Redesign of middle school math elicits both enthusiasm and criticism | Town Square | Palo Alto Online |

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Redesign of middle school math elicits both enthusiasm and criticism

Original post made on Dec 11, 2019

Palo Alto Board of Education members and some parents were largely enthused about district leadership's plan to overhaul middle school mathematics, while other parents pushed back.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, December 11, 2019, 9:35 AM

Comments (62)

66 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 11, 2019 at 10:54 am

I feel really fortunate my child is well into high school and won't be a subject of this latest experiment.. This change sounds really ill advised. We suffered through the "Everyday Math" fiasco in elementary school.. glad we can avoid the negative learning impacts of another math experiment. de-laning math will just increase tutoring (and pressure to skip ahead) because students capable of more will be held back in class. If you want to help students traditionally in the lower lanes, raise expectations and teach better and harder material in those lanes.


11 people like this
Posted by JLS parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 11, 2019 at 11:06 am

All 8th grade students in at least Algebra == raised expectations
Some will be in Geometry in 8th grade if they skip 6th or 7th grade math
So this sounds good to me


28 people like this
Posted by Independent
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Dec 11, 2019 at 11:09 am

The award winning publication ignores that Pausd has been under serving these underperforming children for years. It's not just now. Check the third grade math, 6th grade math, 8th grade math CAASPP scores and so forth.

Might tutoring in math be common at PAUSD due to mediocre Pausd teaching of math? To confirm this, check econ disadvantaged students scores, only 25% are proficient in math in 6th grade. These students may not have parents who can easily help them w their math, or provide tutors who can. Why not address that these students are not and have not been served?

Instead, social engineering is promoted.


9 people like this
Posted by Duh
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 11, 2019 at 11:14 am

[Post removed.]


9 people like this
Posted by Menlo Mom
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 11, 2019 at 11:39 am

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]


29 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 11, 2019 at 11:43 am

"There is an achievement gap because no one has the courage to fight to end the VTP/Tinsley program"

That's incorrect. First, many students in the VTP program are not low-income, and the middle-income students often do well. Second, PAUSD does an equally poor job with low-income students who live in Palo Alto (about half the district's total low-income students).

A more correct statement would be that PAUSD low-income students do less well than similar students in other districts, despite the district's much higher funding and a overall student population much easier to serve. That's the problem they need to work on.


28 people like this
Posted by broken campaign promises
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Dec 11, 2019 at 11:44 am

So much for campaign promises from Dauber and Dharap who, just a year ago, told would-be school board voters that they support laning.

Last night the two were all smiles when de-laning was proposed.

At the October 2018 PTAC Forum:

Ken Dauber - "The real conversation is around...what supports do we provide to students to move across lanes... The question of whether we are going to have laning or not is just a question that is not on the table.”

Shounak Dharap - "We do need to do more to bridge the lanes because students who are already in lower lanes have a very difficult time in bridging those lanes to more advanced courses."

At least DiBrienza was honest when she ran for the school board. She said "delaning can work well."


5 people like this
Posted by Disgusted
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 11, 2019 at 11:50 am

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]


46 people like this
Posted by cmarg
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 11, 2019 at 11:57 am

cmarg is a registered user.

It could be effective if they put in place Math Specialists (like Reading Specialists) in the elementary grades. K-5 students can be pulled out and work 1-1 with a Math Specialist (just like done for reading). It can work but you cannot expect someone coming in to 6th grade at a 3rd grade math level to do twice the work and be pushed beyond their developmental level. This really needs to start in elementary school.

As a math teacher who taught a mixed group of 6th grade students in another district, it did work out well. I did have to offer 3 levels of homework and I provided tutorials during lunch and after school. The students in the "lower" level wanted to move up and so they did work harder. The students in the "upper" level got some more advanced work they could do to push themselves, if they chose to do that. It did create a nice environment for the students and the students were extremely respectful of one another. It was by far my best teaching experience, albeit lots of work on my part, but the students soared.

We are not going to find the quantity of teachers who want to work the 10-12 hours a day to make this happen. So, best first step is to get Math Specialists in the Elementary grades. Why are there only Reading Specialists? No one is complaining that we need to revamp English classes because the intervention starts in Elementary School. Please push the district to explore this!


12 people like this
Posted by foodforthought
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 11, 2019 at 12:00 pm

foodforthought is a registered user.

Laning is a racist practice that creates schools within schools and holds students to different expectations. The only thing that is watered down is your children's racial literacy when they are raised to believe that racial segregation within schools is natural and normal.

Someone referred to delaning and the heterogeneity that will come with it as social engineering. This ignores the fact that for hundreds of years our communities have been socially engineered to be segregated and homogeneous. Odd that no one is calling that "social engineering." It is long past time to dismantle laning and create integrated classrooms.


32 people like this
Posted by Mastery-based education
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 11, 2019 at 12:00 pm

Individualized math instruction is the answer. Prof D Kohler at Stanford has made a convincing case (TED talk) for mastery-based education ending the six-sigma (bell curve) problem from studying this with MOOC's.

Trying to make a lot of students do the same thing all at the same time is for the convenience of the school, and nowadays, for the convenience of the school not adopting better pedagogy that would allow individualized instruction.

In Palo Alto, even when students are in the same class, there is a stratification of opportunity that is pretty negative for kids not in the favored group. Tutoring gets the kids in the favored group. Those who have, get more, those who don't, suffer more.

The way the district sifts kids into these groups is also deeply flawed, and the district has never been willing to come to terms with the way favoritism and conversely, retaliation, have played and continue to play a major role in the educational opportunities of many.

The answer is supporting individualized instruction. Yes, it will take training and a different mindset among staff, but it's better for kids across the board.

My kid was not on track to take calculus in high school here. Leaving the district for high school and just homeschooling, my kid was able to take Calculus AB and BC IN ONE SEMESTER by 10th grade. Test scores went way UP because of leaving. What I had to do as a parent in the latter case was WAY less work than the battles with teaching staff in the former. I believe we basically have good people here in this district, but they can't ever do a good job across the board for students with a factory model of math education. It's not necessary to do things that way anymore.

There aren't many studies of homeschoolers and testing, but the ones that exist show homeschoolers have higher standardized scores and no achievement or gender gaps. Which makes sense because we're talking about individualized instruction, absent institutional biases. One of the fastest growing segments of homeschooling is African-American families who don't want to fight institutional biases hurting their kids' educations anymore. I just want to point out that a lot of homeschooling in California happens in PUBLIC school districts/programs, i.e., it isn't anything new to provide individualized instruction in public contexts.

