Remedial Education: Know a Problem to Fix It; Revisiting Madison’s Math Task Force

Inside Higher Education Remedial education is getting plenty of attention from state lawmakers. Yet there is little consistency in how states track students’ college preparedness and subsequent progress through remedial coursework. That’s the central finding of a new report from the Education Commission of the States. The education policy think tank also released a companion … Continue reading Remedial Education: Know a Problem to Fix It; Revisiting Madison’s Math Task Force

Madison School District Math Task Force Update

Lisa Wachtel, Executive Director of Curriculum and Assessment Sarah Lord, Mathematics Teacher Leader (2010-2011) Jeff Ziegler, Mathematics Teacher Leader (2011-2012) Grant Goettl, Middle School Math Specialist Resource Teacher Laura Godfrey, Mathematics Resource Teacher:

During the 2010-2011 school year, the Mathematics Division of Curriculum and Assessment (C&A) focused on implementing recommendations regarding Middle School Mathematics Specialists. Additionally, progress has been made in working towards consistent district-wide resources at the high school level.
Recommendations #1 – #5:
Recommendations #1-#5 focus on increasing mathematical knowledge for teaching in MMSD ‘s middle school teachers of mathematics. These recommendations address our workforce, hiring practices, professional development, partnerships with the UW and work with the Wisconsin DPI to change certification requirements.
The C&A Executive Director, C&A Assistant Director, Deputy Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Schools and Mathematics Instructional Resource Teacher met with Human Resources to discuss the implementation of the district-wide expectation for the hiring and retention of Math Specialists. This team created wording to be inserted into all middle school positions that state expectations for teachers involved in teaching mathematics.
The Mathematics Instructional Resource Teacher from Curriculum and Assessment has visited middle schools across Madison to share information with teaching staff and answer questions regarding the Middle School Math Specialist professional development program and the associated expectation for middle school teachers of mathematics. The resource teacher has also met with the Middle School Math Leadership Academy, and the Learning Coordinators to share information and answer questions. A website was created to provide easy access to the needed information. (A copy of the website is attached as Appendix E.)
The Middle School Math Specialist Advisory group that includes UW Mathematics, UW Mathematics Education, Education Outreach and Partnerships, and Madison Metropolitan School District has met throughout the year to provide updates, guidance to the development of the Math Specialist program, and continual feedback on the courses and implementation.
The first cohort of classes in the Middle School Math Specialist program being offered at UW-Madison began in August of20!0. During the first year, the three courses were co-taught by representatives from UW-Mathematics (Shirin Malekpour), UW- ( Mathematics Education (Meg Meyer), and MMSD (Grant Goettl). A total of22 MMSD teachers participated, with seven completing one course, two completing two courses, and ten completing all three offered courses. The topics of study included number properties, proportional reasoning, and geometry.
The first cohort will continue into their second year with eleven participants. The topics of study will include algebra and conjecture. The first cohort will complete the five course sequence in the spring of 2012.
The second cohort is currently being recruited. Advertising for this cohort began in March and sign-up began in April. This cohort will begin coursework in August of 2011. In the first year they will participate in three courses including the study of number properties, proportional reasoning, and geometry. This cohort will complete the five course sequence in the spring of 2013.
The tentative plan for facilitation of the 2011-2012 courses is as follows:

Much more on the Math Task Force, here.

Madison School District Administration Response to the Math Task Force

The local school district’s increasing use of reform math programs lead to the creation of a “Math Task Force“. The District Administration’s response is outlined in this 2.6MB PDF document:

The purpose of this report is to describe the recomrnendations in response to the Madison Metropolitan School District Mathematics Task Force Report: Review of Mathematics Curriculum and Related Issues, submitted to the Board of Education June, 2008.
Administrative Recommendations Summary The materials included in this packet update and replace those distributed to the Board of Education in April 2009. Included in the materials is a proposed budget.
Middle School Mathematics Specialists (see Recommendations 1-5)
The Superintendent and UW-Madison Deans of Letters and Sciences and the School of Education commissioned a representative and collaborative group to design a professional development plan for this initiative. The group was convened in June and has since met four times during the summer to research and design a professional development plan to support middle school mathematics teachers.
The Middle School Math Partnership committee has tentatively planned five courses for the professional development proposal. Those courses are Number and Generalization, Rational Number and Proportional Reasoning, Geometry, Measurement and Trigonometry, and Algebra and Functions. The courses would be spread out over two years and be co-facilitated by UW and MMSD staff.
Research, data gathering and design will continue through 2009-2010 with the initial cohort of middle school teachers beginning in summer 2010. Upon completion of an initial draft, the plan will be presented to district teachers for further input and refinement.
In collaboration with the above group, a National Science Foundation Targeted Partnership proposal, Professional Learning Partnership K-20 (PLP K-20), was submitted on August 20, 2009. A UW-Madison and MMSD team of nearly 30 members worked during the summer to craft a proposal focused on systemic and sustainable mathematics professional development. The vision described in the proposal creates “a lasting interface to coordinate material, human, social, and cyber resources” among the UW-Madison and District. The principal investigator of the NSF proposal is Eric Wilcots. Co-Pl’s include Provost Deluca, Superintendent Nerad, Dean Sandefur and Dean Underwood.

Background notes and links:

Again, it will be interesting to see what, if any substantive changes occur in the local math programs.

Response to the Madison School District’s Math Task Force Recommendations

To: comment@madison.k12.wi.us
Cc: askey@math.wisc.edu
There are a number of points in the Summary of Administrative Response to MMSD Mathematics Task Force Recommendations which should be made. As a mathematician, let me just comment on comments on Recommendation 11. There are other comments which could be made, but I have a limited amount of time at present.
The first question I have is in the first paragraph. “One aspect of the balanced approach is represented in the four block approach to structuring mathematics lessons. The four blocks include Problem Solving, Number Work, Fluency and Maintenance and Inspecting Equations.” There is a missing comma, since it is not clear whether Maintenance goes with the previous word or the last two. However, in either case, “Inspecting Equations” is a strange phrase to use. I am not sure what it means, and when a mathematician who has read extensively in school mathematics does not understand a phrase, something is wrong. You might ask Brian Sniff, who seems to have written this report based on one comment he made at the Monday meeting, what he means by this.
In the next paragraph, there are the following statements about the math program used in MMSD. “The new edition [of Connected Math Project] includes a greater emphasis on practice problems similar to those in traditional middle and high school textbooks. The new edition still remains focused on problem-centered instruction that promotes deep conceptual understanding.” First, I dislike inflated language. It usually is an illustration of a lack of knowledge. We cannot hope for “deep conceptual understanding”, in school mathematics, and Connected Math falls far short of what we want students to learn and understand in many ways. There are many examples which could be given and a few are mentioned in a letter I sent to the chair of a committee which gave an award to two of the developers of Connected Mathematics Project. Much of my letter to Phil Daro is given below.
The final paragraph for Recommendation 11 deals with high school mathematics. When asked about the state standards, Brian Sniff remarked that they were being rewritten, but that the changes seem to be minimal. He is on the high school rewrite committee, and I hope he is incorrect about the changes since significant changes should be made. We now have a serious report from the National Mathematics Advisory Panel which was asked to report on algebra. In addition to comments on what is needed to prepare students for algebra, which should have an impact on both elementary and middle school mathematics, there is a good description of what algebra in high school should contain. Some of the books used in MMSD do not have the needed algebra. In addition, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has published Curriculum Focal Points for grades PK-8 which should be used for further details in these grades. Neither of these reports was mentioned in the response you were sent.

Madison Math Task Force Report Public Session: February 11, 2009 @ Cherokee Middle School

The Cherokee PTO [Map] is hosting a discussion of the Madison School District’s Math Task Force Report this Wednesday evening, February 11, 2009 in the Library.
Much more on the Math Task Force report here.

Madison Math Task Force Public Session Wednesday Evening 1/14/2009

The public is invited to attend the Cherokee Middle School PTO’s meeting this Wednesday, January 14, 2009. The Madison School District will present it’s recent Math Task Force findings at 7:00p.m. in the Library.
Cherokee Middle School
4301 Cherokee Dr
Madison, WI 53711
(608) 204-1240

Notes, audio and links from a recent meeting can be found here.
A few notes from Wednesday evening’s meeting:

  • A participant asked why the report focused on Middle Schools. The impetus behind the effort was the ongoing controversy over the Madison School District’s use of Connected Math.
  • Madison’s math coordinator, Brian Sniff, mentioned that the District sought a “neutral group, people not very vocal one end or the other”. Terry Millar, while not officially part of the task force, has been very involved in the District’s use of reform math programs (Connected Math) for a number of years and was present at the meeting. The 2003, $200,000 SCALE (System-Wide Change for All Learners and Educators” (Award # EHR-0227016 (Clusty Search), CFDA # 47.076 (Clusty Search)), from the National Science Foundation) agreement between the UW School of Education (Wisconsin Center for Education Research) names Terry as the principal investigator [340K PDF]. The SCALE project has continued each year, since 2003. Interestingly, the 2008 SCALE agreement ([315K PDF] page 6) references the controversial “standards based report cards” as a deliverable by June, 2008, small learning communities (page 3) and “Science Standards Based Differentiated Assessments for Connected Math” (page 6). The document also references a budget increase to $812,336. (additional SCALE agreements, subsequent to 2003: two, three, four)
  • Task force member Dr. Mitchell Nathan is Director of AWAKEN [1.1MB PDF]:

    Agreement for Releasing Data and Conducting Research for
    AWAKEN Project in Madison Metropolitan School District
    The Aligning Educational Experiences with Ways of Knowing Engineering (AWAKEN) Project (NSF giant #EEC-0648267 (Clusty search)) aims to contribute to the long-term goal of fostering a larger, more diverse and more able pool of engineers in the United States. We propose to do so by looking at engineering education as a system or continuous developmental experience from secondary education through professional practice….
    In collaboration with the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD), AWAKEN researchers from the Wisconsin Center for Educational Research (WCER) will study and report on science, mathematics, and Career and Technical Education (specifically Project Lead The Way) curricula in the district.

  • Task force member David Griffeath, a UW-Madison math professor provided $6,000 worth of consulting services to the District.
  • Former Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater is now working in the UW-Madison School of Education. He appointed (and the board approved) the members of the Math Task Force.

Madison School Board Vice President Lucy Mathiak recently said that the “conversation about math is far from over”. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
I am particularly interested in what the ties between the UW-Madison School of Education and the Madison School District mean for the upcoming “Strategic Planning Process” [49K PDF]. The presence of the term “standards based report cards” and “small learning communities” within one of the SCALE agreements makes me wonder who is actually driving the District. In other words, are the grants driving decision making?
Finally, it is worth reviewing the audio, notes and links from the 2005 Math Forum, including UW-Madison math professor emeritus Dick Askey’s look at the School District’s data.
Related: The Politics of K-12 Math and Academic Rigor.

Mathmetician The Best Job in the US; Madison Math Task Force Community Meetings Tonight & Tomorrow

Sarah Needleman:

Nineteen years ago, Jennifer Courter set out on a career path that has since provided her with a steady stream of lucrative, low-stress jobs. Now, her occupation — mathematician — has landed at the top spot on a new study ranking the best and worst jobs in the U.S.
“It’s a lot more than just some boring subject that everybody has to take in school,” says Ms. Courter, a research mathematician at mental images Inc., a maker of 3D-visualization software in San Francisco. “It’s the science of problem-solving.”
The study, to be released Tuesday from CareerCast.com, a new job site, evaluates 200 professions to determine the best and worst according to five criteria inherent to every job: environment, income, employment outlook, physical demands and stress. (CareerCast.com is published by Adicio Inc., in which Wall Street Journal owner News Corp. holds a minority stake.)
The findings were compiled by Les Krantz, author of “Jobs Rated Almanac,” and are based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau, as well as studies from trade associations and Mr. Krantz’s own expertise.
According to the study, mathematicians fared best in part because they typically work in favorable conditions — indoors and in places free of toxic fumes or noise — unlike those toward the bottom of the list like sewage-plant operator, painter and bricklayer. They also aren’t expected to do any heavy lifting, crawling or crouching — attributes associated with occupations such as firefighter, auto mechanic and plumber.
The study also considers pay, which was determined by measuring each job’s median income and growth potential. Mathematicians’ annual income was pegged at $94,160, but Ms. Courter, 38, says her salary exceeds that amount.

Related:

Parents and citizens have another opportunity to provide input on this matter when Brian Sniff, Madison’s Math Coordinator and Lisa Wachtel, Director of Madison’s Teaching & Learning discuss the Math Report at a Cherokee Middle School PTO meeting on January 14, 2009 at 7:00p.m.

Math Task Force Feedback Sessions Slated for January

Last year the MMSD School Board appointed a committee to look at the math curriculum in the district. The task force recently presented their findings to the School Board. We accepted their report and referred it to the Superintendent for recommendations. The next step in the process is a community input session. Sessions were originally … Continue reading Math Task Force Feedback Sessions Slated for January

Community Forum – Math Task Force Recommendations

There will be 2 forums to receive community feedback on the Math Task Force report/recommendations.
* Monday, December 8 – 6:00-8:00pm at Memorial High School
* Tuesday, December 9 – 6:00-8:00pm at La Follette High School
There will be a brief presentation on the task force recommendations, followed by a break-out session for community feedback and comments.
The Superintendent will use the feedback and comments in developing his recommendations for the Board.
As a reminder, the Math Task Force info can be found at http://www.mmsd.org/boe/math/
Thank you.
Arlene

Community Input on Math Task Force Recommendations – SAVE THE DATES!

