KEY POINTS MADE BY THE CONCERNED PARENTS AGAINST SELECTION OF PAUSD MATH TEXTBOOK ADOPTION COMMITTEE RECOMMENDED EVERYDAY MATH PROGRAM
April 14, 2009
Tentative submission date: April 23rd, 2009
Signatures as of 10:52pm April 16th, 2009: 466
Dear PAUSD Board Members and Superintendent Skelly,
We appreciate the dedication, time and efforts of the Elementary Math Adoption Committee.
Unfortunately, we do not agree with their choice of either Every Day Math or Envision/Investigations. We need to prepare our students better to compete with their peers from Asia, Europe and the rest of the world.
The 2008 Final Report of National Mathematics Advisory Panel clearly recommends:
1. The mathematics curriculum in Grades PreK–8 should be streamlined and should emphasize a well-defined set of the most critical topics in the early grades.
2. Use should be made of what is clearly known from rigorous research about how children learn, especially by recognizing a) the advantages for children in having a strong start; b) the mutually reinforcing benefits of conceptual understanding, procedural fluency, and automatic (i.e., quick and effortless) recall of facts; and c) that effort, not just inherent talent, counts in mathematical achievement.
Nationally, several school districts have abandoned Everyday Math. The most recent ones include: Brandon Valley, SD and Poway, CA. Dr. Skelly joined us from Poway which has very similar demographics as ours.
The minutes of the Elementary Math Adoption Committee meetings suggest that a minority group within the Committee raised the very same issues as the parent community has expressed.
In light of the fact that several districts are abandoning Everyday Math, we need to revisit the recommendations of this minority group. All the teachers on the Committee wanted to pilot SRA Real Math which they did not have an opportunity to evaluate. We were not able to consider Singapore Math or Saxon Math for another set of reasons. Since this topic is extremely important to our community and for the well being of our students, our children, let us reconsider our decision. We need to be working in unison with teachers, parents, and administrators.
Therefore, we petition that the PAUSD School Board:
1. Seek a waiver from the State until next year
2. Recommend that the Textbook Adoption Committee
a. revisit their recommendation following the process laid out by the strategic plan which requires a survey of the community
b. pilot one or more of the following math programs: SRA Real Math, Singapore Math and Saxon Math in the coming school year to consider for adoption in the following year, along with the pilots of EDM and EnVision
c. in coordination with the PTA of each school, add one parent representative with significant math experience from each school to the Textbook Adoption Committee, such that parent representation is at least 25% of the committee members
d. develop a wider communication plan for the committee’s work including at least three community meetings throughout the year, not at the end of the work, along the lines of the successful strategic planning community meetings
We hope that the Board will consider all the issues and support our petition to revisit the decision about adopting a math program that we all agree is the best for our students, our children.
NOTE TO PETITIONER: Please note that if you choose to keep your name and address anonymous, it will not display on this site but it will be included when submitted to the PAUSD Board for consideration.
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Sign Petition: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/PaloAltoMathTextbooks/
MISCOMMUNICATION WITH McGRAW HILL SALES TEAM
We appreciate the dedication, time and efforts of the Elementary Math Textbook Adoption Committee.
As the minutes of the Committee meetings clearly document, SRA Real Math won unanimous support from all the Committee members. But, it was not piloted. The review of the communication with McGraw Hill Sales Rep and Regional VP of Sales Sharon Lane, who oversees both EDM and SRA divisions, indicates that made the decision not to send SRA books to Palo Alto to pilot because she did not know that SRA was the Committee’s most highly favored program.
This McGrawHill VP made the decision to “push Palo Alto to pilot EDM”. Clearly the decision to not pilot SRA was made on the basis of a miscommunication and is not based on the unanimous preference of our Textbook Adoption Committee for SRA Real Math.
McGraw Hills’ Annual Shareholder Report calls EDM a “specialized niche program” which led the market in sales only in New Mexico, which begs the question, is this a sales pitch by McGraw Hill for a niche program ?
