kitchen table math, the sequel: Bellevue, WA teachers being instructed on how to deal with parents

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Bellevue, WA teachers being instructed on how to deal with parents

This is a video of Phil Daro and Uri Treisman of the Dana Center, during a visit to Bellevue, WA. They are instructing teachers on how to deal with parents opposed to reform math. In a nutshell: "Lie".

The synchronization between sound and image is off, so lip movement will not match the words. Doesn't matter; even if it did, the effect would still be nauseating.

Phil Daro does this kind of thing routinely, and he is part of a group called the MARS team. MARS stands for Mathematics Assessment Resource Service, which operates in part from a grant from NSF. ( Grant No ESI0137861). The MARS team has a website, and it contains all kinds of useful information including "tools". One such tool is setting up a "peace treaty". According to the web site, the peace treaty

" a disarmament tool – a brief statement of common beliefs that the non-specialist public can understand. It is not a compromise, but a response to the legitimate concerns of the public, especially parents. It can be adopted as a policy of the district, circulated to the press, or by any other means of getting it to the public as a representation of what the district math leadership believes about the issues spelled out in the Treaty. To build such a consensus, it is important also to bring in mathematicians from the local academic community who are interested in mathematics education in schools but have not adopted extreme positions. The letter and meeting agenda are designed for this purpose, complementing the text of the Peace Treaty."

Note that the key qualifications for mathematicians from the local academic community are that they not adopt "extreme positions"; loosely translated this means they should not be against fuzzy math.

The peace treaty is "to help change agents, if and when the 'Math Wars' impact their system, to take the heat out of the exchanges by seeking common ground and civilized discussion of areas of disagreement."

I think that's what Daro is doing here in this video, though he is talking only to teachers, and he seems to definitely be quite defensive against those pesky parents.

The last blurb on the web-page on the "peace treaty" provides the following advice:

"Do not worry about getting people to sign the treaty. You sign it and make it public. Then challenge anyone who attacks you on the grounds they are attacking what you stand for in the treaty. Dare critics to sign on or publicly expose their disagreement with it. Do not add divisive language, even if it warms your heart. Do not use this tool as a public education tool. It is a public engagement tool. It is already understood by the public. They want to know if YOU understand it. This is not an expression of your philosophy. It is a direct response to issues framed by the public. Don’t change the subject."


SteveH said...

It's a trick way of saying that if you are not part of (thier!) solution, then you are part of the problem. Define balance as good, but still control the process and the details.

"To build such a consensus, it is important also to bring in mathematicians from the local academic community who are interested in mathematics education in schools but have not adopted extreme positions."

Who gets to decide what those extreme positions are? I noticed that they mention a download, but I couldn't find it. Do they offer a sample "Peace Treaty"?

How about a peace treaty that says that they can live on their land and parents and kids can live on another land. Are two tracks an extreme position? On the face of it, the peace treaty sounds fine, but it's really a vehicle for coontrol. That's the whole point. No individual parental choice.

r. r. vlorbik said...

i've seen this one.
the enemies from mars
can't handle our earth diseases
and they all die off and the invasion fails.

up until then, resistance was futile.
engage SOBs like this at your peril:
you don't change them, they change you.

i don't mean you, barry. you're up in it.
keep giving 'em hell. guys like this
eat amateurs at politics for breakfast though
(and leave the table hungry for more).

dodge the steamroller!

Crimson Wife said...

Did you happen to click over to the section entitled "Evidence on effectiveness of curricula"?

"What evidence is there that any particular curriculum or group of curricula is more or less effective at having students learn the desired skills?...Overall, the evidence suggests the following. When you test for basic skills, there is likely to be little statistical difference in the performance of students from traditional or reform curricula – it’s mixed in the Senk & Thompson review volume – many of the reform curricula give lower skills scores, but not statistically lower. Overall, the best you can say is that it’s a wash.

However, when you test for conceptual understanding or problem solving performance, students from standards-based (reform) curricula are likely substantially to outperform students from traditional curricula."

The most recent study that came out last week found a clear advantage to Saxon over TERC Investigations. Wonder why that's not mentioned on the MARS website?

Barry Garelick said...

Crimson Wife,

Classic! They admit they got lower scores (but not statistically lower, they add breathlessly) and then they dismiss it because who cares about all that procedural stuff, it's conceptual understanding and problem solving. Yep; kids from reform math do great on fuzzy open-ended exams.

The website is a bit old and probably not updated. Otherwise I'm SURE they would have included the news about Saxon doing better than TERC. The NSF grant that funds MARS ran out in 2007. Amazing, that the NSF grant money pays for experts prepping teachers on how to deal with parents who hate reform math.

Crimson Wife said...

I just read yesterday in my local newspaper that the school board in the district my kids would attend if we didn't homeschool has voted to adopt Everyday Math. Yikes!

I predict that the local Kumon tutoring center is going to see a surge in business...