Hi – there will be 2 community input forums to gather input from the community on the recommendations of the Math Task Force. The report of the MTF can be found at:
http://www.mmsd.org/boe/math/
The forums are scheduled for:
Monday, December 8 from 6:00-8:00pm at Memorial High School
Tuesday, December 9 from 6:00-8:00pm at LaFollette High School
I am not sure of the format yet but know this is a busy time of year so wanted to give you an opportunity to mark your calendars if you plan on attending on of the forums. I’ll send more information when available.
Arlene

Madison’s Math Task Force Meets Today and Tomorrow

Madison School District:

  1. Welcome
  2. Approval of Minutes dated June 6, 2008
  3. Review of Drafts of Findings and Recommendations for Final Task Force Report
  1. Consensus findings
  2. Findings that require further discussion
  3. Consensus recommendations
  4. Recommendations that require further discussion
  1. Further Discussion of Findings Requiring Revised or Additional Language as Needed
  2. Further Discussion of Recommendations requiring Revised or Additional Language as Needed
  3. Other Findings or Recommendations Proposed for Inclusion in the Final Report
  4. Other Issues regarding Final Report Draft

Friday:

    Welcome
  1. Review of Revised Report Documents
    1. Revised findings
    2. Revised recommendations
    3. Discussion
  2. Review and Discussion of Other Chapters of Final Report
  3. Additional Comments and Concerns relate to the Final Report
  4. Acceptance of Findings, Recommendations and Sub-reports and Final Report
  5. Next Steps in Process of Submitting to the MMSD Board
  6. Acknowledgments
  7. Adjournment

Much more on the Math Task Force here.
March 7, 2008 Madison Math Task Force Minutes.

Madison Math Task Force Minutes

March 7, 2008 Meeting [rtf / pdf]. Well worth reading for those interested in the use of Connected Math and Core Plus, among others, in our schools.
A few interesting items:

  • Mitchell Nathan proposed a change to the name of the Work Group to more authentically describe its intent. There was consensus to accept the change in designation for the Work Group from “Curriculum Review and Research Findings” to “Learning from Curricula.”
  • “Addresses the misconception that there is one curriculum. There are a number of curricula at play, with the exception of the narrowing down at the middle school level, but teachers are also drawing from supplementary materials. There are a range of pathways for math experiences. The work plan would give an overview by level of program of what exists. “
  • “Could say that variety is good for children to have places to plug into. Could expand on the normative idea of purchasing commercial curricula vs. richer, in-house materials. Standards tell the teachers what needs to be taught. Published materials often are missing some aspect of the standards. District tries to define core resources; guides that help people with classroom organization.” Fascinating, given the move toward one size fits all in high school, such as English 9 and 10.
  • “Want to include a summary of the NRC report that came out in favor of Connected Math but was not conclusive—cannot control for teacher effects, positive effects of all curricula, etc. “
  • “Would like to give some portrayal of the opportunities for accelerated performance — want to document informal ways things are made available for differentiation. “
  • “Include elementary math targeted at middle school, e.g., Math Masters. There is information out there to address the Math Masters program and its effect on student achievement.”
  • “Data are available to conclude that there is equity in terms of resources”
  • “District will have trend data, including the period when Connected Math was implemented, and control for changes in demographics and see if there was a change. No way to link students who took the WKCE with a particular curriculum experience (ed: some years ago, I recall a teacher asked Administration at a PTO meeting whether they would track students who took Singapore Math at the Elementary level: “No”). That kind of data table has to be built, including controls and something to match teacher quality. May recommend that not worth looking at WKCE scores of CM (Connected Math) student or a case study is worth doing. “
  • The Parent Survey will be mailed to the homes of 1500 parents of students across all grades currently enrolled in MMSD math classes. The Teacher Survey will be conducted via the district’s web site using the Infinite Campus System.
  • MMSD Math Task Force website

Math Forum audio / video and links.

Madison Math Task Force Meetings Today and Wednesday

Week of June 11, 2007 Tuesday, June 12 9:00 a.m. Math Task Force 1. Introduction of Task Force Members 2. Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Math Instructional System 3. Next steps on How to Proceed and Timeline 4. Adjournment Wisconsin Center for Education Research 1025 West Johnson St. Madison, WI 53706 [map] 13th Floor Conference … Continue reading Madison Math Task Force Meetings Today and Wednesday

MMSD Paid Math Consultant on Math Task Force

Click to view MMSD Accounting Details. A number of questions have been raised over the past few years regarding the Madison School District’s math curriculum: West High Math Teachers: Moreover, parents of future West High students should take notice: As you read this, our department is under pressure from the administration and the math coordinator’s … Continue reading MMSD Paid Math Consultant on Math Task Force

Outline of math task force

I believe that the school board voted to move forward on the superintendent’s recommendation to form a math task force. The board asked the administration to: Initiate and complete a comprehensive, independent and neutral review and assessment of the District’s K-12 math curriculum. · The review and assessment shall be undertaken by a task force … Continue reading Outline of math task force

Informational and Community Discussion Sessions on the Madison Mathematics Task Force

Date: January 6th, 2009

Time: 6:00 – 8:00 pm

Where: LaFollette High School – LMC

Date: January 7th, 2009

Time: 6:00 – 8:00 pm

Where: Memorial High School – Wisconsin Neighborhood Center

You are cordially invited to attend an information session and discussion about the findings and recommendations of the Math Task Force which recently completed a review of the MMSD K-12 Mathematics program. Please also share this information with others who may be interested in attending.
At each session, there will be a brief informational presentation followed by an opportunity for discussion. The Executive Summary and complete Task Force Report can be found at http://www.madison.k12.wi.us/boe/math/.
We are looking forward to sharing this information with you and learning about your reactions to the research and recommendations included in the report. Your thoughts are important to us as we work to improve the MMSD K-12 Mathematics program.
Questions/comments? Please contact Brian Sniff at bsniff@madison.k12.wi.us
Looking forward to seeing you on January 6th or 7th.

MMSD Math Review Task Force Introduction and Discussion

The Madison School District’s Math Task Force was introduced to the School Board last night. Watch the video or listen to the mp3 audio. Background Links: Madison School Board Discusses Independent Math Review: Audio / Video. Math Forum Audio / Video UW Math Professor Dick Askey on the MMSD’s math scores; related: State test scores … Continue reading MMSD Math Review Task Force Introduction and Discussion

Company drops lawsuit against parent who has led opposition to Wake’s math curriculum

T Keung Hui: The provider of Wake County’s controversial high school math curriculum had dropped its lawsuit against a Cary parent who is leading the fight to get the program dropped from the district’s schools. The Mathematics Vision Project had filed a lawsuit in July in a Utah state court accusing Blain Dillard of making … Continue reading Company drops lawsuit against parent who has led opposition to Wake’s math curriculum

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Seven-Year Auto Loan: America’s Middle Class Can’t Afford Its Cars [Math Education…]

Ben Eisen & Adrienne Roberts: Mr. Jones, now 22 years old, walked out with a gray Accord sedan with heated leather seats. He also took home a 72-month car loan that cost him and his then-girlfriend more than $500 a month. When they split last year and the monthly payment fell solely to him, it … Continue reading K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Seven-Year Auto Loan: America’s Middle Class Can’t Afford Its Cars [Math Education…]

What Are Classroom Practices That Support Equity-Based Mathematics Teaching?

nctm: Current mathematics education research is used to frame equity-based teaching practices through three lenses useful for building one’s teaching: reflecting , noticing , and engaging in community . Reflecting . Equity-based teaching requires a substantial amount of reflection, which involves not just reflecting on your pedagogy and your classroom norms, but also considering how … Continue reading What Are Classroom Practices That Support Equity-Based Mathematics Teaching?

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

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

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

On B-School Test, Americans Fail to Measure Up; “Improve K-12 Math”

Lindsay Gellman: New waves of Indians and Chinese are taking America’s business-school entrance exam, and that’s causing a big problem for America’s prospective M.B.A.s. Why? The foreign students are much better at the test. Asia-Pacific students have shown a mastery of the quantitative portion of the four-part Graduate Management Admission Test. That has skewed mean … Continue reading On B-School Test, Americans Fail to Measure Up; “Improve K-12 Math”

Teacher group: Math is ‘the domain of old, white men’

Danette Clark: According to a Teach for America website, culturally responsive teaching in math is important because “math has traditionally been seen as the domain of old, White men.” As reported earlier this week, Teach for America groups across the country are committing themselves to “culturally responsive teaching,” a radical pedagogy used by communist Bill … Continue reading Teacher group: Math is ‘the domain of old, white men’

21% of University of Wisconsin System Freshman Require Remedial Math

Karen Herzog: Regent Margaret Farrow said K-12 must be a strong partner in preparing high school students for college. “We’re not, quite frankly, creating this situation we’re trying to solve.” Starting next year, all 11th graders in Wisconsin pubic schools will be required to take the ACT college-readiness exam that universities use in their admissions … Continue reading 21% of University of Wisconsin System Freshman Require Remedial Math

Financial ability correlates w/ maths skills not financial education: Revisiting Madison’s 2007 Math Forum

James Pickford: But they don’t appear to do much financial training in Shanghai?  One of the report’s most interesting conclusions was that the best way of teaching financial literacy is not necessarily by instruction in the classroom. Far more important as indicators of proficiency were mathematical skills and personal experience with financial products. So Chinese children, who … Continue reading Financial ability correlates w/ maths skills not financial education: Revisiting Madison’s 2007 Math Forum

Common-Core Math Standards Don’t Add Up

Grant Wiggins, via a kind reader

There is little question in my mind that national standards will be a blessing. The crazy quilt of district and state standards will become more rational, student mobility will stop causing needless learning hardships, and the full talents of a nation of innovators will be released to develop a vast array of products and services at a scale that permits even small vendors to compete to widen the field to all educators’ benefit.
That said, we are faced with a terrible situation in mathematics. In my view, unlike the English/language arts standards, the mathematics components of the Common Core State Standards Initiative are a bitter disappointment. In terms of their limited vision of math education, the pedestrian framework chosen to organize the standards, and the incoherent nature of the standards for mathematical practice in particular, I don’t see how these take us forward in any way. They unwittingly reinforce the very errors in math curriculum, instruction, and assessment that produced the current crisis.

One wonders what became of the Madison School Districts Math Task Force?

An Open Letter to the Wisconsin Read To Lead Task Force on Implementing Common Core Academic Standards; DPI: “Leading Us Backwards”

Dan Gustafson, PhD 133K PDF, via a kind email from the Wisconsin Reading Coalition:

WRC recommends reading the following open letter from Madison neuropsychologist Dan Gustafson to the Governor’s Read to Lead task force. It reflects many of our concerns about the state of reading instruction in Wisconsin and the lack of an effective response from the Department of Public Instruction.
An Open Letter to the Read-To-Lead Task Force
From Dan Gustafson, PhD
State Superintendent Evers, you appointed me to the Common Core Leadership Group. You charged that the Leadership Group would guide Wisconsin’s implementation of new reading instruction standards developed by the National Governors’ Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).
It is my understanding that I was asked to join the group with the express purpose of bringing different voices to the table. If anything, my experience with the group illustrates how very far we need to go in achieving a transparent and reasoned discussion about the reading crisis in Wisconsin.
DPI Secretly Endorses Plan Created by Poor Performing CESA-7
I have grave concerns about DPI’s recent announcement that Wisconsin will follow CESA-7’s approach to implementing the Common Core reading standards. DPI is proposing this will be the state’s new model reading curriculum.
I can attest that there was absolutely no consensus reached in the Common Core group in support of CESA-7’s approach. In point of fact, at the 27th of June Common Core meeting, CESA-7 representative Claire Wick refused to respond to even general questions about her program.
I pointed out that our group, the Common Core Leadership Group, had a right to know about how CESA-7 intended to implement the Common Core Standards. She denied this was the case, citing a “non-disclosure agreement.”
The moderator of the discussion, DPI’s Emilie Amundson, concurred that Claire didn’t need to discuss the program further on the grounds that it was only a CESA-7 program. Our Common Core meeting occurred on the 27th of June. Only two weeks later, on July 14th, DPI released the following statement:
State Superintendent Evers formally adopted the Common Core State Standards in June 2010, making Wisconsin the first state in the country to adopt these rigorous, internationally benchmarked set of expectations for what students should know and are expected to do in English Language Arts and Mathematics. These standards guide both curriculum and assessment development at the state level. Significant work is now underway to determine how training will be advanced for these new standards, and DPI is currently working with CESA 7 to develop a model curriculum aligned to the new standards.
In glaring contrast to the deliberative process that went into creating the Common Core goals, Wisconsin is rushing to implement the goals without being willing to even show their program to their own panel of experts.
What Do We Know About Wisconsin/CESA-7’s Model Curriculum?
As an outsider to DPI, I was only able to locate one piece of data regarding CESA-7’s elementary school reading performance:
4TH GRADE READING SCORES, 2007-08 WKCE-CRT,
CESA-7 IS AMONG THE WORST PERFORMING DISTRICTS.
CESA-7 RANKED 10TH OF THE 12 WISCONSIN CESA’S.
What Claire did say about her philosophy and the CESA-7 program, before she decided to refuse further comment, was that she did not think significant changes were needed in reading instruction in Wisconsin, as “only three-percent” of children were struggling to read in the state. This is a strikingly low number, one that reflects an arbitrary cutoff for special education. Her view does not reflect the painful experience of the 67% of Wisconsin 4th graders who scored below proficient on the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress.
As people in attendance at the meeting can attest, Claire also said that her approach was “not curriculum neutral” and she was taking a “strong stand” on how to teach reading. Again, when I pressed her on what these statements meant, she would only reference oblique whole language jargon, such as a belief in the principal of release from instruction. When I later asked her about finding a balance that included more phonics instruction, she said “too much emphasis” had been given to balanced literacy. After making her brief statements to the Common Core group, she said she had already disclosed too much, and refused to provide more details about the CESA-7 program.
Disregarding Research and Enormous Gains Made by other States, Wisconsin Continues to Stridently Support Whole Language
During the remainder of the day-long meeting on the 27th, I pressed the group to decide about a mechanism to achieve an expert consensus grounded in research. I suggested ways we could move beyond the clear differences that existed among us regarding how to assess and teach reading.
The end product of the meeting, however, was just a list of aspirational goals. We were told this would likely be the last meeting of the group. There was no substantive discussion about implementation of the goals–even though this had been Superintendent Evers’ primary mandate for the group.
I can better understand now why Emilie kept steering the discussion back to aspirational goals. The backroom deal had already been made with Claire and other leaders of the Wisconsin State Reading Association (WSRA). It would have been inconvenient to tell me the truth.
WSRA continues to unapologetically champion a remarkably strident version of whole-language reading instruction. Please take a look at the advocacy section of their website. Their model of reading instruction has been abandoned through most the United States due to lack of research support. It is still alive and well in CESA-7, however.
Our State Motto is “Forward”
After years of failing to identify and recommend model curriculum by passing it off as an issue of local control, the DPI now purports to lead. Unfortunately, Superintendent Evers, you are now leading us backward.
Making CESA-7 your model curriculum is going to cause real harm. DPI is not only rashly and secretly endorsing what appears to be a radical version of whole language, but now school districts who have adopted research validated procedures, such as the Monroe School District, will feel themselves under pressure to fall in line with your recommended curriculum.
By all appearances, CESA-7’s program is absolutely out of keeping with new Federal laws addressing Response to Intervention and Wisconsin’s own Specific Learning Disability Rule. CESA-7’s program will not earn us Race to the Top funding. Most significantly, CESA-7’s approach is going to harm children.
In medicine we would call this malpractice. There is clear and compelling data supporting one set of interventions (Monroe), and another set of intervention that are counter-indicated (CESA-7). This is not a matter of opinion, or people taking sides. This is an empirical question. If you don’t have them already, I hope you will find trusted advisors who will rise above the WSRA obfuscation and just look at the data. It is my impression that you are moving fast and receiving poor advice.
I am mystified as to why, after years of making little headway on topics related to reading, DPI is now making major decisions at a breakneck pace. Is this an effort to circumvent the Read-To-Lead Task Force by instituting new policies before the group has finished its scheduled meetings? Superintendent Evers, why haven’t you shared anything about the CESA-7 curriculum with them? Have you already made your decision, or are you prepared to show the Read-To-Lead that there is a deliberative process underway to find a true model curriculum?
There are senior leaders at DPI who recognize that the reading-related input DPI has received has been substantially unbalanced. For example, there were about five senior WSRA members present at the Common Core meetings, meaning that I was substantially outnumbered. While ultimately unsuccessful due to logistics, an 11th hour effort was made to add researchers and leadership members from the Wisconsin Reading Coalition to the Common Core group.
The Leadership Group could achieve what you asked of it, which is to thoughtfully guide implementation of the Common Core. I am still willing to work with you on this goal.
State Superintendent Evers, I assume that you asked me to be a member of the Leadership Group in good faith, and will be disappointed to learn of what actually transpired with the group. You may have the false impression that CESA-7’s approach was vetted at your Common Core Leadership Group. Lastly, and most importantly, I trust you have every desire to see beyond destructive politics and find a way to protect the welfare of the children of Wisconsin.
Sincerely,
Dan Gustafson, PhD, EdM
Neuropsychologist, Dean Clinic