Given this background, we request that the Board consider all the issues and postpone the adoption for a year. The authors of SRA Real Math (1 of whom is local) have offered to present to PAUSD and answer in detail any questions you might have. We request you to at pilot SRA Math during the year or better still, adopt SRA Math – which was clearly the unanimous first choice of the Math Textbook Committee.
AGAINST EVERYDAY MATH’S USE OF NON-STANDARD ALGORITHMS
I am a parent of 2 boys. I have degrees in Math and Computer Science from Caltech and UCLA. Math is a subject that I love, and I hope to pass it on to my sons.
However, I believe that the adoption of Everyday Mathematics goes against this goal. EDM does not place enough emphasis on standard algorithms. I have read the analysis of the 2nd edition of these books. The standard way to add is taught in the 5th grade, which is too late. The standard way to multiple is taught in a watered-down form in the 6th grade. Subtraction and long division are not taught at all. I understand that for the edition that’s currently considered, standard algorithms are only slapped on in the student’s edition, and barely mentioned in the teacher’s edition.
These algorithms are simply too important to ignore for our students’ future education. Many other mathematical concepts are built on top of these standard ones – for example, the multiplication and division of polynomials. If we don’t teach them now, they would have trouble catching up when they are in middle school and high school.
Instead of standard algorithms, EDM demands that students master other less efficient ones. In fact, EDM expects students to learn completely different methods for the same operation at different grade levels. There are 4 for addition, 5 for subtraction, 4 for multiplication, and 2 for division.
By placing emphasis on a shotgun sample of these alternative algorithms, it would only confuse students, especially the poor performing ones that have trouble mastering even a single algorithm. Kids that can learn them would wonder why they should. This is also distracting for teachers and parents.
EDM also claims that “one method is not better than another”. This is simply false. Computer scientists spent a lot of time comparing different algorithms to see which one is better. This is why Donald Knuth put in many different algorithms in his classic computer science textbook, “The Art of Computer Programming”. He was not trying to make students learn different algorithms. He was trying to make them develop the skills to compare different algorithms. This is a point that is completely missed by EDM authors.
I also understand that teachers might provide standard algorithms as a supplement. But this is only done after they have spent valuable time on teaching the ones in EDM. And, we can no longer be sure that every student masters them.
I believe that standard algorithms should be placed before alternatives. They should receive the most attention. Alternative algorithms should only be taught as a supplement to kids that have mastered the standard ones and have an additional desire in understanding how and why it works.
I urge the board to approve our petition – delay the adoption of EDM and consider other textbooks.
Everyday Mathematics uses a “spiral” approach in its organization. While other parent concerns could potentially be addressed, the spiral is an inherent and fundamental part of program.
What is a spiral? Spiraling means that concepts are introduced but not necessarily mastered before new concepts are introduced, then the previously introduced concepts are revisited, etc. In this curriculum, a multitude of ideas is thrown at the kids without giving them time to create a solid groundwork.
This approach goes against the top recommendation of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel’s which says:
“Elementary math text books should have a focused, coherent progression of mathematics learning, with an emphasis on proficiency with key topics … Any approach that continually revisits topics year after year without closure is to be avoided.”
This is exactly the approach taken by Everyday Math. Why would we go against the recommendations of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel? What research does PAUSD have on this that would support going against this recommendation?!
From a process point of view, the Elementary Adoption Committee did not include the Panel’s recommendations in its discussion or criteria. Why wouldn’t you? I feel this is a major concern about the process and that we need to go back and include the Panel’s recommendations in the criteria.
What does EDM materials say about spiraling?
