Town Square

Post a New Topic

Palo Alto schools to get 'Everyday Mathematics'

Original post made on Apr 29, 2009

"Everyday Mathematics" was approved on a 3-2 vote of the Palo Alto school board early today (Wednesday) -- despite a parent petition with more than 700 signatures urging the board to postpone the decision for a year to pilot test other textbooks.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, April 29, 2009, 7:43 AM

Comments (192)

Posted by math concerned, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2009 at 9:11 am

Camille and Melissa were impressive - they want to do the right thing. They know their responsibilities.

Barb K beleives in herself, has strong conviction and influenced Barb M and Dana Tom.

Dana Tom mumbled his findings, was not clear on anything, is a weak board member and under confident. He does not do his own soul searching. I would never vote for him or Barb M.

I have to wonder how an elected Board member feels OK putting a stamp on a decision that was made by openly violating district policies and Education Code! Shame on them!

Posted by PA Mom, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2009 at 9:17 am

The onus is now on the teachers. They got what they wanted - a 0.5 million/year controversial curriculum. I sincerely wish them luck but I'll be the first to point out the flaws in the textbooks if my math loving kid loses interest.

Posted by also concerned, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2009 at 9:22 am

I did not vote for you, Ms Townsend. I wish I had. Here's my belated show of support.

I did vote for Klaussner, because she promised the district would be improving the processes by which it made decisions. Yet here was the perfect opportunity to take a stand on that and she failed.

If EDM is so great, leaving our options open for a year while we try to correct serious mistakes in procedure shouldn't be a threat. If, through that, we find something better than EDM, then we win, too.

I agree with you math concerned, Shame on them!

Posted by math fan, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2009 at 9:30 am

It's funny how two people can walk away from the same meeting with such different interpretations. I was once again very impressed with Dana Tom in his diligence looking into all sides of this issue, making phone calls to many districts who used EDM, including PiE benchmark districts, and asking lots of tough questions. I didn't follow Barb Mitchell's processes as carefully this time, but again she seemed to carefully consider all sides. Camille seemed to once again just be flying from her gut and not paying attention to anyone who wasn't agreeing with her pre-conceived ideas. I do agree that Melissa was also considering all sides and seemed to give careful consideration to all the issues. It's just that she put more weight on the "(avoid) many parents (from) feel(ing) disenfranchised" part of the decision tree rather than the "support our teachers and staff" part of the decision tree (the two things she was trying to balance), whereas Dana put more weight on the supporting teachers and staff side while recognizing that there was still a lot of weight to be placed on worrying about disenfranchising parents. I do think he characterized it correctly -- we could easily model this as a decision tree, but if decision analysis consultants were to sit down with the board, they would find the board divided on how to put the weights on each branch. It's a balancing act, and I don't envy any of the board members their jobs. For the most part, I think they did a good job trying to do their job well.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2009 at 9:41 am

math fan,
I'm sorry to see that in the meeting, the decision to support EDM was tied inappropriately to supporting our teachers and staff. The process through which the teachers chose EDM by piloting it against one other program is being pitted wrongly against the fact that they had those choices to begin with through a flawed process (that didn't involve them).

When parents complain about the flawed process, it says nothing about our support of the teachers and staff, nor even of their decision to choose EDM over Investigations. The detailed evaluations should not have excluded another program that so many teachers and parents preferred because of a publisher's mistake (and poor procedures to correct such a mistake in the process).

Interesting that the board would choose a program whose success requires so much parent involvement through such an object lesson in the futility of parent involvement. Caswell was absolutely right.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 29, 2009 at 9:54 am

My take on this after watching the entire discussion on TV is I was highly, highly impressed with Camille Townsend's open and honest statements; I was greatly disappointed with Dana Tom's and Barb Mitchell's statements; moderately impressed with Melissa Baten-Caswell as she struggled to decide/do what's best; and rather surprised and confused by Barbara Klausner's statements. A lot of time was involved in this flawed process and I would have preferred they delay selection of a Math curriculum for one year to correct the mistakes and clear up many issues.

Posted by math concerned, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2009 at 10:09 am

Are there any consequences for not following Education Code 60016? or is it merely a guideline/recommendation?

Posted by math fan, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2009 at 10:18 am

It's the process. And I'm not talking about the process with how EDM came to be, but the process by which board members make their decisions. It seems Camille is all about her. She wouldn't be swayed on MI because her mom didn't teach her her native language. She wouldn't be swayed on EDM because her kids had a bad experience with a new math program. She doesn't seem to be willing to listen to input. (But yes, she is highly passionate when speaking, quite eloquent, and has that "folksy" tone that many associate with honesty.) I just don't think she approaches issues with an open mind, nor do I feel that she is methodical in her decision processes. Barb Mitchell and I seem to disagree on lots and lots of things. It amazes me how often we can look at the same data and the same issues and come to different conclusions. Yet I am always impressed by how she actually does look at the data and listen to people. (Either that or she's just really good at fooling people that she's listening.) When she votes the opposite way I would, at least I feel like she's done her homework and made a rational, logical decision based on the myriad sources of input. And Dana Tom, who I was seriously concerned about early on because he seemed so wishy-washy is the one who has impressed me most with his thorough analysis of issues. He really does seem to look at all sides and really consider what the decisions mean for the kids in our district. I agree -- he's not the greatest orator, and sometimes he's not that eloquent in board meetings, but I follow his yahoo group (as well as other board members') and I've spoken with him in person, and I've just been impressed by how he seems to take his job seriously and tries to balance the competing needs of the community while keeping our kids first. I haven't seen enough of Melissa or Barbara in action to draw conclusions yet, but both seem promising to me.

Posted by blue heart, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2009 at 10:19 am

Camille has the sweetest Mom's heart in the world!! Her heart is crying for those 5000 kids. I am really proud that we have Melissa in the board. She did what she should do as a board member. She is so brave and intellligent.

Posted by Asian, a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 29, 2009 at 10:24 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by math concerned, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2009 at 10:25 am

I agree - Melissa is very very brave and intelligent. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Barron Park Mom, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2009 at 10:50 am

I didn't go to the meeting or watch it on TV but I could have predicted the outcome. Having become a graduate of this district years ago, and had a child also attend PAUSD, I can say with certainty that math is the weakest link in this district. Sitting in the meeting at Nixon, a teacher in the district confessed to me that she was not confident in math in her school years but feels now that she can teach elementary math. This is the problem. This district should hire people who are excellent FIRST in math. If they can teach math, they can teach anything. Even Dr. Skelly said that it is up to the teachers. Good teachers will be able to teach this well. Well, good luck!

My question to the School Board is: What are you going to do when this new math fails?

Posted by PA mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 29, 2009 at 10:57 am

How can we just pass such important decision by 3-2 vote and with a petition signed by 700+ residents? It's a deision about our kid's education!

Posted by a written-off parent in Palo Alto, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 29, 2009 at 10:58 am

This is truly disappointing - that the Board which the community elected, refused to listen to its constituents. The 3 members of the board and Dr. Skelly will have to be held accountable for the failures - simply saying 'failure is not an option' is something I'm sure all the districts who adopted EDM (and later abanonded it, including Dr. Skelly's former Poway district) believed in as well. But these districts did fail and abandon EDM! The Board did not sufficiently provide any reasons for "WHY?" it has been abandoned so often! If Palo Alto ends up dropping EDM in a few years, then the Board and District should know that they will be held accountable for using our children as an experiment in return for their show of support for the teachers over children. I wholly support and work with teachers - who already have limited time to do all the wonderful work they have done and do - but I do think that the interests of the CHILDREN must trump the Teachers'. They argue that the teachers are the best here - and I do agree. But, what if you get the teacher who is either not sufficiently trained? Why does EDM have to train these wonderful teachers (and parents) on how to use EDM? It seems that the arguments used by the 'Yay' votes are that the teachers will take control of EDM b/c they will be fully trained. How hard is this math that we all need TRAINING to get it!! Not sure how happy teachers are with more Professional Development training in the pipeline - they have little time as it is - Parents too will need to attend parent training nights so that they can help kids with homework. If Palo Alto HS Students are already in the 89th %-ile, why should we take this HUGE risk of potentially rocking the boat and see future drops in this great ranking? Did the Board ask a few of the high performing school districts on the east coast, etc. they are benchmarking against, why they dropped EDM? There are a few examples - but the Board members never answered these questions which were asked of them.

The strong bond of home-school connection which Palo Alto parents pride themselves on has effectively been severed with one stroke of a vote and it will be very hard to move the 700 parents to regain faith in our district's leadership and to work hard in the schools to help their children and the schools which they take pride in and love so dearly. Even if there was one shadow of a doubt (and all the members clearly had some), the vote to adopt should have been postponed until proper and complete due diligence was given to this textbook selection. I expected more from an elite district such as Palo Alto.

Posted by another parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2009 at 11:08 am

This program won't fail because PAUSD parents won't let their kids fail. We get tutors. It will only fail those kids for whom the parents don't have the means to support, but to date those kids have been explained away by the district. Why do you think 700 parents signed the petition? We know what goes on after school and how much it is costing us.

Posted by Bewildered, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2009 at 11:19 am

I wholeheartedly agree that PAUSD parents won't let their kids fail because they'll get tutors. Paying premium Palo Alto property taxes and tutoring expenses is still cheaper than private school tuition, so that's one good thing, I suppose.

Posted by DisgustedParent, a resident of Southgate
on Apr 29, 2009 at 11:24 am

Well the school board finally found a way to deal with the potential over crowding by all the new families moving into town, pick EDM and people will not move here. Some may just pull their kids out. I guess it's cheaper than re-opening Garland.

Posted by math concerned, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2009 at 11:27 am

Is there a precedence for the Board changing their vote? or is this a done deal?

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 29, 2009 at 11:39 am

I have no doubt each of the 5 board members did their research. The amount of time spent on this topic, the issues they each raised... this job is a labor of love. Even though they didn't all agree, they are all doing their job the best way they can.
Do we really have to throw personal insults at the committee? I'm sure Dana Tom is a person who can handle this job. He certainly took the time to contact several different districts and ask questions, he took a phone call with Wu. What more do you want?!? Short from him simply agreeing with you.
I don't know what is going to happen next year. I hope that, now that it is adopted, parents don't sabotage it before it even gets a chance to succeed. Maybe its not what some of us wanted, but let's do our best to support the district.
So many seem to be getting tutoring now, no matter what, it seems like we'll never know how successful or unsuccessful any curriculum is.

Posted by math concerned, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2009 at 11:47 am

Dana was doing his job when he took a call from Wu or called districts - unfortunately he did not comprehend the information, so he failed at his jon. He voted yes on a decision that was based on a Education Code violation! You call that "he can hadle this job"? No, I think he is failing at this job. It is beyond him - he does not get it and he is not honest with his constituents becuase he did not talk to districts that failed - he presented half baked data.

I would never vote for him.

Posted by Asians, a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 29, 2009 at 12:07 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by math fan, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2009 at 12:12 pm

How many of the 700+ parents can name the math program currently used by our district?

How many of the 700+ parents volunteered to be on the committee? It was an open process. Not like it was any big secret or anything that it was time for math materials review.

The Palo Alto Parent Process seems to be -- don't volunteer to do anything, but if the people who do spend hours and hours VOLUNTEERING their time come to a conclusion you don't like, then cry foul.

How many people are going to volunteer for the next committee, given how Palo Alto parents have treated the members of this one?

fwiw, I'm not a big fan of EDM. It certainly has many downsides. But we have excellent teachers in this district, and especially in elementary school, they rarely "follow the book" anyway; they just do the best job they can differentiating instruction to the various learning styles and levels in their classroom. (Does anyone actually like California Mathematics?)

I predict that in seven years the district will "abandon" EDM, just as it is "abandoning" TERC & California Mathematics now, and just like it "abandoned" the prior program when it started the current program. And I predict PAUSD will continue to have kids who do well in math, despite whatever textbooks are used or not used by the teachers.

I would certainly be open to revisiting the idea of tossing out curriculum every seven years -- I think that's way too frequent -- but that's something to take up with the state.

Posted by math fan, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2009 at 12:16 pm

math concerned:

>Is there a precedence for the Board changing their vote? or is this a done deal?

Yes -- there is a well-documented process. Get together nine of your friends and write a threat letter to the board saying that you will open a charter school that does what you want unless they change their vote.

Posted by Tyler Hanley, online editor of Palo Alto Online
on Apr 29, 2009 at 12:22 pm

Tyler Hanley is a registered user.

There were two threads on this topic. We have removed the duplicate thread. The comments that were added to that thread can be read below:

Posted by Gunn parent, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, 4 hours ago

Thank you to Melissa and Camille for asking tough questions about how the program will be implemented to meet the needs of all students throughout the district. I hope the district continues to seek answers before introducing this text to PAUSD students next year.

Posted by Billy, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, 3 hours ago

Lotta controversy here. Say what you want about the curriculum, but one thing we can all agree on: parent involvement is critical to student success. And the bummer here is that the over-complexity of EDM makes it more difficult for parents and children to interact, as parents need to (re)learn the often-novel material themselves. A lot of parents end up sending their kids to tutoring, because it's too much hassle to be figuring out a new "manipulative" every week - time that could be spent productively and interactively is instead spent on struggling over foreign methodologies. The teachers get a shiny new toy here, but the parents get more headaches and the students end up getting less time with parents in the end.

Seriously, in an era when schools are trying to get people to get more involved with their kids and their schooling, is it wise to approve a curriculum that so many parents are against (across the country, as well as in the district)?

Good luck to all of us with kids slated for EDM, we'll need it!

Posted by What?, a member of the Walter Hays School community, 3 hours ago

"When his own children experienced Everyday Mathematics in the Poway school district, he said, their experiences were closely tied to teacher quality.

"In the hands of a teacher that is not very skilled, my kids' experience was not as good as when they had a teacher who was very skilled,' Skelly said."

How could they adopt a program which is so teacher-dependant? That's too much pressure on teachers and unfair to students.

Posted by yes!, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, 3 hours ago

With only a lame duck solidly against EDM the vote wasn't as close as it appeared.

Posted by A Very Concerned Parent, a member of the Ohlone School community, 3 hours ago

I am deeply troubled by the manipulation of the School Board to adopt this flawed curriculum. Following the advice of a publishing company in spite of the active participation of involved and concerned parents of Palo Alto children is despicable. We need to remember this vote when we walk into the polling booth at the next school board election. Private School is looking like the best educational plan now for my child.

Posted by Disgusted, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, 3 hours ago

Wait til you understand what they are really doing with your Measure A money. I smell a recall.

Posted by a concerned parent, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, 2 hours ago

Skelly said, "Our students are among the highest-level mathematics students in the world." It would be very telling for the district to take a poll to determine how many PAUSD children use outside enrichment (Kumon, EPGY, Singapore Math). This is what brings PAUSD test scores up, not the curriculum. The decision to adopt EDM will encourage more families to spend more money on enrichment outside the school district.

Posted by sally, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, 2 hours ago

Bad decision.

Bad process.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, 2 hours ago

This is absolutely true and tutoring will increase with EDM

Posted by Dan, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, 1 hour ago

I'm not too optimistic about EDM. If it goes badly, I guess I'll have to clear extra time in my schedule for the next couple of years to teach my kid the proper way to add, subtract, multiply, and divide (without a calculator). Hopefully EDM will at least do no harm so we can home school the methods and algorithms that the students should be learning in class. Perhaps we can get some parents together and organize an after-school math club. I'm sure we have a number of parents with deep understanding of mathematics around here.

Posted by DisgustedParent, a resident of Southgate
on Apr 29, 2009 at 12:24 pm

I disagree with any one who says we have to support the district and give this a chance. Their decision was wrong and our children will suffer unless we fork out money to counter a program that has a bad track record. If the school board members had done their jobs they would not have voted yes. A simple Google search would have revealed all the negative comments, personal experiences and the lowered scores in school districts after adopting this program. What the school board said to me last night was that my opinion is irelevant. They said last night and Skelly said it at one of meeting held that school districts that have had problems with EDM just don't have enough money to train their teachers to figure out how to use this great program. While we may have good teachers here, last night's comments were like a mutual admiration meeting rather than a serious discussion.

I hope we can vote these guys out soon.

Posted by PA Mom, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2009 at 12:48 pm

I agree with you about the egoistic nature of the "trust our staff" movement. Will certainly vote Barb M and Dana Tom out come November. Skelly actually said that "we will not perform" if EDM is not voted in and was quickly reprimanded by Melissa Caswell. Is that the message a Superintendent wants to send his staff ? Have huge egos and don't perform if a democratic process doesn't vote in your favor ?

Posted by What?., a resident of Walter Hays School
on Apr 29, 2009 at 12:50 pm

This was all political and at the expense of the students and parents. The leaders had an agenda and forced it through and bullied the Superintendent and the entire committee.

Now the Superintendent can only say that it's up to the teachers to figure out their own math program: "In the hands of a teacher that is not very skilled, my kids' experience was not as good as when they had a teacher who was very skilled,' Skelly said."

I trust our teachers will throw out this junk and teach math properly, emphasizing the standard methods. At least the fifth grade teachers will have to do that to prepare the children for middle school.

If Everyday Math improves test scores, it will be due to parents supplementing, not Everyday Math.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 29, 2009 at 1:10 pm

Camille Townsend voted the way one would expect Townsend to vote--by the seat of her pants--emotionally.

Klausner's vote interests me simply because she has more experience with teaching math than anyone else on the board. I think she'd have some idea whether EDM would be a disaster in this district. Though, yes, on the other hand she probably would be inclined to listen more to the teacher's side than the other.

Baten Caswell has, I think, wanted to strengthen parent say in the district, so her vote was in keeping with her views.

Barb Mitchell likes progressive education and new ideas--be it MI (she was the one board member who really *liked* the idea of an MI/Ohlone mash-up) or EDM.

Dana Tom, I think, really, really tries to do what he thinks is best. I don't always agree with him (MI, for example), but I think he's sincere in his efforts to find a workable solution.

And, yes, a lot of this will depend on the teachers, but math is very teacher dependent anyway. I think there are just too many variables in how particular children learn for there to be a right book. (Unfortunately. It would make things easier if there were.)

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 29, 2009 at 1:13 pm

Well, at least you've all made your decision - if scores go down, blame EDM. If they go up, credit home tutoring. Nice to be able to be right no matter how things unfold.

Posted by math concerned, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2009 at 1:23 pm

Yes, I agree Dana Tom tries really really hard - unfortunately his best is not good enough! And his hard work does not conpensate for his lack of open mind and intellect.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 29, 2009 at 1:35 pm

math concerned,

Dana Tom gets a mixed review from me. I think he does, in fact, have an open mind. That's actually where I'd give him credit--and discredit. When he was running, he couldn't even come out with a firm no on teaching intelligent design--it was the reason I didn't vote for him. However, I'd vote for him over Camille Townsend who strikes me as someone who comes in with her mind made up--excuse me, her heart--and really, really doesn't listen.

I think Barb Mitchell is consistent. The other two haven't been there that long, so this is there first big controversial decision. Neither vote really surprises me, though, given their backgrounds.


It would be interesting to actually get information about the amount of tutoring going on at the schools here. When does it happen and why? What grades? Which subjects? Which schools?

Surely there's a Ph.D. student looking for a topic at Stanford's education department . . .

Posted by Math Matters, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 29, 2009 at 1:44 pm

In the Board meeting yesterday, Barbara Klausner quoted Prof. Wu of UC Berkeley Mathematics Dept as follows in support of her position for Everyday Math: "Imbedded in EM is a mathematical knowledge that is above the norm in American educational publishing."

This quote was taken out of context. Here is the text of Prof. Wu's comments about Everyday Math:

"EM is a not a program I'd recommend because it is extremely misleading. It claims to promote Conceptual Understanding, but in my opinion, it raises hope while dashing it mercilessly. It does not pay careful attention to the need of the painstaking build-up of skills, and when this happens in *mathematics*, you may as well bid farewell to conceptual understanding. What makes Everyday Math especially misleading is the fact that, when other programs are blatant about the de-empahsis of skills, Everyday Math camouflages this de-emphasis by the massive onslaught of a super-abundance of skills. If several skills are taught each week without allowing children the time to internalize the one or two key skills, the end result is that they learn nothing. But this tactics allows Everyday Math to claim that it has given skills their due and at the same time succeed in de-emphasizing them.

