Posts Tagged ‘alpine school district’

This past week I received a couple of troubling emails from parents in Alpine School District. Here’s the first:

Last night my daughter was at a youth activity when a 12 year old girl from her church class mentioned some fun creative writing assignments she was given at the public junior high school in our neighborhood. In the first assignment, the students had to write a fictitious story about a woman who planned the murder of her husband. They had to write how and why she did it and how she got away with the murder. The other assignment was to tell a detailed story about a girl that had murdered her best friend and how she was beaten by her father so badly that she almost died. My daughter was shocked and told her friend that she thought it was an awful and evil assignment and that she would never write such a thing. My daughter told her that assignments like that are given to desensitize students into “believing that killing is a natural thing which isn’t bad”. Another young girl listening in agreed and said that her charter school would never assign a paper like that because it would be “highly inappropriate” and she would have to agree with her school. Unfortunately, the sweet young girl who had to write these two papers disagreed and said it was fun to write thriller stories and they were, after all, just stories. Are they? What was the purpose? After spending hours plotting and writing about how to murder a friend and family member, what kind of memory does that instill in a child? Couldn’t there be other appropriate character-building writing assignments given to 7th graders?

All three of these girls come from great families and they are all very sweet, smart girls. However, only two of them were able to discern how inappropriate this assignment was and to stand up courageously, expressing to their peer why they would never agree to such an awful assignment. These assignments are coming at an accelerated rate to younger and younger children.Parents need to talk to their children constantly about what they are learning in school and to give their children the tools they need to stand up for what is right.

I really don’t think I need to add anything to this story about how inappropriate this is. Here’s the second comment regarding math.

 

Oak,

I thought you might be interested in my latest experience with Mountain Ridge Junior High.

When we received [daughter’s] schedule and teachers I knew right away that I would be requesting a teacher change for Algebra I. She was given the same math teacher that [son] was given last year. If you recall, I transferred him out of the Algebra I class when he brought home his “Connected Math” book that looked like a 1st grade lesson book. My teacher request was denied and the response email is below.

Greetings:
Your teacher change request has been denied.  According to our records, [daughter] has not had this teacher.  It is not our procedure to make teacher changes when students have not had an opportunity to learn from the assigned teacher.  It is the practice of our math department to teach a balanced math approach, there are no “traditional” teachers anymore.
We are happy to resolve concerns that exist when the need arises.
If you wish to discuss this further, please see administration rather than counseling.

Regards,
[name], Counselor

 

Of course, it was my decision to take this up with the principal, but in all “fairness” I thought that perhaps this teacher had changed the way she was teaching as so far [daughter] had been coming home with math worksheets that looked okay to me. I emailed her to set an appointment so that she could show me her curriculum for the entire year (I did not want to see only the semester and then the Investigations come into play the second semester). Because of scheduling, mostly on my part, I was never able to meet with her, but she did explain to me through email what books and so forth she would be using. This Connected Math curriculum was listed.

I went into the school and was able to speak with the Vice-Principal, explaining to him that I was not happy about the math teacher and the curriculum she would be using and that I would be pulling [daughter]out of Algebra I and teaching her at home using Saxon Math as my teacher request change was denied. He informed me that all of the teachers at the junior high are now teaching a “balanced” math using traditional and Investigation methods. For the next couple of minutes, he commenced to convince me that I should give Investigations math a chance as his kids have done very well with it. I explained that my kids have not done well, and I will not risk the best education of my kids on a math program that in studies and tests, and in my own experiences, has not proven to be the best math we can be teaching, and in most cases detrimental. The conversation ended as I firmly informed him that I would indeed be pulling her out and teaching her at home for that period.

After a week and a half, she was able to add another elective and she now does Saxon Math at home after school. Was it worth it? Of course! After just the first lesson, [daughter] said, “Wow, Mom, I finally understand how to do these problems.” She enjoys working at her own pace, being challenged, and having me as her teacher (of course, I think that is the best perk). Within the first few lessons she was learning/understanding things that she was not before, like how to find a common denominator. What?! 🙂

I hope other parents are speaking out about the education their children are receiving. So far we have had a great time home schooling and have now pulled [another daughter] out of the school.