“What we want teachers to do is to bring it up, drop it, bring it up again, let it go, bring it up again, let it go, and then at some point, aim for mastery. That’s built into essentially every part of our program. …
“Everyday Mathematics is a spiraling curriculum with repeated exposure to objectives throughout the year. If teachers are struggling with the pace, they may be trying to teach to mastery instead of “trusting the spiral”. “
Do the teachers like it? No. Spiraling was a major concern brought up by the Adoption committee members. Pittsburg schools recently decided to replace Everyday Mathematics. Spiral was a major concern for the teachers. One teacher said:
“The set up of each lesson in regards to trying to keep the spiral moving teaches mathematical concepts in limited bursts and or chunks. A lesson may focus on addition, then time, then a number story, and data collection. Due to so many different concepts, students do not have the opportunity to truly practice basic skills and become secure in using them.”
Many parents and kids are confused and frustrated by the spiral:
“Our daughter had very negative views of the text (problems were not necessarily relevant to the lesson; lesson explanations were confusing and/or shallow; organization is poor such that, as presented, the students had to hop around the text to get a holistic presentation of any single topic)”
Dear Board Members, if done right, mathematics teaches lifelong skills of clear thinking and problem solving. With Everyday Math’s spiral approach, our kids will internalize that it’s ok to walk away without understanding something. Is that what we want our kids to learn?
In the last month, I talked with dozens of parents whose kids use or used Everyday Math, including many in the districts mentioned in the staff report. I have yet to find a parent who likes the program, and there are many who are strongly negative on it. We can do better here.
Everyday Mathematics has serious flaws, and the process to get us here was flawed. I urge you to look at other options. Thank you.
AGAINST EDM’S RECOMMENDED USE OF CALCULATORS
I understand that the board is considering the approval of Everyday Math, which places heavy emphasis on the use of calculators. To me, this is a serious concern, because I would like to ensure that my kid grow up being fully confident to perform fundamental calculations mentally and using paper and pencil.
By emphasizing the usage of calculators at such an early age, students would learn to rely on it, instead of developing solid fundamental skills. I have heard of horror stories from other teachers and parents about kids that cannot count by 7, as in 7, 14, 21, without using a calculator. I hate to see my kid not being able to do the addition of simple fractions without calculators. They would feel they need calculators beside them all the time.
I don’t understand why students have to consume more time for calculators when teachers often complain they don’t have enough time to cover the grade level materials. Using calculators will further reduce time for mastering more important math skills. Therefore students will have to rely more heavily on calculators later on. Also they don’t need to be taught how to use calculators in this computer age.
I believe that frequent use of calculators and less mastery of math skills may also prevent students from developing number-sense. A teacher once told me that this little girl insisted that 6 times 7 is 279,936. She had hit the exponent key instead of the multiply key, but she insisted that her answer is correct because the calculator told her so. This may be an extreme case, but it does show the nature of the problem we may encounter.
At last, the California Mathematics Framework clearly states, and I quote, “it is imperative that students in the early grades be given every opportunity to develop a facility with basic arithmetic skills without reliance on calculators”.
I believe for this reason, we should not make a decision at this moment. As it is said in our petition, I would like the board to postpone the decision for the textbook adoption for another year.
COST OF EDM ADOPTION IS GROSSLY UNDERESTIMATED BY THE CURRENT RECOMMENDATION
Good evening .. Is spending money on EDM the best thing to do?
Direct cost of EDM to Palo alto school district :
First year cost estimate for EDM is $150K for teacher training. Each teacher will have at least 3 days of training which translates to $90K in substitute teacher pay on days the 200 elementary teachers receive EDM training. The teachers could very well end up requiring much more than the 3 days of training. That brings the grand total of first year EDM spending to $245K.
Poway school has an annual EDM expense of $250K after 5 years of adoption. Newton,MA school district after 10 years of EDM implementation, still requires 8 hours of training for its Kindergarden teachers. So potentially we will need to continue to spend additional money on EDM teacher training for the next 7 years. If we have a new teacher we will have to spend additional money on training.
EDM cost to Palo Alto in subsequent years will be $192K which includes teacher training and cost of substitute teachers.
