Mathematically Sound Foundations Blog

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Hearing Rescheduled for Jan. 26th in High School Math Text Adoption Appeal

Seattle, Washington – January 21, 2010 – A hearing is set for Tuesday, January 26th, at 8:30 AM, in Room W 842 of the King County Courthouse. The courthouse is located at 516 3rd Avenue, Seattle. Judge Julie Spector will hear the the appeal of a Seattle School Board vote last May to adopt the Discovering Mathematics high school textbook series. The appellants contend that the school district acted arbitrarily and capriciously by voting 4 to 3 to adopt a type of textbook associated with a widening achievement gap between minority students and white students, and between low-income and other students.

More information and links to legal briefs may be found at http://seattlemathg roup.blogspot. com/
Contact: Martha McLaren
mmcl@pugetridge. net
206 762 2350
206 446 0925 (mobile)

Hearing Impending in High School Math Text Adoption Appeal.

Seattle, Washington – January 5, 2010 – A hearing is set for Monday, Jan. 11, at 8:30 AM,
in the King County Superior Courtroom of Judge Julie Spector, on the appeal of a Seattle School Board vote last May to adopt the Discovering Mathematics high school textbook series. The appellants contend that the school district acted arbitrarily and capriciously by voting 4 to 3 to adopt a type of textbook associated with a widening achievement gap between minority students and white students, and between low-income students and other students.

The three plaintiffs – the mother of an African American 9th grader, a former math teacher who is grandmother of a 5th grader, and a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington, filed the appeal based on their claim that, well before the May 6th vote, there was an ample accumulation of evidence that the "reform" math curricula favored by the district had helped to drive down WASL achievement scores, especially for English language learners and other minorities.

Martha McLaren, grandmother of a 5th grade student, declared, "Few people understand what a catastrophe is unfolding in our schools due to this misguided approach to teaching mathematics. It's tragic for individual students who grow up believing they are incompetent, and it's ultimately an immeasurable blow to society.

"I can't afford the tutoring that wealthier parents can afford in order for their children to learn the math skills they don't learn in Seattle Public Schools," stated Ms. DaZanne Porter, mother of a Rainier Beach High School Freshman.

Further describing the situation which has evoked a rising protest to Seattle Schools' math curriculum, UW atmospheric sciences professor and co-plaintiff Cliff Mass describes giving a simple basic math skills exam to his first year AS 101 students in the fall. They scored a class average of 58%. In the January 2 Cliff Mass Weather Blog, he wrote, "If many of our state's best students are mathematically illiterate, as shown by this exam, can you imagine what is happening to the others--those going to community college or no college at all? ... Quite simply, we are failing our children and crippling their ability to participate in an increasingly mathematical world."

Attorney Keith Scully, of Gendler and Mann, LLP, is representing the plaintiffs. He estimates the hearing will last about one hour, and expects a decision from Judge Spector by the end of the month. For those wishing to attend the hearing, the King County Courthouse is located at 516 Third Avenue, E-609 in Seattle.

Note: Many thanks to all of you who have offered generous support. Further donations are received with gratitude.

Checks may be made out to Seattle Math Group and mailed to
Marty McLaren
7020 18th SW, J22
Seattle, WA 98106

Donations can also be made through Paypal for a small fee.


Brief Filed in Court Challenge of Seattle High School Math Text Adoption

Seattle, Washington – Dec. 3, 2009 – A brief was filed Monday, Nov. 23, in King County Superior Court appealing a May 6, 2009 Seattle School Board vote to adopt the Discovering Mathematics high school textbook series. The brief contends that the school district acted arbitrarily and capriciously in voting 4 to 3 to adopt a type of textbook associated with a widening achievement gap between minority students and white students, and between low-income students and other students.

Seeking to prevent the school district from adopting this series are plaintiffs DaZanne Porter, an African American and mother of a 9th-grade student in Seattle Public Schools; Martha McLaren, retired Seattle math teacher and grandparent of a Seattle Public Schools fourth grader; and Cliff Mass, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Washington.

According to the brief filed Monday, Seattle Public Schools began eliminating "traditional" math texts in the 1990s, moving toward an approach called "reform," "discovery learning," or "constructivism, " among other names. Reform texts rely heavily on written language, presenting complicated, "real-life" problems. Memorization and skills practice is de-emphasized, and calculator work is encouraged from kindergarten on. Students generally work in small groups to devise their own approaches and solutions. With traditional "explicit" texts, however, students are given the opportunity to master key topics through examples, practice and extensive teacher feedback.

