Summer Help in Math

** Tutoring Program in Mathematics:
College, High School, Middle School and Elementary:
Call Rae Lynn Westby at
Do the Math
for a free consultation: 509.325.MATH.

** Do your children need outside help in math?
Have them take a free placement test
to see which skills are missing.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Myth of the Helpless Parent

By Laurie H. Rogers

“I Can” statements are all the rage in our public schools. Students are to say “I can” and then positively reaffirm something they feel capable of doing.

I’m offering suggestions for “We can” statements. If your school district obeys the law, tells the truth, spends money wisely, and properly educates children, then you probably don’t need these. Sadly, most citizens don’t have a school district like that, and this article is directed to them.

Parents have been trained for decades to trust in America’s K-12 government schools. This trust now serves the districts but not the students within them. Most districts aren’t being held accountable for violations of the law; failures to properly educate children; improper spending of tax dollars; or long-term refusals to tell citizens the truth.

Many districts seem increasingly dictatorial, deceitful, expensive and intrusive. We trust them with our children, and in return, they lie to us, miseducate our children and blame us for their failures. When we question them, some even attack us, using government/media/corporate allies to help pile on. They retain power in the way schoolyard bullies do, by ensuring that parents remain cowed, isolated and uninformed. It’s ironic. In reality, parents have all of the power.

Most parents don’t know that. Schools have purposefully fostered a sense of helplessness in parents (and in students and teachers), training us to believe that we must do as we’re told. Schools couldn't eliminate parents altogether, but they could create parents who agree to eliminate themselves.

Schools thus trained successive generations to work in a group, defer to the group, think as a group, achieve consensus with the group, be assessed with the group, and defend group decisions. Punishments and rewards have been used to mold thinking and behavior and to direct energies. Parents are encouraged to be involved in the schools, as long as our involvement brings in money, furthers the agenda and doesn’t question the authority. Obeying = Rewards. Dissenting = Punishments.

Nowadays, when schools praise “critical thinking,” they usually mean non-critical thinking or groupthink. When they talk about community “input,” they tend to receive it via the Delphi Technique, a way of manipulating groups to agree on predetermined conclusions. When they ask for parent “help,” they mean any help that doesn’t question the authority, not even to help a child.

Meanwhile, parents have long been shut out of the education of our own children. Books are eliminated, homework isn’t sent home, traditional methods are derided as “old school,” and our wishes are undermined or ignored. Parent preferences are openly criticized and dismissed, and in conferences, we’re told: “Don’t teach that at home. Don’t help. You’ll just confuse your child.” Schools now use technology to hide the curriculum – on tablets and laptops and in private email accounts for children.

This operant conditioning – skillfully done, I’ll give them that – has produced a population that generally feels helpless. Worse, it accepts feeling helpless. This population doesn’t need to be shut down; it shuts down itself. “Oh, no, I couldn’t. It will be OK. They must have a good reason. They must know what they’re doing.” Such apathy suits authoritarian, intrusive governments. It’s easier to implement an agenda with weak and politically aligned sheep than with individualistic and critical thinkers. Most of us do find now that it’s easier, safer and infinitely more profitable to be sheep.

And yet, dissent is critical to helping our children, to serving our honor, and to maintaining a free country. We’re helpless only in our mind. The government cannot make our child take a test. It cannot force us into its failed bureaucratic, narcissistic, adult-centered system. Not unless we allow it.

We can say no to this government. We can refuse to allow it to eliminate our ideas and preferences, or to miseducate, misuse and misguide our children.

Few “leaders” are likely to help us. Most now are part of the government network. Think of the vast array of government and elected officials, their associations and throngs of legal teams – now “partnering” with influential people and non-accountable, non-transparent corporations, organizations and foundations – to implement policies that suit them. Instead of partnering with parents for a better education system, they partner with each other to implement policy, gather data on us and our children, sell their products and services, and implement a political and social agenda. It’s a symbiotic relationship for them, but it’s largely parasitic toward us and our children.

They help each other. They sit on boards, hand out grants and contracts, campaign, advertise, lobby, buy and sell. They socialize together, travel together, praise each other, help friends and family members gain preferred positions, and allow each other to get away with things.

These “partnerships” might be fascist in nature (the government controlling the corporations), or corporatist (the corporations controlling public policy), but in any case, they’re neither democratic nor representative of a Republic. America is being fundamentally transformed to a totalitarian state in which government and corporate cartels work together to do what neither is allowed to do by itself. It pays well now to be a government or corporate crony; it does not pay, and in some cases, it has become dangerous, to dissent from this government/corporate network.

The Network won’t spend our tax dollars wisely, won’t return control of our children’s education to us, and won’t stop its intrusive data collecting. It has no incentive to tell the truth or obey the law. Many media outlets – which are supposed to have our back –appear to be part of the Network.

Suddenly we find that – although our schools lack solid academic programs – there are laptops, iPads and SMART Boards in front of every child’s face. There are new curricula every few years, new calculators even in kindergarten, and cool electronic toys that don’t foster real learning. De facto national standards and tests are being pushed on all of us from cradle through career. When we ask who is doing that pushing, the feds point to the states and to non-accountable associations; the states point to districts; the districts point to legislators; the legislators claim ignorance.

Suddenly, some of us find that there are handguns in the hands of school employees. There are cameras and video recorders on the wall to track visitors, and new machines to scan our driver’s license, track our children, scan their irises, record their fingerprints, or track their biometric information.

Look around you – the K-12 education system in America has become freaking scary.

Citizens MUST be the dissenters. Our children’s future – this country’s future – is on the line.