The district has committed to Noyce Summer Session for teacher training. The costs associated with Noyce Summer Session which is $1,000/teacher, PAUSD has over 200 elementary teachers. So if even if 50% of the teachers attend it would cost $100K. The current recommendation has budgeted $150K over two years.
Where is the money going to come from? In this recession period the Palo Alto school budget deficit will be much greater than the 2.2 million forecast.
Is the plan to cut some other programs?
What is the Direct cost of EDM to parents:
Since parents are not familiar with EDM, they will need to spend additional time or money to help their children.
Indirect cost of EDM to school district:
Addition cost incurred by parents will translate to lower contributions/donations to schools. Parents contributed 1.92 million to PIE
EDM will make Palo Alto less desirable place to live which will lead to lower revenue from property taxes
EDM does not make fiscal sense, so please no fuzzy math.
Data derived from:
Poway school district annual expense in the 5th year around 250k. Since our school district’s enrollment is 38% that of Poway’s which would put annual expense for everyday math at 102k per year. Newton, MA after 10 years of EDM implementation, still requires 8 hours of training for K teachers
Cost of EDM derived from: http://pausd.org/community/board/downloads/item_013.pdf
Cost of substitute teacher: http://www.paloaltoonline.com/weekly/story.php?story_id=2397 Palo alto has over 200 elementary teachers. EDM Training for 3 days a year per teacher, 200 teachers, 150 per day for each subsitute teacher, which amounts to 90K in additional costs for substitute teachers.
EDM Cost estimates derived from http://pausd.org/community/board/downloads/item_013.pdf
PA school budget: http://www.pausd.org/community/about/downloads/BudgetBook.pdf Total for elementary schools 43.318 million
EDM experience in other districts from parents and students
I will be talking about the EDM experience in other districts from parents and students:
Please see the experience from parents and students:
We personally talked to our friend in Chicago area and her daughter was using EDM for five year, please see the following comments from her:
· EDM introduces too many concepts in one year and kids only can master one or two method at most, it caused a lot of frustration every year and both kids and parents are easily get lost all the time. ( My friend has a graduated degree in U.S)
· Every day she needs to spend almost one and half hour to work with her daughter for EDM. She did mentioned if it is traditional text book, she only needs to spend about ten or twenty minutes (She compared with Singapore Math) ( Her daughter’s math skill is one of the top students at her class)
· After five years of EDM, she found out her daughter is lacking basic math skills.
· She mentioned that the program was intended for kids who are more mature than their real age.
· The success for teaching EDM is very dependent on teacher’s good understanding of the whole program. (Does this mean it will equal to two or three times of teacher training compared with SRA or Singapore math? )
“Every Night Math” EDM require one or one and half hour of parent involvement every night. I am a working mom, everyday I pick up my daughter from school around 6:00pm. Then after bath and dinner we only have one hour left before she goes to bed around 9:00pm, then how can we finish reading book, EDM homework and Piano in one hour? If we adopt EDM, shall I quit my job? Then how can we afford the sky-high mortgage in Palo Alto? What if one family has two or three kids in K-5? What if there are some single parent families.
Please, Please, Dear school board members, there are so many families with two parents working outside the home in Palo Alto, Please Please save both parents and Children’s Life and do not approve EDM. I am really begging you, life is already too tough and stressful for parents in Silicon Valley, are we going to make them even worse than ten times now? Please think about the pressure our kids and parents will be facing with EDM!!!!!!!!!!
If you vote “No”, you already saved lots of families already. Trust me, you will be remembered from our hundreds of families and Children!!!!!!!!
Please see other emails from other parents whose kids are using EDM from other school districts:
Please see why a father burst into tears for tutoring EDM with his son:
> – I was a math tutor for 8 years, and a math professor for 7 more, so I’ve taught a lot of math, ranging from the basics (addition, subtraction, fractions) to differential equations and integral calculus.
> – I help my 2nd grade son with his homework every night.
> – Our school district adopted “Everyday Mathematics”.
> – NONE of the 2nd grade teachers at the school use the textbook.