Andy Issacs, the major author of EM came to see me to protest my low opinion of EM, so I told him more or less the following, face to face:

The decision by EM to dump many topics on children each day, and hope that by chance some of them will stick to the children's minds in the long run, is contrary to the way mathematics should be learned. Mathematics is simple and clear, and its progression is orderly and hierarchical. We want children to learn the most basic things, and learn them well each time, so that they can move to the next stage with a clear understanding of what they have learned, and what they can do next with their new-found knowledge. Some skills and concepts in elementary mathematics are so important (place value, standard algorithms, etc.) that one must not leave the learning of such things to chance. They must be learned, and learned well, and the only way to do this is to isolate them and give children time to absorb them. When you do the standard algorithms as some items among a few dozen that children should know, you are doing public education a disservice. You are in fact misleading the public by design, because it allows you to claim, on the one hand, that you recognize the importance of these basic skills and concepts and, on the other, pander to the ideology of others by making the learning of said skills and concepts virtually impossible.

Imbedded in EM is a mathematical knowledge that is above the norm in American educational publishing. Unfortunately, this knowledge does not filter down to the pages of the student texts. These texts use language that is as vague and misleading as other texts from major publishers. Moreover, the flawed design in the structure of your lessons puts this knowledge to waste. For this reason, I do not consider EM to be suitable for the typical elementary teacher or classroom."

Posted by math concerned, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2009 at 1:56 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 29, 2009 at 1:58 pm

OhlonePar, if you had students who had been through the high school years here you would know how widespread elite tutoring for Math has become among the district "high achievers." I have been concerned for years about this major equity issue.
Some kids know to keep it quiet - some are quite open. In effect, they have been hand-held in their Math coursework
It should NOT be required (whether acknowledged or not, tutoring/prepping is an open secret here!) to have extra outside preparation to be in college prep courses
For example, when a kids moves from middle to high school and has to be laned in Math, some are on the edge (talent, interest, scoring). Those w/o the parent $$$ are laned down. Those with the parent $$$ are already heavily supported into a higher lane, even if they have less absolute "talent" in Math.

Posted by Experienced Mom, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 29, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Well, that is that. Almost a foregone conclusion, as pointed out on another thread. Too much like the MI "war". Preconcieved philosophies at odds with each other and with data, using a couple "teacher" conclusions, poor to no use of valid outcome studies...

Ok, so now that the decision is done and there is no "skin in the game" concerning the outcome of THIS decision, NOW will someone in the District PLEASE find out how many of the kids in the AP Math classes in Junior year went ONLY to PAUSD k-8? No tutoring, no private school?

Another interesting question would many of those going on to major in engineering, math, physics, chemistry, medicine..math based careers, how many of them went ONLY to PAUSD k-8?

Or, how many who were accepted into one of the top schools went ONLY to PAUSD k-8? No tutoring in k-8?

There are so many ways to come up with valid answers so that the NEXT time we are in this spot, we have some data from our own student outcomes, that were taken when the emotion was not there, and the outcomes of some pre-determined decision were not being threatened.


Posted by Gunn mom, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 29, 2009 at 2:12 pm

Math seems to be the one area that parents recognize as weak. But look at the three years of middle school. Compare that curriculum to local private schools and you will weep. No wonder that many students struggle in 9th while parents think maybe their student just can't handle the higher lanes. What if the middle school students were better prepared in science, social studies, writing, etc. Parents who know this get tutoring for their children, but good luck, because it's tiring after a full day of school.

Posted by Terrace Dad, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 29, 2009 at 2:20 pm

What Math Matters just posted is bloody scary.

It seems to me that the teachers were pushing this because they get a lot of materials to keep the kids busy during school, so they don't actually have to spend much time teaching. But, the value of their teaching is spotty at best anyway. My first child's math experience in elementary school was a roller coaster ride of a good teacher one year and a mediocre teacher the next. I am convinced he knows what he does because my wife and I spent a lot of time with him at home after school.

And why are we changing to EDM anyway. With 89% of the nation's schools doing worse than we are it seems we have something good already. The risk of changing to a program with a spotty success record does not seem warranted.

Quoting Barb Mitchell "Palo Alto has a "secret sauce . . . That secret sauce is the teachers . . . ." Well I say that with many secret sauces, it is frequently all about taste while being severely lacking in nutrition. Good teachers can teach and poor teachers can't and a teacher centric math program like EDM will only reinforce those differences while limiting the effectiveness extracurricular help from parents.

Posted by GC, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2009 at 2:33 pm

Townsend was the only rational decision-maker last night. She voted against EDM because of its approach, given the strong evidence it is a bad choice.

I give credit to Baten-Caswell for wanting to work with the community, but she never really engaged with the underlying issues of whether EDM is a good text or not. She asked some good questions, but staff just gave waffling, meandering answers. She should have come right back at staff and said, "You didn't answer the question."

Klausner's vote was no surprise--she was always going to march in lockstep with whatever the committee said. She arrived with her mind made up. Very, very sorry I voted for her.

Mitchell was strangely adrift in the debate.

Dana was completely lost in the (decision) trees and never raised his head to see the forest. His head for minutiae is great in its proper place, but he's not leading. He belongs in a support role.

What was striking was that the staff clearly barely understood EDM, thought they recommended it strongly. It was embarrassing to hear them talk about it. And it was shocking that they had only looked at the National Mathematics Panel recommendations in March! They've been up and running for a year. How shameful.

So, it was hard-ball politics by someone (who?) who simply wanted EDM and managed to snow the board....

I'm just thankful that my youngest is in third and will have only one year of this mess.

As for parents with younger kids: don't wait for the chaos, start a charter! A science/math elementary charter would be a great fit for this area.

Posted by Elem parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2009 at 2:37 pm

Our principal (I won't say which school, he'll recognize it when he reads this), reassured us in our EDM discussion that our math program would remain 90% what we have been doing and 10% EDM. In other words, don't worry about it, we aren't really adopting EDM anyway. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of EDM, however, I am heartened by this because I know our school will stay focused on skills, and use the EDM materials as a kind of enrichment.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2009 at 2:55 pm

So, once again we ended up with a controversy in our district that turned acrimonious and for which the process did not seem to allow a win-win negotiation. (For the record, I was against the way MI proceeded, but now if I could shake Grace Ma's hand, I would -- our district procedures didn't give her any better way to succeed.)

So how do we take a big picture look at and make improvements to how our district makes decisions and how parents are involved?

This math decisions involved parents far too late in the process for parent input to make any real difference. It involved parents too late for the community to help correct mistakes. If SRA had been piloted with EDM, we would not be having this controversy now -- or if the board had been willing to take the community input and essentially make up for the mistake by letting us compare the programs next year.

I think Melissa Baten-Caswell is clearly concerned about this issue. Barb Klausner doesn't seem to be so concerned now that she is in office. I think Kevin Skelley is using process flaws to push his own agendas -- which in my opinion, don't all prioritize academic excellence (to say the least). We have much bigger educational issues going on right now with how Measure A money is being spent, and once again, the community will not realize it until it is too late.

What is our specific recourse as a parent community to push for process changes?

We have serious problems in involving the community early enough in these processes so that solutions can be found at the appropriate time.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 29, 2009 at 3:20 pm


I believe you, I've heard about it several times--I think it would be nice to see some data collected upon it because I think it is an issue.

My feeling about tutoring is that it's fine, but it should be known and open. It shouldn't ever be a secret weapon to unfairly tilt the playing field. Same with things like taking the course over the summer at a community college and then repeating it for credit in school.

Without some numbers, though, the situation could appear to the outside like sour grapes. I don't think it is because I've seen a number of kids of mathematically talented parents seem snowed under by what goes on in the highest lanes. But I'd love to see some real info.

There's some indication, in general, that the U.S. falls down internationally after elementary school. We can get our kids to add, subtract, multiply and divide, but more advanced mathematics is a ongoing issue. One survey I saw had the U.S. in the top ten in mid-elementary school, but falling ever downwards afterwards.

GC, I gotta disagree regarding Townsend. Even when I agree with her, her reasoning strikes me as weak--as I said, emotional, reactive, impractical.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2009 at 3:52 pm

I find it very interesting that the two Board Members who are soon up for re-election were so keen to upset 700 voters.

Aside from that, I feel this is not a very different situation to the MI vote. Once again, all the ground work done seems to have been at fault. The so called selection committee, like the feasability study were flawed and the BoE didn't want to upset the staff working on these issues. This is unlike the AAAG who recommended reopening a 13th elementary school and were ignored. It seems to me that if the staff are involved the BoE don't want to upset them and if a committee made up of mainly parents, and petititions signed by hundreds of parents as in MI and EDM protests, then the BoE are willing to upset parents rather than their staff.

Is there more to this than meets the eye? Are the unions really the ones that the BoE doesn't want to upset? And why is the BoE really so determined to disregard so many intelligent and well informed parents and voters?

Posted by Alex, a resident of Addison School
on Apr 29, 2009 at 4:19 pm

My colleague suggested not sending kids to school for one day every two week, tutoring them math instead. It will cut PAUSD funding from the federal pool for exactly the same amount they are trying to get by introducing EM.

I am seriously thinking about this measure...

Posted by Product of PAUSD, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Dear Experienced Mom:
I can't speak to the current crop of kids in AP math.
But I can speak for me.
I went only to PAUSD.
My dad never went to HS.
My mom graduated from HS.
I was on the free lunch program.
I had NO tutoring of any kind.
I got a 5 on the BC Calc AP.
I went to Stanford (is that a "top" school?).
I got a BS & MS in math.
I had no trouble landing the job of my choice in a mathematically intensive field.

I learned what I learned because I was exposed to it by my PAUSD teachers and because my parents supported me emotionally, though they never helped me with my homework (or heaven-forbid did it for me). They never "rescued" me when I failed, and they certainly weren't helicopter parents. Did they have issues with the way some things were taught? Sure they did.

Unless you're home-schooling, the education your child gets will never be exactly as you envision it. There are going to be bumps along the road, and things that could have been done better. But in the long run, I believe PAUSD hires good and even sometimes excellent teachers, the majority of whom have the best interests of the kids in mind. I truly believe that if parents are supportive of their child for who s/he is, and stop competing with the Jones' (or the Chen's) to try to make sure their child is in the top 5%, then stress levels would go way down and kids would find that learning is actually *fun* if it's not being forced down their throats by overly competitive parents who enroll their kids in tutoring programs just to make sure they can brag that their child is in AP Calc as a Junior.

So sit back, relax, and let your child be a CHILD. Unstructured outdoor free play for an hour or two makes the brain so much more receptive to learning (and remembering and being able to *apply* that knowledge) than an hour of tutoring or memorizing facts.

Posted by math fan, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2009 at 4:58 pm

If your goal is to financially ding the district, that idea won't work. We're a basic aid district, so we don't lose funding if a kid misses a day of school each week. I have always wished, however, that the district could be more open about joint home-schooling/public-schooling programs. I'd love to be able to part-time home school in the areas where my child had strong interests and wanted more breadth than could be offered in the school.

Anonymous from Midtown -- I loved your post. (If scores go down, blame EDM. If they go up, credit home tutoring.) You are right. That's what's going to happen. Would be nice to be able to track scores of kids who don't get tutoring. (Though I also don't believe test scores are the best measure of comprehension of a subject. I know plenty of kids who are really good at memorizing formulas, but don't understand why they work.)

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2009 at 6:23 pm

Bravo Product of PAUSD! As a parent of middle and high school students I wish more parents would take a longitudinal perspective. Our children learn from our example. When we sit at the dinner table or drive them around grousing about their schools, what message does that send to them? When we threaten to homeschool when things don't go our way, what message does that send to them?

My son and I recently toured ten of the most selective colleges on the East Coast. One of the things I was struct by was the frequent comment from admissions officers that "most of the students who apply here can do the work." They said their challenge was to cull through those applicants who can do the work to identify the qualities and characteristics they want when compositing their incoming class. They didn't move the slider higher and higher, they broadened their perspective. Something tells me that the qualities of civility, respect, positive contribution to a community, and ... compromise will play a much greater role in a student's long-term success than whether their math text enabled them to achieve perfect SAT scores.

Posted by Basic Aid, a resident of The Greenhouse
on Apr 29, 2009 at 7:42 pm

"Posted by Alex, a member of the Addison School community, 3 hours ago

My colleague suggested not sending kids to school for one day every two week, tutoring them math instead. It will cut PAUSD funding from the federal pool for exactly the same amount they are trying to get by introducing EM.

I am seriously thinking about this measure..."

Palo Alto is a basic aid district. You will not cut their funding a single penny by keeping your child home. The only person you'll be hurting is your own child.

Posted by EcoMama, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 29, 2009 at 7:45 pm

A vocal opponent of Everyday Math because of past negative experiences with it, I am somewhat horrified that the president of the school board, Barb Mitchell, seemed to do absolutely no legwork of her own to vet this decision. Every other board member did their diligence such that they could at least base their comments and their votes on something! Ms. Mitchell must not be seeking re-election -- and if she is, she should most certainly lose. She didn't even seem to know the difference between Everyday Math and Singapore Math!?!

This vote is a reflection that transparency does not matter to the majority of the school board, and that is a grave concern to me as a new homeowner in this district. I expect my school board to be accountable to the public which elects it. The ignoring of 700+ signatures on a petition will be remembered as each of the "yes" voting board members (Mitchell, Tom and Klausner) come up for re-election. As for Dr. Skelly, he could've spoken out more regarding this broken process yet didn't. It's one thing to support 38 teachers; it's another to piss off hundreds of parents. How sad that he'll learn that lesson the hard way.

Posted by mathdad, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 29, 2009 at 7:55 pm

I am glad the board adopted EDM. It looks like a rich program well suited for the advanced students we have in this district. My friends in Hillsborough and Andover, MA are happy with their experiences with the program and I think my kids will benefit. Well done, BoE.

Posted by What?, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Apr 29, 2009 at 8:28 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Melissa Baten Caswell and Camille Townsend are the only ones who actually studied the math texts. It's obvious from their statements that they did. They are the only ones who care about the community because they were willing to stand up to politics.

Superintendent Skelly is not a leader. He was bullied by the committee.

The committee? Not so truthful. Anyone involved knows they said what they could to just get it passed.

What happens when the parents complain about Everyday Math on the supposed survey in April? Who's listening? No one. Just a ploy.

Posted by Me Too, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 29, 2009 at 9:01 pm

Interesting the view that "pissing off 700 voters" shows poor judgment, when of course we complain with the BoE bows to pressure from groups like MI proponents. We elect the board to make decisions; they made one, apparently based on the arguments and data put before them. Good for them. Hopefully the matter is closed and we move on.

I tend to agree that this process was not as deftly handled as it could have been, and Super Skelly did not exhibit the political instincts he might have. I expect he will take note, though he does seem a little stubborn and more interested in getting things done than bringing all the stakeholders along. Probably a good thing, so long as he does not mis-step too badly.

Posted by Getta Liefe, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 29, 2009 at 9:06 pm

I hope PAUSD teachers can find it in their hearts to still be fair and kind to you and your kids, assuming you have kids in the district and that's why you are spaaaazing over an elementary school math program. If I were a teacher in PAUSD I would be thinking, "Who the heck do these people think they are?" You are making Palo Alto parents look pathetic with your rants and objections. I hope that the future of your children depends on more than just a math text book adoption. Show a little faith in your kids and their teachers!! Good grief!

Posted by Math Concerned Paren, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 29, 2009 at 9:10 pm

I feel good about EDM, and am glad the board was able to make a decision and move forward with it. I have taught math classes at different levels (from junior high through college), and the more I learn about it, the more it resonates with me.

As an aside, I get a little tired of the stereotypes and negative characterization of parents who support their children's education by providing tutoring. In general, I would say that supporting a child's education in whatever manner works for a given family is a good thing and should be applauded. In specific, I'm not competing with the Jones' (or the Chens), I don't have status issues, I think the school my son chooses to go to after high school, if any, is his own business. (Personally, I dropped out of college and tried my hand at a diverse set of jobs for many years before returning to school and getting a degree in math.) I'm not a fan of memorization or cramming. However, I do think it is part of my responsibility as a parent to provide an environment that will help my child to develop a certain cognitive skill set by the time he reaches adulthood-- so that he will be able to choose his preferred path from a rich set of options, rather than have to settle for the best he can get because of a sparse, or poor, skill set.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 29, 2009 at 9:21 pm

You know, we don't actually know how many signers on the petition were voters or parents. I'm sure many of them were, but at the end there seemed to be a real effort to crank up the number of signers. I think they needed an address in the district, but they could have grandparents, neighbors, etc. It seemed to me that the number of signatures rose dramatically during the last week with a get-out-the-signature push. How deep the animus against the board over this goes, however, is another question.

It's a non-election year--which may have been one reason, frankly, the board decided not to delay. They'll face enough hot water later on over who goes to Garland and the expansion of the high schools.

And you know that there's no way everyone's going to be happy with the decisions made on those fronts.

Posted by Takeawaytheirmoney, a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 29, 2009 at 9:31 pm

Walk with your wallet. Deduct costs for home-tutoring/kumon from our checks to the school foundation.

Posted by math concerned, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2009 at 9:38 pm

OhlonePar - I know why you are OK with EDM. I know Ohlone uses Singapore Math - so your kids will be fine. You can support EDM on this board and be a "contrarian" but your kids are learning Singapore Math so you will not be negatively impacted. I call this hypocricy

Posted by Anon, a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Apr 29, 2009 at 10:05 pm

Math Concerned -

That is just false. Ohlone will be using the same curriculum as everyone else. Ohlone teachers were on the math adoption committee, piloted the same materials, and will be using district funds to buy their materials so they get what everyone else gets. Enough with the paranoid conspiracy theories.

Posted by blue heart, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2009 at 10:24 pm

I totally support Waht?'s comment on: Melissa Baten Caswell and Camille Townsend are the only ones who actually studied the math texts. It's obvious from their statements that they did. They are the only ones who care about the community because they were willing to stand up to politics.
Look who really care about our 5000 kids, teachers and parents? Who is fair at this issue? Our teachers have been so busy with new stuff every year, now the district dump the totally different new math on them, anyone ever think how most of the teachers think?

How could the other board members make another bigger mistake to vote "YES". Let's see after half or one year, how many parents will stand up and complain?

Posted by Math student, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 29, 2009 at 10:50 pm

@ all of you who want data on tutoring in high level courses, I think less than ten percent of people in geo/alg2a, the highest " normal" math class (that I am in) have tutors. I do not think any trig/analyt freshmen (highest sophmore class) have tutors. However, I suspect this will change as the class of 2012 advances.

Posted by jb, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 29, 2009 at 11:09 pm

I have been quiet during most of this hoo haa because my children are now gone from the district. But I hear a lot or grousing that grousers could have saved themselves by simply going to 25 Churchill on a regular basis, just to visit. Read the bulletin boards.

The art teachers from the district take turns hanging truly remarkable art done by kids k - 12 in their art classes. Those shows are worth the trip. I go several times a year. No, I have never needed a key card to get into the building.

Last spring (early 2008) was the first time I remember seeing, no stumbling over tables and tables of books lining the hallway of the building. They were math books, several companies represented, texts for every grade, workbooks for every grade, teacher manuals for every book in every grade, ancillary materials for every grade for the text, even teacher training texts. These tables were in the hallways for months. They were still there at the beginning of the school year in 2008. Then the tables became fewer, but still with lots of books on math; this probably represented the progress of the cull.

My point is, this is your district. Even if parents were not invited to the beginning of the process, you could have seen it happening. I heard that last year there were teachers piloting books in their classrooms. If you have been asking your teachers, "How do you get the books that are used in the grades," maybe someone would have told you the process. I know teachers. One of them told me that she was relieved to be seeing Everyday Mathmatics, because "finally all the material we gather together in our school to teach math with will be gathered together in ONE book." A lot of the EM approach has been used here possibly without your exactly knowing it.