Clearly, the American government no longer knows how to educate a child. That’s been proved in 10,000 ways. It has ceased to hold itself accountable, and it now works collaboratively to skirt laws and protect itself. This isn’t a left/right issue. This simply is “in” or “out” of the government/corporate Network. If you’re “in,” you’re taken care of. If you’re out, well, good luck with that.

But we aren’t stuck in this machine. We’re helpless only when we agree to it. My first “We can” statement is this: “We can say no to the K-12 government education system.” Here are some more:
  • Opt out of programs: We can opt out of failed academic programs, and out of excessively mature sex education classes and materials. We can find solid math and English curricula online, buy them, and start teaching them to our children.
  • Leave the system: When a school mistreats, abuses, blames, mocks, neglects or refuses to educate our children, we can walk out of that school and never look back.
  • Opt out of testing: We can opt out of state and federal testing that sucks up class time; tells us nothing of value; collects intrusive and flawed data on us; is manipulated to show success where none exists; and forces our children to either take math tests online or be labeled as special education.
  • Say no to technology: We can say no to excessive and intrusive technology and data collection.
  • Question the money: We can question the barrels of state and federal money allotted for special education programs that never seem to go to special education students. We can vote no to the next levy and bond for school districts that misspend taxpayer money; use taxpayer money against taxpayers; and lie to us about budgets, expenditures and outcomes.
  • Inform others: We can inform other parents, run for the school board, or help other citizens run. We can recall corrupt or obstructive board directors and push to replace superintendents and administrators.
  • Reject Common Core: We can push our legislatures to reject the de facto nationalization and radicalization of the American public school system, epitomized by the questionable, authoritarian and unproved Common Core initiatives.
  • Reject pretend "choice": We can refuse to support charter schools that clearly are under the thumb of local school districts.
We can say no. We can make a good system happen. We can help our children, fix the problems, rebuild an accountable government and put responsible individuals in power. We can homeschool, find private schools, hire tutors, or ask family members or friends to teach our children what the schools will not. We can step away from the entire madness of public education. Believe me, folks, it’s a mess. It’s much worse in 2014 than it was in 2007, even as our avenues of dissent have narrowed dramatically.

The government/corporate Network depends on us thinking we’re helpless, that we can’t say no, that we don’t know any better, that they mean well, that they really do care about our children, and that they will eventually do what’s right.

Don’t believe it. We are not helpless, we can say no, and we do know better. The Network doesn’t mean well, it doesn’t care about our children more than it cares about itself, and if the Network was ever going to use its considerable power to do what’s right for our children, it would have done it by now.

Please note: This information is copyrighted. The proper citation is: 
Rogers, L. (June 2014). "The Myth of the Helpless Parent." Retrieved (date) from the Betrayed Web site:

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

School district scans driver's licenses and takes photos of visitors in new "sign-in" policy

By Laurie H. Rogers

In America, citizens have a constitutional right to privacy, to be "secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects." The government, on the other hand, is to be open and transparent to the people. These principles are critical to America remaining a free country.

Increasingly, however, the government is turning these principles on their head, doggedly working to gain privacy for itself while limiting it or eliminating it for citizens. Agencies are obstructing public records requestors, undermining laws on government transparency and citizen rights, and working collaboratively to dodge accountability for violations of the law and the U.S. Constitution.

Spokane Public Schools has a long history of displaying little respect for the principles of privacy for citizens and transparency for itself. Recently, the school district came up with a brand new way to infringe on citizen privacy while monitoring and controlling which members of the public have access to public buildings.

On Friday, May 16, Spokane lawyer Cheryl Mitchell went to Spokane Public Schools to pick up a disc from a records request. She was told the District had implemented a new policy: visitors must scan their driver’s license and allow their picture to be taken at a kiosk in the lobby before heading to other parts of the building. Her understanding was that this new policy applies to all visitors, not just to records requestors.
  • Is it legal for a public agency to scan driver’s licenses and/or take a photo of citizens, simply because they chose to enter a public building?
  • Is it legal for a public agency to deny access to a public building if citizens refuse to have their photo taken?
It’s reasonable to identify visitors and have a measure of security. It’s reasonable to ask for proof of identity. It is not reasonable for school districts to photograph visitors, connect the photos with ID, and store that information. A school district has no legitimate need to scan anyone’s driver’s license. The bounty of personal information on a driver’s license is an identity thief’s dream.

The security of driver’s licenses is being argued now before the state Supreme Court in Lakewood v. Koenig. Attorneys for the Washington State Association of Municipal Attorneys and the Washington Association of Public Records Officers argue that a driver’s license number should be exempt from disclosure because it “exposes private citizens to the risk of harm such as identity theft.” And that’s just the number, never mind the birth date, address and photo.

The identity-theft issue alone should be enough to keep school districts from exposing citizens to that kind of risk (and themselves to subsequent liability). Hackers were wildly successful in breaching the firewalls of Target, eBay, Facebook, the Veterans Administration, the Department of Defense and others, which had invested billions of dollars in securing their databases.

On May 16, Mrs. Mitchell refused to scan her driver’s license. The school district's receptionist did not know what to do and made several calls upstairs. Mrs. Mitchell was finally allowed to use the old "sign in" system and obtain the disc without her driver’s license being scanned. Her photo had already been taken, however.

There obviously was no "opt out” procedure in place on May 16, nor was there any indication that the system might be making an error. An administrator finally agreed to make an exception for Mrs. Mitchell because she refused to comply. For those who did NOT complain on Friday, what happened with their information?

