Newest math adoption raises questions

June 16, 2009

By Chantelle Lusebrink

By Chantelle Lusebrink
Questions and concerns continue to surface as Issaquah School District officials forge ahead in their high school math adoption process.
Issaquah School Board members held a work-study session with the district’s Math Adoption Committee — a group of math teachers and curriculum specialists — to get a better idea of the process, which led to the recommendation of Discovering Mathematics, by Key Curriculum Press.
Teachers said that Discovering Mathematics allows them, and every teacher in the district regardless of school, the ability to use the textbook in a consistent, relevant way for children. The book includes practical application investigations, group work and teacher-directed learning.
“One thing I keep coming back to over the other book is the clear point of view the book has,” said Rochelle Eixenberger, a teacher at Issaquah High School. “It will create equity among classrooms in schools, but across the district as well. There are so many things and avenues to go down in the other book.
“After we go through professional development, there is the scaffolding for students and support for the teacher.”
The recommendation made by the committee is not the same as the recommendation made by the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. After a review of new math standards, set forth in July 2008, and new math curricula, state experts recommended Holt Mathematics.
However, this is the first time the state Superintendent’s Office has made a recommendation, a result of 2007 legislation.
“It is not the role of OSPI to direct which curricula a school district may or should select. It is not a state requirement for any district to specifically use the recommended curricula,” State Superintendent Randy Dorn said in a memorandum sent to districts May 4.
Issaquah School Board members thanked the math committee for its time, presentation and months of work. However, they had questions regarding whether a new curriculum was the right choice and what other options might be available.
The study session did little to ease parents’ minds about the recommended curriculum.
“As a practicing mathematician, I am appalled at the approach taken by the Issaquah School District in teaching math,” said Mark Van Horne, a Boeing Co. engineer and mathematician. “The notion that young students can somehow discover complex mathematical concepts, developed over centuries by mankind’s most gifted people … who devoted their entire lives to the development of mathematical knowledge, suggests to me the people making curriculum decisions for the Issaquah School District do not understand and do not fully appreciate the nature of mathematics.”
Van Horne continued by saying he perceived at least two problems in how the curriculum was selected: that the team making decisions was made up only of math educators and no practicing mathematician, and that math educators have limited knowledge of practical applications of math.
Several other parents spoke at the meeting. Some asked board members to halt the process, restart it with community input or keep the same math curriculum, but add support services for struggling students.
Next steps in the process include the final recommendation from the district’s Instructional Materials Committee, which analyzes the text for bias and readability, a state requirement. If that committee recommends Discovering Mathematics, it will appear before the board on the agenda at its July 8 meeting.
Before then, board members and district officials have tentatively scheduled another work-study session meant to bring state math experts and curriculum specialists in to discuss Holt Mathematics and Discovering Mathematics.
Community members, who specialize in and work with mathematics, may also be asked to attend that meeting and weigh in.
If school board members choose to adopt the curriculum, it would go into classrooms this fall.
If it isn’t adopted, the process is halted and College Prep Math would continue to be used in the district. However, board members could also ask for a new adoption process or new ideas.
The money for the new curriculum is reserved. However, district officials said that as they face tighter budgets, it could be hard to reserve that funding later.
Reach Reporter Chantelle Lusebrink at 392-6434, ext. 241, or clusebrink@isspress.com.  Comment on this article at www.issaquahpress.com.

Questions and concerns continue to surface as Issaquah School District officials forge ahead in their high school math adoption process. Issaquah School Board members held a work-study session with the district’s Math Adoption Committee — a group of math teachers and curriculum specialists — to get a better idea of the process, which led to the recommendation of Discovering Mathematics, by Key Curriculum Press.

Teachers said that Discovering Mathematics allows them, and every teacher in the district regardless of school, the ability to use the textbook in a consistent, relevant way for children. The book includes practical application investigations, group work and teacher-directed learning.