My sources also tell me that parents are still sending in homework with algebra all over the margins when the problems could (and should have been) solved with logic and numerical methods. Our family got a letter home in 7th grade asking parents not to resort to algebra every time they couldn't solve a problem. All the problems would be worked and solved on the board on the day they were due.

Not all our teachers were great. The poor ones became opportunities to learn skills for dealing with difficult people. And we filled in where we needed to. It didn't last forever.

Finally, although we are educated, we limited our homework help to driving children to libraries and museums for research. Here is a tip. All of Palo Alto 4th grades do the mission project around the same time. No Books in Palo Alto libraries. Get yourself a card for Menlo Park and one for Los Altos.

Our son had social trouble but his grades seemed good enough. I didn't notice when he said he thought he should take an AP math course. He enrolled and took it along with a couple of other AP courses and finished up in the Paly at Foothill program. He earned English Ia credit there. Now he is in life sciences in grad school and his profs have noticed he's a crack at statistics. He is veering into statistics and out of the lab, we think. He's your quintessential late bloomer.

Our daughter took all the writing prizes given at Paly in her freshman year after being accused of plaigerizing her paper on toads in the 6th grade. We knew it wasn't true and supported her. She is still a very good writer, and web site manager, and photographer, belly dancer, and stage manager. And she has a day job.

Both of these kids were born at Stanford and went their whole lives to PAUSD. Relax everyone.

My experience in Palo Alto is that parents read way too much and experience way too little. They are always scaring the pea soup out of themselves, to the detriment of everyone around. Your kids will be fine if you just don't scare them to death.

Posted by fed up parent, a resident of Duveneck School
on Apr 29, 2009 at 11:25 pm

I will not give money to our school or PIE. I don't have confidence that they will spend my money wisely. It is irresponsible that in these ecomonic times the committee chose the more expensive textbook.

Posted by PA watcher, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Apr 29, 2009 at 11:53 pm

In most places, including the US Senate, a 60% vote would close debate ...but not in Palo Alto.

Enough already. We voted, they were elected, some objected, they listened or didn't, it's over.

Support your teachers, your kids and make the most you can out of the new text; starting by cracking the cover yourself.

After a year or so, see what happened. again.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 30, 2009 at 12:51 am

math concerned,

How do you *know* Ohlone uses Singapore Math? Particularly when I've mentioned numerous times that Scott Foresman's California Math is what's being used along with whatever supplemental materials the teacher thinks is appropriate.

I have seen some Singapore math texts and they're very spare--intentionally--but that means a lot is required from the teacher. If you're that worried, I suggest you simply buy the Singapore texts and use them with your child. Though I suspect that if you looked at them you'd realize that they're not a secret weapon--just very clear-- and that your kid's probably doing fine anyway.

I'm calm because we've had good teacher-child fits and, frankly, I believe that elementary school math just ain't that hard. If EDM really doesn't work, the teachers I know have the experience and background to come up with a curriculum that makes it work.

jb, thanks for making me smile. I love the description of the algebra being done in the margins and your last line.

fed up parent, PiE funds aren't used for math textbooks--but maybe you don't like Spectra Arts?

Posted by Still troubled, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 30, 2009 at 7:20 am

What was the most troubling to me was that two of the board members who voted yes (Tom and Klausner) repeated some of the same important questions Tuesday night that they asked staff at the prior board meeting, but staff still was completely at a loss to answer them.

~ No staff person knew whether EDM's spiral satisfied or failed the National Math Panel's recommendation. Even Superintendent Skelly admitted he was puzzled by that too. Tom said EDM's spiral was his greatest concern. Klausner said based on her research if EDM spiraled that would be a "bad thing."

~ No one asked other PAUSD staff or other districts how EDM impacted minorities, special education students, transfer in and out students, and students who don't speak English as their first language. All staff and Skelly could say was we'll have to figure that out when we get there (after adoption).

Staff could have taken this next year to get those questions answered and develop supplemental materials before introducing a new curriculum into our classrooms. Instead they advised the board to allow them to jump in while, seems no other way to say it, they experiment (aka "figure it out") on our kids.

Why did Tom and Klausner vote yes then? Despite Tom and Klausner acknowledging process errors and seeing clearly that staff did not understand EDM well enough to describe its most fundamental feature, the two said they wanted to push forward because they were afraid, if they waited a year, teachers might lose their excitement about EDM.

Not a resounding endorsement I'd say. Regardless of whether you like EDM or not, our community should be very concerned about where their priorities lie.

Posted by What?, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Apr 30, 2009 at 7:36 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by also troubled, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2009 at 7:39 am

A lot of questions unanswered.

It seems the Board took the staff at their word when they said "we won't spiral without mastery" and "we'll figure out how to bring everyone along with this program." Ok, fine. Then let's make sure that happens.

After Skelly told the board that the staff wouldn't feel like it had to work if EDM was rejected, and that teachers would lose their enthusiasm if they had to wait a year, the Board approved EDM. Camille and Melissa both correctly pointed out that if teachers cannot sustain their enthusiasm over the course of a year while figuring out how to implement it, there is a problem. Skelly also threw out there that the solution to the failure to follow process is to change the process to match what the committee/district staff did. Are you kindding me? That's like saying instead of giving a ticket for running a stop sign you should remove the stop sign.

But no, Skelly just told them to trust the teachers and three of the board members went along with that. It's all fine and well to trust the teachers, but could we PLEEEEASE have some accountability?

I am less concerned about EDM (which will not be implemented as marketed anyway, though that comes back to why we need it as THE text anyway) than the arrogance and entitlement shown by this "more qualified" committee, who did not even look at the National Math Panel report until March, when they had decided on EDM, and only reluctantly admitted that when questioned by Melissa ("Did you review the National Math Panel Report?" "um . . . yeeeeees." "When did you review it?" "I can't remember exactly" "Did you review it before or after you recommended adoption of EDM?" "um. . . . after. But, but BUT! We reviewed a million other articles and data points so we know EDM is the bestest."

Someone needs to get a leash on the egos at 25 Churchill, and since Skelly has absolutely joined them in his hubris, it's up to the Board to make it clear who is the tail and who is the dog. It would be great if, after all the election hype, Melissa and Camille were not left twisting in the wind when they ask staff to actually do their job and explain their reasoning with data instead of smoke and mirrors. The process foradopting EDM was not the problem, it was the symptom. Nothing will change unless and until the Board puts a stop to it and demands accountability.

Posted by Anon, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 30, 2009 at 7:40 am


Of course, everyone who didn't vote your way did it for the wrong reasons. Maybe Melissa and Camille voted the way they did so they would offend the screeching parents and they didn't care that EDM is a good text used highly effectively in districts very similar to ours. and maybe the otehr three sowed courage and thoughtfulness in ignoring the hysteria and choosing the textbook that they thought was best. Long live democracy.

Posted by also troubled, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2009 at 8:17 am

Process has a long and problematic history in this district. Really, as they all said, the text doesn't much matter since the teachers are going to teach around it as well as with it. Melissa said she wanted extra time to ensure that the process was met and the staff answered the questions they were directed to answer. She said that if after that period EDM was still the best and the issues that were raised (such as teaching ELL and disabled kids) were reso9lved, then the district should adopt it; she also said that if the staff were going to reject the National Math Panel report they should do so honestly and just admit that is what they are doing instead of just not mentioning it at all in their reports.

But there is a historic attitude on the part of staff that they simply don't have to answer questions and that the board should do whatever they say, and that is a problem.

EDM we can live with and will live with and will adapt to fit the needs of the teachers and children, except in schools and classrooms where we don't. Same old same old. But more troubling is that what goes on in the district is far from democracy. If it were a democracy, the board would ask the staff for things and the staff would provide them because that's their job and the board is their collective boss. Process would be followed and people would have a voice because they are supposed to have a voice. Instead, staff don't answer questions they don't want to answer, attack, pout, bully and threaten. Long live democracy? Nope. Long live tyranny.

Posted by GC, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2009 at 8:50 am

No one did their job. The committee failed, then Skelly failed to get them on track, then the board failed to do oversight.

Suppose you work for a pension fund wanting to invest in a VC team, and your boss tells you to check them out. You present a due diligence report, and someone at the meeting says, "Hey, why didn't you mention last year's SEC case against one of the founding partners." You say, "Oh, yeah, I saw something about that on the internet this morning. Talked to Jimmy at the water cooler. We don't think it's a big deal. Anyway, I called and spoke with his mother, and she says he's a great son. Let's back these guys."

You'd be out on your ear that day for incompetence, and that should have happened in this case, too.

The board asked some basic questions Tuesday, and the committee leaders were unable to answer because they had not done the appropriate research and critical thinking. They even admitted they had not read the National Mathematics Panel report until AFTER they'd recommended EDM!! Wow.

"Trust us and adopt," they said. Yeah, right. That's what got us into this mess in the first place, the mistaken belief that we could trust PAUSD to do a minimally professional job of adopting a textbook.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 30, 2009 at 9:55 am

jb, your story appears dated to me.
I have a freshman in college and a junior in HS and know lots of HS seniors.
Very few people are chilling out because they see a lot of surprising rejections of top students. School DOES make a difference in the futures of our youth
Currently, there is intense competition for university slots and teens are under a lot of pressure and there is not a lot of latitidue for late bloomers. That's too bad.
I think there is NO EXCUSE not to have a reasonable Math curriculum and that along with consistent Math teaching can make a great deal of difference in life.
There was a case some years back (I will intentionally keep this vague) that did have an impact on some students in terms of their Math education and future. At one of the PAUSD middle schools, there was a top, excellent, senior Math teacher for 7th grade and there was a newbie Math teacher who was clearly unsuitable in ALL respects (believe she was dismissed two years later). It was an unfair situation and impacted children's lives, including what lane for 9th grade, etc., and the notion that one is just supposed to roll with this is sad. It can be a big deal. Math education does impact each child.

Posted by Palo Alto Mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 30, 2009 at 10:51 am

For those of you who are concerned about this vote, there is still opportunity to give your input (and get others to do the same):

-Math Facts: The District should be able to provide a solid program by grade that must be followed. Daily work, with weekly time assessments that are sent home that relies on a book to which parents can have access if necessary.
-Supplementary books for kids who need more direct instruction (yes, I know that word isn't one we like here), but some kids need it and it was parents are paying for after school.
-More frequent assessments of how EDM is working.
-How we collect data on parent/tutor/class math support before and "with" EDM. We can't measure change if we don't have a starting point.

Yes, the Board didn't listen on the vote, but parents must stand up for their kids education. Better to push for it now, then learn later that our kids have gaps to fill.

If EDM isn't working, we may have lost one or two years, but we don't have to lose 7 or 14.

Posted by Timothy H. Scherman, a resident of another community
on Apr 30, 2009 at 11:13 am

I would like to put a word in for Dana Tom. I don't know how he delivered his remarks, but he certainly did his research, and he did a thorough job of it by not limiting himself to the immediate area, but looking at some of the results of EDM across the nation. I was only one of the many Board members in Districts outside of the area (ours is north of Chicago, serving a demographic almost identical to yours)he interviewed, and he had information not only from me, but from our Board President, Superintendent, and our Curriculum administrator. I'm sure he was as thorough in other research as well. So whatever you feel on the vote, please don't make the mistake of underestimating Mr. Tom's efforts to make the most informed decision he could. I'm sure he appreciates (as any Board member anywhere would) the comments of those here who DO NOT ENVY his and the other Board members positions in a debate such as this.

I think the Mr. Skelly said it best by reminding those in this extremely contentious debate of the fact at the bottom of it all, and this removes the debate from any particular niggling differences about curricular approaches in mathematics or any subject: BOOKS do not teach kids; TEACHERS teach kids. It is the Board's responsibility to see to it that in every subject, administrators and staff have the proper training and resources so kids get what they need every day at school. Your poor Board members are likely not educators themselves, and curriculum is not their business, NOR is it the business of the vast majority of parents. I guess what I'm suggesting as that everyone remember the bigger picture.

Good luck with EDM. Like many others, it's a very fine program. Your success with it will depend on your teachers' energy and dedication and ability. If they have none of that, well, that's your real problem. As for us, we changed to EDM when we discovered that while there were only a handful of districts in the State performing better in Math than we were, almost all of those performing better were using EDM. If you're worried about math facts and drills, of course that's not rocket science and can be supplemented. In fact, that's a place where parents ARE qualified to help their kids, if their goal really is to supplant the teachers' place at every turn.

Tim Scherman
former Vice President Wilmette IL (D39) Board of Education
Associate Professor, Northeastern Illinois University
Father of two, 10 and 12 years of age

Posted by Mireya, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 30, 2009 at 11:19 am

I taught Mathematics for five years in the state of Texas. This textbook is fundamentally flawed. Yes, it does teach Mathematical concepts...but only with the right teacher instructing the right students. The rest are lost in the gaps.

I sure hope that the teachers in Palo Alto are up to the task.

I wonder: What other textbooks were considered? What was the reason that the district chose this particular set of texts?

Posted by math concerned, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2009 at 11:43 am

No, Dana Tom did not do a thorough job. He had already made up him mind to support the committee BEFORE he did his research. If he wanted to be through he should have talked to districts that did not have EDM. He should have asked the teachers why they want to go against the National Math Panel research.

And, if you think "Board members are likely not educators themselves, and curriculum is not their business..." then all the more reasons Dana Tom should have asked the questions around process. He did not find is inappropriate that Education Code 60061 was violated and that parents were not involved.

Dana only heard one side. He did incomplete research and it showed. He based his vote on his own incomplete research.

Palo Alto will vote him out in Nov.

Posted by Timothy H. Scherman, a resident of another community
on Apr 30, 2009 at 12:30 pm

Last comment and I will go back where I came from:

If you want to level an accusation at an elected official, I hope you have some evidence--here, that Mr. Tom had made up his mind before even considering the evidence.

That Mr. Tom did any research would seem to mean that he had not made up his mind at all--that he needed more information to make up his mind.

That Mr. Tom eventually DID make up his mind is just what is required of every Board member, anywhere. That he did not finally decide in your favor is no evidence that he did not consider evidence of Districts who were using other programs. In fact in his communication with us, we gave him evidence of our experience under both EDM and the program we had been using before it. So I know for a fact that he had at least some information about other programs and other Districts' experiences of them in hand when he arrived at your meeting, and I'm sure we were not the only ones he contacted.

Perhaps you would have preferred him to arrive at the meeting as a kind of "blank slate" to be swayed by the crowd in a five hour heated debate? That's certainly your right. But I would prefer someone who had considered the matter in a more methodical way--and certainly apart from the (in many instances I'm sure) emotional context of all this.

By all means work to remove those Board members who don't agree with your views, but if what you really want is parents running the School District instead of administrators and teachers, I don't have a good feeling about the future of Palo Alto schools, or the kids who live there. Parents do lots of things schools can't, but there's an appropriate role for each.

Posted by Brendan, a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 30, 2009 at 12:31 pm

In my opinion, this was a bad move. While the methods EDM espouses for addition and subtraction are OK (they may even make things a bit clearer), I can't state the same regarding multiplication and division. EDM multiplication and division methods are just going to make what is confusing to some kids (adults?) and make it even more so.

Following the outlined process would have been a good thing too...

Posted by Barron Park Mom, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 30, 2009 at 12:37 pm

This is for Product of PAUSD. It is great that you had an already built in sense of mathematics and you went to Stanford and all. The problem is PAUSD doesn't communicate effectively enough to its parents. This math affects elementary children so parents in middle and high school probably were not told. It is not the PTA's responsibility to be the PR agent for the district. The way they choose study committees is by submitting your name and then hope to be picked. I am sure that the selection is done subjectively so there is no way you can be on the committee. No one made a point of including parents with at-risk kids or parents of kids with poor math skills. It doesn't help if you don't have all sides to this. There should have been open meetings showing the different types of math books and how it would be taught. The elementary teachers here are weak in math. That is an additional problem.

Posted by math fan, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 30, 2009 at 12:42 pm

math concerned:
I assume you are referring to paragraph a5 of Section 60061 of the Education Code and the alleged actions of one McGraw-Hill rep. If this paragraph were violated, does that automatically invalidate all work done by the committee? Is the suggestion to go back to the point where the committee stopped considering SRA due to bad advice from a McGraw-Hill rep? Is the recommendation to pilot SRA, EDM, and enVision/Investigations? Or do you just want to pilot SRA vs. EDM, since EDM is considered by the committee to be preferable to enVision?

I still don't understand the assertion that parents weren't involved. Parents were certainly invited to be involved. Anyone who's actually been paying attention knows that the district is continuously reviewing new materials and asking nearly every year for parent volunteers to be on this curriculum committee or that curriculum committee. (The state requires the district to adopt new materials every seven years in the four key subject areas: math, science, language arts, and social studies; we did science last year, social studies the year before; and next year was slated for language arts, but I've heard rumors that's been delayed.) They're currently reviewing Spanish textbooks if that's an issue that is important to you. You can argue all you want that the McGraw-Hill rep steered the committee in the wrong direction, but you certainly can't fault the district for not involving parents, as we were certainly invited to be on the committee and/or provide input along the way.

Finally, feel free not to vote for Dana Tom in November if he runs for re-election, but I don't think you can jump to the conclusion that Palo Alto will vote him out in November based on your personal dislike of the way he does research. Will you be running for the board? I sure won't.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 30, 2009 at 2:58 pm

I hear lots of allegations, but not much to back it up.

How poor are PA teachers at teaching math? The ones I know are good at it. I'm sure there are those who are less so--people have their strengths and weaknesses. But to make a blanket claim the teachers are poor at teaching math? Where's your proof? The scores? Oh, right, the scores are good. But that's all tutoring? In second grade? I don't think so. Sorry, I know some of those kids providing those high scores and they're not being tutored. They like math and they're good at it.

Where's the support for the allegation that Dana Tom had made up his mind before doing research? A comment, even? Anything besides the way he cast his final vote?

The only smoking gun I've really seen is the McGraw-Hill rep letter, but I don't think that's enough to hang your hat on.

And, frankly, I've seen some just plain dumb accusations--i.e. Ohlone kids get Singapore Math--I mean, c'mon. Don't believe me? I suggest you take advantage of Ohlone's open policy and schedule a visit to observe the classrooms.

I mean why even make that kind of allegation?

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 30, 2009 at 3:06 pm

I don't think the PAUSD elementary teachers are bad at teaching math, they just don't always seem to enjoy it as much as language arts and social studies. The majority of elementary school instruction time is certainly not spent on math.

No tutors in second grade? I know lots of kids who go to Score, Kumon, etc. and have outside tutors and summer school from K on.

Particularly in secondary school, this is a hard district to compete in unless you are naturally good at math, have parents who can provide significant support or can afford tutors.

Posted by What?, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Apr 30, 2009 at 3:22 pm

Mr. Timothy Scherman: Dana Tom's research was flawed because he only listened to administrators. He ignored all the research regarding parents' dislike of the program, the extra amount of supplementing required by parents, the actual experiences of former Everyday Math parents in the area who opposed EDM. Administrators who currently use the program are going to speak well of EDM. Teachers are not going to complain to the principal or BoE due to politics. The only ones who will be truthful are the parents. And he completely ignored the the parents and the research on how parents feel about EDM. He ignored the parent uproar EDM has caused in Texas and other states.

Tom said: "We're dealing with children, and in that sense, failure is not an option." So what if it fails after a year and the parent survey in April reflects that parents dislike the program? What then? Then you have failed the children, Mr. Tom. Was it worth jumping into it so quickly when we could have waited a year for the committee to prove that EDM would work?

Townsend and Caswell studied the texts, looked at all sides of the issue and were bold enough to stand up against politics; I commend them for that. We need people on the BoE as such.

"When his own children experienced Everyday Mathematics. . .[Skelly said] 'In the hands of a teacher that is not very skilled, my kids' experience was not as good as when they had a teacher who was very skilled." We now know Skelly is hoping for the best and what he really thinks of the program.