On May 16, Mrs. Mitchell sent an email to the District’s attorney, Paul Clay, to ask about this new policy, and to inquire whether the District is using facial recognition software. Five days later, on May 21, Paul Clay wrote back to say that the District isn’t “using” facial recognition software, and that the initial demand for driver’s licenses was a mistake, due to “inadvertent software settings.” He said the system now will accept a sign-in through the kiosk, or citizens can “utilize the driver’s license scan.”

Paul Clay did not mention the photos. He did not say the District lacks the capability for facial recognition or won’t use it later.
  • Does the District have the capability for facial recognition? Will it use that technology later? If it does, will it bother to tell the public?
On May 16, I also sent a query to the superintendent and to the school board directors. After several days of silence, I sent a second query on May 21. On Thursday, May 22, I finally received an answer from Board Director Deana Brower, the board’s “corresponding secretary.” Brower echoed Paul Clay that the initial demand for driver’s license scans was “due to inadvertent software settings.” She said citizens now can sign in at the kiosk or use the driver’s license scan for “convenience.” She did not mention the photos. She did not answer all of the questions I put to her.

I have not heard back from the superintendent.

It has long been understood in this country that it’s inappropriate to take a photo in public of someone without that person's permission, or to host a security tape without notifying the public. Mrs. Mitchell said there was no notice posted on May 16 saying that photos were being taken and stored on a server. The District can argue that permission was granted and that notification was given, but it also can be argued that this "permission" was coerced and that the notification given was unclear.

According to Mrs. Mitchell, the instructions on the District's computer say something like, "Place your face close to the computer screen." This is not just taking photos of citizens going about their business.

  • Where are the photos going, and how are they to be used?
  • How is the driver’s license information to be used? How is it secured?
Deana Brower said people can scan their driver’s license “for convenience.”
  • How is it “convenient” to hand over private information to a government agency? Has Director Brower scanned her own driver’s license for “convenience”? If so, can the public look at it?
  • Will the superintendent, board directors, administrators, or the District’s legal counsel scan their driver’s license for convenience?
With every scan of a driver’s license and every picture taken, is the District creating a new record within the school district system?
  • If so, can someone request a copy of these public records? (The District likely would argue that this is personal information and thus exempt from disclosure. If so, it begs the question of why this government agency would collect it.)
Attorney Paul Clay indicated, following Mrs. Mitchell’s query, that anonymous requestors of public records will not be forced to identify themselves in this manner and can pick up their requested records at the front desk. Mrs. Mitchell said, however, that the computer in the reception area appears to be taking streaming video.
  • Will anonymous requestors find that their photo was taken when entering the building?
  • To be safe, should requestors wear a bag over their head, a ski mask, or a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses? Should they hire agents to pick up the records, who will then have to identify themselves and have their photo taken?
The District ultimately made an exception to its new policy for Cheryl Mitchell because she refused, and probably because she’s a lawyer.
  • What about everyone else who is not a lawyer? Will newspaper publishers have to have their photo taken? How about the mayor? Contractors? Newspaper reporters? Legislators? Bill Gates? The governor? County commissioners? The hundreds of attendees of the school district’s annual Community Leaders Breakfast? Or, is this just another "policy" the District will enforce as it chooses?
  • Will ALL District employees have to identify themselves at these kiosks? Or, is this system only there to identify private citizens?
  • Does this policy apply to citizens attending board meetings, usually held on the same floor as the lobby? How about other meetings held upstairs, such as committee meetings and board work sessions? If so, the policy appears to conflict with the Washington State Open Meetings Act.
It's a huge step for a public agency to coerce identification and data collection on visitors.
  • Is the collected data to be part of the “State Longitudinal Data Systems?”
  • Will the information be given away or sold by the District? If so, to whom and for which purposes?
To the best of my knowledge, the District hasn’t breathed a word about its new sign-in policy. I searched the school District Web site for information and found nothing. Asked for it, Deana Brower offered policies and procedures that were written decades ago and that have not been modified to include this new policy. She did not answer the question of when the new policy was approved by the board.
  • How much money did this new "sign-in" system cost taxpayers? If taxpayers didn’t pay for it, who did and why?
What is this government agency actually aiming to do? And why on Earth would the citizens of a free country allow them to do it?

Please note: This information is copyrighted. The proper citation is: 
Rogers, L. (May 2014). "School district scans driver's licenses and takes photos of visitors in new "sign-in" policy." Retrieved (date) from the Betrayed Web site:


Monday, May 19, 2014

Summer math class: Calculate the long-term effect of constructivism and fuzzy math programs

By Laurie H. Rogers

[The Betrayed blog is offering spring and summer math exercises, using algebra, "real-world application," satire and humor to illustrate various realities in K-12 public education. The full series is posted here. If you would like to participate by offering a math exercise or by correcting or enhancing an exercise presented here, please write to me at]
Problem # 3. As the leadership of public education continues to deny the inadequacy of fuzzy math programs and constructivist teaching approaches, there is an exponential increase in the seriousness of the math situation for students.

Given an initial seriousness level of 100 in 1989, and given that the seriousness level doubles each year of fuzzy math programs and excessive constructivism, calculate the seriousness of the math situation for students 25 years later (in 2014).

Below is a calculation for Problem #3.
Below that is a parody of how those in charge of public education -- the school districts, state education agencies, federal government, and various corporate and government hangers-on -- typically attempt to
solve the national math problem

Calculation for Problem #3.

Seriousness “S” at time “t” is given by the equation: S(t) = 100(2)t
(100 represents the beginning level, “2” represents the doubling effect, and “t” represents time.)

S(t) = 100(2)25      
S(t) = 100 x 33,554,432       
S(t) = 3,355,443,200

Answer: The seriousness of the math situation in 1989 is represented by 100. After 25 years of fuzzy math and excessive constructivism, the seriousness of the math situation for students now is represented by 3,355,443,200.