Big egos and a lack of any practice at doing the right thing even when staff don't like students/their families (usually because families get mad at how badly they are treated, but forgetting that for the moment) are what make moving to an individualized model harder, but it's not an impossible problem to tackle. We would all benefit, in math and everything else, if we did.

If all students are following their own path, it's much harder to make competitive comparisons, allowing students to be more collaborative. Teaching to mastery allows students to focus on learning rather than grades, and everyone can do better.


4 people like this
Posted by seems appropriate
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 11, 2019 at 12:07 pm

"fail fast"


14 people like this
Posted by Yuri
a resident of another community
on Dec 11, 2019 at 12:22 pm

"We know that teaching to the test is bad. In Palo Alto, we have an added and equally troubling practice: teaching to the tutored. That tutoring is largely focused on acceleration rather than remediation,".....

It was CAASPP test scores, and the disingenuous interpretation of them, that led to this whole "initiative". As a result, you will get "teaching to the test" because that is the only way PAUSD measures success in math.


11 people like this
Posted by Yuri
a resident of another community
on Dec 11, 2019 at 12:27 pm

PS - Has anyone asked Mr. Austin how well similar reforms worked during his tenure in Palos Verdes?


43 people like this
Posted by Matthew McClain
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 11, 2019 at 12:35 pm

Most worrisome to me is the intentional elimination of the best math performance metrics our district has, our NWEA MAP results, which afford a "real time" (3x per year) view and would enable us to compare results "apples to apples" with past performance on the same metric.  Accountability and transparency are needed now more than ever.

District staff struggled mightily to answer questions from board on assessment.  We need to ask our board to hold staff accountable.  No assessment is perfect, but data can make fools of our ideologies, my own included.

I strongly support higher expectations for PAUSD in serving ALL kids toward increased math excellence.  Being that it seems this is happening, we should advocate strongly for two common-sense emendations:

(1) Insist on an NWEA MAP assessment plan with public reporting on cohort level data, for quick visibility and reaction (or celebration) if warranted.

(2) Ensure that the proposed acceleration routes are determined openly with standards-aligned, non-home-grown mastery criteria.  History is not on the side of district admin in being honest brokers here.  This is an A+ opportunity to change that and start bringing our community together, not apart, on math excellence.

If we do those two things, this can indeed represent progress toward transparency and a commitment to student success, whosever ideologies are eventually disappointed.


14 people like this
Posted by veteran of 1990s math wars
a resident of Escondido School
on Dec 11, 2019 at 1:43 pm

veteran of 1990s math wars is a registered user.

No, 2009 was not the most bitter "math war" era in the PAUSD. First round, in 1994-96, was much worse. Back then, the innovative curriculum developed by dedicated JLS and Jordan math teachers to encourage all students to master problem solving lead to the first effort to de-lane 7th grade math. Group of traditionalists who preferred standard pre-Sputnik math teaching that anointed 10% of students as gifted and made all other students feel like failures rose up in protest. They parroted all of today's pro-laning arguments about holding the "brighter" kids back that we are hearing today ended up driving the good teachers away and setting PAUSD back for more than a decade. Very divisive, non-student centered rhetoric, and school board without a backbone, driving the good teachers away after a few years.

Here's what happened to my two very different kids during that period: Older kid was similar to Kobi Johnsson's experience: in 6th grade, he was not that interested in school, though very bright. In spring of 6th grade year, when the 7th grade laning decision was made (pre-algebra high pressure traditional math vs mixed new problem solving approach), his 6th grade teacher helped raise our awareness that that tutoring was not going to fix the problem, and encouraged us to consider the problem solving approach (aka "balanced math") instead of pushing him into the 2 sections of honors lane pre-algebra. We are so glad we listened to her! In 7th grade, with a non-rote learning "differentiated instruction" approach, he really thrived on solving problems and mastering the optional extra challenges, as opposed to all of his friends in "pre-algebra" who suffered with hours of problem sets that led most of them to need tutoring and made them hate math forever. Then my son got lucky and had an amazing, enlightened algebra class in 8th grade, that turned him on to math for life. He ended up sailing through B/C calculus and is now in a high tech field where highest level math problem solving AND practical real world challenges are required every day. This did not happen with any of his friends assigned to the Honors lane in 7th grade, BTW.

Three years later, my younger son was in 6th grade and still hadn't memorized his times tables -- but he enjoyed the "problems of the week" which allowed multiple paths to the correct answer. Luckily, he ended up with the same 7th grade teacher my older son had had who made sure to encourage students at whatever level they were starting from. Incredibly, this son learned a different way to do multiplication problems than my husband and I had learned in our traditional math classes in the '50s and '60s. And the same kind of lightbulbs going on was happening in the heads of many of the students who had struggled with math, including kids of color, those with families who didn't speak English etc. They no longer hated math, they learned the tools they had learned. Even now, 20 years later, this son can still do multiplication problems in his head quicker than either of his wonky parents.

It's really good to hear that in 2019, the PAUSD school board and superintendent have been working with the teachers to find a solution to "serve the individual needs of students with a desire not to create a stratification system that makes some early decision really consequential." Thankfully, the data are now clear about the benefits of unlaned math in middle school that can meet students where they are without branding students as "dumb" or "smart" for the rest of their lives. It's about time!


34 people like this
Posted by Lanes-Not-Racist
a resident of another community
on Dec 11, 2019 at 1:48 pm

> laning is "racist".

Some people could find "race" in an empty elevator. As a child I went to a school whose students were all of the same race. Laning was practiced, as it was seen to be beneficial to the students in each of the lanes.

Hard to see how the school administrators constructed this practice in order to practice "racism" in this community.


5 people like this
Posted by Greene and Paly parent
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 11, 2019 at 2:23 pm


Interpretation of the district proposal and potential implications is here:

Web Link


59 people like this
Posted by E to the x, dy, dx
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 11, 2019 at 2:27 pm

We have laning in sports and no one blinks an eye. Want to play varsity basketball at Paly in the beautiful gym, tryout for the team. You might not make it. Want to play soccer, there are club teams and select teams that all have tryouts.

Perhaps we should have de-laned sports at Paly. I would like to see a basketball teal composed of all kids. Why should only the best kids get to improve their skills against each other? Isn't this depriving the kids at the lower end of the ability spectrum from improving?

