kitchen table math, the sequel: Seattle school district appeals

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Seattle school district appeals

here

thanks to Cassy T

15 comments:

rocky said...

Before you get all happy and hopeful because the children will be better off without this Discovering series, do you really want judges telling school boards what textbooks to use? Isn't it bad enough when legislators pass laws (after attending lavish seminars given by publishing houses)?

Barry Garelick said...

The court did not tell the school board what textbook to use. It ruled on the board's decision process in selecting a textbook, calling it "arbitrary and capricious", because the board did not consider evidence presented to it that was not favorable to the textbook. See this post.

Catherine Johnson said...

well, rocky, aHEM

just exactly how happy and hopeful do you think anyone around here is likely to get contemplating anything whatsoever to do with public education?

I ask you

Catherine Johnson said...

Seriously, though, so far I'm not alarmed by the fact of a court weighing in - particularly not given the fact that the court ruled on the decision making process, not the curriculum.

When I say "I'm not alarmed," I mean that I haven't been able to think my way through this one (yet)

We desperately need 'checks and balances' in the public schools system. See, e.g., the ktm motto: they do what they do

Just two weeks ago our part-time, interim director of curriculum, a former English teacher, recommended that we stick with Math Trailblazers - instead of adopting Singapore Math - on grounds that "there is no perfect curriculum."

She opened her presentation by saying that our students aren't learning:

* to tell time
* to calculate money or make change
* measurement
* math facts
* proficiency in standard algorithms

This is what she said, not what I'm saying. Basically: the kids aren't learning math. That's what she opened with.

Then she recommended sticking with Math Trailblazers, the curriculum that for 5 years now has come up short in these departments.

Because there are no perfect curricula.

Now....that is not an evidence-based decision making process.

That is an arbitrary and capricious decision making process. If I do say so myself.

Since we parents and taxpayers have no power whatsoever to impose an evidence-based decision making process on the credentialed ones who run our schools, what is to be done?

The courts have already done all kinds of damage requiring equal funding formulas that didn't produce results....and special ed parents have a right to sue on various grounds. In short, the courts are fully engaged in ruling on public education and have been for many a moon.

Why shouldn't parents of general education students and disciplinary specialists have a right to sue? (The plaintiffs were: 1 parent, 1 high school math teacher, & 1 college professor.)

At the moment, I'm in favor of this development.

BUT I may be wayyyy wrong.

Because it's always worse than you think.

rocky said...

Meanwhile, back in the "do what they do" department, school board officials across the country are saying, "We need to cover our butts more thoroughly when we make arbitrary and capricious decisions. Perhaps we need a three-day fact-finding vacation where board members (and significant others) can hear invited speakers explain why Discovering is better than Singapore, or Alabacus, or what-have-you."

And then all the happy board members can fly home knowing they are fully informed...

Catherine Johnson said...

....lolllll.....

except it ain't the school boards

it's the administrators

the school boards just say ok

Catherine Johnson said...

Thinking about this court case - the implications - is basically impossible for me.

The minute I try to think of all the bad unintended consequences that could result, I get brain lock.

Because, really, the sky's the limit.

Catherine Johnson said...

I had a philosopher friend a while back (really: an honest to God philosopher, that was her job)...& we got to talking about the saying 'more things than you can shake a stick at.'

My philosopher friend said, "That's a whole lot of things."

That's pretty much how I feel about the possible unintended consequences of this judgment.

Robin said...

Thinking that this court case means the "sky's the limit" misunderstands the facts at issue.

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.

Barry Garelick said...

Perhaps we need a three-day fact-finding vacation where board members (and significant others) can hear invited speakers explain why Discovering is better than Singapore, or Alabacus, or what-have-you." And then all the happy board members can fly home knowing they are fully informed...

Ccorrect except that now, if the program bombs, the board will not be able to excuse itself by saying that it simply relied on some (idiot) administrator’s, publisher's, or men's room attendant's recommendations. And the board members tend to want to be re-elected…

Catherine Johnson said...

Hey Robin!

I don't think I misunderstand the facts of the case, though I haven't read the transcript.

I did read the judgment carefully.

When I say 'the sky's the limit' what I mean is that I have seen no meaningful political or judicial constraints on the secondary, 'downstream' craziness that can result from what looks like a win for us.

Robin said...

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.

Robin said...

You are right Catherine.

Things do seem to be coming to a head in education now between what is coming out of DC, the Common Core standards, and the acute fiscal shortfalls of local school districts and states.

Fascinating times to be living in and paying attention. Thanks for hosting this blog.

Catherine Johnson said...

My hope is that we can persuade the school board - either our present board or a future board - to adopt a formal policy of evidence-based decision making.

In recommending that our district carry on with Trailblazers, the interim director of curriculum:

* did not consider student performance data

* did not consider comparative student performance data (e.g.: Scarsdale's 8th grade scores fell below Irvington's when their Trailblazers kids reached middle school)

* did not ask other districts why they have abandoned Math Trailblazers & switched to Singapore Math

* did not consider the recommendations of the NMAP, although she was directed to do so

* did not read the AIR report

* did not know whether Trailblazers could get more students to algebra in the 8th grade (her exact words: "I don't know")

* did not consider international benchmarks

* did not explain why we should continue with a curriculum mathematicians reject

* did not explain why we should spend tax dollars on a curriculum the state of California does not allow state taxes to be spent on

* provided 8th grade math scores for SPED kids that showed steady increases over the past 3 years -- without mentioning the fact that all 8th grade scores, across the state, have risen for the post 3 years

* also failed to mention that the 8th grade scores were those of students who have never had Trailblazers

* informed the board that the math survey found parents saying that their children like math and are confident of their ability to do math - omitting the fact that parents overwhelmingly rejected Math Trailblazers in the same survey

I'm hoping that, at a minimum, we can persuade the board to direct the administration to base curriculum decisions in evidence of student achievement.

The broader issue - responsiveness to community values (in our case, the community clearly values the liberal arts) - isn't something I've found a way to address.

Catherine Johnson said...

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.

That is very good to hear.

I have essentially no ability to predict - and I don't see the safety devices (not because they're not there: I don't know what they are).

Can you write more for us?

Do you want to write posts?

That would be fantastically helpful.