> – The teachers I’ve talked to say that “Everyday Mathematics” is “not a very good book”, which is why they hand out photocopies of math work from other books instead, and don’t teach from the book either. (The kids are doing their work using the old-fashioned algorithms that have worked for hundreds of years).
> – My son was sick for a week, so I decided to give him some homework to keep him up to speed. I tried to find useful problem sets in the “Everyday Mathematics” workbook. There were none. I had to create my own problem sets. Reading through the book, I was nearly brought to tears by the absolute lack of ANY rote learning techniques. The opinion of the authors was clearly that “rote is bad, touchy-feely is good”. Unfortunately, there is indeed value in doing problems enough times that you learn to recognize them. (Integral calculus, anyone? Differential equations?) Having students do double-digit subtraction five or six times and then having them write about how they’d solve problems instead of actually doing them is a severe disservice.
> – A math book that is useless to teachers, useless to parents, and useless as a source of problem sets, seems like an awfully big waste of money.
Comments from PaloAltooneline:
My nephew uses Everyday Math in his school in PA and it is not helpful. My brother cannot help his son with his math homework because it is so ridiculous. My sister-in-law who is a math teacher with 30 yrs. experience and currently advises on curriculums has told me that Singapore Math is excellent. I have also heard this from other soures. I don’t know who is pushing Everyday Math, but it is really not good (lousy)…
With Everyday Math, children will not be able to go to the store and calculate in their heads the price of a sale item on sale for 30% off.
I have heard Everyday Math referred to as “Every Night Math” because every night parents are teaching their children the math they should be learning in school or driving them to tutoring centers to supplement their education.
SERIOUS ISSUES WITH COMMUNITY OUTREACH, LACK OF INVOLVEMENT OF PTA COUNCIL IN FORMATION OF THE COMMITTEE AND UNBALANCED REPRESENTATION OF VARIOUS GROUPS IN THE COMMITTEE
Dear Board members, School staff and Community members,
For the next 3 minutes, I would like to request the 5 board members’ undivided attention. Because of your hard work, Palo Alto School District has earned an incredibly positive reputation of taking sound decisions for the benefit of our school kids.
The Math Textbook Selection will be an important decision that you will make individually in the next 2 weeks. There are a plethora of reasons on why a large community of over 380 Palo Alto wide residents is recommending via a petition that you vote on postponing the selection for one more year. I’d like to focus your attention on those reasons that relate to process & communication.
I sincerely respect the time and hard work that the committee has dedicated to this process, however there were four major gaps that should peak your interest
- The first one was lack of wider communication of this process to parents and inviting them into the Selection Committee. The only invitation and notification of this process was limited to an inclusion of a flier within student’s Friday Folders. This created a major issue of under representation of parents in the committee. Given the importance of this matter, this should have raised a red flag. There was an opportunity to increase awareness. However, no further effort was taken to solicit parent’s participation.
- The second reason to postpone this important selection is for you to ensure compliance of your Internal Policy AR6161 which states that “At least two to five parents should be included and PTA Council Exec Board should be consulted…” Pls. note that the PTA Council president, Mr. Dan Dykwel, confirmed that PTA was not consulted during the selection process. Four parents applied and one was rejected due to two parents being from same school. That was strange because parents were already underrepresented, whereas there were many teachers from the same school. These three parents could not justifiably represent the wide spectrum of Palo Alto students that include GATE students, Special ED and ELL students and students from different socio-economic and diverse backgrounds. These 3 parents were not given an opportunity and time to solicit any feedback from wider community. The only general parent input that was solicited prior to committee’s recommendation, turned into a fist to five battle. Clearly, more time was needed and parents felt left out in the decision process.
- The third reason was the miscommunication between McGrawHill and Committee regarding SRA which resulted in elimination of a favored program that did not get piloted. The fact that McGraw Hill is willing to support an SRA pilot, my request is for you to consider options on how that can be fulfilled without derailing the entire process, possibly by voting for additional time.
