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Community discussion on "Everyday Math" curriculum

Original post made on Mar 17, 2009

The elementary-school math textbook "Everyday Mathematics" emerged Monday afternoon as the overwhelming recommendation of a committee composed mainly of teachers -- despite objections from some parents. The school board will discuss the recommendation April 14 and possibly decide April 28.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, March 17, 2009, 12:14 AM

Comments (318)

Posted by number sentence lol, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 17, 2009 at 8:58 am

"There's a huge gap between what they get in fifth grade and what they need is sixth grade," one fifth-grade teacher said. "The hole is as huge as the Grand Canyon. So we're going to have to address that problem as a district."

I'd hate to be the parent of a 3rd/4th grader atm.


Posted by Gunn parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 17, 2009 at 10:01 am

Given the way this committee was selected and the process it followed, the selection of EDM is not a surprise, unfortunately. The math instruction improved when we got to Terman and Gunn, but elementary math as implemented by Cohen-Vargas and Howard for the new BP school was a joke.

And by the way, just what is the Palo Alto philosophy? Let parents supplement when the program doesn't work for their kids? And then we wonder why we have such a large achievement gap? Parents with means supplement, and those who can't have their students labeled as losers. Good luck elementary parents and get your checkbooks out for the tutors!


Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2009 at 10:08 am

Parents, you now know that you must be prepared to tutor your children in math. Pass this message on to your neighbors - parents of incoming kinders, parents of children who may have language related learning difficulties. Be prepared to see the achievement gap grow while stressed employees hold staff development days to address it the problem.


Posted by Mom - elem kids, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 17, 2009 at 10:23 am

As parents who disagree with this you can still do something. Write emails to the board members or talk to them. Show them the facts/your specific concerns. Also, remember to NOT make this personal against the committee. I agree with many poster here - the committee had put in al lot of effort. WE may not agree with their choice, we should let the board know and still be respectful of the work that has gone in.


In summary - please write to the board if you feel strongly on this issue. And educate other parents who care but may not have paid attention. The board member emails / phone numbers are at Web Link


Posted by parent, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 17, 2009 at 10:46 am



This decision does NOT need to be made right now. It can officially wait, save money in the process. Teachers, please don't take that as a lack of trust in you, it's not about Everyday Math, it's about the process.

The reason to wait is because the selection of a textbook should not be made ahead of HARD DATA on the current strengths and weaknesses of the PAUSD curriculum. As one of the teachers very well put it. "The hole is as huge as the Grand Canyon. So we're going to have to address that problem as a district." Well, not during or after we're experimenting with yet a new system!

It's wrong to make this textbook decision before a thorough analysis of the weaknesses and strengths of the current system. That includes an up front survey of how many advanced Math students have had tutoring.

Becki Cohn-Vargas, PAUSD's director of elementary education, said administrators "will go through with a fine-tooth comb to find all the gaps and bolster those areas."

Mrs. Vargas, this should be addressed BEFORE the textbook decision, not after.

As for changing the word equation to "number sentence", I'd like to know how that makes us competitive abroad. The term Equation is universal and will never change. "Number sentence" sounds like a crutch to help someone scared of numbers, more at home with words, feel comfy.


Again, this is not about the decision to select Everyday Math, it is about the PROCESS.







Posted by Parent Who Supports Teachers, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2009 at 10:57 am

I support the teachers. It's appalling that a few loud parents have been allowed to come in at the eleventh hour and derail the decision making process. I support the teachers' majority decision to choose the math program they feel is best suited for our PAUSD students. It is baffling why our school Superintendent does not support his own highly qualified teachers, professionals with teaching certifications and years of experience with kids in the classroom - instead pushing them to cave in to a few parents who fancy themselves to be math experts and professional educators. The last thing I want is a few squeaky wheels, parents who have not been a part of this intense nine month research process, choosing my child's math program. I trust the teachers who are in the trenches with the kids everyday to make the right decision.


Posted by Former teacher, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 17, 2009 at 11:08 am

No text series is perfect, ever. The committee has done a thorough job of vetting the choices, and although this one falls short in some areas, apparently it was the best option overall. If there is a gap at one level, the excellent teachers of Palo Alto will supplement. They have many resources at their disposal, from former texts, years of experience, online support, packets they have created, and more. It is not so hard to implement supplementary instruction in our schools with just 20-25 kids per fifth grade class. Teachers will see the need and fill in the gaps.


Posted by parent, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 17, 2009 at 11:10 am



because an "intense nine month research process"

should have included a deep and thorough understanding of the "gaps" in the curriculum that the district is only now planning to use a "fine tooth comb" on.

please don't make it about loud parents. I support teachers and my wish for this decision to wait is not a sign of disrespect.


Posted by Gunn parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 17, 2009 at 11:11 am

Parent Who Supports Teachers - I actually do support the teachers! I have seen teachers struggle with math programs they were told they had to use. One year my daughter's teacher did not even have a teachers' guide because, as the principal stated, she was supposed to figure out the problems herself so she could teach it better. Needless to say, she could not answer many of the students' questions, much like many parents! And yes, I helped in the classroom during math.

I note with interest that my daughters' 2 best elem math teachers were not on this committee. The committee members represent a small percentage of the elementary teachers in PAUSD.


Posted by Paly/Jordan parent, a resident of University South
on Mar 17, 2009 at 12:38 pm

From my experience as a parent of two students who have gone through the Palo Alto elementary schools, I would say that most elementary teachers are not math experts. It was the rare teacher who was able to challenge my children at their appropriate levels. I don't understand why we didn't have math experts involved in the selection process. How about the best math teachers from the middle/high schools? The textbook publishers are good at selling books. They make them attractive to sell them, but that doesn't necessarily make them effective. Rather than fluff up the textbooks with concepts like "math sentence" let's make sure the teachers are trained to convey the concept of "equation". Aren't our kids bright enough to learn that an equation contains an equals sign? Please put off the decision and find a text that has been proven superior. Several have been suggested by other parents.


Posted by Parent wants to know criteria, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 17, 2009 at 12:45 pm

Some of the concerns I've heard haven't bothered me:
* "different: siblings & parents can't help teach" ... if it really is a better curriculum, we should take the hit.
* "non-standard" ... again: so what?
* "calculator" ... ambivalent about this. The mental practice of doing long division by hand is probably useful. But, yes, almost everyone uses a calculator/spreadsheet. (Note: there is also a long way to do square roots by hand ... and it is probably not worth having all students master it -- so this is a question of where to draw the line.)
* "might lower test scores" ... we should teach them what is best for their minds, not what is best for a test.

The concern I have came more from watching the YouTube link someone had posted on an earlier news item.
* My interpretation was that the methods taught weren't just "new" or "different" ... some of them seemed "dumbed down".
* Also ... some of them were just plain slower, for no particular benefit.

Is this a curriculum designed to help the low achievers muddle through ... while being willing to sacrifice the high achievers?

We shouldn't blindly accept what the teacher panel decided without clearly knowing:
* What criteria did they use in selection?
* *Why* is this curriculum "better"?


Posted by not again, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2009 at 12:49 pm

What a pity that a vocal group of parents choose to stir the pot yet again. 14 years ago (2 adoptions back) Bill Evers turned the district upside down with his HOLD agenda. Web Link Ze'ev Wurman is following in Bill's shoes, and to his credit makes the argument for a strict traditional math curriculum sound more palatable than Bill did. You could say he uses a more pleasant shade of lipstick. It's a decade-old debate where they're taking a decade-old position on how best to teach mathematics.
I applaud the teachers for holding their ground in their textbook vote. No textbook is without fault; they understand that. A curriculum that includes BOTH mastery of facts as well as solid comprehension is ideal. If a textbook is lacking, it's easier to supplement drill and basic algorithms than to supplement comprehension.
Spiraling without mastery is a concern, but again, teachers may choose to teach to a higher standard of mastery than what's in the textbook. The textbook does not prevent them from doing so.
The bottom line is that the quality of the teachers is more important than the quality of the textbooks. Hire excellent teachers and allow them to choose the texts that they feel will best support them in the classroom. Trust that they know how to work around the inevitable warts – most of them do. The ones that don't are the same ones that can't be expected to supplement comprehension.
Web Link - Menlo Park School District's memo describing why they chose Everyday Math.
Web Link – Piedmont's PowerPoint presentation explaining their "Everyday Math" choice.


Posted by Jerry, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 17, 2009 at 12:53 pm

Gunn parent, You seem to have an interesting way to support teachers. If you truely support teachers, why are unable to support the decision of the teacher committee. You comment that "2 best elem math teachers" were not on the committee is, to me, an insult to the teachers that were on the committee, who spent many UNPAID hours examining the math books and supplements and , then, based on their experience and expertise made a decision. I am a retired math teacher of 30 years experience who, fortunately did not have to be distracted from my classroom TEACHING of my students by parents who considered themselves professional educational experts.


Posted by Experienced Mom, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2009 at 1:06 pm

Listen, I can support the teachers and not support their decision. I can't believe I am even having to say this.

We must remember,..these are not MATH teachers or even MATH PROFESSIONALS choosing the materials, but ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHERS choosing the materials.

These are people who have learned and perfected the methods of teaching children whatever it is they need to teach the kids accordinng to the District/Community/State and soon to be Federal Standards set up. It doesn't meant that they know what the kids should actually learn. For example, would you support the teachers in their decision if a few of them got together and decided that part of teaching social studies was to teach a year long Bible class? No, I don't think so. Yet, the argument could be made that this would be necessary as part of the character development that we espouse in this district. However, we, as parents and as a community, have the obligation, if not the right, to help determine the content and materials used in pursuing various goals we have set in our District.

It is a Trojan Horse argument to try the "support the teachers so support this math choice" stuff. I have put my son in every math "academy" and private math school, as well as "Jump Start Math" and a "Logic" series in the summer for 4 years, trying to help him stay on some track in math. For the rest of you, just keep spreading the word. Put your kid in math tutoring over every summer to fill in the gaps.

So please, don't pull this "support the teachers so you have to support the decision stuff". I won't even go into the obvious dotted line to the whole "support the troops" thing we have gone through for the last 6 years.


Posted by Experienced Mom, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2009 at 1:07 pm

BTW, I completely agree with whoever said that it is more supportive of teachers to get materials that WORK than to get them something they have to supplement all the time.


Posted by gunn mom, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2009 at 1:37 pm

It's not really about overly demanding parents who aren't listening to well informed teachers. That's bogus and just to intimidate parents who dare question the decision. The bottom line is does this work for the many gifted and bright students? That's right, think about week in and week out, several school years of a very simple math curriculum. The results are going to be students who struggle in the upper lanes of a very demanding math curriculum in high school. Look at the private schools and compare the curriculum and not just in math. One size does not fit all.


Posted by PV Parent, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 17, 2009 at 1:39 pm

I have a third grader who is a pretty much at-grade-level kind of kid and I've been extremely pleased with the kind of math he is taught in PAUSD. He's never been tutored, he knows his math facts and has a great intuitive understanding of things like fractions and probability that they have introduced this year. Seems like most of his classmates are the same. And their teacher thinks Everyday Math will make the curriculum even better.

If the teachers think these are the materials they need and that this will help them do their job, let's give it to them.


Posted by joe, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 17, 2009 at 1:41 pm

A decision has been made without full evaluation and disclosure of the outcomes data associated with EDM. Appears to be a classic case of "committee-ism". The focus on the Palo Alto kids has been missed.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2009 at 2:16 pm



PV Parent,

3rd grade is not a good place to already count your blessings in Math.


Posted by Jerry, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 17, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Gunn Mom, You still don't get it. " Gifted and bright students" are identified (assuming that the students to whom you refer have been identified) and need to have their imaginations and talents engaged in activities that challenge them not just indoctrinate them. It has been my experience that EVERY child is gifted and talented in some way EVEN if they choose a career choice that may not include attendance at a top college. There is no way a simple teacher like me can "intimidate" a parent like you. Hopefully, your child's teachers and future teachers will be able to withstand your enthusiasm. Do you plan to move nearby to the college that your child will attend? You must certainly want to keep the college instructors in line.


Posted by PV Parent, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 17, 2009 at 2:27 pm

Parent -
Four years with this set of teachers is certainly a point where I can say I think they know what they're doing, they have a good balance of computation and conceptual coverage, and to be open to the ideas they have for a new math curriculum.


Posted by Math Dad, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 17, 2009 at 2:30 pm

Gunn Mom -
What makes you think the curriculum that is being recommended is very simple? One of the criteria the committee used was the enrichment portion of the materials was for higher level students. EDM has many opportunities to extend mathematical thinking beyond simple computation - it's ideal for gifted students.


Posted by Good Luck, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 17, 2009 at 2:37 pm

The committee has problems with the traditional math programs such Singapore math. Is it because we are Americans and refuse to accept Asian programs? The country of Singapore has students who score highest in math in the world.

Why does Hoover has the highest API scores consistently? Why does the Cupertino School District (lots of Asians) as a whole score as high and even higher than Hoover (978) in some schools (992, 994)? Asian children are learning traditional math. I don't know the Cupertino curriculum, but either they or the parents are doing something right. Cupertino recently evaluated Everyday Math and the teachers voted against it. Even Hoover adds supplements to their math program, and whether they use the PAUSD math program at all is questionable. They test their students weekly to be sure they are mastering the calculations. If the Asian students aren't getting the right math curriculum in school, they are learning it at home or in afterschool programs such as Singapore, Chinese math, Kumon. Don't Asians dominate the AP math classes?

Are Asians smarter? No, they just have a better foundation for succeeding in math due to how they are learning math. Asians typically choose professions in math fields such as medicine, engineering, computers, physics, accounting.

For those of you who say tests don't count and it's the knowledge that counts, try to tell the universities that your child is intelligent but doesn't perform well on tests. That their GPA and SAT scores are not reflective of his/her aptitude.

And for those of you who say you are non-Asian but your kids do fine with the non-traditional math with no supplementation, your child probably has a natural ability to do well in math anyway.

So go ahead and choose Everyday Math, which has a lot of poor feedback according to the research on these threads. Go ahead and trust the teachers on the committee who all have the same beliefs in how to teach math from the getgo.

Meanwhile, I am going to use the traditional programs to supplement my children so they can test high in math like the Asians.


Posted by Gunn parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 17, 2009 at 3:09 pm

Whoa Jerry. As I said above, I do try to support teachers as best I can. I admit I am not an educational professional, but as a parent I have provided support with my time and money to almost every PAUSD classroom teacher who asked for help. I have served on school and district committees. I have supported the PTA/PTSA and PiE fundraising, including teacher grants. I have driven on field trips. I came in on weekends during B4E renovations to help teachers get their classrooms ready. This is all to say I have tried to support teachers and PAUSD provide the best educational opportunities for all PAUSD students. I do not think I am unique as a PAUSD parent. There are many other volunteers just like me. The parent-teacher partnership is what makes our district so enviable (just ask the WASC visiting committee). That does not mean I agree with every PAUSD, BOE or committee decision.

As a math professional, I would think you are aware that math is not the primary strength of some elementary teachers. Also, our experience in PAUSD is in having many young teachers who have not had the benefit of your 30 years in the classroom to hone their skills or develop supplemental materials. In fact I have bought supplemental math materials at the request of some teachers.

Given the mixed results of EDM, I question how it will improve upon the mixed results our kids had at BP.


Posted by Let's Get It Right, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 17, 2009 at 3:36 pm

Since this claim has been repeated a few times, I have to correct the record: Singapore math is NOT a traditional math curriculum. It comes from a radical rethink in Russia, via China via Singapore. It is not drill and kill. It does not sacrifice conceptual understanding. In fact, mathematicians from both the reform and traditional camps praise it because it does what both sides want.

If the goal is a curriculum that includes both mastery of facts as well as comprehension, as one person said, then Singapore math really is the way to go.

Another correction: EDM is not much good for gifted students. Challenging gifted kids depends on differentiating the instruction, and for math that means differentiating the curriculum. Neither EDM nor Singapore math solves that riddle. It really is up to the teacher to challenge the gifted kids. Unfortunately, the district view is that EVERY child is gifted (according to teacher Jerry).

This means that the district will never make it its business to challenge any gifted child (in the real sense of a child who is gifted as opposed to the sense of every child is gifted). In fact, it is district policy that teachers not teach math skills to advanced kids ahead of grade level.




Posted by Good Luck, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 17, 2009 at 3:46 pm

Let's,

It's a heck of a lot more traditional than Everyday Math because it ensures that kids know their numbers.

I know a lot of teachers on the committee and most were chosen to be on the committee because they are not strong math teachers. The people organizing the committee hand-picked the members AND did not involve the parents. It's no wonder they all agreed to Everyday Math. The whole committee is not a true representation of all the teachers and parents.


Posted by would you listen to yourselves, a resident of Escondido School
on Mar 17, 2009 at 3:59 pm

For those of you who need to provide tutoring for your children in math, have you ever thought that possibly it was your child's ability and not the math program or teacher? Is your child actually not failing or just not demonstrating enough smarts for you. I don't think the grade k - 5 math program is going to make or break a child's ability to get into an Ivy League school or be successful. Plenty of kids from this district have achieved both. Not everyone will.


Posted by joe, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 17, 2009 at 4:12 pm

My sense is that the teachers are not feeling the "love" from the community. I will say it right now, all of Palo Alto does indeed think you are great. Many of us have moved from other parts of the country to have our kids taught by you! I believe my sentiment would be shared by most others.

To provide some context from one person's experience, I work in the corporate world and previously in a university academic setting. There are not a lot of warm fuzzies there either.


Posted by Good Luck, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 17, 2009 at 4:14 pm

Would You Listen To,

Wait until your child enters middle school and high school and you find he/she is way behind in math and you will be supplementing to get him/her up to par.

Kids who are admitted into Ivy League schools don't just do it by chance. There's parental help along the way.


Posted by teacher, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 17, 2009 at 4:50 pm

"We must remember,..these are not MATH teachers or even MATH PROFESSIONALS choosing the materials, but ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHERS choosing the materials."
- Posted by Experienced Mom, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood

Dear Experienced Mom,

When I read statements like this one, I am reminded of how disrespectful and ignorant some of the parents can be in this community. I feel bad for the parents who are sincere and appreciative of the teachers, for it's ignorant statements like these that give the community a bad name.


Posted by Results-oriented, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2009 at 4:54 pm

"The reason to wait is because the selection of a textbook should not be made ahead of HARD DATA on the current strengths and weaknesses of the PAUSD curriculum."

Save your breath on that one. Having watched how decisions are made in this district for some time, I can say that they are NEVER driven by an analytical and systematic review of the facts, they are driven mainly by emotion and politics. You can beat your head against a brick wall as long as you want trying to get people to look at facts, but believe me, it won't work. It's the same thing all over again with the school construction/expenditure of Measure A funds.

Instead of trying to get people to look at the facts, you're pretty much going to have to look at them yourself and make a decision. Then figure out how to jump in the emotion-driven and politics-driven fray and push for what is right. It's the only way to get anything done around here.


Posted by we were invited, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2009 at 5:58 pm



The accusations against parents voicing concern about the Elementary Math Materials selection process and the selection of Everyday Math is completely out of bounds.

1. The parents were INVITED to participate in this process by the committee:

from the PAUSD website..
"The Elementary Math Materials Adoption Committee invites parents and community members to participate by offering input at two upcoming meetings...

2. The rude tone in these forums is coming mostly from those that think parents should not voice any dissent. Bullying tactic that will eventually work. We will all go home and those that can pull out their checkbooks, to have their children tutored will. The rest will rely on the "system" to take care of them - wake up.

3. The committee members complaining that they feel their work will be a waste of time if it is not rubber stamped by the BoE, you are taking this personally, and that would be a poor interpretation of the objections to your selection.










Posted by Good Luck, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 17, 2009 at 6:45 pm

We Were,

And how many times do busy elementary school parents look at the PAUSD website unless to look at the food menu? This is an announcement that the district should have sent to all parents in PAUSD but they were purposely trying to keep it out of the public eye.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 17, 2009 at 6:58 pm

we were invited,

Being invited doesn't mean treating your host rudely. Nor does it mean that your opinion should be considered more authorative than the people who studied the issue or will be using the materials to do your job.

You know, it's not just one person complaining about the parental attitude on this one. It's a variety of people--teachers, other parents.

The response to this has been--*We're* not rude--they're rude!

Sorry, I don't buy it. To me, that indicates an unwillingness or inability to see things from another perspective. It's rubber/glue. And it's not persuasive. If you really, really care about the math textbooks you'll try to figure out a way to persuade people to your point of view. Belittling their professional credentials won't do it.

How would you feel if a customer came and told you how to do your job--not just that they were unhappy, but how you should do your job and what bookkeeping system you should use. What if they were convinced that even though they were not trained to do your job and had never done it, they still knew better than you possibly could what your job required?

It's not a question of dissent, you think teachers don't get questioned by students? It's a question of acknowledging that the people in question do know something about doing their work.

And, sorry, we just don't have the kind of score problem that makes me think our teachers are incompetent. And, no, it's not all about tutoring. Sorry.

Good Luck,

I can't tell you how old the math-score stuff is. Back when I was a kid it was the Russians, then the Japanese, now it's the Chinese. Yep, Americans were disasters in math . . .

But somehow we ended up on the cutting edge of technology anyway. Even though China's turning out tons of engineers, they're not on par with American trained ones. Test scores aren't meaningless, but they're not nearly as meaningful as you think. Neither are grades for that matter.

Let's take the Ivy League--did you know if you go to any of the top 200 colleges, there won't be a difference in terms of your long-term success. Did you know valedictorians, while successful, don't tend to have outstanding careers?

One of the curious things one comes across is the number of very talented and creative Russian programmers. It's not because of their brilliant math education, however--it's because Soviet hardware was so damn awful that programmers created a lot of software tricks to get around it.

Your own argument shows a certain rigidity--an either/or aspect. I wouldn't pick you to do some out-of-the-box thinking.

Just for the fun of it, I decided to see if Singapore's math had produced any Nobel laureates. Apparently not:

Web Link

The above contains a comparison between Singapore and countries of similar population size--the Swiss(?) are the serious overachievers here. Israel, a young country, has also performed well.

Web Link

is a discussion of it by Singapore academics and scientists. Mentions the quirk factor and the narrowness of the Singapore educational approach.

Heck, I couldn't even find much in the way of math prizes. As in I don't rule it out, but I didn't find one of the big ones with a winner from Singapore on a preliminary search--but my mind's blanking out on the name of one of the big ones. Higher math's a young man's game, by the way, Singapore's system has had time to produce its genius.


Posted by math-y mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 17, 2009 at 8:00 pm

We can't still be comparing ourselves to Singapore as an argument for Singapore Math can we? Here are some facts to chew on:

- Singapore starts public, state-paid education at age 3.
- Children are taught in their home language for the first 4 years of their public schooling.
- Mandatory school attendance began in 2000 so 8th grade test scores prior to a year or so ago were on a population of self-selected students whose parents valued education.
- The ultra-competitive 6th grade exam that basically determines what the rest of your education looks like results in extensive private tutoring for most students.
- And here's the kicker - the books being marketed as "Singapore Math" aren't even used anymore in Singapore.

So let's not select a set of Materials based on an Asian country in the name. The process of having the teachers who will actually be using the materials pilot chapters and discuss their findings in detail seems a little more sensible.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 17, 2009 at 8:14 pm

I think it is worthwhile to thoughtfully evaluate and implement a high quality Math curriculum. In one sense, it doesn't really matter at the high school level.
As a former parent in this district, I can look back and shake my head at the ethically challenged parents who have their students tutored as a year-to-year SYSTEM (nothing to do with remedial or filling in the gaps of knowledge).
It really offended me that some parents were pressuring their students with homework year round in tutoring schemes unavailable to my child (my child, who likes Math, inquired of a friend and was told she would not be welcome owing to her ethnicity). We then chose to have her do her own work and am glad we did as she is a capable young woman who stands on her own two feet.
I am not referring to basic tutoring schemes like SCORE. I am referring to people who have obtained curriculum etc in advance and carefully prep certain students so they can then go to high school math classes with confidence in already knowing the material and testing high.
I have sometimes read comments from those who pretend advanced tutoring doesn't matter in Math here in PAUSD. I can assure you it does when it comes to "winning" and "competition" and university acceptances: it gives certain middle and high school advanced students a leg up, an advance boost over their (also advanced) peers who are doing their own work and learning as they go, as the teacher teaches, with the curriculum offered by PAUSD, in the actual courses where they are EARNING their grades.
There is a problem with this, a kind of fraud, whereby it is an open secret that the majority of advanced Math students have extreme, careful parent-paid prepping. This is part of the reason for the "achievement gap."
No, once and for all, it is not just the gifted Math students who have begged their parents for more advanced Math; most are regular folks who have a major advantage set up for them by their parents and this results in higher GRADES. The parent is ensuring top Math grades, which happen to be highly prized in this particular district. It is all for a numerical advantage over their peers, and this sure does matter when applying to places like UC.
There is also an environment here whereby students build a confidence and enjoy a superiority which they freely lord over their peers who do their own work and take their lumps.
In the end, the more self-reliant students probably do come out ahead however in the short term this system of prepping/tutoring is an ugly machination of overly competitive parents who work to dishearten their students' peers and I don't admire it. Oh, to total up the money devoted to this.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 17, 2009 at 8:18 pm

math-y mom,

You bring up some interesting facts. I wonder how Americans perform when divided by hours of education?

Also, where do Palo Alto's scores rank as opposed to American scores in general when compared to their overseas peers? My understanding is that kids from affluent areas of the U.S. don't underperform. Even our underperformers outperform their economic peers in other districts.

I don't think it's all private tutoring either--Palo Alto had high scores well before the recent tutoring mania.


Posted by PointOfView, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2009 at 8:25 pm

math-y-mom -

You have articulated reasons well for not assuming that it's easy to extrapolate from Singapore's past experience.

I think it is equally inappropriate to extrapolate from Japan's experience. It is a different culture with different education habits and results (not all good). Not apples to apples.


Posted by Good Luck, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 17, 2009 at 8:28 pm

OhlonePar,

I've seen your posts on other threads for a long time and they are usually sane and I usually agree with you. With these Everyday Math threads, something has kicked you. Now something has snapped and you have taken this particular thread to a new level, way past elementary education. Your liberal opinions usually root for the underdogs, so your support of Everyday Math is no surprise. As far as your surfing, does Singapore print everything in English?

Realize that we want our children to have a basic foundation in math, not to be rocket scientists. Not even math majors. We just want our children to have a chance at learning basic math so those who enjoy math have the foundation for further learning in math. And when the children reach middle school, they may even begin to enjoy it rather than be confused because they are trying to catch up on the basics which they were not properly taught. This Everyday Math sounds like a bear. According to research, teachers will be frustrated with it, parents will be frustrated with it, free time will be taken from our children because they will need tutors. Working parents will have to return home and work with their children with what little time they have. Out-of-the-box thinking can come after the basics are mastered.

Singapore Math may not be perfect, but it sure has a better track record than Everyday Math and it does promote out-of-the-box thinking too.

Your statement about test scores and grades not being meaningful? I'm not even going to touch that one.

A mind is such a terrible thing to waste.


Posted by Alumni, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 17, 2009 at 8:50 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 17, 2009 at 8:55 pm

Good Luck,

Even in real-life I've had conservative friends because I'm not knee-jerk. In this case, I am not so much supporting Everyday Math--I'm sure there are valid issues with it--I don't see the point of calculators either--as much as an attitude I don't like. I have some faith and trust in our teachers and will do so until I have reason to do otherwise. For me, the case of EDM v. Singapore is not nearly so clearcut that I feel the second-guessing of the textbook committee is warranted.

I really don't see PAUSD teachers trying to sabotage their own teaching efforts by deliberately picking the worst text possible. I don't buy that they're so incompetent that they don't know which textbook will really suit their needs best out of a group of imperfect choices.

I think there's a tremendous amount of parental anxiety about math performance in this district and that's created a push to pretty much micromanage teachers in this area.

Please think about what's being said about the teachers on these threads and whether it's really been warranted. (Whereas criticism of our late super is entirely warranted IMO. Sheesh.)




Posted by Me, a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 17, 2009 at 9:04 pm

No math textbook can make a dumb kid smart, but a dumbed down book can make a smart kid dumb


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 17, 2009 at 9:16 pm

Me,

more like bored, I think.

Good Luck,

I see I didn't answer one of your questions. Math and science are taught in English in Singapore. It's a former British colony. English is one of its four official languages and the one most widely used. It's the only one required in school and most Singaporese literature is in it.

So, yeah, a lot of stuff from Singapore is, indeed, in English. Particularly in the area of math.

(Damn, Google's fun.)


Posted by scientella, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 17, 2009 at 9:29 pm

These math books are OK for the average Californian and may even be OK for the average Palo Altonian, but they are completely inadequate for the many gifted children in this area.

I think this fact is the source of the anger of many parents, and this anger has been partially misdirected to this text decision.


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2009 at 9:31 pm


Finland, which according to The Economist, has the worlds best schools achieved this by firing the administrators and putting the teachers in charge.

We should do the same in the PAUSD.

We will give our children a great gift and also save some money.


Posted by EDM-not a good choice, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 17, 2009 at 10:12 pm

OhlonePar - I am a parent and respect our teachers tremendously, I help the school as much as I can financially and by voluntering whenever I can. BUT I "respectfully" disagree with the EDM choice. I know the committee did not have access to all the research on plus and minuses of EDM. Have your really read through the research on schools that have used EDM?


Posted by EDM Fan, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2009 at 10:42 pm

Here's some research that some of you haven't had access to! The following California districts have used EDM since 2003:

Hillsborough City Elementary
Woodside Elementary
Portola Valley
Del Mar Union Elementary
Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified
Poway Unified
Conejo Valley Unified
El Segundo Unified
Glendale Unified
East Whittier City Elementary
Saint Helena Unified

All of them have higher than state average API scores.

The US Dept. of Education "What Works Clearinghouse" has this statement on their website:

Four studies of Everyday Mathematics met the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) evidence standards with reservations. These studies included a total of approximately 12,600 students in grades 3–5 from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds and attending schools in urban, suburban, and rural communities in multiple states.

The WWC considers the extent of evidence for Everyday Mathematics to be medium to large for math achievement.



Posted by listen to yourselves, a resident of Escondido School
on Mar 17, 2009 at 10:45 pm

Scientella - just because a parent said their child is "gifted", does that make it so? How do you know we have so many "gifted" children in this town? I truly think that parents in this area can't accept that their children are not "gifted" (whatever that means) and, therefore, blame the teachers, the book, the administration, etc.


Posted by Ze'ev Wurman, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 17, 2009 at 10:53 pm

Unfortunately mathy-y mom threw out a lot of factoids in her post. Some true, some false, all misleading or irrelevant.

"- Singapore starts public, state-paid education at age 3."

Wrong. Singapore's mandatory education starts at age 6, in grade 1. See Web Link . Preschool is not free, but assistance is available on need-base. See Web Link .

"- Children are taught in their home language for the first 4 years of their public schooling."
Yes, but also in English. Lots of ELLs, if you want to call them that; and still successful.

"- Mandatory school attendance began in 2000 so 8th grade test scores prior to a year or so ago were on a population of self-selected students whose parents valued education."
This is, politely speaking, misleading. The conclusion is simply wrong.

Singapore became self-governed in 1959. Shortly thereafter it made primary education free and by 1965 it effectively achieved universal primary education status (Web Link also published as chapter 3 in An African Exploration of the East Asian Education Experience, The World Bank 2008). If at all, compulsory education in Singapore started actually in 2003 and not in 2000, but it was more a token law since it formalized a situation that was already in existence for almost 30 years. Web Link

TIMSS carefully checks this type of data, and the 1995 TIMSS results for Singapore are valid.

"- The ultra-competitive 6th grade exam that basically determines what the rest of your education looks like results in extensive private tutoring for most students."

The "ultra competitive" adjective and the private tutoring numbers are mathy-y mom's inventions. Anyway, what's the point?

"- And here's the kicker - the books being marketed as "Singapore Math" aren't even used anymore in Singapore."

