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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Teachers and parents: Take back the classroom from those who have stolen it

[Edited Oct. 12, 2011, to correct spelling of a name.]

By Laurie H. Rogers

Dear Teachers, Parents and Students in Spokane, WA:

In March 2010, Spokane’s high school math adoption committee recommended Holt Mathematics to the school board as its new high school math curriculum. This was based on:
  • the adoption committee’s work over six months
  • various assessments of Holt that had been done at the state level
  • feedback from piloting teachers in Spokane
  • feedback from students and parents in Spokane
  • Holt’s superior alignment with the state math standards.
The state assessments chose Holt. Every piloting teacher in Spokane who expressed a preference between Holt and the other finalist chose Holt. Students chose Holt. The Spokane adoption committee chose Holt. The Spokane board adopted Holt. Holt is needed. The math situation in Spokane is desperate.

At SCC and SFCC, the remediation rate in mathematics for recent graduates of Spokane Public Schools is 87.1% (verified). Most test into elementary algebra or below (verified). Of those who take remedial math classes in the SCC system, almost 47% do not pass their remedial classes (also verified). Just 42.3% of Spokane’s high school students passed the 10th grade WASL in 2009. That test was based on 7th and 8th-grade material, and it required a score of just over 56% to pass. But 57.7% of our high school students couldn’t do it. This is not, despite what you’ve heard, the fault of teachers, students, parents or society. This is a direct result of weak math curricula in Spokane, from K-12.

The adoption committee and the piloting teachers chose Holt because of its order, structure and logical presentation. After we voted, Associate Superintendent Karin Short told us all to support the decision. But a few people – several from Ferris High School – continued to agitate against Holt. As of May 2010, Holt Mathematics is suddenly not the new curriculum in Spokane. Teachers are now being told that the standards are the curriculum, and that Holt Mathematics is just "a resource." Teachers will not be allowed to begin on page 1 of the Holt textbook. Instead, the high school program will start with a later chapter, then skip around the book, along with heavy “supplementing” with a program from some folks at Ferris High School.

The Ferris program was supposedly based on the Washington State PEs and the Common Core Standards. But the CCS weren't released in final form until after Ferris began building this program. Additionally, Washington State has not yet adopted the CCS. And yet, the people at Ferris skipped ahead to plan a program based on these national standards.

This is the district’s run-around. They lost the battle, but they intend to win the war. This deceit is supported by curriculum staff and by Superintendent Stowell. They didn’t like how the adoption committee chose, so they are changing the rules to suit them. You are the ones who will pay. These people - this rogue element - in the central office and at Ferris High School apparently believe they know better than:
  • the publisher and the math professionals who built Holt Mathematics
  • the mathematicians who assessed Holt Mathematics
  • the adoption committee that chose Holt Mathematics
  • the piloting teachers who chose Holt Mathematics
  • the students and parents who chose Holt Mathematics
  • the school board director who is a physics professor and who recommended the adoption of Holt Mathematics
  • the school board that adopted Holt Mathematics
  • the state administrators and legislators who have not yet officially adopted the national standards
Take a lesson, folks. This is true arrogance. They have no research to support their new program, no data that supports their ideology or methodology. They have nothing except their own certainty. And apparently, that's all they think they need. This bastardized program is likely to fail. They will then probably say that Holt failed when in actuality Holt was never given a fair chance. And another entire generation of students, a million taxpayer dollars, and several teachers will be tossed under the bus.

On May 27, 2010, Dr. Stowell, and Board Directors Sue Chapin, Bob Douthitt and Rocky Treppiedi hosted "Educating Spokane," a call-in show on PBS. Asked about Holt Mathematics being shoved aside, Dr. Stowell said that Holt is not the curriculum. The standards are the curriculum, she said.

Another question was asked: "The piloting teachers recommended a curriculum. The committee recommended a curriculum. The board adopted a curriculum. How is it that Holt is not the curriculum?" The superintendent answered that the Holt book was just instructional material, not the curriculum. It wasn't perfect, she said, and so they were “supplementing” it.

Supplementing?? Is it “supplementing” to pick apart the textbook, skip chapters, cut out chunks and bring in their own materials to replace it?? This “process” was fraudulent, and it’s breathtakingly unfair to teachers and students. No longer will it be enough for teachers to just do as they’re told. The system is being set up so that ALL teachers are at risk. Because this process will not work for the students, the math remediation and dropout rates will continue to rise. With the new federal, state and local emphasis on firing "ineffective teachers," teachers will be assessed based on how students do on standardized tests for which the students will not be prepared. Many teachers (at least the ones who do not work at Ferris High School) will be at risk of being disciplined, demoted, retired or fired for being “ineffective” or “insubordinate.”