View a 133K PDF or Google Docs version.
Related:
How does Wisconsin Compare: 2 Big Goals.
Wisconsin Academic Standards

Wisconsin Teacher Content Knowledge Requirement Comparison

Montgomery schools’ decision to slow pace of math courses divides parents

Michael Birnbaum

One recent night, Mackenzie Stassel was cramming for a quiz in her advanced math course in Montgomery County. Her review of the complicated topics followed hours of other homework. Eventually she started to nod off at the table.
It was 11:15 p.m. Mackenzie is a sixth-grader.
There will be fewer such nights in the future for many Montgomery students.
Last month, Maryland’s largest school system announced that it would significantly curtail its practice of pushing large numbers of elementary and middle school students to skip grade levels in math. Parents had questioned the payoff of acceleration; teachers had said students in even the most advanced classes were missing some basics.

Related: Math Forum and Madison’s Math Task Force.

One-time funds to train 153 Oshkosh teachers to help students with math

Adam Rodewald

New spending approved by the Oshkosh school board would cover a gap in math tutoring services that has left four schools with inadequate help for struggling students since last year.
About 13 percent of Oshkosh elementary school students perform below grade level in math, said Director of Curriculum Shelly Muza.
That’s better than the average Wisconsin district, which has about 25 percent of elementary students performing below grade level. But budget cuts in the 2009-10 academic year stripped Oakwood, Carl Traeger, Lakeside and Green Meadow schools of math support services after the board decided to fund the $295,000 program with federal Title I dollars – money given only to schools with higher rates of poverty – instead of general fund dollars.
The remaining math intervention teachers who work one-on-one with struggling students can barely keep up. The equivalent of 4.25 full-time teachers are split between about 570 students in 12 elementary schools, said Muza.

Two relate links: Math Forum Audio, Video & Links; Math Task Force.

Push for math, science education stumbles amid beleaguered Kansas City districts’ pressures

Joe Robertson

Five years ago, alarms sounded over America’s rapidly falling stature in STEM education.
That’s science, technology, engineering and math — the keys to our nation’s prosperity. But U.S. schools weren’t keeping up in the fast-changing fields.
Governors dispatched task forces. New programs were launched. Foundations poured in funding. And schools started to make gains.
Now, however, signs are emerging that the momentum of the mid-2000s is slipping away, even as students’ needs continue to grow.

An Email to Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad on Math Teacher Hiring Criteria by Janet Mertz.

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.

Madison Schools’ 2010-2011 Budget Amendments: Task Force Spending Moratorium, Increase consulting, travel and Professional Development Spending

The Madison School Board meets Tuesday evening, June 1, 2010 to discuss the 2010-2011 budget. A few proposed budget amendments were posted recently:

Much more on the 2010-2011 Madison School District budget here.

What’s up With Implementation of the Arts Task Force Recommendations – Who Knows

I have similar concerns about “meaningful” implementation of the fine arts task force recommendations. The task force presented its recommendations to the School Board in October 2008, which were based in large part on input from more than 1,000 respondents to a survey. It was another 7 months before administration recommendations were ready for the School Board, and its been another 6 months since then without any communication to the community or staff about: a) brief summary of what the School Board approved (which could have been as simple as posting the cover letter), b) what’s underway, etc. Anything at a Board meeting can be tracked down on the website, but that’s not what I’m talking about. There are plenty of electronic media that allow for efficient, appropriate communication to many people in the district and in the community, allowing for on-going communication and engagement. Some of the current issues might be mitigated, so further delays do not occur. Also, there already is a blog in the arts area that is rarely used.
Afterall, one of our School Board members, Lucy Mathiak, has a full-time job (in addition to being a school board member) as well as having a lot of other life stuff on her plate and she’s developed a blog. It wouldn’t be appropriate for administrators to comment as she does if they are wearing their administrator hats, but concise, factual information would be helpful. I mentioned this to the Superintendent when I met with him in November. He said he thought this was a good idea and ought to take place – haven’t seen it yet; hope to soon, though.
In the meantime, I’m concerned about the implementation of one of the most important aspects of the task force’s recommendations – multi-year educational and financial strategic plan for the arts, which members felt needed to be undertaken after the School Board’s approval and in parallel with implementation of other efforts. Why was this so important to the task force? Members felt to sustain arts education in this economic environment, such an effort was critical.
From the task force’s perspective, a successful effort in this area would involve the community and would not be a solo district effort. As a former member and co-chair of the task force, I’ve heard nothing about this. I am well aware of the tight staffing and resources, but there are multiple ways to approach this. Also, in my meetings with administrative staff over the summer that included my co-chair, Anne Katz, we all agreed this was not appropriate for Teaching and Learning whose work and professional experience is in the area of curriculum. Certainly, curriculum is an important piece, but is not the entire, long-term big picture for arts education. Also, there is no need to wait on specific curriculum plans before moving forward with the longer-term effort. They are very, very different and all the curriculum work won’t mean much if the bigger picture effort is not undertaken in a timely manner. When the task force began it’s work, this was a critical issue. It’s even more critical now.
Does anyone have information about what’s underway, meaningful opportunities for community and teacher engagement (vs. the typical opportunities for drive by input – if you don’t comment as we drive by, you must not care or tacitly approve of what’s being done is how I’ve heard the Teaching and Learning approach described to me and I partially experienced personally). I so hope not, because there are many knowledgable teaching professionals.
I know the topic of this thread was talented and gifted, but there are many similar “non-content” issues between the two topics. I’m hoping to address my experiences and my perspectives on arts education issues in the district in separate posts in the near future.

Deja vu: Report of the 1965 Madison School District Math 9 Textbook Committee

1.7MB PDF by Robert D. Gilberts, Superintendent Madison School District, Ted Losby and the Math 9 Textbook Committee:

The mathematics committee of the junior high schools of Madison has been meeting regularly for four rears with one intention in mind — to improve the mathematics program of the junior high school. After experimenting with three programs in the 7th grade, the Seeing Through Mathematics series, Books 1 and 2, were recommended for adoption and approved in May of 1963.
The committee continued its leadership role in implementing the new program and began evaluation of the 9th grade textbooks available. The committee recommended the adoption of Seeing Through Mathematics, Book 3, published by Scott, Foresman and Company, and Algebra: Its Element and Structure, Book 1, published by Webster Division, McGraw-Hill Book Company, and the Board of Education adopted them on May 3, 1965.
A number of objections to the Seeing Through Mathematics textbooks were made by various University of Wisconsin professors. Dr. R. C. Buck, chairman of the University of Wisconsin Mathematics Department strongly criticized the series. A public objection to the adoption was made at the Board of Education meeting by Dr. Richard Askey of the University Mathematics Department. Later, a formal petition of protest against the adoption of Seeing Through Mathematics, Book 3, was sent to committee members. [related: 2006 Open Letter from 35 UW-Madison Math Professors about the Madison School District’s Math Coordinator position]
The sincerity of the eminently qualified professional mathematicians under Dr. Buck’s chairmanship was recognized by both the administration and the committee as calling for reconsideration of the committee’s decisions over the past three years relative to the choice of Seeing Through Mathematics 1, 2 and 3.
Conversely, the support of the Scott, Foresman and. Company mathematics program and its instruction philosophy, as evidenced by numerous adoptions throughout the country and the pilot studies carried out in the Madison Public Schoolsvindicated that equitable treatment of those holding diametric viewpoints should be given. It was decided that the interests of the students to be taught would be best served through a hearing of both sides before reconsideration.
A special meeting of the Junior High School. Mathematics committee was held on June 10, 1965.
Meeting 1. Presentations were made by Dr. R. C. Buck, Dr. Richard Askey, and Dr. Walter Rudin of the University of Wisconsin Mathematics Department, and Dr. J. B. Rosen, chairman-elect of the University of Wisconsin Computer Sciences Department.
The presentations emphasized the speakers’ major criticism of the Seeing Through Mathematics series — “that these books completely distort the ideas and spirit of modern mathematics, and do not give students a good preparation for future mathematics courses. Examples were used to show that from the speakers’ points of view the emphasis in Seeing Through Mathematics is wrong. They indicated they felt the language overly pedantic, and the mathematics of the textbooks was described as pseudo-mathematics. However, it was pointed out that the choice of topics was good the content was acceptable (except for individual instances), and the treatment was consistent. A question and answer session tollowed the presentations.
……….
After careful consideration of all points of view, the committee unanimously recommended:

  1. that the University of Wisconsin Mathematics and Education Departments be invited to participate with our Curriculum Department in developing end carrying out a program to evaluate the effectiveness of the Seeing Through Mathematics series and, if possible, other “modern” mathematics series in Madison and other school districts in Wisconsin;
  2. that the committee reaffirm its decision to recommend the use of Seeing Through Mathematics, Book 3, and Algebra: Its Elements and structure, Book 1, in grade nine with Seeing Through Mathematics, Book 1 and 2 in grades seven and eight, and that the Department of Curriculum Developnent of the Madison Public Schools continue its study, its evaluation, and its revision of the mathematics curriculum; and
  3. that en in-service program be requested for all junior high school mathematics teachers. (Details to follow in a later bulletin).

Related: The recent Madison School District Math Task Force.
Britannica on deja vu.

Madison School District Elementary Math Curriculum Purchases

Superintendent Dan Nerad [64K PDF]:

MMSD has begun a three-year implementation plan to achieve an equitable and balanced mathematics program at tbe elementary level. The plan was developed and refined through collaboration with teachers, Instructional Resource Teachers and principals over the course of the past several years. The plan includes the materials described below (details via this 64K PDF),
With the attached order, MMSD has provided each classroom teacher in the District with a Learning Mathematics in the Primary/Intermediate Grades instructional guide and the set of teacher resources from the Investigations program. The third component of the teacher materials is Teaching Student Centered Mathematics by John Van de Walle, which is in place in most classrooms but will continue to be ordered using ELM or Title I funds, as necessary. Additional professional resources have been or are being purchased at the building level to create a library available for all staff to access as needed. Those resources include Primary Mathematics textbooks and teacher guides, Thinking Mathematically and Children’s Mathematics by Thomas Carpenter, Teaching Number series from Wright, among other recommended titles.
MMSD has provided all Title I schools with the Primary Mathematics (Singapore) workbooks and Extra Practice workbooks for the 2009-2010 school year. All manipulatives have been ordered for Title I schools over tbe past two years and are in place. Non-Title I schools have been and will continue to use ELM funds to purchase tbe student components for the implementation of a balanced mathematics classroom.

Related:

Singapore Math Workbook Only Purchase Discussion (No textbooks or teacher guides) at the Madison School Board

26MB mp3 audio file. Marj Passman, Lucy Mathiak and Maya Cole raised a number of questions regarding the purchase of $69K worth of Singapore Math Workbooks (using Federal tax dollars via “Title 1“) without textbooks or teacher’s guides at Monday evening’s Board Meeting. The purchase proceeded, via a 5-2 vote. Ed Hughes and Beth Moss supported the Administration’s request, along with three other board members.
Related Links:

The Madison Math Task Force Report [3.9MB PDF] found that local elementary school teachers used the following curricular materials (page 166):

What, if anything has the Math Task Force report addressed?