A "kicker" indeed. The books adopted for California are the same books that brought Singapore to the top of TIMSS in 1995 (quite surprisingly, as it did not have an excellent education system before 1980s -- ibid). Since then Singapore had indeed modified their books (for a short history, see Web Link ). With the new more 'touchy feely' books, Singapore maintained its numbers in fourth grade math, but dropped 18 points in 8th grade math to a third place on TIMSS between 2003 and 2007.


Posted by RWD, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 17, 2009 at 10:58 pm

To me, the ignorant statements are the ones made by math committee members who suggested that parents obtained their information on the two math programs under consideration by "googling" it. An incredibly high number of parents in this district have graduate degrees; we might actually know something or have something to offer this process. While I appreciate that three parents (and more -- some teachers are also district parents) sat on the selection committee, no one put out a poll to the community to see who of us might have experience with these programs beyond a brief trial period. As a new member of the community, I couldn't have sat on the formal committee, but I have some feedback on Everyday Math that I'd like to feel was heard and respected.

I am an educator (my graduate degree is from Columbia's Teachers College) and a mother who suffered -- and I do mean to say suffered -- through Everyday Math with my daughter for three years prior to moving to Palo Alto. I chose where to live because of the excellence of the school districts, but I verified their excellence by making sure that they did not teach Everyday Math. Obviously, I feel strongly about this program in a negative way. I know that I will have to return to the days of homeschooling my very intelligent daughter in math -- something I have not had to do at all this year. Neither of us enjoyed that supplementation, but it was necessary -- as our teachers admit it will be necessary for our students. (That's a problem, don't you think -- the suggestion that "gaps will be filled" -- ?)

Our specific problems with Everyday Math far exceed the different language -- the whole "spiraling" approach to learning, where components of the curriculum are not mastered before moving on, is problematic; it has come under scrutiny in the education community for its inefficiency, especially because students need to re-learn concepts before advancing again on the spiral. I can't see how "mastery of concepts" is a high priority in Everyday Math, yet it was on many of the parents' priority lists at the community meeting. And that is just one example.

At the end of the day, not enough parents know enough about this program and just how funky it is -- and I think that if they did, there would be even greater concern. If parents can't make it to the PAUSD offices to review the materials like I did, what can they do? (Google it! Or nothing.) And for those of us who actually attended the meeting, what information did we get about the two programs? (Little.)

Look, all things considered, I am really happy with our teachers and the school district, but I think the superintendent is right on the money in expecting trouble over this decision. I know that our teachers will "fill in the gaps," but, quite frankly, I'd rather NEVER hear those words in terms of my kids' education. Shouldn't we be reaching rather than bending, here?


Posted by this is crazy, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2009 at 11:14 pm



is there anything funkier than substituting "equation" with the term "number sentence"?

does Everyday Math have Parent development along with all the planned teacher development? We'll need a heads up before we have fights with our kids when helping them with their homework.

A parent manual, the publishers could throw that in maybe.


Posted by Ze'ev Wurman, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 17, 2009 at 11:26 pm

EDM Fan,

"Four studies of Everyday Mathematics met the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) evidence standards with reservations. These studies included a total of approximately 12,600 students in grades 3–5 from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds and attending schools in urban, suburban, and rural communities in multiple states."

It's a pity you did not continue to read the actual WWC discussion (Web Link ) which effectively says that out of the four studies, one study found statistically significant positive effects, two studies had positive but statistically non-significant effects, and one study found no effects. Bottom line: only one almost-well-done study that found significant and positive effects.

This is not much to hold against Everyday Math -- it simply reflects the fact that curriculum effectiveness research until last few years was between bad and awful. WWC pored over hundreds, if not thousands, such studies and I believe it found less than 10(!) quality studies. Only one of them happened to be in math curriculum area.


Posted by this is crazy, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2009 at 11:28 pm



"Skelly and others stressed that regardless of which text is chosen, factors of greater importance would be the quality of teaching, teacher training and communication with parents."

If this was an equation, sorry number sentence, then how can it be that "regardless" of the text chosen, two of the three factors of greater importance - teacher training and communication with parents will in fact be completely related to textbook. Choosing Everyday Math is not just a textbook, it's a teacher training in Everyday Math.

How can a committee be in charge of such a big move?









Posted by tim, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2009 at 11:34 pm

Actually, EDM does offer parent information for each unit.

I've looked at EDM. It's not that funky. EDM has well defined units - a few weeks on multiplication, for example - and Palo Alto's standards require driving to proficiency, so teachers do and will.

I feel for parents whose children struggle with math. Everybody's child is above average, of course, and any textbook other than EDM would have worked like a charm.

The committee measured 9 imperfect California-approved textbook options measured against one complex set of criteria, which came from local professional educators' observations of what works with students in Palo Alto. The result: Teachers passionately recommended a text some of the parents wouldn't have selected themselves. Well, you can't please all the people ...


Posted by Show me the Research, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2009 at 11:39 pm

I find it very interesting when people continue to question the research about EDM. A blog is not a reliable place to find research; nor is utube. What Works Clearinghouse is. They have very strict guidelines on what they consider to be valid research. And they have research showing that EDM does have a positive impact on student achievement.

I challenge you. Where is the research that shows Singapore Math and/or SRA has had a long-term positive effect on student achievement in a large, public, CA school district that is similar to PAUSD. Show me the research studies. I have spent hours looking for research showing the success of Singapore Math in a comparable school district to us and I can't find it. The only study I saw at all was in Montgomery County and even that report has mixed reviews. And as for SRA Real Math, NONE.

How can you tell the district not to adopt a curriculum with mixed reviews from various unreliable sources, and then advocate for another curriculum that doesn't have any research by researchers to proves it's effectiveness in a classroom setting?


Posted by Glad I don't teach in Palo Alto, a resident of another community
on Mar 17, 2009 at 11:55 pm

Hello parents of Palo Alto.

Thank you for the reminder why I am glad I do not teach in your district.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

What happens when those "math professionals" have no idea about child development, education theory, curriculum development, lesson planning, teaching methods, classroom management, the needs of second language learners, the needs of students in special education, the many different types of learners in a classroom (e.g. visual, auditory, kinesthetic), which are a few of the qualities that elementary school teachers do possess? You would get curriculum that only addresses the math need of the student.

Then Experienced Mom goes on to state:

"these are people who have learned and perfected the methods of teaching children whatever it is they need to teach the kids accordinng (sic) to the District/Community/State and soon to be Federal Standards set up."

Well, don't you want someone who has "learned and perfected the methods" choosing the curriculum, as opposed to "math professionals" who probably have not? And what better people do you want teaching than individuals who have "learned and perfected" how to do it?

But the most egregious comment Experienced Mom makes is:

"It doesn't meant (sic) that they know what the kids should actually learn."

Maybe I am wrong, but what I hear you saying is that teachers who have been certified by the state, which means they are individuals who have earned a bachelor's degree, a teaching credential, a CLAD credential, and are considered "highly qualified" by the federal government, not to mention that have passed the CBEST, and CSET Multiple subjects tests, and may have earned Masters degrees in education, do not know what kids should actually learn? Am I to believe that you, who I am going to assume cannot place many if any of the above qualifications under your job title of "experienced" somehow has a greater ability to determine "what the kids should actually learn"?

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by think2learn, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2009 at 12:04 am

It's entertaining to read personal testimonials, but individual experience is essentially meaningless. It's tempting to tout other countries' math programs, but the cultures, educational practices and demographics are completely different. It would be nice if there were good curriculum effectiveness studies that would enable objective comparisons of all our options, but there aren't.

Ze'ev points out that curriculum effectiveness research has been poor, but that the few credible studies all showed that EDM does no harm and probably does good. Unfortunately, that's the best credible stuides can say about ANY math curriculum right now, so it's not practical to wait for more 'results' to inform a decision.

What to do?

Let the people who are accountable for results choose the best tools for doing their job by defining what's important and seeing how the options measure up. Learn what you can about the tools they're using. Ask how you can help. Join the adventure in learning. As Miss Frizzle says, "Take Chances! Make Mistakes!"

Finally, now that you know about the conspiracy to keep parents in the dark by publishing school information on the school's website and in school newsletters instead of sending personal letters to each parent, be subversive and read what they publish. Then volunteer for the next textbook selection committee.


Posted by tim, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2009 at 12:11 am

Dear Glad I don't teach in Palo Alto,

Most of us are rational, respectful, involved parents who would make you glad to teach in Palo Alto.

We accept that with a high per capita population of valedictorians and PhDs that quite a few people are opinionated and confident, even when they're ill-informed. Most of our teachers are confident, too, and don't worry too much about them.


Posted by Good Luck, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 18, 2009 at 12:23 am

So it appears that the teachers on the committee are doing their best to fight back. But I still see opinions and no research or data to support their recommendation of Everyday Math.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

And those schools listed which use Everyday Math? Many of the districts are wealthy towns so they can afford to pay for supplementation. I know people who live in Portola Valley, Hillsborough, and Woodside and they have given me the inside scoop, which is supplementing after schooltime because they can't stand Everyday Math. Not only that, but Palo Alto scores are already similar to theirs. If their scores were much higher than ours, then that would be something significant. Also, some of those school districts listed in less wealthy areas had test scores in the 800s or less.

The situation is not just a few squeaky wheels here. Loads of parents are downright dreading Everyday Math from what they have read and heard. One parent said, "I looked at the texts at Churchill and they looked fine. But our experience with Everyday Math was so terrible. Just viewing the texts is not enough to really know the program." The parents who have experienced Everyday Math for years have a much better idea of the program than any teachers who have piloted the program for only half a year.


Posted by Glad I don't..., a resident of another community
on Mar 18, 2009 at 12:32 am

Dear Tim,

It is good to hear of your support for your teachers. And I am glad to see the more thought out comments of the last hour which urge people to check available research and question the curriculum itself as opposed to the professionalism and expert opinions of the individuals who voted to adopt it.

I rescind my comment about being glad I don't teach in your district. The rationality, respectfulness, and involvement of the vast majority of the parents is to be respected and along with the professionalism and quality of the teachers and other district personnel is directly related to the high level at which your district continues to perform.


Posted by 7 year robots, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 18, 2009 at 12:50 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by National Math Panel again, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2009 at 6:34 am

Tim

The district's "complex set of criteria" was missing one pretty important item - the National Math Advisory Panel's top recommendation that elementary math text books should have:

"a focused, coherent progression of mathematics learning, with an emphasis on proficiency with key topics ... Any approach that continually revisits topics year after year without closure is to be avoided. . . students should achieve automaticity [and develop] accurate and automatic execution of the standard algorithms."

EDM's program design does none of these.

~~~ It is based on spriraling which the National Math Panel found so objectionable.

From EDM'd Curriculum Alignment Guide (link Web Link):

“The UCSMP programs [like EDM] provide a spiraling curriculum, repeating content throughout each school year and course, bringing topics back to be refreshed, reinforced, and extended. ...With time and repeated exposure, students learn the content."

The progressive nonprofit Education Development Center's description of Everyday Mathematics: (link: Web Link):

“What we want teachers to do is to bring it up, drop it, bring it up again, let it go, bring it up again, let it go, and then at some point, aim for mastery. That's built into essentially every part of our program."

“The spiral curriculum is one of the hardest things for teachers to adjust to. . . Don't be afraid ...Don't worry. . . We're constantly changing topics."

~~~ It is premised on children getting automaticity from calculators.

The current edition Parent Handbook: 1st grade parents are told to encourage their child to use calculators whenever they encounter problems that are “easier to handle with calculators than without."

The current edition Teacher's Manual: “Calculators are so helpful in the mathematics curriculum ...they free both students and teachers from having to spend so much time on dull, repetitive, and unproductive tasks."

Prior posters noted the PASUD math committee complained that EDM introduced calculators in kindergarten and gave each 1st grader a calculator, taught them how to use it, and allowed them to use calculators on worksheets and tests.