How about the kids that make the varsity team? Or got cut. Is it too young to be experience such negative feedback? Are those kids now locked out forever from playing college sports? Shouldn't we do everything possible to ensure that everyone becomes a varsity athlete?


45 people like this
Posted by E to the x, dy, dx
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 11, 2019 at 2:44 pm

Someone please enumerate - which sports at Paly and Gunn don't cut kids based on athletic ability? How fast you can throw a ball, how quickly you can run, how fast you swim, etc.

Are the sports teams based on ability or interest? Why are there varsity teams at all? Athletic ability is nurtured by parents who can afford camps, coaches, all-around teams.

Why is any of our tax money going to a small percentage of athletic (presumably already advantaged) kids instead of all kids regardless of ability.

Wouldn't it make sense to de-lane all athletes? Mix players of all abilities. Lets build varsity teams that are reflective of all abilities here in PAUSD.

Lastly, lets eliminate scoring and time-keeping, e.g. eliminate times at track meets and eliminate scores at basketball games.





37 people like this
Posted by rsmithjr
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 11, 2019 at 3:15 pm

rsmithjr is a registered user.

@ E to the x dy,dx

Clever name. Gives a sense of how this conversation keeps going.

Actually, I always wanted to play the piano at Carnegie Hall. But I didn't practice enough and probably didn't have the ability anyway.

Lots of students can do much better than they do. They need to study harder, it is not automatic for most of us.

This new proposal simply says that math really doesn't matter very much and students don't need to learn it and, more importantly, administrators and teachers don't need to be held accountable for the students not learning it.


18 people like this
Posted by Greene and Paly parent
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 11, 2019 at 3:50 pm

Dauber said:
"Some students will find themselves in seventh grade algebra and eighth grade geometry because that's where they should be ... and others will be in a different place,"

Huh? "Find themselves" is a gross misrepresentation of the process PAUSD currently uses and plans to use going forward to place students in a "geometry pathway."

Indeed neighboring districts (Los Altos, Cupertino, Menlo Park City, Mountain View, and more) offer an organic pathways to 8th grade Geometry. For example in Los Altos, students simply take 5th grade math at school and then in 6th grade 43% of students "find themselves" in a geometry pathway (7th grade Algebra, 8th grade geometry).

At PAUSD we are different. MS geometry is NOT ACCESSIBLE to students that simply take PAUSD math courses, even if the get "A+" in every single test. The only way a student may "find themselves" in geometry is by extensive external preparation and being "in the know." Even then, the placement process fails the majority of qualified students. Only ~6% of of our students navigate this.

Of additional concern is the demographic breakdown of PAUSD MS geometry courses compared with other districts: We have only 22% girls (based on last two years, JLS and Greene) whereas at Los Altos these courses are gender balanced (!). The PAUSD courses seem to also have very few white students compared to Los Altos.



More on the PAUSD geometry pathway:
-------------------------------------
At PAUSD, a student can get to MS geometry only by "skipping:" Learning 1.5 years of content on using family resources and during after school time. This while the student math learning time at school is spent in an often irrelevant math course (1+ years below) where teachers are directed not to allow students to engage in math content not related to the school course. The placement exams are mysterious and there are additional requirement to "qualify" to take a placement test. The districts produces one placement exam (called "mastery test") that is used for multiple years (previous one was used for 7-8 years). There are no "example" tests or review material provided. The cut score is set so that must students that organically place in the course would fail. This process will not significantly change. The current version allowed skipping of Algebra and 7th grade math but not of 6th grade math. The future version (finally) will allow skipping of 6th grade math. But all indication is that the placement (newly termed "validation" process) will be designed to maintain the same low quota.


5 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 11, 2019 at 4:05 pm

Posted by E to the x, dy, dx, a resident of Barron Park

>> Wouldn't it make sense to de-lane all athletes? Mix players of all abilities. Lets build varsity teams that are reflective of all abilities here in PAUSD.

Good idea. It is called "PE". Actually, where I went to college, we also had intramural/club co-ed sports. Volleyball and softball work well co-ed; co-ed basketball, not so much, but, (same-sex) basketball is famous for informal games. Personally, I don't see why we spend so many tax dollars on competitive sports, especially (American) football, Swimming is great because you can continue to swim at any age, but, you can also get much better with good coaching. I think we are missing the opportunity for all students to stay fit throughout high school by only focusing on competitive sports and by dumbing down PE.

Posted by rsmithjr, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis

>> This new proposal simply says that math really doesn't matter very much and students don't need to learn it and, more importantly, administrators and teachers don't need to be held accountable for the students not learning it.

It does sound that way. BTW, I found a website with some international comparisons. Since "Singapore" is getting so much attention lately, I thought I would take a look-see here: Web Link

To my eye, 8th grade in Singapore looks like what we had in 9th grade during the Space Race.

Regarding the US, under NCLB, I thought all 7-8 grade math teachers should have been math majors or equivalent by now, but, I'm getting the idea that even in PAUSD that is not the case. Anyone know?

"New middle and high school teachers must demonstrate expertise in the subjects they teach either by passing a specified academic subject test or by successfully completing an undergraduate major (or coursework equivalent to an undergraduate major), a graduate degree, or an advanced certification or credentialing."


21 people like this
Posted by Member1
a resident of another community
on Dec 11, 2019 at 4:20 pm

Member1 is a registered user.

Great . Most colleges want to hear how kids challenged themselves pausd kids will have to they wanted to go forward but were delayed so others could catch up while they waited and did nothing. Why are they sooo stingy with math. What is the fear??


13 people like this
Posted by Yuri
a resident of another community
on Dec 11, 2019 at 5:17 pm

Jordan (Greene), back in the day, offered "schools within a school". Not that it was great, because plenty of folks complained, but why not offer a "traditional math" option and a "balanced" math option? Elementary schools have reputations along these lines: Hoover = Traditional, Ohlone = Alternative. Caring parents can consult with their child, and then they can make their choice. The school can offer support in what choice might be most appropriate for their individual child.

Unfortunately, the district has quite recently wedded itself, time, and many dollars to the ideas of alignment, standards based grading, no grading, and standardized test results. How will they talk their way out of that box if they offer two very different versions of math?

Hopefully they are on the case. Gravy train getting crowded.



7 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 11, 2019 at 5:37 pm

Posted by E to the x, dy, dx, a resident of Barron Park

>> Are the sports teams based on ability or interest? Why are there varsity teams at all? Athletic ability is nurtured by parents who can afford camps, coaches, all-around teams.