- The fourth reason for you to seek additional time is a shortage of independent research and analysis on textbook comparison. Especially, when such a controversial decision is being requested from you, you have the right to ask for deeper analysis that supports why National Math Panel’s recommendations were ignored and request rebuttals of the wide criticisms of EDM. It is no surprise that additional time and communication will reduce most of the discontent.
There is absolutely no requirement on your side to enforce a new math textbook this year.
By voting for a deferral, you are not just requesting additional time but you are supporting:
- Increased collaboration between district staff and parents that represent a wide spectrum of students from different socio-economic and diverse backgrounds.
- There is a lot of research on EDM that the committee would like to share with community and a lot of anecdotal data that parents wants to share with committee. You will achieve that goal by requesting for additional time.
In the past, your decisions have brought Palo Alto credibility and reputation as one of the best school districts in the country. Your votes have increased collaboration between educators, students, parents and community as a whole.
Let me say this as clearly as I can: This Math Adoption process is NOT a philosophical war.
Fortunately, in this case, it’s just a lack of communication due to lack of time. Your vote to buy more time will fix this and provide an opportunity to increase collaboration in this community for the good of our kids.
I want begin with saying that we all appreciate the dedication, time and efforts of the Elementary Math Adoption Committee, Members of the District Staff, Superintendent Skelly and the Board Members.
I would like to bring three main topics to the attention of the Board
- Issues with EDM
- ESL and Special Needs Students
- Process issues
We all are aware of the fundamental issues surrounding Everyday Math: use of non-standard algorithms, spiraling and use of calculators. Everyday Mathematics requires at least one hour a day and Andy Issacs, one of the authors of the program, recommends 1.25 to 1.5 hour per day for the program to work. In addition, the district is promising to spend additional time on basic skills and standard algorithms. Where is the time going to come from? What will be dropped from other subjects in the curriculum?
We have to be concerned about the “grand canyon” size gap between 5th and 6th grade math proficiency.
Some of us that manage large financial budgets are concerned that the proposed 2-year $150K implementation budget is too low. Experiences of Dr. Skelly’s prior district Poway shows that the actual costs will run over $100K annually. What else will we have to cut to make up for these additional costs?
Everyone agrees that EDM uses spiraling. Spiraling is known to frustrate children with special needs. How is EDM going to work for children of special needs? We don’t know, because the Committee had one representative with Special Needs experience who was not even present at the meetings when pilot results were shared or when the Committee voted for EDM.
EDM has a very heavy language component. How are our ESL students going to do with EDM?
The experiences of other districts have not been stellar. There is more evidence of districts that have abandoned the program than evidence attributing success in mathematics to the use of EDM. Expert mathematicians from UC Berkeley and Stanford have openly voiced their concerns about EDM.
We all know that the Committee wanted to pilot SRA, but we narrowed our list down to two programs based on the decision of the Western Regional Sales VP of McGraw Hill who also runs EDM division. She did not know that our Committee wanted to pilot SRA.
Our Math Adoption Committee has a fantastic background and experience in teaching mathematics. But the parents in this community also have world-class education and mathematics. If they are so concerned about the adoption of a specific program, I believe that we should listen. Let us not rush in. We don’t have to. Delay the decision on selecting a math program. Pilot another program or two. Let us over-communicate. Let us leverage our parent community and arrive at a decision together.
AGAINST SPIRALING ( Fun Speech )
Imagine the Every Day Math approach applied to Driver’s Education.
The goal wouldn’t be to master driving but to explore all the different ways of driving.
So on Sunday, you would drive a Corolla.
Monday: 4WD SUV
Wednesday: Semi truck
Saturday: Lawn mower
But wait, there’s spiraling. So you would do this all over again the next week but on a mountain road. And so on.
After 6 weeks of this, you would get your driver’s license and could apply for a job as a cab driver. Problem is, you’d be competing with a lot of people who learned on one car but learned to do that well, driving in city traffic every day. Any guess who would get the job?