Seattle Public Schools Administration Response to the Discovery Math Public Lawsuit Loss

602K PDF.

Respondents focus their brief on arguing that no reasonable school board would adopt “inquiry-based” high school mathematics textbooks instead of “direct instruction” textbooks. There are “dueling experts” and other conflicting evidence regarding the best available material for teaching high school math, and the Seattle School Board (“the Board”) gave due consideration to both sides of the debate before reaching its quasi legislative decision to adopt the Discovering series and other textbooks on a 4-3 vote.
The trial court erred by substituting its judgment for the Board’s in determining how much weight to place on the conflicting evidence. Several of the “facts” alleged in the Brief of Respondents (“BR”) are inaccurate, misleading, or lack any citation to the record in violation of RAP l0.3(a)(4). The Court should have an accurate view of the facts in the record to decide the important legal issues in this case. The Board is, therefore, compelled to correct any misimpressions that could arise from an unwary reading of respondents’ characterization of the facts.

Much more on the successful citizen lawsuit overturning the Seattle School District’s use of Discovery Math, here. http://seattlemathgroup.blogspot.com/. Clusty Search: Discovery Math.
Local links: Math Task Force, Math Forum Audio/Video and West High School Math Teachers letter to Isthmus.

Seattle Discovery Math Lawsuit Update

Martha McLaren:

On Monday, June 21st, we filed our “Brief of Respondent” in the School District appeal of Judge Spector’s decision. (Sorry to be late in posting it to this blog; our attorney left town after sending me hard copy, but neglected to email an electronic version of the document we filed.) A link to the brief can be found in the left-hand column, below, under “Legal Documents in Textbook Appeal.”
There’s no new information, either in the District’s brief or our response. You might notice that, rather than acknowledge the catalog of unrelated miscellany in the Seattle Public School District’s brief, our attorney, Keith Scully, chose to essentially restate our original case, upon which Judge Spector ruled favorably. He did emphasize certain statements which pertained to claims in the District’s brief.
I think Keith has, once again, done a masterful job.

5.4MB PDF file.

Seattle School District Files Appeal in “Discovery Math” Lawsuit Loss

Martha McLaren:

The District’s Appeal Brief is in — A link to the appeal is shown on the lower left.
The Seattle School District’s first brief in its appeal of Judge Spector’s decision was filed on Friday. To me, it is not surprising that its arguments are weak. I don’t think we could ever have scored this unprecedented victory had our case not been extremely well founded. Nonetheless, one can’t predict what the appeals panel will rule.
Basically, the brief restates the district’s original contention that, because the specified process was followed, any decision made by the board, (I might add — regardless of how it flouted overwhelming evidence) must stand. Also, the brief misstates and misinterprets many aspects of our case. One of the most egregious examples is the contention that the court overstepped its authority by making a decision on curriculum. Not so – the court simply remanded the board’s decision back to the board on the basis of the lack of evidence to support the decision.
We have 30 days to file our response brief (by June 21), and SPS has 15 days after (by July 6) to file its rebuttal. Our attorney tells me that a hearing will be scheduled after all briefs have been filed.

Much more on the initial, successful rollback of Seattle’s Discovery Math program here

Seattle Public Schools Appeal Discovery Math Implementation Court Loss

Martha McLaren:

Today we received notice of the Seattle School District’s decision to appeal the Decision of Judge Spector which required the SPS board to reconsider its high school math text adoption vote.
I am deeply disappointed that SPS will funnel more resources into this appeal, which, I suspect, will be more costly than following the judge’s instruction to reconsider.
Our attorney tells me: “…. I’ll put in a notice of appearance, and then we wait for the District to complete the record by having the documents and transcripts transmitted to the Court of Appeals. They write the first brief, due 45 days after the record is complete.