This parent’s story illustrates the problem within ASD now where they tell parents that they use a “balanced” approach to math but everything they do in teacher training is geared toward the constructivist approach which is an unproven method of teaching. Actually, it is proven as a failure. Project Follow Through proved that, and the school district has been forced to admit they have no studies that support the use of Investigations, Connected, and Interactive math. These programs are utter failures. If you would like more information illustrating this, I’ve posted my letter to the School Board President in State College, PA on why to avoid Investigations math, and then another letter I sent the ASD board showing a government study that shows Connected Math actually produced a negative effect on learning.

You need to know that the schools DO have teachers who prefer and favor a traditional method and this counselor knows this. There are teachers that lean in both directions and you may have to speak with some of them to find out who is who. The problem exists at the high school level as well. Find out from your child’s teacher if the class will use Interactive math or a real math program.

Here’s where you can learn about dual enrolling your child to teach math at home but take other classes at school.

If you assumed this was Alpine School District in Utah, it’s not, but it’s the same old story. We’ve just saved $26,000 by not having the study done.  This news report is about Anchorage School District in Alaska which has jumped into constructivist math with the “Everyday Math” program (named thus because it was designed to frustrate parents and children every day). The “A-ha” moment of this article is right here. In all my years of studying this issue, I never saw this insidious angle.

Both Comeau and Nees say that they’ve heard complaints about the “Everyday Math” program from parents, who say that the method is so different from what they learned in school, that some parents aren’t able to help their children with their homework.

“When you have [the traditional method] on the board, and [the “everyday math” method] on the board, and the parent’s trying to do it the traditional way, [the student] is going to stop listening to Mom and Dad, and Mom and Dad can’t help them,” Nees said.

“Mom and Dad don’t know how to do it this way, so I will only listen to my teachers from now on.” Hmmm, where have I heard something like that before? Oh, that’s right, BYU’s Education department national consultant, John Goodlad.

Public education has served as a check on the power of parents, and this is another powerful reason for maintaining it.”
– John Goodlad, Developing Democratic Character in the Young, pg. 165

“Most youth still hold the same values of their parents… if we do not alter this pattern, if we don’t resocialize, our system will decay.”
– John Goodlad, Schooling for the Future, Issue #9, 1971

Parents do not own their children. They have no ‘natural right’ to control their education fully.”
– John Goodlad / Developing Democratic Character in the Young, pg. 164

Every child in America entering school at the age of five is insane because he comes to school with certain allegiances to our founding fathers, toward our elected officials, toward his parents, toward a belief in a supernatural being, and toward the sovereignty of this nation as a separate entity. It’s up to you as teachers to make all these sick children well – by creating the international child of the future.
-Dr. Chester M. Pierce, Harvard Professor of Education and Psychiatry, in an address to the Childhood International Education Seminar in 1973

It is a very real possibility that Mr. Goodlad and all these other educators have embraced constructivist math not only for the social engineering aspects, but because it’s another barrier between parent and child. Parents don’t know how to do this method of math, so they may figure that it will serve to separate the parents a little further from their children and get children to believe that their teacher at school is the source of knowledge they should turn to. Why? Here’s what other prominent national educators have taught.

Every child in America entering school at the age of five is insane because he comes to school with certain allegiances to our founding fathers, toward our elected officials, toward his parents, toward a belief in a supernatural being, and toward the sovereignty of this nation as a separate entity. It’s up to you as teachers to make all these sick children well – by creating the international child of the future.
-Dr. Chester M. Pierce, Harvard Professor of Education and Psychiatry, in an address to the Childhood International Education Seminar in 1973

Education should aim at destroying free will so that after pupils are thus schooled they will be incapable throughout the rest of their lives of thinking or acting otherwise than as their school masters would have wished …
-Bertrand Russell, quoting Gottlieb Fichte the head of psychology that influenced Hegel and others.

