PAUSD explains math text adoption process Schools & Kids, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Mar 12, 2009 at 1:55 pm
Parent reaction was mixed after a Wednesday forum in Palo Alto during which members of a textbook-selection committee explained how they chose two finalists from a field of nine state-approved elementary math texts.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, March 12, 2009, 11:30 AM
Posted by Palo Alto Parent, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 12, 2009 at 1:55 pm
I was present last night and the community / parents were desiring and requesting open dialogue and interaction. Unfortunately, the option for interactive discussion was not embraced by the Committee. Fulfilling this need would be a critical next step towards moving to a data driven decision on math curriculum selection.
Posted by No on EDM/No on EnVision, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 12, 2009 at 2:05 pm
I thought it was insulting that Kristen Foss kept mentioning her credentials of being an MIT grad, math tutor, engineer, passionate about math. She was implying for parents to trust her due to her credentials. Hey, many parents in Palo Alto have the same credentials! Doesn't mean the Everyday Math program is a strong program.
And the physician who had to repeat that he is so busy "as a physician" that we should trust the adoption committee because he has no time "as a physician" to review the texts? Others of us DO have the time to review and find information about EDM, and we are equally or more busy/successful than he is.
All outside sources point to EDM as a failure of a program.
EnVision is a similar failure of a program.
Outside sources point to Singapore Math as a highly successful program.
These teachers on the adoption committee would do an extreme disservice to their fellow colleagues by adopting EDM. Teachers of PAUSD are going to have to take a lot of belittling from parents if this program is adopted, and that is not at all fair. Save our teachers from this!
Posted by No on EDM/No on enVison, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 12, 2009 at 2:40 pm
OhlonePar, why am I not surprised that an Ohlone parent (school with second lowest test scores) would embrace EDM?
I have direct experience with EDM when my children were younger. So I am more qualified as a parent to speak on this than a teacher who has only previewed the program. I saw how our test scores fell, I saw how the teachers and parents were frustrated. I saw people flock to Kumon. I also witnessed the children in 5th grade being completely unprepared for middle school math if they did not do Kumon. I have no stake in whether or not they adopt EDM since my children are past elementary. I am just trying to help others.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 12, 2009 at 2:51 pm
I'm not embracing anything. If you read my other post, you'd know my kid's using California Math right now. And is way ahead of grade level.
So, have you ever taught math? Are you an engineer with a degree from MIT?
We're talking about *math* and your base of knowledge seems to be your kids and anecdotal evidence about Kumon. That's not an objective analysis.
I can understand supporting Singapore math or having issues with EDM or Envisions. What I don't like is the notion that the input from the teacher's committee is worthless. I get tired of the casual disrespect with which we treat teachers.
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 12, 2009 at 2:57 pm
No on EDM seemed not to "casually disrepect" teachers - she seems to say that credentials don't make someone right, which seems like an appropriate point if the speaker was emphasizing her credentials. Education as a industry does tend to suffer from "credential-ism."
No on EDM seems to have direct experience and that's a point of view worth listening to.
Posted by Palo Alto Parent, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 12, 2009 at 3:03 pm
The MIT degree discussion is not the primary issue here. Besides, Palo Alto has many, many residents with similar levels of achievement, which is one of the reasons why we all choose to live in community like Palo Alto.
However, parental input towards this decision is very important because it will be the parents struggling to help the kids at home. The 3 keys to the equation are teachers, materials for learning, and the parents; each is equally important as the others.
I did not sense any disrespect to the teachers or committee. In fact, opposite to that, open acknowledgment and thanks. However, the committee must equally respect and allow for input and feedback. Hands were raised last night and were ignored. The process here is less than ideal and dissapointing, especially for community such as Palo Alto, an otherwise truly unique place.
Posted by LG, a resident of Stanford, on Mar 12, 2009 at 3:36 pm
I went to a elementary school in southern california and we used everyday mathematics. It is a fantastic program. I can't begin to tell you how many people I know who have gone on to be successful engineers and mathematicians. On the flip side, for people like me, I don't think I would be as proficient at math as I am today with out a program like E.M. that gave me the building blocks to understand math. Parents also have to realize that schools, teachers and textbooks aren't perfect and they do need to fill in the gaps.
Posted by No on EDM/No on enVision, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 12, 2009 at 3:51 pm
Let me say that no one in the audience who had experience with EDM had anything positive to say about EDM unless they were on the committee. Clearly, the program will please a few, but it's the majority who matter. Sure, some teachers will like the program and teach it well. But how about the rest of the teachers?
Posted by parent, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 12, 2009 at 4:13 pm
Whatever math text is selected it will probably still be up the parent to teach math to their kids, if they want their kids to be proficient in math. Just because the book is selected does not mean the teacher will use it. Several years ago when my kids attended Barron Park, they had the California math text which I thought was OK. However they never used the book. I asked The Barron Park 4th grade teacher about the book; she gave me a copy and said I can keep it all year since she did not use the text. So beware, even if you get the book you like it does not mean the teachers have to use it. Most older teachers seem to have their lesson plans set over the decades, so unless you get a new teacher you are not likely to be following a new book/program.
Posted by boardwatcher, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 12, 2009 at 5:40 pm
parent, the reason the teacher did not use the textbook might be that Principal Cathy told the teachers at Barron Park to use Investigations *exclusively.* She informed a number of parents that she got to choose which of the two textbooks to use (turns out, a flat out lie -- the schools were supposed to use both, but then she was the one responsible for pushing Investigations on the district, in her previous capacity as math specialist for the district. . . ) and that she had chosen to use only Investigations because of how it made kids loooooove math. Lots of kids over there incompetent in math, lots of kids over there competent because their parents tutor them or have them tutored.
Posted by Jimmy, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 12, 2009 at 6:40 pm
I started a new thread. Transferred it to here to follow existing thread.
It is really a shame that the adoption of the new math texts for the district involved a long process with many meetings, many "consultations" but clearly boiled down to one day and the decision being made by 3 or 4 dominant teachers based upon their personal preferences.
The meeting last night was a sham. There was no time for comment or input. It was just a mock process to dummy up parental involvement.
As a result there was palpable anger in the audience. These were the math parents of Palo Alto, the math parents of children and clearly they are thinking that there is nothing in this district for the kids that are talented in Math. The focus is on bringing up the kids who are failing, bringing them to grade, and letting the upper third fend for themselves because they will do well enough in the tests without any help at all. It is not about getting each child to reach their own ability. It is about making the district look good by focusing on the weaker children.
Posted by Palo Alto Parent, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 12, 2009 at 6:51 pm
Agree with Anonymous
The key to a successful decision on math curriculum selection must be based on longer term outcome data. There are many school districts in the US which have adopted Everyday Math. Where are the data? For me, this item has not been adequately addressed or perhaps not fully disseminated. Certainly looking at the materials and reviewing them in a lab-like manner is a great start. However, we are past just having a good "gut feeling" about the materials. What are the outcomes, not just 1 or 2 yrs later, but in subsequent years? How do the kids perform into middle school and high school? There are standardized tests that measure the performance that can provide invaluable insights. The data from EDM website is not going to suffice. They have cherry picked some outcomes in very select communities. Our Palo Alto kids have the potential to go onto become leaders in their field, corporations, and academia. We must be certain they are adequately equipped and can compete nationally and internationally.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 12, 2009 at 6:59 pm
Interesting viewpoints here.
Can I add some speculation. Skelly is advocating reducing the achievement gap. He knows that many parents are going to supplement their kids education with tutors regardless of which approach is made. These families are probably the ones with enough money and also enough education themselves to ensure that their kids are going to do alright. Because of this fact, he may be more concerned with the underachievers so the approach is to teach to the lowest common denominator knowing full well that the bright kids and their families will manage anyway.