Posted by Who is the expert?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2009 at 3:24 pm

I don't know why Dana Tom and Barb Klausner were puzzled by the National Math Panel's spiral recommendation Tuesday night.

Didn't a woman from the audience go up to the podium and say that she sat in on conferences calls 3 of the board members had with the National Math Panel panelists who told our board that EDM is the poster child for the verbotten spiral? I thought I heard her quote a panelist telling them that EDM is "Failure by Design." Ouch.

And yet, even after those calls with the experts, Dana Tom and Barb Klausner said they still didn't understand it.

Shouldn't one of the three board members have cleared up the confusion before the vote? If it turns out that Tom or Klausner were on those calls, there is no explanation for what they said Tuesday other than that they thought the National Math Panel wasn't that big a deal. I am sure glad Palo Alto elected more expert experts to its school board than the US government hired for its 2 year long mathematics project (sarcasm intended).

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 30, 2009 at 3:25 pm

We did learn that EDM is on the far left - so to speak - of Mathematics curriculum, therefore there ought to be darn good justification to select an unusual curriculum like that.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 30, 2009 at 3:27 pm

Palo Alto Mom,

I'm sure some kids get tutoring--but enough to account for Palo Alto's scores--and their rise over the years? I doubt it. As I said, I know plenty of kids who find the STAR tests "easy" without tutoring. Again, I just don't buy that elementary school math is that hard.

I think that middle school on is a different kettle of fish. It's more competitive, the stakes get higher and the laning issue comes into play. Even there, I've known kids who were in the advanced lanes without tutoring--yes, okay, some were the kids of physicists.

But let's face it, we have the kids of physicists living here. We're a skewed population, which I think is part of why there's such an intense debate here--we have a lot of parents (most) who are competitive and successful. The schools here are skewed as a result. Many of us have kids who would be the academic star of an average class, but are somewhere in the middle here. It's frustrating and it's scary. The playing field has changed--the same intelligence and hard work that got a parent into Stanford gets the child into a mid-range UC. The scores and grades that got a parent into a mid-range UC get the child into the state college system.

And I think, on some level, we take out a lot of that stress and fear on our school system.

I assume the majority of elementary school time isn't spent on any single subject--and, frankly, our kids do need to know how to write and understand a wide variety of subjects.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 30, 2009 at 3:36 pm


How do you *know* that Dana Tom ignored all the input from parents. Frankly, I think he had to have heard the comments from parents--otherwise why did he contact other districts?

And why are parent satisfaction surveys in April the determinant of whether the program's successful? Maybe something a little more objective--like test scores--might be a better metric.

Anytime, by the way, anybody gets some numbers on EDM--i.e. overall performance of districts using EDM before and after; percentage of districts that drop EDM compared to the number that have adapted it, I'd be interested in seeing those numbers.


Yes, PAUSD is an evil bastion of deep-blue liberalism. BWAHAHAHAHA! The secret is out--we have plans to contaminate ALL the schools with Ohlone-ism. You will all be raising chickens shortly.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 30, 2009 at 5:13 pm

Ohlone Par, STAR tests are EASY.
It's rather a matter of preparation for later school years, in my opinion.
High school math - competitive, top-laned is challenging. It IS worth it for those who are interested.
But -- Children need consistent, high quality curriculum AND teaching to prepare for that.
It starts in elem school
We already have a major equity issue with many parents paying big $$$ to prep their kids for the high stakes high school years
Some parents can't afford that
Some of their kids are just as intelligent but they don't get a shot at the UCs and limited slots at certain private colleges

Liberalism isn't really the issue. But it has been stated that EDM is not mainstream Math. As the parent of two older teens, I just feel for parents of younger kids and the younger kids themselves if they will be subjected to a very questionable Math scheme. And -- why?!
Camille Townsend got it right this time.

Posted by GC, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2009 at 5:43 pm

Math fan,

The district went to great lengths to keep parents out of the process (broke its own rules to keep parents off the committee, cherry-picked parent who saw their role as "witness" rather than participant, etc.), so it's reasonable to think they did not want parent input.

As best we can tell, the administrators driving this process wanted to make a decision without regard to parent opinion. They got their wish, but I think this has damaged the relationship between parents and the district.

In future, parents will not see the sense in approaching the district politely and raising issues in a cooperative fashion. They'll come out with their fists swinging.

Posted by also troubled, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2009 at 7:13 pm

All you had to do was hear the words of that brave Duveneck fifth grade dad to know what went on in that committee. Two parents witnessed and went along, the one who didn't and the teachers who did not agree were hounded until they shut up. Dana Tom tried to explain to the world that it is entirely normal to get people who disagree to sign on, as if that is what happened. That's what he said happened in every organization he's been in. Well, the organizations I've been in that were functional did not involve broken processes and bullying of dissenters. And that is what goes on in this district day in and day out. Skelly just handed the staff a blank check for personal entitlement and attitude and the Board gave them the green light. Plus ca change. . .

Waiting a year would have reassured everyone, or most people. Answering the darn questions would have reassured everyone. Figuring out how to bring along the kids in ELL or special ed before implementation would have reassured people. Creating a plan to ensure that even less strong teachers (and despite our little mutual admiration society that goes on, there ARE some weak teachers in Palo Alto) could teach kids properly would reassure people. But no. By their vote, 3/5 of the board last night said that they didn't actually care whether the staff had done a thorough job on this, or anything else they are charged with. They said loud and clear that if the staff has a hissy fit, they will cave. It's really obscene what goes on, to those who know.

Barb, Barbara and Dana have lost currency with this community, bigtime. When the staff rolls right over them next time they will have only themselves to blame. Particularly shameful because every single member of the current board ran on a platform of stewardship, accountability and transparency.

Posted by Kathy, a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 30, 2009 at 8:13 pm

My kids attend Bullis Charter School in L.A. and have used Everyday Math at multiple different grade levels. They really dislike it, as do the parents. One of its major weaknesses is the fact that it cannot be "individualized" because each day there are multiple small units taught in different ways; i.e. 10 mins. of teacher-led instruction, then a couple of problems, then a math game, then some more independent work. Kids can't work ahead on their own. The ones falling behind will determine the pace of the entire class. This is entirely counter-intuitive to the mission of "Independent Learning" at BCS, and many parents have raised strong objections to EM but they have fallen on deaf ears. With its "spiraling" concepts, old material (i.e. adding big numbers for 4th graders, when they have moved on to multiplication) is stuck in the middle of certain units, and provides review, or complete boredom!!!

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 30, 2009 at 8:27 pm

Bullis uses EDM? Given that they're a charter and can choose their own textbooks, that's an interesting choice. Bullis does well as a school and has a waiting list. Given that we have always had a certain number of Bullis families reading the Forum I'm surprised, actually, we didn't hear more about it.


I'll be seeing EDM next year, but honestly I feel sorry for the parents of the kids in high school now. Why? Because my kid isn't going to face the same competition for college that yours will--just an issue of demographics. My kids aren't in the same population bulge. And I know enough math to know which skills should be acquired.

also troubled,

Delaying for a year would accomplish what, precisely? What new options of the eight texts would be there? There were a lot of people on the committee and EDM, at the end, had a strong majority.

What would change in a year, really? It's a vote where somebody was going to be unhappy.

I think the board has so many big issues facing it that I'd hate to see it mired in this the way it was in MI.

Posted by math concerned, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2009 at 8:34 pm

Barb M came to the meeting with Letterman style "top 10" reasons to support EDM! I was so offended. This is not a joke - this is my kids education. If she did research and thought throughly about such an important issue how come she had NO concern for EDM. How can it be ALL good.

And yes, I agree with the other poster - not knowing the definition on spiraling on the day of voting! Barb K and Dana should have understood it before puting my kids thr' it for 7 years, or postponed the vote.

And if Dana for thorough - where are his findings from EDM schools that did not succeed? what did he learn from them? why is he sure PA will not have those issues? PA parents are not impressed by Dana touting one former VP in Wilmette IL Board of Education as his reference. Dana did not present any example or reference point from failed EDM districts.

It all sounded like an EDM sales pitch. The EDM sales folks could have given us the research that Dana provided.

Sorry - not impressed.

Posted by blue heart, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2009 at 9:06 pm

Dear Kathy,
Thanks so much for your input. By hearing this make me more sad. We are so proud we still have two BOEs as Camille and Melissa. All they care about are the kids, teachers and parents.
I am sure those votes for NO some were for political purpose.Come on, here are 5000 innocent kids!!! They only learn through once. They only have one five years.Time can not go back!!!!!

Posted by still troubled, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2009 at 9:39 pm

OP, I will tell you what a year's delay would have done: it would have sent the message to the committee and skelly that the board is not willing to gamble on our kids' education, and that they will not accept some half, er, baked data gathering. It would have allowed them to look at SRA and see if it was more appropriate. It would have allowed them, if they still felt EDM was the best choice (which you have to wonder if they would have since apparently their enthusiasm was on the brink of flagging if we didn't IMMERDIATELY adopt EDM) then they needed to move forward in a year with a clear set of prepared materials and strategies (based on data and investigation, not experimental surmise) of how they will teach the ESL and special ed kids and address the other issues that were raised. It would send the message that the Board is not to be bullied out of making measured decisions and holding the staff to a normal standard of performance in terms of answering questions for real, creating a workable curriculum, etc. It would have sent the message that illegal acts are not tolerated, and that procedure and transparency and thorough and thoughtful analysis are all valued in this district.

You seem to think these are all beside the point. I don't. I think they are the lynchpins of a successful district. Please note that a disfferent set of people WITHOUT AN AGENDA OTHER THAN TO EDUCATE THE CHILDREN WELL handled the piloting of many middle school texts and adopted one without so much as a murmur from the community. Hm. Those who know, know that this committee was absolutely dominated by a clique of dogmatic ideologues who planned all along to adopt EDM come hell or high water, and who really resented being asked totally valid implementation questions. Skelly completely abdicated his responsibility as superintendent to ask those questions and demand quality analysis, and he dumped the responsibility on the Board. They all got that there were problems; it's just that the integrity and respect for the process mattered enough only to Camille and Melissa. What a shame. Their chance to really set things on track in the district, and they completely shirked.

That you, of all people, don't see the value in demanding transparency and measured analysis after the MI fiasco (with a report written by one particular member of the math committee, whose math adoption report was about the same quality or lack thereof) is depressing in the extreme.

Posted by Didnt Count, a resident of Hoover School
on Apr 30, 2009 at 10:18 pm

Dana Tom waffled and talked in circles but does what he always does - go with the flow.

Barb M. had her mind made up weeks ago. She just needed a way to rationalize it for the audience. No community representation here.

Barbara K. seemed oblivious to the numerous liabilities of EDM. She is the most dangerous member of the PAUSD Board. Let's vote her out in the next election.

Thank you Camille Townsend for recognizing that our kids' futures are not to be gambled with! Duh. You'd think the trio above would get that. And thank you for pointing out the unfairness of EDM to the 11% of children who turn over from the district each year. The disorientation they face coming in from other districts and going to other districts that teach sensible math could disillusion these kids forever.

Thank you Melissa Baten Caswell for standing up for recognizing the deeply dysfunctional divide, and thus suggesting that we do a pilot for a year. Very balanced, sensible, middle of the road solution.

And let's start counting the days to when we can get rid of Kevin Skelly forever. His statement "We're not winning converts" shows that he wasn't trying to understand (much less address) concerns but considers this a win-lose game, a crusade.

Time to get a Charter School started here.

Posted by Chaos in the PAUSD Board, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2009 at 10:44 pm

What about the data that the 5th grade teachers didn't support EDM?
They're the ones tasked with having kids meet the middle school standards. How can Dana Tom, Barb K and Barb M simply ignore that and 700 signatures? How brazen can these folks get?

It's horribly irresponsible to mess with children's futures in this way. Let's boot them out.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 30, 2009 at 11:28 pm

still troubled,

I've posted before on why I don't consider this analogous to the MI debacle. I also asked and asked on the Forum for some solid numbers regarding EDM to determine whether I was just hearing complaints from a small but vocal minority regarding EDM or whether it was a program that was a disaster. I've still yet to hear a metric that gives a context to this.

I and other people like Parent did look for those kinds of numbers regarding immersion. Parent figured out what kind of drop rates MI was having in Cupertino. I found information about the long-term poor outcome of MI in Virginia and the overall problems with immersion retention in Canada where bilingualism has been an unreached and aggressively sought goal for more than 40 years.

Choosing a math textbook isn't about instituting a new choice program that's an inefficient use of space. The district was required to choose one of eight texts. They clearly spent a lot of time figuring it out. People complain about slow-moving bureaucracies--but that's what's being asked for. It's basically go back to the drawing board until you come back with the answer we wanted.

But at the same time, I didn't see much solid data against EDM--and I followed the links online. I saw posts that raised questions--good questions--but nothing that really made the case. Nothing that compared, say, to the 45 percent drop-out rate by high school in Canadian immersion programs.

I don't see a huge lack of transparency problem here--though I may not be in possession of enough information to fully judge that. The math textbook study has been ongoing for a while, but only very recently were people upset about it. I don't have the sense that all of you were trying to be involved in it nine months ago, say.

Nor do I see a case of a mysterious $60,000 showing up from a private source used to basically form district policy--now, *that's* a lack of transparency.

So, I'm hearing a lot of claims about people's motivations and intents--including mine--but what I don't see is anything that supports those claims--that the committee was dominated by ideologues. How did that work? And how do you know that that was the case?

The allegations are really flying all over the place--I mean, I don't care because my kid gets Singapore math at Ohlone? Trust me, when you hear stuff like that you can't take things seriously.

I'd still like to hear about why Bullis uses EDM. The charter's done well and gets to choose its texts. Scorewise, it seems to be working for them.

Posted by piffle, a resident of El Carmelo School
on May 1, 2009 at 12:14 am

You're in luck! You can bid on the math enrichment tutoring still available from El Carmelo's auction. Web Link

Here are a few things you could explore with your tutor:

What fraction of the number of adults in the PAUSD is 700?

What is the probability that an individual randomly selected from the 700 petitioners could name the two programs that were piloted? (You'll have to get the list and call some people to figure this one out.)

What percentage of the 700 petitioners has read the state and local standards? Web Link Web Link

Extra credit: In the time it takes to read all the comments in this PaloAltoOnline topic, how many times could one take a 1 minute timed test?

If after your math enrichment session you're itching for enrichment in social studies, you could explore the question, "How could the California state board of education approve EDM as one of the textbooks that meet its rigorous standards?" Web Link

The only thing I'm worried about for my children with EDM at PAUSD is that a few miserable souls will hound their teachers and distract them from teaching.

Put your energy into learning the lattice method instead. Web Link (Don't worry - it's so easy even grade school kids can do it -- and they rarely mix up their columns when they add up the answer.)

Posted by piffle, a resident of El Carmelo School
on May 1, 2009 at 12:53 am

I was curious about the admonition some raised to our BoE that they should learn from Texas and reject EDM.

Here's the story Web Link

" In Dallas, officials rolled out Everyday Mathematics books in kindergarten through sixth grade at 19 schools with low math scores during the 2000-01 school year. By the end of the year, only two of those schools still had low scores; a year later, none of them did, said Camille Malone, DISD's director of mathematics.

The district now uses the book to teach the nearly 79,000 students in kindergarten through fifth grade at all elementary schools. Ms. Malone said games and hands-on examples help the students develop computation skills. "


Posted by piffle, a resident of El Carmelo School
on May 1, 2009 at 1:00 am

oops - I hit Submit too soon. Here's what I was going to insert after the elipsis:

"There was not one thing wrong with that book," said Ms. Miller, a former board president. "That is what is so frustrating. I have concerns about the direction of the board."

Web Link:

"In all my 20-odd years on this board, I've never experienced something like this," said Geraldine Miller, a Republican board member from Dallas. "It's very discouraging and sad that we cannot have an openness to talk about and explain our rationale about why we agree or disagree about an issue."

Tell me again ... why should I want OUR BoE to see a dysfunctional group in TX as their role model?

Posted by What?, a resident of Walter Hays School
on May 1, 2009 at 1:41 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Time will tell, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2009 at 5:45 am


Not quite sure what your point is, but:

The State of Texas rejected EDM a few years back because it did not meet the state standards.

The State of CA rejected EDM too and only approved it this round because the publisher threw a few long division problems into the back of one of its books. The state did not opine about the spiral nor did it have the benefit of the National Math Panel's report which came out after the state list was finalized.

Dana Tom shared that even among the happy EDM adopters he called, some refused to teach the lattice method. Gimmicky, does not set any foundation for algebra, etc. 25 Churchill must not have liked it that much either. It omitted it from its teacher "must cover" list too.

What gets me here is why teachers would want this book to teach from anyway?

- Staff is telling them that they now will need to find 75-90 minutes a day to teach math. (What are they going to give up? My children's teachers already lament there is not enough time in a day.)

- It is so training and, despite what the publisher says, prep intensive that they are going to have to give up more of their afterschool and weekend time too.

- The admins are telling teachers they have to supplement and adjust the program to meet the state standards (guess we don't think it meets the state standards after all) on their own and not a word about any help from central admin coming that way.

- And even if just a fraction of the doomsday scenario parents are painting occurs, teachers are going to lay awake at night worrying about students who are frustrated and feeling like failures because they never are given the time to get it. Those teachers will have to use whatever they have left of their now extremely limited free time pulling out a different curriculum for those students and working with even more students before and after school.

- No one shared EDM teachers' experiences - other than the quickie pilots we did here and the words of a few teachers from a Palo Alto school whose principal was on the committee and is well known to have been professionally aligned with fuzzy math orgs for years. Psychological pressure?

Teachers, just call teachers in districts which have used EDM but abandoned it if you want to confirm. Bridgewater NJ. Pittsburg PA. Rocklin CA. Poway CA. St Josephs school in Atherton. International School in EPA . . . just to name a few. They'll be honest with you because there is no longer an EDM party line to tow.

The upshot from this is that next time our teachers won't be so willing to blindly trust staff and the math committee which it runs, and will do their own research before endorsing a textbook. And maybe they will admit, even if only in private, that the parents here were doing them a favor and publicly fighting for something that was politically incorrect for them to speak out against. Many teachers have already taken active parents aside and said as much.

Time will tell.

Posted by GC, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2009 at 6:56 am


How about: What's the percentage of administrators that did full research on EDM and spiraling. HInt: answer<=0.

Posted by GC, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2009 at 7:15 am

It is backwards to ask opponents for statistical data proving EDM is bad. You should be asking the district for statistics showing it is good. Of course, they don't exist.

The district has no statistical data in favor of EDM. It admits it was ignorant of the most important study of U.S. math curriculum in decades and did not take that study into account when picking EDM. It admits it violated rules by failing to include parents. Staff, the superintendent, and board members voting in favor admit they do not know what spiraling is, although it is the CENTRAL pedagogical strategy underlying the EDM curriculum.

No one is asking for a slow-moving bureaucracy. We just want a competent one.

Posted by al, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2009 at 12:11 pm

you make good points. the central question is: what procedural right do you and the rest of the parent community have to force the board to revisit this?

And if there isn't one, we would ALL benefit from a deep discussion of how to improve procedures to allow the community to balance an out-of-touch, unreasonable, or incompetent board - or even a single decision that fits that description but has a big impact on the district.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 1, 2009 at 1:30 pm


The points were raised at the board meetings, no? The board isn't an appointed group--they're the representatives that *we* elected. If they're "out-of-touch, unreasonable or incompetent" you have only yourself and your fellow voters to blame.

From my perspective, each board member voted in character and with the sort of reasons and interests that I would expect. And I've voted for members on both sides of the vote. It's very likely that I will vote for Baten Caswell and Klausner again, even though they split their vote. I'll never vote for Camille Townsend even though I think she and I are on the same of the larger political fence. But I don't doubt that she does represent how a chunk of the community feels about issues.

The board members didn't come out of nowhere. Don't pretend that they did. We have due process as far as they're concerned.

