping with the Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction’s schedule of adopting textual materials, Math Program Manager Anna Box is proposing a field test of some middle school Math textual resources during the 2015-16 school year. Providing this field test in 2015- 16 will help prepare to launch an adoption during the 2016-17 school year. Additionally, the work aligns with School Board Policy No. 2015, Selection & Adoption of Instructional Materials, amended by the School Board this month to allow for field tests of materials. 

The idea is to offer middle and K-8 schools the chance to volunteer to participate in the field test. To provide as broad and accurate a representation of Seattle Public Schools as possible, the schools in the field test should:
  • -  Represent each geographic region of the district (at least one school from each region)
  • -  Be willing to use common interim assessments during the field test
  • -  Agree to use the vendor-provided sample of a textbook for the entire second semester
    during the 2015-16 school year
  • -  Be willing to allow field visits to classrooms using the tested materials 

    Given that a Request for Proposal (RFP) has not been launched, Anna Box will reach out to professional consortia (such as “Achieve the Core”) for recommendations on textbooks to sample. The goal will be to secure samples for teachers to use in the second semester.
    Feedback is welcomed on this plan as well as on schools and/or publications to be sure to include in the field test.

     We are looking forward to this important work.


TechyMom said…
and High School?
Kate Martin said…
The as yet unexplained process of selecting the books to be field tested could be worrisome. Better to narrow it down to a few good books with an open and transparent adoption process and then field test those than to pitch a few books which could be suggested based on anything like the publisher provides and makes a lot of money from crappy professional development associated with the book, etc.
Anonymous said…


I don't care if Mr. Burke is running for the Board, or if he wins or looses. He is still a parent, a community member, and, an informed person about math. Therefore he is as entitled to serve on this committee as any other parent.

Lihn-co has been in the trenches TEACHING children math, she knows from experience what works, what does not work, and what is needed. They both have something to offer to a committee looking at optimizing text book selection for our children. If they are BOTH on the committee, I can trust the results of the committee. If they are not, I will not believe in the process nor its end result. Isn't this District trying to pass levies this February? Don't they want us to believe in them, trust in them, know that they are competent stewards, especially as we hold our ballots in our hot little hands? Pick Burke and Nguyen for the District math committee, and watch the levies pass. That is how it works for this tired optimist. Pass over them, assuming they would even agree to volunteer for this, and, watch the levies FAIL.

Ms. Box's running of math at the middle school level has been problematic. By picking benchmarks unthoughtfully, she has single-handedly denied rigor to students, therefore, trust of her process or the products her process delivers or will deliver are suspect.

Bottom line: which is the best text book to teach math? That is the question, not, 'which text book is best aligned to common core'. Unless and until she talks about teaching math, not aligning math, skepticism will remain high.

Unfortunately, despite having very unique learning communities in our various middle schools, we learned via the last adoption only 1 book will be chosen and not a suite. So, the District can't afford to get this wrong. Mercer proved that teaching math to middle schoolers from economically struggling backgrounds or ELL households can be done. Perhaps the District might take a lesson from this success story?

Directors Peters and Patu, please continue to help our children. Thank you.


Anonymous said…
I couldn't be happier that they've finally decided to move forward on getting a decent (non-discovery) curriculum for middle school math, but I can't imagine wasting my time on a math adoption committee/task force. Seems like we should just ask the Board (or the new Board in December) which one they want since they'll make the final decision anyway. Let's save money and skip the cost/time of a committee and public/teacher input since it's not going to make a bit of difference. Put the money towards more teacher PD for the chosen curriculum.

Done That
Patrick said…
Done That, the final decision is the Board's, but they didn't just go a completely different way from anything the committee was thinking about. Math in Focus was a close second among the committee and the strong favorite among students, families, and math/science educators.
dan dempsey said…
I am not impressed. It seems that the students participating in this planned second semester experiment might not be consulted.

I would not like my child to have a school year interrupted with a District experiment.

As a teacher I plan my year and where I wish to mathematically take my students and how I am going to do that. So ditch that one-year plan and carefully follow this other plan. Really and the students and parents in this one-semester experiment will have no say.

A few thoughts from Siegfried Engelmann are in order.

Principles for school boards to follow when authorizing changes to curriculum and teaching practices:

1. Don’t adopt any teaching method or curriculum unless you have substantial reason to believe that it will result in improvement of student performance;

2. Don’t adopt any approach without making projections about student learning;

3. Don’t adopt any practice without monitoring it and comparing performance in the classroom with projections;

4. Don’t adopt an approach without having a back-up plan;

5. Don’t maintain practices that are obviously not working as planned;

6. Don’t blame parents, students, or other extraneous factors if the plan fails.

Shopping for textbooks is different than shopping for chocolates. A semester in a middle school student's math life is important.

I would rather trust my child to a teacher with expertise than a central office administrator's current thinking.

Anonymous said…
Yes, I agree, Patrick. However, if the board once again believes that Math in Focus (or another Singapore Math-like curriculum) is their preference (if for no other reason than it builds on the elementary curriculum), then I wouldn't waste my time on that task force looking at other options. You may feel differently, which is perfectly fine.
Done That
NEMom said…
@DUMP CMP2 Agree about Rick Burke and Lihn-Co entirely. They are rock solid.


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