"E to the x, dy, dx" , you have inspired me. I think I have the solution to the problem of mathematical education, something that has been an issue in education during my entire lifetime.

Proposal:

1) Modify the school day so that everyone has a time slot for their choice (must choose one), "club".

2) Everyone takes a basic math track, culminating in 11th grade Algebra II and 12th grade "BEAM".

3) "Math Club" is open to any student who choose it. "Math Club" will proceed at the same pace as, roughly, "Singapore Math". Students slipping behind may step back a year to catch up. At the conclusion of HS "Math Club", students should be able:

"to prove properties and results, and solve non-routine problems involving:
a) Numbers, e.g. primes, coprimes, divisibility, modulo arithmetic, greatest common
divisor, division algorithm;
b) Functions, e.g. graphs, symmetries, derivatives, integrals, differential equations,
limiting behaviours, bounds;
c) Sequences and series, e.g. general terms, sum, limiting behaviours, bounds;
d) Inequalities, e.g. AM-GM inequality, Cauchy-Schwarz inequality, triangle inequality;
e) Counting, e.g. distribution problems, Stirling numbers of the second kind, recurrence
equations, bijection principle, principle of inclusion and exclusion."

Sounds like a math "class"? Well, if students aren't allowed to learn advanced topics in a regular class, why not in a club?



20 people like this
Posted by shane246
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 11, 2019 at 9:02 pm

math is racist. grades are a result of systemic racism in which some groups have time & means to prep for exams. so lets eliminate them both. infact education itself is racist. so let's outlaw education. let's all go back to a hunter & gatherer society. to achieve equality of outcome, what ever is the fruit of one's labor should be equally divided amongst all. I think there is a name for this but since education is outlawed, I never learnt it. what a great Bernie sander's utopia.. can't wait for this dream to come true !!


27 people like this
Posted by Jimmy
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 11, 2019 at 9:38 pm

Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what's for dinner. Drop the MAP test so we can't measure the damage de-laning does. Drop the SAT. Give all students A's so nobody feels bad. Give everyone medals. All you've accomplished here today is to weaken a nation.


11 people like this
Posted by Gary Bradski
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 11, 2019 at 10:55 pm

Gary Bradski is a registered user.

They have causality reversed:
If you want to learn a musical instrument, you practice over and over until you get a "muscle memory" for it. Same for sports. Reading about instruments or tennis won't help you that much because understanding follows more from fluency.

Drilling for quickness will end in deeper understanding. Understanding follows from fluency, fluency does not follow from understanding. Drill baby drill! As they say.

How I Rewired My Brain to Become Fluent in Math: Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 12, 2019 at 12:20 am

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by ,member
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 12, 2019 at 7:41 am

Ok, This district is has very good titles for its programs and good intentions possibly, but forgets that acronyms have meanings. RISE for their sexual assault programs. FOS for kids needing support. ROOTS.. not sure what that one was but seemed inappropriate. New math program--- Lanes or Lose. LOL . any others?

I agree that fluency is missing and considered a punishment. then homework takes longer and as they go up levels they are mired in counting on fingers instead of seeing patterns or what have you.


13 people like this
Posted by member 1
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 12, 2019 at 8:22 am

E to the x

Yes. also, lets just let kids pick up instruments and go to concerts and hear what not learning a skill or practicing sounds like. I think that is the math program now. Loud noise and nothing else. Always has been.

Russian School of math and help from BAMA, and the wonderful Art of Problem books and community helped me understand what I needed to expect and provide for my kids. I have no math background and was able to use those resources and people to get my kids to calc 3 by 16. We also took off 2 semesters just ot do proofs and projects. I found people that liked to give guidance. The Paly math lead refused any help or guidance. There is teacher at Cubberly that offers math--Euler math I think and this can lead to math camps. This is for the kids who have good skills and like to practice. He is probably a good one to talk to when your child is very smalls. Also A good stalwart fixture in the math world is Claudia Shubin at San Jose state. She runs great math circles and they are very cheap and high quality and she is connected with the PROOF school and knows what kids need early on. One of my kids does not need instruction in math patterns. For some reason, she would just see it once and just realize what was going on. but even with that, she needed direction and skills and enjoyment of solving problems with others at her level to go forward.

Parents who think you are bad at math, go get good at math with the amazing resources here and online. Another very, very fun thing to do is to work a bit through Coursera and Ed ex classes taught by amazing people. Even if you do not take the entire class, or do any work, taking a young child and letting them try to listen and see what is in their future and what they can do is exciting. Hearing an orchestra play a piece well is motivating and what kids can aspire to is importants. They have to be given the feeling that they are important and they can be great and do anything, but they also must see an end product.

Parents, you can do this for them. Do not waste a child's intellect waiting for Palo Alto to get it together and test your kid like a test rat. If I can do it with only a pre calc math level, you can do it. I have to say, I have had fun learning what I missed with the NEW math I had to suffer through.


There will always be enough math for every kid to do. They can never "run out" of math. no one will starve. It is a mystery why the people who only look at number strands and counting like to hold back thousands of kids on a very fun, exciting, endless path. Perhaps they have a phobia of kids that might need to be responded to and they will not be able to help them and look stupid. Rather than going forward in their own math education or finding others, this district has put a stopping point on something we need to be setting all the kids free with but with tools.


2 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 12, 2019 at 8:44 am

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

I am a big believer in arts as a tactic for solving policy, and that the school should have more steam:
Here is a recording of a song written by a former paused student and now a teacher here — it’s about the need to not take this stuff too seriously :
Web Link


19 people like this
Posted by concerned parent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 12, 2019 at 9:31 am

During the meeting, the plan was described as an experiment; one that is designed to fail fast in true silicon valley style.
pressed. When pressed by Ms. Caswell, the presenters did not have answers to how the plan was going to be evaluated or how skipping would actually work. When pushed to ensure that standards would not be lowered, there was a general "yes we will" with no specificity about exactly how.

Please don't experiment with our children. They deserve a well thought out plan, which we have spent quality time researching and debating. It is disappointing to see the board risking lowering the quality of math education in the district this easily.


20 people like this
Posted by Reality check
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 12, 2019 at 9:50 am

Right now middle school math isn't working very well. So the idea that this is a big risky experiment seems wrong. To me, getting every student to at least Algebra in 8th grade is a huge improvement. What seems to be motivating a lot of commenters is the idea that their kids will lose the ability to be in an "advanced" lane that ends in Algebra! Are you interested in better math education for all kids or are you interested in your own kid getting to be in a higher lane than others?