This number, of course, is invalid. It’s an arbitrary mathematical representation of a subjective perception of a problem. Problem #3 makes a point that is grounded in truth, however, and that truth is evident in the students. Consider that students who are denied sufficient instruction in math, grammar and other skills have been academically mistreated and handicapped for life. If we cannot quantify the seriousness level of a country full of panic-stricken, mathematically illiterate graduates ... hmm ... Perhaps a court of law could do it.


Parody of how those in charge of public education typically attempt to solve the national math problem (assuming that we could manage to squeeze a nugget of truth into them):

“We will work collectively, innovatively, equitably, nonjudgmentally and in an environmentally conscientious and personally profitable way to fix the national math problem.

“We will NOT contact local universities and colleges to find out how many recent high school graduates test into remedial math classes, which level they test into, how many pass their remedial classes, and how many drop out of college over math. This is useless, biased, sexist, elitist, racist, insensitive and intrusive information that will not help anyone. Besides, our numbers say something completely different, so their numbers are wrong anyway.

“We will NOT assess the fuzzy math programs that have stunk up classrooms now for three entire decades. Everyone knows those math programs work; it’s just that teachers are stupid.

"We will NOT look into the flimsy education research, the clueless colleges of education that keep pushing fuzzy crap on us, or the cult-like atmosphere supporting three decades of math failure. Everyone knows that the real problems are poverty and uninvolved parents. 

“We will NOT assess administrators who couldn’t find their own rear if they put their own hands right on it. We WILL pay them ridiculously high salaries, give them bonuses and raises, praise them in public, pat their tired little shoulders, and give them tea and gold-plated footstools (which taxpayers will pay for).

We will NOT fire, censure, or assess anyone. We will NOT hold anyone accountable for 30 years of wasted taxpayer money. Instead, we will attack any citizen who tries. We will use taxpayer money to sue taxpayers for more money, and we will hand over the ill-gotten gains to those in charge so they can continue to refuse to do what needs to be done for the children.

We will spend taxpayer dollars on programs already proved as failed.
We will spend taxpayer dollars on government/corporate 'partnerships', over which citizens will have zero input or control.
We will spend money on a de facto federal takeover of education that includes aggressive and intrusive data systems and unproved, politically biased standards.
We will spend a lot of money on ourselves
. Of course.
And, we will spend a lot of taxpayer dollars on myriad unproved STEM programs. (That’s ‘s’ for science, ‘t’ for technology, ‘e’ for engineering and ... uh ... what was the other one? Oh, right. “M” for more.)

“We will have teachers working in small groups -- using sticky notes, highlighter pens, pipe cleaners and butcher paper -- to show how the seriousness of the math situation has actually fallen to well below what it was 25 years ago (largely because we're so great at leading).

"Everyone will see how stupid and selfish math advocates are, and that fuzzy math programs and excessive constructivism are just fine for STEM jobs that don’t require any math.

"Also, in a new and innovative STEM program, students soon will learn to express their deeper conceptual appreciation for administrators who care enough about them to ensure that they’re all qualified to get at least one and maybe even two non-math STEM jobs.

“That’s it for today. Good work, everyone. Math problem solved!”

Please note: This information is copyrighted. The proper citation is:
Rogers, L. (May 2014). "Summer math class: Calculate the long-term effect of constructivism and fuzzy math programs." Retrieved (date) from the Betrayed Web site:


Monday, May 12, 2014

Summer math class: Solving division problems: long division vs. partial quotients method

By Laurie H. Rogers

[The Betrayed blog is offering spring and summer math exercises, using algebra, "real-world application," satire and humor to illustrate various realities in K-12 public education. The full series is posted here. If you would like to participate by offering a math exercise or by correcting or enhancing an exercise presented here, please write to me at]

Problem #2. A reform method for division provided to public-school students in America is the partial quotients method. A reform method for instruction is "constructivism," where students work in groups to: develop their own strategies; teach each other and themselves; and achieve consensus. A reform method for solving actual math problems is to hand students a calculator.

On a math test, students have 10 division problems to solve. Each dividend contains six digits. Each divisor contains two digits. There is at least one decimal place in each dividend and divisor.
Students are not allowed to use a calculator for this test.

It takes twice as long to use the partial quotients method to solve these problems as it would take to use the traditional "long division" method. It takes 20 minutes to solve these 10 problems using long division. How long will it take students to do these 10 problems using the partial quotients method and constructivism?


Below is a calculation for Problem #2.

Below that is a parody of today's typical math class, related to Problem #2.

Calculation for Problem #2.

x 2

Answer: The students take 40 minutes to solve the 10 division problems using the partial quotients method and constructivism.

This number, of course, is a flight of fancy. The students do NOT take 40 minutes to solve these problems using the partial quotients method and constructivism. Nor do they take 20. They will not be able to successfully use the "partial quotients method" to solve these 10 division problems containing decimal places.


Parody of today's typical math class, related to Problem #2:
** The students are faced with 10 division problems containing decimals. Sadistic people have made them dependent on their calculator for the smallest thing and then refused them the use of a calculator for this math test. 

The students work in groups to try to achieve consensus on answers, using a method that doesn’t deal well with division, much less decimals, and working with classmates who are just as confused, bored and unknowledgeable as they are. They all get different answers (except for those who begin texting and checking their Facebook account and who just write down whatever their classmates tell them to).