More Rhetoric on the Seattle School District’s Court Loss on the Use of Discovery Math

Melissa Westbrook:

For entertainment value read the Discovering Math Q&A in this article in the Seattle Times. The Discovering Math guy (1) doesn’t always answer the question asked, (2) answers but doesn’t address the topic properly – see the question on if Discovering Math is “mathematically unsound” and (3) sounds like he works for the district.
Here’s one example:
The Discovering books have been criticized by parents, but they’ve been the top pick of a couple of districts in our area, including Seattle and Issaquah. Any thoughts on why the textbooks seem to be more popular with educators than with parents?
Ryan: I think because (parents) lack familiarity — this doesn’t look like what I was taught. I don’t know how you get students to a place where more is required of them by repeating things that have been done in the past. That’s not how we move forward in life.
What?

Much more on the successful community lawsuit vs. the Seattle School District’s implementation of Discovery Math. Math Forum audio / video.

Skydiving without Parachutes: Seattle Court Decision Against Discovery Math Implementation

Barry Garelick:

“What’s a court doing making a decision on math textbooks and curriculum?” This question and its associated harrumphs on various education blogs and online newspapers came in reaction to the February 4, 2010 ruling from the Superior court of King County that the Seattle school board’s adoption of a discovery type math curriculum for high school was “arbitrary and capricious”.
In fact, the court did not rule on the textbook or curriculum. Rather, it ruled on the school board’s process of decision making–more accurately, the lack thereof. The court ordered the school board to revisit the decision. Judge Julie Spector found that the school board ignored key evidence–like the declaration from the state’s Board of Education that the discovery math series under consideration was “mathematically unsound”, the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction not recommending the curriculum and last but not least, information given to the board by citizens in public testimony.
The decision is an important one because it highlights what parents have known for a long time: School boards generally do what they want to do, evidence be damned. Discovery type math programs are adopted despite parent protests, despite evidence of experts and–judging by the case in Seattle–despite findings from the State Board of Education and the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Key Curriculum Press Response to Seattle Discovery Math Court Decision

Charlie Mas:

Key Curriculum Press is in quite a snit over the Court’s decision about the high school textbooks.
Check out this web page they wrote in response.

Much more on the recent successful community vs. Seattle School District Discovery Math court case here.

Seattle Court Reverses School Board Decision to Implement Discovery Math

Judge Julie Spector’s decision [69K PDF], via Martha McLaren:

THIS MATTER having come on for hearing, and the Court having considered the pleadings, administrative record, and argument in this matter, the Court hereby enters the following Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order:
FINDINGS OF FACT
1. On May 6, 2009, in a 4-3 vote, the Seattle School District Board of Directors chose the Discovering Series as the District’s high school basic math materials.
a. A recommendation from the District’s Selection Committee;
b. A January, 2009 report from the Washington State Office of Public Instruction ranking High School math textbooks, listing a series by the Holt Company as number one, and the Discovering Series as number two;
c. A March 11, 2009, report from the Washington State Board of Education finding that the Discovering Series was “mathematically unsound”;
d. An April 8, 2009 School Board Action Report authored by the Superintendent;
e. The May 6, 2009 recommendation of the OSPI recommending only the Holt Series, and not recommending the Discovering Series;
f. WASL scores showing an achievement gap between racial groups;
g. WASL scores from an experiment with a different inquiry-based math text at Cleveland and Garfield High Schools, showing that W ASL 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;
h. The National Math Achievement Panel (NMAP) Report;
1. Citizen comments and expert reports criticizing the effectiveness of inquiry-based math and the Discovering Series;
J. Parent reports of difficulty teaching their children using the Discovering Series and inquiry-based math;
k. Other evidence in the Administrative Record;
I. One Board member also considered the ability of her own child to learn math using the Discovering Series.
3. The court finds that the Discovering Series IS an inquiry-based math program.
4. The court finds, based upon a review of the entire administrative record, that there IS insufficient evidence for any reasonable Board member to approve the selection of the Discovering Series.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
I. The court has jurisdiction under RCW 28A.645.010 to evaluate the Board’s decision for whether it is arbitrary, capricious, or contrary to law;
2. The Board’s selection of the Discovering Series was arbitrary;
3. The Board’s selection of the Discovering Series was capricious;
4. This court has the authority to remand the Board’s decision for further review;
5. Any Conclusion of Law which is more appropriately characterized as a
Finding of Fact is adopted as such, and any Finding of Fact more appropriately
characterized as a Conclusion of Law is adopted as such.
ORDER
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED:
The decision of the Board to adopt the Discovering Series is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Dated this 4th day of February, 2010.

