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Sign Palo Alto Math Textbooks Petition

Original post made by Ada, Midtown, on Apr 16, 2009

If you unhappy about PAUSD's choice of math program and its reliance on calculators, please sign petition:

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Comments (41)

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Posted by Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2009 at 10:49 am

Everyday Math has more issues than just reliance on calculators. The program has failed in most of America. The schools which are unaffected are schools which have parents paying for tutors or afterschool programs. The school districts which have recently adopted it believed the sales pitch. Children and parents end up confused and frustrated with the program. Students will learn to dislike math and be unprepared for middle school math. Why would we want that for such an intellectual community of future leaders?

The math adoption committee tried to pass it without sending out any emails to parents. There are only 3 parents on the committee representing our entire district.

Teachers who dislike the program do not want to voice their opinions due to political reasons. Other districts who are happy with it claim their teachers enjoy the program. Would you, as a teacher, complain to the principal that you don't like Everyday Math and risk being labeled as an incapable teacher? No, teachers just devise their own programs and keep quiet. This will lead to inconsistent education dependent upon the teacher.

The facts of the failure of Everyday Math cannot be ignored.

Here's the original thread on the topic of Everyday Math: Web Link

Here's a video on Everyday Math: Web Link

Here's more info on Everyday Math: Web Link

Adults who reside in Palo Alto may sign the petition even if they do not have children in elementary school. Those who have children in PAUSD but do not live in Palo Alto may also sign the petition.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 16, 2009 at 1:00 pm


Could you please provide some specifics to back up your statement that Everyday Math has failed "in most of America"? What percentage of America has used EDM and in what percentage of that percentage has EDM failed.

I've read the original thread, seen the video and your links. I'd like to see some hard numbers.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2009 at 2:09 pm


In one of your past posts, you have commented "I love Googling!" You clearly have advanced Googling capability as evidenced by your many postings all over this forum.

There is no website which states such data that you are inquiring about. And the Everyday Math website is surely not going to offer names of districts which implemented Everyday Math and then dropped the program. On past threads, there are plenty of links to hard data on the failure of the program and the uproar it has caused.

The big variable is that test scores of schools which are currently using Everyday Math do not reflect the fact that parents are supplementing at home or sending their children to tutoring/learning centers for additional math learning. And there is no way to find out that data because not everyone is going to admit that they supplement. Find schools where there is no parental involvement and check their test scores. I have found some and their students are failing in math.

Ask any parent who has experienced Everyday Math for years and the feedback will not be positive.

Here's info off the original thread of how parents are coping with Everyday Math in Newton, MA, Web Link:

At a recent math conference, a speaker deviated from her presentation to discuss the Everyday Math Junk that has been adopted in Newton, MA. According to the town, $10 million has been spent on this Junk. In Sept. 2006, so many parents complained that last September the parent informational night was not held. Many parents are now paying to send their children to the after-school and weekend programs at the Russian School in Newton. This school is so popular that a branch has been opened in Needham.

Article: Math Tutors Fill In Gaps Web Link

The new tutoring center is right across Winchester Street from Math Monkey, which sits five minutes away from the Score! Educational Center to the north and the Russian Math School to the south. Together, the four centers serve about 1,000 Newton students.

Let me conclude with this: just Google Everyday Math and you will find no positive data on the program besides on the publisher's site. But you know that. You just want to debate.

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Posted by parent
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 16, 2009 at 9:45 pm

I urge everyone to watch all three of these videos. I know the human tendency is to only listen to what supports our viewpoint. These links give a good perspective of 2 sides of the story, in my opinion.

Don't be put off by the style. It is very insightful.

Web Link
Web Link
Web Link

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Posted by parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 16, 2009 at 9:53 pm

I'll go out on a limb... I would venture to guess that most parents in Palo Alto are willing to give EDM a try because we recognize that math needs to be useful and not just a set of formulas. No, we do not know that it is a sure thing. And no, we won't be vocal for fear of being targeted by the passionate angry opponents. Like the infamous Proposition 8, many more people had "NO on 8", but the results showed what people really wanted when allowed to vote in secret. Given the emotionally changed opponents, we will sadly never hear the other side.

What does the petition show us? Sadly, only one side of the story because no one in their right mind would show their support of EDM in a public forum.