With so much emphasis on calculators, it is no surprise that 3rd grade enVision has built into it 5 times the number of multiplication and division practice problems as EDM has. EDM kids don't need it because the calculator will do it for them.

~~~ EDM creates its own algorithms which it thinks work better than the standard ones and buries the standard algorithm it has deep inside its 500 page hardcover reference book. Link (Web Link)

“The authors of Everyday Mathematics believe that the invented-procedures/alternative algorithms approach ... is a radical improvement over the traditional approach"

“Researchers have identified a number of serious problems with the traditional approach to teaching computation. [A major] reason for changes in the [standard] treatment of algorithms in school mathematics is that a better approach exists."



Postings like yours I am sure are intended to be helpful, but are why parents are concerned about the math textbook selection process.

No fault of the committee really, they did the best they could with limited information. But the rub is that they were given limited information; staff did not verify that the "criteria" included the National Math Panel's recommendations. Had it, EDM would never have made it past the first cut.

Credit to prior posters, especially Mandy Lowell and Ze'ev Wurman.



Posted by Montgomery County again, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2009 at 7:14 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by We are on the same team, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 18, 2009 at 7:27 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by faeril, a resident of another community
on Mar 18, 2009 at 8:02 am

I am sorry to intrude in a discussion that doesn't impact me personally, but I really feel the need to share info with those who are concerned about Everyday Math. I live in Illinois, and my children use this program in our school. Fortunately, we have accelerated math (if your kid performs well) which does not use EM after third grade -- EM is awful! It has some good points, but it covers too many topics in a year (roughly 36, I think), the kids work on one skill for 2/3 days move on without mastering it then see it again in two months (1st grade time and money are an example -- my daughter is "seeing" those for the third time this year). Many teachers love the program because it has very detailed lessons -- if math is not a strong skill for someone, it is comforting to think you will still be able to do a "good" job teaching math by having a script to follow. This isn't about the teachers being good or bad, but about wanting to do a good job teaching children. Unfortunately, the teacher plans are the best thing about EM. Here is what college level professors have to say about EM (top flight universities, like Harvard, Stanford, UC Berkley and John Hopkins): Web Link is what reseach says: Web Link is a video about how EM teaches math: Web Link have been fighting our district for three years to change the program, but they love it -- test scores look great. Yeah test scores on tests where the kids get calculators, formula sheets, extra time if needed. Remediation rate for math at local universities and junior colleges is about 60% -- percentage of kids ready for college math in this area according to ACT scores is about 30%. Many districts in my area use the program -- c'mon, it was developed by our hometown University of Chicago (sorry for the sarcasm). Does it sound like the program works?


Posted by parent observer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2009 at 8:22 am



for the record, spiraling annoys kids that are good at Math. It does not go unnoticed, they just think the teacher is boring. It makes them bored with Math, they check out.

the Math panel recommends against it, that should disqualify the use of spiraling in Palo Alto.


Posted by observer, a resident of another community
on Mar 18, 2009 at 9:07 am

" "There's a huge gap between what they get in fifth grade and what they need is sixth grade," one fifth-grade teacher said. "The hole is as huge as the Grand Canyon. So we're going to have to address that problem as a district." "

Is this report accurate?

Is it the case that a committee composed primarily of elementary school teachers has knowingly chosen a math program that does not prepare students for 6th grade math?

And parents have no recourse but to hire tutors or purchase a more advanced curriculum for use at home?


Posted by PV Resident, a resident of Portola Valley
on Mar 18, 2009 at 9:22 am

I stumbled on this thread yesterday, and have followed it with interest. As noted in one of the posts, a number of local communities, including Portola Valley and Menlo Park have adopted Every Day Math. I encourage you to go talk to those districts, find out what their experience has been, and if they are happy with it. My childrens teachers have had to supplement EDM for their classrooms, especially in the area of the basics.


Posted by 5th grade teachers, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Mar 18, 2009 at 9:26 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by 7 year robots, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 18, 2009 at 9:30 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by not again, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2009 at 9:40 am

The local math tutors must be enjoying the panic that some parents are deliberately passing along to others. My kid went through the PAUSD system and did exceptionally well in math. He went to the same schools as Bill Evers' kid (Ze'ev Wurman's predecessor in the Web Link Math War battle) and came out with a perfect SAT math score. From middle school on we never helped him with his homework, and he never had a tutor. He wasn't label as a GATE student, but he did take his grades seriously and was a fairly smart kid. He wasn't obsessed with studying. In other words, he was a typical above-average kid who received all his math instruction from the PAUSD system. It didn't fail him. He had quite a few friends and classmates with similar experiences.

This is purely anecdotal evidence, shared as a counter-point to all the anecdotal evidence that the sky is falling and you all need tutors because, heaven forbid, the PAUSD teachers have chosen a text that the drill-kill team don't like. If their stories affect you, please realize that there are plenty of opposite experiences which counteract theirs. How else would PAUSD have such excellent scores? It's not through tutors. I don't know of a single student who had a tutor in my kid's accelerated math lane, and neither does he.


Posted by observer, a resident of another community
on Mar 18, 2009 at 10:03 am

5th grade teachers --

Thank you!

Obviously I don't understand what has taken place, but I think this is a good moment to point out that many teachers intensely dislike these curricula, too.

My own district adopted Math Trailblazers a few years ago, which naturally has led to ongoing strife between parents and the administration.

The committee was charged with choosing a "constructivist" curriculum. That was a core requirement. So they only looked at three NSF-funded books: Everyday Math, Investigations - TERC, and Math Trailblazers. (I don't know who established the requirement that the new curriculum be constructivist. It may have come from above.)

One of the teachers on the committee told me that she herself had taught Everyday Math in another district, and if I'm remembering correctly she said other teachers had used TERC (Investigations). Everyday Math & Investigations were both bad, she said, so they chose Trailblazers as the least bad of the lot.

That's not a ringing endorsement!

I wish you could hear the math teacher dad in my district on the subject of Trailblazers. I can't reproduce the whole thing; it was quite a rant. I remember him saying that if he could he would roll up the entire curriculum, every last book, stuff it in a rocket ship, and blast it into outer space.

This is a man with 25 years experience teaching math in public high schools.

He had his own kids enrolled in two supplemental programs, I believe, and was formally teaching them math at home every night.

He was teaching a number of other children in the district as well & still is.


Posted by narnia, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2009 at 10:05 am

The only explanation I can find for the adoption of "Everyday Mathematics" is the lack of Mathematical training of those who approved its adoption. I worked with "Everyday Mathematics " for five years. Its scattered and fragmented lessons lack any visible rational and are mathematically and cognitively confusing. Teachers and students dislike it and with good reasons.


Posted by tim, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2009 at 10:06 am

National Math Panel Again ...

The report doesn't say what you say it says. It says the panel found "no basis in research for preferring one or the other" with respect to integrated (spiraling) versus single-subject approach.

Page 22 of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel Final Report says,

<start quote>

... The teaching of each block typically extends over several months and aims for mathematical closure. As a result, these curricula avoid the need to revisit essentially the same material over several years, often referred to as "spiraling."

A search of the literature did not produce studies that clearly examined whether an integrated approach or a single-subject sequence is more effective for algebra and more advanced mathematics course work. The Panel finds no basis in research for preferring one or the other.

<end quote>

It is somewhat ambiguous whether this statement refers only to high school or to the entire curriculum, but it is the only mention of research related to spiraling.

In my opinion, the footnote on the page, which references Adding It Up (National Research Council p. 116) makes a strong argument for the style of math embodied by EDM or Envision -- used in conjunction with the PAUSD standards that require proficiency.


Posted by Good Luck, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 18, 2009 at 10:36 am

Not Again,

My kid went through the PAUSD system and did exceptionally well in math...and came out with a perfect SAT math score. From middle school on we never helped him with his homework, and he never had a tutor. He wasn't obsessed with studying. In other words, he was a typical above-average kid."

It is so clear that your son and his friends (birds of a feather...) were born naturally gifted. There is no way anyone gets a perfect SAT score by being a "typical above-average kid" and no prep. I have known those who score that high naturally and cannot describe them as such.

"I don't know of a single student who had a tutor in my kid's accelerated math lane, and neither does he."

Are you serious? People will not admit they are receiving extra help or tutoring, especially to someone like you who frowns upon it.

Not again has no knowledge of Everyday Math because this is the worst possible choice which will override any other poor math programs chosen in the past. This one is a grenade which will explode once children reach 6th grade if they have no help outside of the classroom.

And to the person who mentioned Menlo Park, they are starting Everyday Math this fall.



For those of you new to this thread, here are the past threads: Elementary math textbook adoption: Reactions to Wed. mtg: Web Link

PAUSD explains math textbook adoption process: Web Link


And here is the link to the math adoption committee info on PAUSD which will have the minutes of the last meeting once posted: Web Link


Posted by National Math Panel again, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2009 at 11:07 am

Tim

My spiraling excerpt is a direct quote from the 1st Main Finding and Recommendation listed in the Executive Summary Section of National Math Panel Final Report, bottom of page xvi and top of page xvii. It is also found again, in bold on the same page as the section you refer to.

The Panel was absolutely clear, as the quote says, that spiraling (aka an "approach that continually revisits topics year after year without closure") is bad for elementary and middle school curricula.

Go back and read the section you reference more carefully. It clearly refers to high school math ("topics of high
school mathematics" and "for algebra and more advanced mathematics course work").

Here's the link: Web Link


Posted by not again, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2009 at 11:30 am

Good luck, Actually I'm connected with math education more than I care to elaborate here. I understand the Math War battle that's being waged against our district, and the history behind it. I've been involved with the textbook selection process in ways I don't care to elaborate. I'm a long-standing member of NCTM and other mathematics and education associations. I don't care to immerse myself into this recurring debate. I've been there, done that, for over 14 years now.
Yes, obviously my son is smart to get a high SAT score, but not to the point that he was singled out for GATE. Yes, his friends and classmates in the AP math lanes were also smart, but none of them required tutoring to keep up. No kidding. PAUSD provided them with a solid education that did not require supplementing. In browsing these threads there's a recurring theme by alarmists who would like you to believe that your smart kid is going to get screwed if EDM is selected. It's just not true.
I will tell you what matters. We did a lot of math together with our son when he was preschool through elementary school age. I have no doubt that this was a contributing factor in his later success. Our style was "constructivist" if a label must be attached, with an equal emphasis on proficiency. We would have done the same regardless of what textbook the teachers chose. We would have had to do actual supplementing if they chose a drill-and-kill approach, so I'm grateful that they chose a robust, practical and well-rounded curriculum.
I'm not defending EDM. It has shortcomings, but they all do. I'm defending professional teachers who voted overwhelmingly to adopt this textbook. They know things we don't. I'm attempting to allay fears that with this textbook your children will all need tutoring. Finally, I'm saying that regardless of what textbook is being used in your child's class, you must take part in their math education early on if you'd like them to succeed. Approaching mathematics with an understanding that there are multiple ways to achieve the correct answer will provide a stronger foundation than believing there is only one best algorithm.


Posted by parent observer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2009 at 11:46 am


The committee decision is based on committee teachers themselves piloting the textbooks, and they only piloted those after rejecting other options that parents and research support. So, they made up their minds pretty early on.

Most of the seven months were spent piloting a preferred method from the outset, not giving other options a chance in the first place.

There is nothing that the BoE or the district can do to explain the flawed process.

The use of calculators for teaching basic concepts show that it's the teachers that may need the crutch.

How sad that in the heart of Silicon Valley parents are asking for calculators to not be used, and that teachers are attacking us for it.

I'm glad that for the record, parents in Palo Alto that care and know enough about Math have objected to calculators and spiraling.

Objecting to calculators and spiraling will serve all levels of students.




Posted by reality, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 18, 2009 at 11:54 am

not again, it's pretty disingenuous to say your kid never had tutoring. What do you think you were doing while he was in elementary school? Playing math games with your kid, which not every parent does, enriches beyond the PAUSD curriculum. So no, even by your own desciption, your son did not get fromthere to here all by himself, using the PAUSD curriculum and having the level of foundational math that kids get here.

Not that the sky is falling, mind you, but let's be realisitc about it.

And actualy, the teachers didn't vote overwhlmingly for EDM in a vacuum. They voted overwhelmingly for EDM instead of EnVisions, which is the TERC offering, isn't it? So giventhose two choices, and not being allowed to vote for the programs they asked for thta were cut out for some reason, they voted for EDM. Not really much of a choice, if you think about it.

Could we please just step back and get some answers about why the fifth grade teachers' input was so resoundingly ignored when the committee narrowed down the choices to a vote? This is not disrespect for teachers. This is asking to be given a rational explanation (and one may exist for all we know) for why those two were the curricula in the final cut.

As a side note, my kids too didn't master foundational math facts at school or as part of their assigned homework. They learned them because I played math games with them and did enrichment activities that included having them (and me) practice math facts early on and throughout elementary. The result is kid swho are enjoying learning higher math concepts becaues they are not anxious about the building blocks.


Posted by parent observer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2009 at 11:56 am


not again,

you now list your Math credentials, and say your son is an "average" guy?

he's not an average guy because you are not an average mom.

you admit that you worked with him, with all your Math credentials.

You tutored him.




Posted by observer, a resident of another community
on Mar 18, 2009 at 12:26 pm

"Could we please just step back and get some answers about why the fifth grade teachers' input was so resoundingly ignored when the committee narrowed down the choices to a vote?"

So the post above, signed "5th grade teachers," is correct?

"4th Committee meeting (after piloting): 5th grade teachers continued to dislike Everyday Math by a wide margin grading EDM inferior in all categories (long list of reasons including "not much practice," "extremely hard to navigate," "has a lot of stuff that is not addressed in our standards," "teacher-unfriendly," "hard transition to 6th grade," and "spiraling was too broad and too much for kids.")"

Is it the case that 5th grade teachers disliked Everyday Math by a wide margin?

If so, does anyone know what has actually happened here?


Posted by not again, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Where did I say I have math credentials? What I said was that I belong to math education associations and followed an earlier but oh-so-similar debate on the textbook selection process. I have a long-standing interest in how math is taught in elementary school. That doesn't make me credentialed.
The teachers on the committee are credentialed. The teachers they represent who are expected to use the texts are credentialed.
If you call how I played with my son "tutoring", then I suggest every parent should "tutor" their child. It IS that important. You will say that not all parents know how to help with math. True, not all parents are equally capable of explaining various ways to break down and solve math problems. But I'll bet you any parent can drill their kids on math facts. Why do you suppose flash cards are so popular? It's not because the kids like them.
If you agree with both of these statements – not all parents understand math well and most parents can handle flash cards – then you must come to the conclusion that if a curriculum absolutely must short-shrift drilling or comprehension, that drilling is safer to pass along to parents than comprehension. I think we can all agree that we want a curriculum that excels at both, however.


Posted by newcomer to the debate, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 18, 2009 at 12:45 pm

I finally went over to the county office to look at these materials and I can't see what the brou-haha is about. There is an entire chapter in the EDM teacher's manual about automaticity and how their worksheets and games support it. I checked out the lattice multiplication lesson and although it seemed odd to me, it wasn't THAT wild and crazy. (When I got home I googled it and found that it's actually a really old method and has been around for hundreds of years.)

I have to admit the SRA stuff looked great to me but if the publisher isn't supporting it, then there really isn't anything we can do about that. I found the teacher's manual for Singapore Math very restrictive. It had a specific script to follow for each lesson, no alternate way of explaining anything, and didn't seem to support a separate exercise for advanced students at all. I could easily the kids who had already learned multiplication having a tough time sitting through all the direct instruction. PAUSD teachers don't teach from scripts like that in any other subject.


Posted by Let's Get It Right, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 18, 2009 at 12:54 pm

What a mess.

The committee backs a text (EDM) that takes an extreme constructivist approach. This text has only one study (whose trustworthiness the WWC has reservations about) showing significant positive effects. Its extreme spiraling method is something the National Math Panel specifically warns against.

The committee rejected at the outset a text (Singapore Math) that takes a middle-of-the-road approach. This text has massive statistical data showing significant positive results (TIMMS). Its middle-of-the-road approach mirrors the recommendations of the National Math Panel.

Start again.


Posted by Good Luck, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 18, 2009 at 12:55 pm

Newcomer,

As in an earlier post of mine, parents who have had experience with Everyday Math say things such as: "I looked at the texts at Churchill and they looked fine. But our experience with Everyday Math was so terrible. Just viewing the texts is not enough to really know the program." The parents who have experienced Everyday Math for years have a much better idea of the program than any teachers who have piloted the program for only half a year or parents who flip through the books. One of the major issues of Everyday Math is its spiraling system of teaching which confuses children and may not be completely obvious to one who is sifting through the textbooks.

The teachers to ask would be at Keys School in town. I read that they used Everyday Math and began using Singapore Math four years ago.


Posted by Barry Garelick, a resident of another community
on Mar 18, 2009 at 1:13 pm

It sounds to me like the school board is the one who has spent five minutes on Google to find out about Everyday Math--and they only visited EM's website. The school board really should have done more homework. Why didn't they talk to the school districts that have dropped Everyday Math to find out why they did so? Did that occur to anyone? Or were their minds already made up? Is anyone on the school board reading these comments who wishes to answer that? Thank you in advance.


Posted by Ada, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2009 at 1:15 pm

Everyday Math is dumbed down approach to teaching math oriented at struggling students. It is absolutely wrong to Palo Alto elementary schools. I am very frustrated as it looks like parents opinion is overturned by some behind the scene politics surrounding the choice of program.


Posted by Ze'ev Wurman, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 18, 2009 at 2:11 pm

'Not again' brings up an interesting question--tutoring. S/he says that her son and his friends and classmates never needed tutoring, and that she has been at this issue for 14 years.

As far as I am aware, the last time this question was asked in a district survey was in January of 1995, 14 years ago. The results then indicated that about 50% of parents provided formal help with math to their children, and half of that help (~25% overall) was paid help (tutors, Kumon, Score, etc.) If 'not again' never met these people s/he must have led a sheltered life.

It seems worthwhile to run a survey with this question again and repeat the survey 2-3 years down the line, whatever the adoption will be. It might provide the district--and the community--with some real data, for a change.


Posted by parent, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 18, 2009 at 2:44 pm



No wonder the need for differentiated instruction, instruction for the tutored, not tutored, hyper tutored.....

if already 14 years ago half of the parents were using outside supplementation for their kids, this little tidbit of data would be good to help with closing the tutoring gap (oops) achievement gap.










Posted by George, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 18, 2009 at 3:28 pm

Why are the teachers supporting this so vehemently?
How are teachers judged? Average standardized test scores?

What's the easiest way mathematically to influence the average test scores? Influencing the outliers?

The 99% percenters can't move up on standardized tests so its the low scorers that are the "low hanging fruit", right?

So what do we get for a new curriculum? A text book that teaches to the lowest achievers?

When our kids are trying to nail calculus in high school, they will suffer from a poor foundation in fundamental mathematics training.

Let's get rid the CYA teachers unions. Too bad private schools cost $25,000 a year.



Posted by Math Dad, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 18, 2009 at 3:40 pm

Why is everyone calling Everyday Math a dumbed down curriculum? Menlo Park's adoption statement said that they felt it offered the best tools for enrichment for higher students. In the minutes to several meetings, teachers have said that EDM reached their highest AND lowest students. Every single lesson includes open ended questions that encourage higher order math thinking. Maybe the teachers are supporting this so vehemently because they really believe it's the best way to teach ALL of their students.


Posted by Good Luck, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 18, 2009 at 3:59 pm

Barry,

Don't blame the school board yet. It's the math adoption committee who evaluated Everyday Math and are recommending it to the school board to vote on April 14.

Math Dad,

Get Menlo's feedback in three years. Menlo Park adoption commmittee was lead to believe that Everyday Math would raise test scores. They said the presentation of the material was fine and had no idea it was considered a bad program by others. Did they do their homework outside of the meetings? There is plenty of information on the internet about enraged parents due to Everyday Math and plenty of information on it being unsuccessful. Singapore Math also encourages higher order thinking but it is a better system because it doesn't spiral like Everyday Math does.

George,

"Why are the teachers supporting this so vehemently?"

Because they didn't do their homework outside of the meetings and they don't want to admit they made a mistake.


Posted by Math Dad, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 18, 2009 at 4:09 pm

GL -
How on earth do you know what the teachers did and didn't do outside of meetings. Eleven weeks of piloting?? Do you know if any of them observed other districts? Talked to colleagues in Hillsborough? Sought out other districts like Albuquerque or Lane County, OR? You're just assuming they didn't since they reached a different conclusion than you did. They're probably all thinking, "What did the parents do besides looking at blogs on the web?"


Posted by parent observer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2009 at 4:19 pm



Math Dad,

Do you know if the 11 week piloting was done by the teachers on the committee?


Posted by Math Dad, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 18, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Parent Observer,

All 40 teachers pilotted both programs.


Posted by Barry Garelickk, a resident of another community
on Mar 18, 2009 at 4:29 pm

OK, I won't blame the school board. Yet.


Posted by parent observer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2009 at 4:31 pm



not sure what the 40 includes,

all teachers on the committee? I thought there were 32, or

all Elementary school teachers in certain grades, 2nd , 3rd grade?

it would be helpful knowing how many teachers that piloted EM were outside of the committee





Posted by Good Luck, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 18, 2009 at 4:35 pm

Math Dad,

Eleven weeks of piloting?! Good God! That is not enough time for them to see that the spiraling doesn't work!

As far as asking other districts, do you think the teachers using Everyday Math are going to admit that it is an awful program? It's politics as usual. And you can bet Hillsborough parents are supplementing. They have the means and the ways.

Parents also do more than viewing at blogs. They have sought out those who have years of Everyday Math experience, they have talked to people of districts who use Everyday Math, they have even dared people on these threads to find information supporting Everyday Math.

I received an email from an organization which asked if anyone had any good experiences with Everyday Math because her experience was bad. She did not receive any positive replies.

A reporter in town even called someone who had experience with Everyday Math. "I can't seem to find anyone with positive experiences on Everyday Math," she said. "I am trying to write an article showing the positives and negatives and I can't."

How on Earth do I know they didn't do their homework? Why would anyone choose a program which has no evidence of success?


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 18, 2009 at 4:36 pm

Everyday Math also known as Chicago based math was in vogue and supposed to be the best of the best 5-7 years ago. It sounds good in theory. Students get introduced to the concepts in an early grade and then reintroduced to it each year going further and further into it through the rest of elementary school. In reality it does not establish the proficiency of the basics that are necessary without a great deal of time at home. -- except you do not realize it until you have to play catch up after identifying a weakness in your students total math profile. Most of the school districts that used this method 5-7 years ago have since moved on.


Posted by observer, a resident of another community
on Mar 18, 2009 at 5:08 pm

William Schmidt of Western Michigan University has studied "curricular coherence" extensively. His 20-minute lecture posted at Baltimore Curriculum Project/Leading Minds is well worth your time. He explains why the "extreme spiraling" of an Everyday Mathematics-type curriculum harms U.S. students.

I assume I can embed a link, but if it doesn't work, Google "William Schmidt," "Baltimore Curriculum Project" and "Leading Minds" and you'll find the page. They've also posted lectures by R. James Milgram (Stanford), W. Stephen Wilson, and Craig R. Barrett (Intel).

I haven't listened to the other lectures yet, although I did see the segment in which James Milgram displays an activity from Everyday Math, which his 1st grade grandson has completed, and tells the audience that "it depresses me no end."

The videos are here:
Web Link

Lecturers' PowerPoints are here:
Web Link

Schmidt was U.S. TIMMSS National Research Coordinator. (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study)


Posted by Laning in ELementary?, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 18, 2009 at 5:10 pm



IF the big response to the merits of Everyday Math are differentiated instruction, that's even scarier.

it probably means laning.

what a horrible burden on teachers to Lane elementary school children.



Posted by observer, a resident of another community
on Mar 18, 2009 at 5:19 pm

This is a transcript of Schmidt's remarks on coherence in the Baltimore Curriculum Project/Leading Minds video:

"Rigor has to do with the fact that by the middle grades in most of the rest of the world they're focusing, as I said, on more serious mathematics. And what we found is that by the end of 8th grade we are two years behind other countries, not in achievementbut in the opportunity to learn. That is, [our] curriculum is some two years or more behind the curriculum of most of the rest of the world.

I say it this way: in the United States most of our kids are still doing fractions, decimals, percents, ratios and all that kind of stuff, some even whole number manipulations. In the rest of the world they're doing algebra and geometry. So it's a big difference. We waste those years: 3 years when [in the rest of the world] they're transitioning into formal mathematics -- and, by the way, formal science -- while we're simply diddling with what they've done in the first 5 years [I]t is nothing but the same, it's just harder problems of the same elementary sort of arithmetic.

(section omitted)

Mathematics is a formal discipline at the university level. School mathematics has to reflect that structure. It's not a bunch of arbitrary topics that can be shuffled about and put into any order. There's a sequence; there's a logic to the discipline of mathematics, and school mathematics has to at least reflect that. And coherence we define as the degree to which there is that representation of the topics, the way they're sequenced, the way they're organized across the school years, that that needs to reflect that kind of structure.

What's the opposite? Well, it's just an arbitrary sort of collection of topics.

Now let me show you some data from this point of view. Look at the first and second grade. There's your issue of focus. [The top-achieving countries] focus on three things plus or minus another couple. And that is: they focus on whole number meaning, place value (how you operate with whole numbers), and measurement units. That's the focus. The whole year, they spend on that.

By contrast, in this country we try to give those little kids 20-some topics typically. That's the focus issue.

If you focus, guess what?

They learn it, and you don't have to repeat it year after year after year.

Now what is rigor? Ask yourself whether your kids are studying in 8th grade congruence, similarity, the rational number system, the field theorems, functions, slope, trigonometry. That's the rest of the world. And let me tell you something. That's all of their kids. That's all their kids. They don't isolate some kids and give it to some and not to others. They may go deeper with some kids than they do with other kids but basically this is what the curriculum is for all kids."

Web Link

Schmidt's point is that when you teach for exposure instead of mastery you have to reteach the same topics over and over and over again, year in and year out; you can't move on.

"Extreme spiraling" is a fantastic time sink.


Posted by Ze'ev Wurman, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 18, 2009 at 5:24 pm

Regarding the piloting process.

Based on what I heard at meetings, I understand that the piloting was done for one unit (chapter) in each series. Each unit is normally expected to take about three weeks, but possibly four in a piloting environment. At the February meetng there was, I believe, an interest by few teachers to pilot some of the material for another week or two. That would bring the total to about 10 weeks for some, and more like 7 weeks for most, split between the two programs.

Maybe one of the participants could clarify this factual point.


Posted by George, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 18, 2009 at 5:30 pm

You've got to be kidding me that EDM isn't dumbed down math. This should convince you that EDM is a dumbed down program:
Web Link

The presenter focuses in on this passage from the EDM teacher handbook. First I'll put this in my words and then I'll show you the actual entry:

11.2.4 Why we don't teach your children how to divide [or multiply] using the techniques used for thousands of years

The authors of Everyday Mathematics do not believe it is worth the teachers' time and effort to fully teach students how to divide [and multiply] for all possible division [or multiplication] problems. Mastery of these tried and true techniques is is a huge endeavor, one that experience tells us is doomed to failure for many students not willing to put in the effort or those that have already been left behind in their mastery of math by years of poor teaching, curriculum, or lack of effort. It is simply couter-productive to invest many hours of precious class time teaching under achievers. The high achieving students' parents will teach them the correct way to divide [and multiply) at home. The mathematical payoff is not worth the teachers' time or effort, particularly because quotients can be found quickly and accurately with a calculator.

This is similar to suggesting that we don't need to teach students to spell because their spell checker will find their errors.

Here's the original text:

11.2.4 Division Algorithms
The authors of Everyday Mathematics do not believe it is worth students' time and effort to fully develop highly efficient paper-and-pencil algorithms for all possible whole number, fraction, and decimal division problems. Mastery of the intricacies of such algorithms is a huge endeavor, one that experience tell us is doomed to failure for many students. It is simply couter-productive to invest many hours of precious class time on such algorithms. The mathematical payoff is not worth the cost, particularly because quotients can be found quickly and accurately with a calculator.


Here's another assessment of the program discussing the lack of adequate instruction or testing in EDM:
Web Link



Posted by George, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 18, 2009 at 5:54 pm

Sorry for the hyperbole: long division is a little over 400 years old, invented by British mathematician Henry Briggs.


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Ventura
on Mar 18, 2009 at 6:01 pm

Ah, long division is a must but teaching lattice multiplication (a technique which has been around 400 years published by Fibonacci) is a taboo. Where do I find a definitive list of old techniques that are required and old techniques that are forbidden?


Posted by George, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 18, 2009 at 6:06 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by observer, a resident of another community
on Mar 18, 2009 at 6:14 pm

problem from a 2nd grade Russian math textbook (in James Milgram's PowerPoint):

920. On Monday 75 children visited the school library, on Tuesday 25 fewer children, and on Wednesday two times as many as on Tuesday. How many children visited the library on Wednesday. (Set up an expression based on the problem.)

Milgram's comment: "Note the level of the problems in the second grade Russian text--that's what proper focus does for you."

Web Link


Posted by Anna, a resident of Meadow Park
on Mar 18, 2009 at 6:19 pm

Observer -
Did you listen to the first things Milgram said? That the US has underperformed internationally for over 100 years? And that traditional curriculum versus concept-based curriculum had not made even 1% of difference? he's not advocating for a specific type of curriculum, he is saying that the entire structure of the standards need to be changed.

In the US, schools cover many more topics than they do in other countries per grade. But part of the reason for that is that our standardized tests assess all of those topics - if we stopped covering them, STAR test scores would plummet. This perhaps the right thing for a child's long term education but unless the standardized tests change, I doubt most districts will have the stomach for doing that.


Posted by narnia, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2009 at 6:32 pm

Observer,
I'm with you on this topic. As I said above, I had to use it for 5 years with elementary school students and I too found it to be "... just an arbitrary sort of collection of topics", a time waster of sorts. EDM goes into too deep detail for which young students have neither the experience nor the knowledge as if the pompous and complicated can improve understanding or practice.. Just try and explain to an elementary school child the geometrical representation of decimal multiplication. For that matter, pick up any adult with a high school/101 college math education and ask that they map such result, which is what the EDM wants the student to do.. And I would bet they can't . This is one example of the kind of thing we wasted our time on.
Another example:
Try 3 digit number simple multiplication. The EDM approach at first is to multiply each digit value and add up the results. For example 325x4=(300x4)+(20x4)+(5x4) .It does look fine and rational, but there are two problems- frequently the book uses the same digit in two different parts of an operation- students cannot relate the example with the algorithm that way. Secondly the example starts 300x4....etc, but when multiplication is recorded with the usual format (this is a cognitive matter) the students are then asked to abandon the practice they learned, and start their multiplication with the lower value digit without any other explanation. How's that for confusing the student?
I could go on and on and on and on......

But here is a problem you can encounter as an application using EDM
A farmer wants plow a field which is 0.72km lenght and 0.3km wide . Represent each operation/s and RESULTS of the ploughed area GEOMETRICALLY.
This problem is to be done geometrically ONLY, not algebraically. Do you think you can
teach this effectively? And HOW and WHY?


Posted by Spoiled Palo Alto Parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 18, 2009 at 7:02 pm

I can't find a way to justify the audacity of this minority group of PAUSD parents coming forth to derail a perfectly good system. Do they have way too much time on their hands? Don't they know that the kids who will excel, will excel. The kids who will be average, will be average. Kids that are at risk are given every possible support that the schools have in place, in hopes that they can achieve. How the children of Palo Alto "turn-out" has more to do with what you as parents do with them when they get home from school than it does with a math program. Don't you think the teachers of Palo Alto want ALL of their students to be successful? Don't you think they want the best tools to help the children achieve? Don't you trust them to modify and extend curriculum when they need too? Think of 5 of the greatest most successful people you know, or have heard of. Maybe a Nobel Laureate, a local Politician, a Presidential Advisor, a J.A.G., a Tech Wiz.... Somehow, someway, they achieved their goals and stature without "Singapore Math." Don't rely on a math program to make or break your kid. That job is up to you.


Posted by Newby, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 18, 2009 at 7:13 pm

New to the area, now I understand the term "Palo Alto Parent." You all don't know how good you have it. Your Governor is an idiot but you in Palo Alto, you seem to have it all. Count your blessings. You could be arguing over school closures in the coming years.


Posted by Seriously?, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 18, 2009 at 7:21 pm

Parent -
Calling someone a name in uncalled for. Completely. Isn't that a more important thing to teach our children than a long division algorithm? I didn't think that anonymous comment was obnoxious at all - someone was pointing out the inconsistency between this parent group's attitude on two old style math algorithms. I heard a PAUSD teacher say (this is pre-EDM) that her kids make fewer mistakes with the lattice method, which she learned from a 4th grader who had transferred here from England. So maybe George needs to know that "standards" vary from place to place and his aren't always right. Right after he learns to control his language.


Posted by narnia, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2009 at 7:28 pm

Just one last thing. If instead of being given a map and a clear start and destination we would just be told for the next 6 years when to turn, when to stop and when to proceed in a certain direction we would say: this is crazy. Just obeying turn left, now walk 10 steps, turn right, walk backwards 25 yards then stop, turn 203 and so on until I say so and then climb up this stairs and next thing we know we are falling to the earth we would say : this is not how you teach sky diving" We would refuse this approach. We have to make sense of things. We have to know what our goal is what the steps are and the likely outcome. The EDM attempts to teach math in the way the sky diving lesson I describe. Besides the extreme complication within the topic, the topics are not sequentially connected at all and the student is told only: do this, do that.
The complexity in the of EDM books is not child friendly and is the result of wanting to check as many different trees as possible, one by one in a seemingly randomly manner without looking at the proverbial forest. The EDM leaves students and teachers alike feeling lost and unsuccessful. Sure, a few might not but the great majority do. And so do their parents.
EDM has a doubtful cognitive approach to elementary school math teaching and the fragmented approach to the study and learning of arithmetic and to the study of elementary algebra.
It is the product of people who have no experience with elementary school teaching of anything? Cognitive scientists? teachers?
Perhaps they thought that "opening minds mathematics" was more important than learning. Well, it isn't.


Posted by narnia, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2009 at 7:39 pm

Anybody *who heartily approves of the EDM program care to solve the application below?
Your children WILL encounter one like this (I think it's 4th grade, I can't remember exactly and the numbers are, of course, different)

A farmer wants plow a field which is 0.72km lenght and 0.3km wide . Represent EACH operation/s and RESULTS of the ploughed area GEOMETRICALLY.

This problem is to be done geometrically ONLY, not algebraically.

If you can and if you can teach the algorithm to your children then I will accept that your zest for EDM is reasonable. Otherwise, you have absolutely NO IDEA of what you are talking about and it would be nice if you recognize your standing on this matter.

* for example Spoiled palo alto parent.


Posted by HAVE IDEA, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 18, 2009 at 7:51 pm

I hope there is correct spelling, use of articles, and punctuation in whichever Math Text is adopted by the PAUSD Board and the PAUSD Teachers. * Proof read, you will be taken more seriously.


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Ventura
on Mar 18, 2009 at 7:51 pm

Newby & Spoiled PA Parent -