Seriously, I have more issues with the way a charter can be forced down a district's throat with no regard for many larger issues.

Posted by GC, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2009 at 2:28 pm


Although procedure was violated, I bet we have no right of challenge. The larger problem is that the decision-making was incompetent. And there's no law against incompetence.

Yes, in an ideal, thoughtful world, a deep discussion would benefit us all, but my sense is that the district is more or less happy with the result. To be sure, they expressed minor regret about the kerfuffle (Baten Caswell and Townsend were the exceptions--they seemed genuinely worried about damage to parent-district relations), but Skelly's suggested remedy was to change procedural rules so that they match the mistakes the district made in this case. So on balance, they don't see a problem.

The district leaves little recourse for parents who do see a problem. On the larger issue of incompetence, we can wait for the next election and vote out the culprits, though this message is diffuse. We can also withhold donations in an organized fashion, but I don't see what concrete result we could hope for. Also, that is cutting off our nose to spite our face. (Dissatisfaction is running so high, though, I would guess this is going to happen to a certain degree.)

On the issue of incompetent staff, no recourse. Just live with it.

On the issue of EDM, we can start a charter. If I had a child in second grade or lower, that is the option I would follow. Science + Math (Singapore Math) + language Elementary. Good luck to those parents!

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 1, 2009 at 2:30 pm


Are you a U.S. citizen? Then run for the board. Your recourse is very simple.

Posted by GC, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2009 at 2:59 pm

See option 1 above.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 1, 2009 at 3:16 pm


It's interesting to me that a number of the loudest voices are from people who don't have kids in the elementary schools. I really don't see people pulling their kids from Hoover, say, over a math textbook.

Keep in mind that a charter doesn't have to be in the district, it can be anywhere in the county. So leaving a neighborhood school over a math textbook? Also unlikely. Remember, the Bullis charter people didn't have a choice--they created a charter because their neighborhood school was closed.

The PACE crowd was both organized and funded--and they dropped charter plans pretty quickly when they got a trial program. Why? Not because they really got what they want but because charters are a big process to put together.

Seriously, those who don't like EDM will probably just get an alternate set of textbooks, use tutors, etc. Ain't that different from what's going on now.

Posted by piffle, a resident of El Carmelo School
on May 1, 2009 at 5:42 pm

Darn. It's so hard to get a point across to you when it doesn't fit your preconceived world view, but I'll try again.

My main point: You're a bunch of fearful malcontents. Get over it. If you can't comprehend what's in an elementary textbook, get help for yourself. Your kids will do fine if you don't scare them to death.

My secondary point: Most of the people who signed the petition did it because someone struck fear into their heart, not because they looked closely at what the fight's about. The world just isn't that scary when you bother to look at it.

And on Texas: Texas Everyday Math is approved except for 3rd grade, and that rejection was based on ideology, not failure to meet the standard. See Web Link for its status and my above link for an explanation of the ideology. In California, California Everyday Math is fully approved. EDM meets the standards in both states.

Is it really that hard to understand that math taught a way we didn't learn it is a lightning rod for criticism? That doesn't mean it doesn't work; it only means it's a lightning rod. With hundreds of thousands of students having learned from EDM, some will have had trouble, and some of their parents will be angry. The same will be true of Singapore Math or SRA or whatever.

Some people scare so easily. At least get your facts straight before you cry wolf and get others all excited.

For the record, I think all the board members did considerable research and should be commended for their effort to make a well-reasoned decision in the midst of a trumped up storm.

Posted by GC, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2009 at 5:50 pm


The people I know who are most unhappy with this do in fact have kids in elementary. Some of them are livid.

Sure, few people are going to "pull their kids" NOW, but that doesn't tell us much about the strength of feeling--they have nowhere else to go.

You're right that a charter would be a trade-off in terms of not going to a neighborhood school, but plenty of parents take their kids across town to Hoover and Ohlone, where I presume your kids go. And a number of charters have been launched across the country specifically to avoid EDM. Not as unlikely as you might think, then.

Yes, a charter would be a lot of work, so I wouldn't want to tackle it, but then my youngest will only be exposed to EDM for one year. Yet there are pro-charter organizations out there ready and able to help neophytes build a successful school. All it would take is a handful of parents and a leader. I suspect the demand is there, once it's been organized.

So, seriously do-able then. The only question: is there a motivated, dynamic organizer out there with time on his or her hands?

Posted by GC, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2009 at 6:06 pm


Main point: You clearly did not follow the debate and the objections raised. Scroll up and get back to us.

Secondary: Telepathy? Seriously?

Posted by Why are we opening Garland again?, a resident of Green Acres
on May 1, 2009 at 6:31 pm

"I really don't see people pulling their kids from Hoover, say, over a math textbook."

No, they're just not starting them off in the district. Kinder enrollment for next year is down some 170 students.

Posted by piffle, a resident of El Carmelo School
on May 1, 2009 at 8:30 pm

GC - Scrolling up won't do me any good. You're continually revisiting the same material without closure, and unfortunately without any additional comprehension, depth or breadth.

Go read the state and PAUSD standards referenced above, the board packet Web Link, the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (NMP) Final Report and Reports of the Task Groups and Subcommittees, Web Link, studied why EDM worked where it did and what went wrong where it didn't, and perhaps even helped at least a few dozen elementary school students overcome their personal math obstacles.

At least one of the BoE members did all that and more, and she didn't vote the way you wished she would.

I did all that, too, except for the teaching elementary school kids part; I've only taught college students and my own kids. College students come up against some surprising conceptual roadblocks, too, but I'm the first to admit that my experience at that level is near useless at the elementary level. I wish some the college professors who weighed in with their opinions would recognize that about themselves, too.

I've been really impressed by how well the PAUSD grade school teachers I've talked with understand the developing mind and what works in their classrooms. I think they picked a tool they can get a lot out of if some parents would stop trying to knock it out of their hands every time they pick it up.

Go talk with at least three teachers at your elementary school specifically about how they identify and patch the wide range of holes in each student's mathematical knowledge net.

Then get back to us.

Stop to consider whether the reason many many others aren't scared of EDM is because, like that board member, they came in with open minds and didn't filter out everything that contradicted their first impression.

Posted by GC, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2009 at 10:49 pm


Your point of view is a perfect reflection of the administration's ("parents are ignorant and fearful and close-minded"), so it's no surprise you're a teacher.

But besides your ad hominem, strawmen, appeals to authority, and irrelevant detail, you aren't adding to the discussion.

At least you've done some reading--in fact, more than staff. If you followed this issue, you would know that the pausd committee failed to read the report you recommend, the NMP report, the most important study of U.S. math curricula in decades. (Oops.) And if you read the NMP report with full comprehension, you would know it strongly warns against EDM. (Oops, again.) And despite all the heavy-duty, rigorous, in-depth, critical research that staff did, they (and Skelly and the board members voting in favor of EDM) admit they are confused about the central strategy of EDM, spiraling. (Oops yet again.)

So, you can keep setting up your strawmen, but that will not alter these facts, which point to rock-bottom decision-making.

So have a look at what staff and board members actually did and said. Then check in again.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 2, 2009 at 1:53 am


Yeah, I don't like MI. Doesn't mean I pulled my kid from Ohlone.

We're basic-aid--charters are bad news for us. It's a different situation. Given how dependent our housing prices are on our schools, a charter won't get widespread support.

So, no, given how little interest was shown by these now "livid" parents in textbook selection prior to a month ago, I don't see the long-term gruntwork needed to put through a charter. Grace Mah, who would be the one person with the drive and narrowness of focus to push something through, pretty promised not to do so in exchange for the MI/Ohlone mash-up. Plus, it conflicts with her board position.

We're not talking across town--the district could put a charter in Sunnyvale. Or San Jose.

Anyway, a charter over a textbook is a great way to make enemies around here because of the strain it puts on a basic-aid district.

So, grandstanding. You might have something if the scores drop meaningfully. Otherwise, no.

Why are we?

Doesn't wash--bulk of kinder enrollment took place in January well before the textbook vote or debate. Nonissue at the time. Glad to hear enrollment's down though, too many schools are over their desired maximum. Since we're Basic Aid it means more money for the students who are left. A decline in student population is a better thing for us than it is for a general-revenue district.

I'd say the real reason is that Palo Alto has become more comparably expensive--our housing prices haven't plunged as much and were high to begin with. People can't make enough money selling their starter homes to move here. The more extreme strategies--renting one's house and living in a small PA apartment seems to happen more for high school.

It would be nice if there was a little less pressure so that the district could really think through its expansion issues.

And kids could actually go to the schools in their neighborhoods.

Posted by piffle, a resident of El Carmelo School
on May 2, 2009 at 3:38 am

First, to clear two misconceptions, (1) I'm not a teacher by profession; I was a tutor and TA for college science and math students. (2) I think most PAUSD parents and teachers are intelligent and open minded, while a vocal subset is less so.

GC: "If you followed this issue, you would know that the pausd committee failed to read the report you recommend, the NMP report"

It's true the staff said something like, "Umm, we read a lot of things" when pressed at the board meeting. They later clarified that they specifically discussed the NMAP report, its implications and significant findings at the Mar 16 committee meeting during the 6 hour discussion before the vote was taken by secret ballot. Web Link

GC "And if you read the NMP report with full comprehension, you would know it strongly warns against EDM."

You could interpret it that way, but the authors of the underlying studies probably wouldn't equate your interpretation (or perhaps even that of some members of the Panel) to "full comprehension." The NMAP recommendation was based almost exclusively on the work of Schmidt and Houang, who say, "Lack of focus (larger number of topics) is the symptom, lack of coherence is the problem." "Coherence – articulated over time as a sequence of topics and expectations which deepen and reach closure." See Web Link p65-66.

Skip Fennell, the chair of the NMAP committee that made the recommendation, Web Link summed it up: "... I took some liberty with your chapter on coherence because I see too that it is articulated over time in sequence of topics and the depth, but I also extend that myself to the need to reach closure, the need to sort of understand for instance that we have spent enough time emphasis-wise say on addition and subtraction of whole numbers, and that is not to say we would never revisit that, but it is not an emphasis topic at a particular grade level, so that notion of closure." Web Link

The rewrite of California and PAUSD standards brought down the number of topics covered at a time. California EDM's authors designed it to present "a sequence of topics and expectations which deepen and reach closure" in line with the standards.

The questions I expected the board to consider in evaluating the recommendation were, "Under the PAUSD curriculum, are we requiring teachers to bring topics to closure at grade level per the state standards?", "Is EDM an enabling tool for the teachers to use to meet the objectives of the PAUSD?", and "Is there strong evidence that one of the other options would be more enabling for our teachers?"

Before you dash off a response, please read "with full comprehension" the NMAP subcommittee's report on standards of evidence Web Link.

It's scary to think there's a monster in the closet. Open the door and look. You'll sleep better.

Posted by GC, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2009 at 6:18 am

Don't know about wide-spread support, but there could easily be enough to support one school. Keep in mind something like 700 people signed the petition. Even allowing for spouses and people without elementary kids, that could be a school's worth.

And as I said, all it takes is one organizer and a handful of people....

As for making enemies, you're joking, right? I think you're out of touch with sentiment, if you believe that the lines have not already been drawn.

Posted by GC, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2009 at 8:09 am


Got it. So it's only the parents who disagree with you who are loud, un-intelligent, fearful, and close-minded. Thanks for the clarification. I see what I'm dealing with.

As you point out, in the hours before picking the text, a PAUSD subcommittee googled the NMP report and scrolled through it. Are you suggesting this represents thorough, model research?

Yes, the authors of the NMP report spoke to many people and read many studies. In conclusion, they issued unanimous recommendations. The core conclusion, the single thing one should take away from the report, is that EDM's approach is bad. It is pretty straight-forward.

And sorry, California EDM still spirals. The authors did not significantly reduce the number of topics covered, and they sure didn't abandon the spiral. The notion that it reaches "closure" comes from EDM marketing materials and is intentionally deceptive. It reaches closure after three years on a given topic. This is exactly this year-after-year spiral that the NMP rejects.

Your responses are all over the map, much like what we got from the district: NMP is just another study, it's an important study that we used, we didn't use it, it doesn't warn against spiraling, it does warn against a different kind of spiraling, we agree with NMP, we don't agree with NMP, EDM doesn't spiral, EDM spirals in a non-pernicious way, EDM spirals but the CA edition does not, EDM spirals but we in PAUSD will fix it, etc.

This is exactly the problem with the decision-making process: complete lack of clarity of purpose. The desired outcome was driving everything the committee did.

The questions I would have expected the the board to consider were: "Does PAUSD agree with the NMP report? Why or why not? If it does agree, how did that inform your text selection? And does the selected text follow the recommendations?"

All your questions are secondary.

Come back when you have clarified these issues for yourself.

Posted by It's too bad, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2009 at 9:15 am

Piffle -

1. One subgroup of the PAUSD math textbook committee spent 1 hour looking at the NMP Executive Summary an hour or so before they voted.

Given that the "spiral" definition befuddled our Superintendent, all of our math specialists and at least 2 voting board members who had months to look at it, do you really think 1 hour by a few people reading a few summary pages of a 120 page report right before a vote was adequate? Even the Executive Summary cautions readers against reading just it and references the full report to garner full understanding of its work.

2. Nice citations to the Brookings presentation.

Where do you get that all the support for the anti-spiral language "almost exclusively" comes from Schmidt and Houang? Because they made a power point presentation about the NMP's findings? A doesn't lead to B, especially since any one member of the Panel had full veto power over any recommendation. The no spiral was embraced by 100% of the Panel – math reformists and nonreformists alike. If you read the Task Force report you will see that its conclusion came from studying what top math nations do – i.e., the Singapores, Koreas and Taiwans of the world.

What is most telling about the Brookings link are the slides presented by Skip Fennell, at the time President of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the chair of the NMP Task Force that reported to the full Panel to just say no to the spiral. Fennell is a well known outspoken math reformist. His NCTM is a progressive reform math group which, according to the power point you cite, now acknowledges that there is a "growing acceptance of more traditional approaches" among NCTM reformists.

3. Not clear what your point is with your "I took some liberty" quote from Fennell. If you read the whole discussion, Fennell agrees with Schmidt that, in Fennell's words, students "need to reach closure" telling teachers to spend enough time on a topic in one grade and only revisit/not re-emphasize it in later grades. That is called mastery followed by review, the antithesis of EDM's spiral which is a continual stream of revisits without teaching for mastery at any given time. Fennell concludes "anybody who knows mathematics realizes that [teachers should] demand emphasis, demand depth" and then move on, calling this a "critical" math instruction approach.

5. Where you, and sadly the board, errored too is in thinking that the "mile wide" allegation against US curriculum applies to the CA standards. According to the logic, we have to teach too many topics in a year so no big deal that EDM does that too. The "mile wide" is a red herring; CA math standards, lauded around the US as the best in the nation, are modeled after the streamlined standards in the TIMSS nations. EDM fans cannot hide under that umbrella. Web Link

It's too bad that PAUSD is about 4 years behind the curve on a topic so important to so many of our parents and their kids.

Posted by pif, a resident of El Carmelo School
on May 2, 2009 at 11:33 pm

Itb - thank you for your thoughtful response and questions.

1. I agree. The committee didn't as a group study and discuss the NMAP's final report in any substantial way. In order to decide the answer to your question, Do I "really think ... [their review] was adequate?", I compared the locally developed "K-5 Math Instructional Materials Adoption Criteria" Web Link (since rating the state-approved materials against the locally developed criteria was essentially the committee's charter) with the National Mathematics Advisory Panel's recommendations. Web Link In the 'prime directive recommendation', the NMAP's key elements are 'focused', 'coherent', and 'proficiency', each of which the panel specifically defines in subsequent paragraphs, and 'avoid any approach that continually revisits year after year without closure'.

The PAUSD's instructional materials selection criteria are (perhaps surprisingly) well aligned to the NMAP's recommendations, so yes, I think their cursory group discussion of the NMAP's report was adequate.

1.5 Defining Spiral. As Barbara Klausner and others noted at the board meeting, the NMAP subcommittee uses 'spiraling' in a few contexts. Web Link A 'spiral approach' is the opposite of a coherent approach in that it "continually revisits topics year after year without closure." A 'spiral curriculum' is the opposite of one "that expects proficiency in the topics that are presented before more complex or difficult topics are introduced."

Are there 'good spirals' and 'bad spirals'? The NMAP didn't stop at saying "There should be a de-emphasis on a spiral approach." They said exactly what kind of spiral approach to avoid: "There should be a de-emphasis on a spiral approach in mathematics that continually revisits topics year after year without closure."

'Bad Spiral' - Continually revisits topics year after year without without closure [at the appropriate grade level].

'Good Spiral' - Coherence – articulated over time as a sequence of topics and expectations which deepen and reach closure. (Schmidt et al.)

2. "Where do you get that all the support for the anti-spiral language "almost exclusively" comes from Schmidt and Houang?" I traced recommendation 1 to the task group on Conceptual Knowledge and Skills. I studied that task groups report and dug into their citations. I was looking for the objective evidence that supports their recommendation. I found it in the Schmidt et al. references, "who used data drawn from TIMSS."

3. "Not clear what your point is with your ... quote from Fennell." I was trying to re-emphasize the 'closure' predicate that the NMAP put on 'a spiral approach' and to add to the conversation a definition of 'closure' given by the subcommittee chair. Skip Fennell said, "to reach closure [means]... we have spent enough time emphasis-wise [on a topic]; that is not to say we would never revisit that [topic], but it is not an emphasis topic at a particular grade level."

5. I'd appreciate some clarification on this one. If you're saying, "The California standards are well aligned with those of A+ countries", that's my impression, too. I don't think EDM is hiding under an umbrella; on the contrary, according to the committee, the publisher made a substantial -- and successful -- effort to provide standards-aligned resources for teachers.


EDM opponents have bent over backward to say this issue is not about lack of trust of our teachers. I hope that's true.

You might find Web Link worth the read. As a school community, we're all on the same team. We trust each other to want what is best for our children. We've fought for what we think is right. A decision's been made; EDM is in. Now let's get commitment, accountability and results.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 3, 2009 at 1:06 am


I speak from experience from the MI mess. Frankly, this is pretty low-key next to that.

Those 700 signatures may express dissatisfaction with EDM, but that doesn't translate into yanking their kids from their current school and into a charter. If you think it does, you don't know what's involved in a charter.

Some of the most outspoken anti-EDMers are like you--no kids in this fight.

I think it's a wait-and-grouse mode. If the teachers deliver that's that. If they don't, we'll hear more.

Posted by GC, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2009 at 7:51 am


Well if the the committee had been aligned with the NMAP recommendations, we wouldn't be having this discussion. The NMAP's warning was against programs that have many topics every year, introduced bit by bit, without closure during that year. Yet, this defines EDM. Think for a moment: if the NMAP was warning against anything concrete, any particular text, what was it warning against? Against Singapore Math? Nah, against the spiraliest. (EDM)

Posted by GC, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2009 at 7:58 am


I think you missed my point. I agree that most families would not want to put in the time to do a charter. But once it's up and running, many families might consider joining. All it would take is an organizer and a few worker bees.

And actually I do have a kid in this fight. It's just that my kid will only have to be exposed for one year to EDM. In fact, I would consider putting that kid into a charter for 2010/11 if it were up and running.

Posted by It's too bad, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2009 at 9:15 am

Piffle –

The spiral good v bad debate really boils down to two questions:

1. Does Everyday Mathematics allow students to master what they learn when a topic is taught?

2. If not, is that "spiral" approach supported by math and cognitive research?

The answers are no and no.

Question 1: Most math programs build in review of topics covered earlier so that is not the question. The focus is on when students are expected to first master/learn the topic. Does EDM have students learn a topic over an extended period of time via multiple exposures or by hunkering down to learn something and not move on until your teacher is sure you understand it?

PAUSD materials are confusing at best on this point, but EDM's are not. EDM makes it clear that EDM uses the touch-and-run osmosis method: "why does my child have to move to the next lesson if skills in the current lesson are not mastered? This program has a "spiral" design that informally introduces topics for 2 years before formal study. If your child doesn't master the topic the first time, understanding will increase the next time" Web Link,
"as usual in Everyday Mathematics, proficiency is expected only after multiple exposures over several years." Web Link at page 6.