I have never before understood this issue in this way. If you are new to fuzzy math, or even for a quick refresher, I strongly encourage you to watch these videos and read my comments below. (Update, looks like the video on the news report has been taken down now. You can still read the story though.)

http://www.ktuu.com/news/ktuu-report-suggests-improvements-for-anchorage-school-district-math-program-20110620,0,7214623.story

[VIDEO REMOVED]

One final note, when the lady in the video above says that when students learn this way studies show they do better, that is utterly false. There are no studies that support constructivist math as a superior method of teaching. To the contrary, they have been shown as failures.

Here’s meteorologist M.J. McDermott to explain this bizarre lattice method along with a stinging rebuke of Everyday math and Investigations math (the parental-separator of choice for Alpine School District). This video is 15 minutes, but she explains the lattice method after a couple minutes. I strongly encourage you to keep watching though, as she will explain fuzzy division, and then share an astounding quote at the 10 minute mark from the Everyday Math textbook telling teachers that mastery isn’t important.

At the end she holds up a couple of Singapore math workbooks to help your children learn math and I also endorse the Singapore Primary math workbooks which you can get at www.SingaporeMath.com.

Last week on the Rod Arquette show, a Judy Park (??? not sure of last name) from the state office of education spoke with Rod concerning the release of the latest PISA scores (http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/) which help show math, reading, and science ability rankings from around the world. The United States was down the list a ways for math and was behind such powerhouse nations as Liechtenstein, Estonia, Iceland, Slovenia, Poland, and Luxembourg (aside from the obvious ones like China and Singapore). We did pull ahead of Qatar and Tunisia thankfully. 🙂 Among the claims made by Judy were the following:

-Utah is above national average in math benchmarking as evidenced by NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) scores
-The new Common Core standards are something to get excited about and will help the states do better in math

The first one has already been dis-proven a couple years back when Dr. David Wright at BYU showed that since Utah has an over 80% white population, it artificially raises our state average when compared to states that have a much higher minority percentage (minorities tend to score less on standardized tests). He was able to show that when comparing whites to whites, Utah actually ranked 37th and 39th at 4th and 8th grade respectively. This was based on 2005 NAEP data and I would assume nothing has changed since then. This is comparing apples to apples. Utah is NOT above national average.

As for NAEP’s qualifications as a test, several years ago Dr. John Hoven compared U.S. NAEP test questions to those of the world class math leaders. Here are two of his main points from his article (http://edreform.com/_upload/NAEPmath.pdf)

  • “My point is simple: There is a chasm of difference in expectations between NAEP and the problems used by world-class mathematics leaders. We expect too little from our children, and by lowering our expectations we lower their incentive to achieve.”
  • “NAEP classifies its problems as “easy,” “medium,” or “hard.” I benchmarked the “hard” 8th grade problems, examining NAEP’s highest level of expectation for 8th grade math. Most of these “hard” 8th grade problems are at the level of Singapore’s grade 5 – or lower.”

Now for Judy’s second point on the Common Core standards.

Just a few short years ago, a number of people went through an incredibly difficult process to get the state of Utah to raise it’s math standards. Nobody at the state office or state school board wanted to change from standards that were rated by the Fordham Foundation at a ‘D’ level, and the US Chamber of Commerce rated them a ‘C’.  The state board also rejected the notion of just adopting California’s ‘A’ rated standards on the basis that this is Utah and we are somehow unique and different than California so we need our own math standards. No matter that that would have saved us a lot of time and money…

After a lot of work by a lot of legislators, educators, and citizens, Utah capitulated and went through the rewrite process. Upon review, they garnered an ‘A-‘ from the Fordham Foundation. They were pretty good, though still subpar to countries like Singapore that have fewer standards so they can spend more time mastering those concepts. The trite phrase “a mile wide and an inch deep” was referred to repeatedly by educators and board members in this state, but nobody would admit it was indicative of Utah’s current standards that weighed in around 60-70 topics per grade level giving teachers only 2-3 days to cover a topic.  In Singapore, they have an average of 9 days to delve into a topic, master it, and then build on it without having to repeat concepts over and over. This chart illustrates time spent per standard. The area of the rectangles roughly match.