Couldn't agree with you more. The worst part is that a number of the most prolific posters don't even have children in the district. Some of them have grown children and some are sending their kids to private school - and they have spent hours and hours of their excessive spare time attending meetings and organizing opposition to this!


Posted by Let's Get It Right, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 18, 2009 at 7:53 pm

Spoiled,

It is not audacious, merely conscientious for parents to raise these issues. If EDM were a perfectly good system, as you put it, we wouldn't be seeing these concrete problems being raised.

You seem to miss the point. Given EMD, average kids ARE probably doomed to stay average. With another text, they might excel. That is the point of selecting a text.

And please, this has nothing to do with doubting teachers commitment or their desire to have the best tools. However, we do doubt the ability of the teachers who selected this EMD text to select texts. That should be self-evident since this text is so inappropriate.

So, please stop with the red herrings. Try, if you can, to justify the choice of EDM using evidence of any sort.

Thanks.


Posted by Good Luck, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 18, 2009 at 8:13 pm

Statement from Spoiled Palo Alto Parent: "Don't they know that the kids who will excel, will excel. The kids who will be average, will be average."

Wow, complacency at its best. You must not be the breadwinner in the family if you live in Old Palo Alto.

"a perfectly good system" - Where's your data to prove it?

"Think of 5 of the greatest most successful people you know... Somehow, someway, they achieved their goals and stature without Singapore Math." Those people are naturally, extremely gifted. Most people are not so fortunate and need the right tools to become successful including good parenting and a good education. Everyday math is not a "good education."


Posted by narnia, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2009 at 8:19 pm

Yes, I am guilty of not having children in the PAUSD any longer, and of taking them to private schools at some point in their lives so that they would be differently schooled. But, unlike most of you I do have 5 years of experience with the EDM , I am a math graduate and before my EDM experience I used math professionally.
It's difficult to respect the opinions of those who refuse comments on the substantive
issues of the EDM use and instead decide to comment on others. If you really knew anything about the EDM program you would restrict your comments to the substance of what is being discussed. You are not able to. That says it all.

Just solve the problem I described (above) that is if you can. I wonder then how would you be helping your child to solve such a problem? Would you still like the EDM?


Posted by WilliamR, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 18, 2009 at 8:21 pm

Narnia,

So what is the answer to the farmer-plowing-his-field question? (I'm not sure how you can represent it geometrically in a text post.)


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 18, 2009 at 8:21 pm

Narnia -
There isn't even a question in the problem you keep talking about.


Posted by Anna, a resident of Meadow Park
on Mar 18, 2009 at 8:35 pm

The Everyday Math that PAUSD is considering is the brand new Edition 3, with substantial improvements and some specific additions to meet California's more demanding math standards. If you were using an older edition or one that wasn't California-specific, some of the problems have been ironed out.


Posted by Good Luck, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 18, 2009 at 8:45 pm

The brand new and improved Edition 3? Basically the same: still spirals, still the lattice method. Still inferior. Yawn.


Posted by parent, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 18, 2009 at 8:59 pm



Probably both things can work, the funky new approaches, and the basics. For the basics give the parents worksheets, with a grading key so they can grade their child's work.

and let the achievement gap parents know that in this district there is a TUTORING GAP so they need to do the worksheets.


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2009 at 9:08 pm

This is a fairly even-handed article out of New York:
Web Link


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 18, 2009 at 9:47 pm

I like the "think of the 5 most successful people you know" analogy - none of the ones I know and respect use much more then true everyday math - addition, subtraction, multiplication, a little division, some geometry, a little algebra, no calculus or trigonometry. They do use their creativity, ability to read people, willingness to think outside the box and take risks. I don't believe any of this is taught by Singapore or EveryDay Math. I wonder if we are spending too much time and resources (including emotional) on math and not enough on science, communication skills and problem solving (real problems, not math problems).


Posted by for the kids, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 18, 2009 at 10:59 pm

I am very disappointed with some of the personal attacks. We are all highly educated and passionate parents with one goal in mind- we want the best for our kids. Math has been and is a very controversial subject in Palo Alto because we are blessed with top rated scientists and mathematicians. I don't believe anyone is intentionally showing disrespect to our wonderful teachers. The frustration is aimed at the broken process and the lack of communication and respect from our district administrators. I hope our new superintendent takes this opportunity to lead an open discussion and find a solution that includes parent participation.

Furthermore, I would like to point out that building a solid foundation for traditional math early on is critical in ensuring a child's confidence and interest in math. How would EDM accomplish that? The philosophy of EDM sounds attractive to teachers. But it results in lower math standards in elementary grades. Most of the parents in our neighborhood send their kids to Kumon, Score, private tutoring...etc. How much of the tutoring is contributing to our "top" test scores? Teachers, please don't take this the wrong way!
You have the toughest job in the classroom. With low quality teaching material will only add to your hardship in closing the gap!! The reality is that parents will continue to hire tutors!!


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 19, 2009 at 1:09 am

for the kids,

How is the process "broken"--a bunch of teachers and some parents get together look at the different approved texts for the state of California and heavily favor one. How is that "broken"? Because their conclusion isn't yours?

For a dicussion of math, you rely on curiously subjective data--the kids in your neighborhood attend Kumon, Score, etc. and you know the numbers on this because?

Also, of course, if they're already attending tutoring wouldn't this suggest that a change of textbooks is needed?

Frankly, I don't buy that there's tons of tutoring at the elementary level among the high-performing kids in math. In the lower grades, reading fluency is a much bigger concern. Math requirements in grade school just aren't that stringent. Plenty of kids here--yes, the smarter ones--don't need extra prep to do this stuff.

It's only when the laning occurs that I start hearing about heavy tutuoring, etc. for high-performing students.

Explain it.

General comment,

I'm sort of amused that one anti-EDM poster is arguing against its adaptation because it's dumbed-down at the same time Narnia is complaining that it's too complex and not clear enough.

Not sure why all of you are convinced your teachers won't supplement as need be. Are your kids really doing that badly?




Posted by 5th grade teachers rule, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Mar 19, 2009 at 7:36 am

Take advanced kids out of the discussion. None of the grade level books will be challenging enough for them, even EDM according to my friends whose children have used it and my advanced elementary schooler who looked at its enrichment problems and could not find the challenge. Even with EDM, teachers will have to find other ways to reach those kids.

(BTW "tutoring" for these kids, if any, is about parents finding beyond grade level textbook challenge to help them see the magic in math.)

A rumor was floating around a few years ago that the district's math TOSAs, who are on the Committee, completed a full set of challenge extensions for advanced kids. The district doesn't really need a book that differentiates for this group since it already has paid for and presented teachers with materials that do that.

The concern here is how EDM will play with students at grade level and below.

Many think EDM is "dumbed-down" because it has as much to do with reading, talking, meeting, and calculators as it does with math. That is EDM's reason d'etre. Many think it is complex because it chooses to have teachers teach 4 different ways to do something instead of using one simple, standard algorithm, and then only after having kids struggle to discover on their own methods that took brilliant math minds entire careers to come up with centuries ago.

No book is perfect so why not use what you can and supplement the rest? Why not, instead, get a text book that more closely matches PAUSD's standards?

The each-teacher-make-it-up model is fraught with problems, most notably lack of standardization which is why we adopt one textbook in the first place. We need standardization for the system to work as 12 schools' worth of kids are fed into 3 middle schools and 2 high schools.

Don't forget the new teacher who has neither the experience nor materials to supplement with and is very, very textbook dependent (and has little to no training on EDM which all agree is the most professional development dependent book of the lot). Would you be the first to volunteer your child for that classroom if EDM was adopted?

It is telling that the Committee's 5th grade teachers are protesting EDM, preferring SRA which by no means is a traditional text but is in the center of a spectrum EDM finds itself at the far left end of. 5th grade teachers on the Committee, who know all too well what they need to meet 6th grade math teachers' expectations, never liked EDM:

- Calling it "lacking depth" "hard to figure out" "illogical connection to resources" "disconnect between teaching concepts and student practice" "not much practice," "extremely hard to navigate," "has a lot of stuff that is not addressed in our standards," "teacher-unfriendly," "hard transition to 6th grade," and "spiraling was too broad and too much for kids"), and

- Referring to gaps the size of the "Grand Canyon", talking out-of-school about school to the media, something you seldom see teachers do here in Palo Alto.

Given limited class time, limited resources and soon enough unlimited class sizes if the economy keeps going south, PAUSD really needs a text book that is efficient to teach from, for new and experienced teachers, and that does not leave "gaps" 25 Churchill clearly sees for those middle or below math students.

Yes, no text is perfect but EDM's gaps are because of its design, not something that can be fixed by a few xeroxed drill sheets and a promise to tuck the student calculators that come with it in the closet.




Posted by Alumni, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 19, 2009 at 8:56 am

"How is the process "broken"--a bunch of teachers and some parents get together look at the different approved texts for the state of California and heavily favor one. How is that "broken"? Because their conclusion isn't yours?"

However the process for approving MI was broken since MI's conclusion wasn't yours? Sheesh!

The same errors are being repeated.

The district's process is obviously broken when broader community input only happens as the recommendation is being made to the board. That is far too late.


Posted by observer, a resident of another community
on Mar 19, 2009 at 10:32 am

Looking through my files on grass roots efforts to persuade school districts to adopt world-class curricula, I came across the New Milford, CT "Math Pilot Summary," which reports on the district's experience piloting Everyday Math, Saxon Math, and Singapore Math.

This line leapt out at me:

"The pace of [Singapore Math] is quicker than anything we do and quicker even than
our curriculum calls for. As a result, some sped students actually perform
AHEAD of their non-special education peers in successfully handling content almost
by definition becoming non-sped students!"


I don't think these documents are available online at this point. I have copies & I'm sure the Palo Alto school board could request copies from their counterparts in New Milford.

The De Havilland blog covered New Milford here: Web Link

The document I've quoted is titled "Memorandum," and was directed to Dr. C. JeanAnn Paddyfote, Superintendent and Members of the Board of Education
From: Thomas A. Mulvihill, Assistant Superintendent
Date: April 10, 2006
Subject: Math Pilot Summary

Here's a news article on the initial decision to pilot the curricula: Web Link


Posted by observer, a resident of another community
on Mar 19, 2009 at 10:35 am

funky formatting on previous comment, so I'm re-posting:

"The pace of Singapore Math is quicker than anything we do and quicker even than our curriculum calls for. As a result, some sped students actually perform AHEAD of their non-special education peers in successfully handling content almost by definition becoming non-sped students!"


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Meadow Park
on Mar 19, 2009 at 10:47 am

It's inconsistent to me that every time someone points out a district that is happy with EDM, including our own teachers, someone responds, "Ask them again in a couple of years how they feel - then they'll be miserable!" But no one has three-year data on Singapore Math at all so we're supposed to take pilot data or at best one year data and use that.


Posted by Let's Get It Right, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 19, 2009 at 10:57 am

Anon,

"But no one has three-year data on Singapore Math at all so we're supposed to take pilot data or at best one year data and use that."

There is plenty of data on the success of Singapore Math: google TIMSS. The Singapore kids have been doing very well for years....



Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Meadow Park
on Mar 19, 2009 at 11:22 am

Let's Get it Right -
There are many reasons why we can't compare our scores directly to Singapore's: a much higher percentage of their students start school at age 3, they lane students much earlier while we leave special ed students in normal classes, students are taught in their mother tongue for the first 4 year of school, etc. And let's not forget that Singapore recently switched to a more concept based curriculum!


Posted by Let's Get It Right, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 19, 2009 at 11:54 am

Sorry, no, the Singapore statistics are perfectly relevant for PA.

No two groups of kids are exactly the same, but that doesn't mean we cannot draw conclusions.

Also, your statement is riddled with errors and irrelevancies. The kids are not typically taught in their mother tongue "for the first 4 years of school," but in any case that is irrelevant to Singapore Math. In fact, if they were taught in the mother tongue, then it would be even more amazing that they do so well with an English-language math curriculum! The evolution of Singapore's math curriculum cannot be described as a move to a "more concept-based curriculum." Etc.

We have good statistical evidence that Singapore Math is a great program. And we have the National Math Panel recommending that we adopt a curriculum that essentially mirrors Singapore Math.



Posted by observer, a resident of another community
on Mar 19, 2009 at 12:39 pm


* Singapore students begin school at age 6 & graduate at age 16. (AIR, p. 28)

* Singapore recognizes 4 official languages: English, Chinese, Malay, & Tamil. All children are taught in English although "many children" do not speak English at home. (AIR, p. 28)

* Singapore does not track or "lane" until grade 5, at which point weaker students are separated into a slower track, where they are given 30% more instructional time & extra review to master the same curriculum. (AIR, pp. 34-35)

What the United States Can Learn from Singapore's Mathematics System (and what Singapore can learn from the United States): An Exploratory Study
PREPARED FOR:
U.S. Department of Education
Policy and Program Studies Service (PPSS)

A pdf file of the report is here:
Web Link



Posted by Rosalyn, a resident of another community
on Mar 19, 2009 at 12:48 pm

I cannot believe this is happening at the very doorsteps to Stanford. Are you aware of Dr. R. James Milgram's (Professor of Math at Stanford University) presentation during the Leading Minds' K-12 Math Education Forum in Baltimore April 24, 2008? I encourage everyone, no I beg everyone, to listen to the presentations. What you are about to do is deadly. Unfortunately you will not realize this until your children are much older. Or you may never realize it. You will think your children aren't trying hard enough, or they are not good in math. You will absolutely think the deficit is int he child, not the program.

I live in Roseville and both my children are teens who were victims of the math education you adopted. I know the damage it did first hand. Two girls who said their favorite subject was math literally gave up while still in grade school. I am watching the remediation necessary now that they are in their teens. I am also seeing just how capable they actually were all this time, with the correct math programs.

Do not let a few improperly informed, inadequately prepared educators do this to your children! Please become informed. The UC system laments how poorly prepared our students are mathmatically and say that remediation is at an all time high at the college level. No one seems to be connecting the dots. This has got to stop.


Posted by Good Luck, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 19, 2009 at 1:20 pm

Thank you, Rosalyn, for taking the time to post your experience.

I agree, Everyday Math just confuses children so they will not like math. And when the grenade explodes years later and they are trying to catch up on the basics, math becomes even more of frustration to them. I don't know how a child can even learn to enjoy math using the Everyday Math program.

Parents too will be frustrated with it because of the spiraling. They will be asking their children why they don't remember something from weeks ago. And the frustration of the parents will rub off on the children.

Our math adoption committee is recommending Everyday Math after piloting for only 3-4 weeks and without checking resources other than what was presented to them.


Posted by Good Luck, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 19, 2009 at 1:48 pm

Keys School in Palo Alto switched from Everyday Math to Singapore Math four years ago. Here's from their website Web Link:

The Keys School math curriculum uses the Singapore Math three-step approach, where lessons methodically progress from concrete examples to pictorial representations to more abstract concepts. Typically, new concepts are introduced using stories, hands-on activities, and investigations. Next, concepts are translated into paper-and-pencil images and finally, into numerical and symbolic algorithms. Review occurs with games, quizzes, software, and homework. And finally, understanding of each concept is extended through exercises in problem solving and critical thinking. Our goal is to help students truly understand the principles behind the mathematics, so they're better able to succeed in advanced math classes in high school and beyond.


Posted by Good Luck, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 19, 2009 at 1:54 pm

Singapore Math also is successful for ESL students Web Link

In 2005, just 45% of the fifth-graders at Ramona Elementary School in Hollywood scored at grade level on a standardized state test. In 2006, that figure rose to 76%. What was the difference?

If you answered 31 percentage points, you are correct. You could also express it as a 69% increase.

But there is another, more intriguing answer: The difference between the two years may have been Singapore math.

At the start of the 2005-06 school year, Ramona began using textbooks developed for use in Singapore, a Southeast Asian city-state whose pupils consistently rank No. 1 in international math comparisons. Ramona's math scores soared.

"It's wonderful," said Principal Susan Arcaris. "Seven out of 10 of the students in our school are proficient or better in math, and that's pretty startling when you consider that this is an inner-city, Title 1 school."

Ramona easily qualifies for federal Title 1 funds, which are intended to alleviate the effects of poverty. Nine of every 10 students at the school are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. For the most part, these are the children of immigrants, the majority from Central America, some from Armenia. Nearly six in 10 students speak English as a second language.

Yet here they are, outpacing their counterparts in more affluent schools and succeeding in a math curriculum designed for students who are the very stereotype of Asian dominance in math and science.

How did that happen?

It's a question with potentially big implications, because California recently became the first state to include the Singapore series on its list of state-approved elementary math texts. Public schools aren't required to use the books -- there are a number of other, more conventional texts on the state list -- but the state will subsidize the purchase if they do. And being on the list puts an important imprimatur on the books, because California is by far the largest, most influential textbook buyer in the country.

The decision to approve the books could place California ahead of the national curve. The National Mathematics Advisory Panel, appointed by President Bush, will issue a report Thursday that is expected to endorse K-8 math reforms that, in many ways, mirror the Singapore curriculum.


Posted by Anna, a resident of Meadow Park
on Mar 19, 2009 at 2:15 pm

have you guys looked at the lesson plans and teacher's manual for Singapore Math? I would definitely not want that used in Palo alto classrooms!


Posted by observer, a resident of another community
on Mar 19, 2009 at 2:38 pm

Anna wrote:
"have you guys looked at the lesson plans and teacher's manual for Singapore Math?"

Yes!

I taught two small classes of 4th & 5th grade kids using the SIngapore Math books; I taught Chapter 6: Fractions (Primary Mathematics 3B) to my son & his friend; I taught Chapter 5: Ratio (Primary Mathematics 5A) to my son and another boy.


Posted by Ze'ev Wurman, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 19, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Anna,

I have looked at the Singapore lesson plans in depth, and I would be happy if we used them in Palo Alto classrooms. I have written elsewhere why a casual look at Singapore math is often misleading (Web Link dated Feb. 26 4:14 pm):

"I also heard directly that teachers didn't like the fact that the Singapore program has "only one method to teach XYZ." I am not too surprised, as there is a wide-spread--but mistaken--belief that in modern classroom one always has to have a multitude of ways to teach any given thing. This is simply incorrect, as any seasoned teacher will tell you. One should develop a single major effective way to teach any given thing, and one should work hard on making sure this way matches the content and not the student. And that is what the Singapore program reflects. Only in a rare case where a student needs extra help should an alternative method be tried.

"Most of our current textbooks pile on many alternative ways to teach every little thing, in the mistaken belief that if one way doesn't work for a student, then the alternative one may. What they miss is the awful confusion it sows in the students, who are flooded with multiple alternatives for every concept before they actually internalized even one of them. Consequently, students emerge with no mastery of anything, and with a confusion of everything."

You may also want to read a well-written essay on teaching mathematics that was posted just recently: Web Link


Posted by observer, a resident of another community
on Mar 19, 2009 at 3:02 pm

Spoiled Palo Alto Parent wrote:
"I can't find a way to justify the audacity of this minority group of PAUSD parents coming forth to derail a perfectly good system."

How many parents would freely choose a constructivist math curriculum over a traditional one?

In Escondido the figure is 30%.

Here in my town, parents of children entering 5th grade were once given a choice between a traditional class and a "project" class taught by two of the school's best teachers. In the project class all subjects were to be "integrated" and taught within projects.

Only 25% of the parent population enrolled their kids in the class, and a number of them did so because it was the only way they could ensure that their child would be in the same class as his or her best friend.

A large majority of parents throughout the country prefers teacher-directed to minimally-guided instruction. I would be surprised if Palo Alto parents break out differently on that score.

Perhaps the school board should take a secret ballot of parents.


Posted by Anon, a resident of another community
on Mar 19, 2009 at 3:17 pm

Observer,

"Perhaps the school board should take a secret ballot of parents."

Are you stupid, or what? The whole purpose of hiding behind the "professionalism" of the teachers is to make it clear that THEY know what is good for YOUR child, and if you disagree with their proposals you need to be "re-educated." Listen to the teachers' talk about "parent education" sometime.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 19, 2009 at 3:27 pm

Alumni,

But the board turned down MI until forced into a corner by the charter threat.

From what I can see, no teachers on the committee approved EDM under that kind of duress.

Sheesh, it's apples v. oranges--except that, once again, we have a case where a small, noisy group of parents are seeking to have things done their way.

Re: EDM, sounds like the results are kind of mixed--good for some, not for others and, oh, who's doing the teaching matters. Wow, what a surprise.

But somehow Singapore math which relies, in Singapore, at least, on well-trained teachers will be different.

Never mind that Singapore math isn't a real option. Never mind that, yes, cultural differences, time spent in school, etc. can indeed heavily influence outcome.

Never mind that PAUSD kids already perform well in math. Yes, your average Singapore kid outperforms your average American kid on math. Does your average Singapore kid outperform your average Palo Alto kid on math?

Well?

Observer, a large majority of people once believed the world was flat. Didn't mean they were right. I've seen few non-Ohlone parents online who have any real sense of what's actually done at the school. It's fear of the unfamiliar as much as anything.


Posted by reality, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 19, 2009 at 3:45 pm

OP, the fifth grade teachers did NOT like EDM. They only voted for it when presented with two choices that did not include the programs they felt were best. They should know what the kids need -- the burden falls to them to catch kids up in fifth grade so they can do middle school math. If they chose it at that point, it's like saying the Board voted in favor of MI when in fact they were given a choice between choice and charter. Remamber that whole conversation? It was clear Board members didn't unanimously want the MI program, but their original votes were overruled and they had to choose between two sorts of MI programs. That is not an endorsement, that is choosing a rock over a hard place.

But we don't have to make that kind of choice here. I am confident that Dr. Skelly will do the sane thing that would show it is not same old same old over there at 25 Churchill: put this matter off for a year, put the burden on the Committee to write up a substantive analysis that sets out all the criteria the district is trying to meet with the math program, explain all of people's perspectives pro and con on each program (by people I mean people on the Committee), explain how they narrowed the choices down and why that was justified by REAL DATA, and then present their recommendations. That gives time and transparency and thoughtful, rational consideration, which seems to be possibly lacking at this point. If there are some credible studies that show EDM's the best ever, and not like the math equivalent of whole word reading and spelling instruction, this report should show that. It would allow the Committee to consider each program's merits and drawbacks, set out which gaps occur in each program and how they would address each one (no fair saying the teachers will deal with it -- what the heck is the point of a textbook you expect the teachers to have to compensate for?)

Given that we don't HAVE to make this decision this year, and that many valid questions have been raised that I would want answered if I were a Superintendent or Board member, why not just do that? This is not a limited-time time share offer, folks. It's a program that will still be there next year. And if it's not, well then I guess that would be revelatory too.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 19, 2009 at 4:03 pm

Reality,

Hasn't the committee already been meeting for months? Haven't they already looked at the approved programs? And then strongly voted for EDM in the final vote? Yes, with caveats.

All the programs presented have issues. Is that really going to change in a year? Or are we just going to have an angry and alienated teaching staff who feels that they're being micromanaged?

The district's not required to have MI, it is required to teach math and use one of eight approved texts. Is that going to change in a year?

And this kind of bureaucratic hassle takes time. One of the reasons, in my opinion, that Ohlone's test scores took a nose dive is that the Ohlone administration was spending its time trying to figure out how to implement MI--the meetings weren't being used to discuss how to pull up math scores in the middle grades.

For that matter, MI took up so many school board meetings that the huge overcrowding issue was given short shrift and now we're doing kind of a rush job on Garland.

So, no, I think the textbook committee looked at the options and picked the one with which they could work. I think they're aware of what the limitations of the textbooks will be and will adapt accordingly. I don't think we need 20 schoolboard meetings for the purpose of secondguessing them on this. (And when the comparative experience is a parent who taught two kids math from Singapore math v. a teacher who's taught hundreds of kids using a variety of texts, I'll give weight to the teacher's experience and ability to use the textbooks effectively.)

Time is money, guys--how's that for practical math?


Posted by Alumni, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 19, 2009 at 4:07 pm

Way to miss the point! Whoosh, hey?


Posted by observer, a resident of another community
on Mar 19, 2009 at 4:22 pm

OhlonePar wrote: "Does your average Singapore kid outperform your average Palo Alto kid on math?"

William Schmidt, Western Michigan University & U.S. TIMMSS National Research Coordinator:

"This system of ours has failed the elite kids, too. This is a little known fact because it wasn't emphasized very much, but in the early TIMSS [Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study] study there was a high school specialist exam for those kids that were the AP physics kids and those that were the AP calculus kids. Those kids were last among their counterparts in the rest of the world. That is, if you took the elite track in the French system that was leading to math and science, these [American] kids were at the bottom. So we're failing those kids just as much as we're failing the kids on the other spectrum."

Question & answer session
Web Link


Posted by Perspective, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 19, 2009 at 4:37 pm

Believing first in "do no harm"..or at least "do as little harm as possible", I completely support the calm recommendation above that we put the decision on hold for a year, and gather a full, reasoned, pro-con list with supporting data and committee member comments.

This would work well, and give time for fully informed decision that will teach the most kids the best, and give the teachers the least complicated and outside-class time intensive method possible.

I support the teachers AND the kids, and want the teachers to have the least outside time intensive, and the kids to have the most effective, program.

Dana Tom is on the Board,an Engineer, an analytical and outcome based thinker, and has had kid(s) go through our system...I would think he has some opinion on math education. Anybody know what he said?


Posted by Good Luck, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 19, 2009 at 5:01 pm

If it is decided to wait a year, they will have to form a new committee because the current committee is too much of the same. There is no way they will be open-minded to any programs other than fuzzy math. There needs to be teachers who are strong in math on the committee and many more parents involved.


OhlonePar,

Hang it up. Quit repeating yourself. We know you prefer to trust the math commmittee. We know you know nothing about Everyday Math. Quit trying to digress off subject. Your opinions are usually more knowlegeable on other threads but all you have been doing here is argue to trust the committee. We heard you.


Posted by Perla Ni, a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 19, 2009 at 5:02 pm

Me and my husband went to see the Everyday Math textbook today so that we could make up our minds. It does indeed very frequently instruct kids to estimate or use a calculator instead of doing the actual math themselves. It almost completely ignores the traditional mulitiplication/long division method and puts a heavy emphasis on the partial products method, "lattice method" and even more weirdly the "Egyption method". Want to see for yourself? I've uploaded several pages from the Grade 3 and 4 textbook here: Web Link.


Posted by observer, a resident of another community
on Mar 19, 2009 at 5:22 pm

Perla Ni -- thank you so much for scanning and posting. I'm going to share with others in my neck of the woods.

For folks who are curious about Singapore Math, the "Singapore Math" web site has quite a few pages posted:

Web Link

Primary Mathematics US Edition (the one I own & have used):
Web Link

Primary Mathematics Standards Edition (approved by CA State BOE):
Web Link

For teachers (and parents): Elementary Mathematics for Teachers by Thomas H. Parker & Scott J. Baldridge

Parker & Baldridge explain how to teach elementary mathematics using the Primary Mathematics books.


Posted by observer, a resident of another community
on Mar 19, 2009 at 5:45 pm

reality & perspective have suggested tabling this issue for a year ---

Some of you may want to suggest that your superintendent and school board contact the Raritan Bridgewater administration and board:

Web Link

The assistant superintendent has just completed a 75-page review of the district's math program, which I've sent to my own school board and administration. (pdf file here: Web Link )

They've decided to replace Everyday Mathematics with Harcourt School Publishers Math.

In particular, someone should contact Jill Gladstone, who was one of the most active board members in terms of making this happen.

Email: jgladstone@brrsd.k12.nj.us


Posted by ConcernedParent, a resident of another community
on Mar 19, 2009 at 6:57 pm

Does your average Singapore kid outperform your average Palo Alto kid on math?

Likely, YES. An above average Singapore kid likely outperforms even an above average Palo Alto kid as evidenced by Dr. Schmidt discussion of TIMSS referenced in Observer's comment above.

I pulled my children out of one of the most competitive schools in my state specifically because of Everyday Math. I now homeschool.

If you really want to know how an average (or above average) Palo Alto kid is faring compared to his/her Singapore peer, just have that child complete the free online assessments over at singaporemath.com. It's free and you will clearly know the truth.

If you're daring enough to trust your child to a steady diet of Everyday Math, try having that child complete the appropriate grade-level test again in one year, in two, and then in three. See how that goes. (I would never recommend this, it is an experiment that would fail your child.)

Sure, your school says they'll supplement. They all say nothing's perfect. Well, Everyday Math is about as far from perfect as your tax dollars can buy. It's just about the most expensive math program out there. If your district agrees to this purchase, just remember it's about the same as purchasing a Ferrari that you can only make run well by strategically patching it up with duct tape! Why would anyone want to do that?


Posted by for the kids, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 19, 2009 at 8:34 pm

Ohlonepar,

I think we can agree to disagree! The process was broken because the
committee members were hand picked. Community inputs were not actively solicited.

The bottom line is parents will do whatever it takes to make sure their kids are being challenged.
Tutoring will be the answer at least for a lot of PA parents. It is really up to you to decide as a parent what is best for your kids.
Maybe you will have a different opinion as you experience middle school and high school. Good luck!



Posted by Lisa, a resident of another community
on Mar 19, 2009 at 8:40 pm

Reason 457 why I would not want to be a teacher in Palo Alto...see above comments.
Reason 568 why I would not want to be a student in Palo Alto...see above comments.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 19, 2009 at 8:53 pm

Tutoring has been a side thread here.
It is worth getting this crystal clear:
For some strange reason I can't fathom, a few parents (?) have claimed in posts that there is little/no tutoring going on at the HS level in PAUSD. Their children just floated through, earnigng top Math grades in the top lanes without any particular effort OR support. Make me laugh. I have been routinely appalled with the level of paid tutoring going on with so-called "gifted" Math students - it is out of control. These children are not earning their own grades. It is rather difficult to say how truly "gifted" these students are as they are fully supported by professionals all the time.
I have multi-child, multi-year recent experience with one of the high schools in PAUSD. My children have peers I personally know who have had continuous, paid tutoring and constant support from Math professionals - not parents - in their Math education with an eye towards grades and class rank. What a sweet deal! (if you can take the pressure)
What I hope is that someday these kids have to stand on their own two feet and compete on a reasonably level playing field with the rest of humanity. Or will Mother and Father smooth the way at college also? Or is it enough to get a famous college acceptance. Then it all ends.
PAUSD high schools are known for having quite strong Math programs. My children have benefitted from these programs. I have sometimes wondered how relevant these programs are with regards to overall top student achievement as reported, however, owing to the extreme current tutoring practices here.
It is a challenge to be a Math-interested student learning the curriculum in the classroom, earning one's own grades. One is constantly mocked by peers who emphasize their dirty secret of their tutoring advantage and compare grades on a day to day basis. They are usually taught the exact material in advance so have been reported to "yawn in class" (by an educator who thought the solution was to move ahead faster). They are spoon fed all the details of the prestigious Math contests, etc. Though there is work involved on the students' parts, they are hand-held and it pays off for them in the short term.
Year-round paid tutoring is highly prevalent among students in the highest two Math lanes (I am including as top lane those who have been moved ahead on year for they grade/age). This includes those, at least in past years, who have "tested out" under parental pressure/requirement to do 9th grade Math as 8th graders. Some parents, unsatisfied with a child who does not test out (so, ought to not be moved ahead) then pressure and prep the child to be tested again because they are determined to get the child as #1.
It is preposterous to equate this intensive paid tutoring support, complete with challenging homework and guidance, usually well in advance of the curriculum and not available to all students... with what some parents do as a routine or on occasion to casually support their child in Math. Every parent should take an interest in their child's education and be supportive. That is NOT what is meant by tutoring in this discussion.
I just have had a major ethical concern about this questionable practice. Grades rather than knowledge, winning contests for the resume/college apps, gaining a competitive advantage over one's peers are all the goals.
There are some kids who don't have this "advantage" and they may very well be just as bright though they are not represented as such. This is insulting and deceptive owing to this dirty tutoring secret.
In fact, I am aware that some of the parents who are strongly pushing their children in Math, esp. towards the contests, are not particularly working with them themselves except in the sense of "requiring" them to perform to the test or face severe consequences.
Why relevant? I have clearly noticed that average students are given an artificial boost leading to higher grades which count for a lot in the top Math lanes. Meanwhile, those without the means have NO WAY to possibly compete with this unethical system.
Pretending this is not occurring is preposterous!
Why so angry? I am just disgusted at the tactics of many parents at high school level here and sincerely sorry for certain groups who are looked down on as less accomplished or poorer students when they are just regular people learning in the classroom without benefit of unethical tactics. I don't like the way some people are looking the other way about this prevalent practice.


Posted by tim, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 19, 2009 at 9:46 pm

As the National Math Panel Report says, it's pointless to debate concepts vs fundamentals, as both are necessary for math proficiency.

PAUSD pushes kids to learn to add, multiply, etc. by rote in early grades, and kids that can't pass the timed tests get sent by their teachers to see math tutors until they master the facts.

A textbook isn't a curriculum; it's a tool that's used within a curriculum. PAUSD is spot-on to look for a concept-based text to help teachers round out their programs.

My grade school teachers had no trouble giving me more 'drills' when I finished my work ahead of the class, but they were at a loss to offer anything interesting that challenged me to think. I had to seek them out myself.

Perla,

Thanks for posting the example pages from EDM. Those are awesome. I wish I had a book like that when I was in 3rd and 4th grade. (Honestly!)

Did you think about why the "Egyptian method" works? Did you ask your kids to think about it? What a great way to challenge a child and give the opportunity for the joy of discovery.


Posted by parent, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 19, 2009 at 9:55 pm



anonymous from Duveneck,

You call tutoring unethical but it is a source of pride in many of the cultures represented in this district, Asian and East Asian (China, India, ....) also many European - they work hard to afford this, and it's done all over the world. Many of these same cultures are a high proportion of the advanced math courses.

what may fall under "unethical" are the parents that heavily tutor kids (simply because they can afford it, or want to pump them up) and ask then district to treat them as "gifted".

So, they are are choosing a textbook precisely to "serve" students of all learning levels (gifted, medium, underachieving) which is bogus because it is mostly to address the tutoring gap.







Posted by Ze'ev Wurman, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 19, 2009 at 10:07 pm

Anon,

While I have often been a strong critic of PAUSD, I do not share your tutoring-related rave. With 4 kids and 20 years of PAUSD I always helped my kids when they approached me with a question, but it never needed to be frequent or regular. Over the years there were rougher patches here and there depending on the teacher, but overall they got a strong and above-average education in PAUSD.

Please, let's try to keep some perspective here. We have a good system in Palo Alto--we just want to make it better.


Posted by parent, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 19, 2009 at 10:56 pm



Ze'ev,

my comments relate to the obsession with differentiated instruction, and one of the main reasons given for selecting Everyday Math.

I agree with you that Palo Alto has a good system, and my concern is that it would change because of trying to cater to all the different levels without taking into account the level of tutoring (formal or informal) that happens in this district.

we should be challenging ALL students according to PAUSD standards, not having speed lanes. If you want to be in 5th grade Math in 3rd grade, it will be a mess and nobody will ever be satisfied. We may gain on the Math but it has the potential to tear apart other qualities of this community.








Posted by parent, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 19, 2009 at 11:00 pm



my comments above relate to Elementary school Math. I am all for laning and tiering and speeding thereafter, when students' independence is more obvious.


Posted by Barry Garelick, a resident of another community
on Mar 20, 2009 at 3:09 am

"Did you think about why the "Egyptian method" works? Did you ask your kids to think about it? What a great way to challenge a child and give the opportunity for the joy of discovery."

Discovery does not work if there are no schema with which students can do their thinking. Schema comes from prior knowledge. E.g., small toddlers have to learn how to pick up objects and handle them in order to have the schemas to allow them to then learn how to order objects or "clean up a mess", etc. Asking a student to explain why the Egyptian method works isn't going to get very far, and it is doubtful that the teachers can explain it either.