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Posted by another parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2009 at 11:41 pm

at least 5 or 6 parents that addressed the Board at the last meeting were in favor of EDM. The main reasons were, trust in the teachers, don't listen to the vocal minority parents, it will all be ok. Some of them also stated they were not really good at Math.

This is not a community that shies away form being vocal, if there were more parent advocates for EDM, they would have already surfaced and likely relish the opportunity to join the debate.

As for Math needing to be "useful and not just a set of formulas". That sounds like Language Arts, or History, or anything else, Math is a set of formulas, and useful.

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Posted by tim
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 17, 2009 at 12:44 am

I don't want to be a broken record, but here I go again ...

Strangely enough (in light of Mom's position) EM is the ONLY math program that the Department of Education's What Works Clearinghouse says has enough evidence behind it to say it has not failed.

Web Link

"The WWC considers the extent of evidence for Everyday Mathematics to be medium to large for math achievement."

"The WWC rates interventions as positive, potentially positive, mixed, no discernible effects, potentially negative, or negative. The rating of effectiveness takes into account four factors: the quality of the research design, the statistical significance of the findings (as calculated by the WWC), the size of the differences between participants in the intervention condition and the comparison condition, and the consistency of the findings across studies (see the WWC Intervention Rating Scheme). The WWC found Everyday Mathematics to have potentially positive effects on math achievement."

The reality is that the teachers influence on outcomes is much stronger than a textbook's.

These two facts are the simplest explanation I can give for my unequivocal support of the committee's recommendation.

Someone suggested that since I value process I must be troubled by the admission that process wasn't followed. Two thoughts on that: 1. When I audit adherence to any but the simplest process (which I often do as part of my job) I ALWAYS find some way the process wasn't followed and have to decide how big the gap was. 2. The gap here is tiny.

Were community members given the opportunity to be involved? Yes. This happens every 7 years, so it should have come as no surprise. An invitation to participate was posted using PAUSD's standard communications channels. (See page 171 of the board packet, Web Link) . The Board policy says the committee should include 2-5 community members. Three parents volunteered and were selected. I don't know if Dr. Skelly consulted the PTA exec or not, but I am 100% certain the PTA exec would have enthusiastically supported the selection of the parents who volunteered.

Finally, if the teachers objected strongly to elimination of SRA from the piloting, it would have shown up in the Minutes. The reality is they were happy to pilot two strong programs, and they (in spite of the strongly voiced opposition of well-meaning parents and community members, and after having had time to absorb the opposition's concerns and check them out) recommended EM -- without a minority report, which is also allowed by the Board policy. That's why I want them to get the materials ASAP and be able to focus on how to use them in their classrooms to continue to effectively teach my children. I don't want to throw a different book at them and say, "I think this is better, so use it." The TEACHERS are the most significant part of the equation.



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Posted by another p
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 17, 2009 at 1:11 am


if the issue was not so important, what you call a tiny gap would remain tiny and inconsequential. But the tiny gap takes on an entirely different meaning when the issue is important enough to the disadvantaged party. That's why there is policy, and laws and stuff, and sometimes those tiny gaps become big.

you say teachers are the most important part of the equation, there are 300+ community members that think the students are the most significant part of the equation.

the objections to EDM are not personal, they are out of concern for the controversial nature of the approach. Like it or not, the controversy has already been documented, and it has proven that it has nothing to do with lack of support for the teachers.

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Posted by Ze'ev Wurman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 17, 2009 at 2:18 am


It is misleading to use the Department of Education WWC report to claim that EDM is "better" than "other textbooks." I wish you would stop repeating it over and over. You sound like the publisher.

WWC tried to evaluate over 70 elementary math programs. Unfortunately, it could evaluate only FIVE programs, as all other programs didn't have any quality research behind them. This does not say anything about whether they are better than EDM, worse than EDM, or the same. We simply don't know.

Of the five programs with at least some reasonable research support, none had a high quality research support. They all only had almost good enough quality ("with reservations") research supporting them.

EDM has 4 such almost good enough studies. Three of them found no significant effects for EDM, and one found positive effects, as measured against a mix of 15 different math programs. That's all that was found.

Based on this data, EDM got a "potentially positive" rating.