The brief claims the district committee chosen to review mathematics textbooks was biased toward reform, and that the textbook criteria were similarly biased, so that the resulting recommendation would be a reform textbook. The brief also states that the board voted to adopt the Discovering textbook series in contradiction of information presented prior to the vote.

The plaintiffs contend that the district superintendent and school board had access to data and research, including WASL scores, indicating that math skills of minority students have continually declined for all grades since reform textbooks were introduced. The plaintiffs also claim the school board was informed that the Discovering series was not a good candidate program to reverse this negative trend.

Citizens testifying to the board prior to the May 6 vote emphasized that the Discovering textbook series had been rated "unsound" in a review conducted by the Washington State Board of Education, and that the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction had passed over the Discovering program, instead recommending Holt Mathematics, a balanced textbook series featuring increased explicit instruction.

In Seattle, the movement toward reform texts has culminated in the adoption of the Everyday Math K-5 texts, Connected Mathematics Project (CMP2) texts for grades 6 - 8, and now the Discovering texts for high school. At Cleveland High School, which has 95% ethnic minority and 70% free and reduced lunch students, a similar "Discovery/Inquiry" text was piloted from September 2006 to June 2009. In those three years, the WASL pass rates for Cleveland's Black 10th graders averaged around 10%, while the district average for Black 10th graders was about 22%; scores for limited English students declined dramatically, from 15.4% to 0% of students passing the exam.

The appeal of the School Board's May 6, 2009 vote was filed June 5 by attorney Keith Scully of Gendler and Mann, LLP. A hearing on the appeal is set for Jan. 11, 2010, in the court of Judge Julie Spector.


If you can donate to give much-needed help with expenses, please make checks out to Seattle Math Group; send to
Marty McLaren
7020 18th Ave. SW, J22
Seattle, WA 98106.

Contact: Martha McLaren
mmcl@pugetridge. net
206 762 2350


Where’s the Math?
Statement on OSPI Mathematics Graduation Requirements
November 30, 2009 - For Immediate Release
Contact: Rick Burke – - (206) 953-1153

Where’s the Math has been a consistent voice advocating for high math standards. Our members have worked from kitchen tables to the legislature floor to improve standards, instructional materials, assessments, and educational policy statewide. This month, Superintendent Randy Dorn called for a delay in the math graduation requirement and adoption of a two-tiered passage requirement. We believe that Dorn’s suggestions are in the best interest of Washington State’s students.

By asking for delay of the math graduation requirement, Dorn is facing reality:today’s high school students have been so badly damaged by a decade ofdeficient math that many will be unable to pass the newstate exam. Washington students have suffered from unsound instructional materials, ineffective teaching practices, and vague assessment using the WASL. Unproven mathematical philosophies originating in colleges of education have not lived up to the promise of making math accessible to all students. Washington’s socioeconomic and racial achievement gaps in mathematics remain staggering, and high stakes testing without comprehensive improvements in curriculum and teacher competency will hurt the disadvantaged most.

The math problem is prevalent throughout the entire K-12 progression. Thus, expecting a high school graduation requirement to improve this situation is fantasy. Significant progress will only come from focused initiatives to improve standards, curricula, and teacher math knowledge at all grade levels. As math proficiency increases in lower grades, more students will be able to succeed both in higher level math and high school assessments.

Where’s the Math recognizes that not every student is college bound or destined to pursue a career in science, math or technology. Not every student needs to take Algebra II for their future career goals. But every student must have the opportunity to achieve at the highest levels. Therefore we support Dorn’s proposal for multiple math graduation pathways. Supt. Dorn’s recommendation took courage, and we applaud him for doing the right thing.

Where’s the Math officially endorses these focused legislative actions:
  1. Supt. Randy Dorn’s recommendation to create two paths for the math graduation requirement starting in 2015 should be adopted.
  2. The newly developed high school end-of-course assessments must be subjected to complete evaluation before they become graduation requirements.
  3. The current development of the Measurements of Student Progress (MSP) assessment for grades 3-8 must consider the entire set of State math standards when selecting items for assessment.
  4. Clear remediation guidelines should be identified for grades 3-8 that require school and/or district intervention for students who score one or more years behind grade level.
  5. In addition, OSPI must retire the ineffective reform math programs and practices still in favor by many entrenched educational interests. Randy Dorn needs to insure that his entire team at OSPI is fully committed to the success of his agenda to improve math outcomes for Washington students
Where’s the Math Executive Committee

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