The main problem with EDM is the lack of building conceptual and procedural skills upon which to build. The spiral process gives students "exposure" to these but stops short of mastery, since the authors expect that coming back to it later, they will then have absorbed enough additional schemas that they now can understand it. A casual glance at a workbook page in EDM does not indicate the lack of structure and sequencing in this program.The problems appear reasonable. Thus, seeing a workbook problem like 8.2/0.3 looks like a good problem, but what you don't know is that the student has received no instruction in dividing fractions or decimals and receives minimal guidance from the teacher on how to even estimate an answer to it. Working in small groups and discussing it with some guidance from the teacher is supposed to promote this type of discovery.

The Singapore books on the other hand provide a solid foundation, and also provides challenging problems. Try the online placement tests at www.singaporemath.com; this is what is expected of students in Singapore. The educationists' view of such programs, however, is that it teaches students how to solve problems they have already seen in a mechanical algorithmic form, and views such problems as "exercises" rather than "authentic problems". This is the myth propagated in ed schools. In order for students to achieve the goal of solving problems they haven't seen before, they need a very solid foundation. EDM does not provide that, pure and simple. The people pushing such programs, however, think they are allowing students to reach for the stars,and give them a two legged stool to stand upon to do so.

The old saw that a text book is not a curriculum is one of those phrases that becomes more meaningless each time you hear it. If it's the teacher that matters and not the text, why all this hoopla about textbooks? The sequencing and presentation IS important, and goes a long way in forming a curriculum that teachers can use AND supplement if they so desire. Supplementing EDM is the same as supplanting.


Posted by Perspective, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 20, 2009 at 6:58 am

GREAT post! Well written!

Thanks Gary. Said in vernacular..can't put up walls without a foundation, can't put on a roof without walls.


Posted by observer, a resident of another community
on Mar 20, 2009 at 8:56 am

re: the tutoring gap

In my own district we have massive tutoring and parent reteaching in all subjects: math, reading, writing, science, you name it.

One mom told me that last year she had so many tutors coming and going she couldn't keep them straight.

Our administration sees this as a case of pushy parents "pressuring" their children, but in fact parents are hiring tutors to reteach core subjects. My husband and I have spent countless hours teaching our kids math & writing; at one point I was essentially a homeschooler in math. I would have homeschooled math and ELA formally if state law had allowed me to do so.

A number of us have pushed the district to analyze the tutoring situation and take steps to address it. So far no luck. (Can it be that district teachers do not wish to forego the $80 to $125/hr they charge for tutoring district students?)

Paul Attewell's study of "Winner-Take-All" schools describes my own district. Gauging by a number of the comments here, it *may* be relevant to yours, too. I don't know, of course, but if I were concerned about fairness I'd want to read Attewell.

A pdf file is available here:
Web Link


Posted by reality, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 20, 2009 at 9:10 am

So, the root problem here actually seems pretty simple. In the past, most recently with the MI fandango, the community was rent by a perceived lack of transparency and a sense on the part of opponents that that committee did a poor analysis that just arrived at the conclusion the committee wanted, which was to adopt MI. The report issued by that committee (interestingly, also led by Becky Cohn-Vargas) was, in many people's opinions, poorly thought out and the conclusions not supported by data.

Skelly was brought in on the wave of "transparency." People would like to know, or have some basis for believing, that major shifts in district curiculum are being made in a reasoned way, not on the basis of some ideological, results-oriented analysis that glosses over the problems and says "we'll deal with that later."

The people in favor of EDM claim that is is the best thing since sliced bread. They don't seem to have a lot of support other than some anecdotal evidence and some discredited reports and the publisher's hype. People opposed to EDM think it is the worst thing ever, and point to statistics, anecdotal evidence in the opposite direction, and reports and opinions by reputable groups that say this just doesn't work. The committee did what, in many people's perception, was a shell game of throwing out the textbooks that the fifth grade teachrs preferred and making everyone choose between two that were not super popular with all of the committee in the beginning.

So the committee wants EDM, and it admits that EDM leaves gaps. Fine. Let the committee do a solid analysis that shows the data supporting the choice of EDM as the BEST program for this district, as well as explaining why all the documentation and studies that say it's a terrible idea are wrong. I mean, really ANALYZE it. Isn't that Cohn-Vargas' job?

On a comparative note, people have reported that at the adoption meeting the committee just went after Skelly, saying that he was wasting their time because they sepent so many months on this etc. This is EXCATLY the same line Cohn-Vargas gave in Board meetings about MI, when the Board was questioning the analysis in her report. Folks, just cause you spent a lot of time doesn't mean your decision is well reasoned. Let's make sure the recommendation has good, objective support. (It's a little disheartening to have to explain this -- Broadly speaking, imho, a lot of the madness around PAUSD could be solved by having people explain themselves clearly and behave rationally instead of communicating badly and then slamming the parents and other people who keep coming back for the same explanation or action or analysis they requested in the first place -- and then being told they are annoying, or untrusting or what have you.)

Now, about the gaps. Part of why people are so frustrated is that when they point to the gaps, the committee says, "well of course there are gaps but teachers will fill them in. You trust the teachers, don't you? If you have a problem with this, you are disrespecting the teachers." Not so fast. PAUSD math education should not depend on the ability of each individual teacher to fill in the gaps appropriately. The committee should get together its district math specialists and the teachers who have been developing all these rich supplemental materials, and create a standard supplementation packet, complete with explanations of where it should be used in the EDM curriculum. Everyone will have a standard set of text and supplemental materials to work from.

If EDM allows gifted kids to soar, the supplemental text will allow the teachers to close the achievement gap and ensure the rest have the proper foundation for moving forward into more advanced mathematics.

Is there some reason why this wouldn't work? Please don't tell me that we should jus ttrust the committee. That ship has clearly sailed. We want to design a method by which the process is clear and transparent and, ultimately, results in a program that everyone can buy in on.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2009 at 9:23 am

I have a concern which I have not seen discussed.

Perhaps a child in say 3rd grade is doing really well with the text book presently used and has done for the past 3 years. Does this child entering 4th grade suddenly get given a different system with different phrases describing procedures already mastered and different vocabulary for the basics? Won't this be most confusing? I can see perhaps starting a new text at say 1st grade level and then continuing to use it right through elementary school, but suddenly switching texts half way through must be confusing for even the brightest child. I know that when I help my kids with math homework I use phrases from my own school days which they have never heard of and likewise I don't understand theirs, which makes helping with homework difficult. If they suddenly start using different words, HTU (hundreds, tens and units), carrying, remainder, doorstep, etc. then it won't really help.

And another thing, my college age daughter started writing the worst alphabet I have ever seen in kindgergarten called D'Nealean. Her handwriting now is the worst I have ever seen. Fortunately, by the time the next child started, it had been abandoned. But, she is still suffering from never having had enough practice writing neatly, legibly in print. From filling in forms to giving someone her address or a quick note, she suffers because no one else can read her writing. This is what can happen when a system is used for the basics which is not widely held. Whether it is writing or math vocabulary, the system must be such that a child can adapt to other systems elsewhere (perhaps they move away in 5th grade) without feeling that their knowledge is a different language or even "wrong".


Posted by I want some of that, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2009 at 9:30 am



observer,

tutoring income does not go to our teachers.

It's to places like Score, Foundations for Education, Kumon, and if you see all the ads in the Stanford Daily, Stanford students are in demand for tutoring as well.

then there are the parents. like a poster above, that call their kids "average" and when you hear the parent's education level and passion for certain subjects, saying they only nonchalantly "work" with their children like all parents should, well it's hard not to call it
at least special assistance.

we definitely have our Platinum travel club here. Some of it due to very high education levels of parents, and some because of money. I don't fault anyone for doing the best for their children, and I do the same.

I also want some of that for all of our kids, so if the parents that supplement are using Singapore Math, I want that for everyone too.

The district cannot opt for fuzzy Math and later attribute that the achievement gap is due to race, and culture.

They will need to at least give Singapore Math to the achievement gap students, and to anyone that wants it after school.












Posted by parent, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 20, 2009 at 9:37 am


observer form another community,

thanks for the link to "Winner-Take-All"!


Posted by observer, a resident of another community
on Mar 20, 2009 at 9:59 am

"I want some of that" wrote: "I don't fault anyone for doing the best for their children, and I do the same. I also want some of that for all of our kids, so if the parents that supplement are using Singapore Math, I want that for everyone too."

I could not agree more.

"then there are the parents. like a poster above, that call their kids "average" and when you hear the parent's education level and passion for certain subjects, saying they only nonchalantly "work" with their children like all parents should, well it's hard not to call itat least special assistance."

I agree.

This is a major issue here. We have a tutoring gap based in parent education levels and parent income.

We've pulled our high school child out of the district in part because we can't compete. Many students here have parents who are math/science professionals, which we are not. We can't reteach chemistry, physics, and math at the high school level.

Here's an example of what I mean.

A student we know was taught Honors Chemistry every single night by Dad, who holds advanced degrees in science & medicine. Half an hour of one-on-one reteaching time every evening. This student would not have been able to take the course without a parent who could reteach it at home. (The parents say so freely - they're not happy with the district, either.)

Attewell's "Winner Take All" article was a revelation. He points out that when a district has weighted grading, which mine does, the math/science kids dominate the top 10% because they are the only kids taking Honors math/science and getting the extra tenth of a point (or whatever it is).

That's what we see here.

Math/science kids take Honors math, Honors science, Honors ELA, & Honors social studies.

Verbally talented kids take Honors ELA & Honors social studies, but they wash out of Honors math & Honors science due to "tough grading."

The result is that students with the same SAT scores fare very differently in GPA according to whether their primary talent lies in math/science versus language/history.

When a language/history student has a math/science parent, he also bests his language/history peers.

My poor kids don't have a shot!

Attewell says there are things that can be done to prevent (or fix) a winner-take-all situation.

We have a huge achievement gap, too. I've raised the issue repeatedly with the board & the administration but have gotten nowhere.


Posted by I want some of that, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2009 at 10:59 am



observer,

the thing is that now, some of the most educated parents are trying to share their recipe for success, SIngapore Math, foundational skills, drill & kill, confidence with the basics, no calculators, the higher order skills follow strong basics, not the other way around,

but the reply is "how dare you"?

at least the potential "achievement" gap students in Elementary school should be let in on the secret - use SIngapore Math after school to supplement because those in the know are doing so, and you do not want to be the last to find out.






















Posted by observer, a resident of another community
on Mar 20, 2009 at 11:29 am

"I want some of that",

Before we threw in the towel, my husband and I talked about trying to set up a tutoring/afterschooling cooperative, and a parent here in town has volunteered to tutor h.s. math for free on a "pay it forward" basis.

Each parent could tutor the subject in which he/she excelled -- or help with scheduling and getting materials together. You'd tutor the disadvantaged kids, too.

You're right about highly educated parents. Parents with advanced and professional degrees (I have the former) are always about "deliberate practice" in the fundamentals.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 20, 2009 at 12:03 pm

I want some of that: the tutoring schemes I refer to are much more hard-core and under the table than Kumon and SCORE and they are not remedial. some are not advertised. There is one run by a district parent only open to certain children, and I know they have greatly benefited from this scheme. They are run by people who have the curriculum and spoon-feed it to teens in advance of their taking high-stakes courses, esp. Math, where grades and time matter. This has not always been a prevalent practice here, I have lived here long enough to know that. Competition for college admissions is extremely tough currently, and those who cite anything from the 90s, for example, are WAY out of date. I just think it should be disclosed (ha!) to school and college officials.
I do agree with your post about the achievement gap


Posted by I want some of that, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2009 at 12:08 pm



observer,

that's why I think the whole concept of "differentiated instruction" in Elementary school is bogus.

whatever the most challenged students are getting, I want some of that,

please no "struggling student" curriculum for me





Posted by take a deep breath and several steps back, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 20, 2009 at 12:43 pm

New to this thread, which is an old, old issue. It will never go away. There will always be a new textbook, or a new teaching method. IMO, they are not critically important, and certainly not worth all the controversy here. They are tools, not the end product.

IMO, in the end what matters most to teaching and learning in general, and of math in particular, are 1) the learning/curiosity environment at home (not 'math tutoring' specifically, but more general), and 2) the particular relationship between an individual student and his/her teacher.

It is not the relationship between student and textbook which is most important. It is virtually impossible to correlate any **measurable** outcome to the choice of text.

Not everyone learns the same way. And not every family wants their kids taught in the same way. Our response in Palo Alto has been Ohlone on one end, Hoover on the other, and the 'mainstream' in between. We deliver the options each parent feels is right for their kids. And if a parent is not satisfied, then move to a lower-cost community, and spend the mortgage savings on private school.

One 'rotten' kid in a 5th grade class of 15 can ruin an entire year for everyone, if the teacher is not up to the task of management. One excellent teacher, with the right group of kids, can manage a class as large as 30 or 40, with truly excellent results.

In Palo Alto, our children benefited greatly from Gary Tsuruda at Jordan (now retired), and Arne Lim at Paly. Ironically, I don't think Gary and Arne saw eye-to-eye on pedagogy. But they were both excellent, excellent teachers, inspirational and effective.

As far as textbooks go, I can however attest that a new or newer text is important: less for the content, than for the experience of the content. That is: our daughter's experience at Paly freshman year, with a textbook which was so scribbled and torn as to be virtually illegible, frustrated the learning process tremendously.

Somewhat anecdotally, California students suffer in math in the transition between middle and high school. This has been true for well over thirty years. That is: students exit middle school up to 1.5 years behind students in similar demographic districts (e.g. Westchester County, NY, or Barrington, IL). Yet, by the end of high school, California students have caught up to their peers in other parts of the country. How does this happen? Through extremely high-stress, 'fire-hose' learning during freshman and sophomore years in high school, especially in the upper two lanes.

Also anecdotally, I find the following to be an interesting yardstick of math progress. Take calculus. Let's assume that the age at which calculus is learned, over historical time, is a measure of social evolution. Newton and Leibniz developed the calculus as mature adults during the late 1600s. John Adams attempted to teach John Quincy Adams the calculus, when John Quincy was 17 (talk about home schooling), in 1784. I took what was essentially AB Calculus as a HS senior in 1972; few HS students in the US in 1972 were afforded the opportunity to learn math higher than this level. Today, in the better public school districts across the country, many dozens of students learn BC Calculus, a fair number by the end of junior year; and at least some HS students in these districts (maybe 5-10 each year in Palo Alto) are taking 1st and 2nd year advanced college math (multi-variable calculus, and transform theory) by the time they graduate from HS.

My point is this: if calculus is a bellwether, then the evolution of its instruction appears to show that math at a higher and higher level is being taught at an earlier and earlier age.

Another anecdote: FWIW, one of our children took SCORE for a year; other than that, we did no tutoring in particular; and, we were asked only occasionally for help with math homework.

Another anecdote: Our children were bored almost to tears in late elementary school, through at least some of middle school, by the slow pace of math instruction, and by in particular the repetition of algebra, year after year. IMO, this is why California students fall behind their US peers during this phase of their education.

My credentials and related anecdotal experiences:

Elementary and high school education in suburban Chicago, including AB Calculus as a HS senior. Bachelor's and master's in physics at an Ivy League school, with attendant advanced math; PhD in electrical engineering at Stanford, with attendant advanced math; professor at an Ivy League engineering school, teaching ODEs, and engineering based on ODEs, to college students (some of whom were frankly not prepared well). My wife has a PhD from Stanford in education, where she studied calculus and advanced statistics. Our children took math through either AB or BC Calculus at Paly, and went on to Ivy League colleges.

In brief summary, then: I and my family have been incredibly privileged, no denying, in part because of math ability and access to excellent math and science teachers (I don't remember my textbooks, but I remember my teachers). Both my wife and I have immigrant backgrounds in either our parent's or grandparent's generation, which (as always, anecdotally) may have something to do with the focus on education and learning in our family.

Yet, I believe strongly that math education in Palo Alto is by-and-large outstanding for all students, not just the 'best' or most advanced students. There are areas for improvement: there always are. But the controversies about textbooks and pedagogy, and 'RRR'/Singapore/Hoover vs 'touchy-feely'/Ohlone approaches, are false controversies, and distract from focus on the real problems, and on solving them.

These false controversies also breed us-them, fault-blame, and other destructive forms of social discourse, which serve none of us -- parents, students, teachers, community -- well.

Please keep in mind, there is no single 'right' answer to the question, how do we best prepare our students in mathematics? There are, instead, many right answers.

If you want to have a useful and thoughtful discussion, talk about measures of outcomes (and I don't mean simply IQ scores, or SAT scores), which are useful and why, and what other measures might be considered.


Posted by observer, a resident of another community
on Mar 20, 2009 at 1:14 pm

"There is one run by a district parent only open to certain children, and I know they have greatly benefited from this scheme"

wow!

Interesting.

We sure don't have that here. We might have almost a mirror-image of what you describe (Don't know.)

We have a population of successful, highly educated parents many of whom actively don't want a "New Trier"-like, hyper-competitive school district. Are you saying that Palo Alto is New Trier-type district? (I don't mean to be critical of either group -- )

Or are you describing a subculture of parents who are devoted to math?

If so, we don't have those folks, either!

Just a whole lot of tutoring & parent reteaching, most of which doesn't shoot anyone into the SAT stratosphere -- but some of which does make it impossible for non-math/science parents & kids to compete.

"whatever the most challenged students are getting, I want some of that"

Absolutely.

This is where we need precision teaching and flexible ability grouping, with a commitment to each individual student reaching his potential.

Differentiated instruction is a hoax. There is no research supporting it & and its creator, Carol Tomlinson, acknowledges that it is "not a magic wand."

"Not a magic wand": now there's a selling point.

I think I see what some of the Commenters are getting at. You've got students in town who are likely benefiting from a world-class Singapore-Math-type curricula outside the school while inside the school everyone else is going to be fooling around with Egyptian math & calculators -- ?

The powers that be need to tackle the tutoring issue head on. How many kids are being tutored, how is the tutoring done, and if it's working as brilliantly as it seems to be they need to provide the same quality of instruction (or at least the same quality of curriculum) to everyone who wishes it for his child.


Posted by Barry Garelick, a resident of another community
on Mar 20, 2009 at 1:17 pm


Re the post by "take a deep breath":

"But the controversies about textbooks and pedagogy, and 'RRR'/Singapore/Hoover vs 'touchy-feely'/Ohlone approaches, are false controversies, and distract from focus on the real problems, and on solving them."

Tell that to the parents in the communities where Everyday Math, Investigations, and Connected Math are used. Your bellwhether of age of student taking particular level of calculus is in all probability a function of the "winner take all" phenomenon talked about earlier.


Posted by I want some of that, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2009 at 1:21 pm



take a deep breath,

".... And if a parent is not satisfied, then move to a lower-cost community, and spend the mortgage savings on private school."

interesting advice, thanks,


Posted by observer, a resident of another community
on Mar 20, 2009 at 1:43 pm

"move to a lower-cost community, and spend the mortgage savings on private school"

We have moved our h.s. son to a Jesuit high school where per pupil spending is perhaps 60% what my public school spends (factoring out special ed students, btw), the parent SES is far lower, and the student population more diverse.

SAT scores in the Catholic school are significantly higher & college admissions much better.

How do they do it?

Direct instruction in the liberal arts disciplines; students placed in classes according to their level of preparation; non-weighted grading. No gimmicks, no "differentiated instruction," no Egyptian math.

Mentors and guidance counselors watch over each boy, and if a student needs a tutor the school assigns a peer tutor, a time, and a place.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 20, 2009 at 4:05 pm

concerned parent,

"Likely YES"--don't you know? The least I can expect out of discussion of math are some numbers. So, what's the answer?

But, anyway, I doubt it. Here's an interesting little chart showing international math rankings in the 1990s.

Web Link

Couple of things, the Asian countries aren't even in the 12th grade rankings--which are topped by some northern European countries. I'm guessing that education splits up earlier and that kids are either on a university track or out of school by then. So, in other words, we teach longer.

Another thing--the U.S. numbers slip downward in the later grades. In fourth grade, we're at no. 8, tied with Ireland and Australia and ahead of Canada. If the rankings haven't shifted much then I very much doubt that Palo Alto kids, who rank near the top of U.S. scores are scoring below the average Singapore kid.

Basically, where we're slipping up is from middle school on. HOWEVER, we also keep more kids in the educational system than do many countries. It's not an even comparison. We're trying to do something else here.

One more thing--this little chart shows that type of instruction, size of class and even the amount of homework don't seem to be key differences. The study's a bit old, so more recent info would be good.

But this isn't nearly the cut-and-dried issue people think it is.

Take a deep breath,

Loved your post--thank you and thank you for sharing your background. What you say goes with my own experience in math and science--the teacher matters.

My gut instinct reading here is that there's a certain fear-of-math going on--which is odd in Silicon Valley--that unless all the ducks are in a row the kids won't learn math. You seem a lot more relaxed about it, given your background, it makes sense.


observer,

How do private schools do it? Really easily--they don't accept students with learning issues. Public schools have a mandate to educate all children within their district. Private schools get to pick and choose.

And, guess what, costs less money if you don't have to provide specialized instruction for kids with learning or behavior issues.

However, it also means that trying to directly compare private and public doesn't add up.

And, yes, this is a hyper-competitive school district. We're in the middle of Silicon Valley, next to Stanford, and in California, good school districts are far and few between, so people pay a lot to live here. So lots of Type-A parents, lots of parents who have sacrificed a lot to have their kids go to school here and, in general, they're smart enough and detail-oriented enough (it's the engineer mentality) to have an opinion on *everything*.


As for differentiated instruction--it's basically the only way to work with highly gifted kids. The differences in ability can be vast. And, no, it's not just tutoring. I have a friend who studied math at a highly ranked university--starting at age 12. No tutoring. I know a young programmer who was one of the early EPGY kids--and doing calculus in ninth grade. No tutoring. These types are rare, but they're around and we do get a higher than average number of them in the district thanks to the people here.

With these kids, the question isn't getting them to understand stuff, but to keep them from tuning out school. It's funny, no one thinks much of the issue with reading. Some first-grade kids can't read and others read Harry Potter. That's a six-grade difference--and you probably have that range in every single first-grade classroom in Palo Alto.

Why not the same thing in math? And why penalize the kids at either end by not providing something on their level--not to the point of running the teacher ragged, but by recognizing that kids learn at different speeds? I also, by the way, believe in doing supplementation at home because, hey, it's my kid and I'm a parent. It would never occur to me to assume that a school was going to provide everything for my child.


Posted by reality, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 20, 2009 at 4:16 pm

"My gut instinct reading here is that there's a certain fear-of-math going on" -- that is probably true, but for many in the district who have, say, read the committee minutes or gone to the meetings, there is this niggling bewilderment about how one got from the full range of choices to the most controversial one.

"I also, by the way, believe in doing supplementation at home because, hey, it's my kid and I'm a parent. It would never occur to me to assume that a school was going to provide everything for my child." Yes, and it would be nice if the district, which has an expanding achievement gap (expanding % of children not meeting the state standards, not differential between the highest and lowest achievers in ability, which how would we even measure), would ensure that all kids would at least graduate from elementary school grounded in the basics, without parental supplementation required, with parents enriching their children's education rather than providing it. Which is the current concern with EDM.


Posted by reality, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 20, 2009 at 4:32 pm

But anyway, putting aside the question of why or how teachers can differentiate reading and writing instruction and not math, and putting aside the question of whether, how many, and why some parents are shoving their children through the math curriculum, back to the question at hand: is there a reason why we cannot have transparency in this process? Is there a reason why we can't have a written document like the MI findings and recommendations (well, hopefully more well thought out and factually grounded than that one please nothing like "it will help close the achievement gap because we say it will") that explains the reasoning process for adopting EDM? Seems like the least one might do for one's boss (ie Skelly) is give him some sane and rational basis for the recommendation, so he and the Board could look through and ask hard questions and then make an informed decision. I find it creepy, all this talk about unquestioningly trusting the committee.

Hey, all the same to me -- my kids are not in elementary school any more -- but it was not a pretty sight while it lasted. What about those parents who do not have the means, background or leisure to teach their kids what is not being taught, becaues they are just trying to stay afloat keeping their kids in Palo Alto schools at all. Perhaps some of those parents who are treating their children like Strasbourg geese, metaphorically and mathematically speaking, could look around and offer to tutor someone less privileged, just to get a little perspective.


Posted by Ze'ev Wurman, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 20, 2009 at 4:51 pm

OP,

"Basically, where we're slipping up is from middle school on. HOWEVER, we also keep more kids in the educational system than do many countries. It's not an even comparison. We're trying to do something else here."

Well, not exactly. We are about number 20 in terms of fraction of kids graduating from high schools. See Web Link indicator A2. Ahead of us are not only countries like Finland or France, but also Greece, Korea, Japan, Italy, Hungary, and others. Basically we used to be at the top, or almost at the top, but in the last 10 years or so we kept in place while many nations surged forward.


Posted by I want some of that, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2009 at 5:43 pm

Ohlone Par.

you said

"As for differentiated instruction--it's basically the only way to work with highly gifted kids. The differences in ability can be vast."

the headlines for Palo Alto will never be

"Giftedness in Palo Alto schools go through the roof"

Every decision the district makes on core curriculum will fall under one of the following three headlines"

"PAUSD is closing the achievement gap"

"Achievement gap widens even further in Palo Alto"

"Achievement gap has not changed in Palo Alto"

Differentiated instruction in Elementary sounds like a big mistake,

Experiments with calculators in Elementary school sound like a big mistake

This is not about Language arts with numbers, it's Math.














Posted by a parent, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Mar 21, 2009 at 8:09 am

My kid did the Scott Foresman and I think she likes it.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 21, 2009 at 12:48 pm

I want some of that,

What point are you trying to make? Differentiated instruction doesn't mean you have multiple curriculums. What differs is the speed at which various kids proceed through the curriculum and how the basic curriculum is supplemented.

It already happens in this district--thus, those five lanes of math are at Paly and Gunn? You want everybody going at the same speed in math at the high-school level? It seems unthinkable, doesn't it?

Then why is it a disaster at the elementary level? Why not keep the more accelerated kids excited by math's potential, while firming up the fundamental skills of other kids?

Ze'ev,

I'll buy that. We're doing a rotten job of getting working-class kids through high school--that a large chunk of our working class are ESL speakers makes it that much harder.

My point, though, is that we don't split kids up--the idea is that everyone gets through high school. Not claiming we're doing a good job of it. Simply that we're not falling down at the elementary school level--we're falling down at the middle school and high school levels. Which, by the way, reflects my own experience decades ago. My elementary-school teachers taught their subject well. The math teachers later on were poorer teachers and communicators as a whole. I tend to think that people good enough at math to teach at the secondary level often do something more lucrative with their prowess. (Unlike English teachers, say).

Meanwhile, other countries, I think, make a point of teaching secondary math as well as possible. We just kind of stumble through--especially if we're dealing with the "non-math" kids.

Hmmm, should we quit laning high-school kids in math?

Reality,

First, I appreciate your tone here. Honestly, though, I don't think you can ever expect the schools to fully compensate for parental involvement. It just makes a difference--always has, always will. I don't think the parent has to have a Ph.D. in a given subject to give the support needed, but it matters a lot. It's a little like the stat on how long-term achievement is correlated with the number of books in the house. Kids are more influenced than their home environment and the attitudes within it than anything else.

What I don't think is that there's one-size-fits-all parenting. Some kids benefit from tutoring, for others it will be besides the point.

I once pointed out that Ohlone's no-assigned-homework policy meant that you know kids were pretty much doing their own work. But that doesn't mean that Ohlone's an even playing field. I'm a Palo Alto parent which means that I cared enough about education that I'll pay a lot to live in a small house for the school system. And I'm honest enough to admit that I didn't want to be in a school system where bringing up underachievers to grade level had to be the main focus of the classroom. Ohlone, for me, is a nice balance between that very common situation and the hypercompetitiveness of some of the schools in this district.

I do have a problem with teaching class curriculum ahead of time in order to ensure an easy A. I don't have an issue with providing an environment that fosters learning. I don't do the extreme things because I think in the longterm, they're counterproductive. It's not worth the burn-out and the stress on the kid. (okay, I've veered a little off-topic here, sorry.)


Posted by Ze'ev Wurman, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 21, 2009 at 3:39 pm

OP,

"I'll buy that. We're doing a rotten job of getting working-class kids through high school--that a large chunk of our working class are ESL speakers makes it that much harder."

Yes, we could do a better job in high school... if we didn't have to teach half of our kids there whole number arithmetic and fractions -- all the content they never mastered in elementary school. As to ESL, Singapore has essentially 100% ESL speakers. Almost none speaks English at home, but 100% learn math in English. So what does it say about us?

"My point, though, is that we don't split kids up--the idea is that everyone gets through high school."

Well, Singapore does the same--everyone gets through high school. Just not the same high school. They have about 60% of their cohort entering college, we have 64%. We claim that everyone should go to the same high school, but then have some take remedial courses and other take AP, and both graduate after 8-9 grade-level exit exam (HSEE.) And then we call it "same high school." They do smart laning from grade 7 and up, but ALL lanes learn more than we give our remedial graduates here. And then we point a finger at them, telling them that they "split-up kids." We should look in the mirror instead.

"Not claiming we're doing a good job of it. Simply that we're not falling down at the elementary school level--we're falling down at the middle school and high school levels."

Not really. The reason we do relatively well on 4th grade TIMSS and NAEP is because at that grade kids are not expected to master much. Many of ours will never master anything more, and it simply shows up in 8th grade TIMSS and NAEP. Visit any remedial/low class in any high or middle school and you will see kids failing not on Algebra or Geometry -- those kids keep failing by not being able to handle arithmetic of integers and fractions. K-5 skills.

"Meanwhile, other countries, I think, make a point of teaching secondary math as well as possible. We just kind of stumble through--especially if we're dealing with the "non-math" kids."

There is no such thing as "non-math" kids. We just manufacture them by not teaching them the basics. 100% of our kids can easily finish Algebra 1 and Geometry, if we just tried to teach them properly, rather than let them sink or swim as we do today. See my post from March 15 5:35 pm here: Web Link . Our best HS teachers cannot teach secondary math to kids that can't add fractions, or convert 80% to a fraction.

"Hmmm, should we quit laning high-school kids in math? "

You can try. But before that, you should better make sure that every kids leaves elementary school fluent in the four arithmetic operations with integers and fractions.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 23, 2009 at 5:04 pm

Ze'ev,

But is that really the reason kids are underperforming in high school? If the failure's that basic, we should see a lower ranking in elementary school.

As for not mastering much--point is our kids in elementary do okay internationally (top 10) and then slide later.

The splitting here and Singapore does matter because it skews the test results. If 60 percent of Singapore kids are out of the system by our 12th grade then we're not testing a similar range of students. We're comparing all our students v. their top performers.

Is the Singapore (or European, or one of several countries) the better method? I don't buy it. Our test scores aren't great, but our countries has the lion's share of top universities and has led in technological innovation for the last half century.

And I don't think it's an accident that our technological edge sharpened when the GI Bill made higher education available for millions of people who would never had a shot at it otherwise.

As for remedial classes--yes, some kids aren't learning basic skills. Not just math, but reading and (especially) writing. Is that the issue in this district, however?

Wasn't serious about not laning--just mentioned it because of the score drop that happens when we do start laning. And I used "non-math" in quotes for a reason. Though the fact remains that our five-lane system does mean that we are accelerating some kids way past others and I question the overall benefit of doing that. I wonder if we discourage kids who are talented enough to handle advanced mathematics but don't want to put in the time commitment required in the top math lane here. We may be discouraging kids who are simply a bit more rounded in their interests. I think there's also a burn-out situation with kids who then lose motivation in college.


Posted by This is America, Bud, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 23, 2009 at 5:59 pm

Someone said tutoring is unfair? Of course, it is, don't be naive. The rich(er) always have an edge. It's up to you to find a cheap way to nullify the advantage. You cannot level the playing field--this is America, bud. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Mind you, I think the parents who permit--or enable--their kids to learn the course material before taking a high school are nuts. Sure, they're gaming the system, but what a crappy lesson to teach your kids: Game the system cause all that matters are grades. And of course the kids get twisted by spending all their time cramming rather than playing a sport or just hanging out with friends so that they become semi-normal human beings, as opposed to their socially awkward PA parents.

Two ironies here. One, all the math and engineering professors I know say that most (not all) of the "top" math kids in high school (APwise) don't know their stuff because they crammed the info in before they were ready. These profs would much rather teach the kids who got calculus in college because they really GOT it. Two, the PA kids really need help with English, despite the tiptop SAT scores they get, because they cannot write to save their lives.


Posted by reality, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 23, 2009 at 6:45 pm

ain't that the truth.

Except the part about EPA kids. Yes, yes! I do want them to have the same chances as my kids. Why would I want to hoard all the good stuff exclusively for my kids? They are better served by living in a country with a better educated population than by looking down their noses across 101 or living in their insulated superior-to-thou enclave. Hence my concern that the Math Committee find a math program that serves my kids but doesn't leave the others behind who don't have the resources to make up for a mediocre math foundation. What I really wish, this being America, is that the district would stop experimenting with my kids (whole word spelling -- SOOOOO doesn't work; Investigations and no fact quizzes or accountability for actual mastery through the elementary grades -- SUCH a disservice; and the bullying that goes on! Ah me. What I wouldn't have given for one decent playground situation in which the bullies didn't get away with a "talk it out") and just educate them in a safe environment, already.

And I gotta say, JLS is doing that for my kids. Go Panthers!


Posted by Perla Ni, a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 24, 2009 at 8:59 am

Menlo Park School Board Meeting about Everyday Math Tonight!

There's a school board meeting and parent attendance is encouraged:

March 24, 6pm, MP School District Office, 181 Encinal Ave, Atherton

Join the googlegroups parent group on this topic:

google.com/group/pampparentsaboutmath


Posted by Gideon Hausner Jewish Dayschool parent, a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 24, 2009 at 3:11 pm

My daughters, grades 1 and 3, have used Everyday Math for 2 and 4 years, respectively, at the school they currently attend, Gideon Hausner Jewish Dayschool. I do NOT recommend this program b/c I believe it lacks sufficient challenge FOR MOST KIDS. I was so frustrated by the lack of challenge with this program (not to mention the fact that my girls' math competence lagged far behind other kids I know whose schools have used other programs) that I started supplementing this year. Before supplementing, my kids always did well in math, and they never disliked it. Now that they are actually being challenged, they LOVE math, and I never have to tell them to finish their math work - they are self-motivated, and I think it has a lot to do with the fact that they are learning the concepts better and doing more practice (no, I don't mean "busywork," but I do mean meaningful homework where you apply concepts learned).

Everyday Math has not provided a rich experience for my kids. It lacks challenge, and I believe that is true for the majority of kids at grade level, not just kids who excel at math..

For whatever it is worth, too, I know at least several teachers at our school who do NOT like this program, and find it confusing to teach.

Good luck, Palo Alto parents, in making your decision.


Posted by George, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 24, 2009 at 5:40 pm

What can we do?

It's exceedingly clear that EDM is a pile of rubbish? Do we need to demand Skelly's resignation unless this decision is reconsidered by a new committee?

-George


Posted by Perspective, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2009 at 6:25 am

Ze'ev, very well written, researched and analyzed comments.

Thank you for taking the time to teach those of us who want to hear and learn.


Posted by reality, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 30, 2009 at 7:04 am

Does anyone know anything further about the elementary math text selection? Did they just wait for people to blow off steam and forget about it, then quietly adopt EDM?