Melissa Westbrook has more.
Seattle Math Group Press Release:

Judge Julie Spector today announced her finding of “arbitrary and capricious” in the Seattle School Board’s May 6 vote to adopt the Discovering Math series of high school texts despite insufficient evidence of the series’ effectiveness.
Judge Spector’s decision states, “The court finds, based upon a review of the entire administrative record, that there is insufficient evidence for any reasonable Board member to approve the selection of the Discovering series.”
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 fifth grader, and Cliff Mass, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Washington, had filed their appeal of the Board’s controversial decision on June 5th, 2009. The hearing was held on Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

On Seattle’s “Discovery Math” Lawsuit: “Textbook argument divides us”

Danny Westneat:

Can an algebra textbook be racist?
That’s what was argued Tuesday in a Seattle courtroom. Not overtly racist in that a book of equations and problem sets contains hatred or intolerance of others. But that its existence — its adoption for use in Seattle classrooms — is keeping some folks down.
“We’re on untested ground here,” admitted Keith Scully.
He’s the attorney who advanced this theory in a lawsuit challenging Seattle Public Schools’ choice of the Discovering series of math textbooks last year.
The appeal was brought by a handful of Seattle residents, including UW atmospheric-sciences professor Cliff Mass. It says Seattle’s new math books — and a “fuzzy” curriculum they represent — are harmful enough to racial and other minorities that they violate the state constitution’s guarantee of an equal education.
It also says the School Board’s choice of the books was arbitrary.
Mostly, Mass just says the new textbooks stink. For everyone. But he believes they will widen the achievement gap between whites and some minority groups, specifically blacks and students with limited English skills.

International Math Competition Defeat Prompts Soul Searching in China

Charlotte Yang: Chinese high school students generally outperform their western peers at math — at least, that’s what many in the country believe. That assumption was shattered Monday, when China placed a mediocre sixth at the 2019 Romanian Master of Mathematics (RMM), a major math competition for pre-university students. The U.S. won the championship for … Continue reading International Math Competition Defeat Prompts Soul Searching in China

13 Baltimore City High Schools, zero students proficient in math

Chris Papst: Project Baltimore analyzed 2017 state test scores released this fall. We paged through 16,000 lines of data and uncovered this: Of Baltimore City’s 39 High Schools, 13 had zero students proficient in math. Digging further, we found another six high schools where one percent tested proficient. Add it up – in half the … Continue reading 13 Baltimore City High Schools, zero students proficient in math

How Silicon Valley Plans to Conquer the Classroom

Natasha Singer & Danielle Ivory: Silicon Valley is going all out to own America’s school computer-and-software market, projected to reach $21 billion in sales by 2020. An industry has grown up around courting public-school decision makers, and tech companies are using a sophisticated playbook to reach them, The New York Times has found in a … Continue reading How Silicon Valley Plans to Conquer the Classroom

Madison Teacher / Student Relationships and Academic Outcomes?

Karen Rivedal: “Kids aren’t going to be able to take risks and push themselves academically, without having a trusting support network there,” said Lindsay Maglio, principal of Lindbergh Elementary School, where some teachers improved on traditional get-to-know-you exercises in the first few weeks of school by adding more searching questions, and where all school staff … Continue reading Madison Teacher / Student Relationships and Academic Outcomes?