Skelly is definitely licking the wounds of his earlier gaffe when talking about the achievement gap. He cannot mention that here and he can't mention ESL students, but he sure can think about them. This process possibly has a great deal of thought procedures which cannot be expressed publicly.
As I said, pure speculation on my part, but worth considering.
Posted by Susie., a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Mar 12, 2009 at 7:00 pm
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] The audience probably had a couple of Stanford Math professors who thought that sounded pretty silly. Im also sure that in the room there were probably at least a couple scientists who would recognize a better process than a choice made by a couple of teachers and a whole lot of inconclusive meetings. The result seems to be that they rejected Singapore Math because it wasnt very easy for the teachers who are themselves not at all great in math. What we have is for the teachers not for the children.
Posted by rod, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 12, 2009 at 8:49 pm
Susie, it's a bold statement to call an MIT grad "stupid". What exactly do you yourself do that is so praiseworthy? It is also quite pathetic that you would cynically dismiss the judgment of trained educators who you claim are "not at all great in math" and are simply looking to avoid work; that's an erroneous and tasteless statement. How does Palo Alto expect to attract talented teachers when many of the parents patronize them and treat them like garbage?
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 12, 2009 at 9:55 pm
Who were these Stanford math professors at the meeting? What did they say? Be specific. Or is this just a convenient assumption?
From what's been said here, there are clearly some mathematically savvy types who like Everyday Math. I haven't seen a clear consensus here. I doubt that there's a consensus about teaching math among all Stanford math professors.
I haven't seen any indication that preferring one math text over another makes you a genius or an idiot. They all seem to have their pluses and minuses. (So to speak).
I'm also not really clear on why this would be considered a matter of huge community input. The district's shown itself to be reliably strong in teaching math at the elementary level. Why should I assume that the teachers don't have some idea how to choose a math text? And, frankly, why their opinion in this case shouldn't matter more than those of us who won't be using it.
I'd feel differently if the district didn't have a strong record--but as it does, I'm inclined to give some benefit of the doubt. At the very least, unless I have some clear evidence the other way, I'm going to assume that they're trying to do the right thing by our kids.
Posted by Parent of Pre-schoolers, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Mar 12, 2009 at 10:17 pm
I attended the event and I think the meeting was a good start to gather interested parties, but clearly there was no outlet for parents to say exactly what was on their minds.
I think the committee has to answer these questions on parents minds:
1. What is the justification of using calculators in classrooms in 1st grade. Is this true and why is it effective ?
2. What is justification of teaching slow methods for arithmetic (eg. lattice method). How do we know the traditional methods will be taught if these techniques are at the back of the book.
3. What is the data on math performance of other schools (there are several in Bay Area who use it) who have used everyday math ? What is the data on singapore math?
4. If Singapore math has the best test scores (the committee needs to state if this is true or false), why isn't it being considered. The answer at the meeting came back that it did not satisfy all levels of students - what is the evidence for this ?
5. The committee needs to comment on external reviews on everyday math directly. These are primarily negative, are frightening Palo Alto parents, and need to be responded to.
I understand that people worked hard on researching this topic, but the above questions need to be answered to at least give Palo Alto parents the feeling that they have been listened to.
The meeting did not give an outlet to have the an interactive discussion to bring out the above questions. At the meeting, I had some discussions with some of the teachers who explained some of the answers to above cogently, but these were not presented to wider audience, which I think was a mistake. The books should have been brought in, etc. Parents felt they did not have the data presented to them and as a result they remain unconvinced and not consulted.
I myself still favor the Singapore math program from what I have seen.
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 12, 2009 at 10:45 pm
OP, what makes you sure that the school's strong track record isn't the result of parent input and interjection in years past? While I like the schools, I think they are in significant part the result of the constant input and careful watchfulness of parents.
Teachers have useful input to provide; so do parents. But management - in this case Super Skelly and the Board of Ed - are the decision makers. Teachers mean well, but don't always have the same goals and objectives as parents. Hopefully management will use the inputs wisely - including the parent inputs - and choose well.
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 12, 2009 at 10:50 pm
Also, for whatever reason it seems that educators are TERRIBLE at using and assessing research to reach conclusions. I was appalled at the analysis supporting MI and FLEX during those discussions - the educational research was really poor and the uncritical acceptance of anecdote or short-term impact or small/self-selecting samples as support was alarming. In part this is because educational research is hard to do - very few controlled samples, very few long term studies where large populations can be tracked and tested. But to the point above, you would think textbook evaluations would start with looking at long-term outcomes; instead that seems like an afterthought.
Posted by Ze'ev Wurman, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Mar 12, 2009 at 11:00 pm
OhlonePar brings up a fair point above. After all, if the district has an excellent track record of teaching math, shouldn't we give it the benefit of the doubt?
I want to make two points. First, most students in the district do indeed quite well. Yet at the same time we hear a lot of anecdotes about parents' need to explain math to their kids at home when they have difficulties. We see tutoring companies flourish in our town; and we hear about many kids that need help by paid private tutors. This seems to indicate that the district may be taking some credit for the work of others.
Second, we do know that PAUSD has a serious achievement gap problem with children from challenging background. This seems to support the hypothesis that significant fraction of the district's success is due to support outside school.
To shed some light on that possibility, I compared the achievement of two schools from a very low-demographics district, Inglewood in Los Angeles, with two typical Palo Alto schools. Admittedly, the Inglewood schools are the best in their district, but they show what focused schooling can achieve even with their challenging demographics. The comparison can be found here Web Link and it shows:
- For all children, Palo Alto does better in ELA, and only slightly better in math.
- For children from low SES background (of which we have only ~10% and Inglewood about 65%), Inglewood beats Palo Alto hands down in math, and exceeds us even in ELA despite its much larger fraction of ELLs.
So I return to the original question: Does Palo Alto truly seem to do the best that can be expected, given our demographics and our resources?
Posted by No on EDM/No on enVision, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 13, 2009 at 12:01 am
This teacher posted on the other math adoption thread. This is only a partial bit of her posting which describes the benefits of Singapore Math. She has firsthand experience with both Everyday Math and now Singapore Math at Keys School in town. Keys teachers would be helpful for consultation.
Posted by K Jalalpour, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 27, 2009 at 2:14 pm
I teach at a private school in Midtown Palo Alto that is in its 4th year of using Singapore Math. We used to use Everyday Math, and switched because of the conceptual integrity, strong mental math component, and word-problem approach in Singapore Math. We are delighted with our students' progress using SPM!
Posted by EDM data, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 13, 2009 at 8:03 am
There isn't much data on EDM in California because up to a year or so ago the book couldn't get past the State review board. Almost all the districts on the "adopter" list the district handed out at Wednesday's meeting haven't had it long enough to know if it works.
But some California school districts did bring it in despite it not having had the state's blessings. One is Glendale, a district EDM lauds as one of its "successes," that adopted EDM in 1998. The 3rd grade cohort EDM featured did not have improved STAR scores by 6th grade, though. And in the 10 years Glendale has used EDM, 6th grade scores showed no notable improvement overall and declined for African Americans and Latinos/Hispanics.
There is lots out there on EDM in the rest of the country, from:
- states that have rejected it (Texas) and school districts that tried it but since abandoned it (recently Pittsburg Public Schools, another EDM success that pulled out after 10 years of trying, and Bridgewater-Raritan in New Jersey which published a very comprehensive report about why it switched),
- news stories about thriving private math tutoring businesses in communities that use it,
- districts that not only have to train teachers how to use it but must run parent training sessions to show parents how to help their children with it at home.
You can find them all with a quick google search.
