Monday, January 10, 2011

Seattle parent hopes "Betrayed" lights fire against reform math

Note from Laurie Rogers: Reform math, excessive constructivism, and persistent administrator denial and obstruction have sunk this great country into a mathematical Dark Ages, severely limiting the futures of millions of children and devastating our supply of STEM professionals. Every week, I receive emails from perplexed, frustrated and angry parents, teachers and community advocates. A Seattle parent wrote to me Jan. 7, 2011, to comment on my book "Betrayed." Her email is republished here with her permission:

[From personal email, Jan. 7, 2011]:

"Dear Ms. Rogers,

"I just finished your chapter on curriculum. It feels like you and I have traveled the same road, bumping our heads against the same barriers. We just happen to be on opposite sides of the state.

"My frustration started when my sons attended Seattle public high schools. One attended a new, academically challenging small high school in the shadow of the Space Needle. I was told that the Core Plus math curriculum would use engaging math problems that would relate better to real-life situations. It sounded good, but he was very frustrated and needed after-school tutoring and an additional outside tutor to figure them out.

"Our other son attended another popular public high school in Seattle. I asked his math teacher if he liked the Integrated Math curriculum and he said there were better choices out there. That led me to Where’s the Math? and Cliff Mass, the University of Washington science professor who is a critic of reform math. The declining math pass rates he showed for entry-level students at the University of Washington indicated that the math problem went far beyond my kids.

"The more research I did, the worse it looked. I read the 2007 studies of William Hook, the University of Victoria researcher who compared Saxon Math in Calif. to reform programs. He found stunning improvements from Saxon Math, even in economically challenged districts. I also read the National Math Panel report, which panned the use of overly long textbooks without a clear foundation in authentic algebra. I visited our neighborhood elementary school and noticed their Everyday Math textbooks were long and complex, devoting entire chapters to the use of calculators.

"I started writing to our Seattle School District Board members, asking why they were using reform math. They had different administrators come and go, choosing reform textbooks from the elementary through high school level in all Seattle public schools. Then they would leave the district and the kids with the consequences of these decisions.

"I directly challenged Dr. Terry Bergeson in Olympia, the former state Superintendent of Public Instruction, who spent a fortune on supplemental materials to train teachers on reform math. Her failed WASL test was also expensive and gave kids credit for showing their work even if they got the answers wrong. How does that help when they test into remedial math courses in college?

"We recently had the chance for a better textbook at the high school level in Seattle. Like many parents, I wrote the Seattle School Board again to argue for the Prentice Hall books over the Discovering series. Although our director Michael DeBell voted against Discovering, he was unable to convince the other directors. That decision ended up in court with an initial judgment for the parents. The judge ruled that the district’s adoption of the Discovering series was arbitrary and capricious. But instead of replacing the books with better ones, the district is appealing.

"I am sad to see so many parents fleeing public schools for expensive private ones in Seattle. Yet the administrators go along and keep making the same arguments for reform math. I hope your book can light a fire under them.

"Thank you."

Georgi Krom
(1971 graduate of Spokane's Lewis and Clark High School)

Note from Laurie Rogers: If you would like to submit a guest column or commentary on public education, please write to me at Please limit comments to not more than 1,000 words. Columns and commentaries might be edited for length, content or grammar. You may remain anonymous to the public, however I must know who you are. All decisions on guest columns and commentaries are the sole right and responsibility of Laurie Rogers.

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