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 30, 2009 at 2:14 pm

reality,

I think Skelly would like to table it for a year. He's in a no-win situation on this one. He either supports his teachers or he goes with the activist parents. The board gets to make the decision as I recall.

Does your kid not have quizzes? My kid has quizzes--and that's Ohlone. And I know they have quizzes at Duveneck. I don't think there's a no-quiz policy. I think it's an individual teacher thing--though I suspect Ohlone's ramping up quizzes this year to improve its test scores.

Still, I always figure that if Ohlone's doing something that traditional, the rest of you are really doing it. And Hoover's doing it twice.


Posted by reality, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 30, 2009 at 2:36 pm

I think it depends on the elementary school. My kids are in middle school now and they have quizzes. I'm not opposing EDM on my own family's account, since my kids aren't in elementary school any more. But, having survived TERC and managed to become proficient in math through our own non-PAUSD enrichment, my kids are an example of what you should not have to do. And I care about the kids whose parents can't coach them through. I hated having to spend precious playtime grinding on math while they wasted their time in school, but at least I was able to get them where they needed to go. In our family's experience, this is a town of special deals, where if you get something for your own family you shut up about the problem, but I am against special deals too and think public education should serve everyone.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 30, 2009 at 8:45 pm

reality,

Unfortunately, public education in this state has become about special deals. That's esentially what our district is.


Posted by EDM-not a good choice, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 30, 2009 at 10:58 pm

A few Palo Alto residents have started a petition to present to the PAUSD superintendent and school board members regarding the Math Textbook Adoption. Here is the online petition to express your views on this subject:
Web Link

Your name can be kept anonymous online if you wish but will be turned in to the school district when the petition closes (on April 11).

I like the idea of this petition because it is very respectful of the time and efforts put in by the committee but also points out that more textbooks should be piloted and decision should be revisited.

If you are concerned about the Every Day Math Textbooks, PLEASE do the following –
1. Sign the petition AND

2. Send emails to Board members before they vote on this issue stating your concerns about Every Day Math. The board members are: Melissa Baten Caswell, Barbara Klausner, Barb Mitchell, Dana Tom and Camille Townsend (cc Sup. Skelly). Their emails are - mcaswell@pausd.org , bklausner@pausd.org, bmitchell@pausd.org, dtom@pausd.org, ctownsend@pausd.org, kskelly@pausd.org


Posted by Curious, a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 31, 2009 at 12:18 am

Just curious, does anyone know what Los Altos school district uses? The schools are pretty consistent in keeping their API scores in the top 10 or so. No one mentioned what Los Altos school district uses, and maybe it's worth looking into for comparison?


Posted by Good Luck, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 31, 2009 at 12:26 am

Los Altos uses SRA math.


Posted by reality, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 31, 2009 at 6:49 am

It will be interesting to see if Skelly stands on his own two feet or allows that committee to bully him into adopting EDM (esp after the public meeting in which they all bascially yelled at him). This is not about their feelings, it is about their demonstrating that they actually have substantive data to support their recommendation and that they have a plan to fill the *many* gaps that EDM leaves. My bet is no, they do not. They just want to be right.

Why do our children's math educations have to suffer while the committee plays chicken with the superintendent? You'd think Skelly would actually care about reducing the achievement gap, since doing so is part of his job (notwithstanding his "throw your hands up" comments to the press earlier this year).


Posted by reality, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 31, 2009 at 10:01 am

Interesting thing. A petition to postpone the decision is making the rounds. In it, petitioners note that Poway, Skelly's last place of residence, has just punted EDM. Also, petitioners ask the Board to "revisit the[] recommendation following the process laid out by the strategic plan which requires a survey of the community."

SO. Not totally surprising that Becky Cohn-Vargas, who showed contempt for the strategic plan during that MI "process," once again disregards the process -- this time with respect to EDM. Apparently no one has informed her that this district is not her feifdom. The verbal flagellation of Skelly by the Committee at the adoption meeting was astonishing, really. It would behoove Skelly to follow the strategic plan, postpone the decision, and make it clear that he is in charge. Unless, of course, he is not. In which case, why is he the Superintendent?


Posted by concerned, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 31, 2009 at 10:28 am

I'd like to hear from Ginny Davis, our new head of the curriculum office.


Posted by reality, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 31, 2009 at 10:58 am

It would be great to hear from Ginny, who is a local and who was in Davis previously. Davis Joint Unified School District successfully petitioned the DOE in 2004 to be allowed to adopt Everyday Math for its GATE students, upon a showing that the district would fill in the many gaps in the curriculum.

Web Link

One wonders why the district did not petition to have the curriculum for the entire student population, if it is as universally wonderful as the committee claims.

Also, it would be interesting to see statistics for the past 3 years on the advanced elementary students who were using EDM.


Posted by concerned, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 31, 2009 at 11:47 am

That says it all - they only used it for the GATE students. What is Becky C-V thinking of doing with the rest of our students? Pressuring them to move out of Palo Alto? Or letting them go fallow for 6 years and making it impossible for them to catch up when they finally mature? This will stretch the achievement gap and also the gender gap.

Ginny Davis needs to publicly explain herself in all of this. And so does Kevin Skelly given their prior experience with EDM.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 31, 2009 at 12:11 pm

Wow, talk about leaping and bounding to conclusions. Uh, like maybe there was a limited budget and it wasn't time to purchase textbooks for the entire district?

Occam's razor--I can't believe the illogical suppositions I see in a conversation about *math*.

Again, what will be different a year from now? Will there be other textbooks eligible for approval? Will the SRA publisher be more able to support the district? Will our teachers be trained like teachers in Singapore?

Sorry, this reminds me of the 20-plus meetings on MI that wasted an insane amount of time--with the board trying to push off PACE before caving under threats. The only reason to delay the decision is political--the same politics will be present a year from now. The teachers want one thing and a group of parents want another.


Posted by MJR, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 31, 2009 at 12:12 pm

If I have a problem with EM when my children start working on it, I'll work through the specific issues with the teachers. I expect we'll discuss worries and concerns and find mutually agreeable solutions. Isn't that what all of us will do? Will this not be the same regardless of the text books chosen?

I like working with our PAUSD teachers. I trust them to make this decision. I'm pleased they stood their ground with Superintendent Skelly, as well intentioned as I think he was. I can't imagine anyone more qualified to make these decisions than professional, in the classroom, educators.

It is starting to look to me like its time for us to let this go and focus on moving forward. We must resist the urge to continue fighting battles that are finished.

I have a 20-year old daugher, a graduate of Fair Meadow, JLS, and Gunn, who is now at UC Davis studying biomedical engineering. I have a 6 year old at Hoover and a 5 year old that starts at Hoover in September. My husband and I are engineers and my parents are retired academics. I am not qualified to evaluate elementary math text books.

I am qualified to evaluate my relationship with PAUSD. The teachers have been open to disucssion. They have always answered my questions forthrightly and listened to my own concerns with an open mind. We've not always agreed. They've always been undeniably interested in the success of my children. With a team like this, I think there is little to fear from a text book change.

Respectfully,
MJR


Posted by reality, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 31, 2009 at 12:15 pm

IS there even a GATE program in PAUSD? I was not aware of a formal GATE program. Is anyone's kid even GATE identified any more? B C-V is in charge of this program, but her heart is apparently in minority/underprivileged education -- not that she has done anything to reduce the achievement gap. If Skelly does not get his hands around this ideological free-for-all, he will never have any credibility or ability to lead as a superintendent in this town. Punting is not what leadership is about. Yes, he and Ginny Davis do need to explain themselves publicly. But how about less blather and more sticking with the strategic plan obligations?


Posted by Good Luck, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 31, 2009 at 12:50 pm

MJR,

We aren't just talking about a bad textbook here.

It's the spiraling of Everyday Math which makes it confusing for children. The spiraling introduces a topic and before all the children can master it, they introduce another topic. Then they return to that original topic later. Children don't learn the entire topic before moving onto another topic. Children end up being frustrated and confused. How can you "work with a teacher" on that? Teach your child the entire topic at home so when it spirals again, the child knows it? That is basically home-schooling then.

Your gene pool seems to have a high aptitude for math so they'll be fine. It't the other kids who are a concern and the children who have parents who do not have time to work with their children at home who will be the victims of Everyday Math.

Get children confused and frustrated in the early years with math, and you'll only have a small amount who will be able to excel and tolerate it later. What a shame to change the attitudes of children so early in life. India and Asia will continue to lead the world with math.


Posted by Experienced Mom, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 31, 2009 at 1:00 pm

I am very disappointed to hear that the teachers dumped on Skelly, and the Committee "yelled" at him etc. I surely hope this is an exaggeration or something.

I completely agree about the results of spiraling on kids. The only ones who come out ok are those who are lucky enough to have the brains to overcome the confusion, or parents who can coach them and supplement.

If Skelly is disagreeeing with the Committee, and he came from a District which is now dumping the very program that we are about to adopt, AND, if I recall, he was a math major undergrad college ( is this true), AND he has his PhD in Education..I suspect we should prick up our ears and pay attention.

Reminder to all, this is not about ego, it is about how do we teach the most kids math so that the most kids are prepared as possible to his the "high lane" running in 8th grade; not be left behind because they didn't have the right parents to coach them or a natural math brilliance to carry them through the spiraling.

What does Skelly say? The buck DOES stop with him...


Posted by observer, a resident of another community
on Mar 31, 2009 at 3:49 pm

hi - have just checked back on the thread & noticed this observation:

"How do private schools do it? Really easily--they don't accept students with learning issues. Public schools have a mandate to educate all children within their district. Private schools get to pick and choose."

This is not accurate.

For many years private schools primarily served kids who would be considered special needs inside public schools, and many private schools still perform this function today, along with parochial schools.

I can give 3 personal examples just off the top of my head:

* A mom I met at my own son's Catholic high school told me that she took her niece, who has Asperger syndrome, out of the public school she was attending because the situation was so dismal and the girls was making no progress. The mom enrolled her niece in a private school north of here, where she is doing very well.

* One of my son's friends at his (Catholic) high school is hyperactive. His parents, before settling on the Catholic school, looked at special ed schools.

* Another one of my son's closest friends here in district, who is now classified SPED (504), has been accepted by a local Catholic high school, where he will enroll come fall. Of course we don't know how he'll do, but we're expecting him to do well & so is the new school. Here in our public school, he was close to failing here & was in constant trouble.

It's just not the case that private/parochial schools achieve their results through cherry picking (though obviously the elite private schools are highly selective).

Lessons from Privilege: The American Prep School Tradition by Arthur Powell is a good source on this question.


Posted by observer, a resident of another community
on Mar 31, 2009 at 3:55 pm

I should add that I don't intend my previous comment to say anything about Palo Alto schools. I don't know anything about Palo Alto schools & have found the discussion here very interesting.

I'm referring to "public schools" in general.

(Definitely referring to the failings of my own public school, however!)


Posted by tim, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 31, 2009 at 10:38 pm

"I hated having to spend precious playtime grinding on math while they wasted their time in school, but at least I was able to get them where they needed to go."

Your kids probably hated it, too. Why grind on math at the expense of play when there are so many opportunities to play with math in everyday situations? Choose games and play activities that require addition and subtraction, multiplication and division. Help your child be the banker in monopoly, the scorekeeper in darts, the counter in cribbage, or the statistician at baseball.

Even if you don't have time to play games, try to do your problem solving and math out loud in steps matched to your child's level - or better yet, help your child define, break down, and solve the problems. Demonstrate making mistakes, checking your solution with estimates from nearby easy numbers, and correcting yourself. You can make a big difference in how soon they get the concepts of more and less, 1's and 10's and 100's, ratios, and measurement units.

Let your child pay at the ice cream store and check the change, budget the birthday party, predict how much farther and how much longer to grandma's, and decide whether it would be faster on 101 or El Camino. Your child would be proud to do it and love you for your confidence, encouragement and help.

That's not supplementing - it's parenting.


Posted by reality, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 31, 2009 at 11:36 pm

Yes Tim, teaching and reinforcing concepts that were not taught in the early grades was most certainly grinding. And I did the other too, which is how my children, now older, have facility AND regained their joy in math that had been lost. What about the other kids who were expected to gain facility and conceptual understanding by osmosis?


Posted by observer, a resident of another community
on Apr 1, 2009 at 5:33 am

reality wrote: "Yes Tim, teaching and reinforcing concepts that were not taught in the early grades was most certainly grinding."

ditto that!

It's especially difficult to "afterschool" a middle school child.

I realize the subject here is K-5 kids. However, given the fact that Palo Alto teachers have said there are Grand Canyon-sized gaps between 5th grade Everyday Math & the 6th grade curriculum, I would assume that a significant number of children will need home teaching & tutoring in middle school, too.

As a point of information, my own district adopted Math Trailblazers in school year 2004-2005. The first students to have had Trailblazers from Kindergarten through 5th grade arrived at the middle school last year, I believe.

This year we've hired a full-time remedial math teacher for the middle school.

Enrollments are declining and are projected to continue to decline but we need an extra math teacher to provide remedial instruction to general-education students.

I haven't read the entire thread, and don't know whether the issue of cost has been raised.

Inferior curricula are costly in money and in time. My district spent $1.5 million on Math Trailblazers, which it will eventually have to replace, just as Scarsdale did; parents spent thousands on remediation; now taxpayers are paying for an extra math teacher to remediate Trailblazers students in middle school in a period of declining enrollments and economic crisis.

And the hours parents and children spend trying to make up for Everyday Math & its sister curricula are lost forever.


Posted by BP Mom, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 1, 2009 at 8:35 am

Just a reminder - have all the concerned residents signed the petition?

Web Link

All PAUSD residents can sign (can be community members without children, non-citizens, parents with older or younger children, etc.), including half of Los Altos Hills and VTP families from East Palo Alto. They need the signatures by by April 10.

Thanks for caring enough about math education to express your thoughts.


Posted by concerned, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2009 at 10:38 am

I signed the petition but noticed that while a representative for each elementary school is requested the CAC, Community Advisory Committee for Special Education, has been left off of the list. Please add a representative for that group. We are very supportive of this effort. Can the initiators of the petition give some contact information so this can be arranged?


Posted by MJR, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 1, 2009 at 1:05 pm

Dear Good Luck,

I hear you are most concerned that the "spiraling" method used in Everyday Math will prevent math-disadvantaged children from learning the math they need to go on.

That certainly sounds like a good question. I am completely unqualified to respond to your concerns other than to acknowledge that it sounds very worthwhile to me.

My own concern boils down to whether or not we are allowing the teachers to do their job (for example by accepting the fact of their expertise, by supporting their right to apply those expertise in evaluating a teaching method, and then by holding them accountable for their reccomendations) or, in our fear and lack of personal expereince and knowledge, are we trying to do their job for them.

I believe we, teachers parents and administrators, are a team and when the roles among team members become confused, the team ceases to be productive and anxieties rise. I fear this more than the text book change.

Most of the "technical" questions raised on this site are probably wonderful questions, but very few of the individuals on this forum have the credentials to provide thoughtful answers. Yet I read many many answers. I worry that continuing this debate (per the petition) would not only undermine our team members, the teachers, it would actually support another kind of destructive spiraling as well meaning and concerned parents search for a way to take control of a process that frightens us.

Frankly, I think its ok if this process is a bit frightening to us parents; its beyond our training (for most of us) and it will affect us and our children and we are being asked to trust our other team members. Always a scary prospect. I am personally unnerved by the whole thing and I can see from this forum that I am not alone.

But it seems to me our proper job here, now, is not to evaluate text books. Our role is to support our math methods experts, the teachers. We can support them with our questions, our respect, and by sharing our experiences with this and other math programs. If we seek to overturn their decisions by the weight of our fear, we are not being supportive team members. We are just feeding our fear and that of our neighbors.

Ultimately, the teachers are the experts here. I strongly believe they are the best qualified to make the final call regarding which text book to use. My only disappointment is that the board has anything to say about this, but thats another forum.

I may not get to see the text book of my choice, but at least I can work to keep my team healthy and functional so we can deal with whatever problems come down the line, as there surely will be problems with whichever text book is chosen.

So my final question is are we still serving a purpose in this discussion, or are we spiraling?

Respectfully,
MJR


Posted by reality, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 1, 2009 at 1:31 pm

MJR, the point is not to denigrate the teachers' decision, if in fact you can call it a decision since the committee, for reasons never explicated, narrowed down the choices to a bad and anthoer bad curriculum. That the teachers chose EDM in that situation is akin to the MI party's claim that the Board "endorsed" MI when they voted for chioce over charter after clearly stating they did not want MI or feel it was appropriate at this time in this district.

The point is that when a committee makes a recommendation, it should be able to defend ts recommendation on stronger grounds than a defensive "What???? Don't you TRUST us???? If you don't blindly take our word for it, then you are spitting on all the time we spent choosing this!!!!" Please. I can't think of any other profession where this kind of nonsense would be tolerated. Could we have some backup for how they narrowed the choices, how they came to decide on EDM, and how they propose to fill in the gaps in the curriculum that everyone agrees exist?

Attacking the questioner is the resport of someone who does not have solid answers. Answering the hard questions should be required. We can all approach this in good faither by assuming until proven otherwise that the reasons are there and well grounded, so why not hear them? To be told "just trust me" is the first red flag that something is amiss.


Posted by BP Mom, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 1, 2009 at 1:39 pm

concerned - here is the email paloaltomathtextbooks@gmail.com wrt your CAC question


Posted by BP Mom, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 1, 2009 at 1:52 pm

MJR - just want to clarify the petition is NOT doing the teacher's job and by no means telling them what to do. It is saying that other textbooks should be evaluated/piloted since clearly the ones presented has big issues as most people agree. Secondly, remember this decision will stay with our kids for 7 years and should not be done hastily without full support because I beleive some effort upfront now is way better than experimenting with textbooks on our kids in their formative years


Posted by BP Mom, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 1, 2009 at 3:30 pm

Let's wake up ans smell the coffee. If you are concerned, tell 5 other parents who don't know about this issue, educate them and get them interested. Voice your concerns the board and sign the petition. Posting a recent article from Forbes on the joys of Everyday Math

Web Link


Posted by mk, a resident of another community
on Apr 1, 2009 at 11:51 pm

MJR--- The teachers are really not experts in math text book selection. The vast majority of elementary teachers have little experience with mathematics maybe one or two math classes as an undergrad. If they had more than a few classes it's likely they were taking remedial classes such as---arithmetic, pre-algebra, and algebra.( yes, many of them struggled with basic math) Postgrad they had one math methods class. That's it! What they do know quite a bit about is selecting the best book that supports social justice, multicultural themes, group learning and constructive curriculum and whatever various and sundry ideas are hot off the Ed school presses. While those ideas might have a place in the curriculum—they do not belong as the deciding factor in selecting a mathematics program.

Palo Alto parents----you have the power and the means to start an awesome charter school and you should do it.


Posted by Wake up?, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 2, 2009 at 1:52 am

Please please please don't tell 5 others to send a carbon copy, "She says it's yucky, so don't want any either" message to the board or sign a petition.

Instead, ask them to visit their school's teachers who were on the committee and ask them questions, visit a classroom and see teachers teach, and use their own brains instead of trusting yours. I don't trust you to 'educate them', and they shouldn't either.

The arguments above don't hold much water. I'm typing off the top of my head here and don't claim all my counterarguments are water-tight. Some of you will latch onto something I write and dismiss everything else I say because of it. That's ok; you're unreachable anyhow. I'm hoping to stimulate others' thought rather than stir your emotions.

Schools X, Y and Z abandoned EDM this year! Yes ... and schools A, B and C adopted it. Suppose all the schools that use Everyday Math are required to select new textbooks every seven years. Suppose there's a 10% chance that any school will pick something different each time they go through the process ... how many would have quit EDM? It's no great feat to find some examples. How does the fraction compare with the fraction that abandoned Singapore at the end of their 7 year cycle? You don't know? Well then there's really no basis for comparison. The weakness of the whole argument lies in the fact that in any large population there will be examples of defectors.

Lots of kids who use EDM need tutors! Yes ... and many who don't get tutors, too. Where are there more than anecdotes to support the idea that ANY math program is the cause of increased use of tutoring? Could it be parent driven? Might a child be challenged by ANY math program?

Spiraling and alternate approaches are a disservice! Some of you will send your children to tutors to get pre-exposed to material they'll soon see in school. (They're spiraling). Others will engage tutors to help overcome true barriers to comprehension. The latter tutors will try a variety of approaches until they find one that works. (They're finding a strategy that the child's brain can process.) Teachers to the same thing. You, of course, mastered spelling all the words before you started using them in sentences. You learned the first phrase of Fur Elise perfectly before trying the rest. You learned to add perfectly before you memorized the multiplication tables. You learned to multiply perfectly before you tried to divide. You learned to divide perfectly before you thought about fractions and percents.

With EDM kids won't get closure on the fundamentals before they move on! To be sure, some won't, but most will. That's because, perhaps unlike some other schools, in Palo Alto teachers are required to establish proficiency in the basics regardless of the text that's used. They do drills. The do timed tests. They can't pass using their fingers (or even calculators) - they don't have enough time. Children who can't pass get special help.

The committee rejected all the good options and chose between two bad ones! X would be better because Y. (Insert your pet X and Y.) The committee started by defining stringent selection criteria. Then they measured every option against the criteria. Then they piloted those that best met the criteria. Then they debated the merits and made a recommendation. Singapore has strengths and weaknesses; its weaknesses lowered its score, and it missed the cut. SRA was actively discouraged by its publisher. See the evaluation form applied to ALL options: Web Link . See the method used to create the form: Web Link

There are almost no studies that say EDM works! Well, to quote the National Math Advisory Panel, "A large amount of research has been conducted on instructional materials, but most of it does not meet even moderately stringent methodological criteria. These methodological deficiencies limit the usefulness of the studies in guiding education decisions." Web Link

The National Math Advisory Panel recommendations were ignored - the very first recommendation is that "A focused, coherent progression of mathematics learning, with an emphasis on proficiency with key topics, should become the norm in elementary and middle school mathematics curricula. Any approach that continually revisits topics year after year without closure is to be avoided", so EDM is bad! In EDM the spiraling is not a year-to-year activity without closure; it's a much tighter cycle designed to drive to closure - based on substantial research. Go read the report and subcommittee reports yourself and not just the bullet points. There's substantial agreement between the Panel's and the PAUSD's criteria. It is true that one of the Panel's groups was enamored by Singapore Math, and its defenders here are ready to rebut any assertion of inadequacy. Unfortunately, measured against the selection criteria, it didn't make the cut.

EDM teaches children to use Calculators! Yup. They're used in games like 'beat the calculator' and a variety of other instructional ways. They're not used in most of the core activities.

There are fewer 'traditional math' problems in EDM! Don't worry; teachers have no trouble providing worksheets filled with them. That's what they do now.

They do weird things in EDM like Egyptian multiplication! Yup. The weird things are generally supplemental activities, and the sad fact that you don't understand them doesn't mean they're bad pedagogy.

Dr. Skelly should have been ashamed to tell the teachers that since they had two options and there was vocal opposition to one that they should avoid controversy.

I hope the board has the backbone to stand behind a rigorous process rather than cave to the the loudest malcontents. Dragging it out another year won't help our children. In the end, it's the parents and teachers who have the most influence on what our kids learn. The textbook effect is in the noise in comparison. (That's in the Math Advisory Panel's Report too.)


Posted by I am awake, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 2, 2009 at 6:31 am


Wake up,


1. Spiraling and Mastery. No one debates that different children learn differently. But spiraling is not about different teaching approaches to the same concept; it is about rejecting the idea that students should master a math concept before moving on to another. Spiraling was clearly and resoundingly rejected by the National Math Panel (in the headlines and in the text).

By your sarcastic (hard to tell but I think I am reading your tone right) examples I am assuming you are not a fan of mastery-before-moving-on in math and think no one learned math that way. That may be true for your generation (which my guess is the under 40 crowd raised on new math). In mine (over 40), you'll find that people who did well in math in school learned to add perfectly before they memorized the multiplication tables, multiplied perfectly before they learned to divide, and divided perfectly before they worked on fractions and percents.

2. "[Don't worry because] in Palo Alto teachers are required to establish proficiency in the basics regardless of the text that's used."

It is hard to talk about much else when EDM squarely doesn't pass the mastery smell test, but, since you bring up the "basics," sure teachers are required to teach the basics to proficiency levels or beyond.

Saying not to worry because mastery of basics is in the teachers' job description doesn't make it so though. Just last year, we failed 16% of our 5th graders who scored below proficient in math basics (at one of our schools that number was 30%) despite standards that require much more.

3. "Schools X, Y and Z abandoned EDM this year! Yes ... and schools A, B and C adopted it." The difference, which is a big one, is that schools which rejected EDM tried it for years, studied it on the ground, and found out that it didn't work. Districts just adopting it are operating on hope.

4. "The committee started by defining stringent selection criteria." Not stringent enough since the selection criteria was missing the National Math Panel's top recommendation - no spiraling. While the committee worked long and hard, the result does not come out of a "rigorous process" when the criterion the committee was given was flawed from the start.

5. "SRA was actively discouraged by its publisher." Ahh - interesting point. Turns out that SRA is selling quite well and is fully supported by its publisher (the same as EDM) in other school districts in California.

So was SRA "actively discouraged by its publisher" here in Palo Alto and, if so, for what reason? Since all the committee teachers in all the grades resoundingly preferred SRA over all the other text books at the start (yeses from all 6 grades), it is important to find the answer to that question before a text book is adopted.

6. "Singapore Math . . . measured against the selection criteria, it didn't make the cut." Actually, it did make the cut. The initial committee vote gave Singapore Math 2 yeses and a maybe compared to enVision's 3 maybes. So that begs the question - how is it we ended up piloting enVisions but not Singapore Math?

7. "There are almost no studies that say EDM works!" In fact, there are two sound studies on EDM per the US Department of Education. One says it doesn't work. One says if it works it only produces minor gains.

8. "[EDM's] spiraling is . . . based on substantial research." If you are referring to the research papers that the publisher produced, you should go back and read them more carefully because they are couched in qualifiers and don't say what the publisher paraphrases them as saying.

9. "EDM teaches children to use Calculators . . .like 'beat the calculator'." Interesting point. In this game young children (2nd grade) are asked to solve math problems on their own and see if they can answer the question faster than a calculator can. From this exercise kids, who by the way are just learning their basic math facts, learn that they needn't bother learning them because the calculator can do it.

Some educators may wonder why the concern when calculators are everywhere anyway, but most parents think this is akin to giving kids the choice of candy or dinner – which do you think they'd pick and which is best for them? They want their child to learn automatic math fact recall and don't want them tempted by short cuts.

It is misleading to say that calculators in EDM are "not used in most of the core activities." Look at the EDM worksheets and assessment tests K-5. How many have the "no calculator" sign on them? Very, very few.

Most of those you are calling "the loudest malcontents" are those who excelled in math, many who teach high school and college mathematics and are seeing first hand the skill set lacking in students now compared to their earlier students who learned math in the pre-Everyday Math years.

You can dismiss and disparage them if you want, but most appreciate input from those who see the end product everyday and welcome the guidance they can provide. Their points are all the more credible because they have no motivation to participate in this debate really, other than a deep love for math and concern about budding math talent squelched by those misguided by publisher "research" and spin.


Posted by wake up?, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 2, 2009 at 9:42 am

Good morning 'I am awake'.

"Most excelled, many teach high school and college, and see see first hand the skill set lacking in students in the pre-Everyday Math years." The weakness of this argument is that the world changed dramatically since then. How children and parents spend their time OUTSIDE school has changed far more than how they spend it in school.

"The studies are couched." The weakness of this argument is that all good scientific studies are couched -- especially in hard to measure spaces. Start with Web Link . There were no studies with Singapore that were well enough done to compare, but of the programs with sufficient data EDM really did land at the top.

"Spiraling doesn't work." What the Panel said is year-to-year revisiting without closure doesn't work. It did not say spiraling doesn't work. In fact it said there's no preponderance of evidence one way or another for integrated vs sequential instruction. So the real question here, is, will the PAUSD promote year-to-year revisiting without closure? The answer is a completely un-couched NO.

"You can dismiss and disparage them if you want". I interview, hire, and depend on the products of our education system - from recent graduate to seasoned professionals in engineering. I have a PhD in a hard science from a top school. (So did the volunteers on the committee - who tutor elementary school students in their spare time). I would guess that for every caring professional you can find who says EDM is horrid, I'd be able find more than one who says it's not.

No time to say more - maybe later.


Posted by Awoken, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 2, 2009 at 10:53 am

"There were no studies with Singapore that were well enough done to compare" What? Actually, there are VAST studies on Singapore Math that show it is much better than anything out there.

""Spiraling doesn't work." What the Panel said is year-to-year revisiting without closure doesn't work." Er, they are the same thing. EDM "spirals," i.e. revisits year to year without closure. Have you seen the texts? A little bit of this, a little bit of that, a little bit of the other, around you go all year, and then repeat the following year with slightly more depth for each topic. The EDM approach is exactly what the panel rejects. So the real question is: will PAUSD follow the Panel's core recommendations or not?


Posted by Grace Mah, a resident of Hoover School
on Apr 2, 2009 at 1:42 pm

My specialty is parent advocacy and as there are parents striving to improve the textbook adoption process, I support their efforts to do so. I am not an author of the petition, but I suggested organizing parent and community feedback to make an impression, and so here I am.

I have not been involved with the math textbook adoption process. I am not an author of the petition. As I have very recently delved into the math adoption minutes and posted information, it seems to me that the textbook adoption process was not fully communicated with parents along the way (for instance, working with the PTA to fill the initial parent representatives on the committee, having (in my opinion) enough parent representatives (from the minutes, it seems not all of the parent reps attended most of the meetings), communicating at each school about the pilot testing, etc.).

I saw from the committee meeting minutes that SRA was initially *unanimously* agreed upon for the first cut review.

Web Link

Results of Opinion Poll by Grade Level Group
Publisher.....................K 1 2 3 4 5
Houghton Mifflin..............N N N M N N
Primary Math Singapore........M N N,*Y* N Y N
Envision......................N M M,*N* M N M
Saxon.........................N N N N N N
Sadlier.......................N N M N N N
MacMillan McGraw Hill.........N M N N N M
Real Math SRA.................Y Y Y Y Y Y
UCSMP Everyday Math...........Y Y N Y Y M
Harcourt......................Y N N N N Y
Y=Yes, M=Maybe, N=No, *Text*=New vote upon further discussion.


Singapore math had more Yes votes than Envision, and the same number of No votes. Envision had more Maybes than Singapore.

Ginni Davis had said that three programs could be piloted. It seems to me that the reasons Singapore and SRA were not piloted are more related to logistics and publisher support (which are valid), rather than from quality of math curriculum.

I personally believe another program should be piloted, whether it be SRA or Singapore math. The same methodology for the first two pilots should be used, and then a full comparison of the three programs. The work of the committee has been very thorough, but in my opinion, narrowed too quickly to two textbooks which were not the best educational match to the criteria (from the meeting notes).

It appears that the teachers did not get the freedom to test the texts best matching PAUSD's math criteria, and in my opinion, for reasons that can be solved. So, supporting another pilot by the committee members is not contrary to their methodology.

One thing that I have learned hard and well in my working with educators is that they do a marvelous job, and I don't tell them how to do their job. I've always respected their work and dedication to the students and student learning.

Anyway, that's my opinion, and I spoke with one committee teacher at Hoover and have full confidence that the right thing will happen for math.


Posted by Grace Mah, a resident of Hoover School
on Apr 2, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Let me try the table again, it's on the first page of the link from above:

Results of Opinion Poll by Math Committee Grade Level Group


Publisher..........................................K.....1.....2..........3.....4.....5


Houghton Mifflin...........................N.....N.....N..........M.....N.....N


Primary Math Singapore............M.....N.....N,*Y*......N.....Y.....N


Envision.......................................N.....M.....M,*N*....M.....N.....M


Saxon...........................................N.....N.....N.............N.....N.....N


Sadlier.........................................N.....N.....M.............N.....N.....N


MacMillan McGraw Hill.............N.....M.....N.............N.....N.....M


Real Math SRA............................Y.....Y.....Y...............Y.....Y.....Y


UCSMP Everyday Math...............Y.....Y.....N..............Y.....Y.....M


Harcourt.....................................Y.....N.....N..............N.....N.....Y


Y=Yes, M=Maybe, N=No, *Text*=New vote upon further discussion.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 2, 2009 at 5:33 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by reality, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 2, 2009 at 7:18 pm

I hear that a lot of parents are afraid to speak up because they are worried about retaliation against themselves or their children -- some have already experienced this. So, at this point we have Skelly and Davis, both with experience with EDM in districts that have rejected it, seemingly having no dialogue with the committee or the public about that data. We have a committee that can't seem to come up with a better rationale than "because we said so." We have people saying "you should trust them" and a whole lot of nasty comments directed at those who oppose the decision on what appear to be data-based grounds (hm . . . sorta like the whole Bush surveillance thing). It appears that EDM is a done deal, and no one is willing to work out the kinks that would limit the negative impact of EDM on the achievement gap. Looks like business as usual in Palo Alto. My kids are out of elementary, mercifully, and I have ensured on my own that they have solid math skills. As for those of you who get to deal with EDM and who are sitting silent now or endorsing it on the committee's say-so, good luck!


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 2, 2009 at 7:39 pm

Reality,

Parents scared to speak up out of fear of retaliation--in Palo Alto? I've been to a number of noisy meetings where I've heard parents speaking up loud and clear. I really doubt that this is a serious issue in this city.

Sorry, I stepped into this morass because I didn't like the attitude towards the teachers--and, indeed, we've heard from Mandy Lowell that the teachers on the committee were hurt and angry.

And now we have a member of the County Board of Education claiming she's a parent advocate and leading the charge against the committee's attempt to, like, do its job?

But, somehow, this has been transformed into poor-scared-parents? How does that work?

Anyway, the district is holding a math meeting on April 21 at Nixon to discuss EDM--so you can vent there. I'm sure there will be safety in numbers, or everybody can wear masks or something.


Posted by JSD, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 2, 2009 at 7:58 pm

FYI, PAUSD just sent out an email with a link to a Q&A document about this:

Web Link


Posted by Wake up?, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 2, 2009 at 7:59 pm

"What? Actually, there are VAST studies on Singapore Math that show it is much better than anything out there."

Maybe so (links please), but according to the US Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences, none they found met their standards of evidence. Web Link The Department of Education in effect endorses the PAUSD teachers' conclusion on the basis of the best available evidence rather than hearsay.

"endorsing it on the committee's say-so" (and some careful research, materials evaluation and consideration of the vast majority of schools that use it that haven't migrated to something else) strikes me as a pretty good bet.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 2, 2009 at 8:50 pm

Wake up?

Interesting link. Not a lot of good studies period, from the looks of it. That seems to be an issue with education in general. I found lots of weak research when I was researching immersion language programs.


Posted by PA Parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 2, 2009 at 9:40 pm

PAUSD seems to be making a statement by sending out the email with a link to a Q&A document which all but declares the selection of EDM. It is particularly disturbing to see that some publisher rep decided the future of our children's education and that our well qualified committee just took it.

Parents have reported that they are afraid to speak up for the fear of retaliation. What kind of democratic society are we living in where we are too scared express our opinions?!!