Utah Standards

(http://www.utahsmathfuture.com/singaporemathfacts.cfm)

So now the Obama administration sets in motion the Common Core standards. States were offered bribe money to “Race to the Top” and be one of the first to adopt. Most states jumped right on the bandwagon including Utah which somehow overcame the difficulty of their prior position that Utah is unique and doesn’t need or want something developed by someone out of our state. Some mathematicians look at the standards and say they’re pretty good. Others are not so excited. What’s the difference? One see the path of the agenda, the other sees a carrot (bribe).

“How can the State Boards of Education make decisions when they haven’t even read the standards? Many state’s Board Members had never been initiated into what was in these documents.  What were the policy issues coming out of these documents and whether these analyses truly were in a sense legitimate academic analysis…These are very serious issues about what self- government means at the state and local government level.”–Sandra Stotsky,  professor in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, and holds the 21st Century Chair in Teacher Quality.

The real danger comes in this way. National standards lead to national tests to ensure the standards are followed. Those are followed by a national curriculum to ensure students are ready for the tests. That is followed by tracking teachers and giving them an incentive to have their students progress well. That means teachers and students are tracked in a national database. That opens the door to the government indoctrinating in the classroom through test questions, curriculum, and teacher merit pay based on how well their students test ACCORDING TO TESTS WRITTEN BY THE GOVERNMENT. This is extraordinarily dangerous to our freedom and future. Teachers teach to the test. If the assessments are geared toward social justice, constructivist style questions, it will further the deliberate dumbing down of American students in preparation for a government mandated future.

Here’s the kicker. Someone recently posted a quote on Save Alpine School District .com from John Goodlad’s book Developing Democratic Character in the Young (pp. 161) as saying “the current demand for unprecedented levels of academic achievement is getting in the way of [our] humanistic purposes.”

This is all part of the plan of the progressive educators like Goodlad and Noddings. They don’t care about academic performance. Their emphasis is on creating democratic citizens that are fully enculturated into a social and political democracy. You may think schooling is non-partisan and non-political, but in this same book’s preface you will find Goodlad in disagreement stating, “Schooling is a practical, political affair.” They know their purpose and it is not academic excellence. It is the subjugation of a nation by turning them into obedient little automatons. This is why Goodlad had Marxist revolutionary Bill Ayers speak as the keynote speaker in Goodlad’s NNER conference in October 2010.

How important is math to America? We aren’t competing against China anymore, we’re competing against the top students in China. Until Utah’s education system and legislature take this seriously, we’ll continue to slide all the while touting how great we are doing for the amount of money we’re spending. I’ve got news for you Utah, plenty of other countries spend less money than Utah and outperform us. Why? Real standards and real curriculum. It’s time to pilot Singapore math in Utah and replicate the success of Benchmark Charter School in Arizona where 94% of all students say math is their favorite class and they prove it by being the top scoring school in the state.

http://www.utahsmathfuture.com/americas_dire_straits.cfm

In the August 2004 issue of Teaching Children Mathematics, 5 co-authors from Alpine School District and BYU’s mathematics education department (Scott Hendrickson, Daniel Siebert, Stephanie Z. Smith, Heidi Kunzler, and Sharon Christensen) collaborated on an article entitled “Addressing Parents’ Concerns about Mathematics Reform.” This article appeared over a year before I entered the “math war” and was a result of hundreds of parents before me making the effort to get rid of fuzzy math in ASD. This publication by the NCTM went out to teachers all across the country in an effort to support “reform” math programs being implemented and contains ASD’s strategy for dealing with parents (aside from the one that has district administrators tell multiple parents “you’re the only one that’s complained about this program” when they come in for a visit).