Eventually, the bell rings, class is over, soccer practice begins and ends, and the students go home. They describe their math test to their parents, who say, “I don’t understand that method. Let me show you how to do it properly,” whereupon the students say, “My teacher won’t let me do it your way. I have to do it this way,” whereupon the parents say, “Then I can’t help you,” whereupon the students say, “Yeah, the teacher told us you would say that.”

The next morning, students find out that their math teacher is away getting professional development in how to “guide” students in math, and there is a substitute who is actually a social studies teacher. She has no idea of what the class is doing, but she does want to talk about “Decreasing Inequity in Our Society,” which is the title of her research project for her master’s degree in education. The students get nowhere with the math test, but they are a little more depressed about our inability to decrease inequity in our society.

When their teacher eventually comes back from professional development, students ask her how the problems would be done using the partial quotients method. She says, “Work with your partners,” because that’s what she learned last week to say. Students tell her, “They don’t know, either.” She says, “Well sit down with them and see if you can figure it out.” Students say, “Please just tell us.” The teacher, who doesn’t actually know how to solve these problems using the partial quotients method, says, “You have to ask three students before you ask me,” because that’s what she learned last week to say. The students say, “I hate math.”

The teacher says: “Yes, math is hard. I know you’re frustrated, but this is a best practices method, and once you put enough effort into it, you’ll see how fantastic it is. It’s so fantastic, I barely understand it myself, but I know it’s better, and I know that math is just hard and everyone hates it."

The teacher continues: “Maybe math isn’t your best subject. If you would spend less time in soccer and piano, you would do better in math class. You have to be more motivated. You have to learn to get along with your classmates so they can help you learn."

The students tell her: "We asked our parents to explain it to us, and they can't figure out this method."

The teacher responds with what she learned last week: “Your parents can’t help you because this method isn’t how they learned it. They are stuck in an old way of thinking, but what you need are 21st-century skills and critical thinking skills, and this method will give all of that to you."

She continues: "I wish we could have professional development for your parents. If we had enough money, we could reform everything and everyone, but we are so desperate for money, we might have to cut back on heat and light in our classrooms. Besides, math is a societal problem. There’s just too much inequity, and we all know societal problems can’t actually be fixed. It’s all so very, very sad and frustrating."

The students begin to cry, and the teacher feels badly for them because that's what she learned last week to feel. She says gently, "Don't worry about this. Just do your best. I grade on a curve. You’ll be fine. When you get home tonight, please give your parents this flyer and ask them to remember to vote on the levy so we can fix all of our problems in math.”   ***

Each day, the students repeat the process from ** to *** until they drop out and/or become mentally unstable.

Please note: This information is copyrighted. The proper citation is:
Rogers, L. (May 2014). "Summer math class: Solving division problems: long division vs. partial quotients method." Retrieved (date) from the Betrayed Web site:

Monday, May 5, 2014

Summer math class: Calculate the # of administrators vs. the # of qualified math teachers

By Laurie H. Rogers

[The Betrayed blog is offering spring and summer math exercises, using algebra, "real-world application," satire and humor to illustrate various realities in K-12 public education. The full series is posted here. If you would like to participate by offering a math exercise or by correcting or enhancing an exercise presented here, please write to me at]

Problem # 1. The number of useless administrators varied inversely with the number of qualified math teachers squared.

When there were 200 qualified math teachers, there were 5 useless administrators. As the number of qualified math teachers was cut back to 25, how many useless administrators were there?


Below is a calculation for Problem #1. 
Below that is a parody of typical professional development (PD) for teachers and staff, related to Problem #1.

Calculation for Problem #1:

Answer: As the number of qualified math teachers was cut back to 25, the number of useless administrators increased to 320.

This number, of course, is fake. The number of truly qualified math teachers in most public school districts (i.e. those who know enough math to teach it to at least their grade and the grade following) has been purposefully cut back by colleges of education and administrators to "small," "infinitesimal," or "a speck, really." 

Meanwhile, the number of useless administrators is more akin to the growth of bacteria, gnats or bunnies -- out of control and increasing every day.

Why is that? Why do we have this bumper crop of useless administrators, while the number of qualified math teachers is sub-atomic? It's because of the colleges of education, which work hard to turn out useless administrators, and because of education's "professional development" programs (PD), which steadfastedly aim to keep everyone as useless as possible.


Parody of PD for teachers and staff, related to Problem #1:

PD for teachers and staff typically begins with a discussion of definitions and "norms" for behavior. These are designed to help achieve consensus and to eliminate dissent. Definitions and norms usually are designed to pretend something while achieving something different. 

Below is a parody of this PD.

"Consensus" -- at least half of each small group agrees to acquiesce to the administrator (or PD "facilitator") in charge. (Those who don't acquiesce face consequences that might include Human Resources and/or poisoning.)

"Acquiesce" -- to think as administrators do, because they are correct and no one else is.
"Half" -- however many who agree to acquiesce to administrators.
"Discussion" -- coming to consensus, in alignment with administrators
"Dissent" -- coming to consensus, in alignment with administrators
"Lively debate" -- coming to consensus, in alignment with administrators

Norms for behavior:
Do whatever administrators tell you to do.
Do not note inconsistencies in what administrators tell you to do.
Be polite, even as administrators politely squish all true dissent and individuality out of you.

Instructions related to Problem #1:

Work in small groups, using taxpayer-funded highlighter pens, sticky notes, butcher paper and TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition calculators, to count the number of administrative math "professionals" in your school district. Come to consensus on a number. Subtract the administrative math professionals who know very little actual math. (This should result in a net of zero administrators.)

Appreciate the fact that administrative math professionals have purposefully not muddied their brain with limiting notions of math, direct instruction or pedantic methods of efficient calculation. Instead, they kept their minds free to explore innovation and transformation and reform – all for you. They approach everything with an open, equitable and nonjudgmental mind, and thus, they're able to identify dissenting parents and teachers and to equitably and nonjudgmentally remove them from any position of influence.