Based on this data, nobody steeped in research would claim that EDM is "better than other textbooks" (which? some undefined mix of 15 textbooks? what about the other 67 textbooks?) or that EDM "got the best rating from the U.S. Department of Education." It's like getting B- in a class of 72, with 4 more C, and 67 students not participating in the test. It is "best" only in the narrow sense of being better than the other 4, not that it is clearly the superior program in the field, or that it has a truly robust research base.

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Posted by tim
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 17, 2009 at 8:34 am


What I think I've said "over and over" is EM is the only textbook for which there are studies good enough to draw a conclusion. 'Good enough' is defined by the WWC, not me. Other textbooks may well be equivalently good or even better, but there are as of yet no studies that meet the standard of evidence of the Department of Education to back up the claim. Offer some up if I'm wrong.

What about my question about our graduates who learned from the textbooks you considered bad when you helped select them? The outcomes weren't dire, were they? Our recent graduates had them all through grade school.

p, I agree that the students are the most important consideration in the overall discussion. I can only speak for myself in saying I'm confident my (bored with what they get at school now) children will be better served by engaged teachers and rich textbooks like EM. The large population studies indicate that teachers are far more influential in student success than textbooks. Students are part of the complex interrelationship among teachers, books, other curricular materials, parents and peers. In the debate about what teachers should get to choose as teaching tools, I think teachers are more important than I am.

As to peers, I think they've been mostly left out of the discussion. I watched the board meeting and was impressed by one of the parents who watched a lesson and commented in how EM helped the teacher elevate discussion among peers to a level she's never seen before and make a much richer learning experience.

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Posted by Light of Day
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 17, 2009 at 10:24 am


We simply don't have enough statistical information to draw conclusions about EDM.

We do have a vast amount of data showing that Singapore math does a great job. It has the additional benefit of being a mainstream text, not a fringe one like EDM. It would be a great text around which both reformers and non-reformers could rally.

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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 17, 2009 at 11:03 am


Are you using the EDM circling approach, repeating the same info over and over again to see if it sticks? I see you don't even read the replies to your repetitive comments.

For every post that you repeat the WWC info, we can just repeat Mr. Urman's reply above,

the WWC point is a misleading conclusion based on skimpy data, and repeating it does not get us over the controversial radical change EDM is looking to inflict on the community.

as for the process, the teachers were not served by it either and can't imagine they are pleased with the unnecessary divisiveness that has resulted from it.

can you find anything else to support EDM besides the WWC point?

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Posted by tim
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 17, 2009 at 1:22 pm

I should try to say it a different way, since you're not understanding me.

Maybe you'll understand the creator of the U.S. edition of Singapore math:

"And Jeff Thomas, a history professor who created a U.S. edition of Singapore Math after having lived in Singapore, says there has been no objective study on the program's effectiveness.
"It's not magic," Ginsburg says. "You can't just give out textbooks."

Web Link

That was 2006. Maybe it's changed by now -- point me to the studies.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 17, 2009 at 5:30 pm


I've read the links--and that's why I asked some hard-data questions--because the evidence I was told was hard evidence was pretty squishy.

While I do enjoy debates, I don't particularly enjoy this one. I find the lack of clarity frustrating. I am asking questions for which I'd like to have the answers. And I'd think, given your strong views on the subject, that you'd want that kind of information as well.

Your claim, for example, that there are no positive data on Everyday Math online just isn't true--Google "Everyday Math Positive Feedback" and you'll find some. To some extent, a high number of positive or negative reviews simple reflects a text in wide use.

That just doesn't help me determine how well the program works. It just confirms what I already am inclined to think--that it's not a black-and-white issue.

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Posted by Honest Information
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 19, 2009 at 10:20 am

I am hoping that whoever submits this survey to the district on the 22nd takes the time to (1) eliminate the many duplicates that appear, (2)provides information on what elementary schools the signatories attend, and (3) whether or not they live in Palo Alto.

In many ways this petition has the possibility of being overtaken by outsiders, in the ways creationist and book banning processes can be overtaken by figures from outside of a community.

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Posted by parent #5
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 19, 2009 at 10:38 am

As a parent in PAUSD, I put faith in the district and TRUST in our teachers to choose the best textbook.