In the article, this is how they describe dealing with vocal parents.

During the first few meetings, we encountered a small but vocal group of parents (Oak: boy does that line sound familiar) who opposed the reform curriculum. These parents often asked so many questions during the general presentation that we were unable to offer a coherent overview of the new curriculum…

To address this issue, we decided to accept parent questions only after we had completed our initial forty-five-minute presentation. Furthermore, we attempted to anticipate the common questions that parents had and to address these questions systematically and coherently in the presentation and the handout on homework. We found that most parents were satisfied by the presentation and were eager to either visit the classrooms or go home. We therefore created a ten-minute intermission immediately following the general presentation. We invited parents to go directly to the classrooms or stay for a question-and-answer period. Usually, 90 percent of the parents left immediately after the general presentation. Some parents used the intermission to approach district and school leaders to ask questions. These information conversations seemed particularly productive in addressing parents’ concerns. After all the parents who wanted to visit the classrooms had left, we held our question-and-answer session and stayed as long as there were questions. This left the vocal parents with a much smaller audience and prevented many of the antagonistic feelings that had been unexpectedly generated during the first few meetings.

Translating Eduspeak to English: isolate, let them vent, don’t let their message spread

Further down the article we read some of the nonsense about reform math.

Students are given fewer problems so that they have time to reason, build and test conjectures, try multiple solution strategies, and make connections between what they are learning and experiencing and what they already know. Because learning with understanding is now more important than speed of computation, students do not need as much practice as in traditional instruction. Furthermore, to help ensure that students are learning with understanding, a significant amount of instructional time focuses on sharing solution methods, both orally and in writing, so that students can organize their thinking through expression, receive helpful feedback, and be exposed to new ideas. This process of allowing students to work for longer periods of time on context-rich problems and to communicate their solutions enables them to develop many different solution methods they can use efficiently and flexibly.

Context rich problems like “describe a Yekte, what it eats and where it lives.” “What color is the number 5?” “Using a bottle of glue, paste cotton balls on this picture everywhere there is a bird’s nest.” Oh, you can just feel the deep rich learning taking place from these problems. Having fewer problems without any rigor and spending more time sharing solutions means kids don’t learn. How these educators can look parents in the face without a shred of common sense and say, “don’t teach your children the times tables at home or you will mess them up” is just stunning. It’s no wonder ASD can’t produce a single study that supports reform math. The only studies out there show how badly it performs. Here’s one What Works Clearinghouse study that should just be entitled, “How to set your child back with Investigations or Scott Foresman Addison Wesley math.”

http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/publications/quickreviews/qrreport.aspx?qrid=117

  • Student math achievement was significantly higher in schools assigned to Math Expressions and Saxon, than in schools assigned to Investigations and SFAW. Average HLM-adjusted spring math achievement of Math Expressions and Saxon students was 0.30 standard deviations higher than Investigations students, and 0.24 standard deviations higher than SFAW students. For a student at the 50th percentile in math achievement, these effects mean that the student’s percentile rank would be 9 to 12 points higher if the school used Math Expressions or Saxon, instead of Investigations or SFAW.
  • …There were no subgroups for which Investigations or SFAW showed a statistically significant advantage.

Thank you ASD for steering the district from Investigations into SFAW. Glad someone did their homework on that program.

Those of you outside ASD are not isolated from these programs. Pay attention to the work your children bring home and find out what they are using in their classrooms. Be involved in your children’s education.

The following letter was sent to the Alpine School District School Board on 5/27/09.

Dear School Board,

Can one of you tell me why our district continues to use Connected Math when the state has declared it is an unacceptable program?  The state office has removed it from their approved program list and yet it continues to be used in ASD middle schools. What is your plan to remove it from the schools for next year?  I am well aware that some of your teachers and administrators love the program, but the utter lack of content in the program is really hurting our students.