In your small groups, eat a taxpayer-funded lunch and drink taxpayer-funded bottled water as you come up with a song and skit to show how much you appreciate the administrative math professionals. Perform your skit, and have one member of your group sing the song while others sway and clap along.

Go back to your school and wipe your brain clean of anything contrary to what administrative math professionals told you. Those unable to do this will be innovatively evaluated into the ranks of the unemployed -- equitably and nonjudgmentally, of course. And all for the kids.

Please note: This information is copyrighted. The proper citation is:
Rogers, L. (May 2014). "Summer math class: Calculate # of administrators vs. # of qualified math teachers." Retrieved (date) from the Betrayed Web site:

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Professional development in math should focus on math, not on pedagogy or materials

By Laurie H. Rogers
 Creativity springs unsolicited from a well prepared mind.”
“Fundamental knowledge is the basis of creativity.”
-- John Saxon, co-author of the Saxon Math textbook series

Recently, I asked Spokane Public Schools about the new professional development (PD) in math for teachers. I was sent a link to a district page where upcoming courses focus on the implementation of a new and unproved math curriculum, not on mathematics.
Chief Academic Officer Steven Gering said the district plans to teach fractions to teachers, and I’m glad to hear it. But those skills should always have been required. Fractions are a small "fraction" of what’s missing in the skill set of many K-8 teachers.

Where else but in our public schools are employees persistently deficient in necessary skills? Where else are they taught that pedagogy is infinitely more important than expertise in the subject? Where else are billions of our dollars used to train employees in skills they should have had before they were hired? Who in the private sector knowingly hires doctors who don’t understand medicine, contractors who don’t know how to build, or rocket scientists who don’t understand rocket science? Who would knowingly hire an endodontist who doesn’t know how to do a root canal?

It’s true that many teachers don’t understand enough math. I don’t blame them. They learned what they were taught.

I’ve been conversing with an assistant professor of education who maintains that constructivism is the best way to teach math. (Professors of education are largely in charge of educating the country's prospective teachers.) This assistant professor said substantial evidence supporting constructivism is easy to find, so I asked him for some. He sent me a few articles containing older, questionable methodology or anecdotal criticisms of a teacher. I pointed out to him the last 30 years of the failure of excessive constructivism. He responded:
I am interested in this country you speak of that has been in the grip of constructivism for 30 years. Most studies indicate that American classrooms incorporate few (if any) constructivist practices espoused by schools and colleges of education. ... What we do have, I would argue, is a fairly widespread attempt at ham-handed implementations of constructivist-oriented reforms. .... The mathematical and pedagogical knowledge needed to run a constructivist mathematics classroom is not possessed by most teachers now, or at any point in the last half-century ... (W)e graduate and hire most anyone with a pulse and a clean-ish criminal record. ... (A)s a whole our system in its current form couldn’t teach constructively if it wanted to. And it doesn’t even want to because it hasn’t seen much (if any) constructivist teaching.
This stance is typical. As our conversation continued, this man refused to acknowledge the problem and ducked most of what I told him. It wasn't long before he began to call me names. He is courteous in the way of many reformers: Ostensibly civil, yet still calling me a conspiracy theorist, "closed" to the conversation, "dogmatic" and even "indulging in intellectual dishonesty." I'm sure he sees himself as polite and restrained. His entire defense boils down to this: Constructivism works; they just aren't doing it right.

Avid proponents of constructivism typically seem certain that they’re correct, that they don’t have to prove anything, and that all problems are due to incompetent implementation. After 30 years and trillions of taxpayer dollars spent pushing fuzzy math and constructivism on public schools, they don’t see today’s nationwide math problem as due to fuzzy math and constructivism.

Many maintain their faith by denying the problem. Obvious academic failure is explained away or deemed to be irrelevant; they focus on an undefined notion of “deeper conceptual understanding.” (They ignore the fact that this “understanding” can’t be achieved without acquisition of skills.) When confronted with irrefutable evidence, they blame it on teachers, parents, students or society.

I don’t blame teachers. Most received garbage for math instruction – in K-12, in college and for years after they were hired. How could they teach math properly? They were taught that math is hard and that they don’t have to know math in order to teach it. (They must be so tired of being lied to.) Their training has intellectually disarmed them, their students and this country. These are unforgiveable sins.

If proponents of fuzzy programs and constructivism had to use math in the “real world,” and were held accountable for the results, they would have to modify their views. In the "real world," math is a tool, used to get a job done. What matters are clarity (understandable by others); efficiency (done relatively quickly); and accuracy (the result is correct). Math is a tool – like a hammer or drill. One doesn't come to consensus on the philosophy of a drill; one learns to use the drill and then one uses it.

We use math to help us cut the wood, build the bridge, fill the ditch, fire the rocket, heal the sick, fire the bullet, cook the food, calculate the pay, run the business, combine the chemicals, fly the plane, build the software, measure the floor, balance the checkbook, project the earnings, and balance the budget.

Math is critically necessary to the functioning of the country. A mathematically illiterate populace puts America’s future in jeopardy. K-12 math is inherently understandable and doable, but proponents of fuzzy math and excessive constructivism have made it incomprehensible.

Luckily, I was taught properly, and I refuse to be “disarmed” now. I’m engaging in some PD of my own. I recently picked up Saxon Algebra I and read it cover to cover. That was instantly helpful. I’m now doing the problems in Saxon Algebra II, chapter by chapter. I wondered if this PD would change my views, but it’s reinforcing everything I’ve been thinking about how math should be taught and learned.