Déjà vu: Madison elementary school students explore the district’s new math curriculum

Amber Walker: MMSD highlighted the success of the new math curriculum in its annual report, released last July. The report said the first cohort of schools using Bridges saw an eight-point increase in math proficiency scores and nine-point gains in math growth in one school year on the spring Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) exam … Continue reading Déjà vu: Madison elementary school students explore the district’s new math curriculum

Michelle Obama at WWDC: Bad Math Teachers Drove My Daughters Out of STEM

Slashdot.org: “I have two daughters now who are perfectly good in math, but they had one or two bad math teachers and they are done. That’s what happens to girls. They walk away from tech and science. And there’s something going on that is not just about the girls. There’s something going on with how … Continue reading Michelle Obama at WWDC: Bad Math Teachers Drove My Daughters Out of STEM

6 Baltimore schools, no students proficient in state tests

Chris Papst: A Project Baltimore investigation has found five Baltimore City high schools and one middle school do not have a single student proficient in the state tested subjects of math and English. We sat down with a teen who attends one of those schools and has overcome incredible challenges to find success. Related: Math … Continue reading 6 Baltimore schools, no students proficient in state tests

(2009) What impact do high school mathematics curricula have on college-level mathematics placement?

James Wollack and Michael Fish: Major Findings CORE-Plus students performed significantly less well on math placement test and ACT-M than did traditional students Change in performance was observed immediately after switch Score trends throughout CORE-Plus years actually decreased slightly Inconsistent with a teacher learning-curve hypothesis CORE-AP students fared much better, but not as well as … Continue reading (2009) What impact do high school mathematics curricula have on college-level mathematics placement?

Deja Vu: Madison School District Agreement with the US ED Office of Civil Rights

Last October, Madison Superintendent Jen Cheatham signed a resolution agreement with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights regarding OCR’s compliance review of access to advanced coursework by Hispanic and African-American students in the District. The resolution agreement was presented at the December 5, 2016 Instruction Workgroup meeting (agenda item 6.1): http://www.boarddocs.com/wi/mmsd/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=AFL2QH731563 The … Continue reading Deja Vu: Madison School District Agreement with the US ED Office of Civil Rights

K-12 Math Rigor? Are High School Graduates Capable Of Basic Cost/Benefit Calculations…

Kevin Carey: The problem, from a regulatory standpoint, is that they borrow a lot of money to obtain the degree — over $78,000 on average, according to the university. The total tuition is $62,593. And because it’s a graduate program, students can also borrow the full cost of their living expenses from the federal government, … Continue reading K-12 Math Rigor? Are High School Graduates Capable Of Basic Cost/Benefit Calculations…

Big bang for just a few bucks: The impact of math textbooks in California

Cory Koedel and Morgan Polikoff, via a kind Dan Dempsey email: Textbooks are one of the most widely used educational inputs, but remarkably little is known about their effects on student learning. This report uses data collected from elementary schools in California to estimate the impacts of mathematics textbook choices on student achievement. We study … Continue reading Big bang for just a few bucks: The impact of math textbooks in California

Madison School District Middle School Math Specialist Program

Madison School District Administration (PDF): Project Description: MMSD has provided funding to support coursework in the content and teaching knowledge of middle school teachers of math. Toward that goal, a partnership was formed back in 2010 between the District, the UW-Madison School of Education, the UW- Madison Department of Mathematics, and the University of Wisconsin … Continue reading Madison School District Middle School Math Specialist Program

The Economist’s Washington correspondent wonders why his offspring are being taught swimming so well and maths so badly

James Astill: Yet my children’s experience of school in America is in some ways as indifferent as their swimming classes are good, for the country’s elementary schools seem strangely averse to teaching children much stuff. According to the OECD’s latest international education rankings, American children are rated average at reading, below average at science, and … Continue reading The Economist’s Washington correspondent wonders why his offspring are being taught swimming so well and maths so badly

It’s Time to Turn the Page on Math in Seattle Schools

Rick Burke:

Days are getting longer, the weather is warmer. The smell of spring is in the air. But if you inhale deeply down by JSCEE, there’s another smell. It’s the smell of math. After years of sideways movement, the stars are aligned for systemic changes to math instruction in Seattle Public Schools.
When you look at Seattle kids’ math achievement against other urban districts, Seattle might seem to be doing OK. As a district-level statistic, we’re not too bad. But closer inspection of disaggregated data and the view from inside the system prompt a cry for help. Seattle still has a large number of struggling students and a persistent achievement gap which we can’t shake. Outside tutoring has become commonplace, with math as the most frequent remediation subject. However, recent national and state developments have identified common ground and outcome-proven methods which can serve as a model for Seattle.
This brings us around to a community support initiative for math education. Seattle has a math-focused School Board, and Seattle’s new superintendent, Jose Banda, came to Seattle from proven math success with a diverse student population in Anaheim. Recent news reports are that staff at JSCEE are planning a K-8 math instructional materials adoption soon. Examples of success are scattered through Seattle classrooms and it’s time for those successes to take root across the district.

Related: Math forum audio/video and Seattle’s “Discovery Math” lawsuit.

Appeals court sides with Seattle schools over math text choice

Katherine Long:

The Washington State Court of Appeals has reversed an earlier decision in King County Superior Court that found Seattle’s choice of a new high-school math series was arbitrary and capricious.
The appellate court found no basis for the Superior Court’s conclusion in February 2010 that the Seattle School board “was willful and unreasoning in coming to its decision” when it chose the Discovering Math series of textbooks for algebra and geometry in high school math.
The school district has been using the series since the start of the 2009 school year.
Some parents have criticized the Discovering Math series, saying it is inferior to other series and that its emphasis on verbal descriptions makes it difficult for some students to understand, especially those for whom English is a second language.

Much more on the Seattle Discovery Math lawsuit, here.

Lack of fiscal discipline in Seattle Public Schools

Lynne Varner:

The latest state audit of Seattle Public Schools didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know: The district is stuck in a culture of lax indifference when it comes to taxpayers’ money.
Despite the last decade’s phalanx of highly paid budget and money managers overseeing the district, few inroads have been made in transforming this culture.
Let’s start with the audit’s biggest discovery for the 2008-09 school year. The district overpaid at least 83 employees to the tune of $228,860. The district says the number of accidentally overpaid employees could be as high as 144.
Repayment plans have been set up for most of the employees. But others left the district, requiring costly measures, including collection agencies, to recover the money. Expect this debacle to reverberate as tax implications and impacts to the state retirement system unfold.

There’s a great deal of citizen activism underway in Seattle, including: a successful lawsuit that overturned the District’s adoption of Discovery Math, a recall drive for 5 of the 7 school board members and a lawsuit regarding the New Student Assignment Plan. Melissa Westbrook offers additional comments.
Spending and governance questions are not unique to Seattle.

School Districts vs. A Good Math Education

Charlie Mas:

If you are a parent in cities such as Bellevue, Issaquah or Seattle, your kids are being short-changed–being provided an inferior math education that could cripple their future aspirations–and you need to act. This blog will tell the story of an unresponsive and wrong-headed educational bureaucracies that are dead set on continuing in the current direction. And it will tell the story of how this disaster can be turned around. Parent or not, your future depends on dealing with the problem.
Let me provide you with a view from the battlefield of the math “wars”, including some information that is generally not known publicly, or has been actively suppressed by the educational establishment. Of lawsuits and locking parents out of decision making.
I know that some of you would rather that I only talk about weather, but the future of my discipline and of our highly technological society depends on mathematically literate students. Increasingly, I am finding bright students unable to complete a major in atmospheric sciences. All their lives they wanted to be a meteorologist and problems with math had ended their dreams. Most of them had excellent math grades in high school. I have talked in the past about problems with reform or discovery math; an unproven ideology-based instructional approach in vogue among the educational establishment. An approach based on student’s “discovering” math principles, group learning, heavy use of calculators, lack of practice and skills building, and heavy use of superficial “spiraling” of subject matter. As I have noted before in this blog, there is no competent research that shows that this approach works and plenty to show that it doesn’t. But I have covered much of this already in earlier blogs.

