kitchen table math, the sequel: Robin on the Seattle ruling

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Robin on the Seattle ruling

School administrators who omit public testimony and duly submitted evidence when there are hearings on textbook adoptions from the record provided to the final elected decision makers can now get in trouble. The resulting decision can be subject to judicial challenge.

It's that omission of public information that was contrary to the story they wanted told and might have prevented the textbook decision they wanted reached that set up the "arbitrary and capricious" ruling.

Especially given the State "mathematically unsound" ruling on top of the omissions.

If the Seattle administrators had submitted everything in the public record to the school board, we would likely have a different decision.

New Standard: If you change the public record to influence how the school board sees the evidence, you are setting the board up that its decision will be subject to an arbitrary and capricious challenge.

How is that open-ended? Administrators should not be doctoring the public record to present a one-sided story to the public decision-makers.

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I have read all the briefs and corresponded with some of the principals and those omissions were key to the court's ultimate finding.

To insulate themselves School Boards could simply decree that they will accept no public input on textbook decisions but as Barry Garelick notes, that attitude will likely not get them reelected.

I see less downstream craziness but I'm a lawyer so I tend to see the safety devices in place if an informed citizenry knows they exist, how to use them, and appropriately asserts the relevant facts to trigger them.

I think that is in fact what occurred in Seattle.

A chilling effect on wanton disregard of troubling facts and duly submitted evidence by school administrators and elected public officials involved with education is healthy for better decision making.

I think this is an especially important time to be having this discussion because I think we are moving away from any evidence based criteria limiting instructional materials or techniques in the US K-12 classrooms. I see that in every piece of federal legislation or regulations concerning education currently being enacted or discussed.
I'm hoping Robin will fill us in on what she's seeing in federal legislation and regs ----

1 comment:

Robin said...

"Scientifically based research" was intended by NCLB to establish a solid threshold for instructional programs that received federal funds. It should have meant the death knell of the "look say" whole language techniques. Instead only nomenclature seems to have changed.

It was also an easy criteria to game though as the link on one of the thread's here recently showed with respect to Ohio. The fact that Piaget had a theory about constructionism was deemed to be both research and science.

A commenter to some of the ARRA regulations (SFSF) wanted the standard changed to "evidence based" instead of "research based" to require instructional programs where we now have accumulated evidence on efficacy and USDOE said no.

The later RTT regulations comments have the same express refusal to require evidence based instructional materials. We have a substantial expansion of the MSP that pushes discovery math textbooks and hands-on, informal science. We are moving away from Reading First and towards mandating Fountas & Pinnell in many of the same districts enamored with Investigations, Connected Math, and Algebra as an exercise in the possibilities of the graphing calculator.

When I hear that IDEA should be incorporated into the reauthorized ESEA, it seems likely that this will weaken all the fine work into solid instructional techniques in reading and math that have been incorporated into IEPs. I fear that no one will have a legal right to effective instruction when all these laws, regulations, and funding programs are fully implemented.