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Posted by Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 20, 2009 at 10:10 am

Honest Info,

I have contacted the petition creators with this input and they will try to delete duplicates on a daily basis. They promise there will be no duplicates when it is submitted to the school board. That wouldn't make sense - the board could easily see the duplicates.

Don't assume EDM opposers are radicals with no morals. They are being fair and respectable.

And don't assume we don't trust our teachers. The issue is that the teachers were not given all the data to make an informed decision. The school district only showed them the data from the publisher, not the data from other school districts which dumped EDM, which includes the superintendent's past school district. As superintendent, he would prefer to side with the teachers on this issue. It's up to the school board to review all the data.

Other districts which have recently adopted EDM had similar experiences with publisher-only data.

Many of the school districts which use EDM have almost rewritten the entire program to "fill in the gaps". Why not just buy a good program which doesn't need to be rewritten?

There is more to this than meets the eye. The adoption committee wanted to pilot SRA Real Math also but the article reveals that in March, the VP of sales wrote an email which read: "As an officer of a company representing both Everyday Math and SRA Real Math, I made the decision that Everyday Math. . . would be a better fit in Palo Alto." The California Education Codes states that a publisher "may not in anyway. . . become associated or connected with any combination in restraint in trade of instructional materials. See the Daily Post article written on 4/17/09: Sales Rep May Have Picked PA Math Text: Web Link

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Posted by Honest Info
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 20, 2009 at 12:18 pm


It sounds like you are aware of the importance of the issues I mention. To the extent possible, we want to make sure it is data about our community and our parents. You sound like you agree. Great!

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Posted by PaloAltoMathTextBooks
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 24, 2009 at 9:17 pm

668 unique signatures to the PAUSD Board so far in favor of the petition.

The petition is still open and will remain open until the Board makes a final decision.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 25, 2009 at 3:20 am

Let's see, a huge percentage of the signatures are anonymous. Grace Mah, an elected official, is number eight on the petition since she still seems to be unclear on the meaning of conflict-of-interest. (whereas Ze'ev Wurman clearly wasn't spearheading this drive--he's down at number 80.)

Lots of name duplications even on the online petition. My guess is that you'd find a nice chunk of Hoover families on the petition--Grace signed herself as a member of the Hoover School community and that set of parents would be the most oriented towards a traditional math format.

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Posted by Yikes
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 25, 2009 at 9:25 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 25, 2009 at 1:52 pm


Mah is in the position to rule and over-rule the district on various matters. That she continues to be a local activist pushing the board to vote in particular ways is a conflict of interest.

On another thread, some posters are suggesting that parents who dislike EDM consider forming a charter. Now the board opposes charters in general because they are costly for basic-aid districts.

Now to whom does a turned-down charter applicant appeal to? That's right, the board on which Mah sits.

Sitting members of the school board aren't posting here. Mandy Lowell who's no longer on the board and is no longer an elected official occasionally does.

And that's how it should be. Mah wants to have her cake and eat it too. In her defense, I think she honestly doesn't get why her behavior is problematic.

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Posted by Ze'ev Wurman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 25, 2009 at 2:08 pm


I believe you are completely wrong about the ethics of Grace Ma's signature on the petition.

Grace signed a petition that speaks to a curriculum that her child will be exposed to. As a parent she has the right, and some say even the duty, to express her opinion. This is a local issue that does not have anything to do with the county board jurisdiction. The fact that someone later raised the idea of a charter in connection with a public discussion on this issue has nothing to do with the petition itself.

It would be inappropriate for Grace to opine about the charter option itself, and she would have to excuse herself from a vote at the County Board had she done it and if the question were ever to reach the County Board. However, since she did not, the issue is moot.

Please drop this spurious accusation. Apology to Grace would be nice.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 25, 2009 at 5:16 pm


Grace Mah (please not the spelling, by the way) did not simply sign the petition, she actively worked for signatures. Since we're already dealing with discussions of charter arising from this debate, any appearance of objectivity on charters is subject to debate.

Elected officials in her kind of position do, indeed, have an ethical duty to maintain an attempt of impartiality. That Mah, herself, indicated that she wasn't particularly well versed on this issue (that she was advocating as a favor to some other parents) makes your claim that she felt obligated to do this for her child's welfare less than convincing (That and the fact that she seems to not have a commitment to a particular educational philosophy--other than choice.)

