Friday, March 12, 2010

Spokane's curriculum committee chooses Holt

By Laurie H. Rogers

(Updated June 11, 2010.)

On March 11, 2010, Spokane’s high school curriculum adoption committee voted to recommend Holt Mathematics to the school board. This vote could have gone any number of ways. Some of the possibilities discussed were:

  • Recommending Holt Mathematics

  • Recommending Prentice Hall Mathematics

  • Asking the publisher of Prentice Hall to build a special textbook for Spokane

  • Rejecting both books and deciding to wait

  • The people on the committee feel passionately about the issue. Because our backgrounds are diverse, we have different perspectives. In an unusual move for this district, the adoption committee included high school teachers, middle school teachers, instructional coaches, parents, college math professors, and administrators. Students also were allowed a voice in the deliberations. Last fall, students submitted requests for what they want in a textbook, and in February, the student voice again was heard when piloting teachers commented on how their students viewed two of the books.
    On March 11, I brought the committee a table of various assessments of Prentice Hall (2007 or 2011) and Holt. These assessments overwhelmingly recommend Holt. Here is a summary:

    • The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) examined 15 curricula for alignment to the new math standards. Holt was 1st, chosen over Prentice Hall at 4th.
    • Dr. George Bright, professor emeritus, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, examined 4 curricula for mathematical soundness in algebra. Holt was chosen over Prentice Hall.
    • Dr. James King, University of Washington math professor, examined 4 curricula for mathematical soundness in geometry. Holt and Prentice Hall were chosen over two other curricula.
    • May: OSPI made its final recommendation relative to high school math curricula. Holt was chosen over all other curricula that were examined.
    • December: Spokane’s adoption committee examined 8 curricula. Holt was chosen over Prentice Hall 2011 (overall, and also in certain specific areas such as “contextual,” “balanced,” “teacher planning” & “student-parent resources.”)
    • January/February: Spokane Public Schools piloted Holt and Prentice Hall 2011. Indications of teacher and student preference were presented to the adoption committee on Feb. 22.
    • Of 33 indications of preference, 26 were for Holt. All but 2 students chose Holt. Three teachers voted for neither text. Two people didn’t specify a preference. Holt was chosen by every teacher who expressed a preference.
    March 11 was the first time the committee was able to argue certain critical issues in an open, free-ranging manner. It felt great to be able to speak freely about our concerns.
    • Almost everyone seemed to agree that more mathematical content was necessary.
    • Several teachers said that teachers and parents absolutely need a math textbook – that without one, parents were lost and teachers were burning out.
    • Several people – teachers and administrators – noted that teachers have materials in their classrooms to help with whatever supplementing might be necessary, and also that more supplementary material can easily be built.
    After much heartfelt discussion and several votes, the committee voted in favor of Holt Mathematics. If the Spokane school board adopts Holt, it will join a number of districts in Washington State that have adopted (or that are moving to adopt) more rigorous math curricula, including Bellevue (which also chose Holt this week), Central Valley, Northshore, Edmonds, Shoreline, Tacoma, and Mercer Island.

    I greatly admire the passion and commitment everyone on Spokane’s adoption committee brought to the process. The March 11 discussion was touching and enlightening for all. In the end, I’m enthusiastic about the result. I believe that Holt addresses most of the parent, student and teacher concerns about K-12 math instruction that have been expressed to administrators and school board members over the last decade, and especially that were expressed to the adoption committee over the last six months.

    I also believe that while Holt represents a dramatic change from the current curriculum (Core-Plus Mathematics), teachers will appreciate the myriad benefits of the Holt materials: student textbook, teacher manual, online materials (including video and online textbook) and other helpful resources, while still being able to draw on their own knowledge, experience and other classroom materials.

    Meanwhile, the K-8 math curricula currently used in Spokane will not adequately prepare students for Holt Mathematics. (They didn’t prepare students for Core-Plus, either, as evidenced by weak pass rates on math WASLs in nearly every grade.) Administrators have said they want to prepare students for postsecondary math, and Spokane’s adoption committee determined that Holt Mathematics is best suited for the high school portion of that goal. Therefore, K-8 math curricula also must be implemented without delay in order to prepare students for Holt Mathematics.

    Spokane Public Schools should not wait for this next step. It is no exaggeration to say that there is a math crisis in Spokane. Spokane suffers with a 42.3% pass rate on the 2009 10th grade math WASL, a 60% on-time graduation rate, a 29.3% dropout rate, an 87.1% remediation rate in math in the Spokane Community colleges, and a net loss of about 2,500 students in this district since 2002/2003. A 2008 survey of families who had left the school district indicated that the main reason 33% of them left was the curriculum.

    It’s time to let go of the belief that math content doesn’t matter, or that math content must take a distant back seat to the learning process. Spokane must select and adopt better math curricula for K-8 that will adequately prepare students for Holt Mathematics. To not do so is to consign students to a disjointed, unhelpful pathway from K-12. A foundation in math is necessary for students to succeed in high school math, but that foundation is missing in Spokane’s current elementary math curriculum Investigations in Number, Data, and Space, and also in its middle school curriculum Connected Mathematics.

    If our students are to be successful in mathematics, this district must adopt K-12 materials that work well together to build a strong foundation in math skills and knowledge, and it must do that without delay.

    Please note: The information in this post is copyrighted. The proper citation is: Rogers, L. (March, 2010). "Spokane's curriculum committee chooses Holt." Retrieved (date) from the Betrayed Web site:

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