“Deeper conceptual understanding" in K-12 math comes with knowledge and practice to mastery, not with pointless struggle and reinventing of the wheel. Efficiency on paper is critical; the calculator tends to get in the way of learning. Each day, as I work through another chapter, I think, "Oh, yes. Right. I see that now." Proper process is being reinforced for me; each time I cut a corner, I pay for it with an error. As I practice, I’m becoming faster, more efficient and more accurate. Recently I tweaked an algorithm to make it more efficient; this would not have come to me without skills and understanding.

Constructivists claim that the materials don’t matter (as they insist on fuzzy materials), and that it’s the teacher who matters. (This is how they duck criticism of their materials and blame everything on teachers.) But proficiency is gained via solid instruction, such as from textbooks that provide sufficient explanation and practice, examples, structure, and an incremental and logical progression of skills.

Below are some processes that are conducive to the development of solid math skills. (Proponents of fuzzy math and excessive constructivism typically refuse to implement these):
  • Direct instruction of sufficient material, emphasizing the most-efficient, most-effective processes (including long division; vertical multiplication; arithmetic; exponents; negatives; the number line; polynomials; fractions, decimals and percentages; the clock and the calendar; and proficiency with paper and pencil).
  • Practicing concepts to mastery, with constant refreshers of previously learned skills
  • Using good process:
    • Working vertically
    • Writing down the equation, filling in what’s known, solving for the variable, checking the work, making sure the question is answered
    • Writing clearly, separating equations from calculations
  • Going from simple skills to complex, working forward in a logical, linear fashion. (Classes should NOT begin in the middle of a math textbook)
Below are processes that tend to result in increased errors and misunderstandings. (Proponents of fuzzy math and excessive constructivism typically emphasize these):
  • Excessive use of mental math
  • Prioritizing methods and processes that are inefficient, confusing, nonstandard, not useful long-term, and complicated for children
  • Constant distractions through group work, discussion and premature “real-world application”
  • Dependence on calculators, classmates and achieving consensus, rather than emphasizing individual understanding and proficiency
  • Forcing children to “construct” their own methods, manage their own classmates, explain things to themselves, and understand concepts at a level that is wildly inappropriate for their age
  • Dependence on teachers who don’t understand math, refuse to correct or explain work, and don’t provide students with answers so that students can check their own work
  • Dependence on administrators who refuse to give textbooks to children, destroy solid materials by inserting loopy processes and philosophy, and force teachers to begin in the middle
The success and clarity achieved with direct instruction are motivating and empowering. The confusion, struggle and failure found in constructivist classrooms are spirit killers, producing students who hate and fear math. Many develop depression, panic and performance anxiety. Their constant hunt for consensus leads to distraction, dependence, insecurity and groupthink.

I’ve come to see fuzzy math and excessive constructivism as abusive. Indeed, the assistant professor described his own reeducation in math as “painful,” “brutal” and “ego-crushing.” Why would he want that for children? I can’t think of a reason to demand that children suffer. He insists his efforts are to benefit children, but he appears to be too far removed from classrooms, math, children and outcomes to understand how fuzzy math and excessive constructivism destroy skills, self-esteem and futures.

I would never do that to a student. Math should be enjoyable. Individual understanding and proficiency should be the goals. Direct instruction can easily incorporate laughter, play, practice and application. Students can work through the material, eating the elephant one incremental bite at a time. Over and over I see students relax as they realize I'm not going to make them reinvent it. They smile. They gain confidence. They tend to say, "I get it. I can do this." It's the nature of direct instruction.

Doing the math I’ve done has reinforced what I knew. The truth is evident in the children. Thirty years of fuzzy math programs and constructivism have led us here, to a nation that can't do much math.

It's no wonder that Eastern Washington University decided in 2011 to disband its masters in math. After two decades of fuzzy math and excessive constructivism in surrounding school districts, it's likely that few high school graduates were able to get through the EWU program. Sadly, the EWU situation reflects just the tip of the national math iceberg. We are clinging to the edge of a grim precipice that teeters over complete national mathematical illiteracy.

All K-12 teachers and parents should have received at a minimum the instruction I did, but it isn’t too late. Take a placement test so you can assess your level and start teaching yourself. Buy a textbook online or at a secondhand bookstore. You don’t need highlighter pens, sticky notes, butcher paper or group work. All you need is about $15 and some time. (Teachers will have to do it on their own because their district is not likely to give them this PD, nor is Bill Gates, Pearson Education, the Broad Foundation, the Common Core, Texas Instruments, EngageNY, Arne Duncan, or the teachers union).

Get yourself some math skills, and pass them on. Watch as the children soar.

(P.S.: You might want to buy a complete set of Saxon Math now, before some well-meaning and ostensibly polite person wants to make them illegal.)

Please note: This information is copyrighted. The proper citation is:
Rogers, L. (April 2014). "Professional development in math should focus on math, not on pedagogy or materials." Retrieved (date) from the Betrayed Web site:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Administrative plan for math is to fix the math program later

By Laurie H. Rogers

According to The Spokesman-Review, Spokane Public Schools Superintendent Shelley Redinger said in October 2013 that math outcomes in Spokane are "average" and that's why the school district is focusing on repairing its English/language arts program.

The impression given in the article was that math instruction in Spokane is in an OK place, not great but not terrible, and that attention needs to be paid first to ELA.

Such an impression, however, isn't what college
 remedial rates indicate to be true. It isn't reflected in most high school graduates, nor in most students in any grade prior. It isn't what I have told the superintendent; it isn't what she has repeatedly acknowledged to me. It isn't what she told me that the rest of the Spokane community has said to her.  Even board directors appear to have gotten a clue: On Dec. 4, 2013, director Rocky Treppiedi called the district's math program "a disgrace." And it is. 