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 12, 2019 at 9:51 am

Sounds like Harold Hill's teaching methods. Trouble right here in River City.


3 people like this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 12, 2019 at 10:34 am

reality check. I am interested in my kid being able to go forward always wether my kid is behind or ahead. Using rubrics as cages and levels as stopping points in math is just stupidity. No parent wants their kids to just sit. No kid wants to just sit. The math in this district is SO old and out of date and made for kids that were kids in the fifties. All geared toward engineering.

The lower grades resist accountability and fluency in foundational math. The upper levels only have a lecture, memorization and a test. Nothing else. Well, except for pictures of the HS math teachers taking the kids that had outside help and worked their butts of to math competitions. There is that. They look very happy with these kids and get the photo op. You don't see them taking pics with the kids they told they did not have to get fast at math facts and who did not get to the level they needed for the major of their choice.


20 people like this
Posted by Bob L
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 12, 2019 at 10:50 am

Article says they spent two months concocting this new plan. Not exactly the diligence I expected, when I paid a premium for a house in the PAUSD. And how will we know if the new scheme works. We can compare MAP test scores before and after as the new math comes into implementation...oh wait... they're conveniently eliminating the MAP test as part of the plan. They could cut the MAP test down to once a year, but sweeping the data under the rug is an insult.


8 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 12, 2019 at 11:49 am

Posted by Gary Bradski, a resident of Greenmeadow

>> They have causality reversed:
>> If you want to learn a musical instrument, you practice over and over until you get a "muscle memory" for it. Same for sports. Reading about instruments or tennis won't help you that much because understanding follows more from fluency.

I think you need both procedural fluency and conceptual understanding, which build on each other:

Web Link


7 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 12, 2019 at 6:10 pm

The plan actually makes sense. 6th grade is probably the easiest place for kids to skip. I'm sure a good number of kids in the district will jump ahead.

The plan does not address how badly served children are in elementary school. I hope the superintendent looks into the summer school program that serves lower income kids. The school district has money and resources. The problem is that they don't set specific intentions for these resources. Use the summer to actually get these kids ahead before they get to 6th grade. Math is about daily practice. Anyone can be good at math with enough practice.

Lower income families trust PAUSD, and that is their biggest mistake. They don't realize how many of these kids are being supplemented at home or with other services. Maybe the district should just pay for Kumon, Russian math, or mathnasium for lower income families. I think they would probably be surprised by the results.


13 people like this
Posted by Mastery-based education
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 12, 2019 at 7:02 pm

@Palo Alto Parent,
You have the right idea, but I feel really sad reading your post. The academic overhead that comes with the factory model, making all kids do the same thing at the same time and then sorting them (rather than letting kids work at their own pace and supporting them to overcome their own hurdles as they come up), is incredibly time consuming.

Who wants to spend their lives with tutors when they can learn more and do more and be better students with way less time? The academic overhead of this district is already hurting too many otherwise smart kids. We don't want tutors to take up EVERYONE's spare time, we want the education from school to serve everyone better so kids have more control over their educations and lives.

The idea that a good education has to hurt and be joyless and painful is just not correct, but those in charge of this district have made it so here. I wish I could convey how much more students could be doing their lives while ALSO having more time, more sleep, and more control. A lot of kids going to our schools only think they don't measure up, but it's the schools failing them.


29 people like this
Posted by Sally
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 12, 2019 at 7:29 pm

"Fail fast" Yes, most startups fail and fail fast. Sounds great for my rising middle school student.

In this case, it seems we won't even be able to tell if we fail. No grades. Teachers do their own grading for assessment. In fact, as more and more folks flee to learn math other places (or leave the district), the district will benefit either way. They either get to serve fewer kids with the same money, or their performance looks okay precisely because of the enrichment they say is elitist.

I have served public systems my entire life. I just signed my kid up for external math. This week. I don't want to. I am angry I feel I need to. I'm angry I am paying twice because of PAUSD. The only good thing is that I did a deep dive that was overdue on where my elementary kid was. Okay. About national average, but it turns out that is quite low.

The only way to stop this is a charter, and/or voting no on more funds for a highly expensive and ineffective district. I have seen quite a few, although not hundreds of districts, I must admit.

Never before in my life have I said a thing in advocating for charter schools, and you can shoot me if I ever vote for one of these Republicans.


13 people like this
Posted by Mastery-based education
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 13, 2019 at 12:03 am

@Sally,
We don't need to have a charter to get independent education in our district. San Jose has a 30-year-old program in which they use independent study laws to allow families to homeschool. It doesn't have to be either or, the kids in the program can still take classes at the school and participate in extracurriculars, but they work with an independent study teacher on an individualized curriculum for each child and basically homeschool. Except with a lot of the supports you get from being a part of a district. I don't know why every district doesn't have a program like this. So, with permission, your kid could take up to 4 classes through the school but take individualized math through independent education, plus a course or two at the college. Students become way more mature.

No one should have to pay twice because of PAUSD. A program like the above could be started overnight, we already have board regulations regarding independent study that allow it.


9 people like this
Posted by Gunn and Paly parent
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 13, 2019 at 10:01 am

@Palo Alto Parent

Yes one "carrot" in the current plan is that now 6th grade can be skipped.

This only makes sense. Currently (and for decades) it is not possible to "skip" only 6th grade math at PAUSD! One could skip Math 6+ Math 7A (together!) or Math 6 + Math7A +Algebra 8 (together!) or Math7A + Algebra 8 or only Math 7A or only Algebra 8.

The burning concerns are

C1. Why does PAUSD forces students to "skip" at all in order to get to middle school Geometry?? At neighboring districts, 40%+ of students "find themselves" in a compacted pathways that requires no skipping and allows fast learners to advance when at school (in Los Altos such pathway to MS geometry serves 43% of students).

C2. What is the placement process? Currently PAUSD uses home-baked methods to weed out students wanting to advance. These include egregious requirements and uncalibrated placement tests. The process/calibration/cut score seems quota driven rather than aligned with actual proficiency of the "skipped" course (the vast majority of students that successfully completed "math 7A" at school will not pass the filter required to "skip" it). The result is that only ~6% "qualify" for MS Geometry at PAUSD and there is one small section in each middle school. Other districts use instead multiple object objective measures that are aligned with standards and evaluate all students. This is lawful and a better education practice.

