Elementary science curriculum plan moves forward

May 31, 2011

The public is invited to review the newly recommended elementary science curriculum, material approved by the Issaquah School District’s Instructional Materials Committee.

The current elementary science curriculum, last updated in 2003, does not meet state standards.

The recommended materials are available for public review during regular business hours through June 8 in the lobby of the district administration building, 565 N.W. Holly St.

Public comment forms are available. The Issaquah School Board will review any comments before voting on whether or not it will approve the curriculum.

District administrators are still searching for money to purchase the recommended curriculum. Administrators had planned to purchase the material with money from the district’s reserves, but they abandoned that idea after the state unexpectedly cut the district’s budget by $1.45 million this year.

The Issaquah Schools Foundation, the Issaquah PTSA Council and the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce have joined forces to raise money for the Elementary Science Initiative. The initiative has already raised $298,000 of the $500,000 needed to buy the curriculum. Donate at www.issaquahscience.org.

School district needs more money for science curriculum

March 22, 2011

After absorbing blows from state budget cuts, the Issaquah School District is $500,000 short of the money it needs to update its elementary school science curriculum.

“The materials are outdated,” Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Emilie Hard said.

This year, the district is updating two of its curricula — elementary school science and high school language arts. Usually, district administrators update curricula every seven years.

The elementary school science curriculum was last updated in 2003, but budget cuts have lengthened the wait for high school language arts — it was last updated during a three-year period from 1999-2001.

District officials expect the high school language arts curriculum adoption will cost about $600,000. The elementary school science curriculum will cost an estimated $1.2 million, with the district paying for $700,000 of it, Hard said.

The new curricula are crucial, she said.

Read more

Science and language arts curriculum update planned

January 18, 2011

The Issaquah School District is preparing to adopt new curricula this June: one for elementary school science and another for high school language arts.

District administrators try to update curricula every seven years, but sometimes budget cuts get in the way. The elementary science curriculum was last updated in 2003, but the wait has been longer for high school language arts — it was last updated during a three-year period from 1999-2001.

Some parents said they felt unsettled after last year’s math curriculum adoption, saying the district did not allow them enough input, especially because a group of parents disagreed with the curriculum that the Issaquah School Board approved. Read more

School board mulls new high school chemistry curriculum

June 22, 2010

Issaquah School Board members will decide whether to adopt a new high school chemistry curriculum July 14.

The Issaquah School District’s Instructional Materials Committee recommended adopting Chemistry 2008, by Prentice Hall, June 11. If adopted, the textbooks would be in classrooms this fall.

The recommended materials can be viewed from 7:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. weekdays June 14 – July 14 at the district administration building, 565 N.W. Holly St.

Teachers prefer controversial math textbooks

February 9, 2010

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.

Newest math adoption raises questions

June 16, 2009

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. Read more