An Email to Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad on Math Teacher Hiring Criteria

Thanks much for taking the time from your busy schedule to respond to our letter below. I am delighted to note your serious interest in the topic of how to obtain middle school teachers who are highly qualified to teach mathematics to the MMSD’s students so that all might succeed. We are all in agreement with the District’s laudable goal of having all students complete algebra I/geometry or integrated algebra I/geometry by the end of 10th grade. One essential component necessary for achieving this goal is having teachers who are highly competent to teach 6th- through 8th-grade mathematics to our students so they will be well prepared for high school-level mathematics when they arrive in high school.
The primary point on which we seem to disagree is how best to obtain such highly qualified middle school math teachers. It is my strong belief that the MMSD will never succeed in fully staffing all of our middle schools with excellent math teachers, especially in a timely manner, if the primary mechanism for doing so is to provide additional, voluntary math ed opportunities to the District’s K-8 generalists who are currently teaching mathematics in our middle schools. The District currently has a small number of math-certified middle school teachers. It undoubtedly has some additional K-8 generalists who already are or could readily become terrific middle school math teachers with a couple of hundred hours of additional math ed training. However, I sincerely doubt we could ever train dozens of additional K-8 generalists to the level of content knowledge necessary to be outstanding middle school math teachers so that ALL of our middle school students could be taught mathematics by such teachers.
Part of our disagreement centers around differing views regarding the math content knowledge one needs to be a highly-qualified middle school math teacher. As a scientist married to a mathematician, I don’t believe that taking a couple of math ed courses on how to teach the content of middle school mathematics provides sufficient knowledge of mathematics to be a truly effective teacher of the subject. Our middle school foreign language teachers didn’t simply take a couple of ed courses in how to teach their subject at the middle school level; rather, most of them also MAJORED or, at least, minored in the subject in college. Why aren’t we requiring the same breathe and depth of content knowledge for our middle school mathematics teachers? Do you really believe mastery of the middle school mathematics curriculum and how to teach it is sufficient content knowledge for teachers teaching math? What happens when students ask questions that aren’t answered in the teachers’ manual? What happens when students desire to know how the material they are studying relates to higher-level mathematics and other subjects such as science and engineering?
The MMSD has been waiting a long time already to have math-qualified teachers teaching mathematics in our middle schools. Many countries around the world whose students outperform US students in mathematics only hire teachers who majored in the subject to teach it. Other school districts in the US are taking advantage of the current recession with high unemployment to hire and train people who know and love mathematics, but don’t yet know how to teach it to others. For example, see
http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSTRE54L2W120090522
If Madison continues to wait, we will miss out on this opportunity and yet another generation of middle schoolers will be struggling to success in high school.
The MMSD has a long history of taking many, many year to resolve most issues. For example, the issue of students receiving high school credit for non-MMSD courses has been waiting 8 years and counting! It has taken multiple years for the District’s math task force to be formed, meet, write its report, and have its recommendations discussed. For the sake of the District’s students, we need many more math-qualified middle school teachers NOW. Please act ASAP, giving serious consideration to our proposal below. Thanks.

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

James Wollack & Michael Fish [280K PDF], via a kind reader’s email UW Center for Placement Testing [Link to Papers]:

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 the traditional – AP students – Both sample sizes were low


Related:

[280K PDF Complete Presentation]

Madison School District Math Program: Proposal to Increase Teacher Training and Teaching & Learning Staff

Monday evening’s Madison School Board meeting will discuss a proposal to increase math teacher training and add staff to the Teaching & Learning Department. 215K PDF.

Interestingly, the latest document includes these words:

MMSD Teaching & Learning Staff and local Institute of Higher Education (IHE) Faculty work collaboratively to design a two-year professional development program aimed at deepening the mathematical content knowledge of MMSD middle school mathematics…

It is unusual to not mention the University of Wisconsin School of Education in these documents…. The UW-Madison School of Education has had a significant role in many Madison School District curriculum initiatives.

Related:

Math on the Madison School Board’s Agenda this Evening

The Madison School District Board of Education will discuss this “Administrative Response” to the recent Math Task Force [452K PDF]. Links: Math Task Force, Math Forum and a letter to Isthmus from a group of West High School Math Teachers.

District-Wide Reform of Mathematics and Science Instruction: Case Studies of Four SCALE Partner Districts

William Clune:

This paper is a synthesis of case studies of four districts that implemented multifaceted reforms aimed at offering rigorous instruction in mathematics and science for all students as part of a National Science Foundation-supported partnership. A common theory of action aimed for a rigorous curriculum, professional development delivered close to the point of instruction, monitoring of instructional quality, and system coordination. Immersion units would offer an in-depth experience in scientific inquiry to all students. The theory of action was successful in many ways. Excellent access to top management allowed the partnership to assist with multiple aligned dimensions of instructional guidance. The biggest obstacles were turnover in district leadership, loose coupling across departments, attenuation of vertical alignment through overload of instructional guidance, and insufficient budget for adequate school site support (e.g., coaches). Greater coherence resulted from delivery of instructional guidance closer to schools and teachers, as with science immersion. The study suggests that complete, affordable packages of instructional guidance delivered to the school level district-wide might be the best model for district reform.

Related: Math Forum, Madison School District’s Math Task Force and the significant role that the UW-Madison School of Education has had in Madison School District curriculum decisions (see links and notes in this post’s comments)

Washington State High School Math Text Review

W. Stephen Wilson: 285K PDF via a kind reader’s email:

A few basic goals of high school mathematics will be looked at closely in the top programs chosen for high school by the state of Washington. Our concern will be with the mathematical development and coherence of the programs and not with issues of pedagogy.
Algebra: linear functions, equations, and inequalities
We examine the algebraic concepts and skills associated with linear functions because they are a critical foundation for the further study of algebra. We focus our evaluation of the programs on the following Washington standard: A1.4.B Write and graph an equation for a line given the slope and the y intercept, the slope and a point on the line, or two points on the line, and translate between forms of linear equations.
We also consider how well the programs meet the following important standard: A1.1.B Solve problems that can be represented by linear functions, equations, and inequalities.
Linear functions, equations, and inequalities in Holt
We review Chapter 5 of Holt Algebra 1 on linear functions.
The study of linear equations and their graphs in Chapter 5 begins with a flawed foundation. Because this is so common, it will not be emphasized, but teachers need to compensate for these problems.
Three foundational issues are not dealt with at all. First, it is not shown that the definition of slope works for a line in the plane. The definition, as given, produces a ratio for every pair of points on the line. It is true that for a line these are all the same ratios, but no attempt is made to show that. Second, no attempt is made to show that a line in the plane is the graph of a linear equation; it is just asserted.
Third, it not shown that the graph of a linear equation is a line; again, it is just asserted.

Related: Math Forum and Madison’s Math Task Force.

Madison Math Program Public Input Session

The Madison School District Administration held a public input session on the recent Math Task Force report [3.9MB PDF] last evening at Memorial High School. Superintendent Dan Nerad opened and closed the meeting, which featured about 56 attendees, at least half of whom appeared to be district teachers and staff. Math Coordinator Brian Sniff ran the meeting.
Task force member and UW-Madison Professor Mitchell Nathan [Clusty Search] was in attendance along with Terry Millar, a UW-Madison Professor who has been very involved in the Madison School District’s math programs for many years. (Former Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater recently joined the UW-Madison Center for Education Research, among other appointments). UW-Madison Math professor Steffen Lempp attended as did school board President Arlene Silveira and board members Ed Hughes and Beth Moss. Jill Jokela, the parent representative on the Math Task Force, was also present.
Listen via this 30MB mp3 audio file. 5.5MB PDF Handout.
Related:

Madison School District seeks input on proposed math changes

Andy Hall:

A series of potentially controversial proposals will be outlined next week as residents are invited to help shape how math is taught in the Madison School District.
Among the recommendations from a task force that recently completed a one-year study:
• Switch to full-time math teachers for all students in grades five through eight.
• The math task force’s executive summary and full report
• Substantially boost the training of math teachers.
• Seriously consider selecting a single textbook for each grade level or course in the district, rather than having a variety of textbooks used in schools across the district.
The task force was created in 2006 by the Madison School Board to independently review the district’s math programs and seek ways to improve students’ performance.

Related links:

School District Steps Back from Controversial Math Curriculum

Janese Heavin via a kind reader’s email:

Columbia Public Schools’ chief academic officer said the district is ready to compromise with the community when it comes to elementary math. But Sally Beth Lyon, who oversees district curricula, stopped short of saying concepts-based math would be replaced by a more traditional program.
“We’re going to figure out how to get something done so we can all move forward,” she told the Tribune. “We’re still at the table and will discuss the best way to move forward and include and acknowledge the community concerns we’re hearing.”
Lyon’s comments followed last night’s Board of Education meeting, where board member Ines Segert accused the district of appointing people to district math committees who are biased toward investigative math programs and not appointing mathematicians who favor more traditional math instruction.
Segert cited three University of Missouri math education professors who serve on district committees and have received grant funds to train Columbia teachers how to use concepts-based math materials. “They instruct teachers in a certain ideology that happens to be used in these textbooks we have in class,” said Segert, a vocal advocate of returning traditional math to classrooms.

Related:

Lyon’s comments followed what was almost a scolding from board member Ines Segert during last night’s board meeting. Segert criticized the district for appointing math education professors on math committees who seem to benefit from investigative math curriculum. She also accused the district of giving people incomplete data and summaries that skew results to justify current practices.
Lyon denied that anyone making curricula decisions receive district dollars. Any grant money they get comes from federal and state sources, she said.

Related: Madison School District Math Task Force Discussion.

Prince William County, Maryland Pupils Still Grapple With Math Test

Ian Shapira:

New state test results show that Prince William County’s third-graders are struggling to score at the highest level since the implementation of a controversial math program that was intended to boost performance.
The scores, which are the first state Standards of Learning (SOL) results to gauge the new program’s effectiveness, reveal that fewer than half of Prince William’s third-graders scored in the advanced category this year, the first that the Pearson math program “Investigations in Number, Data, and Space” was taught in that grade. Last year, third-graders who had not begun “Investigations” posted the same results.
The flat scores are a sizable decline since 2006, when 56 percent of third-graders reached the advanced level in math.
” ‘Investigations’ didn’t cure the problem,” said Vern Williams, a Fairfax County teacher and former member of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel who was invited by the Prince William School Board to speak at its work session later this month.

It will be interesting to see what, if any effect the soon to be released Madison Math Task Force report has on the local curriculum.
Math Forum

No Common Denominator: The Preparation of Elementary Teachers in Mathematics by America’s Education Schools, June 2008

National Council on Teacher Quality (3MB PDF):

American students’ chronically poor performance in mathematics on international tests may begin in the earliest grades, handicapped by the weak knowledge of mathematics of their own elementary teachers. NCTQ looks at the quality of preparation provided by a representative sampling of institutions in nearly every state. We also provide a test developed by leading mathematicians which assesses for the knowledge that elementary teachers should acquire during their preparation. Imagine the implications of an elementary teaching force being able to pass this test.

Brian Maffly:

Most of the nation’s undergraduate education programs do not adequately prepare elementary teachers to teach mathematics, according to a study released Thursday by an education-reform advocacy group. Utah State University is among the 83 percent of surveyed programs that didn’t meet what the National Council on Teacher Quality calls an emerging “consensus” on what elementary teachers must learn before joining professional ranks.
“There’s a long-standing belief in our country that elementary teachers don’t really need to get much math. The only thing you need to teach second-grade math is to learn third-grade math,” said Kate Walsh, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based group. “We haven’t put much attention to fact the elementary teachers are the first math teachers kids get. Their foundational skills have long-term ramifications whether that child will be able to do middle and high school math.”
The NCTQ’s findings are similar to a reading report the group released two years ago, claiming that 85 percent of undergraduate elementary education programs fail to adequately prepare students to teach reading.

Joanne has more. It will be interesting to see of the Madison Math Task Force addresses the question of teacher content knowledge. Related:

Columbia, Missouri ACT Results Compared with Math Curriculum

Columbia Parents for Real Math:

CPS Secondary Math Curriculum Coordinator Chip Sharp provided average ACT scores reported by course enrollment which are used in the figures below. Plotting the data in several ways gives food for thought regarding the differences between algebra and integrated math pathways offered at CPS.
The data don’t distinguish between which students are sophomores, juniors or seniors when they take the ACT, which students may have repeated courses or what year they started the pathway (7th, 8th or 9th grade). But it does give some idea of how much math “preparation” each course pathway provides at least for the years for which data is available.

I’ve heard that Madison’s Math Task Force will render a report prior to Superintendent Art Rainwater’s June 30, 2008 retirement. Related: Math Forum.

Study Suggests Math Teachers Scrap Balls and Slices; “The Researchers Did Something Rare in Education Research”

Kenneth Chang:

One train leaves Station A at 6 p.m. traveling at 40 miles per hour toward Station B. A second train leaves Station B at 7 p.m. traveling on parallel tracks at 50 m.p.h. toward Station A. The stations are 400 miles apart. When do the trains pass each other?
Entranced, perhaps, by those infamous hypothetical trains, many educators in recent years have incorporated more and more examples from the real world to teach abstract concepts. The idea is that making math more relevant makes it easier to learn.
That idea may be wrong, if researchers at Ohio State University are correct. An experiment by the researchers suggests that it might be better to let the apples, oranges and locomotives stay in the real world and, in the classroom, to focus on abstract equations, in this case 40 (t + 1) = 400 – 50t, where t is the travel time in hours of the second train. (The answer is below.)
“The motivation behind this research was to examine a very widespread belief about the teaching of mathematics, namely that teaching students multiple concrete examples will benefit learning,” said Jennifer A. Kaminski, a research scientist at the Center for Cognitive Science at Ohio State. “It was really just that, a belief.”
Dr. Kaminski and her colleagues Vladimir M. Sloutsky and Andrew F. Heckler did something relatively rare in education research: they performed a randomized, controlled experiment. Their results appear in Friday’s issue of the journal Science.

