Teachers prefer controversial math textbooks

February 9, 2010

By Chantelle Lusebrink

The Issaquah School District is one step closer to having a new high school math curriculum after the decision was delayed by a year.

District teachers and math specialists from the Teacher Adoption Committee presented their recommendation of Discovering Mathematics, by Key Curriculum Press, to the Instructional Materials Committee Jan. 28.

Members of the Instructional Materials Committee will review the textbook recommendation process to ensure it adhered to the district’s goals and philosophy, and will evaluate the textbooks for bias and discrimination. The committee is a requirement under state law.

Committee members are expected to make their recommendation in a meeting before the public Feb 11. The board is not scheduled to take action before the end of March.

The decision comes after a group of Seattle parents and math experts won a ruling Feb. 4 from King County Superior Court against Seattle Public Schools for adopting Discovering Mathematics.

“The Seattle case is nonbinding on any other jurisdiction, and any similar case would be evaluated by a judge on a new and specific fact pattern,” Sara Niegowski, district communications director wrote in an e-mail. “However, we are certainly aware of the Seattle case and want to make sure we proceed with as much information as possible. Our legal counsel is currently evaluating the case and will report back with more information this week.”

A group called Save the Math In Issaquah has formed and scheduled a meeting at the Issaquah Library to rally against the potential adoption of Discovering Mathematics here.

“We believe that inquiry-based instructional materials are inferior to mastery-based materials and there is pretty compelling data to support that,” said Mark Van Horne, founder of Save Math In Issaquah. “In addition, the state Superintendent of Public Instruction only recommends the mastery-based Holt series and third, the decision from King County Superior Court said ‘there is insufficient evidence for any reasonable board member to approve the selection of the Discovering Series.’

“A court of law has now said that no reasonable board member could approve it, so we wonder why Issaquah could possibly do it now.”

The group’s March meeting will focus on raising awareness among parents and students about the math curriculum adoption and get the community involved in the selection process.

District officials delayed adopting a new math curriculum last July in effort to gather more community input and new information from state officials who have been vague about their recommendations for high school math curricula.

A new curriculum is necessary because College Prep Mathematics no longer meets many of the new state requirements.

Since the beginning of the school year, district officials have asked parents and students to fill out surveys regarding mathematics expectations in the district, have held parent meetings about Discovering Mathematics and teachers have given their reasoning about selecting it over Holt Mathematics.

During those meetings, teachers and district officials said Discovering Mathematics aligned most with the state’s new math standards, had a blend of exploratory and teacher-driven learning, and has example formulas and drills for students. It also has a robust outline for teachers to follow, ensuring equal experiences among classes and high schools.

Van Horne said he recognizes the value of public meetings to get feedback from the community, but what he would have like to have seen done for the math adoption — and any future technical curriculum adoptions — is a chance for working professionals to develop curriculum recommendations with teachers, so students’ needs can be met in the classroom and when they arrive to the workforce.

Learn more

Go to www.issaquah.wednet.edu. Click on “High school math curriculum adoption.”

Next steps
-Feb. 11: Committee discussion and vote at 4 p.m. at the administration building, 565 N.W. Holly St. If materials are recommended, they will go on display for at least two weeks.
-March 6: Save the Math In Issaquah organizational meeting from 3:15-4:45 p.m. at the Issaquah Library, 10 E. Sunset Way.
-Late March: If Discovering Mathematics is recommended, school board members will vote to adopt or reject.

Chantelle Lusebrink: 392-3434, ext. 241, or clusebrink@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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