Given Mah's earlier actions regarding charters and Mandarin Immersion, I think its ingenuous to say that there's no possible issue between a curriculum issue and her role on the county board.

So, no, no apologies for my opinion on this matter.

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Posted by Light of Day
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 25, 2009 at 5:40 pm


"conflict of interest"

Clearly you do not understand what this term means. Look it up. Then apologize.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 25, 2009 at 9:43 pm

Light of Day,

Will Wikipedia do for you?

"A conflict of interest occurs when an individual or organization (such as a lawyer, insurance adjuster, politician, engineer, executive, director of a corporation, medical research scientist, physician, writer, editor, or an individual or organization cited as a source) has an interest that might compromise their reliability. A conflict of interest exists even if no improper act results from it, and can create an appearance of impropriety that can undermine confidence in the conflicted individual or organization. A conflict can be mitigated by third party verification or third party evaluation noted below – but it still exists."

Let's see, Mah's a public officeholder with a personal interest in this matter that could conceivably confidence in her impartiality. In this case there's an appearance of impropriety in that Mah could conceivably punish the PAUSD board by ruling against them if they vote for EDM. My point stands.

So nope, no apology.

Your turn.

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Posted by Light of Day
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 25, 2009 at 9:49 pm

You're dodging. Specify the interest. Specify the area in which she could be unreliable.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 25, 2009 at 10:06 pm

Light of Day,

I'm not dodging. You wanted a definition, I gave you one and I specified why I think it's a conflict.

Unreliable? Sure, voting on issues involving the PAUSD board.

Will they feel unduly pressured to vote against EDM because Grace Mah who's in a position to vote on appeals arising out of this district has publicly advocated voting against EDM?

Yes or no, Light of Day? And if not, why not? Be specific.

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Posted by Light of Day
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 25, 2009 at 10:26 pm

You gave a definition. Now apply it to this case. Specify the interest, as per your definition. Specify the area in which she could be unreliable.

Can't do it, because there is no conflict.

I notice you've mounted bitter ad hominems on two threads against two different people.

It's clear you don't have anything substantive to say to back up your positions. Are you just trying to get a rise out of people and derail the conversation? Hm, trollish, no?

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 25, 2009 at 11:39 pm

Light of Day,

The case? There's a case?

Hmmm, so let's see, you asked for a definition. I gave you one. I then went into detail as to why I thought what I did.

Your response was to attack me with terms like "bitter" and "trollish".

I've answered your queries. I understand that you don't like my answers, but you're not actually countering what I'm saying, but falling back on a personal attack.


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Posted by Light of Day
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 26, 2009 at 8:20 am

As I said, you are unable to apply the definition to this case, unable to answer the question, and unable to justify your personal attacks on two people.

You seem incapable of hearing how your own posts sound to others. Someone else mentioned they make people uncomfortable. When one lards every post with personal digs and insults one can come across as nasty, angry, and unable to make a concrete point.

On a practical note, people tune you out when the message turns to vituperation (unless it is couched inventively and amusingly, which yours is not), so your message is not getting heard.

In this case, the personal vendetta has taken over, and you are not making any concrete points.

If this is important to you, why don't you start a couple of vendetta threads, and allow others to discuss the issues at hand?

Thanks in advance.

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Posted by Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2009 at 9:39 am


I used to respect your postings until your postings on Everyday Math. EDM is Ohlone-style of left-wing teaching so of course it would fit your interests.

Ohlone has the second lowest API scores (881) with Barron Park (851) being lower but Barron Park has 27% Hispanics who don't score well on the tests (34% math proficiency). All the other schools have APIs in the 900sWeb Link
Ohlone's numbers will likely drop further if EDM is adopted especially since Investigations (a step above EDM) isn't working for Ohlone now.

Your postings have no facts against EDM and it's clear you know nothing about the program. I suggest joining a club instead of using the forum for socializing. Your postings on EDM are the epitome of the definition of internet troll, which is:

There are a number of different types of trolls. In the most classic case, a troll harasses an Internet community for a few weeks, posting contradictory opinions or statements on bulletin boards in an attempt to stimulate a response. Internet trolls are differentiated from people who genuinely wish to present a different viewpoint by their attitudes and aggressiveness; their goal is not to discuss a situation, but to frustrate the members of a discussion board. They often use fallacious arguments or attack the users of a site when they attempt to defend themselves from the troll's activities.