The Advantage of Abstract Examples in Learning Math by Jennifer A. Kaminski, Vladimir M. Sloutsky, Andrew F. Heckler.
I wonder what has become of the Madison School District’s Math Task Force?
Math Forum audio, video, notes and links.

Madison United for Academic Excellence meeting on MMSD Math

The Madison United for Academic Excellence (MUAE) meeting of 21 February 2008 offered a question and answer session with Welda Simousek, TAG coordinator, Lisa Wachtel, Director of Teaching and Learning, and Brian Sniff, Math Coordinator, each of MMSD.


QT Video
The video of the meeting is about 1 hours and 30 minutes long, but does not include the last 15 minutes of a spirited discussion. Click on the image at left to watch the video. The video will play immediately, while the file continues to download.

The topics covered during remarks and the question and answer sessions are

  • Middle School Math Assessment
  • Math Task Force
  • Teacher Certifications in Math
  • Connected Math Curriculum in Middle Schools
  • High School Math Curriculum and variations among schools

The slide materials for Lisa’s and Brian’s presentation are included in Powerpoint format and PDF format. (Thanks to Brian for sending).
NB: The last slides discussed during this meeting are slides numbered 15 and 16 (Math Physics, Math Chemistry, respectively). These latter slides prompted the spirited discussion mentioned above, but is not part of the video. Slides 17-19 were neither discussed nor displayed.

Virginia Parents Resist Math “Investigations” Curriculum

Ian Shapira:

A group of Prince William County parents is mounting a campaign to repeal a new elementary school math curriculum, using an Internet discussion group and an online petition to gather support and fuel criticism.
The group, whose members include parents from such elementary schools as Westridge, Ashland and Springwoods as well as teachers from various schools, plans to present the Prince William County School Board in February with its petition, which has about 500 names. Parents in the group, whose Web site ( http://www.pwcteachmathright.com) lists several of their complaints, say that the Investigations curriculum is putting their children behind grade level and is too convoluted.
The group’s formation comes right after the school system presented a year-long study of the curriculum that showed 80 percent of second-graders and 70 percent of first-graders are proficient on all 10 subtests of the Stanford Diagnostic Mathematics Test. The school system wants to continue studying the program and incorporate data from student performance on the state Standards of Learning exams.
School Board member Julie C. Lucas (Neabsco) said in an interview that she wants to examine the program inside a classroom to assess its effectiveness. She added that she has been hearing positive reviews from at least one principal in her district but that she wants to withhold making public comments until she visits schools.
The Investigations program has been undergoing a phased-in implementation since the School Board adopted its materials in 2006. In the 2006-07 academic year, kindergarten through second grade started the program; this year, third-graders began it; and next year, fourth-graders will use the material.
Investigations teaches children new ways of learning mathematics and solving problems. For instance, a student may not need to learn how to add 37 and 23 by stacking the figures on top of each other, and carrying the numbers. They may learn to add up the tens and then combine the seven and three to arrive at 60.

Related:

  • Math Forum Audio / Video
  • Madison School District’s Math Task Force
  • Clusty Search: Math Investigations
  • Teaching Math Right website:

    Why this website?
    …Because our children – ALL children – deserve a quality mathematics education in PWCS!!
    In 2006 PWCS directed mandatory implementation of the elementary school mathematics curriculum TERC – “Investigations in Number, Data, and Space” in all PWCS elementary schools. The traditional, proven, successful mathematics program was abandoned for a “discovery learning” program that has a record of failure across the country.
    Of all the VA Department of Education approved elementary math text/materials, “Investigations” least adequately supports the VA Standards of Learning. Yet it was somehow “the right choice” for PWCS children. Parents of 2nd and 3d graders are already realizing the negative impact of this program in only a year and a half’s worth of “Investigations.” Children subjected to this program end up two years behind where they should be in mathematics fluency and competency by the end of 5th grade. PWCS is committed to experimenting with our children’s future. We think our children and our tax dollars deserve better.

Washington State’s Math Standards Review

Donna Gordon Blankinship: The board’s executive director, Edie Harding, said public comment required some changes to a draft report the committee circulated last month, but the basic message is the same: The state needs tougher math standards and clearer guidance for teachers, parents and students. The draft report called for putting more emphasis on learning … Continue reading Washington State’s Math Standards Review

CUNY Plans to Raise Its Admissions Standards: “the math cutoff would be raised first because that was where the students were “so woefully unprepared””

Karen Arenson:

The City University of New York is beginning a drive to raise admissions requirements at its senior colleges, its first broad revision since its trustees voted to bar students needing remedial instruction from its bachelor’s degree programs nine years ago.
In 2008, freshmen will have to show math SAT scores 20 to 30 points higher than they do now to enter the university’s top-tier colleges — Baruch, Brooklyn, City, Hunter and Queens — and its six other senior colleges.
Students now can also qualify for the bachelor’s degree programs with satisfactory scores on the math Regents examination or on placement tests; required cutoffs for those tests will also be raised.
Open admissions policies at the community colleges will be unaffected.
“We are very serious in taking a group of our institutions and placing them in the top segment of universities and colleges,” said Matthew Goldstein, the university chancellor, who described the plan in an interview. “That is the kind of profile we want for our students.”
Dr. Goldstein said that the English requirements for the senior colleges would be raised as well, but that the math cutoff would be raised first because that was where the students were “so woefully unprepared.”

Speaking of Math, I’m told that the MMSD’s Math Task Force did not obtain the required NSF Grant. [PDF Overview, audio / video introduction] and Retiring Superintendent Art Rainwater’s response to the School Board’s first 2006-2007 Performance Goal:

1. Initiate and complete a comprehensive, independent and neutral review and assessment of the District’s K-12 math curriculum. The review and assessment shall be undertaken by a task force whose members are appointed by the Superintendent and approved by the BOE. Members of the task force shall have math and math education expertise and represent a variety of perspectives regarding math education.

Job: MMSD Coordinator of Mathematics

Madison Metropolitan School District: Lead K-12 mathematics programming; develop and promote documents defining the mathematics program and expectations; organize and promote professional development opportunities; seek and implement research-based best practices in mathematics education; serve on various district and Teaching & Learning committees and task forces; create, recommend and administer budget for mathematics curriculum coordination; coordinate … Continue reading Job: MMSD Coordinator of Mathematics

Michael Maguire: No business as usual for Cole, Mathiak

From The Capital Times, March 29, 2006 Dear Editor: The recent years’ actions of our Madison School Board create a nice template for a new reality television series, “School Boards Behaving Badly!” The passionate, yet appropriately measured, and get-things-done approaches of Ruth Robarts and Lawrie Kobza would be complemented quite well by Maya Cole and … Continue reading Michael Maguire: No business as usual for Cole, Mathiak

Math Forum Audio / Video and Links

Video and audio from Wednesday’s Math Forum are now available [watch the 80 minute video] [mp3 audio file 1, file 2]. This rare event included the following participants: Dick Askey (UW Math Professor) Faye Hilgart, Madison Metropolitan School District Steffen Lempp (MMSD Parent and UW Math Professor) Linda McQuillen, Madison Metropolitan School District Gabriele Meyer … Continue reading Math Forum Audio / Video and Links

Task Force Insight

Dear Board, While serving as a member on the Long Range Planning Committee for the West/Memorial Task Force I came to a few insights I would like to share. Our charge was to seek solutions for the over-crowded schools in Memorial and Leopold attendance area as well as address the low income disparity throughout the … Continue reading Task Force Insight

JUDGING THE QUALITY OF K-12 MATHEMATICS EVALUATIONS

On Evaluating Curricular Effectiveness: Judging the Quality of K-12 Mathematics Evaluations (2004) Curricula play a vital role in educational practice. They provide a crucial link between standards and accountability measures. They shape and are shaped by the professionals who teach with them. Typically, they also determine the content of the subjects being taught. Furthermore, because … Continue reading JUDGING THE QUALITY OF K-12 MATHEMATICS EVALUATIONS

Cal State campuses overwhelmed by remedial needs

Matt Krupnick:

Wracked with frustration over the state’s legions of unprepared high school graduates, the California State University system next summer will force freshmen with remedial needs to brush up on math or English before arriving on campus.
But many professors at the 23-campus university, which has spent the past 13 years dismissing students who fail remedial classes, doubt the Early Start program will do much to help students unable to handle college math or English.
“I’m not at all optimistic that it’s going to help,” said Sally Murphy, a communications professor who directs general education at Cal State East Bay, where 73 percent of this year’s freshmen were not ready for college math. Nearly 60 percent were not prepared for college English.
“A 15-hour intervention is just not enough intervention when it comes to skills that should have been developed over 12 years,” Murphy said.
The remedial numbers are staggering, given that the Cal State system admits only freshmen who graduated in the top one-third of their high-school class. About 27,300 freshmen in the 2010 entering class of about 42,700 needed remedial work in math, English or both.

Related: Madison’s Math Task Force and K-12 Literacy Program Evaluation.

Madison Schools for Whites Equivalent to Singapore, Finland (!); Troller Bids Adieu

Susan Troller, Via email:

Madison schools aren’t failing, by any stretch of the imagination, for many students.
In fact, if you’re a white, middle-class family sending your children to public school here, your kids are likely getting an education that’s on a par with Singapore or Finland — among the best in the world.
However, if you’re black or Latino and poor, it’s an unquestionable fact that Madison schools don’t as good a job helping you with your grade-point average, high school graduation, college readiness or test scores. By all these measures, the district’s achievement gap between white and minority students is awful.
These facts have informed the stern (and legitimate) criticisms leveled by Urban League President Kaleem Caire and Madison Prep backers.
But they doesn’t take into account some recent glimmers of hope that shouldn’t be discounted or overlooked. Programs like AVID/TOPS support first-generation college-bound students in Madison public schools and are showing some successes. Four-year-old kindergarten is likely to even the playing field for the district’s youngest students, giving them a leg up as they enter school. And, the data surrounding increasing numbers of kids of color participating in Advanced Placement classes is encouraging.
Stepping back from the local district and looking at education through a broader lens, it’s easy to see that No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have aimed to legislate, bribe and punish their way toward an unrealistic Lake Wobegon world where all the students are above average.

Remarkable. Are there some excellent teachers in Madison? Certainly. Does Madison’s Administration seek best in the world results? A look at the math task force, seemingly on hold for years, is informative. The long one size fits all battle and the talented and gifted complaint are worth contemplating.
Could Madison be the best? Certainly. The infrastructure is present, from current spending of $14,963/student to the nearby UW-Madison, Madison College and Edgewood College backed by a supportive community.
Ideally, Madison (and Wisconsin) should have the courage to participate in global examinations (Florida Students Take Global Examinations, Wisconsin’s Don’t). Taxpayers and parents would then know if Troller’s assertions are fact based.

Stepping Back on Madison Prep Governance Rhetoric

Susan Troller:

Late last week I got an email from Kaleem Caire, Urban League CEO and champion of the Madison Preparatory Academy charter school proposal.
Caire was unhappy with the way I had characterized the latest version of the charter school proposal.
In a blog post following the Madison Prep board’s decision late Wednesday to develop the proposed school as what’s known as a “non-instrumentality” of the school district, I described this type of school as being “free from district oversight.”
While it’s true that the entire point of establishing a non-instrumentality charter school is to give the organization maximum freedom and flexibility in the way it operates on a day-to-day basis, I agree it would be more accurate to describe it as “largely free of district oversight,” or “free of routine oversight by the School Board.”
In his message, Caire asked me, and my fellow reporter, Matt DeFour from the Wisconsin State Journal, to correct our descriptions of the proposed school, which will be approved or denied by the Madison School Board in the coming weeks.
In his message, Caire writes, “Madison Prep will be governed by MMSD’s Board of Education. In your stories today, you (or the quotes you provide) say we will not be. This continues to be a subject of public conversation and it is just not true.”

I wonder if other Madison School District programs, many spending far larger sums, receive similar substantive scrutiny compared with the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school? The District’s math (related math task force) and reading programs come to mind.
Ideally, the local media might dig into curricular performance across the spectrum, over time along with related expenditures and staffing.
From a governance perspective, it is clear that other regions and states have set the bar much higher.
Related: Updating the 2009 Scholastic Bowl Longhorns 17 – Badgers 1; Thrive’s “Advance Now Competitive Assessment Report”.
In my view, the widely used (at least around the world) IB approach is a good start for Madison Prep.

‘Algebra-for-All’ Push Found to Yield Poor Results

Debra Viadero:

Spurred by a succession of reports pointing to the importance of algebra as a gateway to college, educators and policymakers embraced “algebra for all” policies in the 1990s and began working to ensure that students take the subject by 9th grade or earlier.
A trickle of studies suggests that in practice, though, getting all students past the algebra hump has proved difficult and has failed, some of the time, to yield the kinds of payoffs educators seek.
Among the newer findings:
• An analysis using longitudinal statewide data on students in Arkansas and Texas found that, for the lowest-scoring 8th graders, even making it one course past Algebra 2 might not be enough to help them become “college and career ready” by the end of high school.
• An evaluation of the Chicago public schools’ efforts to boost algebra coursetaking found that, although more students completed the course by 9th grade as a result of the policy, failure rates increased, grades dropped slightly, test scores did not improve, and students were no more likely to attend college when they left the system.

Related: Madison School District Math Task Force and West High School Math Teachers letter to Isthmus.