Board member Melissa Baten-Caldwell reported in the meeting that she talked to MVLA high school staff, where 30% of 9th graders are enrolled in Algebra2Trig and are doing well. Why are we so different??


The "sticks" in the proposal are that

S1. The current proposal puts a new limit where only one course can be "skipped" (either 6th grade or 7th grade). This makes no sense as currently there are many students that "skipped" multiple courses. Many of these students are much better prepared that those that took PAUSD courses. It is important that students are placed correctly not only for their benefit but also because the presence of students that are already proficient harms all other students as well and this misplacement is already a systemic problem at PAUSD.

Even our middle school Geometry H courses (that currently have 6th, 7th, and 8th graders) have about half the students well above (doing precalculus or more) and these courses can get really hard to teach due to behavior issues and bored students tuning out. This despite challenging material built in. Other students in the course are impacted negatively.


S2. The practice of designing home-baked placement (that seems quota driven) will continue. Once forced to share results with families, the district terminated the administration of standards-aligned NWEA MAP tests. From Ofek's comments during the board meeting, the district will design own assessments for "skipping" 6th grade. The intention is to keep the number small, close tot eh current 6% and far from the ~35%+ that is needed.

S3. Placement tests on 1.5 years of material that is not covered at school (and there is no opportunity to cover) at school will be administered in the spring, for admission for fall classes. The district is integrating summer courses into its pathways. Best practice from math placement act is to allow students to correct placements in the fall. This is even legally required for entering 9th graders.


Why is PAUSD doing this to our students? The reasons I can identify are:

1. Anecdote-based and biased beliefs held by some district staff on the harm of acceleration. Some district staff are known to bring anecdotes and quote "studies" (that either did not happen at all or have poor methodology). For example, at the board meeting as a reason for curbing acceleration CAO Sharon Ofek brought up a story of one accelerated students that she talked to that was not happy (possibly because of the particular convoluted way acceleration is done at PAUSD...). But this completely ignores the many students that are happy, including two that recently shared that experience at the Gunn newspaper.

Web Link
Web Link


2. If advancing is allowed based on calibrated normed measures then many more of our students would qualify (PAUSD students are not inherently less capable that those at Los Altos, Saratoga, and Cupertino where 40%+ advance). If so many advance then our 6th grade math teachers will not be qualified to teach them. At PAUSD nearly all 6th grade math teachers are not "specialists" (also an anomaly, at similar districts specialists teach 6th grade). This means that our 6th grade math teachers are not certified to teach math as a single subject and should not (will look bad for district stats) teach 7th grade topics. My understanding (from a teacher) is that credentialing involves these teachers passing an "Algebra2" test.... not going back to school (does not seem too much of a burden). So to protect teachers from having to take an "algebra2" test, hundreds of our students are held back every year.


7 people like this
Posted by Mastery-based education
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 14, 2019 at 2:41 am

Gunn and Paly Parent,
Wow, very good points. Another factor in using placement tests is that our district has done such an abysmal job at identifying and supporting students with learning disabilities, especially gifted students with learning disabilities (2e), that directly affect math performance. For example, students with dysgraphia seriously benefit from working on graph paper, and understanding how to give them the right kind of graph paper is important -- that can change a struggling performer to a high achiever, simply because they can line things up and stop constantly making what the teacher perceives as "silly" mistakes related to (perceived) carelessness or (incorrectly perceived) lack of ability. Students who should be taking more advanced math end up bored and stuck in unchallenging placements, which have the negative effects you mention. Teachers rely on the placement results to judge parents who try to advocate for their kids' needs, and the whole we-don't-work-with-families thing spirals into lots of hurt all around.

Dysgraphia affects math accuracy, and affects nearly as many children as dyslexia, it's up to 20% of students, which means it's affecting this situation. I would bet money that our middle school teachers don't have any idea how to identify and support students with dysgraphia, if they even know what it is.

Very unfortunate to see the unimaginative Ofek digging in on the factory model of education. Enabling individualized instruction would let us do better for our students than Los Altos. It's kind of what they're taking advantage of as it is.


4 people like this
Posted by Greene and Paly parent
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 14, 2019 at 9:51 pm

Board member Melissa Baten-Caswell at the December 10 board meeting presented questions to CAO Sharon Ofek that regarded the concerning issues with the current plan. See

Web Link


-- We need measures to support intervention, planning, placement (and inform families on where kids are and how they are growing). It is concerning that the best measure we had, NWEA MAP, got terminated just as we are heading into an experiment

-- Consequences of the elimination of "grade level" to struggling students: Currently we have about 30% of our students at grade level (Los Altos has 15%). About half of these students at PAUSD are positioned to do well in a pathway to 8th grade Algebra (which will be the only option going forward). What is happening is that they are derailed due to broken recommendations and mindset but standards-aligned assessment would put them in an Algebra pathway. BUT the other half of the students currently at "grade level" path includes students that enter 6th grade already 1-2+ years BELOW minimum grade level standards. These students will now be expected to do 6 years of math in the three years of middle schools (after doing 3 years of math in the 5 years of elementary school)!! This is not very reasonable. Moreover, these students struggle currently in a watered-down 9th grade Algebra course. That course got de-laned three years ago (following the same de-laning agenda) but these students did not do better and other students feel cheated out of learning. But somehow the district *believes* (with all evidence pointing otherwise) that these students would do better in the single lane to 8th grade Algebra??


-- Students at PAUSD must learn on their own 1.5 years of math (and navigate an unusual placement process) in order to get to Algebra2Trig at 9th grade (and Geometry in 8th grade). Board member Baten-Caswell talks about her conversation with MVLA staff (where 30% of their 9th graders, that come from LASD and Mountain-View Whisman, are well prepped for 9th grade Algebra2Trig.


2 people like this
Posted by Member
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 14, 2019 at 10:21 pm

The placement tests at Paly are based on books that are good but have been out of print for 20 years. The Jergensons geom and Structure and method book. Both good books, but the kids taking the test have another newer common core book that does not prepare them for the test.

Once your child gets into a math class, the teachers give the kids textbooks and work page by page then base tests on older textbooks. Just study the final test of the old textbooks if your can find it.

Really structure and method is the best ever algebra book. I think it should be started in 6ty grade and gone through with some geometry. The second half of the book should be gone through again with geom in seventh grade. 8th grade could be all review and problem solving and I know everyone thinks SAT math is silly, but the SAT books have good problem sets.


