Some folks don't believe in democracy.
And it is extremely disappointing that some of these individuals hold senior administrative positions in the Seattle School District.
Last week, the Seattle School Board voted to adopt an excellent math curriculum for Seattle's elementary schools (Math in Focus). An American version of Singapore math (Singapore is one of the top two countries in the world in terms of math performance of its students) that has PROVEN itself superior in tests at local schools (such as Seattle's Schmitz Park Elementary, see information here and here).
But several Seattle School District administrators are playing an unethical, and probably illegal, game of trying to undermine the school board decision by encouraging and organizing principals to push for waivers from using Math in Focus in order to adopt an inferior textbook, enVision.
There is a battle going on in the district for quality math, a conflict that will decide the futures of hundreds of thousands of kids over the next decade.
On one hand, there are those who believe in discovery math, lots of writing about math, the use of calculators in early grades, group work, and the belief that the Gates Foundation funded Common Core standards will fix the failures in our children's math education. These are folks pushing enVision, and including several Seattle district administrators and "curriculum specialists." (many of the latter have no math or technical background I should note).
Then there are those that believe in direct instruction, learning of basic algorithms, practice to masterly, and basing teaching practices based on curriculum that have been PROVEN to work. These individuals are pushing for Math in Focus. I am sympathetic to this approach and so is the majority of the school board.
During the past 6 months, the Seattle School Administration has overseen the process of selecting a new elementary textbook. They began by packing the review committee with similarly minded folks. Then the process was designed to minimize public commentary and when the public comments were overwhelmingly in favor of Math in Focus, they were ignored.
In the end the committee recommended three books, with enVision first and Math in Focus third. One reason why the committee down-rated Math in Focus was because it pushed kids along faster than Common Core. Many of the school board members, elected in part based on their platforms to ensure quality math in Seattle, selected Math on Focus, based on a wide range of objective data and the overwhelming preferences of Seattle residents that examined and comments on the materials.
But as described in the Seattle School Blog, several in the Seattle Public Schools administration have been putting pressure on principals to request waivers to use enVision, in direct contradiction to the School Board decision. Without telling the school board, eleven elementary schools have begun illegally piloting enVision. And that is just the tip of the iceberg of how Seattle School District administrators have been working behind the backs of the school board. Some of them should be asked to leave the district if what appears to be happening can be supported with written evidence.
In any case, it is very important that Seattle elementary school parents (and those who will soon have children in them), immediately contact their elementary school principals expressing their strong preference for Math in Focus. And emails to Superintendent Banda would be useful as well. And if they are getting pressured by their principals, the emails or notes should be forwarded to Seattle School Board members.