Not only that, but here are the results of real studies from the government run “What Works Clearinghouse” website and you can see CMP is a failure compared to other programs.  It’s a 10 point downward swing from Saxon and actually produces negative achievement in students.   http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/reports/topic.aspx?tid=03

Effectiveness Ratings For Middle School Math: Mathematics achievement

Intervention Sort Icon Improvement Index Descending Order Evidence Rating Sort Icon Extent Of Evidence Sort Icon
The Expert Mathematician Improvement Index 14 Potentially positive effects Small
Cognitive Tutor Improvement Index 8 Potentially positive effects Medium to Large
Saxon Middle School Math Improvement Index 8 Positive effects Medium to Large
I CAN Learn® Pre-Algebra and Algebra Improvement Index 5 Positive effects Medium to Large
Accelerated Math Improvement Index 4 No discernible effects Medium to Large
Transition Mathematics Improvement Index 0 Mixed effects Medium to Large
Connected Mathematics Project (CMP) Improvement Index -2 Mixed effects Medium to Large
University of Chicago School Mathematics Project (UCSMP) Algebra Improvement Index -6 No discernible effects Small

A couple years ago, Chrissy asked me what curriculum would provide one solid K-12 experience for children.  I didn’t really have a sure-fire K-12 solution at the time and still don’t.  In fact, I’m convinced there is no K-12 solution that is absolutely best.  What I do know, is that K-8 ought to have a cohesive, solid foundation so that all upper grade math is then more understandable (and that upper math 9-12 should be top notch books to prepare kids for a rigorous study of the sciences).  Two of the very best programs for this are Singapore and Saxon math.

Regarding Singapore math, nothing else can touch it.  Please look at the attached pdf (link below) provided by Dr. Richard Bisk from Massachusetts. I encourage you to review the entire document, but especially page 21 and the last page.  Page 21 shows a contrast between Singapore math and Scott Foresman and Everyday Math.  It’s a stark difference which goes right to your “mile wide inch deep” phrase you all like to use. You traded in Investigations math (sort of) to get SFAW that has similar problems.

Now on the last page of the pdf is perhaps the very best information you could possibly see.  In 1998, Massachusetts raised state standards and the North Middlesex Regional School District adopted Singapore math.  Over the course of a few years all scores improved because the state raised its standards, but NMRSD had much better changes than the rest of the state.  Look at the advanced category where NMRSD had a 2 point advantage over the state, and after 7 years had a 22 point advantage.  However, the most impressive thing is the failure rate. It’s obvious NMRSD had fewer students in the failure category to begin with but after this span of time, they reduced their failure rate from 39% to 2%.  Only 2% of students were in the failing category while advanced went from 9 to 57%.  Astounding, and certainly caused by Singapore math’s amazing program.

MA still has a long way to go and if you didn’t see it, a week ago, results were released where they tested the teachers in the state on math and only 27% of them passed the test. Our teachers would do no better.  Too many don’t understand math because they keep getting indoctrinated in pedagogy instead of content so they have no clue where math leads.

Have any of you looked into Project Follow Through?  For 3 decades the government tracked students that went through K-16 education to see what really worked. They watched 180 schools and 79,000 children. The graph on this page of my site says it all. Constructivism is a proven failure.  The graph above also shows that CMP actually damages children’s progress in math. http://www.oaknorton.com/imathresults34.cfm

Please drop CMP and IMP. The state office has dropped TERC and CMP and I have asked that they review IMP, all because these programs are among the very worst available.  How do you justify using these programs when you know for a fact the district has no studies to support using them?  I filed a GRAMA months ago and they couldn’t produce one single study to support them and to the contrary, you have hundreds of mathematicians who have testified these programs are utterly devoid of content so they are not preparing students for collegiate level math work.  Please address this important issue soon.  I would like a response as to what your plan is–to stay with them, or to replace them with something more “balanced”. 🙂

Sincerely,

Oak Norton

Bisk Presentation