“One thing I keep coming back to over the other book is the clear point of view the book has,” said Rochelle Eixenberger, a teacher at Issaquah High School. “It will create equity among classrooms in schools, but across the district as well. There are so many things and avenues to go down in the other book.

“After we go through professional development, there is the scaffolding for students and support for the teacher.”

The recommendation made by the committee is not the same as the recommendation made by the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. After a review of new math standards, set forth in July 2008, and new math curricula, state experts recommended Holt Mathematics.

However, this is the first time the state Superintendent’s Office has made a recommendation, a result of 2007 legislation.

“It is not the role of OSPI to direct which curricula a school district may or should select. It is not a state requirement for any district to specifically use the recommended curricula,” State Superintendent Randy Dorn said in a memorandum sent to districts May 4.

Issaquah School Board members thanked the math committee for its time, presentation and months of work. However, they had questions regarding whether a new curriculum was the right choice and what other options might be available.

The study session did little to ease parents’ minds about the recommended curriculum.

“As a practicing mathematician, I am appalled at the approach taken by the Issaquah School District in teaching math,” said Mark Van Horne, a Boeing Co. engineer and mathematician. “The notion that young students can somehow discover complex mathematical concepts, developed over centuries by mankind’s most gifted people … who devoted their entire lives to the development of mathematical knowledge, suggests to me the people making curriculum decisions for the Issaquah School District do not understand and do not fully appreciate the nature of mathematics.”

Van Horne continued by saying he perceived at least two problems in how the curriculum was selected: that the team making decisions was made up only of math educators and no practicing mathematician, and that math educators have limited knowledge of practical applications of math.

Several other parents spoke at the meeting. Some asked board members to halt the process, restart it with community input or keep the same math curriculum, but add support services for struggling students.

Next steps in the process include the final recommendation from the district’s Instructional Materials Committee, which analyzes the text for bias and readability, a state requirement. If that committee recommends Discovering Mathematics, it will appear before the board on the agenda at its July 8 meeting.

Before then, board members and district officials have tentatively scheduled another work-study session meant to bring state math experts and curriculum specialists in to discuss Holt Mathematics and Discovering Mathematics.

Community members, who specialize in and work with mathematics, may also be asked to attend that meeting and weigh in.

If school board members choose to adopt the curriculum, it would go into classrooms this fall.

If it isn’t adopted, the process is halted and College Prep Math would continue to be used in the district. However, board members could also ask for a new adoption process or new ideas.

The money for the new curriculum is reserved. However, district officials said that as they face tighter budgets, it could be hard to reserve that funding later.

On the Web

See a timeline for the math curriculum adoption at www.issaquahpress.com.

Get involved

Parents and community members can provide feedback to district   officials by calling 837-7051 or  e-mailing math@issaquah.wednet.edu.

Timeline to adoption:

2007-08: Scheduled replacement cycle for high school geometry and algebra materials put on hold while state set new high school math standards.

July 2008: Washington State Board of Education adopts new math standards.

January 2009: state Superintendent’s Office presents initial recommendations for high school math materials.

February: District math department leaders train with new state standards and review district’s math curriculum for alignment with new standards.

March: Issaquah School District High School Math Adoption Committee, mathematics teachers and curriculum specialists, begins work to review and recommend a new curriculum

April: Math teachers preview curriculum and share feedback.

May 27: High School Math Adoption Committee unanimously recommends Discovering Mathematics by Key Curriculum Press.

May 28: Public process begins.

June 2-5: Three Math Materials Open Houses held for community members.

June 8: Instructional Materials Committee hears presentation from Math Adoption Committee and begins evaluation of material for bias and readability.

June 10: Issaquah School Board listens to presentation by Math Adoption Committee about materials.

June 22: Instructional Materials Committee makes recommendation.

June 24: Tentative work-study session planned between state math experts and the Issaquah School Board in the district administration building, 565 N.W. Holly St. prior to their meeting at 7 p.m.

July 8: First opportunity for Issaquah School Board to consider adoption of Discovering Mathematics.

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