Most notable is the federal government review of all 60+ studies that arguably say EDM supports student learning. It found almost all those studies were not sound with the exception of less than a handful. One study that had some rigor showed EDM didn't work and another said it did. The report's conclusion: the verdict is still out on whether EDM works but, even if it does, student improvement under it would be nominal. Web Link
Lest you think Palo Alto parents are the only opinionated ones, they are not. School districts across the US are having the same heated discussions about math committee selected books. Not in communities that selected Singapore Math or other middle of the road texts, but in communities that selected Palo Alto's two finalists -- Everyday Math and Investigations...from Seattle, Beaverton, OR, Palos Verdes, Piedmont on the West Coast to Newton, MA, Fairfax County, VA, Montgomery County, MD, PA, NJ and NC on the other side and Utah, Missouri and Ohio in between, just to name a few recent ones.
Posted by ELL issues?????, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Mar 13, 2009 at 9:19 am
" I compared the achievement of two schools from a very low-demographics district, Inglewood in Los Angeles, with two typical Palo Alto schools. Admittedly, the Inglewood schools are the best in their district, but they show what focused schooling can achieve even with their challenging demographics. The comparison can be found here Web Link and it shows:
- For all children, Palo Alto does better in ELA, and only slightly better in math.
- For children from low SES background (of which we have only ~10% and Inglewood about 65%), Inglewood beats Palo Alto hands down in math, and exceeds us even in ELA despite its much larger fraction of ELLs.
So I return to the original question: Does Palo Alto truly seem to do the best that can be expected, given our demographics and our resources?"
Thank you for helping illustrate a point I was trying to make in the other Math Textbook thread (the one with hundreds of comments)
how can English Language Learner issues (the smallest fraction of the population in PAUSD) be used as criteria to accept or reject a district wide MATH textbook?
Posted by james harrington, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 13, 2009 at 11:49 am
Do you have any idea of the issues that would arise if the district allowed parents input into every decision they made?
If you think the program is horrible then take your child out of public schools or get them extra help. Or better yet, sit down with them and do their math with them. Stop complaining. Get on the school board if you really want to have input.
Posted by Mani Varadarajan, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 13, 2009 at 11:55 am
Who ever said anything about having input into "every decision"? Strawman arguments are counterproductive.
Our schools are public institutions that are necessarily mandated to be responsive to the public. Not everyone can be on the school board. The "Information Night" was supposed to present information and get feedback. It really did none of the former and didn't really want to solicit the latter.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 13, 2009 at 12:41 pm
I think parental involvement matters, but the last episode of intense parental involvement got us the Mandarin Immersion mess. And, frankly, the devotion by some (not all) to Singapore math strikes me as a bit faddish. Yes, Singapore does really well in math, but I haven't seen much on how well it works in this country with *our* educational system--i.e. fewer hours in school. There's a lot of assumptions being made. I've heard the arguments against EDM, but where's the info and analysis on the other programs? How solid are those studies? (Educational studies in general aren't great in terms of parameters.)
You made a curious comment earlier that parents were the consumers of the math program. No, we're not. The district buys the books, not us, and our kids are taught from them. I assume you already learned your multiplication (as did I--from a McGraw-Hill textbook, no less).
I'm not against input from parents, I have difficulty with the sense of entitlement and, well, arrogance here. It's fine to have an opinion and I appreciate the thought many here have put into it. I have an issue, though, with the committee and the proponents of *any* set of textbooks being painted black.
The sneering here is absurd and, well, childish. I don't mean every poster, but there's enough of it that it affects the tone of the debate and, frankly, gives Palo Alto parents our fairly rotten reputation as self-important busybodies who, of course, know more than the teachers possibly could about teaching. I know our last super was a nightmare and is part of the reason for this attitude, but, again, I think there's a basic issue with respect.
As for the occasional Ohlone sneers here (and this isn't directed at you, Me Too, just a few posters)--I think it's funny that you guys are ready to make your kids guinea pigs with Singapore math and the heck with ELL kids who, if you don't get them up to grade level, will, in fact, pull down your school scores.
But I guess it's not a trial program if you're already sold on it. The advantage to Ohlone in this instance is that the teachers do have some more flexibility in switching things around if it doesn't work.
Posted by No on EDM/No on Envision, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 13, 2009 at 12:42 pm
The "suck it up or leave" argument doesn't apply here. We aren't complaining due to "not enough colors in the textbooks" or any frivolous arguments.
The program is a failure nationwide and the data proves it. I don;t think you've read this thread which explains that the program is a failure: Web Link just have a few schools with increase in scores that they pitch to the committees and they believe what they say despite all the evidence in the internet proving Everyday Math is a failure, and all the parents with experience with Everyday Math who oppose it.
Most importantly, only 3 parents are on the committee to speak for all the elementaries because the committee was not publicized enough. Had the district office sent out an email to all elementary parents, there would have been more volunteers. Instead, it was left to each school to bury it in their newsletters packed with other information. I don't even recall seeing it in our newsletter.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 13, 2009 at 1:04 pm
EDM is not particularly project-based from what I understand. Any of these programs can be taught in a project-based fashion. But, yes, Ohlone gives the teachers leeway as opposed, from what I understand, Barron Park. California Math which is quite traditional is used at Ohlone, but the pace is student-led. Different students move at different speeds and the supplementing is different for different kids.
As I've said, some teachers have used some of Singapore math, but there's an issue of teacher training and support--as others have pointed out.
Ohlone's "way" is less about materials and more about how the materials are used. It does demand strong teaching skills and strong classroom management skills.
Posted by BP Mom, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 13, 2009 at 1:36 pm
Please let's not take the discussion in a totally unproductive direction here. I don't understand why it is being "disrespectful" to the committee if you don't agree with their selection. With all due respect and appreciation to the time that the commitee put in - many parents feel that clearly their kids academic needs will not be met with EDM textbooks. The school district should be open to parents input - after all parents involvement is a big help to all school and for initiatives like PiE. Schools can't have ir both ways - to have involved parents but then not be open to feedback on critical matters
Posted by boardwatcher, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 13, 2009 at 1:42 pm
OP, many links have been provided on this site that demonstrate that *most* math education professionals think EDM is a lousy curriculum. I'm surprised that you are defending EDM on this theoretical basis when in fact so much evidence is out there showing it just doesn't work *for most kids.*
Most parents are not demanding that the district go an "All Singapore" route. We just want to know why the committee (a) chose not to consider curricula (including but not limited to Singapore Math) that align with state and national standards (unlike EDM) and (b) chose to narrow the program options to two that do not align with those curricula and (c) held a parent information meeting in which they did not answer those two basic questions and in some cases told the parents that they were basically too uneducated to understand the nuances of elementary math education and should sit down and shut up.
The fact is that there are a lot of seasoned teachers in this district who are NOT on the committee who are rolling their eyes and preparing to knuckle down and teach the curriculum they have crafted after years with the last round of crazy new math inflicted on them, so they are not bothering to complain. They will just quietly do what they have to do. Those are the teachers that keep the test scores up, and I laud them, but I am also disgusted that we put them in that position.
Also, it is a bizarre educator indeed who thinks a person has to have an MIT or other graduate degree to be able to understand elementary math as it is taught. Radical thought: if that is what EDM requires, most teachers don't have those credentials, and furthermore neither do the children who are trying to learn this sophisticated system or the parents who *just may* need to help them with their homework (how insulting is the response we have heard that parents should just MYOB and have the teacher help the child. After years in PAUSD schools I cna say they just don't have the time for that, esp with a lousy system that has a lot of kids confused).