Will our Board stop and at least review the decision in light of the fact that so many parents are telling them that they are not happy with the decision? These parents are not stupid. They are very concerned about the choice and perhaps have a very good reason to be worried based on the what they know and what they have seen when competing with their colleagues from Asia, Europe and the rest of the world.

The PAUSD points to our scores as being one of the best. That is because the teachers and the parents have been passionate and have had the tools to help the children achieve that. This choice is likely to take away a key resource from them. I am too scared to think about the impact it will have on those very scores that we are so proud of.


Posted by tim, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 2, 2009 at 11:55 pm

Grace,

What suggestions have the parents you're advocating for made to "improve the process"?

Here are some ideas:

From the conspiracy theory that by using only its website and newsletters to inform the public and invite participation the school district was trying to sneak one past the parents, I infer we should send eVites to all school families for each volunteer opportunity and public meeting.

From the idea that every voice is equal, I infer we should eliminate the committee approach and use a general election. We could give each of California's approved textbooks its own ballot measure and let the voters choose.

From the assertion that the teachers probably struggled with math themselves and aren't qualified to choose their own tools, I infer that committee membership should require an SAT score higher than the average Paly graduate's AND a teaching credential.

n.b.: In case it needs to be said, I do not endorse any of the absurd inferences I proposed above.

Honestly, where are the suggestions for process improvement? Saying "I disagree with its output, so the process is flawed" is not useful feedback.

Opponents and supporters, please list your specific suggestions to improve future textbook selection processes.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 2, 2009 at 11:59 pm

PA Parent,

Oh *honestly*--what retaliation? Anybody got any shred of anything besides gossip that indicates retaliation or threat thereof?

The district's clearly hoping that there can be some sort of open communication here between the district and worried parents and get some sort of consensus going.

Now, if you're POSITIVE that nothing can sway you to the committee's way of thinking, why not gear up on your facts and make a case at the meeting. That doesn't mean histrionics about mysterious retaliations.

Take a deep breath and *think*.


Posted by Dialog supporter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2009 at 6:46 am

Ohlone Parent

In all due respect, you of all people must know why people fear retaliation in this community. After all, Grace Mah submits an opinion to this forum and your inappropriate comments in response merited a rare "[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]" replacement, an action typically reserved when a very public post makes a very inappropriate personal attack.

Plenty of parents at your school have told me that they stayed mum about things that concerned them there because speaking out was not the "Ohlone Way." At other schools there is the same pall. My gosh, PTA presidents at my school take new parents aside and tell them that good things come to those who stay quiet and those who speak out only earn staff's scorn. That's the "PAUSD way."

Not a surprise really. Constructive comments or concerns, no matter how well intentioned, are seldom well received. Add a parent's child into the mix and you can see how parents have valid fears that speaking out may affect their child.

But, if everyone spoke out, as parents are doing on this issue, they are having a dialog and not making an "attack."

So all parents with concerns about the math textbook adoption need to take part in the process these next few weeks. They are being encouraged by the school board and Superintendent to do so. Write in, speak out and do it all over again - until the book that will be used in their children's classrooms is voted on by the school board.


Posted by Good Luck, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 3, 2009 at 9:05 am

OhlonePar,

The meetings you have attended have how many "noisy" parents? 10? For an entire school district? Not really a valid representation. There are plenty who are letting others fight for them as they bury their heads in the sand.

What's unfortunate is if Everyday Math is rejected, the parents and teachers won't realize just how fortunate they are to avoid Everyday Math. There will be no trophies or gratitude to the parents who have stuck their necks out for others. Everyday Math needs to be experienced for everyone to really understand just how detrimental it is to society. And the children will be the guinea pigs. The achievement gap will widen because EPA and working parents will not have time to help their children.

The superintendent should have more of a backbone. So what if the adoption committee quits? They can easily be replaced.

Skelly's children and the School Board's children will not be affected since none have elementary school children. Easier for them to keep the peace and let the children and parents suffer.

Why blend in with other school districts? Make a difference; keep Palo Alto unique and the best place to be.


Posted by tim, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 3, 2009 at 1:55 pm

Good Luck,

EDM is in use in thousands of classrooms and in its third edition -- hardly a guinea pig situation.

Even if they adopt such a widely used text, you can be sure Palo Alto will continue to stand apart and set the standards; PAUSD certainly doesn't "blend in".

Every textbook will have its detractors, and every school will have some students who struggle. I'm sorry you feel so strongly against EDM, and I'm sorry if your children are or were among those who struggle. I disagree with your assertion that the parents and teachers will be fortunate to be subjected to something else. All the others have their flaws, too.


Posted by BP Mom, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 3, 2009 at 2:13 pm

tim - yes, every textbook has its flaws, but why pick the one that has SO many flaws e.g. spiraling, use of calculators, not enough drills and depth, big (size of grand canyon - according to a committee teacher) gap in 5th grade materials, controversial "fuzzy" algorithms. Why not go with textbooks that have fewer flaws. Our wonderful teachers and students should not spend valuable time supplementing. I agree all materials have flaws but I feel we should look for the ones with fewer flaws.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 3, 2009 at 2:39 pm

dialog supporter,

Fair enough. But plenty of people did speak up about MI at the Ohlone meeting and the school board meetings. And, no, there's been no retaliation. And, yes, it's been more than 10. After all, why do you think I've never been identified--it's because I'm not alone.

But thanks for reminding me--time for a little reaming out of the editors. My comment was entirely appropriate regarding Grace Mah.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Remember, editors--the fourth estate has special protections just so it can monitor the doings of our elected officials. Grace Mah is NOT a private citizen when it comes to school matters. It was one thing when she was a parent pushing PACE, but it's another when she took on the county board role. I don't see members of the school board here pushing people to sign petitions. So why is Grace Mah doing it?

By publicly pushing this, Grace Mah is using her position inappropriately to pressure the superintendent and board to overturn the committee's decision. I wouldn't like it in either direction--it's unethical, given her elected office.





Posted by observer, a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2009 at 4:27 pm

"At other schools there is the same pall. My gosh, PTA presidents at my school take new parents aside and tell them that good things come to those who stay quiet and those who speak out only earn staff's scorn. That's the "PAUSD way." "

We have major issues with retaliation against people's children here (and against parents; we've had the union in play more than once) -- so major that this was a topic of a PTSA meeting just two nights ago.

The PTSA president pointed out that regardless of whether acts of retaliation do or do not occur (I answer this question in the affirmative), the perception that they do is corrosive and chilling to speech.

The principle our PTSA president was citing is the same principle that underlies conflict of interest law, which requires that a person have no conflict of interest AND ALSO that he have no **appearance** of conflict.

If PAUSD has an appearance of favoritism and/or intimidation of parents, and the comments on this thread suggest that it does, that is a problem that reflects poorly upon the administration.

My view, which is still evolving, is that if parents were partners in these critical decisions, you would have far less fear and intimidation -- and you wouldn't have one set of parents scolding another set because the teacher's "feelings are hurt." Instead, you would have teachers and parents working together, arguing, and hashing the whole thing out.

Any time one group of people has a form of absolute power over another group -- especially over that other group's children! -- you have trouble.

As a principal here told me, "When you shut parents out, you lose their trust." (This principal then proceeded to shut parents out and lose trust.)

From afar, it seems clear that parents-as-a-group, or perhaps I should say "dissenting parents," have been shut out of this process in PAUSD. Yes they have been kept informed and invited to various meetings. But they have not been granted any influence at all over the process or the final decision.

The result is that there appear to be many parents here who object to Everyday Math in the strongest possible terms, and yet (some of) the teachers, the superintendent (it appears), and a number of other parents here feel comfortable forcing Everyday Math upon them.

Wielding power in that way ends badly. In my experience, at least.

Suppose teachers (lots of teachers) and parents (lots of parents) hashed this out together?

What would happen?

Well, for one thing, teachers and parents working together might decide to try to meet the needs of all, not impose the desires of some upon everyone else.

Teachers and parents working together might decide to offer choice.

Everyday Math for parents who want their children to have Everyday Math, Singapore Math for parents who want their children to have Singapore Math (or maybe Saxon Math - a favorite of mine - if there was a constituency for Saxon Math, and so on).

There is no law requiring that only one math curriculum can be used in a school district.

The premise of this thread (and of these discussions wherever they occur) has been that it is right and proper for schools to force policies and practices onto parents that those parents neither respect nor want.

I believe this is wrong (doctors don't treat patients this way), but regardless of the ethics involved, which are debatable, "rolling over" parents always results in hurt.

It doesn't work.

Most of the parents here who object to Everyday Math are going to object to it even more strongly once they have to deal with it during the school year.

The administration's ability to lead will suffer accordingly.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 3, 2009 at 6:01 pm

observer,

What "absolute power" are you talking about? No teacher can fire me, call in my mortgage or spank my child.

You talk as if we were all still children under the auspices of a giant-sized principal.

And, no, it doesn't make sense to have multiple math curricula--it's expensive and you can't leverage teaching experience in the same way.

And I've yet to see why parents should be equal partners in choosing textbooks. They're not going to be the ones using them in their work.
Teachers are not going to your office to tell you how to program. Or what software to use. That's the corollary here. It's micromanaging based on less-than-stellar evidence.

Again, I don't object to Ze'ev's approach (or BP mom's)--it's a difference of opinion and I think it's legitimate to bring that up. But I don't buy this everyone's-so-cowed and those teachers-are-so-big-and-scary.

In my own experience, I try to handle teachers gently--because the reputation of Palo Alto parents is such that I have to take time to win over their trust--much more effective. I really don't buy that the teachers were trying to do anything besides choose what was going to work best within the given limitations (and work around problems with the text). So, no, they don't scare me--I just try not to scare them.

In other words, stop demonizing them. Honest agreement--fine. But the notion that PA parents are helplessly intimidated by the schools just is NOT cutting it for me.


Posted by reality, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 3, 2009 at 6:27 pm

OP, one of the biggest problems in Palo Alto is parents who decide that because they didn't personally experience a problem situation, it must not exist. Then they go around accusing others who HAVE experienced the problem of lying, exaggerating, etc. That is what you are doing now. If you are not intimidated, that's great. But the fact is that others are, whether you choose to believe it or not. Personally witnessed it numerous times. Experienced it too. And it is not, as you seem to want to believe, that those who have experienced negative reactions were not as sensitive or delicate in their approach as you. Seen plenty of people act in good faith and just get shut down. Please don't purport to know about the experiences of all parents in the district, because you clearly do not.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 3, 2009 at 8:40 pm

Reality,

My experience with MI was brought to try to make the point. I was pointing out that this was not my experience with MI. Plenty of people objected--including me--and there haven't been repercussions.

Do various people feel afraid? Sure. Is there anything systemic that creates that fear--I don't really see it and no one's given anything specific here to lend it credibility. So, it's a situation where I haven't seen it personally and there's no evidence that shows a different situation. We're basically at the stage of vague rumors.

I'm sure people acting in good faith have been shut down--the district has a history of being a self-protective bureaucracy. But let's not make it more than it is. I don't think the district will blacklist parents who show up at the April meeting and object to EDM.

And, yes, there's something to be said for dealing with people diplomatically. It does affect the results. It's not simply a matter of acting in good faith, but of thinking things through. Slamming teachers and the district over and over is not a great way to change their collective mind.

There are lots of reasons to not want to stand up and be counted--but as adults we're old enough to make our own choices in that matter without painting other people black.


Posted by Ze'ev Wurman, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 4, 2009 at 12:12 am

OhlonePar,

Let me ask you a simple question. If, indeed, there is no intimidation in the district, why most parents are afraid to identify themselves on this forum? In fact, why don't even YOU identify yourself on this forum? All in all, the discourse on this topic has been civil, yet parents are afraid to put up their names.

I have had 4 children go through our district. I have seen and heard enough cases over the years where teachers and other staff tried to intimidate parents, and sometimes even take it out on their kids. Not many times, but also not only once or twice. At the same time I will say that top district personnel, particularly superintendents--going back at least to Jim Brown--came out clearly against this behavior. This, unfortunately, did not stop few principals and teachers from scolding parents for speaking out at meetings, or speaking out to other parents. Even during the current adoption process some school staff scolded parents for ... speaking with parent reps on the committee.

So, in my opinion, there is no top-down effort to intimidate. But while the top echelon clearly recognizes this to be inappropriate, district leadership was unsuccessful, or did not try hard enough, to weed this out from some school sites. It might be helpful if a 'zero tolerance' policy would be publicly announced for such staff behavior towards parents or their children.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 4, 2009 at 11:54 am

Speaking out at meetings is the least of it.
I am more concerned about having reasonable equality of educational experiences in the classroom - that is ground zero.
There MUST be a better system to evaluate teachers than the silly brief sheet that is proffered for you to fill out, with pre-written non-questions.
I strongly feel tenure should be offered later, after much more evaluation.
But - let me talk about Math.
One of the middle schools had extreme Math issues in the relatively recent past. Note that I am not writing anything about the current situation, I am certain it must be much better. I am forced to write in general terms or else this will be deleted.
This refers to extreme differences in Math education within the same school, same Math level, but different teachers. There was a well-known, wonderful, senior, expert Math teacher teaching honor's 7th grade Math. Some fortunate students had that teacher. Their parents were thrilled, and for good reason. These students had a customary, challenging, normal, thoughtful Math education for 7th grade with a highly experienced teacher.
Meanwhile, other students were in the class of a new teacher who had extreme problems. Unorthodox non-teaching style, rarely touched standard text yet did not substitute anything substantial, etc. I believe that teacher stayed 1-2 years after that first year that I witnessed directly. Those children were clearly negatively affected in their Math education-there is no debate on that point. The classroom experience was unusual and intimidating.
Officials, approached through the correct channels, including the teacher, were not amenable to dicussion about solving this obvious inequity. Many parents, though very concerned, also would not speak up due to fear of repercussions on their children.
Parents had to work very hard to prevent this inequity from adversely affecting their children's entry into high school Math. Remember, we were starting out with children at the same level of talent and interest and testing.
I am not sure but think there was a third Math teacher, who was sort of neutral in all this.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 4, 2009 at 1:41 pm

Ze'ev,

Glad you asked that. I've explained why before, but I think it's a valid question.

I don't identify myself because the bad blood between MI and non-MI parents is such that I don't want my children to be part of the debate. I attended one contentious MI meeting at Ohlone where the young adolescent child of one of the anti-MIers spoke up and he and his mother were excoriated online. The mother was a bad mother and the pro-MIers said they'd never allow THEIR children to play with that child.

I heard the child who was perfectly polite. The Weekly, of course, removed the comments.

So, parents--not teachers. Since I'm a parent at Ground Zero in the MI debate and I've gotten accused of all sorts of unpleasant things online, I see no point in dragging anyone's child into it. I know some lovely people with lovely kids who wanted MI. I strongly disagree with them, but I'd hate to see that spill over into the relations between the kids.

So parents, not teachers nor administrators.

I agree that there have been issues with the district--At the same meeting Callan huffed-and-puffed at the parents--I remember thinking how ridiculous she seemed. This was after her disgrace and her marching papers were already in order.

That said, I think Skelly is trying very hard not to do that and create better relations between the district and parents. And in this case--choosing a textbook, I see why teachers would think that that's part of their work.

anonymous,

Aren't you making a case for the teacher being more important than the textbook? That's been my experience--the teacher matters a lot.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 4, 2009 at 5:46 pm

Teachers AND the curriclum are important. Teachers are so important that I strongly support merit pay, a career path up for teachers, and I also believe it should take longer to earn tenure.

My main point, looking back at our experiences in this district, which are all finished...is the wildly uneven experiences in something where you were supposed to have the same curriculum - 7th grade honor's math, for previously described example. It truly wasn't rocket science. What was needed was to teach and to learn on a daily basis and progress ahead in a reasonable, systematic fashion. Some kids had a fantastic solid year with a top teacher (now retired, I will refrain from naming since then the school will be known) and others were test cases for an unacceptable teacher, who I am quite sure is no longer employed in this district. It was really bad. Administrators didn't want to get involved and it needed to be dealt with ASAP.


Posted by Math Matters, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 4, 2009 at 10:45 pm

Thank you to Perla Ni for sharing the Egyptian Multiplication Algorithm from Everyday Mathematics. I am repeating the link below for your convenience, pages 2 and 3.

Web Link

There is nothing wrong with teaching kids alternative algorithms as long as the standard algorithm is mastered and all the basics covered. And of course, it has to be done well. Let's take a look at EDM's Egyptian Multiplication, Lesson 9-12 in 3rd grade.

If you look at the method carefully, you will see that it depends on representing one of the two factors as the sum of powers of 2. In this example of 13x28, 13 is represented as a sum of 8,4 and 1. It is an important concept in mathematics that any integer can be represented as a sum of powers of 2, or in binary form, or in Base 2. Our entire computer industry is based on this; it took humans thousands of years to develop this level of understanding. This relates to such important concepts in elementary curriculum as place value. Sadly, EDM makes no mention of this important connection.

I wonder whether it is appropriate to introduce this concept to third graders, but if it is introduced, it has to be done well and with care. Let's see how EDM teaches the method:

It says: "With a partner, carefully study the Egyptian multiplication algorithm below. Then solve a problem using this method." Wow. Poor third graders! They are on their own.

The method depends on representing one of the factors in binary form. This means figuring out which lines to add up in the second column (See steps 2 and steps 3). There is a method for doing it. Let's see how it is explained to our third graders: Please see Step 3: "Starting with the greatest number in column 1, circle the numbers that add up to 13." Wow -- the method is not explained at all; instead our 3rd graders are left to do this by trial and error! This will be time-consuming and frustrating. Our third graders are led to believe that it is easy -- just "circle the numbers", but it is not really so easy, and they will start to question themselves. They may figure it out for 2 digit numbers. It becomes impossible for larger numbers, without a structured approach, which is not shown. This is just not fair to the kids. Oh, but maybe they should just use a calculator for larger numbers?

Egyptian Multiplication and Everyday Math will leave your kids confused, frustrated, without confidence and with little understanding of underlying mathematics.


Posted by reality, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 5, 2009 at 10:58 am

It seems telling that there are many, many people on this and other threads expressing explicit concerns about the EDM curriculum (either because of what they have read from the math pros or because of personal experience) and the method by which the committee ended by choosing it, but almost none in which people say from personal experience that EDM is just the greatest and really educated their kids in math also none in which the writer cites solid studies demonstrating the success of EDM.


Posted by tim, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 5, 2009 at 11:22 pm

reality,

The US Department of Education evaluated a large number of studies. A small number met its standard of evidence. In those studies that met a reasonable standard, Everyday Math is the only one that showed strong evidence of significant improvement. Web Link

I'm not the first writer who "cites solid studies demonstrating the success of EDM." Solid studies demonstrating better success of anything else are notably absent. If you know of solid studies that support your favorite alternative as a better option for a larger fraction of the students, please post the links.

Why do you think it's telling that there are many people who express their explicit concerns? That's what this thread is for. That said, everyone here seems educated enough to accept without question that every large population has a large number of individuals on the lower end of the distribution. Most will also accept without question that people are far more likely to complain than defend.

Expressing concerns within a thread created and visited by a small group of people who overwhelmingly don't like EDM doesn't seem telling at all. Do you think the posters here represent a random sampling of the general population? As of day 6, Grace is 11% of the way to her goal for signatures on the anti-EDM petition she is helping promote -- a rather pathetic showing given the fervor shown on this thread.

So far, nobody has responded to my request for specific suggestions for improving the textbook selection process. That's telling.


Posted by reality, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 6, 2009 at 6:39 am

The textbook selection process should result in a written report that sets forth precisely the reasons the selection was narrowed to Everday Math. So far, that has not happened. At the adoption meeting, Skelly raised questions and was raked over the coals by the committee for his impudence in questioning their decision. No one has explained why the resounding rejection of EDM in the first round by several teachers turned into a recommendation for adoption. This is not the process that serves anyone well. As usual, transparency is the key. If the committee cannot articulate the reasons it chose the curriculum, attacks those who ask the hard questions, and fails to provide a solution to filling the many gaps that everyone agrees exist in that curriculum (other than saying the teachers will figure it out), that is a bad process. I have suggested before that they do these things. That is my specific suggestion for improving the textbook selection process, as well as the process employed for pretty much everything in PAUSD. The strategic planning was pretty painless because it was inclusive and comprehensive. One simply cannot say the same about this process.


Posted by Another Dose, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 6, 2009 at 7:47 am

Tim,

You simply cannot claim that the research supports EDM, because the research is so bad. As Ze'ev Wurman points out, only one almost-well-done study that found significant and positive effects. As for other programs, there is vast evidence that Singapore math works (see TIMMS).

Apart from the lack of empirical support for EDM, this program is not a good fit for our district. Its core principles (no need for mastery of or automaticity in computation) do not match curricular goals, so the district says it will have the teachers compensate for this difference in underpinning philosophy. Half-assed at best.

And we have the National Math Panel telling us not to adopt EDM because it spirals--a subject on which thee district has as much clarity as the Delphic oracle.

Do over.


Posted by tim, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2009 at 2:07 pm

TIMMS shows Singapore students score higher. If our schools, teachers, parents and students changed a large fraction of what we do (not just the textbooks), perhaps we would too. Then perhaps the USA could become the technology leader in the world and usurp Singapore.

TIMMS has nothing to do with the "Singapore Math" textbook option. Our option is based on texts not even used anymore in Singapore. Web Link.

Here's what natives of Singapore have to say about learning math in Singapore:

Web Link

"One possible reason for this misconception may be that non-Singaporeans are unfamiliar with Singapore's education system. In Singapore, almost all school teachers supplement their lesson plans with other workbooks other than the school textbooks and workbooks. In fact, almost every child in Singapore uses several supplementary workbooks for every school subject at home after school hours. This is in addition to the other supplementary workbooks that they use in after school tuition classes!"

Sound like Palo Alto -- with or without EDM.


Posted by Another Dose, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 6, 2009 at 4:34 pm

Yes, TIMMS shows Singapore math does a much better job than the texts we use here. I'm not sure why you think Singapore is the world's technology leader, but that belief is irrelevant.

Your comments about the various versions of Singapore math are a red herring. Our option is a text that was used when Singapore did even better (in TIMMS) than they do now (with a revised version). I'm sorry to say that even a text written in 1980 in Singapore is light-years beyond what we make do with now (EDM).

You are right that, contrary to the popular impression, Singapore math is not heavy on rote drilling, but then you would not expect a textbook to have tons of drills. Those can be found anywhere. Have you seen the SM books? They are very compact without wasted space. (They do manage to squeeze in the algorithms, though.)


Posted by Ze'ev Wurman, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 6, 2009 at 5:21 pm

Tim,

"Another Dose" essentially tells the gist of the story. For evolution of the Singapore math books, please see Web Link . The link you provided seems to be mostly from a competitor site (publishers of the new & modified SG books) and this explains some of the rambling verbiage on the SGbox.com web site trying to put down the books used in the 1990s (that are the base for the Calif. edition.)

Incidentally, the Singapore 4th graders are still holding strong in 2007 TIMSS math, although they have been overtaken by Hong Kong and are not the first anymore. The picture is much worse at the 8th grade, where Singapore dropped 16 points since 1995 and is now behind Korea and Taiwan. Some argue that those new books with reduced content that were introduced in Singapore in 2001 are to blame.


Posted by tim, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2009 at 8:16 pm

TIMMS shows Singapore students score higher on tests. It does NOT show that the textbooks are the primary reason. The culture, parenting styles, overall educational system and, yes, supplementing and tutoring are all major contributors.

Please point me to at least one of the 'vast' studies of the effectiveness of the Singapore Math textbooks in USA math curricula. Are there any that meet a modest standard of evidence?

Singapore parents and teachers supplement and tutor and achieve excellent results -- just like Palo Alto's.

I have looked carefully at both EDM and Singapore. Ze'ev, we'll have to respectfully disagree, here. A textbook that relies on expert teacher presentation before every lesson and forces all students to march together (Singapore) is going to reach a much narrower segment of the Palo Alto student population than one that allows a significant degree of self development for those who are bored silly on one end and that allows teachers to use a variety of approaches to understand and address students' conceptual roadblocks on the other (EDM).


Posted by Another Dose, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 6, 2009 at 9:38 pm

Tim,

"Please point me to at least one of the 'vast' studies of the effectiveness of the Singapore Math textbooks in USA math curricula. Are there any that meet a modest standard of evidence?"

That is not modest: asking that Singapore be exactly like Palo Alto. If that is what you want, why would you accept any results from outside 94301? It's a silly standard.

TIMMS tells us that SM is a great curriculum in a box or with a fox.

As for all kids "marching together," that is both a calculated caricature of Asia and simply false. SM is for all kids--it would be just as good as EDM for kids at both ends of the spectrum.

EDM is not good for differentiation, though it bills itself as such. SM encourages multiple approaches to problem-solving, so no reason to think EDM is better. As for the advanced kids, EDM is laughable: just tacking a few extra pages of "tough" problems is a joke and certainly doesn't alleviate the boredom for those kids.

All in all, SM would be a great across-the-board solution for all the kids in PA.


Posted by tim, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2009 at 11:45 pm

AD,

No caricature was intended. Absolutely none. I'm sorry you saw one in my comment about SM's 'keep up with everyone now because you won't see this topic again in enough detail for you to catch on later' approach.

My asking for examples of well done studies that show SM's effectiveness in US Schools is not asking for a study in 94301. It's asking for one in the USA. It may well be true that Singapore Math would be "just as good as EDM" in US schools; there just hasn't been a good study published that supports the claim. Singapore and USA embody amazingly different education cultures.

Ze'ev dismissed the idea that Singapore Math textbooks are only part of the success story because I quoted 'a competitor' textbook company. Maybe this one will convey the idea better: Web Link= .

As more food for thought, I offer this letter from a homeschooling fan of Singapore Math. Web Link.

Singapore Math has a significant number of enthusiastic adherents, and if the teachers had decided it met their objectives, I'd support them. So much of the discussion on this forum ignores the fact that ALL textbooks have weaknesses, including Singapore Math. One of SM's biggest is that it works best when teachers follow its script for every lesson. That won't work well in Palo Alto, because our teachers seldom use a textbook as its authors imagined. They adapt their usage of materials to meet their objectives.

History shows that our teachers are good at what they do. Our stellar student outcomes are due to their non-scripted approaches along with the involvement of parents who care. Our teachers would be able to make SM work, too, and would likely deliver similar excellent results, but why force them to? They'll do great with EDM, and it's the tool they picked.


Posted by Mandy Lowell, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 7, 2009 at 12:09 am

Everyday Math advises teachers to move on even if a student does not understand the concept. In contrast, Singapore Math aims to build student proficiency by having the student master a concept and apply it in solving word problems and other problems. If a student does not understand a concept, additional support is provided—the program aims to have students learn before moving on; this seeks to avoid frustration of students who are hampered in learning later material because they have not mastered a prerequisite skill. Approaching math sequentially is not unique to Singapore, but is the approach of most mainstream programs; the touch-on-it-repeatedly-but-not-expecting-mastery "spiral" approach is a distinctive feature of Everyday Math.

Here is an excerpt from the Everyday Math website for educators (current):

"How can I manage the spiral structure of the program to support student learning?
. . . .
Keep going even when some of the students don't have mastery of the objective. Because of the structure of the program, it is okay to move on. Unlike in a traditional program, if students did not "get it" today, there will be other, later opportunities when they have more experiences, or embedded in a different context that will provide them with access to developing the skills or concept."

Similarly here are Everyday Math materials that the district handed out at the Math Committee meeting that explain the Spiral Method.
(Copyright 2001 Education Development Center.)
[Program developer on Spiral]
This has been difficult for teachers, because they are accustomed to pedagogic
procedures in which you bring up something, then teach and test to "mastery," all
within a fairly short time. What we want teachers to do is to bring it up, drop it,
bring it up again, let it go, bring it up again, let it go, and then at some point, aim
for mastery. That's built into essentially every part of our program. Teachers have
to be aware that they will seldom push something on to mastery the first or second
time the kids see it. It's one of the things about Everyday Mathematics that is
strange and difficult for both teachers and parents. But it does work well and will
remain a feature of our program.
[supervisor who supports teachers in Everyday Math on spiral]
The spiral curriculum is one of the hardest things for teachers to adjust to. When
I work with teachers, I tell them, "You need to have the faith that the children are
going to see it again. Don't be afraid to leave a concept, don't expect mastery right
away." I think the teacher at the outset has to talk to her class or his class and
explain to the children that, "We don't expect you to learn everything the first time we teach it. You're going to see things over and over again and you might not
understand it the first time, and that's okay." For your high-achieving students,


that can be very difficult. They've always been able to pick something up the first
time they've been taught, and all of a sudden some of the high-achieving students
are not the high-achieving students, and that's very, very hard. We have to constantly
remind the kids that it's okay not to have complete comfort with this: "Don't
worry, you're going to see it again."
. . . .
With the spiral curriculum, when a child is just not understanding a concept, we
don't spend day after day after day on that same concept with the child feeling
worse and worse and worse every day because they're just not understanding it. If
a teacher is explaining to a child, "We're going to see this again. Don't worry about
it and let's move on," that's comforting to a lot of kids. If they hear, "I don't have
to know this right now. I'm going to see it again—the teacher's not worried that I
don't know it right now," and then move into something that the child can be successful
at, then the child's attitude towards math becomes much more positive. On
the other hand, one of the weaknesses of the spiral that I see—and this is related
to its strengths—is that we're constantly changing topics, and that sometimes is frustrating for children and teachers."


Posted by Experienced Mom, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 7, 2009 at 6:58 am

Thanks for the post, Mandy.

I wish we would not spiral, doing the equivalent of the "warm body promotion" in math. If a child is not "getting it" when most others are, better to have support for the kid to actually "get it" before moving on with the others. Better to have a sequential program that clearly enunciates to the teacher and the parents what a child should master before moving on to the next chapter, then the next grade and so on.

Otherwise we end up with situations where the kids are dabbling in concepts they can't possibly "get"..like adding together fractions in 2nd grade, if I remember right, since they haven't mastered even their addtion/subtraction "math facts" and are still counting on their fingers. As a concept,this is great, simply presented, but to hope the kids "get" the complicated additions and subtractions etc is kinda..well.. similar to reading Shakespeare to them and then shrugging your shoulders and saying "Oh well, they dont' 'get it" now, but don't worry, we will keep coming back to it every year until they do...

This would just be boring and confusing to the kids, and turn a lot of them off to Shakespeare.( Ok, more than already turn off to him!!)

I wish I know what SKELLY thought about the process and the outcome.I suspect he is stuck in a bad spot not to his liking right now. He just seems too smart to buy into this EDM and the way it came to us.


Posted by reality, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 7, 2009 at 7:47 am

The problem with the EDM approach is that there is never any accountability for teaching or mastering the material. If kids think they will see it again, they do not need to master it this time, or next, or next, then when? Suddenly they will be told "you're in middle school/high school -- you should have mastered this by now." But no one teacher will have been assigned the job of ensuring that mastery, and the kids will be the victims of a cruel bait and switch. Skelly and Davis must know this. Supporting the teachers on this recommendation (which recommendation seems a little fishy in the first place due to previously mentioned lack of transparency and substance-free defendiveness during the meetings) at the expense of the students is really destructive. And if we are being assured that the texrbook doesn't matter because teachers rarely use them, why are we picking a very expensive one that requires substantial teacher training and that is so controversial? That is just odd.


Posted by BP Mom, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 7, 2009 at 10:18 am

Experienced Mom and reality - you make excellent points. Also, Tim - several parents here don't like EDM for reasons mentioned, but they are not necessarily asking for one specific program (Singapore). What they are saying is WHY not pick a traditional textbook which is more in line with the teaching in PA schools. With EDM we are picking a controversial, totally new philosophy, "fuzzy" math. A case in point SRA was the committee's first choice. They did not get that for pilot because the Sales rep (who sells both EDM and SRA) could not get us the books. This seems to me a VERY weak reason to go with a totally different textbook set.


Posted by BP Mom, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 7, 2009 at 10:28 am

All/Experienced Mom/reality - the PAUSD board members truly want to hear from the parents before the board votes on the textbooks. I have emailed my concerns and heard back from them that they appreciate the input. So, please email your specific concerns to the board.

mcaswell@pausd.org ; bklausner@pausd.org ; bmitchell@pausd.org ; dtom@pausd.org ; ctownsend@pausd.org


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 7, 2009 at 10:40 am

If SRA wanted to charge us for the piloting books, instead of giving them to us for free, wouldn't it behoove us to put up the money? I'm sure a Math Fund could be collected by parents, if the district does not have the funds.

SRA met the initial criteria with UNANIMOUS votes by all six grade level committee members. Singapore math had more Yes votes than Envision. I recommend signing the petition to at least holding one more pilot, and then do an A B C comparison with all three series.

Why NOT do this? The committee's comprehensive piloting process extended to include one more book.

We have time - we don't have to adopt books until next year.
We have money - seriously, we can afford some piloting sets.

Is it the school board we have to convince, or are we allowed to talk to committee members?


Posted by BP Mom, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 7, 2009 at 10:58 am

anon – many parents I have talked to have brought up this same point. For a cause like this, I am sure there is money all over PA.

I think the school board needs to be convinced since the committee has already made their recommendation of EDM. The board will vote on the 24th. So, the concerned parents should show up to meetings, let the board and Sup. Skelly their concerns, send emails to the board (copy Skelly), sign the petition and keep their fingers crossed.

The point is that SRA (or any other traditional program for that matter) was not even given a chance.


Posted by Singapore in the US, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 7, 2009 at 7:27 pm

Tim-

Here are a few bits for you about how Singapore Math has fared on this side of the Pacific:

- Scarsdale, New York switched from reform math to Singapore because it "encourages deep mathematical thinking, develops strong problem-solving skills [and] meets the needs of a range of learners, from those who need more support to those who need a more rigorous challenge."

- In February 2004, four Maryland schools studied the effects of Singapore Math and found that those students significantly outperformed their peers who were not in the program. Students rose from the 50th and 60th percentiles to the low 90's in the space of
four years, translating to a 50% increase in scores according to an NPR Radio Program about Singapore Math. The improvement was significant on every one of a variety of assessments and at every grade level at the four schools; some were Title I schools, some had high minority populations, and some had low minority populations.

- In 2008, the LA Times reported about an inner-city, Title 1 school which went from 45% of the fifth-graders at grade level to 76% the next year which it attributed to Singapore Math. That article said that "mathematicians on both sides of the divide say Singapore...provides the basis for a very orderly and systematic conceptual understanding of arithmetic and mathematics."

- The U.S. Department of Education commissioned a study in 2005 which concluded, in part: "Singapore's textbooks build deep understanding of mathematical concepts through multi-step problems and concrete illustrations that demonstrate how abstract mathematical concepts are used to solve problems from different perspectives."

- American Institute for Research, one of the largest behavioral and social science research organizations in the world, says Singapore Math is better than American math because Singapore's textbooks provide a more thorough understanding of concepts. Web Link

- Keys School in Palo Alto switched from Everyday Math to Singapore in 2006 and says Singapore citing its excellent use of mental math and focus on conceptual understanding.