You imply that EDM's early intros are just teasers and closure is reached during the grade when it is expected to be mastered. Are you sure? Check out division which EDM teaches the same way in 4th and 5th grades; division is a 4th grade standard. Even if EDM is a tease-and-teach program, is that an effective use of limited classroom time given that the repeated early introductions do not lead to learning (2 below) and leave students feeling more frustrated than successful in math?

Question 2: Is there support for EDM's spiral method of learning?

PAUSD admits not much ("continuing research involving 'spiraling' needs to be conducted") and cites only one psychologist's study it says supports the spiral.

But that study doesn't say what PAUSD says it says; the study says that kids need to master a topic to learn it and then practice (not relearn) what they've learned from time to time to retain it. In fact, that study references Saxon Math as an example of what teaching method works best, which is at the opposite (very traditional) end of the spectrum from EDM (very reform). Web Link researcher (Doug Rohrer) says in subsequent reports that it is critical that each exposure to a given topic provides students enough time "so that mastery is achieved" before moving on.

Nothing to cite here to support EDM's spiral. This and lots more to refute it.

Rohrer's research echoes what TIMSS nations, the National Math Panel and NCTM President Skip Fennell all found to be true too – if you teach to closure the first time you only have to review (not re-teach) it later to keep it committed to memory. It seems that even you agree when you say that programs that "continually revisit topics year after year without closure" are the "bad spiral."

BTW Rohrer attributes the dismal state of math education in the US to "well-intentioned but untested ideas that simply do not pass muster in the classroom." Wonder if he was thinking EDM.

Posted by Experienced Mom, a resident of Midtown
on May 3, 2009 at 10:30 am

Since Palo Alto is so much better than most districts in our outcomes, why don't we dig around and discover where/how our top 5%-10% students in High School managed their k-8 education? Do a survey, find out how many went to ONLY PAUSD, no tutoring in math, ( or English grammar if you want to expand it) k-8. Simple to do, just survey the ones in AP Maths in Junior year, and you will get an idea of odds. Not definitive, of course..maybe better would be survey those who took an AP math as a junior, then got a 4-5 on the AP exam. Might be better at assessing outcome abilities, not just the ability to sign up for a class.

If only 5-10% of the AP score 4-5 kids had supplementation or private school, then we must be doing something right. If only 5-10% of the kids had PAUSD only...there might be a clue there.

Who is going to do this?

Posted by What?, a resident of Walter Hays School
on May 3, 2009 at 2:47 pm

Experienced Mom,

Probably any parent can go into the math classrooms with an anonymous survey. PAUSD is not going to volunteer.

Problem would be honesty - some kids might lie.

The survey would have to define the word "supplement", such as "parents used flashcards or workbooks or games at home" or "child used computer learning games", "child used tutoring school or afterschool program."

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 3, 2009 at 4:38 pm

While some students would be open about it, many would lie about the fact that they have had the advantage of many years of Math tutoring and preparation in advance of their top lane curriculum each year. Be advised there are some tutors who are not advertised to the general public, only known through word of mouth. I know of one who has instructed her students to NOT tell school teachers that they are tutored.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 3, 2009 at 4:41 pm

I know next to nothing about the tutoring at elem. level - I am certain of a lot of costly tutoring at the middle and high school level (-some also in prep for Math competitions, SAT, SAT subject tests, AP, of course) - but it all amounts to an uneven playing field for those unaware of these practices. The child who is heavily tutored may spend less time on "earning" an A in Math and therefore be able to concentrate his/her time on other areas. This is a very competitive time for college bound teens and this all adds up.

Posted by math concerned parent, a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 3, 2009 at 5:02 pm

Although possibly interesting to know, I think that the people who want to ferret out who received math tutoring might have it backwards. It may be that we are successful in math as a community because, in general, math tutoring is available to the student community at large if, and when, it is needed: the classes don't have to slow down if a couple of students get caught in a rough patch, and less students drop out of math classes from being overwhelmed.

Tutoring is a good thing, people! (Not deserving of a scarlet letter.)

Realistically, different students learn differently and at different paces. To expect the public school math teacher to be the be-all and end-all when it comes to math instruction seems unreasonable to me.

If you feel that not enough free math tutoring is available, I would suggest that you organize a way to provide an adequate amount of quality free math tutoring to the student body at large. I think that would be a great project. Is there such a need?

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2009 at 5:10 pm

I think we all "know" that the reason the math scores in Palo Alto are so high is not down to the wonderful high school math teachers but to the fact that so many of the students are tutored and have been tutored for so many years. This fact is not acknowledged officially by PAUSD, but the teachers are well aware of it and even prepared for it. I have heard at all the high school back to school nights I have been to from the math teachers that they have lists of tutors available for those who want them. They are not talking remedial tutoring (although they don't say this) but about tutors who are willing to excellerate the students learning. If even the teachers are condoning tutoring for whatever reason, possibly because it makes their own students achievements appear better which makes them look better on their resumes, then how can those who choose not to tutor their kids or kids who choose not to be tutored, compete. The playing field is not level.

Posted by Experienced Mom, a resident of Midtown
on May 3, 2009 at 7:15 pm

I completely and absolutely agree. This is not a Scarlet Letter or Witch hunt question. I have tutored all my kids myself and privately extensively, as a parent interested in giving the best options I can to my kids.

The point is more to help decide WHAT is making us "so good" in math that we get bragging rights on Math Awards and APs and types of University Admissions.

I want to try to ferret out how many of the top students relied solely on PAUSD and still succeeded in AP math as a Junior in HS. Of course a lot, if not most, of us help our kids learn their homework etc in whatever way we can. That is not the point.

Maybe to make it simple, it should be a simple question. What percent of the students achieving 4s and 5s on Math APS as a Junior went to ANY private school sometime in grades k-8?

At least that would be SOME data point.

We could also ask if any of those who had no private school went to regular private math classes/tutors for more than 3 years, for example, anytime from k-8.

The point is to try to find out how effective OUR math program is, versus how effective our community's parents are in teaching our kids math.

I ask this question only because I know for a fact that 90% of the top 10 "Math Geeks" at my child's high school went to private school at least k-5 ( if my child is to be believed...but we all know how that goes). And I find that interesting. The one who didn't and had no tutoring etc does extremely well, and I mean extremely. Question is, would the others have done as well without the private schooling? Guess we will never know, but the odds don't look that good for that outcome if you look strictly at who did what.

So, as the old saying used to go "Enquiring minds want to know".

Posted by What?, a resident of Walter Hays School
on May 3, 2009 at 9:04 pm

Experienced Mom, I highly doubt attending private school in K-5 would lead to being a math star.

Yet, with EDM, that statement could change. Challenger is known to be one year advanced and they use Saxon. Singapore math program is also one year ahead of American math. Thanks to the BoE, we will have children who will questionably be prepared for middle school math. The 5th grade teachers are aware of this so hopefully they will supplement with Singapore math, which is what a 4/5 teacher told me she does because EDM is the program of her school.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 3, 2009 at 9:30 pm

The tutoring has nothing to do with students being caught in a rough patch.
It has to do with learning the curriculum in advance in order to ensure an "A" - this occurs while some of the students in the class are learning from the classroom teacher IN the classroom and needing to do the homework each evening.
While some may say it's a free world and parents are free to have their kids prepped in advnace, there is no question it is a nefarious practice. Some stuff kids have tested out of could not have happened without prepping (I mean, they can't automatically be "gifted" and know the material by giftedness.)

This pracice sometimes leads to some students being promoted ahead one year in (honor's) Math and there is NO way this would have happened without the extensive paid tutoring. Some parents have a race on to get the kid finishing BC Calc by junior year. Does it help with top college admissions? I'd like a survey on that. The perception is it does.
Again - it's a free world - but those students are usually not more gifted than many that are going through the system in the usual way: taking courses, moving ahead each year...and learning IN the classroom.
You 'aint got the money you can't do this...

Posted by math fan, a resident of Barron Park
on May 3, 2009 at 10:36 pm

What is it about Palo Alto parents that is driving them to push their kids into BC calc as a Junior? That's a senior class. Heck, it's a COLLEGE class that is offered to High School seniors what want to get some college units at a cheaper price. No sane kid would ask for summer school so they could take BC Calc a year early. (Okay, I know one kid who I used to think was sane who did this -- but her alleged reason: she hates math, and now that she's finishing her junior year she'll never have to take math again. Seems like a warped reason to me.) What about the kid who loves math and wants to go into engineering or math? What's the point of taking BC calc as a junior unless you plan to graduate high school after junior year? What then? Take math at a local college during senior year? Get through college a year earlier? Start a job a year earlier? Why? Do we really hate kids being kids that much? Do parents really want to rush their kids through childhood? Personally, I enjoyed being a kid, and I want my kid to be a kid as long as possible, even if that means she doesn't take calculus until she's 18 (and I'm a math geek). I know parents who are pushing their middle schoolers really hard to study math outside of school and over the summer in the hope that they'll be able to get on track to take BC calc as Juniors. I just don't get it. Why the pressure? I know a senior who got into Berkeley with no AP classes on his transcript. Another who was rejected from all his top choices and is going to a middling liberal arts school despite 6 AP classes and excellent grades on his transcript. I really don't think colleges are looking for the hyper-achieving Palo Alto kid who takes all the AP classes and takes them early. (And this second kid says it is 100% his parents pushing him that he's taking so many AP classes. No way would he do it of his own volition.)

Oh -- and to Experienced Mom -- to add to your stats, the junior I know who's in BC calc didn't have tutoring and didn't go to any private schools. She did, however, study math on her own the summer between 8th & 9th to petition to take honors trig/geometry freshman year. Don't know if she'll get a 4 or 5 on the AP test, but given her track record I would bet she will.

Posted by pif, a resident of El Carmelo School
on May 4, 2009 at 12:18 am


You suggest, "The spiral good v bad debate really boils down to two questions: 1. Does Everyday Mathematics allow students to master what they learn when a topic is taught? 2. If not, is that "spiral" approach supported by math and cognitive research?"

On Q1, from my point of view the answer is 'Yes' - especially when the question is asked in the bigger context, "Does PAUSD enable and expect students to master topics at grade level?" (also 'Yes'). The University of Chicago and the Wright Group provide plenty of 'cut and paste' ammunition for their opponents with statements like, "From the beginning, accordingly, Everyday Mathematics was designed to take advantage of the spacing effect. An explicit attempt was made to ensure multiple exposures to important concepts and skills, spread over two or more years." Web Link. Yet when one looks closely at the 'important concepts' it turns out they're Big Ideas that are developed over years in the international A+ schools, too. Mastery of Big Ideas follows from mastery of a series of small ones. In our Standards and in EDM important concepts are broken down into 'emphasis topics' (borrowing Fennell's wording) that are taken to closure at grade level. There is a goal of coherent development of Big Ideas year-to-year. In the 'emphasis topic' context, your example, "Why does my child have to move to the next lesson if skills in the current lesson are not mastered?" applies within a unit, where a unit comprises several weeks of lessons. I looked in EDM for a topic that should have been closed but was instead revisited year after year, but I couldn't find one. Your example, how division is taught in 4th and 5th grades, turns out to be an example of coherence, the 'good spiral', not repetition without closure, the 'bad spiral'. In 4th grade students master using algorithms to divide whole numbers to find a whole number quotient and a remainder. In 5th grade students extend those algorithms to decimals.

The real question as far as the NMAP report is concerned is whether PAUSD and EDM put too many 'non-emphasis topics' in play to the detriment of the 'emphasis topics'. Where I see coherence with a view to the bigger picture, others see confusion. Let's expect the teachers to be sensitized to the possibility of 'too many topics' and prepared to address it.

On Q2, let's agree that we won't settle here whether EDM's approach is proven effective. Others have tried, and nobody said they were changing sides. Any study conducted or cited by University of Chicago has been discounted here as biased and the WWC was labeled 'bogus'. Schools with similar demographics to ours that had high scores pre-EDM and higher scores post-EDM? Imagine what they could have achieved.

The Algorithms link was good to reread. Carol Dweck's 'Mindset' research popped into my mind when I saw, "An even more serious problem with the traditional approach to teaching computation is that it engenders beliefs about mathematics that impede further learning." Web Link. Web Link. Do traditional approaches foster a fixed mindset? "Through a series of exercises, the experimenters trained half the students to chalk up their errors to insufficient effort, and encouraged them to keep going. Those children learned to persist in the face of failure—and to succeed." Which brings me back to EDM; its 'Keep going and try again in awhile' style would play well with Dweck's insights.

Can we close this with, "It's not perfect, but we can make it work"?

Posted by It's too bad, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2009 at 8:12 am

Piffle -

"Agree to not agree" on the support for EDM is a cop out. There are none and it is disingenious for you to imply that that is just a matter of opinion. Remember the NMP? Panelist and Math Reformist Skip Fennell? Doug Rohrer? Panelist Bill Schmidt? WWC? Stanford and Berkeley Math Professors Wu and Milgram and others?

As for your implication that schools have had increased test scores as a result of EDM, none are mentioned in the 100s of pages the staff produced in its EDM commericial. In lower income districts that use it the test results are sad, especially for minority children caught in the achievement gap. In higher income districts that use EMD there is rampant parent dislike of EDM and even more private tutoring - so no way to know the impact EDM has had on test results there. But don't take my word for it, the US goverment looked at that and concluded that if test scores improved under EDM, which could not be proven, the improvement would be nominal at best. Web Link

The continual retort "our standards require mastery so 'so what'" misses the point - which is that the committee's charge was to select the textbook that is the best roadmap to help teachers get there. A book which is not designed for mastery (# of practice problems, time it devotes to the topic, spiral teaching) is not one that can be worked around easily, no matter how neat the conceptual problems in it are. What parents have been saying all along is why not pilot other books that the committee liked to see if there is better alignment with mastery and concepts and kick out this crazy, unproven spiral stuff.

What then did EDM have that made it the best choice when:
- PAUSD admits that everything core to EDM's design has to be worked around (algorithms, calculators, basic math facts, the spiral)
- it costs twice as much as other state approved text books the math committee liked and has an extremely expensive EDM-tailored professional development program that must be done out-of-house (even more PAUSD money paid to Everyday Mathematics and EDM's #1 fan the Noyce Foundation)
- teachers are already pushed to get through everything they need to teach and now have to cut short the rest of their curriculum by 15-30 minutes a day to give EDM the time all agree is needed to make it "work"
- it is a divisive text in communities all around the US and, as could be predicted, has divided ours too, and
- many parents who have been perfectly happy with Palo Alto's math curriculum so far, thank you, are already lining up tutors for the summer and next year (first in line are those whose children used Everyday Math before moving here)?

No polite way to say this but 3 board members and staff have their heads in the sand on this one - insensitive to all the stakeholders - for what can only be explained as some desire to have Palo Alto be part of the EDM fan club. Everyday Math must serve some sort of great punch at their training sessions to get so many otherwise rational people to go giddy over something like this.

The upheaval one book can cause is dramatic. EDM most assuredly is set to cause more between parents and teachers, send dollars to tutors' pockets and not to PTAs and PiE, and steal precious after school time from young children whose parents supplement because they do not have the experienced teacher who can do all that is needed to substantially work-around EDM.

It is too late now - democracy has gotten us the EDM book and we have to live with it. I just hope that those who contorted a process (along with the 3 board members and Superintendent who saw the contortions but failed to address them because "we would have picked EDM anyway") and who obviously are not living in the real world the rest of us live in are objective enough when the first reports come back and don't hold onto EDM thinking that with just one more year you'll see we were right.

Posted by Survey?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2009 at 8:25 am

tutoring in and of itself may not be bad,

the issue is that tutoring in Palo Alto is at a level that the Superintendent himself has described as impossible to compete with, when he made his remarks about achievement gap students versus Stanford educated parents.

whether it comes from your PHD Math professor parent, Foundations for Education, or Kumon,- tutoring is a huge marker for success, practically a guarantee, that a student is getting mastery, motivation, and self confidence.

It's like orchestra - what outstanding student in orchestra has not gotten private lessons?

Even without a survey, because of the the type of community Palo Alto is, we know how the outstanding students come about.

The real question is not who is getting tutoring and how much, the question should be who is NOT getting tutoring, and are these students among

1) achievement gap students

2) struggling Math students

3) students who give up on Math early on

4) students who don't make it to college

the output measures need to be focused on these students.

Otherwise, teachers and administrators indeed share in the glory of the high achieving students, without giving parents any credit.

Posted by also troubled, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2009 at 9:33 am

So the Board voted to adopt EDM per advice of Skelly and Committee.
In the discussions recommending EDM, Skelly and others made it clear that:

1. EDM does not address the achievement gap, and ELL and Special Ed kids are not well served by EDM BUT the teachers will have to "work really hard" to make the curriculum work for those kids.

2. EDM does spiral, but Palo Alto does not. Thus whether or not they read the NMP report is irrelevant because Palo Alto will not use EDM's approach of introducing without mastery.

3. This highly expensive program is worth it because it is all that and a bag of chips.

Let's just take what they said at face value, since EDM has arrived. What next?

1. The committee and Skelly need to go back and PRONTO put together a detailed plan (not just a plan to create a plan) to address the special needs of students who were never meant to be educated by EDM (as in, the publisher did not take them into account and Skelly said so).

2. SKelly needs to get the committee or whoever to go through chapter by chapter and create a cohesive plan for each grade level for what will be taught, what will be omitted, what will be supplmented, and how mastery of grade level content will be evaluated and ENSURED. This is super critical because up until now all we have heard is that they plan to figure it out by the seat of their pants. UNACCEPTABLE. When Investigations was in its heyday in this district, the district staff were supposed to put together math differentiation packets. Didn't happen in the few years I was keeping track. If EDM is to work in its proposed hybrid form, that all needs to be in place asap, from day One. It is completely unfair to teach willy nilly according to EDM and then dump the responsibility for filling the gaps on the fifth grade teachers (who, remember, were not all that thrilled with EDM -- possibly because they are the ones on the firing line when kids go to 6th grade unprepared, and possibly (more likely) because they actually would like to see the kids succeed and they face a huge task of making that happen when kids show up to fifth grade without basic skills in place.)

3. Skelly needs to provide an actual budget for implementation of EDM (textbooks through professional development). Why this was not part of the equation for the Board is beyond me, but maybe they just think Palo Alto is immune to the international economic crisis, or they don't care. Whatever, someone needs to come up with an actual cost item and explain how that fits in with the overall budget. This would not be necessary if the district weren't eternally holding out its hand and crying poor to the parents to cough up more and more in Pie and bond money. Since the district seems to think the money pool is infinite, time to inject a measure of sanity into their vision.

And please, if Skelly et al say that the only way the EDM can succeed is if we purchase every little bell and whistle, that is a concern. Serve the kids, make the program work, and don't bankrupt the district in the procees. Is that too much to ask?

Posted by survey?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2009 at 10:23 am

also troubled,

the question is WHO cares about this accountability? isn't the majority of the district outperforming in Math?

and will continue to do so, as long as this highly educated community does what it always does?

it may even do better, if even more tutoring is done by the parents fearful about Everyday Math.

this district is so rich, and has so little to lose because of the type of students it has, it can afford to do anything and everything it feels like doing.

Posted by math fan, a resident of Barron Park
on May 4, 2009 at 10:27 am

This is for anyone who takes an interest in math education (regardless of where you stand on the district's decision to adopt EDM). This might be of interest to you:

Web Link

Live Online Chat:

Does the National Math Panel's Report Add Up?
When: Tuesday, May 5, 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern time
Click here to receive an e-mail reminder for this live event.

The National Math Panel, a White House-commissioned task force, has called for a new, streamlined teaching approach for early- and middle-grades math to better prepare students for algebra. The panel's report calls for more focus on whole numbers, fractions, and geometry, but it also makes broader suggestions about the work that parents, teachers, and others can do to encourage young students' learning of math. The recommendations made a big splash among educators, but critics say the math strategies outlined by the panel are too narrow. Join us for a live online chat with two former National Math Panel members about the report's impact on teachers, curriculum directors, academic researchers, and education publishers.