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 14, 2019 at 10:32 pm

YOu can sign you kids up for online Wasc accredited, UC approved classes if they are listed not he UCOP a-g list and count them on the common AP for a-g credit. I do not think the “revamped” experimental math program will have a-g UC approval for their 7th and 8t grade math that kids can place on transcripts to meet the geometry graduation requirement.

Once you kid passes all 2, your kid can avoid all math classes at Paly and take them anywhere else. It may seem like more effort, but if you take a class elsewhere, they generally teach your kid and they get to skip the extra tutoring sessions needed to fill in for the missing direct instruction or checking for understanding. The Problem solving class at Paly is a joke. There is no instruction on PS skills or concepts, they just pass out tests for kids that already have skills to take and practice for math competitions. A great big achievement gap space holder.


14 people like this
Posted by paly mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 16, 2019 at 11:16 am

My kid graduated from Greene middle school last year and was in Addison for elementary before that. In my experience, I think the elementary did not prepare the kids well in Math in 5th grade. So there's a gap that the kids need to work very hard for catching up. Unless the kids have Math tutoring after school. Alson the class size was big, almost 30 kids in 7th and 8th grades after my kid chose a higher lane. 8th grade was the worst, it was a zoo. So many kids and some of them were disruptive. The teacher admitted it was very difficult for her to teach. If the class size was smaller, the teacher could control the class better.

PAUSD should fix the basic problems before spending money to hire consultants. Don't waste our money.


9 people like this
Posted by It takes a village ...
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 16, 2019 at 12:05 pm

I am in the School of Engineering at Stanford but I still needed to update some of my skills to help my son with his homework. And when that happened, I often consulted Khan Academy. It is a great resource for parents ... and for kids. It has online tutorials for math at every age, even mine. It would be fantastic if PA Schools could figure out a way to integrate these great tutorials/teachers into their curriculum.

Brushing up or learning geometry for the first time in order to help your kids is great, if you have the time. If you don't, then point your kids towards Khan Academy online videos. Perhaps watch them together.

Having your kids teach you math is a great way for them to show off and to test their own understanding.

Perhaps older kids (High School) who do well in math could get credit for tutoring younger kids (middle school). The middle school kids could visit the older kids at the High School ... would be a fun experience for them as well. High School students will be able to list their tutoring experience on their college applications and feel like they are helping younger kids as well. And the younger kids could experience the High School campus and perhaps think about their own college applications in the future.

Retired professionals might be willing to offer tutoring services for High Schools students in a supervised program that helped them to trade experiences, suggestions, good practices, etc. This would provide a nice community for the retired professionals who want to give back to the community.

Giving kids many opportunities to interact with older and younger people might also help us identify and provide support to students who may be experiencing emotional and mental problems.

In addition to experimenting with curriculum, I encourage schools to think out of the box and take advantage of the community.




19 people like this
Posted by more time
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 16, 2019 at 8:45 pm

Ugh. We are ALREADY trying the NOT LANING EXPERIMENT in middle school (and elementary school) math. This is exactly what is happening now K through 6th grade. And it is clearly NOT WORKING.
IF our schools were actually good at teaching the full range of students all in one class then all students at the end of sixth grade would currently be ready to be on the track to algebra.

Keeping all students together in the same math classes in 7th and 8th grade will only continue to slow down the math education of higher level students. These students have spent years of their lives bored in school. Higher achieving students needs should also be met by public schools otherwise we are forcing families to find outside resources.

Reducing the acheivement gap has to happen in ELEMENTARY school. This will require higher quality math education in younger grades, a return to useful HOMEWORK expectations, and additional help for the students who need it. Help for students in younger grades needs to be provided to students OUTSIDE the normal school day. Continually pulling students out of their regular class time for interventions during the day means that they are constantly in catch up mode. They need MORE help. The district should provide this help afterschool or on weekends.

Our school day and school year is not long enough, particularly as we add in more curriculum (SEL, technology, etc.) without expanding available hours.

And eliminating adequate testing to be able to evaluate the success of the math program is a huge warning sign.


8 people like this
Posted by Yuri
a resident of another community
on Dec 18, 2019 at 6:16 am

Remember, 25 Churchill is about superficiality. All you have to do is look at their "SMORE" provided "newsletters" for proof of that. They are looking for sound bites, not sound policy. Drama over substance. A well crafted and debated plan requires a certain level of commitment that just cannot be found at the District Office. Skin in the game equals risk, a risk that the job hopping official cannot take since it may tarnish their ability to hop their next assignment with a "clean record". No long term commitment equates to no risk, which equates to a clean record. This is not about your sons or daughters, this is about looking busy and doing nothing to harm the resume.


5 people like this
Posted by Risks
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2019 at 8:31 am

@Yuri,

Your focus on playing it safe, not taking risks, is scary when it is read as the type of teaching/lesson that is being modeled for kids in the "real world" by adult educators.

The focus, so far, has been on revising middle school math. It seems that no one is really talking about the other focus, which is to expand the Middle College program at Foothill. It seems like the more promising issue, because Foothill is much more reliable in terms of teaching and learning. Many more kids could benefit from doing college-level work while still in high school. One suggestion is to allow Middle College for kids younger than junior-senior year.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 18, 2019 at 8:47 am

"Skin in the game equals risk, a risk that the job hopping official cannot take since it may tarnish their ability to hop their next assignment with a "clean record"."

@Yuri, the district's chief academic officer for secondary, who appears to be the primary author of the plan, not only has worked in the district for almost 20 years, she also grew up in Palo Alto and graduated from PAUSD schools. I'm guessing most of your strong and cynical views are just as ill-informed.


7 people like this
Posted by Yuri
a resident of another community
on Dec 19, 2019 at 6:45 am

Good point "resident". In that time she has climbed from lowly math teacher, to VP, to Principal, to her current position. Apparently, then, she has been at the forefront of this "issue" for decades. Yet her expertise, apparently, has not translated into any real improvements. So now she is forced to come up with a superficial fix that will allow her to maintain her status. Not cynical, or misinformed, just reality.


11 people like this
Posted by Yuri
a resident of another community
on Dec 19, 2019 at 7:16 am

Speaking of cynical, how about school district leadership that takes what are essentially strong Math testing results and turns them into a crisis? A crisis that has subjected math teachers to unwarranted scorn and scrutiny. It is a cynical reading of the CAASPP Math scores that has led to this whole charade.