- Dr. Wilfried Schmid, Harvard mathematician and a member of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel who has studied math curricula in dozens of countries, supplemented his daughter's math with Singapore Math at home (her school was using Investigations, a reform math program piloted by PAUSD's math committee last month).


Posted by BP Mom, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 7, 2009 at 9:50 pm

Singapore - we need people like you to attend the PAUSD Board meeting on April 14th at 6:30pm at 25 Churchill where the Textbook Adoption committee will recommend EDM. The board needs to hear from parents like us. BTW, you should email this analysis to the board. I know they are very open minded and receptive to learning more from the parents feedback. Oh and if you haven't please sign the petition.

mcaswell@pausd.org ; bklausner@pausd.org ; bmitchell@pausd.org ; dtom@pausd.org ; ctownsend@pausd.org


Posted by BP Mom, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 7, 2009 at 9:54 pm

Here is the link to the petition if you don't have it

Web Link


Posted by Experienced Mom, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2009 at 1:46 pm

Singapore, for the sake of future kids, even if yours are already done with this part of their education, please follow BP Mom's requeset and e-mail your info with supporting links to the Board. What you said was succinct and persuasive, and frankly more valid than a bunch of folks like me giving their 'gut' impressions and experiences. I think we make far too many decisions based on the most vocal parents or teachers, or the latest fad,rather than the type of data and analysis you put forth.

Thanks very much.


Posted by Mandy Lowell, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 8, 2009 at 8:48 pm

There seems to be a mistaken notion that only unknowing parents question the effectiveness of Everyday Math. Others have pointed out criticisms in the letter from over 100 math professors, the National Math Panel, etc. Here is another source: In Pennsylvania, a group of teachers who were generally supporters of Everyday Math, participated in a Everday Math study group in which each teacher analyzed aspects of the program to further improve teaching. Their analyses by no means attack Everyday Math, but their observations on some aspects of the program are condemning. You may hear "Oh, but we are looking at a different edition" of Everyday Math, but many of the aspects questioned-- such as Everyday Math considering lowest common denominators a waste of time-- are in the current one. And these quotes are from teachers who are supporters of the program.

Web Link

Web Link
"For all of the positive changes that Everyday Math has made, there are some glaring weaknesses in the program. The standard algorithms of arithmetic (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) are missing or drastically abridged. Not only are these algorithms not presented, according to the teachers in this seminar, they are completely discouraged. Although it is fine to show students "alternate " ways to do a problem, there are reasons why the standard algorithms exist. Many of these algorithms are preparatory for algebra, since there are strong analogies between arithmetic of ordinary numbers and arithmetic of polynomials. How do you learn to divide polynomials without understanding the algorithm for long division?"

"The frequent and inappropriate use of calculators is another weakness of the program. "Calculators are an integral part of Kindergarten Everyday Mathematics" (Bell et al., Kindergarten Everyday Mathematics). Children use them to count by ones, twos, tens, and other numbers in kindergarten. I have a hard time believing this is necessary at this age. In fourth and fifth grade, students use calculators to find decimal equivalents for fractions before converting to percents. The opportunity to practice division is lost, as well as the chance to look at repeating decimals that may not repeat on a conventional calculator, such as 7/23 or 5/29. At this age level, students may see a calculator as a reason not to learn their basic skills instead of a tool that makes computations faster. Too frequently last year my seventh and eighth grade students, most of which had gone through the Everyday Mathematics program, would reach for a calculator when performing basic operations such as one digit multiplication or two digit addition. Many of my students thought that it would be faster to multiply 8 times 6 on the calculator, while others just did not feel confident in their basic skills, such as times tables. In my professional opinion, students should not use calculators until seventh grade, and only after competence in basic skills has been demonstrated."

Tracing the Development of "Fact Power" in Everyday Mathematics: grades 1–5
Susan Juffe
Overview
"I quickly discovered a deficit in my students' knowledge of basic math facts. Their inability to "automatically" know the answers to basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts, held them back from learning more complex concepts. A lesson on balancing a checkbook was lost because students spent so much time adding and subtracting deposits and withdrawals. Calculators helped move the lesson along, and also emphasized a weakness in a most important math skill. Lessons in multi digit addition, subtraction, and multiplication became endless and meaningless because students could not get past 9 + 7 or 9 x 7, etc."
There may be enough practice for regular education students, but not enough practice for my learning support students.

Web Link


Posted by reality, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 8, 2009 at 9:13 pm

Mandy, do you have any thoughts to share on the K-5 Math Adoption Q&A that was posted on the PAUSD website?

Web Link


Posted by tim, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 9, 2009 at 1:45 am

Singapore, thank you for trying. I see you couldn't link any research studies that assessed student outcomes from SM-based curricula, either.

The American Institute for Research report, the most useful of the few bits, was conceived to study student outcomes at SM pilot schools, but the Institute changed the study to instead look at the bigger picture, because it became clear that Singapore's turn-around was driven by far more than the textbooks. Quoting: "Our exploratory results have identified key differences between the U.S. and Singapore mathematics systems. These differences suggest potentially significant reforms that could improve the U.S. mathematics system, but these findings require further validation from larger, more scientific studies. The suggested reforms need more thorough analyses and, ideally, small-scale introduction prior to going to scale. Only through such further study can we build on our exploratory findings to assess whether adopting the features that have produced a quality mathematics system for Singapore would significantly improve the performance of the U.S. mathematics system and better meet the challenging performance goals set by NCLB."

Studies about why SM textbooks _should_ be better for our students than EDM textbooks are one thing. Studies that _show_ that SM textbooks work better for US students than EDM textbooks would be another; they seem to be nonexistent.

Would our students' mastery be better with 'SM' or one of the other programs than with EDM? Maybe. Maybe not. Nobody's published objective data to support the argument. There are good studies about EDM's effects published, though, and they don't support the idea that student achievement drops when they use it.

Hypothesis: "Spiraling results in students' failure to master concepts." Test: Assess kids using EDM. Result: Strong evidence of improvement; hypothesis fails. (I cited the U.S. Department of Education report in an earlier post.)

Hypothesis: "Singapore Math's approach is superior to EDM's". Test: Assess kids using SM and kids using EDM; compare. Result: Null set; hypothesis untested. Keys school's student outcomes would be nice to hear more about.

Mandy - as you said, the opinions from Chatham teachers about EDM refer to books we wouldn't be using. Quoting, "Someone has apparently listened to the concerns regarding the Everyday Math program. A modified version of the program is currently being piloted in certain city schools, which focuses more on basic skills instruction."

Perhaps the most significant fact is that our teachers thought long and hard about what works, decided what they needed from a textbook to support their curriculum, and found more of what they were looking for in EDM than anything else. They're the ones who will use the textbook to help them do their jobs; why shouldn't they choose it?


Posted by Singapore in the US, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 9, 2009 at 6:38 am

Tim

"There are good studies about EDM's effects published, though, and they don't support the idea that student achievement drops when they use it. "

Where? Others have pointed this out to you before, but here it is again for the digital record. The US government tried to find those studies. Of the 60 of so "good" studies EDM mentions in its literature, there were only 4 that the government said had integrity:
- Three couldn't tie EDM to statistically significant math improvement,
- The other showed that if there was a positive effect it was very slight (criticized by others because the lead researcher's family promotes reform math products). Web Link

I got all this from a link you provided in an earlier posting. The conclusion: one report shows that EDM had a "potentially positive effects on students' math achievement (defined as 6 percentile points)," nothing even close to your two claims that EDM has "strong evidence of improvement." In fact, I see googling your phrase that you pulled it straight out of EDM's promotional materials. You cannot take what any publisher says about its materials on face value, you have to dig deeper.

I find it compelling when I read about districts reporting huge successes and attribute it to Singapore Math, especially when it is in orders of magnitude higher than what EDM reports even in its own promotional materials. But don't take my word for SM's charms; the PAUSD math committee liked SM too and asked to get more information on it. Begs the question as to how SM got lost from the radar screen.

I remember from a prior post someone took considerable time to point you to EDM's flaws when looked at through the National Math Panel's lens, the most comprehensive study of what works and doesn't work in math ever conducted in the US. EDM failed, repeatedly: spiral, lack of automaticity, lack of focus on the standard algorithm. That's the research you might want to focus on.


Posted by PT, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 9, 2009 at 1:30 pm

Web Link


Posted by reality, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 9, 2009 at 2:55 pm

I just got an email from a friend about this Q&A with Skelly:

Superintendent Skelly to answer questions about Everyday Math
This Monday, April 13
6:00-7:00
Duveneck Multi-purpose room
705 Alester AvenuePalo Alto, CA 94303

People who are wondering about the Q&A on the PAUSD site and other issues might think about attending and getting answers straight from the horse's mouth.


Posted by PT, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 9, 2009 at 3:55 pm

This was in SF Chronicle today

Web Link

My question for Becki Cohn-Vargas is if you have "score to prove it" WHY are you changing to textbooks that are so different that what is currently working? We don't currently have spiraling - and still have great scores. So, why do you see a need to start spiraling now? And lastly, WRT Becky's "Also, the district will closely observe where the new series needs to be supplemented." whose responsibility will it be while the kids fall behind when the "district is observing"?

Becky - my kids are NOT your guinea pigs!!


Posted by tim, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 9, 2009 at 6:27 pm

"there were only 4 that the government said had integrity"

Singapore -- that's the point. Singapore Math wasn't the subject of ANY studies that "had integrity." Plenty of claims, but no studies that achieve a high standard of evidence.

The National Panel and and AIR reports are good analyses of the differences between US and Singapore educational systems, but the claims that SM textbooks work better than EDM in the USA are simply not supported by any credible studies. The limited evidence is based on small population pilots and the 'obviousness' that if Singapore's scores are high, and the books are used in Singapore then if the books are used in the US, the US's scores will be high. Sorry - the hypothesis might be true, but it remains to be tested -- perhaps on your guinea pigs.

If EDM were as bad as people here are claiming, then the studies 'with integrity' would have shown correlation with negative results. They didn't. DOE said 'strong positive'. It's a mature program with good resources for teachers -- certainly not a 'guinea pig' situation.

The comparative analyses say Singapore Math tees up some of the concepts better (but not probabilities), while EDM gives better real-world application and practice of the concepts. I know Palo Alto teachers can tee up the concepts, and I want them to have access to materials that help them differentiate, reinforce, and drive mastery with real-world relevance.

To whomever thinks we don't spiral now, take a look at every school subject and you'll see a large amount of module-to-module and year-to-year review. It's how we build on what we've learned. In one of the links I posted earlier, you'll see users of SM believe the cursory review is a weakness that they have to work around; the summer is a long time for a tyke to remember.

There will be supplementing and review (don't call it spiraling if it makes you uncomfortable) no matter which program is selected.


Posted by HS, a resident of Terman Middle School
on Apr 9, 2009 at 7:19 pm

Please sign this petition here if you do not like this new math text book.

Web Link


Posted by PT, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 9, 2009 at 8:00 pm

Tim - What about SRA? the teachers had most "Y" for SRA. Not EDM. Yes, they did not pilot SRA. Does that make sense? Singapore text is more in line with SRA that was their first choice, yet, they piloted EDM and not SRA.

BTW - are you on the committee?


Posted by tim, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 9, 2009 at 10:36 pm

No, I'm not on the committee. The Q&A & minutes say SRA was dropped because of resistance from the publisher to provide piloting materials and concern over availability of materials for the 7 year adoption period. SRA is from the same company that publishes EDM


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 9, 2009 at 11:50 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by PT, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 9, 2009 at 11:55 pm

tim - since they are from the same company they are two very different textbooks (publishers don't want to have competing products). So, EDM is very different than SRA. The publisher did not want to give two textbooks - they could not afford to do that. So, PAUSD should have paid for one set!


Posted by reality, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 10, 2009 at 6:20 am

There's spiraling and spiraling. Gaining mastery at a more basic level and then reviewingand adding on to that foundation is great. Unfortunately, as has been pointed out so many times, there is no expectation of mastery at any point in the spiral for EDM. So if a child is frustrated and unable to understand the first time around, and the second time around it is a little more complex but still no accountability exists for mastery or teaching to mastery, and this continues for years, then you do not have mastery. As described in the articles linked on this thread. Then suddenly the child requires extensive remedial tutoring or drops out of math. It is not a question of the program being different. It is a question of there being large amounts of anecdotal evidence and comments from the National Math Panel and even the teachers cited by Tim that this program does not teach to mastery.

OP, Ze'ev gave a very reasoned explanation and links for what works. That you discredit them on the basis of his political affiliations is very narrow minded. Haven't seen you provide substantive analysis showing that EDM is just the cat's meow.

What the heck.


Posted by Singapore in the US, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 10, 2009 at 6:58 am

Tim,

It takes years to conduct sound studies and, as EDM's experiences show, even then they are quite difficult to produce. That EDM has been around for 15 some years and only has 4 sound but inconclusive studies to show for it says something. Singapore Math is new to the US.

So that leaves us with individual school experiences to rely on. I have not seen any compelling individual improvement stats on EDM. What I have read is that many of EDM's "success story" districts subsequently abandoning the program in the US, including plenty of schools leaving it behind in the Bay Area.

Here are more Singapore Math stats:

North Middlesex School District in northern Massachusetts reports the following results since implementing Singapore math: "Students performing at the advanced level on the state test increased from 9% in 1998 to 57% in 2005 while the failure rate declined from 39% to 2%"

South River, NJ since implementing Singapore Math:

3rd grade:

* Advanced proficient scores increased by 12.2 percent
* Proficient scores increased by 3.18 percent
* Partially proficient scores decreased by 15.38 percent

In the 4th grade:

* Advanced proficient scores increased by 8.43 percent
* Proficient scores increased by 1.36 percent
* Partially proficient scores decreased by 9.79 percent

South River School District in New Jersey reports: "After the first year of Singapore math, fourth graders improved their advanced proficient percentage from 9.57% to 27.89%, which was an increase of 18% in one year"


Posted by Another Dose, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 10, 2009 at 7:49 am

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

There is weak statistical evidence for EDM, as has been explained a few times above. Also, there is vast data supporting Singapore Math (unless you require that the study be done in 94301).

As for your notion that spiraling is the same as reviewing, you are deeply misinformed. Nobody in this debate (not even the backers of EDM, not even the publishers) thinks that.


Posted by BP Mom, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 10, 2009 at 2:24 pm

See new article on Weekly
Web Link

The SRA Rep said they do support SRA and there is a "miscommunication wrt sending the material"

My vote would be to respectfully and peacefully end this debate and take SRA textbooks as was the Committee's first choice. In my ming that would be a win-win. The Committee gets their first choice, the kids and teachers get a great book and no parents controversey

and, we can all get back to our day jobs...


Posted by Ze'ev Wurman, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 10, 2009 at 4:05 pm

There have been a lot of misunderstandings about how Everyday Mathematics attempts to teach for skills and fluency, and how does its spiraling works. Instead of me attempting to explaining it yet another time, I thought that a recent explanation from prof. Hung-Hsi Wu, of U.C. Berkeley mathematics department, may help. Prof. Wu was a member of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, and has long history of doing professional development for teachers in mathematics, and work relating to California's Mathematics Standards and Framework. The following is by permission of the author.

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

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

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

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


Posted by tim, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 10, 2009 at 10:47 pm

Ze'ev: Andy Isaacs and Professor Wu disagree. You and I disagree. We all consider ourselves well informed. Professor Wu says "the end result is that they learn nothing." Clearly he exaggerated to make his point. Well, few would say there aren't people with strong opinions who claim their status and logic make their opinions more credible than the other peoples', even though the other people have similarly grand credentials, logic -- and, er, data.

Singapore: "So that leaves us with individual school experiences to rely on. I have not seen any compelling individual improvement stats on EDM." I haven't previously cited the Everyday Math website because its volumes of individual school experiences don't constitute controlled studies of significant populations anymore than your isolated examples for SM do. However, since you asked, here's where you'll find plenty of examples of improvement as good as those you cite and in larger number: Web Link. Of course large score improvements have to come from pulling the low end up, and many of the long-neglected districts cited by both EDM and Singapore adherents would have benefited from ANY school district decision to make mathematics a priority for improvement with improvement tracked by metrics, regardless of the text used.

It is a disappointment that SRA's sales rep (if not the publisher that's now claiming 'big misunderstanding') kept SRA from being piloted alongside the others. That's not sufficient reason for me to support disrupting the teaching process with another pilot exercise when what was recommended earned the teachers' strong support. I'd think differently if the teachers were saying they were forced to choose the lesser of two evils.

I strongly agree that mastery of underlying concepts is the basis of a worthwhile mathematics education. EDM's authors think so, too. PAUSD thinks so, too. Our teachers think so, too. Most of the very informed individuals participating in this discussion think so, too.

Some of the very informed individuals, however, equate 'spiraling' with avoidance of mastery. EDM views repeated exposure as the path to mastery. Math is a subject well suited to incremental progress on multiple fronts. You can't understand multiplication without understanding addition. You can memorize multiplication facts and achieve automaticity in it, but failure to understand what it is won't make knowing the multiplication tables useful for building conceptual understanding of more complex concepts that build on addition and multiplication. It would be a disservice to our students not to expose them during the addition units to the idea that repeated addition is multiplication, which they'll see again in more depth soon. That doesn't get in the way of mastering addition; it plants the seed for mastering multiplication later. By analogy, I would hope you can see how touching on any future skill area in the context of the ones those future skills will be built on is plain old fashioned common sense. Developing to mastery is a tenet of the PAUSD and EDM and SM and SRA and ... . If the pedagogical approaches the teachers think work best aren't the same ones you'd choose, open your mind and challenge yourself to help make it work for your child. If you feel you need a backup plan, go ahead and practice some of what you think is tried and true, too.


Posted by Singapore in the US, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 11, 2009 at 1:36 pm

Tim

Andy Isaacs sells EDM books, Professor Wu sells no textbooks.

As for the EDM success stories on its website - I looked at those and none I saw reported gains even close to what is being reported out under Singapore Math. Pull the data apart for the low performing minorities in districts that have EDM and you'll see disturbing trends by the time those kids hit their upper elementary years. You can do the math yourself with data from the cde.ca.gov site.

"Math is a subject well suited to incremental progress on multiple fronts. " Where do you get that from? Read and read again the first recommendation by the National Math Panel (thou shall not SPIRAL).

BTW - It doesn't help to tell people to change their mindset so EDM will work when districts which have used EDM have not had success with it. We don't have to close our eyes and experiment with our kids' math education when we can check out how our neighbors' kids who were experimented on ended up.


Posted by BP Mom, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 11, 2009 at 2:09 pm

Singapore - please attend the Tues Apr 14th meeting at 6:30pm at Board Room, 25 Churchill Ave, Palo Alto. The board is looking for input from the community before they vote on Apr 28th. You have made some solid points and it would be a great service to all PA parents and kids if you speakup.


Posted by Mandy Lowell, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 13, 2009 at 10:21 pm

Here is a letter sent by a Stanford Math Professor on Everyday Math:

I am writing to give my impressions of the program Everyday Math, which is being considered for adoption in the Palo Alto district. I have had three kids go through the district (last one graduated in 2005), and continue to watch the development of the mathematics program with interest. Everyday Math certainly has strengths, but my feeling is that it misses the mark in certain important aspects, for example in the area of algorithms for basic arithmetic operations. I will first briefly describe my view of the reasons for teaching these algorithms to students.

One item of controversy in many discussions of mathematics education is the relative valuation of algorithmics/computation on the one hand and various notions of conceptual or higher level thinking on the other hand. I believe this is a false dichotomy, since algorithmic thinking and conceptual thinking support each other in very direct ways. Fluency with algorithmics and computation provide the familiarity with concrete consequences of conceptual thinking which solidifies otherwise abstract notions, and conceptual understanding provides both motivation for computation as well as the ability to detect obvious errors in computation. This fluency with computation plays much the same role as fluency in the study of languages, or in the development of musical skills. Fluency in language frees the mind to consider the subtle ideas represented by various turns of phrase, and in music permits one to interpret pieces of music rather than simply reproducing them mechanically. On this basis, I favor that students be taught "optimized versions" of the algorithms for computation, i.e. the standard methods which are understood to be the simplest and quickest to implement in manual computation. The importance of simplicity should be clear, but the value of speed is also crucial. If the computations are carried out in a much too laborious or time-consuming fashion, their value in supporting conceptual thinking will be diminished. Think of a method for teaching piano in which one is taught the logical structure of chords and scales, but never is given sufficient practice to play fluidly and quickly. To actually play the piano requires instant recognition of chords, and if that recognition process is too slow, producing good music becomes impossible. Similarly, if one were taught the definitions of words and grammar, if one does not have a mechanism for decoding the printed page which is relatively instantaneous, the process of reading becomes too laborious and will be avoided by students. Such fluency in the mathematical domain is critical to success in algebra and later in calculus, where a lack of such fluency will greatly hamper the student's ability to problem solve and therefore ultimately his/her ability to understand the underlying ideas.

My view is that Everyday Math introduces idiosyncratic methods for performing addition, multiplication, and long division, and that this is done because in the view of the authors these methods are easier to explain conceptually than the standard, optimized, ways. They also believe that these methods are somehow easier on the students. For example, the Partial Quotients Division algorithm is described as a "low-stress" algorithm. The first point is a good argument for introducing these methods as interesting examples which can clarify theory, but it is not a good argument for teaching these algorithms as the algorithms of choice for performing all computations. For addition, the book introduces a "partial sums" algorithm for computing sums, which has the effect of lengthening computations in most cases. The authors describe the standard method as being suitable for struggling students. In fact, the standard algorithm is simply a quick and effective short hand version of the partial sums algorithm, which is valuable for all students. The differences between the Partial Products Multiplication method for multiplication introduced in Everyday Math and the standard algorithm are much more pronounced. It breaks up many of the steps in the standard algorithm and in general increases the number of required additions significantly. The argument in favor of this method is that it makes clearer the role of the distributive property in performing multiplication. This is useful to point out, but one should not require students to "hold one hand behind their back" by avoiding the standard shorthand which speeds up these calculations. The Partial Quotients Division algorithm is similarly awkward.

An additional point is that the structure of the standard algorithms provides a great opportunity to exercise conceptual understanding. Each shorthand step illustrates a valuable application of a fundamental property of numbers, and a thorough analysis of each such algorithm from this point of view would do a great deal to solidify students' understanding of the fundamental properties of arithmetic.

I have only discussed my observations about algorithmic thinking, but I certainly have misgivings about other aspects of the program, such as early use of calculators and the handling of fractions, but have not had chance to look at them in detail.

In summary, the authors of Everyday Math feel that it is worthwhile to trade computational fluency and speed for having algorithms in which the underlying properties of arithmetic stand out in the clearest possible way. I do not regard this as a necessary or desirable trade-off. The connections of the theory with the algorithms are important to demonstrate, but need to be done only when the algorithms are introduced. One does not need to saddle students with less effective methods in order to remind them of this connection every time they perform a calculation.
Sincerely yours,
Gunnar Carlsson
Professor, Department of Mathematics


Posted by Old School Math Lover, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 14, 2009 at 12:05 pm

I have an two teens in Paly, and I was appalled at the poor math instruction in the Palo Alto elementary schools. It's an embarrassment for schools in the heart of Silicon Valley.

We truly need a proven back-to-basics program like Singapore Math. Quit experimenting on our children with "I'm OK, You're OK" feel good experimental math programs.


Posted by Math Matters, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 14, 2009 at 3:57 pm

Every time I look at Everyday Mathematics, I discover something new and surprising.

Mathematics is a beautiful, clear, precise and universal language. There is no reason why our kids can't start learning this language in elementary school. Let's see what kind of language they will learn with Everyday Mathematics:

Let's look at the Home Link 1-14 Unit 2 Family Letter for 3rd Grade. The vocabulary words are:

- Ballpark Estimate (I am not kidding!)
- Fact Family
- Function Machine
- "What's My Rule" Problems
- Number Family (same as fact family)
- Number model
- Parts-and-total diagram
- Change Diagram
- Comparison Diagram
- Unit Box

Each comes with a paragraph-long verbal description, and some with pictures and examples.

Please note that several of these concepts are related to Functions. A Function is an important concept with a precise mathematical definition. The children never see this definition. They don't even learn the term "function", except as part of the phrase "function machine".

Many of these terms are specific to Everyday Mathematics. Why invent and make the children learn additional complicated set of vocabulary words when there is already a complete and clear mathematical language? Why have the kids learn 3 idiosyncratic terms (Function Machine, "What's My Rule" Problems and "Change Diagrams" when one term -- Function -- could cover it. Wouldn't our kids be better off learning correct mathematical language with clear definitions?

This is just one small example of how Everyday Mathematics makes math very complicated while not teaching it.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 14, 2009 at 4:04 pm

Math Matters,

Those terms seem pretty straightforward to me. More so than Scott Foresman--which is decent enough in terms of math instruction, but abysmal when it comes to English usage.

"Ballpark estimate" is a common term--kids will hear it and use it, it's part of the English language. I don't see a problem with exposure to it in a math book.

Old School,

If PA elementary math education is so abysmal why do the kids continue to do well on the standardized tests? Innate brilliance? Surely the scores are little too consistent for that--particularly the fact that some schools perform persistently better than others. That would indicate that the teachers are doing something right.

Or are teachers incapable of learning from experience?


Posted by DZ, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 14, 2009 at 5:39 pm

Elementary is too early to start to use calculator.


Posted by reality, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 14, 2009 at 5:41 pm

OP, don't be naive. The reason the kids continue to score so well in math (and the reason there is a widening achievement gap) is that the parents who can are teaching their kids math and filling in the gaps. It is also common knowledge (and I have heard stright from a Hoover parent) that Hoover kids do a TON of after-school math supplementation so thinking Hoover teaches it so well is just wrong. Not that they are not good teachers, but rather the parents there are self-selected and make absolutely sure their kids know the basics.


Posted by tim, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 14, 2009 at 9:19 pm

This quote from above struck me as funny: South River School District in New Jersey reports: "After the first year of Singapore math, fourth graders improved their advanced proficient percentage from 9.57% to 27.89%, which was an increase of 18% in one year".

Perhaps if they used a different math program they'd know that if out of 100 students 9 were 'advanced proficient' last year and 27 are 'advanced proficient' this year the increase was 200%.

Did Dr. Skelly help calm any fears last night, or did he stir the pot?

Did the school board tonight buy the argument that if there are examples of students and parents who don't do well with a certain textbook that the textbook must be a poor choice for most students?

Or did they accept the standard of evidence set by the Department of Education and accept that there are sufficiently well-done studies to demonstrate "strong evidence" of broadly improved student outcomes for only one textbook -- which happens to be the one strongly preferred by the teachers who evaluated the options?


Posted by Singapore in the US, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 15, 2009 at 5:44 am

Tim,

People have gone around with you on this point at least 3 times - there are NO studies that show "strong evidence" of "broadly improved student outcomes" for Everyday Math. Nada. Zippo. Zero.

Again, the Department of Education found only one well-done study that supports Everyday Math and it only showed a "possible positive" effect and, at that, it was only a 6 point gain.

Why do you keep mis-bringing up this point? Do you work for the publisher or something?


Posted by reality, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 15, 2009 at 6:09 am

tim,

"which happens to be the one strongly preferred by the teachers who evaluated the options?"

No, it was NOT The one strongly perferred. It was the one chosen out of two left after the one they strongly preferred was taken out of the picture because of some alleged "miscommunication" about the publisher's being unwilling to support it, which it turns out is completely not true. The whole thing was completely fishy and reminiscent of a lot of business as usual in this district with people just flat out lying to get their way.

Not sure what your angle is in (repeatedly) misrepresenting the studies and the facts. Are you sure you are not on the committee, or at least acting on behalf of someone on the committee?


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2009 at 9:11 am

I watched some of the meeting on tv last night. What I saw was plenty of gloating about how well our high schools are doing in math and praising the teachers at all levels. What I did not see was any acknowledgment at all of the fact that many of the high achievers are getting outside tutoring to help them achieve this. I heard nothing about the fact that many of these kids arrive in the district at high school having been to private elementary and middle schools as well as being home schooled.

I know that our high schools produce wonderful student scores, but I think it is about time the district woke up to the fact that these scores are not produced by wonderful PAUSD teaching alone. They seem to have blinkers on and are spending too much time patting themselves on the back rather than asking why parents feel the need to supplement PAUSD teaching?


Posted by tim, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 15, 2009 at 9:32 am

reality,

Web Link

"Research

Four studies of Everyday Mathematics met the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) evidence standards with reservations. These studies included a total of approximately 12,600 students in grades 3–5 from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds and attending schools in urban, suburban, and rural communities in multiple states.1

The WWC considers the extent of evidence for Everyday Mathematics to be medium to large for math achievement."

Am I misrepresenting the Department of Education's high standard of evidence, the fact that SM doesn't have enough evidence behind it for the 'What Works Clearinghouse' to draw a conclusion, and the fact that EM does -- or are you? You insist on drawing conclusions from weak information. You're conclusion may in fact be correct, but it will take considerable time to find out. Meanwhile, we'll keep teaching our kids math, and our system will continue to succeed with a tool the teachers believe in - EM.


Posted by huh, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 15, 2009 at 9:52 am

necro thread is bad


Posted by tim, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 15, 2009 at 10:00 am

reality,

EM, SRA and e/i were the top three picks going into Pilot planning.

Web Link

"By the time the committee met on November 3 to plan the classroom piloting procedures, the group decided to only pilot Everyday Math and enVision/Investigations, realizing that long-term commitment and support for SRA in the extended life of the adoption would be challenging and unreliable."

Aside from the thought that they might lose the EM sale, I can't imagine what would have changed the publisher's position on SRA. The committee went above the sales rep to a VP and got the same story that the publisher is now calling a 'miscommunication'.

So, EM, SRA and e/i were the committee's top three picks before they collected additional information. After collecting more information, they made EM their top pick.

No - I'm not on the committee, fronting for the committee or working for the textbook company. I'm just a concerned parent with a high regard for process, evidence, and elementary school teachers.


Posted by PA Resident w/children, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Apr 15, 2009 at 1:10 pm

I believe the committee has done what they were to do.

What should happen now?
How about taking their recommendation and now analyze it and see where the HOLES for K-5 are and what HOLES exist for preparing the children for middle and high school math. Then make a decision whether or not to go forward.

Also: Teachers should be provided a WHOLE program including the material/textbook to address all out children's needs.

Also: We must remember that there are scientist, engineers, musicians ... among these children


Posted by Give SRA a try, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2009 at 2:38 pm

Tim

If you have a high regard for process, what do you think about last night's staff admission that process wasn't followed? There were many irregularities pointed out at the meeting.

~ Committee staffing concerns (no community members represented and no staff PTAC outreach for committee reps despite a board policy that requires it, only one special ed rep who ended up not attending the reporting out and voting sessions), to

~ staff letting the publisher select which book the committee would pilot without going back to the committee for direction.

If you have a high regard for evidence, you must be a bit troubled too by how the facts get fuzzy when staff summarizes after the fact what the committee thought of SRA. Staff says that the committee was not all that interested in SRA, but the minutes show that the committee decided, after all the presentations and discussions, that "Everyday Math, Envision, and SRA would be piloted." Web Link

Nothing in the SRA VP's letter that says anything about SRA no longer being supported. All the SRA evidence shows that when asked, SRA assures the reporter that it is interested in working with PAUSD. To underscore SRA's interest, it sent one of SRA Real Math's authors to last night's board meeting carrying a message from the President of SRA expressing excitement that our math committee liked its book and offering full support along with the free pilot. Then she sweetened the pot offering two of the textbook authors up to teachers for several days during piloting and implementation, with phone and email access in between.


Posted by reality, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 15, 2009 at 7:34 pm

Someone is lying, and Skelly or the Board needs to get to the bottom of that. Having seen a number of these shenanigans here over the years I strongly believe the failure to follow process was advertent and that someone on the committee simply lied to get SRA out of the mix (I also have a suspicion who that person was, but time will tell). I have several times watched their MO of coming out defensively and aggressively when called on these types of things, blaming the questioner for being unpatriotic -- er, unsupportive and unappreciative. Since Skelly seems to be cowed by that bullying tactic, I sincerely hope the Board stands up and does the right thing. Someone needs to instate the promised transparency and adherence to process. Whoever lied about the SRA publisher, if it does turn out to be a lie (I am confident it will), should be chastised and booted off the committee. There should be no place for that kind of manipulation in this district.

My kids are out of elementary, but 1 1/2 generations of kids will go through in 7 years and that's a LOT of kids to experiment on. The precursor of EDM is Ivestigations, which was taught exclusively at Barron Park. Look at THOSE scores, look at the number of free and reduced lunch students in the population and tell me it's not an indictment of fuzzy math without outside parental supplementation.

Separately, it is sickening that in this district people who want to see the process followed and who disagree are treated to such shaming and bullying. That alone should raise some red flags for the board to do things right. Enough already.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 15, 2009 at 9:23 pm

Reality,

I actually know several parents at Hoover who don't do tons of afterschool math supplementation. So, yes, there's some self-selection, but the notion that all Hoover kids (or all Duveneck kids) are getting afterschool tutoring is false. Tutoring, in and of itself, is not the reason why kids in Palo Alto do well in math.

Lots of things get attributed to tutoring on this board, but I would actually like to see some real data on it--(surely someone at Stanford is looking for a topic for their dissertation?)--what percentage is tutored, taught at home, etc. and how does their performance compare. I suspect it becomes a much bigger issue when kids are laned at the high school level. The kids I know in elementary who get supplementation get it because they're not performing well.

And my kids are still in elementary school so I'm dealing with the current crop of families.

I don't buy, in general, that the committee is going out of its way to pick the worst textbook for our kids--and that they want to set themselves up to fail. I don't see the motive in doing that.

Which leaves us with a committee that thinks it's making the best choice in an imperfect world. In which case, it might be worth thinking about why that might be.

Because, yeah, assuming the worst of people's motivations in this case *is* disrespectful. And that's coming across.



Posted by Jesse, a resident of another community
on Jun 18, 2009 at 12:30 am

This is my humble response to Ze'ev Wurman, who said "Some argue that those new books with reduced content that were introduced in Singapore in 2001 are to blame."

The books with reduced content was the Primary Math (3rd Ed), not the new Singapore Math books used in Singapore schools which cover even more topics, e.g. tesellation and nets, and more higher-level thinking skills.


Posted by Ze'ev Wurman, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 6, 2009 at 4:30 pm

Jesse,

No need for the humility--as far a I know, the factual part of your post is correct and I was in error. I should have used "reduced focus" rather than "reduced content" as the new books do have additional content. Thanks for the correction.

I do disagree with you as to the "high level thinking skills" though. the extra material in the new books is--in my opinion--not particularly conducive to development of high level thinking skills. It just gives the impression of doing so, by throwing in material that is beyond analytical ability of either students or teachers in elementary grades. The new books essentially demonstrate to students that there are "nifty" aspects to math (fractals is another "nifty" concept often thrown in the name of "higher level thinking skills") that leads to nowhere in elementary math, but wastes time and detracts from program cohesiveness. All it develops is confusion and feeling good.


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