Board of Education Progress Report, December, 2009

Madison School Board President Arlene Silveira, via email:

4-Year-Old Kindergarten (4K): The Board received updates from the community-based 4K planning committee in the areas of: 1) logistics; 2) curriculum; 3) public/community relations; 4) family outreach/involvement; 5) funding. The Board voted to have the District continue to work with the community in planning for 4K with an anticipated start date of September 2010, pending the determination of the availability of the resources necessary to support the new program. A presentation on financial resources will be made to the Board in December.
Financial Audit: As required by state statute, the MMSD hires an independent audit firm to perform an audit of our annual financial statements and review our compliance with federal program requirements. The audit looks at the financial operations of the District. This audit was completed by Clifton Gunderson LLP. The Board received the audit report and a summary from Clifton Gunderson.
When asked what the summary message was that we could share with the community, the response was that the District is in a very sound financial position. Results of operations for 2009 were very positive with $10M added to fund balance. The fund balance is critical to the operation of the District and the cash-flow of the District. We were pleased with the audit outcome.
Math Task Force: The Board approved the administrative response to the 13 recommendations listed in the MMSD Math Task Force Report. The recommendations focused on middle school math specialists; district-wide curricular consistency; achievement gap; assessment; teacher collaboration; parent/community communication; balanced math approach; addressing failing grades in algebra; and algebra in 8th grade. The Board also asked for regular updates on the progress of plan implementation. The Task Force Report is located on the District’s web site.
Enrollment Data: The Board reviewed the enrollment data and projections for the District. One area that stood out was the overcrowding in some of the elementary schools in the La Follette attendance area. The Long Range Planning Committee is starting a series of meetings to study the overcrowding in this area and to develop recommendations for the Board on how to address this issue. It is anticipated that recommendations will be brought back to the Board in February. The Board will have the final say on how to deal with the overcrowding issues.
If you have any questions/comments, please let us know. board@madison.k12.wi.us
Arlene Silveira (516-8981)

Madison School Board Rejects Teaching & Learning Expansion; an Interesting Discussion

One of the most interesting things I’ve observed in my years of local school interaction is the extensive amount of pedagogical and content development that taxpayers fund within the Madison School District. I’ve always found this unusual, given the proximity of the University of Wisconsin, MATC and Edgewood College, among other, nearby Institutions of Higher Education.


The recent Math Task Force, a process set in motion by several school board elections, has succeeded in bringing more attention to the District’s math curriculum. Math rigor has long been a simmering issue, as evidenced by this April, 2004 letter from West High School Math Teachers to Isthmus:

Moreover, parents of future West High students should take notice: As you read this, our department is under pressure from the administration and the math coordinator’s office to phase out our “accelerated” course offerings beginning next year. Rather than addressing the problems of equity and closing the gap by identifying minority math talent earlier, and fostering minority participation in the accelerated programs, our administration wants to take the cheaper way out by forcing all kids into a one-size-fits-all curriculum.



It seems the administration and our school board have re-defined “success” as merely producing “fewer failures.” Astonishingly, excellence in student achievement is visited by some school district administrators with apathy at best, and with contempt at worst. But, while raising low achievers is a laudable goal, it is woefully short-sighted and, ironically, racist in the most insidious way. Somehow, limiting opportunities for excellence has become the definition of providing equity! Could there be a greater insult to the minority community?

The fact the Madison’s Teaching & Learning Department did not get what they want tonight is significant, perhaps the first time this has ever happened with respect to Math. I appreciate and am proud of the Madison School Board’s willingness to consider and discuss these important issues. Each Board member offered comments on this matter including: Lucy Mathiak, who pointed out that it would be far less expensive to simply take courses at the UW-Madison (about 1000 for three credits plus books) than spend $150K annually in Teaching & Learning. Marj Passman noted that the Math Task Force report emphasized content knowledge improvement and that is where the focus should be while Maya Cole noted that teacher participation is voluntary. Voluntary participation is a problem, as we’ve seen with the deployment of an online grading and scheduling system for teachers, students and parents.

Much more on math here, including a 2006 Forum (audio / video).

Several years ago, the late Ted Widerski introduced himself at an event. He mentioned that he learned something every week from this site and the weekly eNewsletter. I was (and am) surprised at Ted’s comments. I asked if the MMSD had an internal “Knowledge Network”, like www.schoolinfosystem.org, but oriented around curriculum for teachers? “No”.


It would seem that, given the tremendous local and online resources available today, Teaching & Learning’s sole reason for existence should be to organize and communicate information and opportunities for our teaching staff via the web, email, sms, videoconference, blogs, newsletters and the like. There is certainly no need to spend money on curriculum creation.

Men more frequently require to be reminded than informed.”

Listen to tonight’s nearly 50 minute Madison School Board math discussion via this 22MB mp3 audio file.

DCPAC Dan Nerad Meeting Summary

A video tape of the entire presentation and discussion with Dr. Nerad may be viewed by visiting this internet link: http://www.schoolinfosystem.org/archives/2008/09/ madison_superin_10.php

Dan Nerad opened his remarks by stating his commitment to efforts for always continuing change and improvement with the engagement of the community. He outlined four areas of focus on where we are going from here.

  1. Funding: must balance district needs and taxpayer needs. He mentioned the referendum to help keep current programs in place and it will not include “new” things.
  2. Strategic Plan: this initiative will formally begin in January 2009 and will involve a large community group process to develop as an ongoing activity.
  3. Meet people: going throughout the community to meet people on their own terms. He will carefully listen. He also has ideas.
  4. Teaching and learning mission: there are notable achievement gaps we need to face head-on. The “achievement gap” is serious. The broader mission not only includes workforce development but also helping students learn to be better people. We have a “tale of two school districts” – numbers of high achievers (including National Merit Scholars), but not doing well with a lot of other students. Low income and minority students are furtherest away from standards that must be met. Need to be more transparent with the journey to fix this problem and where we are not good. Must have the help of the community. The focus must be to improve learning for ALL kids, it is a “both/and” proposition with a need to reframe the issue to help all kids move forward from where they are. Must use best practices in contemporary assessment, curriculum, pedagogy and instructional methods.

Dr. Nerad discussed five areas about which he sees a need for community-wide conversations for how to meet needs in the district.

  1. Early learning opportunities: for pre-kindergarten children. A total community commitment is needed to prevent the ‘achievement gap’ from widening.
  2. High schools: How do we want high schools to be? Need to be more responsive. The curriculum needs to be more career oriented. Need to break down the ‘silos’ between high school, tech schools and colleges. Need to help students move through the opportunities differently. The Small Learning Communities Grant recently awarded to the district for high schools and with the help of the community will aid the processes for changes in the high schools.
  3. School safety: there must be an on-going commitment for changes. Nerad cited three areas for change:

    a. A stronger curriculum helping people relate with other people, their differences and conflicts.

    b. A response system to safety. Schools must be the safest of sanctuaries for living, learning and development.

    c.Must make better use of research-based technology that makes sense.

  4. Math curriculum and instruction: Cited the recent Math Task Force Report

    a. Good news: several recommendations for curriculum, instruction and policies for change.

    b. Bad news: our students take less math than other urban schools in the state; there are notable differences in the achievement gap.

  5. Fine Arts: Cited recent Fine Arts Task Force Report. Fine arts curriculum and activities in the schools, once a strength, has been whittled away due to budget constraints. We must deal with the ‘hands of the clock’ going forward and develop a closer integration of the schools and community in this area.

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad’s Remarks at a Dane County Public Affairs Council Event

Watch the 70 minute presentation and discussion or listen to this 29MB mp3 file

I took a few notes (with apologies for their brevity):

Dan Nerad:

Revisit strategic plan in January with local stakeholders. Preferred to lead with strategic plan but budget came first.
Hopes (MMSD) literacy programs are maintained.
He wants to listen to the community.
The District’s mission is teaching and learning.
The District has several strengths and some notable weaknesses, including achievement gaps.
Schools have a broader mission than workforce development, including helping students be good people.
Achievement gap is a significant issue. There is a compelling need to face an issue that affects Madison’s viability. These are not quick fix kind of issues. We need to talk more openly about this.
If I speak openly, I hope that people will be supportive of public education.
He wishes to reframe conversation around improvements for all students.
Five areas of discussion:

  1. 4k community conversation
  2. SLC grant (More here). Use the grant to begin a conversation about high schools. The structure has been in place for over 100 years. Discussed kids who are lost in high school.
  3. Curriculum can be more workforce based. Green bay has 4 high schools aligned with careers (for example: Health care).
  4. Revisit school safety
  5. Curriculum
    – safety plan and response system
    – schools should be the safest place in the community
    – technology is not the complete answer
    math task force; Madison high school students take fewer credits than other Wisconsin urban districts
    – reaffirms notable math achievement gap

  6. Fine Arts task force report: Fine arts help kids do better academically,

Erik Kass, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services:

Discussed budget gaps.
Plans to review financial processes.
He previously worked as a financial analyst.
Goal is to provide accurate, honest and understandable information.

Jonathan Barry posed a useful question (46 minutes) on how the current MTI agreement prohibits participation in alternative programs, such as Operation Fresh Start (“nobody shall educate that is not a member of Madison Teachers”). Barry mentioned that a recent United Way study referenced 4,000 local disconnected youth (under 21). This topic is relevant in a number of areas, including online learning and credit for non-MMSD courses. This has also been an issue in the local lack of a 4K program.

More “Algebra” for Chicago Public Schools Eighth Graders

Alexander Russo:

What do you think about the CPS effort to bring more algebra into middle schools?
From Catalyst: “The June board meeting included a brief presentation on student achievement from the Office of Instructional Design and Assessment. A recap of statistics showed that while 40 percent of 8th-graders across the country take algebra, only 8 percent of CPS 8th-graders do.
“With this in mind, Chief Officer Xavier Botana noted how the district is revamping algebra instruction: 8th-grade algebra will now be called “High School Algebra in the Middle Grades,” a name change that Botana said will help parents and others understand that students are tackling high-school-level material.

A commenter nails the issue:

The exit exams have to be real. They can’t be given credit for high school algebra, then show up in high school unprepared to take second year algebra.
Of course, they would only be prepared to take algebra in 8th grade if they have had rigorous math instruction before that. I believe these suburban schools with 40% of 8th graders taking algebra also have pre-algebra programs for kids in the 7th grade.
I’m all for offering rigorous classes; but there has to be some support to help kids get there.

Related:

  • Madison West High School Math Teachers letter to Isthmus:

    Moreover, parents of future West High students should take notice: As you read this, our department is under pressure from the administration and the math coordinator’s office to phase out our “accelerated” course offerings beginning next year. Rather than addressing the problems of equity and closing the gap by identifying minority math talent earlier, and fostering minority participation in the accelerated programs, our administration wants to take the cheaper way out by forcing all kids into a one-size-fits-all curriculum.

  • Math Forum audio / video and links

It will be interesting to see the results of the Madison Math Task Force’s work.

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

WKCE Scores Document Decline in the Percentage of Madison’s Advanced Students

For many years now, parents and community members, including members of Madison United for Academic Excellence, have expressed concerns about the decline in rigor and the lack of adequate challenge in our district’s curriculum. The release this week of WKCE scores for the November 2008 testing led me to wonder about the performance of our district’s strongest students. While most analyses of WKCE scores focus on the percentages of students scoring at the Advanced and Proficient levels, these numbers do not tell us about changes in the percent of students at each particular level of performance. We can have large increases in the percent of students scoring at the Proficient and Advanced levels because we have improved the performance of students who were previously at the Basic level on the WKCE, but yet fail to have any effect on the performance of our district’s strongest students. This is the argument that we are improving the performance of our low ability students, but failing to increase the performance of our already successful students. An examination of the numbers of students who are performing at just the Advanced level on the WKCE provides us with some insight into the academic progress of our more successful students.
I decided to examine WKCE math scores for students across the district. While it is not possible to track the performance of individual students, it is possible to follow the performance of a cohort as they advance through the system. Thus students who are now in 10th grade, took the 8th grade WKCE in 2006 and the 4th grade test in 2002. Because there have been significant changes in the demographics of the district’s students, I split the data by socio-economic status to remove the possibility of declines in WKCE performance simply being the result of increased numbers of low income students. Although the WKCE has been criticized for not being a rigorous enough assessment tool, the data on our students’ math performance are not encouraging. The figures below indicate that the percent of students scoring at the Advanced level on the WKCE decreases as students progress through the system, and this decline is seen in both our low income students and in our Not Economically Disadvantaged students. The figures suggest that while there is some growth in the percent of Advanced performing students in elementary school, there is a significant decline in performance once students begin taking math in our middle schools and this decline continues through high school. I confess that I take no pleasure in sharing this data; in fact, it makes me sick.

Because it might be more useful to examine actual numbers, I have provided tables showing the data used in the figures above. Reading across a row shows the percent of students in a class cohort scoring at the Advanced level as they have taken the WKCE test as they progressed from grades 3 – 10.