Sign up for this free chat now. We'll start accepting questions 30 minutes before the chat starts.

Posted by math fan, a resident of Barron Park
on May 4, 2009 at 10:30 am

oops, ignore the line that says "click here to receive an e-mail reminder." I copied the text from the weekly e-newsletter. I left this part off, which may also be of interest:

About the guests:

Francis M. "Skip" Fennell, professor of education at McDaniel College and former National Mathematics Advisory Panel member

Vern Williams, math teacher at Longfellow Middle School, in Falls Church, Va., and former National Mathematics Advisory Panel member

This chat will be moderated by Education Week Assistant Editor Sean Cavanagh.

Posted by GC, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2009 at 10:47 am


You're dead right.

The administration said they bought the NMP and they promised us that PAUSD kids would get mastery and no spiraling (since we have such nifty guidelines), so let's take them at face value.

Let's see the plan whereby they strip topic after topic from EDM, recombine pieces of lessons taught across months and years into a coherent whole, and turn this book into a curriculum that fits with NMP. Once they have finished this bloated ersatz Singapore Math, show it to us.

It's not like they're going to leave it up to individual teachers to unwind the spiral, right? What is the timetable for the plan?

(If they tell us by fall, then no one would need to bother organizing a math/science charter.)

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 4, 2009 at 10:53 am

math fan, parents want their kid to finish BC Calc in junior year so they can take Math senior year across the street at Stanford. I understand Stanford is getting tired of all the requests to do this and may be limited the # of students in the past couple of years.
It is considered a major feather in the cap of parents of students who have done BC Calc (even if by senior year).
Incidentally, the high school math curriculum/options seemed to me (disclaimer: I am not a Math professor) quite strong in the main and upper lanes at Paly and I believe students are well prepared for college. That isn't an issue. Competition for university IS as universities can only accept a certain # of students from one high school and there are many ambitious, high achievers at Paly, for example. Any oneupmanship is worth it, to some parents. However, many parents apparently are not satisfied with the pace of Math at Paly but don't speak up, rather they heavily pressure and prepare their kids outside of school.Thesekids have homework and massive prep in advance of math competitions, if you haven't done all that for several years you are unlikely to consider entering the prestigious competitions. I think it takes great parent awareness and planning. All I can say is God help any gifted minority youth who don't have mom and dad handholding them through their entire education like this.
Survey? - your comparison of orchestra students taking private music lessons outside of school in order to have a better position in the school orchestra to Math students having paid tutoring/prepping for the top lanes is NOT really comparable. Math WILL affect your university admissions offers, which are tough right now, whereas one's position in an average school music program will have little bearing on that.

Posted by GC, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2009 at 11:05 am


Interesting. What courses do they take at Stanford? (I sure hope they don't just repeat calculus!)

I've heard complaints from Stanford profs that the kids they get who did calc AP are immediately identifiable because they do no have as good a grasp of the material as the kids who study calculus in college.... This was a general remark, not one directed at pausd high school grads.

Posted by Survey?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2009 at 11:47 am


you bring up an even more important point - that Math angst is really about college admission.

what families or students do to get into college, once they are in High School, is a personal craze. How much can anyone do at that point?

If Palo Alto has SO many high performing Math students coming out of Elementary school, then I rather prefer the new Algebra by 8th grade rule.

However, I think Sup Skelly has problems with such a goal.

Whenever it's about measurable goals, it's a problem. But when it's about spending money, it's not a problem.

It's not for lack of direction that performance couldn't be better measured or accounted for.

Posted by survey?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2009 at 11:57 am

so how many students take Algebra by 8th grade in Palo Alto?

Posted by Experienced Mom, a resident of Midtown
on May 4, 2009 at 12:36 pm

Good question, Survey...that may be the best place to start. Of those who go into are "laned" if you will, into the higher math option, by 8th grade, how many went to private k-5, or how many had professional math supplements for more than..pick a number...3 years? Kumon, math tutors, etc.

If 90% of those kids who successfully complete Algebra in 8th grade and are "on the path" toward Calculus no later than Senior year were kids with PAUSD only, then I would say that this says something about our math programs.

The comment above about how many kids in Orchestra had private lessons is bit disingenuous..I think it would be equivalent only if one considers music to be a fundamental educational requirement. I do not expect a school district to push all kids into music achievement, but I do expect a school distrit to push all kids into math, reading and writing achievement. I consider these 3 subjects to be the minimal proficiency of all graduating seniors, and the ones that are minimally necessary for success in almost any societally valued career. ( Sorry, not digging artists or fiction writers, OF COURSE, before the trumpets calling for war start blaring, simply stating that a society, for survival and growth, values some kinds of careers more than others in a pinch)

Starting a math "career" with 8th Grade Algebra is pretty much a must. Without 8th Grade Algebra, doors start shutting toward higher level math-based degrees ( any field in science, engineering, medicine etc) later.

Posted by math fan, a resident of Barron Park
on May 4, 2009 at 12:45 pm

We can push our kids all we want, but at some point we'll run into the road block of what is humanly possible.

I hear the versions of the same story over and over: he aced the star test every year in elementary school - she knew her times tables in first grade - he's always been a math whiz - math was so easy for her when she was younger - something happened when he got to middle school - it must be the elementary school's fault - the middle school math program is horrible - I have a PhD in math and he used to be so good at math, but now I'm having to help him with everything - the school isn't teaching anything, I'm having to supplement with tutors just so he can stay ahead like he's always been...

Kids first develop the abstract reasoning that is necessary for secondary mathematics somewhere between the ages of 10-14, and when that happens is highly uncorrelated with the child's future potential for success in mathematics.

Kids are notoriously good at memorizing. I can teach your average two-year-old to count to 20, say "purple flowers are beautiful" in Swahili, and recite Macbeth's soliloquy from Shakespeare's Macbeth. But that doesn't mean the child has any concept of what 20 means, what he's saying in Swahili, or what Macbeth is trying to get across in his rant. I taught the Peano Axioms to my little sister when she was 10. It made for a fun party trick, but it didn't help her math education at all.

While most kids can count to 30 before Kindergarten, they don't actually develop number sense -- the ability to understand that 13 corresponds to 13 objects -- until somewhere around 4-7 years old. A similar developmental stage happens in middle school regarding abstract math.

Toddlers learn to walk anywhere from 10-16 months. When they learn to walk, if within that range, has little bearing on whether they'll be a world-class sprinter, football player, or ballerina, or whether they'll be a complete klutz. We don't force our kids to start walking when they're 10 months old, and we don't take them in for physical therapy because we're worried they'll be delayed if they're 12 months old and still not walking. So why do we push kids into algebra before they're developmentally ready for it, or get them tutors if they're still within the range of normal?

I'm not suggesting we just ignore kids. There's nothing wrong with enrolling your kid in gymnastics so that he practices using his muscles and works on his coordination. And there's nothing wrong with supporting your kid's math education by giving his brain math exercises at the dinner table, in the grocery store, or even in extra-curricular clubs and activities. But what I see more of is pushing along a linear path of measurable "steps" in math, rather than an allowing of exploration of breadth and depth. It seems to be more of a focus on test scores and other measurable levels (like math lane) in a continual competition to be better than everyone else along this narrow definition of achievement.

Posted by survey?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Math fan??

there is no research to support your idea that 8th graders, 13-15 year olds are not "developmentally" ready for Algebra.

In Palo Alto, Algebra concepts are already being taught in 5th grade, is that a mistake?

you would only be "pushing" kids to do Algebra if they weren't academically prepared

if not developmentally ready by 13-15, when? maybe never if you wait that long?

Posted by survey?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2009 at 1:24 pm

experienced mom,

just the number of students taking Algebra by 8th grade, I doubt would be disclosed.

Also, what has that number been historically,

maybe 20 years ago all students took Algebra by 8th grade,

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 4, 2009 at 1:36 pm

Experienced Mom,

Of course, the irony of not valuing music is that ALL human societies have music, but several don't have literacy or abstract math. Music's fundamental, so much so that we take it for granted, I think.

Anyway, this thread seems to be all about math in high school and competition in high school. For what it's worth, the kids who end up with EDM should be facing a less competitive college-entry year--just as a result of demographics.

I've never known why anyone who really, really wants his or her kid to go to Stanford lives in Palo Alto. It's a real hat trick to get a kid into Stanford from here.

I think math fan is dead on, by the way. There are stages of cognitive development and you can only do so much forcing. Pushing down the curriculum creates more stress than value. Even as our kids take more and more AP classes, the AP classes become less valuable and less representative of the college experience.

To me, one of the key indicators of this is that even as the GPA and SAT scores needed to get into Berkeley go up, so does the percentage of kids needing remedial English--so many so that there are multiple classes in the program and they've renamed it.

Our kids aren't really learning more earlier--they're focusing on some things at the expense of others.

Like it or not, some kids can do the top lane work without tutoring.
And yes some of them learned their stuff in public school. They're the exception not the rule, but it's a shame to me that we push kids who aren't oriented that way in high school into that kind of situation. Among other things, I suspect it can stifle later development and curiosity. This is one of the reasons universities don't like the hothouse phenomenon. The transcripts are no longer representative of the student's independent achievement and interests.

I think one of the most obvious examples of why pushing down the curriculum doesn't really amount to much in the long term is with reading. I think we've all known kids who were early readers. Ever notice that by the age of 8 there are plenty of other kids who weren't early readers, but read every bit as well or even better?

Who do you think will do better in the long run? The kid who was pushed, ends up in a top school, but burns out in college or the kid who does well in high school, but not brilliantly,gets into a good, but not top 10 school, but then excels there?

Which one gets the better recommendation for grad school? Which one is likely to take more chances and, as a result, do more creative problem solving?

Posted by math fan, a resident of Barron Park
on May 4, 2009 at 2:01 pm

There is research ... I'll find it & get back to you.

Actually, algebra concepts are taught as early as first grade in PAUSD schools -- my observation is that they are taught every year starting in 1st grade. I believe one could call that "spiraling" -- early introductions and frequent repetitions and building up of a topic.

However, I do believe kids are being pushed when they are not academically prepared, or more accurately, rushed needlessly without allowing time for digesting & making their own mathematical discoveries. They're being tutored and pushed in a narrow definition of math that can be measured by standardized tests.

I don't have a problem with teaching algebra in 8th grade (and like you said, it's really done much earlier). What I have an issue with is statements about doors shutting if kids aren't in BC calc by their junior year, and what seems to be a growing attitude that we should be pushing our kids to take BC calc by junior year. (Really -- I have had people tell me, in person, that if their child doesn't get in the secret Jordan Period 0 math class, they'll never get to take BC calc by junior year, and then their chances of a good math career will be forever dashed.) Seriously. They *believe* this. Hogwash I say.

If you check out the PAUSD secondary math flow chart: Web Link you can see that algebra *is* taught in 8th grade. It's also taught in 9th grade unless you're on track to take BC calc by 12th grade. I contend there is no great reason to take BC calc junior year (which implies summer school & tutors the summer between 7th & 8th and geometry/algebra 2 in 8th grade), unless you really feel like taking math at Stanford freshman year.

Assume you want to go where the best of the best go in math & engineering: MIT or CalTech. At MIT there is no assumption that you have taken BC calc -- ever -- let alone junior year. If you are fortunate enough to have gone to a school that offers BC Calc (and few actually do) an AP score of 4 or 5 gets you out of one semester of Calculus. If you get a 4 or 5 on the AB Calc test you can take an intensive class fall and winter intersession to "catch up" to your peers who came in with BC calc. And either of those options puts you a semester ahead of the "standard" math major who starts with Calc I. But my point is: there is no expectation to even have had AB or BC calc, and there is definitely no provision for students who came in with BC calc finished their junior year. Web Link. CalTech is a bit more brutal. They do expect a year of high school calculus, but that's it. They don't expect your year of calculus to have been completed junior year. They certainly don't expect you to have taken a year of differential equations elsewhere before coming to CalTech. Web Link

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 4, 2009 at 2:26 pm

math fan,

I'd be interested in research links.

I had a friend who was on the admissions committee of one of the Ivies. A lot of what they do is try to glean the real student behind the overcoached and polished application. It's frustrating for admissions officers because the professors and the schools don't want kids who've been made to look like something they're not. So much so that the whole thing can ricochet and weed out that occasional nerd who really did do it on his or her own but didn't write the right essay.

Admissions officers aren't stupid, they're well aware that there are parents trying to game the system. I'd say the early calculus push could actually backfire unless there are other things that back up that the given student really is highly gifted--and if they are they probably don't need Calculus BC--particularly as not all high schools offer that kind of option.

Of course, gaming the system does work to some extent. But, once again, where does that get the kid once they're at Harvard or where ever? With all the extra prepping needed to learn ahead of one's own developmental curve, how well have they learned to truly engage a subject? When did they learn to take risks and think creatively?

When did they develop a passion for a subject? That's why you have colleges look for that "weird hobby" dating back to childhood. Not truly fair, but the gaming of the system makes colleges a bit desperate,

Back to EDM v. Singapore--I've been hearing about the crummy academic performance of American students for decades--those same decades when Silicon Valley exploded and the U.S. has continued to set the benchmark for technological innovation--creating in some cases, adapting in others. It's not perfect--we do get behind the curve--but over and over what I've seen is a sort of American genius for switching gears and adapting. And I think it's partly because we're a country of second chances. Because you don't have to get everything right from the get-go, you learn to take risks.

When we get a situation where not only do our kids need to get straight As, they also need to be years ahead in all subjects, I think we set up a situation for risk-aversion.

Exactly what we don't want to do.

Posted by survey?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2009 at 2:36 pm

Math fan,

thanks, I will be interested to see research on developmental appropriateness of Algebra for 13-15 year olds

I hear you on the frenzy about how high can you go, but in reality how many are in the position of getting into the zero period Math class at Jordan?

Posted by survey?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2009 at 2:49 pm

Ohlone Par,

what's your point? accomplishment is irrelevant? let's all just all hold hands and sing? the real "you" is what counts?

and Algebra by 8th grade could hurt you?

Posted by George, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 4, 2009 at 2:57 pm

Let's fire Skelly.

Why not let the PARENTS choose which curriculum is used in their child's class, Singapore or EDM?

Once EDM drops below one classroom full of kids, then the curriculum goes away - good riddance.

It's a pretty simple solution; one that's based on free markets. That'll put some fear in Educrats' britches.

IMHO, EDM is a program that sounds appealing to teachers. It's new, it's fun, they can brag about implementing a NEW way of doing things at their teacher confabs... I would like my children to really learn how to execute the basics rather than introducing inefficient algorithms for multiplication and long division. Let's do it right the first time, rather than trying to prove that there are lots of ways to find the same answer - no kidding.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 4, 2009 at 3:33 pm

V interesting that you have been in contact w/someone evaluating high stakes college apps. "Overcoaching" seems to be extreme now.

Sometimes it appears admissions committees are onto the tricks of today, but not always...a couple of plagiarists from Paly gained top college admissions last year while thousands of more deserving students were turned away. I have no respect for plagiarism or cheating - these are acts which should result in disciplinary action but I know of some parents who have been able to work the system and get their kid a warning. To my knowledge, this was among the so called leaders, so called high achievers, who have been taught to win at any cost.
I guess I would like to see a return to Ethics.
Pretending one doesn't understand/know about what constitutes plagiarism/cheating doesn't wash with me - these are educated students and parents and this stuff is in student handbooks.
YES I know some students do all their own work (hats off) but I have been astonished at observing/having people directly tell me of their underhanded tactics - right here in PA.
I know there are a lot of parent and professional-prepared apps - it is disgusting. There are some costly services in this region that push the child through all the apps stuff along with clever strategies.
I may be out of date, but there was one in downtown PA that cost thousands of dollars and "managed" the entire process - practically "guaranteeing" certain results (how can you do that?)
At the start of school year a couple of years ago at Paly, there were reps from a commercial tutoring service (Cupertino, I believe) handing out fliers touting their admissions, SAT, etc. prepping success about teaching to the test or NOT caring about education and life success in the slightest!
Again and again, owing to my wide personal contacts - I reflect on equity issues with certain youth...
My recommendation: try to have more interviews (I understand Stanford and UC do not do any interviews, unfortunately) because through conversation - to some degree one can assess how knowledgeable/mature/educated the applicant is/their level of personal interest/goals/reasons for applying to that particular school as opposed to pressuring parents who draw up the list.
I am so proud to have a child who did all of his own college apps stuff - I never read or edited any essays. This student interviewed at several institutions, it seemed to be a worthwhile process for all.
As a parent, SURE I worried as I observed parents "packaging" their kids.
However, I have the comfort that my kids can stand on their own two feet and sooner or later, that benefits them.
However, once again, with all the helicopter parents of today, I know freshmen in college often get a lot of parental meddling. I know of a mom of a Berkeley student (PAUSD grad with something like 7 AP courses) who was driving up there to do his laundry, decided his roommate (son of her personal friend), etc., a few years back.

Posted by George, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 4, 2009 at 4:13 pm


The colleges should definitely devalue data spanning over four years + an objective skills test (SAT) that's cross comparable across all applicants in favor of a 30-45 minute interview.

I had to pick myself up off the floor after five minutes of laughter.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 4, 2009 at 4:16 pm


I said nothing about algebra in eighth grade. Please read what I wrote again.

My comments were about the issues with pushing down the curriculum too much can be counterproductive. Indeed, it can interfere with long-term achievement.

What has that to do with singing (though music and mathematics have a strong link)?

Why do you slot things into either/or categories?


According to the same friend, plagiarism is pretty much out of control. And even at the college level, it was difficult to penalize students.

Those same helicopter parents doing their kids' laundry are all too happy to sue when little Jason is caught cheating.

Things like Stanford's Honor Code should be standard and have some teeth. Have the kids AND the parents sign an agreement that makes clear that they understand what cheating and plagiarism are and they agree that the penalties for both can include expulsion.

With college essays, I think it's fine to have someone take a look at them--but the student needs to write them. I know some schools used to require that they be handwritten. I suppose the sheer number of applications now makes that unfeasible now.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 4, 2009 at 4:21 pm


Now that you've picked yourself up, try rereading the thread and getting your attributions correct. (Though your making such a basic mistake, given your comment, *was* pretty funny. Wanna swap reading comp. scores?)

SATs used to be a pretty good measure, but the test was broken down a few years ago, so students who have the money for Kaplan are at an advantage. The SAT no longer functions as it once did.

I'd be interested, actually, in a survey of college admission officers as to how well they think the interview process works in selecting students that do well at a given college.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 4, 2009 at 4:57 pm

George, I did not suggest that an interview replace submitting SAT scores to prospective colleges.
An interview WILL turn up disparities, though.
Yes, some colleges DO interview prospective students.
Yes, paid SAT prepping CAN raise SAT scores.

In some elem and secondary school classrooms, English teachers now have a lot of in-class essays instead of assigning at=home work. Why do you suppose that is?

Posted by also troubled, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2009 at 10:06 am

But we digress.

California is rumbling about mid-term cuts in school funding. Schools all over the state are cutting back. Skelly and his Ivory Tower staff think this is the perfect time to bring in a very expensive program without so much as explaining how much it will cost. The Board needs to get some concrete budget numbers from Skelly and hold him to them vis a vis the cost of EDM. Come on, Board, step up. Enough is enough.

Posted by Experienced Mom, a resident of Midtown
on May 5, 2009 at 3:23 pm

Unfortunately, as much as I disagree with the outcome, the Board and District are forced to spend the money to "upgrade" our math materials every 7 years ( I think) by State Law ( how much I love governemnt control!! The unexpected consequences just crack me up)

So, our district was obliged, under law, to buy something new this year, or write up a very detailed and long "why not" for this year, then buy the new program next year.

Without the Ca law, meant to force districts to upgrade CHANGEABLE materials, like science and history, we wouldn't have to replace everything in the District every 7 years.