Where is the joy in playing "hide the ball" with kids who just need to learn the basics, and telling them if they can't figure out the problem they can use a calculator (thank you Mandy for providing the citatoin to those teacher materials). I spent time about 4 or 5 years ago with a Jordan child who lived in North Palo Alto in an affluent and well-educated family, had been through Palo Alto schools and was using a calculator to do the most elementary equations as she worked on sixth grade math. She was not stupid, but I was shocked that she just couldn't do the equations and didn't see why she would bother. Since then I have insisted that my kids learn math facts and are fluent in them. As a result, my kids are having a lot of fun manipulating math concepts because the foundational arithmetic abilities are a given. I did not send them to kumon or use Singapore math but I did have them use a book that reinforces those concepts *as well as* having them stretch their problem solving abilities. It really, reallly really is not an either-or proposition the way some on the Committee are suggesting.
If EDM is adopted, those with educated and alert parents will get tutoring at home or elsewhere. And I predict that we will wring our hands in another 10 ears and bemoan the widening education gap, blaming the parents for lacking the values that would allow their children to succeed.
I have heard that Everyday Math was already piloted at Baron Park. If this is the case, I wouldn't exactly call those scores empirical evidence of resounding success.
But the bright spot is that at least some Board memebers seem to get it, and Skelly seems to be with it and understand that there is more to this Committee than meets the eye. I hope they will put off this decision for a year and get to the bottom of things, rooting out the incredibly rude and dismissive committee members mentioned in posts above who have no business behaving this way or representing PAUSD.
Posted by choice, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Mar 13, 2009 at 2:06 pm
You do not appear to understand what is on offer. Please read up on the text books and then decide. Take a position based on talking to PAUSD teachers who have experience of both systems.
"And I think it's great that there's an MIT grad/engineer/math teacher involved in making the choice."
Kristin was not a math teacher. She only stated she tutored math, as would have most college students. Any tutoring was probably not at the elementary level. You should not base your choice on that level of experience.
Posted by Barron Park Mom, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 13, 2009 at 4:20 pm
I want to know what is wrong with the math books/instruction we have now? Also why should we spend more money on more new books? The math instruction in this district should be simple, progressive, and consitant. There is nothing wrong in memorizing your times tables. Kids recite poems by memory and play instruments by memory. Multiplication tables are just another thing to memorize. And if you are not good at math, sometimes the rote method is the only thing that you can cling to (in understanding) to feel competent around the other students. You know, everyone has a different neurological development in learning things. A lot of kids can only understand concrete concepts that are simply put.
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 13, 2009 at 4:43 pm
Agree with picking up the textbooks and really getting a feel for the material. Talking to the PAUSD teachers is also good, but reaching out to parents who have direct experience with EDM for their kids is equally important. At the meeting, there was a parent with this experience who offered to share their experience. Amazingly, the committee did not embrace this line of dialogue. No comment, period. I also have direct experience with a couple of my kids on EDM. Simply put, it was not a satisfying experience over several years. The spiralling method results in concepts being touched in an abstract manner and superficially. The system does not promote in depth mastery of material and then building on a foundation. The test scores for the kids of my previous community are terrible. Down stream effects, only approximately 40-50% of all high schoolers in school district passed minimum proficiencies (these are the bare bone requirements to graduate eg equatable to how many shoe laces are on a shoe?). My reverberating challenge is that the down stream effects in terms of math performance from kids schooled in EDM have NOT been laid out. These are basic data that need to be part of the decision. Nearly all of us do not buy into anything without knowing the historical performance eg cars, appliances, college selection, etc. Why is math curriculum selection any different?
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 13, 2009 at 5:10 pm
Good question. What is wrong with the math curriculum we have now? Is it just that it is 7 years old and time for a change? Or is it just that it is 7 years since the last review and it should be reviewed again? Maybe what we have now is the best fit?
Posted by Ze'ev Wurman, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Mar 13, 2009 at 6:24 pm
Some background on the process.
The state provides funds that can be used ONLY for adopted instructional materials (IM). The state adopts IM for grades K-8 at a 7 year staggered cycle in the 4 core areas (language, math, science, social studies). Normally a district is expected to adopt newly-adopted IM in those core areas within 2 years of state adoption, otherwise it cannot use the special IM funds for ANY other purchase. (This year there was a special additional 2-year extension given due to budget crunch). Most recent math adoption was in Nov. 2007.
The idea to update IM is not stupid, in principle . Otherwise textbooks can get out of alignment with the standards, or simply outdated. Calif. standards, however, have not changed for almost 10 years, so there really is less need to force districts to change, except for materials that may get obsolete (rather rare in K-8). On the other hand books wear out and need to be replaced anyway. Further, if lots of districts stick to their old books, there is less incentive for the publishers to adjust their books to California's rather exacting demands, and the state is concerned about that too.
I only touched on the key points, omitting many details. Bottom line, it is not as simple or as 'stupid' as it may look.
Posted by Barbara Chu, a resident of another community, on Mar 13, 2009 at 10:46 pm
I know Ze've from the last one or two math battles in Palo Alto.
Used to live in PA, kids went to elementary,middle and high school.
Back in 2002 Paly was still holding the line with a fine math program.
Middle schools were the primary problem. In a series of seemingly endless meetings with the superintendent and teachers' rep, it finally started to make sense when the teachers said they REFUSED to have any CHOICE of a traditional math program because they were taught and convinced (brainwashed!) in ed school that it would be immoral to teach traditionally because students would not learn!!! And the superintendent would not and could not replace any teachers with new teachers who knew how to teach traditionally and would agree to do so. Even then there were teachers closing the door and teaching traditionally as best they could with non-traditional middle school non-textbooks. I go back to 1991 in the district-- which seems to never change in its attitude toward parents and students. Good luck surviving.
Posted by H, a member of the Duveneck School community, on Mar 13, 2009 at 10:49 pm
That meeting was a farce. It would be enough to make anyone doubt the sincerity of all this consultative process. The super told us that no changes would be accepted (not directly but indirectly when he said he would be disappointed if a decison wasnt made by Monday) the math specialist went into this long rant about how she tried to explain to one of the text providers that she wanted them but they told her they were not even producing these texts in the near future, another math specialist cut a parent off who wanted more details on why they rejected Singapore Math based on "accessibility" and after reading the section on "accessibility" I can see nothing in it that Singapore math doesnt meet.
So we have a program selected by some rather unimpressive and cynical process, as was that meeting.
We will just have to continue to pay to have our children tutored, pay exorbitant fees to F4Ed to teach Singapore math to our children after school, spend hours and hours with our childrens homework.
I also agree that the achievement gap, which, if all people are more or less the same range of intelligence despite socio economic status, and all these children are attending Palo Alto schools, then the huge achievement gap in Palo Alto points to the fact that higher socio economic status people spend more on tutoring so their kids do better. So the past curriculum has nothing to do with the success of math in schools. In fact I know at least a handful of parents who say that their kids dont learn a thing at Palo Alto schools, and they only go there for the socialization.
Posted by Time and Money, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Mar 13, 2009 at 11:42 pm
We've had some amazing, great, fantastic Math teachers in both Elementary and Middle School here.
The money that goes to printing new textbooks every seven years (not even green btw) should go to our own PAUSD gifted teachers, and THEY should be paid to do professional development to mentor more gifted teachers.
Vendors are after our every seven years allowance money. They will design new math, and new new math, and new everything. And since they are in Sales, they will convince us that we actually need this and that and the other.
Some of the $8 billion shortfall in California could probably be made up with textbook money.
Posted by Math Dad, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 14, 2009 at 6:10 am
BP Mom - I don't think anyone is arguing that multiplication tables shouldn't be memorized. The 4th grade teacher/committee member in my group (who likes EDM) also insisted that children need to memorize their math facts.
Choice - How can you complain that one of the parent reps isn't a teacher? There were 40 teachers already on the committee. The idea of including parents wasn't to add another math teacher to the mix, just an interested parent with some math perspective.
Time and Money - Yes, we do this for every subject. We are currently in the first year of the new science curriculum.