Percent of Economically Disadvantaged Students Scoring at the Advanced Level on the WKCE Math Test Between 2002 and 2008

Graduation Year 3rd Grade 4th Grade 5th Grade 6th Grade 7th Grade 8th Grade 10th Grade
2005
8
2006
8.8
2007
11
7.7
2008
5.6
8.7
2009
8.5
6.7
2010
9.2
8.4
2011
12
12.5
11.1
8
2012
9.7
10.4
9.5
8.2
2013
15.3
14.7
15.1
11.7
10.8
2014
12
13.6
16.1
13.2
2015
20.1
15
18
11.7
2016
15.4
17.1
18.4
2017
12.9
17
2018
13.8

ACE Update on the November 2008 Madison Referendum, Information Session Tonight

REMINDER: The MMSD district is holding its second of four “Information Sessions” regarding the referendum tonight (Thursday, October 16), 6:30 pm, Jefferson Middle School. You are urged to attend.
The Madison Metropolitan School District seeks approval of the district taxpayers to permanently exceed the revenue cap for operations money by $13 million a year. In the meantime, to establish that new tax base over the next three years, a total of $27 million in more revenue will have been raised for programs and services. The district has also projected there will continue to be a ‘gap’ or shortfall of revenue to meet expenses of approximately $4 million per year after the next three years, thereby expecting to seek approval for additional spending authority.
Whereas, the Board of Education has staked the future of the district on increased spending to maintain current programs and services for a “high quality education;”
Whereas, student performance on the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exams has languished at the 7, 8, and 9 deciles (in comparison with the rest of the state’s schools where 1 is the highest level and 10 is the lowest) in 4th, 8th and 10th grade reading, math, science, social studies and language arts exams for the past five years. The total percentage of MMSD students performing at either “proficient” or “advanced” levels (the two highest standards) has consistently ranged in mid 60%s to mid 70%s;
Whereas, the district Drop Out Rate of 2.7% (2006-07) was the highest since 1998-99. With the exception of two years with slight declines, the rate has risen steadily since 1999.
Whereas, the Attendance Rate for all students has remained basically steady since 1998-99 in a range from 95.2% (2005-06) to a high of 96.5% (2001-02);
Whereas, the district Truancy Rate of students habitually truant has risen again in the past three years to 6.0% in 2006-07. The truancy rate has ranged from 6.3% (1999-2000) to 4.4% in 2002-03;
Whereas, the district total PreK-12 enrollment has declined from 25,087 (2000-01) to its second lowest total of 24,540 (2008-09) since that time;
Whereas, the district annual budget has increased from approximately $183 million in 1994-1995 (the first year of revenue caps) to approximately $368 million (2008-09);
Whereas, the board explains the ‘budget gap’ between revenue and expenses as created by the difference between the state mandated Qualified Economic Offer of 3.8% minimum for salary and health benefits for professional teaching staff and the 2.2% average annual increases per student in the property tax levy. The district, however, has agreed with the teachers’ union for an average 4.24% in annual increases since 2001;
Whereas, the district annual cost per pupil is the second highest in the state at $13,280 for the school year 2007-08;

John Kao has a plan to help U.S. compete, regain foothold in science and technology

Heidi Benson: As important, is the state of science and math education, particularly in the early grades, where young students’ abilities have been in a steady decline. The slip results as much from failings in government priorities as from income and class inequities, Kao believes. “We are allowing the vagaries of income disparity to waste … Continue reading John Kao has a plan to help U.S. compete, regain foothold in science and technology

BOE has completed the evaluation of the Superintendent

The Madison Board of Education has completed the evaluation of Superintendent Art Rainwater for the 2005-06 school year. The Board met several times since September in executive session to complete the Superintendent Appraisal Report and discuss goals for this year. We also discussed the goals from last year in open session, which the Superintendent has … Continue reading BOE has completed the evaluation of the Superintendent

Discrimination in the Age of Algorithms

Jon Kleinberg, Jens Ludwig, Sendhil Mullainathan, Cass R. Sunstein: The law forbids discrimination. But the ambiguity of human decision-making often makes it extraordinarily hard for the legal system to know whether anyone has actually discriminated. To understand how algorithms affect discrimination, we must therefore also understand how they affect the problem of detecting discrimination. By … Continue reading Discrimination in the Age of Algorithms

Wisconsin Election Commentary on our disastrous reading results

Molly Beck: But Walker and his campaign accused Evers of flip-flopping on the issue of school funding because Evers once said in an interview with WisconsinEye that improving academic outcomes for students struggling the most could still be achieved even if the state didn’t provide a significant funding increase. Evers in the interview did say … Continue reading Wisconsin Election Commentary on our disastrous reading results

“But more importantly, their parents do not rely on school programming to prepare their children for TJ admissions or any other milestone on their way to top STEM careers.”

Hilde Kahn, via Will Fitzhugh: One of few bright spots in the just-released National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) results was an increase in the number of students reaching “advanced” level in both math and reading at the 4th- and 8th-grades. But the results masked large racial and economic disparities. While 30 percent of Asian … Continue reading “But more importantly, their parents do not rely on school programming to prepare their children for TJ admissions or any other milestone on their way to top STEM careers.”

Honoring the English Curriculum and the Study of U.S. History—Sandra Stotsky

Sandra Stotsky, via Will Fitzhugh: “Advocates of a writing process tended to stress autobiographical narrative writing, not informational or expository writing.” It sounds excessively dramatic to say that Common Core’s English language arts (ELA) standards threaten the study of history. In this essay we show why, in the words of a high school teacher, “if … Continue reading Honoring the English Curriculum and the Study of U.S. History—Sandra Stotsky

College students increasingly caught in remedial education trap

Emily Hanford: Attending Arlington Senior High School in St. Paul, Minn., she kept her head in her books and did her homework. “I was that student everybody wanted to multiply,” she said. Her mother was elated with Arlington, a brand new school with the latest technology, web training, access to Apple computers and — best … Continue reading College students increasingly caught in remedial education trap

Better Schools, Fewer Dollars We can improve education without busting the budget.

Marcus Winters:

Here’s what looks like a policy dilemma. To attain the economic growth that it desperately needs, the United States must improve its schools and train a workforce capable of competing in the global economy. Economists Eric Hanushek, Dean Jamison, Eliot Jamison, and Ludger Woessmann estimate that improving student achievement by half of one standard deviation–roughly the current difference between the United States and Finland–would increase U.S. GDP growth by about a full percentage point annually. Yet states and the federal government face severe budgetary constraints these days; how are policymakers supposed to improve student achievement while reducing school funding?
In reality, that task is far from impossible. The story of American education over the last three decades is one not of insufficient funds but of inefficient schools. Billions of new dollars have gone into the system, to little effect. Luckily, Americans are starting to recognize that we can improve schooling without paying an additional dime. In fact, by unleashing the power of educational choice, we might even save money while getting better results and helping the economy’s long-term prospects.
Over the last four decades, public education spending has increased rapidly in the United States. According to the Department of Education, public schools spent, on average, $12,922 per pupil in 2008, the most recent year for which data are available. Adjusting for inflation, that’s more than double the $6,402 per student that public schools spent in 1975.
Despite that doubling of funds, just about every measure of educational outcomes has remained stagnant since 1975, though some have finally begun to inch upward over the last few years. Student scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)–the only consistently observed measure of student math and reading achievement over the period–have remained relatively flat since the mid-1970s. High school graduation rates haven’t budged much over the last 40 years, either.

“Who Is Carmen Fariña?” Mayor De Blasio’s new schools chancellor is a longtime champion of failed progressive pedagogy.

Sol Stern:

In his press conference introducing Carmen Fariña as New York City’s next schools chancellor, Mayor Bill de Blasio suggested that he had picked her over several other candidates because she was on the same page with him in opposing Bloomberg-era education reforms. Most of the city’s education reporters took the new mayor’s spin and ran with it, even though Fariña had served loyally as Michael Bloomberg’s second-highest-ranking education official. Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez predicted that Fariña would now bring “revolutionary” changes to the department of education that she left in 2006. A headline in The Hechinger Report claimed that Fariña wanted DRAMATIC–EVEN JOYFUL–DEPARTURE FROM BLOOMBERG ERA. But that depends on what Bloomberg era you’re talking about: during the years that she served in the administration, Fariña was fully on board with its education policies.
In fact, considering Fariña’s pivotal role during the first Bloomberg term in shaping the Department of Education’s radical initiatives, portraying her as a dissident from within seems absurd. Mayor Bloomberg took control of the schools in June 2002, but he knew little about what actually went on in the city’s classrooms. He appointed Joel Klein, a corporate lawyer with no background in instructional issues, as his first schools chancellor. Bloomberg and Klein deferred virtually all decision-making on classroom instruction and curriculum to a cadre of veteran progressive educators led by Diana Lam, Klein’s first deputy chancellor for teaching and learning. Lam and Fariña convinced Klein to introduce the constructivist “balanced-literacy” reading and writing program, developed by Lucy Calkins of Columbia Teachers College, along with a fuzzy constructivist-math program called Everyday Math, into just about every elementary school classroom in the city. (Klein would eventually realize that adopting balanced literacy was a serious mistake.)
In an early 2003 speech presenting his administration’s new education reforms, Mayor Bloomberg declared that the “experience of other urban school districts shows that a standardized approach to reading, writing, and math is the best way to raise student performance across the board in all subjects,” and therefore that “the chancellor’s office will dictate the curriculum.” And so it did. Lam soon became embroiled in a nepotism scandal and had to resign. Fariña then took over as deputy chancellor for instruction. She became the DOE’s enforcer, making sure that all teachers in the elementary schools toed the line and implemented Calkins’s constructivist methods for teaching reading and writing. Teachers received a list of “nonnegotiable” guidelines for arranging their classrooms, including such minute details as the requirement that there must be a rug on the floor for students to sit on in the early grades and that nothing but student work be posted on the walls.
Balanced literacy has no track record of raising the academic performance of poor minority children. No independent research study has ever evaluated its methodology. Nevertheless, it was popular in education schools because it promulgated two of progressive education’s key commandments: that teachers must abandon deadening “drill and kill” methods and that students are capable of “constructing their own knowledge.” Progressives such as Calkins evoked ideal classrooms, where young children naturally find their way to literacy without enduring boring, scripted phonics drills forced on them by automaton teachers. Instead, in a balanced-literacy classroom, students work in small groups and follow what Calkins calls the “workshop model” of cooperative learning. The program takes for granted that children can learn to read and write naturally, with minimal guidance. Calkins rejects E.D. Hirsch’s finding (based on an overwhelming consensus in cognitive-science research) that the key to improving children’s reading comprehension is grounding them in broad knowledge, which she and other progressives dismiss as “mere facts.” Calkins also believes that her model classrooms promote “social justice” for all. In an interview I conducted with her at the time the DOE selected her program, she told me that “It’s a great move to social justice to bring [balanced literacy] to every school in the city.”
That’s what Fariña tried to accomplish in the early years of the Bloomberg administration–including the social-justice part. She was instrumental in creating the most centralized, top-down instructional system in the recent history of American public education. Agents of the deputy chancellor (euphemistically called “coaches”) fanned out to almost all city elementary schools to make sure that every teacher was marching in lockstep with the department of education’s new pedagogical approach. Under the rubric of “professional development,” DOE central headquarters launched an aggressive campaign to force teachers to teach literacy and math only one way–the progressive way. Each of the city’s 80,000 teachers got a six-hour CD-ROM laying out the philosophy behind the new standardized curriculum and pedagogy. The CD portrayed the world of progressive education writ large, with all its romantic assumptions about how children learn. In addition to inculcating Calkins’s balanced literacy, the DOE’s training manual celebrated the theories of an obscure Australian education guru–Brian Cambourne of Wollongong University in New South Wales, a leader of the whole-language movement (a cousin of balanced literacy) then dominating Australian public schools. Cambourne’s ideas gave city teachers not only more balanced literacy (or whole language) theory, but also a warrant for social-justice teaching.
Cambourne claims that as a young teacher, he discovered that many of his poorly performing students were actually quite bright. To his surprise, almost all demonstrated extraordinary competence in performing challenging tasks. The son of the local bookie, for example, “couldn’t learn basic math,” according to Cambourne, “but could calculate the probability the Queen of Spades was in the deck faster than I could.” Cambourne decided that children learn better in natural settings, with a minimum of adult help–a staple of progressive-education thought. Thus the role of the educator should be to create classroom environments that stimulate children but also closely resemble the way adults work and learn. Children should no longer sit in rows facing the teacher; instead, the room should be arranged with work areas where children can construct their own knowledge, much as in Calkins’s workshop model of balanced literacy.
Such constructivist assumptions about how to teach literacy were enforced with draconian discipline in city schools for several years. Progressives like Calkins, Cambourne, and Fariña don’t insist that more learning occurs when children work in groups and in “natural” settings because they’ve followed any evidence. To the contrary, as much as it tells us anything on this issue, science makes clear that, particularly for disadvantaged children, direct, explicit instruction works best. But under Fariña, reeducation sessions for teachers were meant to overcome dissenting opinion and drive home the progressive party line. To quote the directives to teachers included on the CD: “Your students must not be sitting in rows. You must not stand at the head of the class. You must not do ‘chalk and talk’ at the blackboard. You must have a ‘workshop’ in every single reading period. Your students must be ‘active learners,’ and they must work in groups.”
As I reported at the time, some brave teachers objected. At Junior High School 44 in Manhattan, a teacher tried to point out to his supervisor, quite reasonably, that some teachers feel more comfortable with and get better results through direct instruction and other traditional methods. The school’s literacy coach, sent by the DOE, then responded: “This is the way it is. Everyone will do it this way, or you can change schools.”
Calkins was grateful for Carmen Fariña’s efforts in advancing her instructional agenda, her career, and her organization’s bottom line. (Calkins’s Readers and Writers Program at Teachers College received over $10 million in no-bid contracts from the city.) Calkins expressed her appreciation in a forward she penned for Fariña’s book, A School Leader’s Guide to Excellence, coauthored with Laura Koch, Fariña’s closest associate and collaborator at the DOE. “When Carmen and Laura took the helm of New York City’s school system, teachers, staff developers, and principals across the entire city let out a collective cheer of enthusiasm,” Calkins writes. She conjures a glorious history: “Within a week [of Fariña’s promotion to deputy chancellor for instruction] our education system began to change. Educators at every level could feel possibility in the air; the excitement was palpable.” And because of Fariña’s magic, “sound practices in the teaching of reading and writing became the talk of the town–the subject of study groups and hallway conversations in every school . . . The entire city began working together afresh to meet the challenge of improving education for all children.”
In reality, though, the balanced-literacy advocates failed in this task. The city’s eighth-grade reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests barely budged over 12 years, despite a doubling of education spending–from $12 billion to $24 billion. There was no narrowing of the racial achievement gap. (In sounding his tale of two cities theme, Mayor de Blasio makes no accounting for the failure of progressive education programs to reduce the academic achievement gap between poor and middle-class children.)
Recognizing balanced literacy’s meager results, Chancellor Klein reverted to a system of more autonomous schools, giving principals far more discretion over instructional matters. Klein apparently came to believe that he had been misled by Fariña and Calkins. The chancellor then became a supporter of Hirsch’s Core Knowledge curriculum, with its focus on direct instruction and the teaching of broad content knowledge. He set up a three-year pilot program, matching ten elementary schools using the Hirsch early-grade literacy curriculum against a demographically similar cohort of ten schools that used balanced literacy. The children in the Core Knowledge schools significantly outperformed those in the schools using the Calkins approach.
Still opposing the direct teaching of factual knowledge, Fariña recently shrugged off the pilot study, saying that not enough schools were involved. But if Fariña is serious about that criticism, she now has an opportunity to run a much larger evaluation of Core Knowledge. As a result of the city’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards and of aligned curricula emphasizing the “rich content knowledge” that the standards require, 71 elementary school principals have chosen to use Hirsch’s Core Knowledge literacy program in their schools.
Let Fariña visit and study those schools over the next year. If she really is committed to changing the tale of two cities, as she and the new mayor claim to be, one way to start would be to cast aside ideology and judge whether those Core Knowledge classrooms, drenched in “mere facts,” are actually the key to narrowing the devastating knowledge gap between middle-class kids and poor children, who begin school with little knowledge of the world and with a stunted vocabulary. She might also find that there is at least as much “joy” in classrooms in which children get taught explicitly about the world around them as there is in classrooms in which children “construct” their own knowledge.