This is the school district you have right now. It's embarrassing and shameful. But they are not shamed. Nothing will change for you until we have a new superintendent. This district is corrupt. Teachers, parents, students and taxpayers need to rise up and organize, become our own force. We need to take back the classroom from these cynical, self-centered people. Teachers have no protection, not from the unions, not from administrators, not from their state leaders, and – so far – not from the media. But you can rise up en masse and take the classroom back. You can organize in basements, backyards and living rooms, vote no-confidence in your superintendent, and fight for your right to teach. Please come to the next school board meeting – or write to the school board – and tell them to ensure fidelity of implementation of Holt Mathematics.

Ask them to also investigate this fraudulent process.

Please note: The information in this post is copyrighted. The proper citation is: Rogers, L. (May, 2010). "Teachers and parents: Take back the classroom from those who have stolen it." Retrieved (date) from the Betrayed Web site:


Anonymous said...

"The standards are the curriculum"

This is what I have been told by our "Director of Teaching and Learning". The texts are just instructional materials. Resources.

It's semantics. However it highlights the divide between "edu-speakers" (administrators, some teachers, and education academics) and the rest of the public.

They need to show that they are doing something "different" "innovative" "targeted" in order to justify their paychecks.

As a math instructor for 10 years, having taught AP and Honors for most of them, I see the standards/curriculum "debate" (if you can call it that) as a way to have their fingers in the pie.

1) Have competent, content mastery with the teaching corps.
2) Have a mathematically sound text (Holt is but one of many, I've always liked the Thomson texts for Alg 2/Precal, and Larson/Hostetler is also good. The differences between the texts are minutia - the content is sound and any competent instructor will get results.)
3) Administration - get out of the way and let me teach!

BTW, OSPI is as much at fault as anyone. Another group of know-nothings trying to justify their jobs.

Anonymous said...

I was amused and saddened recently when I heard a comment that some teacher prep colleges in the state have ways to quietly steer their newly minted teachers away from "troublesome" school districts. These "troublesome" districts have a long history of being chaoticly administered or hostile to teachers. Spokane was one of them. This is an example of why. Take back the district; majority rules, not the minority.

Vain Saints said...

I don't understand the extent of this madness. This can only be explained if someone somewhere, should be expecting a heavy paycheck for killing Holt. Otherwise, what sort of ideological zealot would go to the mat like this over the issue of a textbook? Why would these people pull every stop to force kids into using inferior textbooks?

Barry Garelick said...

Has anyone talked to the marketers at Holt about this? Seems to me they stand to lose a lot if things continue down this road--like no renewed contracts for Holt textbooks in the future.

Anonymous said...

All of the textboks publishers are in some way linked. Holt - McDougal Littel - Larson/Hostetler - Harcourt Brace. They have pretty much all merged and become a monopoly. So it doesn't matter much to the textbook publishers where any district is with the "instructional materials", the same people will be getting the contracts.

I don't think anyone is trying to "kill Holt" per se. But things aren't done the same way these days due to the standardizing of the curriculum (i.e. the state standards.) When I taught Precalculus, the other PC teacher and I pretty much decided to start with Chapter 1 and make it as far as we could. Most of the time, that was to the end of the book, or at least to Ch 9 of 10. We opted to leave out Matrices and do Polar Coordinates or Conic Rotations if there was time. But my point is that we had a great text and the freedom to do what we needed to with it to ensure our kids were prepared for Calculus.

I don't see the point in state standards. If we were holding kids accountable for passing a math class (really accountable, like back in the day...) then there wouldn't be any need for them. If you passed a Pre-Algebra class then you were prepared for Algebra 1. If you passed an Algebra 1 class you were prepared for Algebra 2 (or Geometry). And so on. Because of the fear of "failure rates", administrators no longer want to hold students truly accountable.

BTW, I am a teacher in a district where my administration is to be feared by us radical teachers (those who don't want to play their silly games) so I will remain anonymous, sadly. I am commenter #1.

Laurie H. Rogers said...

Good idea, Barry.

Anonymous said...

I am distressed for the teachers and how much work it is to figure out what the administrators want them to do. I'm with anonymous, LET THE TEACHERS TEACH!!!!

Anonymous said...

Our school raises test scores by failing more students until they transfer or drop out - standards is the means by which administrators hold teachers accountable.

If the kids don't show improvement (test below basic), the teacher gets threatened with firing. If you want anarchy in society, try failing over half your students. This is education policy that is no different than carrying a loaded gun to work.

Anonymous said...

You are so classic. Change your blog and delete comments to fit your agenda.

Too funny.

Laurie H. Rogers said...

You are so classic. Change your blog and delete comments to fit your agenda. Too funny.

What an interesting comment, Anonymous. You have not provided any specifics, nor have you signed your name.

I change my blog when I have an update, or when I see something that wasn't clear, or when I didn't have something correct - as with the dropout rates. I don't delete any comments other than SPAM. So ... You have made an unsubstantiated charge, which I do not find funny at all.

Please explain your comments, include specifics, and sign your name. Then we can talk.