Standardized test scores across the US tend to correlate most highly with the education background of the primary caregiver, not school district or curriculum so they are probably not a good way to evaluate specific pieces of curriculum - isn't that the reason PiE didn't use SAT scores to compare school districts?
Posted by Investigations Data, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 14, 2009 at 10:49 am
The Federal government found of the 40 or so private studies on Investigations conducted through 2008, none satisfied its evidence standards and so were inconclusive as to the program's effectiveness in classrooms. But in 2009, the federal government conducted its own large-scale study comparing Investigations to other math textbooks and found other books "significantly" better than Investigations at improving math achievement in elementary school students (disadvantaged students):
Steve Wilson, Johns Hopkins University math professor who served as Senior Advisor for Mathematics in the U.S. Department of Education. In part based on his son's classroom experience with Investigations, last December Professor Wilson published in a Maryland newspaper that "If your child goes to a school that uses TERC Investigations, you should understand that it means your child's school has abdicated its responsibility to teach your child mathematics. By doing so, the responsibility now rests with the parents."
The Virginia report found that at least 50% of the districts which used Investigations have since dropped it, including those which the publisher lists as "success" stories. Those districts span the US, from New York and Massachusetts to Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin to West Coast states such as Oregon and Washington.
Like EDM, there is significant organized parent opposition to Investigations in communities that are still using it. A few recent active campaigns against Investigations which provide detailed information about the program and their issues with it are:
Washington State's Math Underground
New York City's HOLD
Virginia's PWC Teach Math Right
Maryland's Frederick Education Reform
Utah's Oak Norton
and several others throughout New Jersey
Investigations / TERC is not approved by the State of California for use in its classrooms, so classrooms which use it as a stand-alone text are teaching out of books that do not provide all the math content the state requires students to learn. According to the survey above, only 3% of school districts in the US using Investigations do so without supplementary materials.
Posted by MathRUs, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood, on Mar 14, 2009 at 10:50 am
What I want to know is, which math curriculum would best inoculate the next generation against borrowing more money than they can pay, or making an equivalently egregious math error, in the face of permission and sales pressure?
Don't believe this is math? It is the use of math at the right time for the right purpose. What other mental activity is more relevant to the decision of whether or not to take a specific mortgage?
The ability to compute or verify the statements of others are great, be it a loan officer or Al Gore or Arnold or PA Utilities or HSR authority are great, but not enough. The ability to determine which math to apply is equally important.
There are people primarily concerned with math credentials (as opposed to the ability to use effective math at the right time). Some are willing to sacrifice the potential value of a real math education for
a stronger credential around math.
So it is fair for the board to explore what the parents are looking for in their kids education. Do parents care more about credentials? Do we care more about helping those whose family cannot provide help? Do we care more about filling in around what private companies can and do teach? Do we care more about saving money for the district? Do we care more about reducing "math anxiety?"
(FWIW, as a tutor of elementary, middle, high school, and university level math students, I found that in most of my customers, the most direct and successful route to success was addressing their math anxiety! The teacher, home environment, course materials, etc. were rarely anywhere near as important an issue.)
Good math education can do a lot, but with limited resources to put toward it, what do we really want to do in our elementary schools?
Once we have a clear understanding of this, the value of the studies and the "studies" of specific programs should be easier to find w/r to our decision.
Posted by Martha, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 14, 2009 at 10:59 am
OMG. Why don't you people get a life. None of these programs are perfect. Clearly, there will have to be some supplementation to whatever program is chosen. These teachers are doing this now, just ask them. No program is the end all.
The issue is not the text book choice, it is how our community is treating each other: totally disrespectful, dishonorable and uncivilized. Stop it! Just because we pay high property taxes doesn't mean we have the right to be rude. Some of the parents the other evening look very entitled, they may have money, but what happen to integrity? No class, "new rich" Palo Alto hillbillies!
Have you ever read, Getting to Yes, by Tom Peters. We can have respectful discourse without an edge. I am so tired of the few squeaky wheels, mainly from Duveneck who display a mean spirit and contribute a bad name for the rest of us. I do not want our reputation to continue to be "Those difficult Palo Alto parents". What kind of example is this for our children. They already have so many advantages., let's not add rudeness to their learning.
There were probably only about 65 parents the other night, maybe only half of those that were rude. Parents, are we going to let those people ruin or run our community, because they have bad manners and have loud and obnoxious behavior?
Posted by boardwatcher, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 14, 2009 at 11:25 am
Yes, Martha, and as indicated in above posts, some of the committee members were equally rude and dismissive and disrespectful. It's not a question of getting a life, but of getting our children properly educated with materials that comply with state and federal education requirements (without putting the burden on teachers to teach that material *in spite of* lousy materials), which the two "finalists" do not do. And not only are the parents who care about math are not all from Duveneck, but the children of Palo Alto do not all have "so many advantages" -- so let's not add underinstruction in math to their disadvantages.
Posted by Martha, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 14, 2009 at 12:22 pm
Math instruction is very important. However, the methods that parents are using to express their concern is over the top. It is "your opinion" that these two programs are not suitable, actually after looking into the programs on the state adoption list provided to us the other evening, it is clear none of them, including Singapore Math is up to the standards we need to adequately educate our children. Maybe we need to adopt two programs.
I know we need to comply to state and federal requirement, but look at what they did with NCLB. I am concerned about my children learning and developing an ability to think for themselves.
We need to support our teachers, not bad mouth them. I have worked well with my children's teachers because we listen to each other. I believe they are very qualified to teach whatever program is adopted. Apparently the district is going to provide a lot of training, hope it is relevant for them!
It is my opinion that our children need support and instruction on how to problem solve AND learn the algorithm, not just rote instruction (old thinking, when we live in a very new world that I hope our children can compete and excel in). Our children need to learn how to think and grapple and be engaged, otherwise we are just developing robots, not educating children.
Posted by cause for concern, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Mar 14, 2009 at 12:38 pm
The last time Palo Alto went through a math textbook adoption, it brought two books into the classrooms -- Investigations and a more traditional one.
If Barron Park is any indication, some Palo Alto classrooms are only using Investigations despite two sets of books on their bookshelves. Boardwatcher's post in the other thread claims that at Barron Park Investigations-only is happening at the direction of principal Cathy Howard, who sits on this year's elementary math text book adoption committee.
Reading the committee's minutes you'll find committee concern that the adoption of an enVision/Investigations combination would end up with classrooms using one book but not both.
BTW - Investigations is not "incorporated into" enVisions, but is a separate series of books the publisher markets as a "complete K-5 mathematics curriculum." Both series are on display at 25 Churchill.
Posted by parent observer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 14, 2009 at 2:36 pm
There seems to be no shortage of everyone wanting the best for everyone, and nobody could disagree with the end goals you listed at the end your last post, including " Our children need to learn how to think and grapple and be engaged, otherwise we are just developing robots, not educating children."
What you call "rote" happens to matter in Math, it's part of the foundation. And FOCUS matters, to make that foundation strong. Rote skills, so that you can add, subtract, multiply, divide, multiply fractions, etc. are proven to be essential to "getting" the higher order concepts. It is NOT proven that you need to know five ways to add to think better.
Psychologists guiding Math curriculums?
I am very suspicious that by going for these holistic educational goals, the Math is secondary. It's almost a desperate approach to solve all education ills with what will always be a straightforward subject.
Fortunately, Math does not really change. And what you do with the Math happens only after you actually know it well, it does not work the other way around.
Posted by Eyes Rolling, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 14, 2009 at 2:45 pm
I have been following both math adoption threads from the beginning and I attended the meeting on March 11. I doubt you have read every post as I have as evidenced by your posting. Other than one poster, no one has flown off the handle, no one has bashed the committee or teachers or superintendent.
Your statements, "None of these programs are perfect. Clearly, there will have to be some supplementation to whatever program is chosen" is a negative and misinformed approach. I doubt you know ever bit of each of the nine programs which are available out there. I doubt you even know anything about the Singapore math or Saxon programs as evidenced by your statements. Because if you did, you would know that they do educate and make children think (rather than being "robots"). What's clear is that you are disappointed with the math programs which have been chosen in the past so you have resorted to tutoring your own children. There are superior programs available and they should be considered.
Another statement, "I believe they are very qualified to teach whatever program is adopted," yet you supplement your children at home so you do not have faith in them or the current math program.
For the rest of us, we would like to have a good math program and those who choose to supplement still have that option. We cannot understand why PAUSD would choose a math program which has failed in most of America according to all research. Why not choose a program which has a proven success rate?
The behavior of the Palo Alto parents has been impressive and respectful. In fact, they have been too polite about this whole ordeal and they mostly kept their mouths shut at the meeting. There was no screaming, no arguing. One parent even said, "Well, you told us not to talk about the two programs so I didn't want to say it." It is possible to disagree in a polite manner without being disrespectful, and that's been the behavior of parents. If you equate disagreeing with being rude, then that's your issue. I frankly, am proud to be living in a town where people can disagree peacefully. And for another cliche, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 15, 2009 at 1:27 am
Look guys, it comes down to this. I'm seeing a lot of parents push and criticize the various programs. Fine. Where I think there's an issue is when that discussion slips over into a sense of entitlement and a sense of being owed some sort of authority. Frankly, I don't know why I should value your opinion on this issue above the committee's. I can think of several reasons why I should not.
And while the bulk of commenters have been polite, there's certainly been more than one poster whose veered into sniping and it informs the tone of this debate. I have some sympathy for this, but I don't get why, in this particular instance, it's merited. Of course, the district put together its own committee to select textbook materials. Why wouldn't they? Isn't that kind of their job as educators? Not surprisingly, the proposed solution isn't perfect. There is no perfect solution here because different people have different ideas about how math should be taught.
Has there really been such a break down in this district when it comes to teaching math that this kind of attitude and lack of trust is merited? I certainly see that some people feel that is very much the case, but I haven't been convinced by what I've read here.
"Eyes Rolling"--doesn't your moniker here denote a certain contempt? I don't have an issue with it here--it's appropriate enough in the forum, but it does bespeak a certain attitude toward the district in this case, no?
Posted by Is it a fad?, a member of the Jordan Middle School community, on Mar 15, 2009 at 8:23 am
Ever heard of education fads committees of educators brought into classrooms which, sadly for many children, were subsequently discredited and discarded as ineffective?
An entire generation of kids didn't learn to read well when parents "trusted" education committees' decisions that children discovering how to read was far more effective than teachers teaching skill-based phonics to help them and so brought "whole language" into classrooms instead, including in Palo Alto 10-15 years ago.
You see passion in these postings because the Everyday Math text book and its ilk, like Investigations, have long been dubbed "fuzzy" math where, like discredited whole language, skills are de-emphasized and kids "discover" math on their own.
Parents are wondering whether Everyday Math and Investigations will be another Palo Alto committee-endorsed fad that does not work.
That is all parents are really trying to find out around town and here on Town Square. They read the Committee's minutes and see that our educators didn't have time to do the research, so they are taking it upon themselves to do that and share what they've found.
Parents posting are those who have transferred from districts which used these books and saw their children struggling with them. They checked out the publisher's marketing materials and found spin not supported by the very studies the publisher cites. They searched for quantifiable results that these textbooks have produced but cannot find them. They attended a district meeting to become more informed and all the support the committee shared is that it selected them.
If parents are not satisfied that the committee decision was a fully informed one, the democratic system allows them to discuss it publicly and contact their elected representatives. The School Board makes its decision after reading the committee recommendation AND learning what they can from their constituents - the voters.
Should you value posters' opinions over the committee's? Maybe not, generally. But many of the postings here are from Mandy Lowell, who sat on our school board for 8 years including during the last math text book adoption round. Others are from Ze'ev Wurman who helped write the state's math standards. Not exactly light-weights when it comes to math in this district and state.
But you don't need to trust them. Posters kindly provided citations and inserted links that they based their postings on -- check them out to see if they check out.
Like others, I have been extremely impressed with the tone of this discussion and how much it has been based on data and real experiences. The only "opinions" that you malign in your posting and "sniping" I read happen to be from the few posters who think parents should trust the committee regardless of the issue or outcome.
Posted by former BP parent, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 15, 2009 at 9:38 am
There has been a lot of talk about Barron Park School. Yes, the math program was problematic and the approach seemed confused. Textbooks were not handed out to students until 5th grade. That explanation is beyond the scope of this email and too painful to discuss.
However, I would like to point out that the 5th grade teachers there do an outstanding job of cleaning up the situation and preparing the kids as best they can for middle school. When my student was in 5th grade they did a wonderful job of integrating lessons from Investigations with Scott Foresman. There was alot of drill and lots of critical thinking. In the fall, over 90% of the 5th grade failed a test on multiplication of large numbers. The teachers spent several weeks reteaching this lower grade state standard and on a retest most kids passed.
The final proof that the 5th grade teachers' balanced approach was effective came when our 5th gradeers scored third in the district on the math section of the STAR tests just behind Hoover and Duveneck.
Posted by PA Native, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 15, 2009 at 10:34 am
Honestly! Our economy is in the toilet, soldiers are still dying in Iraq, and hard working people around the country are losing their jobs left and right (INCLUDING thousands of underpaid, underappreciated California teachers!)and THIS is what we are sooo concerned about? A math text book? I am a native Palo Altan, and have seen a huge change from the PA I knew as a child. The rich are getting richer, the houses are getting bigger, and the 'smart' are claiming they know what's best for everyone about everything.
Move on people. Get some perspective. Go do some volunteer work. Go donate some money to Packard Children's hospital. I bet the parents of children living there sure as hell don't care what kind of text book their kids use...
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 15, 2009 at 11:22 am
You might want to think big picture too, the reason
"Our economy is in the toilet"
"soldiers are still dying in Iraq"
"hard working people around the country are losing their jobs left and right (INCLUDING thousands of underpaid, underappreciated California teachers!"
could be because as you suggest people "Move on people. Get some perspective. Go do some volunteer work. Go donate some money to Packard Children's hospital"
Kudos to the parents respectfully inquiring, questioning, and expressing views on this issue. If there are good answers to these questions, everything should be ok, but if the reply is simply "get a life", probably not a good thing for any perspective.
Posted by Eyes Rolling, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 15, 2009 at 11:31 am
Martha and PA Native,
Don't slip to this level:
An ad hominem argument, also known as argumentum ad hominem (Latin: "argument against the man") consists of replying to an argument or factual claim by attacking the source rather than by addressing the substance of the argument or producing evidence against the claim.
"Some of the parents the other evening look very entitled, they may have money, but what happen to integrity?"
You can know people's personalities by how they dress even if they don't speak? Hmmm.
"There were probably only about 65 parents the other night"
There were easily 100 people in attendance. Our group alone had eight people in it and the multipurpose room was packed with no empty seats available except on the stage.
Native Palo Altan,
Our children are our future.
I am an early 80s Paly graduate. Not much has changed except that downtown offers a lot more and there is more traffic due to more housing. I sense some envy.
Posted by boardwatcher, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 15, 2009 at 12:00 pm
PA Native, I'm one too. And I have a life Part of my life has been spent tutoring my kids in basic math myself because: (1) they needed it due to prolonged and exclusive exposure to Investigations; (2) I don't have the money to hire someone else to do it; (3) I am able to do it myself; and (4)math education is important to me -- not as a sine qua non of Ivy League acceptance but because I want my children to be competent and comfortable in the subjects they have supposedly been taught.
I am frankly angry to think that in this district, with its financial and intellectual resources, continues to have so many issues with math education and that the achievement gap just keeps widening. And you sit in judgment and say we should get a life.
Let me give you a little analogy: When the Iraq War started, I knew a LOT of people who said the general public had no right to question the government because we were not privy to the data or qualified to assess the rightness of starting a war abroad. Well lo and behold, the naysayers were right about WMD and the pretextual lies.
So thanks, but part of my "getting a life" is informing myself and asking the hard questions when certain things (like the alleged basis for narrowing down the math curriculum selections) look like they don't make sense or correlate to *publicly available* information. In this case,the Committee minutes themselves show that the Committee threw out Singapore math as an option because it didn't teach critical thinking, and the whole rest of the data shows that is exactly that the program does best, I think it is presumptuous to tell the parents to assume the Committee knows best.
Another point is that the district often cites to studies showing that high levels of parental education have more to do with the achievement levels of their children than do teachers or textbooks, but when those same parents turn around and ask questions they are told not to worry their pretty little heads about matters they can't understand. So which is it? Are we invaluable or irrelvant?
Yes, Palo Alto has more than its share of entitled parents, but so does the rest of Silicon Valley. And I've heard that "you upstart parents" argument before. Let's see -- it was when the last round of math wars happened. Don't ask questions if you don't want to, but don't attack those of us who want to confirm the ingredients before we drink the Kool Aid or feed it to our kids.
Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on Mar 15, 2009 at 1:36 pm
I'm not sure which textbook we choose will make that much of difference. In my years of having kids in PAUSD, only a portion of the teachers ever used the textbooks much. In my experience:
Elementary teachers (who are pretty terrific in our district) don't really enjoy teaching math and are just ok at it as a group.
Middle school - the kids who are already good at math do well, the kids who are really bad at math get support, the rest of the kids struggle to keep up with the "math elite" and feel they are bad at math because they are not superstars.
High school - more of the same, with many teachers no longer spending much time teaching. Those who are already good, teach themselves, those who are not, fall farther behind unless they are lucky enough to get one of the terrific, caring math teachers. The students with parents who can help or afford to hire tutors also survive.
For the kids who are not math superstars (and we have so many really talented math students in this district) math is something to survive which can cloud the rest of your educational experience.
Posted by Ze'ev Wurman, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Mar 15, 2009 at 5:35 pm
Warning: Yet another long post.
Many posters throughout the discussion mentioned that math textbook selection is not important because our teachers don’t use or depend on them very much. Their implication is that teachers matter but textbooks don’t.
Other posters mentioned that we have wonderful elementary teachers, although quite a few acknowledged that—with exceptions, obviously!—elementary teachers’ math strength leaves something to be desired.
Finally, some mentioned that in elementary school the key is to “survive math” and the middle school or the high school simply separates those who can do math from those who can’t.
I’d like to tie these three themes together, because I think they are different facets of the same issue. My discussion assumes that essentially 100% of PAUSD students, excepting those with serious mental disability, can successfully take mathematics at levels that California and PAUSD standards expect at least up to grade 9 (effectively, algebra 1 and geometry course content), and that they can do it on normal school schedule and without any particularly strenuous effort.
I cannot really prove it and that is why I call it an assumption. However, I do have some basis for it. In 1996 UCSMP translated the Japanese middle school (gr. 7-9) math curriculum by Kunihiko Kodaira to English, and there, in the preface, it says:
"The Japanese school system consists of six-year primary school, a three-year lower secondary school, and a three year upper secondary school. The first nine grades are compulsory, and enrollment is now 99.99%. According to 1990 statistics, 95.1% of age-group children are enrolled in upper secondary school, and the dropout rate is 2.2%. [...]
"Japanese Grade 7 Mathematics (New Mathematics 1) explores integers, positive and negative numbers, letters and expressions, equations, functions and proportions, plane figures, and figures in space. Chapter headings in Japanese Grade 8 Mathematics include calculating expressions, inequalities, systems of equations, linear functions, parallel lines and congruent figures, parallelograms, similar figures, and organizing data. Japanese Grade 9 Mathematics covers square roots, polynomials, quadratic equations, functions, circles, figures and measurement, and probability and statistics. The material in these three grades (lower secondary school) is compulsory for all students."
The material described in this excerpt is essentially all of U.S. algebra 1 and geometry curriculum. In other words, while I can't show a country where 100% successfully take algebra 1 in 8th grade, I can show a country where 99.99% take algebra 1 and geometry by the end of 9th grade. It's called Japan in 1990. I believe the situation is similar in Singapore and in couple of other European countries, but I have no clear evidence that I can cite for that. The point, however, is to show a proof of existence, and here it is. It CAN be done. This is the basis for my assumption, as I don’t believe that our children are genetically worse than the Japanese kids in the 1990s.
Having established the possibility, we are faced with the reality that in PAUSD less than 60% take algebra 1 by grade 8, and less than 50% take geometry by grade 9. For the small number of children with weaker socioeconomic background in PAUSD, these numbers are much lower, at about 10%. And this is for Palo Alto, with its almost unparalleled parental education and income profiles, and with its per-pupil spending of about 50% over the state average.
How can we explain this? After following math education in Palo Alto, in California, and nationally and internationally since the mid-1990s—and after studying mathematics education in the US and in APEC countries during my recent service with the U.S. Department of Education and participating in many public and private deliberations of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel—I offer the following analysis.
Our elementary teachers are dedicated and talented professionals. At the same time they do not, as a rule, come with strong mathematical background needed for elementary mathematics. We then provide them with mediocre textbooks that are making lame efforts to instill love and appreciation of mathematics, but are largely devoid of coherent mathematics that will foster strong mathematical understanding in either teachers or students. Finally, their professional development is focused mostly on addressing the pedagogical aspects of teaching, and the mechanics of supplementing those defective materials, rather than on developing deep mathematical understanding of elementary mathematics that will help them to understand, and provide for, the needs of their students.
The consequence is the spotty record we observe in our district. Some teachers do quite well, but many don’t. Some kids survive this experience anyway. Where parents can support their children (through tutors, personal help, Kumon, etc.) many additional kids overcome this and survive. Where parents cannot, few survive, and hence our achievement gap.
The situation is worse in math than in English because elementary teachers in general have more affinity with language than with mathematics, and their needs for math support through textbooks and professional development are greater. That our achievement gap in elementary math is about 50% larger than the corresponding gap in English (~105 scaled-score points versus ~70 in grades 2-6) supports this explanation.
I am not pointing fingers at our elementary teachers—they clearly do the best they can with the tools we give them. But arguing that math textbooks do not matter and that only teachers matter, and that our teachers can handle whatever we give them, is not consistent with the evidence. As I have said elsewhere, from all the math textbook series adopted for California, only the Singapore mathematics present a cohesive, focused, and complete mathematics program. It has been characterized by all that had real experience with it as one that fosters deep understanding of mathematics by both teachers and students. This is also consistent with my own experience observing its piloting in two schools in Washington, D.C., over the last couple of years. It has been successfully used by both high achieving schools like the NEST+m public New York City school for gifted and talented, as well as for challenged schools like Ramona Elementary in Los Angeles Unified, with its 80% Latino students and its more than 90% families participating in free and reduced-price lunch program.
We should stop pretending that textbooks don’t count, and that all our teachers are miracle workers. Let’s give our teachers the best tools we can find so they, and our children, can succeed.
Posted by Ze'ev Wurman, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Mar 16, 2009 at 12:58 am
1) This is only textbooks selection. The curriculum is set by PAUSD, mostly in-line with California Standards. However, in reality both affect each other to some degree.
2) California's 8th grade algebra decision by the state board of education has been so far stuck in court, and has no impact on this discussion. However, California set its standard for 8th grade algebra in late 1997 (see, for example, the Foreword for the California Mathematics Framework, p. v at Web Link ) and expects all students to take algebra in grade 8 at some indeterminate time in the future. Statewide algebra taking by 8th grade increased since establishing that standard from 16% in 1998 to over 55% of the cohort last year.
Posted by 5th grade teachers rule, a member of the Jordan Middle School community, on Mar 16, 2009 at 6:08 am
If 5th grade teachers are cleaning up, which was also the case at our Palo Alto elementary school, shouldn't they be allowed to pick the text book?
The 5th grade teachers on the Committee were united in their dislike for Everyday Math and desire for a more balanced program like SRA and Harcourt.
1st meeting: 5th grade teachers preferred SRA and Harcourt over the others (neither book was selected for piloting)
2nd meeting: 5th grade teachers still preferred SRA and had nothing positive to say about Everyday Math ("lacking depth" "hard to figure out" "illogical connection to resources" "disconnect between teaching concepts and student practice")
4th meeting (after piloting): 5th grade teachers continued to dislike Everyday Math by a wide margin grading EDM inferior in all categories (long list of reasons including "not much practice," "extremely hard to navigate," "has a lot of stuff that is not addressed in our standards," "teacher-unfriendly," "hard transition to 6th grade," and "spiraling was too broad and too much for kids.")
Posted by No on EDM/No on enVision, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 16, 2009 at 12:55 pm
Posters can write whatever they want on this forum but can it be believed if there is no web link to back their opinion? Anyone who claims that EM has been a success cannot back it up with data for us to view.
Five days ago I asked L.G. to post the name of her elementary school since she raved about EM. She claimed it was a success at her school. We'd like to see the data of that school. Still waiting. . .
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 16, 2009 at 1:37 pm
What committee was that? PACE--MI's an excellent example of agenda pushing by a small group of parents without regard to the general needs of the district that found favor with a super who was trying to distract attention from her many, many failings. While I don't think that's going on here--I think there is an issue of respecting teachers enough to give them the largest say in selecting the materials they teach.
I've no interest in involving myself in MI's curriculum development, though I think there are problematic issues with immersion programs.
I think we all agree that teaching math in school is a top priority along with reading and writing.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 16, 2009 at 2:14 pm
Is it a fad?
It doesn't sound like EDM is a fad, more of a series of textbooks that aren't perfect. So the question is are they good enough and are the teachers good enough to supplement as needed?
A lot of educational "fads" have been ideas that work in particular situations and by trained teachers but then fail in other settings.
I was one of those kids exposed to new math in fourth grade--you know, part of that failed generation. Only I wasn't. I liked the new math and it never interfered with my grasp of basic computational skills--and, no, it didn't hurt that we started every day of sixth grade with 100 multiplication/division problems in 15 minutes. Just as a sort of warm-up. Normal math was decimals, fractions non-rote stuff--I think there's something to be said for separating the rote skills from the more conceptual stuff. Somewhat different skills--like the difference between spelling and writing.
I realize this isn't true of everyone. Simply pointing out that even imperfect systems work to some extent. Over the years, I'd say the biggest benefit was a subtle one--I learned to think mathematically in a certain way. It gave me a certain flexibility. I suspect that's why some of the EDM proponents come from mathematical backgrounds--they didn't need help on the drills and they value the creative problem solving--because it's a skill that they use.
But again, I'm not pushing EDM above anything else. Singapore math may be terrific--but having seen the books and having talked to some teachers about it, I think there's very much an issue of teacher training. Singapore math books have a spare quality to them. That's deliberate--the idea is to focus on the essence and not be confused by anything extraneous. The flip side of this is that it's not teach yourself math. It requires a teacher--a good one. I'd absolutely consider using it with some kids because of that clarity. I can also see situations where it would make differentiated instruction more of a challenge. California math with its self-contained chapters is a better choice for that--even though Singapore may be better designed in other ways.
Not everyone is going to be creative in math--but we do have mathematically talented kids here who benefit from having more than the essentials. I've known seven-year-olds who can factor primes and use negative numbers and others who can barely add. In the same class, of course. While I think Palo Alto skews towards the bright end, I think we've got a big range here--in part because there's a certain small percentage of really accelerated kids (and kids capable of that).
SRA, from the description, sounds good, but economic factors mean it's not a viable choice.
Posted by joe, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 16, 2009 at 5:17 pm
As an anchoring point to this ongoing healthy debate, the question which must be asked is "Who is the customer" here?
There are shades of gray here, but the "most important" customer of the math curriculum selection is not the committee, the teachers, the board, nor the parents. It is the children. Appropriate data to guide the decision making is essential. There is too much at stake for worrying about perceived hurt feelings or political power play agendas.
All parties involved need to keep the focus here - Palo Alto school kids.
Posted by parent, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Mar 16, 2009 at 5:56 pm
if it works as Joe suggests, then the starting point would be what is the aim for PA kids?Algebra by 8th grade? not?
so far it seems textbooks are shaping curriculum, instead of hard data on how we're really doing, what are the weaknesses, strengths of current curriculum - this kind of stuff should not be committee driven.
Posted by EDM-not a good choice, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 17, 2009 at 10:12 am
New article on Palo Alto Online...
"Teacher committee recommends new math text
Teachers passionate about 'Everyday Mathematics' despite parent complaints" Web Link
As parents who disagree with this you can still do something. Write emails to the board members or talk to them. Show them the facts/your specific concerns. Also, remember to NOT make this personal against the committee. I agree with many poster here - the committee had put in al lot of effort. WE may not agree with their choice but we have to let the board know and still be respectful of the work that has gone in.
In summary - please write to the board if you feel strongly on this issue. And educate other parents who care but may not have paid attention. The board member emails / phone numbers are at Web Link
Posted by Perla Ni, a resident of Menlo Park, on Mar 19, 2009 at 5:06 pm
Me and my husband went to see the Everyday Math textbook today so that we could make up our minds. It does indeed very frequently instruct kids to estimate or use a calculator instead of doing the actual math themselves. It almost completely ignores the traditional mulitiplication/long division method and puts a heavy emphasis on the partial products method, "lattice method" and even more weirdly the "Egyption method". Want to see for yourself? I've uploaded several pages from the Grade 3 and 4 textbook here:
Posted by EDM-not a good choice, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 30, 2009 at 10:57 pm
A few Palo Alto residents have started a petition to present to the PAUSD superintendent and school board members regarding the Math Textbook Adoption. Here is the online petition to express your views on this subject:
Your name can be kept anonymous online if you wish but will be turned in to the school district when the petition closes (on April 11).
I like the idea of this petition because it is very respectful of the time and efforts put in by the committee but also points out that more textbooks should be piloted and decision should be revisited.
If you are concerned about the Every Day Math Textbooks, PLEASE do the following –
1. Sign the petition AND
2. Send emails to Board members before they vote on this issue stating your concerns about Every Day Math. The board members are: Melissa Baten Caswell, Barbara Klausner, Barb Mitchell, Dana Tom and Camille Townsend (cc Sup. Skelly). Their emails are - email@example.com , firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted by EDM-not a good choice, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 30, 2009 at 11:58 pm
to Perla Ni - first Thank you for posting the Every Day Math text book sample pages. This is SO scary. Just to put it into perspective, kids in 2nd grade in other parts of the world are learning to do 2 digit by 2 digit multiplication wheras EDM is openly allowing use of calculators AND estimations! Wake-up parents - once these text books are in the class rooms there is no going back for 7 years!! Sign the petition and email the board. this is not logical, why should we subject our kids to this?