Related: Math Forum audio / video.

Lawsuit Challenging the Seattle School District’s use of “Discovering Mathematics” Goes to Trial

Martha McLaren, DaZanne Porter, and Cliff Mass:

Today Cliff Mass and I, (DaZanne Porter had to be at a training in Yakima) accompanied by Dan Dempsey and Jim W, had our hearing in Judge Julie Spector’s King County Superior Courtroom; the event was everything we hoped for, and more. Judge Spector asked excellent questions and said that she hopes to announce a decision by Friday, February 12th.
The hearing started on time at 8:30 AM with several members of the Press Corps present, including KIRO TV, KPLU radio, Danny Westneat of the Seattle Times, and at least 3 others. I know the number because, at the end, Cliff, our attorney, Keith Scully, and I were interviewed; there were five microphones and three cameras pointed towards us at one point.
The hearing was brief; we were done by 9:15. Keith began by presenting our case very clearly and eloquently. Our two main lines of reasoning are, 1) that the vote to adopt Discovering was arbitrary and capricious because of the board’s failure to take notice of a plethora of testimony, data, and other information which raised red flags about the efficacy of the Discovering series, and 2) the vote violated the equal education rights of the minority groups who have been shown, through WASL scores, to be disadvantaged by inquiry based instruction.
Realistically, both of these arguments are difficult to prove: “arbitrary and capricious” is historically a very, very difficult proof, and while Keith’s civil rights argument was quite compelling, there is no legal precedent for applying the law to this situation.
The School District’s attorney, Shannon McMinimee, did her best, saying that the board followed correct procedure, the content of the books is not relevant to the appeal, the books do not represent inquiry-based learning but a “balanced” approach, textbooks are merely tools, etc., etc. She even denigrated the WASL – a new angle in this case. In rebuttal, Keith was terrific, we all agreed. He quoted the introduction of the three texts, which made it crystal clear that these books are about “exploration.” I’m blanking on other details of his rebuttal, but it was crisp and effective. Keith was extremely effective, IMHO. Hopefully, Dan, James, and Cliff can recall more details of the rebuttal.

Associated Press:

A lawsuit challenging the Seattle School District’s math curriculum went to trial Monday in King County Superior Court.
A group of parents and teachers say the “Discovering Math” series adopted last year does a poor job, especially with minority students who are seeing an achievement gap widen.
A spokeswoman for the Seattle School District, Teresa Wippel, says it has no comment on pending litigation.
KOMO-TV reports the district has already spent $1.2 million on Discovering Math books and teacher training.

Cliff Mass:

On Tuesday, January 26th, at 8:30 AM, King County Superior Court Judge Julie Spector will consider an appeal by a group of Seattle residents (including yours truly) regarding the selection by Seattle Public Schools of the Discovering Math series in their high schools. Although this issue is coming to a head in Seattle it influences all of you in profound ways.
In this appeal we provide clear evidence that the Discovery Math approach worsens the achievement gap between minority/disadvantaged students and their peers. We show that the Board and District failed to consider key evidence and voluminous testimony, and acted arbitrarily and capriciously by choosing a teaching method that was demonstrated to produce a stagnant or increasing achievement gap. We request that the Seattle Schools rescind their decision and re-open the textbook consideration for high school.

The Politics of K-12 Math and Academic Rigor

The Economist: Look around the business world and two things stand out: the modern economy places an enormous premium on brainpower; and there is not enough to go round. But education inevitably matters most. How can India talk about its IT economy lifting the country out of poverty when 40% of its population cannot read? … Continue reading The Politics of K-12 Math and Academic Rigor