At first, the term referred merely to someone who was “trolling” for a response or opinion, in the same way that fishing boats cast out large nets to troll for a catch. Over time, trolls grew more aggressive, and the term began to be used specifically to refer to someone irritating or hurtful. In this sense, a troll could be compared to the nasty creatures of Scandinavian mythology which are also known as trolls.

Trolls are an unfortunately common occurrence on many communities across the Internet, and there are various steps which can be taken to combat them. If you are currently struggling with an Internet troll, the best thing to do is to walk away, since trolls feed on attention, and they will usually disappear if they are ignored.

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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 26, 2009 at 10:19 am

We have a long way to go, it is probably hopeless in our lifetimes---

Third International Mathematics and
Science Study

Singapore, 643
Korea, 607
Japan, 605
Hong Kong, 588
------ E Asia 588-643 ----
Belgium (Flemish), 565
Czech Republic, 564
Slovak Republic, 547
Switzerland, 545
Netherlands, 541
Slovenia, 541.
Bulgaria, 540.
Austria, 539.
France, 538.
Hungary, 537.
Russian Federation,535.
Australia, 530.
Ireland, 527.
Canada, 527.
Belgium (French), 526.
Thailand, 522.
Israel, 522.
Sweden, 519.
Germany, 509.
New Zealand, 508.
England, 506.
Norway, 503.
Denmark, 502.
United States, 500.
------ US near other Europeans 500-560 ----
Scotland, 498.
Latvia, 493.
Spain, 487.
Iceland, 487.
Greece, 484.
Romania, 482.

We are reaching for the ground.

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Posted by former bp parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2009 at 10:43 am

Hm, interesting that BP is still lowest because when we were there Cathy Howard told the teachers to use only TERC.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 26, 2009 at 2:35 pm

Light of Day,

I suggest looking at your own comments. You're no longer close to on-topic--when someone harps solely on my "flaws" it comes off as evasive to me.

What, after all, is your intent in posting at this point? Think about it.


I have asked, repeatedly, for some concrete comparative numbers on EDM's failure rates instead of numbers without context. Various posters admit that they don't have those kind of numbers, but I should take on faith that anecdotal information that their friend's kid whereever HATED EDM and never learned anything should be enough.

Yes, I'm skeptical of what comes off as an echo chamber at this point. And it's less that I'm sold by EDM as I am unconvinced by the case being made against it.

Your use of Ohlone's scores is an example of numbers without context. Ohlone's scores during the last five years have ranged from a low of 881 last year to a high of 928. In other words, anywhere from the middle of the pack to its recent drop. During that time, the teaching approach did not change.

So why the swing? There are several possibilities: one is simply that Ohlone quit teaching to the test. Another is that there's a clump of kids in the middle grades who did particularly poorly on the test--one poster examined the scores deduced this. In other words, an outlier situation.

In other words, the scores fluctuate too much to argue that it's a simple systemic issue. Is it the fault of the math curriculum? Well, no, since Ohlone uses the same curriculum as everyone else.

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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2009 at 8:34 pm


Would a list of schools that used EDM but dropped it with the reasons why persuade you?

That list is a long one -- including large CA school districts which initially went to Sacramento to get special permission to buy EDM who, only 6 or so years later, decided not to keep it: Skelly's Poway and Del Mar to name two. There are others like PAUSD all over the country which tried it or others like it and ran the other direction when it came time to re-up. Reasons mentioned included student achievement concerns as well as high cost, too difficult for teachers to use, took too much time out of otherwise busy school days, etc.

The reason why EDM is not good for our district is its spiraling design. It teaches something for awhile and then goes on to another topic before ensuring that the child understood the first thing because it tells teachers to teach it again in a year or more when hopefully the student will undertand it. There are absolutely no studies which support the spiral; the one EDM/PAUSD mentions - no kidding - recommends Saxon Math, a traditional text book. That part of the study was not mentioned in the board materials.

What there is evidence for is that teaching to mastery followed by practice does work. And that is why the National Math Panel says what it says and disparages the spiral by name.