12 people like this
Posted by Elementary parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 23, 2019 at 4:49 pm

Math needs to be fixed at the elementary level. The quality and rigor of elementary school math at PAUSD is the worst. I have personal experience. My kid was struggling in math all along at elementary school and inspite of pleas he was not tested because he had good behavior and was getting by. The tier 2 intervention he was placed in was run by an aide who had no experience working with kids who struggled. Plus he was aware of the stigma because right next door was a math enrichment program for the really smart kids. The kids in the intervention were put in front of a computer and told to figure it out. With low self esteem, big gaps in learning he went to middle school and was laned in the 'lower' lane. After much pushing from us and push back from the extremely rude special ed staff in middle school, he was tested for and diagnosed with a learning disabilty. Because of all the gaps plus the undiagnosed LD he is struggling in math in HS. Either the district have a concrete results driven way of identifying students who struggle in elementary school (not going to happen) or every parent in the district send their child to an after school math program because that is what most families do. The district math program fails kids who are struggling or do not go to after school math. I wish I had known this but as a first time parent I trusted the system.


3 people like this
Posted by Lack of support
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 27, 2019 at 9:11 am

I reviewed the literature and "research" cited by the PAUSD in support of this significant change. It is paltry and does not validate the proposed changes. I invite everyone to review it. This change should not be support until there is research to back it up. As it stands now, there is no clear data that laning/de-laning will solve the problems identified, and it is likely to create new problems that will harm even more students.


1 person likes this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2019 at 9:44 am

Posted by Lack of support, a resident of Charleston Gardens

>> I reviewed the literature and "research" cited by the PAUSD in support of this significant change. It is paltry and does not validate the proposed changes. I invite everyone to review it.

I haven't reviewed the literature, so, I can't concur. Or, not concur. BUT ...

>> This change should not be support until there is research to back it up.

I concur. In fact, I think PAUSD should just stand with what it has now, until it can design and implement a new math program that is 100% research-based. In recent years, many changes have been made which were either just a "do something" reaction, or, just following one fad or another. The PAUSD math program should be based on research results, not fads or panic.


7 people like this
Posted by See Sth Say Sth
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 27, 2019 at 5:01 pm

From Ze'ev Wurman, former senior advisor to US Department of Education:

All the dumbing-down agenda — including the latest campaign for removing algebra 2, is not because all the leading educationists are stupid. Many are, but many are not. The only way I can, after all those many years, to explain to myself what is going on is that all those educationists -- I don't even want to call them educrats, as this is too complimentary to them -- don't really care about education, and they don't actually believe in importance of education. The reliance on Rousseau and educational romanticism is, in my opinion, largely fake. What they are really are after is equality -- equality of outcomes.

They see all the data that educated people get higher salaries and are more successful and, like in the Polynesian Cargo Cult, they believe that if people of every color of skin will have equal probability to show a diploma, all of them will deserve equal jobs and equal salaries. They don't believe that, or they don't care whether, there is actual talent, ability, or competence hiding behind those diplomas.

That's their Utopia, and on its altar they don't really care to sacrifice talent or merit. Somehow they believe that the world progresses on its own by the armies of mediocrity, so they role is only to try to arrange for as perfect equality as possible.

This may sound bleak, but I see no other explanation to what we see. The awful results hit those educationists in the face for decades, yet they never correct their course. Why, if not because they have different goals from you and me? After all, not all of them are stupid or charlatans.

The American educational system still has pockets of excellence, but they are being extinguished one by one. Consider the current effort to do away with the specialized high schools in NYC. So while pockets of excellence still exist, the average for the overwhelming majority is mediocre. The only saving grace of our education is the ability to have private and charter schools, and some of them are pretty good.

In any case, this is my (dark) current view of our education. Perhaps I am too pessimistic. Time will tell.


12 people like this
Posted by See Sth Say Sth
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 27, 2019 at 5:10 pm

The three consultants hired to "reimagine" PAUSD's math are relentless progressives who yearn to close achievement gaps through pretend algebra, detracking and deceitful "formative assessment." Web Link Like all Rousseauian progressives, their paramount goal is equality of outcome, rather than equality of opportunities.

There is all the difference in the world between treating people equally and attempting to make them equal. While the first is the condition of a free society, the second means as De Tocquiville describes it, 'a new form of servitude.' (Friedrich Hayek)


4 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2019 at 12:50 pm

Posted by See Sth Say Sth, a resident of College Terrace

>> Rousseauian progressives,

"progressive" is a word that means many different things to many different people. Politically, in the US, it has often been used to describe a -pragmatic- approach to problem solving, particularly in economics. Libertarians, such as yourself, who embrace a religious belief in -markets-, don't appreciate people pointing out, for example, that some markets are a lot more competitive than others.

By repeatedly invoking "progressive" as an epithet, as you do, you seem to be implicitly aligning yourself with Right-Wing Authoritarians. I'm not sure if that is what you intend.

>> De Tocquiville describes it, 'a new form of servitude.'

Alexis de Tocqueville was an interesting public figure and writer. e.g., ""I have a passionate love for liberty, law, and respect for rights", he wrote. "I am neither of the revolutionary party nor of the conservative. [...] Liberty is my foremost passion"" Web Link. One of the first to analyze the perpetual balancing act between liberty and equality that the post-aristocratic world would require. And one of the first to explicitly note that liberalism is antithetical to both the right-wing authoritarianism of the monarchy and "left"-wing authoritarianism of the revolution that temporarily replaced it.

>> (Friedrich Hayek)

Hayek was all over the place, defending freedom at times, dictatorships at others. While many of his ideas were sound and ahead of their time, he made a fundamental mistake in underestimating the power of monopolies. His assumption that markets would punish top-heavy monopolies turned out to be flat-out wrong. In any case, today's "conservatives" like to invoke his name and claim him, but, don't actually favor market competition and prefer today's huge, politically powerful monopolies.

==

Getting back to math education: many "progressives", that is, pragmatic liberals, such as myself, are actually in favor of better mathematical education, contrary to what you seem to believe. And, I don't believe that Jo Boaler has a coherent, -evidence based-, mathematical education program. But, I don't believe that most "conservative" proposals are evidence-based either. I also don't think that the same math education program will necessarily serve the needs of both future mathematicians, and, future engineers. Future engineers and mathematicians might actually benefit from being in different tracks. I think a lot of proposals about stuff in this area are not evidence-based today.


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