We wouldn't want to leave something as important as deciding when to change materials to educate our kids to us mere parents and teachers, would we?

Posted by survey?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2009 at 3:52 pm

Exp mom,

there would have been no shortage of reasons for writing up the "why not"

where does one find all these spiraling California obligations, is it hundreds, thousands of them? all in one place?

and like in an episode of Lost, does everybody just keep pushing the button?

Posted by Jill from New Jersey, a resident of another community
on May 5, 2009 at 7:52 pm

I am a school board member from Bridgewater, NJ who spoke with a couple of Palo Alto Board Members two weeks ago who asked a few questions about Everyday Math.

I heard that the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District was mentioned during the Palo Alto School Board meeting and want to share the details of our districts 12 years' experience with the Everyday Mathematics program. I am posting this as an individual and am not representing the Bridgewater-Raritan BOE.

I'd like to start by saying that just a few months ago our Math Evaluation Committee (consisting of 35 K-12 teachers and 4 administrators) and the 9-member school board were unanimous in their desire to replace the 3rd edition of Everyday Math (2007) with a balanced, more traditional math textbook, HSP Math 2009 (Harcourt).

Before making the recommendation, our committee completed a very comprehensive evaluation of the program and also looked at several others programs. Part of their research was an analysis the National Mathematics Advisory Panel Final Report's key findings, including its anti-spiraling recommendation. It confirmed that Everyday Math's spiral was what the National Math Panel advised districts against adopting.

Here's a quote from the NMAP reprinted in our Report: The curriculum for grades K-8 should be streamlined. It should follow a coherent progression with emphasis on mastery of key topics, there should be a focus on the critical foundations for algebra, and any approach that continually revisits topics without closure should be avoided.

Three education and math experts were asked to review the draft of their evaluation report. All three felt that the evaluation was well-researched, well-written, extremely thorough, and not one disagreed with the committee's analysis/interpretation of the NMAP's findings. The experts who reviewed the report were Dr. Sandra Stotsky, an education researcher and panelist of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, Dr. Jim Milgram, Stanford math professor, and Dr. W. Stephen Wilson, Johns Hopkins math professor.

While our test scores went up a bit while we had Everyday Mathematics, there was no way to conclude that those increases were attributable to Everyday Math. Our demographics have changed significantly with large pharmaceutical and computer company headquarters moving into our community, resulting in a large increase in the number of parents with advanced degrees in the sciences and engineering who provide substantial math help to their children at home. We also discovered that many families hired private tutors when they saw the work their children were doing in our Everyday Mathematics classrooms and noticed that their children were not mastering essential fundamentals needed for success in higher level math.

It was important for our district to look at Bridgewater's performance and that of comparable districts using traditional programs. A Chi-Square test we conducted confirmed, that when singled out, Everyday Mathematics negatively impacted student proficiency in math (details at page 92 of the first, 2007-2008 EDM Report Web Link ).

As part of the evaluation, we surveyed parents and teachers. 31% of K-4 parents and 47% of 5th and 6th grade parents were 'dissatisfied' with the Everyday Math program (15 and 10% were 'neutral'.) We also found that 85% of our teachers supplemented the program and almost 30% said Everyday Mathematics did not prepare students for success in math at the next grade level. (all results are in our reports)

We also looked carefully at how our students who struggled with math fared with Everyday Mathematics. A large number (7.5%) of general education students (no IEP's) needed intervention services for mathematics in our district. For our special education students, only about 40% tested proficient in math compared to the 60-65% or so in Warren and Chatham districts which use Harcourt. These numbers were despite our district providing our math IEP students with two teachers - the regular ed. teacher and a special ed. teacher in the classroom -- to provide them extra support.

We are a diverse, yet fairly affluent community with no shortage of resources, Everyday Math has been supplemented by teachers, and there has been ongoing professional development for our teachers. But after a complete evaluation examining the National Math Panel's recommendations, research on the "math wars", data collected from within the district, community expectations, and reviewing a full range of other textbooks the 39-member math committee could not recommend continuing with Everyday Math. They chose a program which was found to be more balanced and traditional and which met the high criteria they set for choosing "an ideal program".

Math Complete Report Jan. 2009 Web Link
Power Point Presentation to BOE Feb. 2009 Web Link

Jill Gladstone

Posted by GC, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2009 at 8:26 pm

Holy cow. What a professional job your district did, Jill!

Posted by Mom - elem kids, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2009 at 9:50 pm

Wow - such a professional report and such clarity of thinking! Also impressive that they are open to taking input from experts and reading such an important report before implementing a math program for so many kids.

Unfortunately we have people like Dana Tom and Barb M on our board and Tosas who did not give a hoot about what experts say or what NMP recommends.

I wish Dana had tried harder to get this before voting

Posted by Me Too, a resident of Midtown
on May 5, 2009 at 11:28 pm

Maybe I'm dense about this, but this logic makes some sense to me:

1) talented, enthusiastic and committed teachers are the most important factor in good educational outcomes
2) teachers have preferences for certain kinds of material and sometimes just like something "different"
3) PAUSD, being a long-term rich, liberal area, that values education, has attracted lots of teachers like those in (1) and (2)
4) if you give these teachers reasonable material, they will figure out how to get a good outcome

So if you assume EDM is "good enough" - approved for CA use, used in lots of districts- and that our teachers as a group got jazzed by EDM (for whatever reasons), then going with EDM can get us a good outcome. Is another textbook "better"? What difference does it make? Attracting and motivating the best teachers is probably the most important thing we can do to get the outcome we want.

PAUSD teachers strike me as a little more insular and willful than I would like. They certainly don't care much for parent input in my experience. But what can you do? They are the teachers we have, and they have done a good job overall.

Posted by What can you do?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2009 at 8:07 am

To Me Too -

"What can you do?"

- Staff, knowing it could not answer most of the board's questions, could take more time.
- The Superintendent, knowing that state laws were stepped on to get us here, can stop the adoption.
- Our board, knowing that it didn't have all the information it needed, can reverse its vote until it gets it. While it is at it, board members can fess up and share ALL the details of their research. It is troubling that the Bridgewater Board Member says in her post above that she spoke to two of our board members about Bridgewater's very poor experience with EDM, yet that conversation was summarized by one of our board members as an EDM endorsement because Bridgewater's math scores went up. Not shared we now see was why those scores went up (private supplementing), the Chi-Square analysis that shows scores went down, and the parent and teacher survey results that showed substantial teacher and parent dissatisfaction with EDM in their community.

To your points:

1) Are you saying that Bridgewater doesn't have talented, enthusiastic and committed teachers who are resourceful and value education? Nor does Poway, Del Mar, Pittsburg, St. Joseph's, International School, Keys? The list of good schools that really, really worked hard to get Everyday Math to work for them and couldn't is quite long and it wasn't for lack of good and committed teachers, money, professional development or trying.

2) Hard to claim with a straight face that our teachers had a preference for EDM. They were not allowed to compare it to other top choices, 4th and 5th grade teachers on the committee abhorred it, and the math committee which selected it was stacked with hand picked EDM fans -- teachers who had already used it and a few outspoken principals who have been clamoring for it for years. The other committee members, as a committee member reported at the board meeting, felt psychologically pressured to follow along.

3) Ditto #1.

4) Ditto #1, again.

Those who are guided by the experiences of others and objective data don't see how we are going to get where we want with Everyday Mathematics and are very concerned that our teachers and our children will pay the price for wishful thinking. You say EDM is "good enough." Our community thinks our students deserve better.

It's not too late to slow this down. Does our Superintendent have the courage to do that?

Posted by GC, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2009 at 8:17 am


Various problems with your logic.

1) There were several posts pointing to studies showing the crucial importance of curricular materials.

2) No one knows what the teachers want. After a series of procedural problems, a small committee, driven by two people, favored EDM. Also, what the teachers want should not be the last word--otherwise, why not just let them all vote? Honestly, if you told them to use 40-year-old books they would not walk away from the district. Trust me.

3) Perhaps.

4) Well, given the demographic, they're going to get a good outcome even if you hand them Portnoy's Complaint. So that point, of course, is irrelevant. We should be asking: what curricular materials will achieve the best outcome?

"So if you assume EDM is "good enough"" -- As the NMP pointed out, good enough in this country means no good compared with the rest of the world. As the authors pointed out, it is not just that our average kids don't measure up. It's that our top kids don't measure up.

We should aim higher than no much good.

Posted by what a mess, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2009 at 9:23 am


"It's not too late to slow this down. Does our Superintendent have the courage to do that?"

He could, at least he did not engage in putting lipstick on EDM, the way the Klausner did

and maybe after seeing the shabby or no analysis that Mitchell and Tom did, he could have some mercy on this community

EDM has not come close to being worth overlooking the flawed process. And some teachers should stand up to this nonsense too. Where are you!

Posted by also troubled, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2009 at 10:20 am

No, the Superintendent does NOT have the courage, strength of character etc. to do that. Did you see his body language at the Board meeting for adoption? Slouched, languid, not all bright and excited and passionate. Lazy. Just told the Board outright that he saw problems with the program and probably should ask more questions before passing along the recommendation, but was just going to hand it to them. Listen to the meeting again. He just came out and said that he was going to do the easy thing and make the Board do the hard thing.

So now to the Board. Does the Board have the guts to do the right thing? Again, I think not. I would like to know which 2 Board members spoke to Bridgeewater. We now have even more facts. We can slow this down for a year as Melissa Caswell suggested. Note please that Barbara Mitchell was offered the option of voting to postpone etc. instead of an outright vote (by both Caswell and Townsend) and completely punted.

EDM is what it is. There are ways to adopt it quasi-responsibly, namely, to tailor make the curriculum to work for the kids and teachers. That will take time and money. Since Skelly has not even said how much he expects all of this to cost, and since this was as untransparent a process as you can get, the Board should take a deep breath and give it another year. Pilot SRA. Take a vote of the whole district teacher group, an anonymous one so there isn't danger of retribution. Recognize that this whole thing was pushed along by a couple of zealots in power, and fix it.

Alternatively, fire Skelly for completely failing to do his job.

Posted by what a mess, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2009 at 10:57 am

Bridgewater was a centerpiece in Klausner's prepared vote speech.

She used it to bolster EDM, and did no justice to the real process that went on there, to end the use of EDM in their district.

at this point, how do we know how EDM got into the stat approved list?

Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 6, 2009 at 12:53 pm

Also troubled,

At the board meeting, Klausner said she spoke to Bridgewater. Not sure who the other board member was. Does anyone know?

Posted by GC, a resident of Barron Park
on May 6, 2009 at 2:44 pm


So Klausner:

1. quoted Dr. Wu, who is strongly against EDM, out of context to make it seem he supported EDM, and
2. used her chat with Bridgewater to bolster EDM, although now we find out they told her they dropped it after all these problems.

Dishonest at best. Recall?

Posted by jb, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 6, 2009 at 3:32 pm

Arguing about who knew what when is a fool's errand at this point.

What is in the textbook and the order in which it is presented is not the only determiner of what your child is exposed to in a school year.

Get out a copy of your child's grade report. Read all the entries down the left sides of the pages. Those are the state reqirements for mastery for your child in a year of California schooling. Whatever text is used, those are the targets your teacher is aiming for.

No teacher or grade level in a school is bound to teach in the order topics are presented in a text. Grade level meetings among teachers are focused on teaching the standards enumerated by the state requirements.

I wish parents could broaden the tunnel vision from this shimmering, blazing textbook to the curriculum your teachers will be presenting. You have no idea how many resources on line and in the pedagogy libraries of the schools are used to shore up the week's, the unit's, the semester's work. Then there is the periodic professional development required and sought out by teachers in the district. No child's education is taken verbatim and only from a single textbook.

Peace be with you.

Posted by Don't believe it..., a resident of Midtown
on May 6, 2009 at 3:36 pm

I simply refuse to believe that Ms. Klausner misrepresented the two quotes on purpose.

I hope she can come up with an explanation to counter this Bridgewater Board letter.. And then do the right thing, and call for a reversal of the vote, and revisit this...

I live in a world where it is ok to admit you screwed up, as long as you try to fix it...

Posted by Don't believe it, a resident of Midtown
on May 6, 2009 at 3:39 pm

BTW, both Dr. Skelly and Ms. Klausner, as much as anyone may disagree with them, are honest people of integrity and courage...please don't do "politics of personal destruction" in bringing up points. You just devalue yourself and whatever point you are trying to make.. For pete's sake!

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 6, 2009 at 8:11 pm

So in my continuing role as contrarian, a couple of comments on Jill from Jersey's post:

Math scores actually went up while EDM was used. Jill says that the improvement can't be connected directly to EDM--but I'd say that we can say that EDM won't mean math scores will automatically drop.

Flipping the percentages, we get that two-thirds of parents approved of or were neutral about EDM in the lower grades with satisfaction dropping, but still above 50 percent, in the higher elementary grades.

While teachers supplemented, two-thirds found EDM adequate--again, just flipping the percentages here.

Some information that would be interesting--how did the district do in terms of general ed kids needing math intervention prior to the instutition of EDM? Was the 7.5 percent a dramatic increase or drop?

What percentage of parents reported using outside tutoring? Any sense of how this compared to districts using Harcourt? Any sense of where the tutored kids fell on the scores compared to kids not using tutoring?

It's interesting to actually read the report attached to Jill's link--the teacher who did the statistical analysis warns against taking the results as definitive as the analysis was small and things about the performance in other districts were not known. She points out that PSAT scores rose within the district while EDM was in use.

Basically, it's another version of the debate we're having here--and Jill's on one side of the issue. The report itself reveals that as is the case here, there were other viewpoints.

Certainly enough so that I can see Barbara Klausner looking at the same work as Jill from Jersey and coming to a different conclusion.

Posted by GC, a resident of Barron Park
on May 6, 2009 at 8:36 pm


There are two separate issues:

1. What conclusions does one draw from the data? As usual in education, no crystal-clear answers.

2. Did Klausner cherry-pick info (and thus misrepresent it) so as to buttress her view. Sadly, seems like she did.

What really impressed me was the clarity of thought that went into the Bridgewater adoption. They set clear goals (pausd did not), read and took a clear stand on the most important study on U.S. math curriculum in decades (pausd did not), and measured textbooks against the chosen criteria (pausd did not).

Too bad we didn't have anyone as professional working on our adoption....

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 6, 2009 at 9:19 pm


I think cherry-picking is a loaded term--I think you can look at the report and draw two quite different conclusions AND find support for both. While there was a consensus on the board, there was not on the committee creating the report.

That's why I flipped some of the stats--to show that the same ratios could be presented quite differently.

I think the data on EDM in general is far too nebulous to claim that people on one side or the other of the debate hold their views for nefarious purposes.

Posted by GC, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2009 at 8:50 am

It's not a loaded term--it's judgmental.

Look, I did not hear the remarks, but the person above indicated Klausner tried to win support for EDM by selectively using details from Bridgewater, where the decision is strongly against EDM. That's deceptive and misrepresentation. So, yeah, it's cherry-picking for propaganda purposes.

As for the remarks about Wu--it's just flat out misrepresentation to quote out of context like that.

No one claims Klausner supports a textbook for nefarious purposes. The issue here is transparency and competence. The decision-making was clouded by proponents quoting out of context and trying to obscure meaning. The staff gave us a completely incompetent report. Maybe we should look for staff in Bridgewater.

Posted by also troubled, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2009 at 9:34 am

Barbara Klausner is a kind and thoughtful person. She is also a former teacher with over 10 years in this district. That allegiance alone, even without factoring in the highly retributional atmosphere of this district, predetermined her vote. She did, technically, have a choice, but I can see how someone in her shoes would go that way. What she did NOT have to do is misquote and misrepresent the facts to justify her vote. Now I hope she will have the courage to make sure the bridging curriculum is in place and, maybe, to do something about the madness that is 25 Churchill. However, because I believe she lets staff boss her around instead of the other way around, I'm not holding my breath.

Posted by what a mess, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2009 at 10:09 am

I still would want to know how EDM, after having been previously rejected by the state, is on this state approved list.

Was it also a borderline vote that has it on the state approved list?

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 7, 2009 at 11:59 am


But Judy in Jersey also skewed her representation of what went on in Bridgewater. There wasn't full agreement by everyone. The teacher who did the statistical analysis pointed out that there shouldn't be overinterpretation of those statistics.

People filter.

Posted by GC, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2009 at 1:41 pm


You've conflated opinion and fact.

Jill gave us a factual account of the process in Bridgewater shared, shared their conclusions (opinions), and gave us full information on how they came to those conclusions.

Klausner cherry-picked the information she shared and thus misrepresented Wu and Bridgewater. (This may be why Jill felt the need to weight in--felt the conversation had been distorted).

Posted by md, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 12, 2009 at 6:26 am

Palo Alto, you have my best wishes, but also my sympathies. Everyday Math is so full of holes. Have you looked into ALL of the other schools who have tried EM and dumped it ASAP? I have been following this controversial program for several years, and find it has little merit. It's shocking that you would chose it when our country's math students are far behind others in the world. Did you look at the rigorous Singapore program? If your teachers want EM, shame on them! Yes, it might be an easier program for teachers, as the students play lots of games, there are no demands to master material, and few papers to correct. But is this how you expect students to excel? Many will be watching Palo Alto and your experiment with EM.

Posted by boardwatcher, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2009 at 2:04 pm

Ha! Now the Board has a research/survey company polling people by phone about whether they would suffer an increased parcel tax, of how much, and for what. Look back at my postings from the period of the EDM "process" fiasco and I predicted this would happen. Just say no to a parcel tax increase -- the Board adopted a controversial, Cadillac program during a recession (villfying the people who thought we should take a more fiscally prudent, effective, proven program as unsupportive, undereducated, cheapskate naysayers)and over 12% of Californians are currently unemployed. And they want to RAISE the parcel tax? Is there no end to PAUSD's complete lack of accountability? Really, it is to laugh.

Posted by Experience With EDM, a resident of another community
on Mar 5, 2010 at 10:27 am

My child attends a PA school that uses EDM. I have been forced to pay for after-school tutoring for 2 years because of the inadequacies of this program and she now has skills above grade level. I found she was getting almost all of the answers wrong on her very simple EDM homework using the EDM methodology. When I finally told her to forget about EDM and just solve the problems the way she knew how, she immediately started getting every problem correct. EDM is extremely confusing and it is staggering how many different topics they cover, very superficially, in any month. Good luck to you, PA. If you don't mind making your kids do extra tutoring and homework, they will be fine. I, for one, am switching schools to get away from EDM so I don't have to torture my poor kid with extra homework that was making her miserable.

Posted by Experience With EDM, a resident of another community
on Mar 5, 2010 at 10:30 am

To clarify, my child is not in the PA public schools, but in another school that has been using EDM for years, so I'm not basing my experience solely on the '09-'10 school year.

Posted by HPA, a resident of Barron Park
on May 20, 2010 at 10:00 am

I head the Council consider EDM on public TV yesterday. One fact that came out was that EDM assumes that teachers will spend more than an hour on math every day. I think, and please do correct me if I am wrong, that the number was 90 minutes a day on math. Now with 90 minutes a day one could explain how to do the same thing three different ways. With that amount of time, it might be effective and interesting. The problem is that our teachers don't have that kind of time. I am guessing that they spend less than an hour (when you take into account getting started/transition time). I honestly don't think that they do EDM "every day." This creates a big problem. Basically, PAUSD is not in a position to use the program properly. It just may not be a good fit (without a great deal of tinkering). If one only had a few hours to explain and practice something like long division, then naturally it would make sense to teach only way (not three). It doesn't mean the other ways are bad, it just means that if one really wants to teach three ways then there must be three times the amount of time.

If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Indian street food and ... bitcoins?
By Elena Kadvany | 4 comments | 2,840 views

. . . Loved in Spite of Ourselves
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 2,150 views

"The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden"
By Anita Felicelli | 0 comments | 997 views

I Spy
By Cheryl Bac | 4 comments | 860 views

The Cinderella ride
By Sally Torbey | 10 comments | 699 views