General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis Email About Being ‘Too Busy To Read’ Is A Must-Read

Geoffrey Ingersoll:

Security Blog “Strife” out of Kings College in London recently published Mattis’ words with a short description from the person who found it in her email.
Their title for the post:
With Rifle and Bibliography: General Mattis on Professional Reading
[Dear, “Bill”]
The problem with being too busy to read is that you learn by experience (or by your men’s experience), i.e. the hard way. By reading, you learn through others’ experiences, generally a better way to do business, especially in our line of work where the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men.
Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation, never at a loss for how any problem has been addressed (successfully or unsuccessfully) before. It doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.
With [Task Force] 58, I had w/ me Slim’s book, books about the Russian and British experiences in [Afghanistan], and a couple others. Going into Iraq, “The Siege” (about the Brits’ defeat at Al Kut in WW I) was req’d reading for field grade officers. I also had Slim’s book; reviewed T.E. Lawrence’s “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”; a good book about the life of Gertrude Bell (the Brit archaeologist who virtually founded the modern Iraq state in the aftermath of WW I and the fall of the Ottoman empire); and “From Beirut to Jerusalem”. I also went deeply into Liddell Hart’s book on Sherman, and Fuller’s book on Alexander the Great got a lot of my attention (although I never imagined that my HQ would end up only 500 meters from where he lay in state in Babylon).

Achievement Growth: International and U.S. State Trends in Student Performance; Wisconsin near the bottom….






(Tap or click to view a larger version)

Eric A. Hanushek, Paul E. Peterson & Ludger Woessmann

“The United States’ failure to educate its students leaves them unprepared to compete and threatens the country’s ability to thrive in a global economy.” Such was the dire warning recently issued by a task force sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations.
Chaired by former New York City schools chancellor Joel I. Klein and former U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, the task force said that the country “will not be able to keep pace–much less lead–globally unless it moves to fix the problems it has allowed to fester for too long.”
The report’s views are well supported by the available evidence. In a 2010 report, only 6 percent of U.S. students were found to be performing at the advanced level in mathematics, a percentage lower than those attained by 30 other countries.ii Nor is the problem limited to top-performing students.
Only 32 percent of 8th- graders in the United States are proficient in mathematics, placing the United States 32nd when ranked among the participating international jurisdictions. Although these facts are discouraging, the United States has made substantial additional financial commitments to K-12 education and introduced a variety of school reforms.
Have these policies begun to help the United States close the international gap?
Progress was far from uniform across the United States, however. Indeed, the variation across states was about as large as the variation among the countries of the world. Maryland won the gold medal by having the steepest overall growth trend. Coming close behind, Florida won the silver medal and Delaware the bronze. The other seven states that rank among the top-10 improvers, all of which outpaced the United States as a whole, are Massachusetts, Louisiana, South Carolina, New Jersey, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Virginia.
Iowa shows the slowest rate of improvement. The other four states whose gains were clearly less than those of the United States as a whole, ranked from the bottom, are Maine, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. Note, however, that because of nonparticipation in the early NAEP assessments, we cannot estimate an improvement trend for the 1992-2011 time period for nine states–Alaska, Illinois, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington.

Related:

Focus on front lines of achievement gap: Questions on Madison Administrative Spending

Adaeze Okoli:

I understand closing the achievement gap is a huge task. But the Madison School District often fails to take the right measures. It is a mistake, for example, to spend more money hiring top-level staff to coordinate meetings and oversee district plans. If we truly want to close the achievement gap, resources need to be on the front lines — at the schools working with kids. This is not the approach the district is choosing.
Recently, the School Board voted to hire a chief of staff for interim Superintendent Jane Belmore. The position will cost $170,000 and last one year. The superintendent said: “We’re about doing everything we can to start to close that achievement gap and in order to do that this position is critical.”
I disagree. I understand the need for staff support and accountability. Overseeing a large school district is a huge undertaking. But hiring more top-level staff who earn six figures will not teach third-graders at Glendale Elementary how to read and write.

Related: 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use.
Budget Cuts: We Won’t Be as Bold and Innovative as Oconomowoc, and That’s Okay.
Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman’s 2009 Madison Rotary Club speech:

“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).

“Good Thing We Have Some Time”; on Madison’s Next Superintendent Hire….

Paul Fanlund:

As for superintendent candidates, someone with the pugnacious edge of our 67-year-old mayor might serve the city well.
In a recent interview, Paul Soglin told me he’s believed for 40 years that the quality of a school system is the “number one driver” for a city’s success.
Soglin said Madison’s schools are excellent, and, yes, the achievement gap needs attention. But Soglin said it’s unfair to expect schools here to shoulder blame for children who arrived only recently. The school district “has not done a good enough job explaining itself,” Soglin said.
It is hard to disagree.
So, in sum, our next school chief should have Soglin-like skills at the big vision and respond to sniping at public schools, be able to boost the morale of embattled teachers and staff, collaborate effectively with a disparate set of civic partners, and bring experience and keen judgment to tackling the achievement gap.
Good thing we have some time.

I’m glad that Paul has written on this topic. I disagree, however, regarding “time”. The District’s singular administrative focus must be on the basics: reading and math.
Those behind the rejected Madison Preparatory IB charter school may have a different view, as well.

Implementation of Wisconsin’s Statutory Screening Requirement

Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email [170K PDF]:

The selection of an early reading screener for Wisconsin is a decision of critical importance. Selecting the best screener will move reading instruction forward statewide. Selecting a lesser screener will be a missed opportunity at best, and could do lasting harm to reading instruction if the choice is mediocre or worse.
After apparently operating for some time under the misunderstanding that the Read to Lead Task Force had mandated the Phonological Assessment and Literacy Screen (PALS), the Department of Public Instruction is now faced with some time pressure to set up and move through a screener evaluation process. Regardless of the late start, there is still more than enough time to evaluate screeners and have the best option in place for the beginning of the 2012-13 school year, which by definition is the time when annual screeners are administered.
The list of possible screeners is fairly short, and the law provides certain criteria for selection that help limit the options. Furthermore, by using accepted standards for assessment and understanding the statistical properties of the assessments (psychometrics), it is possible to quickly reduce the list of candidates further.
Is One Screener Clearly the Best?
One screener does seem to separate itself from the rest. The Predictive Assessment of Reading (PAR) is consistently the best, or among the best, in all relevant criteria. This comment is not a comparison of PAR to all known screeners, but comparing PAR to PALS does reveal many of its superior benefits.
Both PAR and PALS assess letter/sound knowledge and phonemic awareness, as required by the statute.
In addition, PAR assesses the important areas of rapid naming and oral vocabulary. To the best of our knowledge, PAR is the only assessment that includes these skills in a comprehensive screening package. That extra data contributes unique information to identify children at risk, including those from low-language home environments, and consequently improves the validity of the assessment, as discussed below.
Both PAR and PALS have high reliability scores that meet the statutory requirement. PAR (grades K-3) scores .92, PALS-K (kindergarten) scores .99, and PALS (grades 1-3) scores .92. Reliability simply refers to the expected uniformity of results on repeated administrations of an assessment. A perfectly reliable measurement might still have the problem of being consistently inaccurate, but an unreliable measurement always has problems. Reliability is necessary, but not sufficient, for a quality screener. To be of value, a screener must be valid.
In the critical area of validity, PAR outscores PALS by a considerable margin. Validity, which is also required by the statute, is a measure of how well a given scale measures what it actually intends to measure; leaving nothing out and including nothing extra. In the case of a reading screener, it is validity that indicates how completely and accurately the assessment captures the reading performance of all students who take it. Validity is both much harder to achieve than reliability, and far more important.
On a scale of 0-1, the validity coefficient (r-value) of PAR is .92, compared to validity coefficients of .75 for PALS-K and .68 for PALS. It is evident that PAR outscores PALS-K and PALS, but the validity coefficients by themselves do not reveal the full extent of the difference. Because the scale is not linear, the best way to compare validity coefficients is to square them, creating r-squared values. You can think of this number as the percentage of success in achieving accurate measurement. Measuring human traits and skills is very hard, so there is always some error, or noise. Sometimes, there is quite a lot.
When we calculate r-squared values, we get .85 for PAR, .56 for PALS-K, and .46 for PALS. This means that PAR samples 51 to 84 percent more of early reading ability than the PALS assessments. The PALS assessments measure about as much random variance (noise) as actual early reading ability. Validity is not an absolute concept, but must always be judged relative to the other options available in the current marketplace. Compared to some other less predictive assessments, we might conclude that PALS has valid performance. However, compared to PAR, it is difficult to claim that PALS is valid, as required by law.
PAR is able to achieve this superior validity in large part because it has used 20 years of data from a National Institutes of Health database to determine exactly which sub-tests best predict reading struggles. As a consequence, PAR includes rapid naming and oral vocabulary, while excluding pseudo-word reading and extensive timing of sub-tests.
PAR is norm-referenced on a diverse, national sample of over 14,000 children. That allows teachers to compare PAR scores to other norm-referenced formative and summative assessments, and to track individual students’ PAR performance from year to year in a useful way. Norm referencing is not required by the statute, but should always be preferred if an assessment is otherwise equal or superior to the available options. The PALS assessments are not norm-referenced, and can only classify children as at-risk or not. Even at that limited task of sorting children into two general groups, PAR is superior, accurately classifying children 96% of the time, compared to 93% for PALS-K, and only 73% for PALS.
PAR provides the unique service of an individualized report on each child that includes specific recommendations for differentiated instruction for classroom teachers. Because of the norm-referencing and the data base on which it was built, PAR can construct simple but useful recommendations as to what specific area is the greatest priority for intervention, the intensity and duration of instruction which will be necessary to achieve results, and which students may be grouped for instruction. PAR also provides similar guidance for advanced students. With its norm-referencing, PAR can accurately gauge how far individual children may be beyond their classmates, and suggest enriched instruction for students who might benefit. Because they are not norm-referenced, the PALS assessments can not differentiate between gray-area and gifted students if they both perform above the cut score.
PAR costs about the same as PALS. With bulk discounts for statewide implementation, it will be possible to implement PAR (like many other screeners) at K5, 1st grade, 2nd grade, and possibly 3rd grade with the funds allocated by statute for 2012-13. While the law only requires kindergarten screening at this time, the goal is to screen other grades as funds allow. The greatest value to screening with a norm-referenced instrument comes when we screen in several consecutive years, so the sooner the upper grades are included, the better.
PAR takes less time to administer than PALS (an average of 12-16 minutes versus 23-43).
The procurement procedure for PALS apparently can be simplified because it would be a direct purchase from the State of Virginia. However, PAR is unique enough to easily justify a single-source procurement request. Salient, essential features of PAR that would be likely to eliminate or withstand a challenge from any other vendor include demonstrated empirical validity above .85, norm-referencing on a broad national sample, the inclusion of rapid naming and oral vocabulary in a single, comprehensive package, empirically valid recommendations for differentiated intervention, guidance on identifying children who may be gifted, and useful recommendations on grouping students for differentiated instruction.
Conclusions
The selection of a screener will be carefully scrutinized from many perspectives. It is our position that a single, superior choice is fairly obvious based on the facts. While it is possible that another individual or team may come to a different conclusion, such a decision should be supported by factual details that explain the choice. Any selection will have to be justified to the public as well as specific stakeholders. Some choices will be easier to justify than others, and explanations based on sound criteria will be the most widely accepted. Simple statements of opinion or personal choice, or decisions based on issues of convenience, such as ease of procurement, would not be convincing or legitimate arguments for selecting a screener. On the other hand, the same criteria that separate PAR from other screeners and may facilitate single-source procurement also explain the choice to the public and various stakeholder groups. We urge DPI to move forward reasonably, deliberately, and expeditiously to have the best possible screener in place for the largest possible number of students in September.

Although there is still a long way to go on improving reading scores, Brown Deer schools show that improvements can be made. by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

There are signs that the long struggle to close the achievement gap in reading has a chance of paying off. There is a long way to go – and recent statewide test scores were disappointing – but we see some reason for encouragement, nonetheless.
Alan J. Borsuk, a former Journal Sentinel education reporter and now a senior fellow in law and public policy at Marquette University Law School, reports that black 10th-graders in the Brown Deer school district did better in reading than Wisconsin students as a whole, with 84.2% of Brown Deer’s black sophomores rated proficient or advanced in reading, compared with 78.1% for all students and 47.7% for all black 10th-graders in the state. Some achievement gaps remain in this district that is less than one-third white, but they are relatively modest.

Schools are working to improve reading

As vice chair of the Read to Lead Task Force, I am pleased that Wisconsin is already making progress on improving literacy in Wisconsin.
The Read to Lead Task Force members deserve credit for making recommendations that center on improving reading by: improving teacher preparation and professional development; providing regular screening, assessment and intervention; ensuring early literacy instruction is part of early childhood programs; and strengthening support for parental involvement in reading and early literacy programs.
Across Wisconsin, districts and schools are working to implement the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and mathematics. These standards are designed to increase the relevance and rigor of learning for students. Milwaukee’s Comprehensive Literacy Plan is a significant step that defines common expectations in reading for Milwaukee Public Schools students, who now receive reading instruction through one curriculum that is consistent across schools.

Learn more about Wisconsin’s Read to lead Task force and the planned MTEL teacher content knowledge standards, here.
www.wisconsin2.org.