Add to that the things parents know intuitively that kids should not be doing, such as using calculators starting in Kindergarten to help them learn to add and count. The district and EDM are clear that calculators are appropriate for all grades, even though the CA Department of Education's extremely detailed math guidelines don't mention the word calculator until 6th grade. EMD's support for calculator use is the opinions of people who make their living writing reform math textbooks. It completely overlooks the one elementary calculator study out there which shows that calculators in 4th grade harm math achievement.

Do you still need numbers to be convinced?

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 27, 2009 at 12:10 am


What I need is the ratio of districts that dropped it over the total number of districts that have adopted it. And, yes, then the reasons.

Say fifty districts have dropped it--that sounds like a lot--but not if 5,000 districts have adopted it. If it's 50 out of a 100 that's a very different story. One percent or 50 percent? It's a big difference.

So, yes, I'd like something that gives me a context for the numbers.

I agree that EDM sounds less than perfect, but I haven't seen anything that comes across as a clearcut winner. Some of the clear concerns--too early a use of calculators, the teachers have responded to. It doesn't sound like using the textbook requires the use of calculators.

A textbook is a tool--in this case, it's an imperfect one that the teachers think they can make work. The spiraling issue doesn't concern me, per se, because the district's curriculum requirements mandate that children have certain math skills by the end of any given grade. I don't think that's going to disappear. I don't think a teacher with 20 years of experience (and that describes a lot of the teachers in this district) is going to stop being able to teach math or dumb down the curriculum. I just don't see it.

But, anyway, I suspect most of the board's come to some conclusion or another and we'll see how it goes on Tuesday. And no matter what the result, I'll just do what I always do which is to see what's being studied and discuss it enough to make sure it's being learned and understood. Along with handholding and cheerleading when there's too much frustration (and occasional pencil throwing) at the kitchen table.

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Posted by Light of Day
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 27, 2009 at 7:40 am

Well, that's backwards.

The burden is not on parents to show that EDM is bad. The burden is on the district to show it's good.

I assume the worst will happen, so I've already begun research into texts so that I can do the real teaching at home.

Too late in the year for a charter to get going by fall, but maybe one in fall 2010. It seems to be a very popular option around the country now.

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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2009 at 8:04 am


New adopters don't help much since none have had much experience using it. But there are 11 districts in CA that have used EDM for more than a year (out of 350 or so in the state).

The two most like us - Poway and Del Mar - dropped it because it didn't work.

Of those still using it:
- 2 are tiny school districts with tons of cash and lots of private tutoring,
- 4 are not top performing school districts even when compared to districts with similar demographics so not role models for success,
- then there is Conejo in Ventura County where the battle over EDM lead to large public school enrollment drops (it had to close two schools), large private school enrollment increases, and a new charter school parents formed because of it, and
- the rest, like us, which have not decided yet.

Check out these detailed math reports explaining why districts dropped EDM:

Bridgewater-Raritan, NJ: Web Link

Chittenden VT: Web Link

Pittsburg, PA: Web Link

As for no clear cut other winner - hard to know when you pit EDM against the teachers' least favorite of five. All parents want is the closest to perfect and a book that has reliable research behind it, not EDM which creates its own research and misrepresents others' to push what we now know is an unproven and widely abhorred "specialized, niche" reform math ideology. Math has been around for eons. There are plenty of tested programs that combine the old and the new, even the awkward but apparently effective 2 textbook blend we have been using here in Palo Alto.

Yes, there are standards that need to be met but standards don't make mastery - just ask parents with kids caught in the achievement gap.

Yes, the book is a tool but it is also the roadmap; the spiral has EDM teachers driving in circles.

Yes, probably teachers with lots of experience will make it work, most likely by having it collect dust in some corner of their classroom. But we have an obligation to teach math well to our students who have new teachers too who will be replacing all those 20+ers when they retire all too soon.

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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2009 at 9:29 am

Clarification - There are 880 school districts in CA which teach elementary. EDM has only been used in 11 of them for 2 or more school years.

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Posted by Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2009 at 10:08 am

Re Parent's comment above: after 2 years, most school districts realize how bad EDM is and they drop it.

So if we adopt it here, two years later, we will be frantically searching for another textbook. Meanwhile, our students will have lost out on math unless they are being supplemented.

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