I asked Dr. Redinger about her choice of the word "average" to describe math outcomes in Spokane, and she wrote that she chose the word because district scores are "at the state average in mathematics."

If I didn't know better, I might accept that. However, I do know better.

The school district is not "average" in student outcomes for math -- unless the definition of "average" has come to mean "abysmal." One can't depend on Washington State test scores to accurately reflect student knowledge in math. The state tests are weak; the cut scores (i.e. the passing scores) are ridiculously low and are set after students take the tests; and the scoring has been subjective and often incoherent. In addition, the vast majority of districts in this state also have weak outcomes in math.

Being "average" in a state that struggles in math does not denote success in math. Surely a
$262,000-per-year superintendent knows that.

The only thing that has EVER mattered in math is what the students know and can do. On that score, Spokane Public Schools has a serious problem. Dr. Redinger has assured me that she knows that and will fix it. Yet in public, she frequently provides a completely different picture.

Dr. Redinger also assured me in December that she plans to get rid of
Connected Mathematics and Investigations in Number, Data, and Space -- two of the weakest K-8 math programs in America. In March 2014, I noted to her and to Chief Academic Officer Steven Gering that some students are still working out of those programs. Dr. Gering assured me that the district's math program will be different in a few years. Neither administrator expressed concern about students still laboring under two of the weakest programs in the country. There was no apparent sense of urgency in Dr. Gering's reply, no questioning, no effort to learn more. It's difficult to explain the leadership's seemingly casual attitude toward suffering children.

In a few years, will the promised new program be better? Will it be sufficient? Who knows? In the meantime, the district has adopted an interim program called EngageNY. This program is unproved, still evolving, online, and is based on the controversial Common Core. It does not come with textbooks for parents to see and use. 

These two administrators - who together pull down about $400,000 per year - have explained that they know EngageNY will be good because they "feel" that it will be good. Yes, both said "feel." Neither had student outcomes or solid research to offer. People laugh when I tell them what the administrators said, like it can't be true. Someone even broke into an off-key rendition of the 1970s song "Feelings." (And who needs that?)

Does either administrator even know what a good math program looks like? Dr. Redinger should know. Her resume boasts several positions in curriculum development. In December 2013, I asked her if she thinks Saxon Math is a good program. She said she doesn't know. Saxon Math has been around since 1981 and is the program of choice for many homeschoolers and private programs. Early last year, I surveyed all of my contacts - on my email list and on social media - to ask for their favorite K-8 math program. The majority picked Saxon Math, far and away over the closest competitor, Singapore Math. I compiled their picks and comments and gave that to Dr. Redinger early last year. She said she would pass it on to the school board.

In December 2013, I reminded her of this survey. She replied that other people don't like Saxon. (But many of those who don't like Saxon Math are education administrators who love reform math and who have helped to completely screw up their district's math program.)

If administrators can't recognize a good math program when they see one, how will they ever eventually choose one? Meanwhile, this district continues to refuse to adopt any of the good programs now available, even as the students continue to struggle.

Below are some indicators of actual academic outcomes in math in Spokane -- not provided by anyone in the K-12 system, but by employees of Spokane Community Colleges in response to my requests. You'll see how many SCC and SFCC freshmen test into remedial math, which level of math they test into, and their general rate of success.

When you're told that the math problem is just you, your income, your child or grandchild, your child's school, or your neighborhood in the city, don't believe it. And when you're told that outcomes are "average" and that it's OK for your school district to take another year or two to get its math program together, don't accept that for your family.

Remedial Rates in Mathematics
at Spokane Falls Community College  (SFCC)
and Spokane Community College (SCC):

** Academic years 2004-2005 through 2008-2009
Remediation rates in mathematics for Recent High School Graduates
Students from Spokane-area high schools only

** Academic Years 2005-06 through 2009-10, with a Five-Year Average
Remediation Rates in mathematics for Recent High-School Graduates
Students from Spokane-area high schools only.

** Academic Years 2007-2008 through 2009-2010
Success rates of Recent High School Graduates Placed Into Developmental Math Courses
(Remedial Math) -- Spokane-area High Schools Only

** Academic Years 2008-2009 through 2012-2013
Remediation Rates in mathematics for Recent High School Graduates
Students from Spokane District High Schools

** Academic Years 2008-09 through 2012-2013
Success rates of Recent High School Graduates Placed into Developmental Math Courses
(Remedial Math) - Students from Spokane District High Schools
** SFCC College Spark grant
Results for the first half of this project, broken down by Spokane high school.
The students tested were Algebra II students, and so theoretically should have been proficient in Algebra I and perhaps also Geometry.
Although College Spark is not about college readiness, the results about where these students ultimately placed is informative.

I'm including a
link to an email from an SFCC administrator, who explains this project and provides additional clarification. It's important to recognize that the project was NOT about testing students for college readiness. The College Spark grant was designed to determine curricular alignment between SPS and SFCC.
The project is ongoing and scheduled to run through the fall of 2014, at which point analysis and conclusions likely will be available. See this link for a flowchart of the SFCC math classes and their levels of content, so you can see the content Spokane students appear to be missing.

An aside: In December 2013, I asked Superintendent Shelley Redinger about the results of the College Spark study. She said she had "not seen them."

Please stay tuned. More to follow.

Please note: This information is copyrighted. The proper citation is: Rogers, L. (March 2014). "Administrative plan for math is to fix the math program later." Retrieved (date) from the Betrayed Web site: