Date: Aug 31, 2000 3:21 PM
Author: Wayne Bishop
Subject: Re: Ruth Parker in Mountain View
At 07:59 AM 8/31/00 -0700, Ruth Parker wrote:
>The following has been sent to the Mountain View Voice for publication.
>Perhaps, Wayne will post this to all of the listserves to which
>he posted Ms. Hobel Schultz's misleading opinion piece.
Glad to oblige. I do have some questions, though, through the list if it stays
up long enough or privately for posting to these other lists if not.
> During the Mountain View session I explicitly called
>for daily drill focused on number computations.
Your book talks about the importance of student-developed algorithms even
though Shelli's portfolio indicates that she felt much more comfortable using
the algorithms she had been taught earlier. Did your MV presentation point out
the importance of direct instruction of standard algorithms for many, probably
even most, students? Also, I saw no evidence of anything close to a
recognition of daily drill in her portfolio. Would you explain why that might
>Participants saw plenty of evidence of my fifth graders
>computing with fractions in the student work I shared during the talk.
I saw almost none in Shelli's fifth grade portfolio, a bit of addition of easy
fractions (denominators 2, 4, and maybe 8, unfortunately I loaned out the book
and do not have it available) but no multiplication or division of fractions at
all. Would you explain how that occurred or has the fraction orientation of
fifth grade evolved from that year with teacher Cathy and student Shelli?
>I have never stated, as Ms. Hobel Schultz claims, that standardized
>tests are not important. Norm-referenced standardized tests, however,
>guarantee that there will always be fully half of our students and
>roughly half of our schools at or below the 50th percentile and thus
>considered inadequate. High-stakes norm-referenced testing is
>detrimental to education and children as teachers experience
>increased pressures to just teach to the test.
Would you please explain what you mean by the first sentence in relation to
everything you say about standardized testing thereafter? Is it, perhaps, the
"norm-referenced" to which you object? If so we are in rare agreement on
grade-level examinations. Do you applaud the California standards-based
"augmentation" exams instead, as do I?
In some sense, almost by definition, "fully half of our students and roughly
half of our schools at or below the 50th percentile". Would you explain for
our audience how the entire Inglewood Unified district could come in at the
72nd %-ile in second grade and the 66th in third? Is the this the affluence of
the district, the racial makeup, the language fluency, or what do you think?
Regarding teachers experiencing "increased pressures to just teach to the
test", I do not doubt that some administrators do apply such pressure. They
are ignorant and should be reprimanded, fired if they persist. Good teachers
do not *just* teach to the test and, in large part, do not teach to them at
all. Their students will do well if they have been assigned students who are
prepared at the level they should be.
Do you have evidence that "High-stakes norm-referenced testing is detrimental
to education" or is this just a statement of personal faith? To what do you
credit the positive trends in California mathematics performance or do you deny
that these improved numbers are an indication of mathematical progress? The
greatest increase has been in schools and districts that have embraced the
state's curricula that was approved to meet the state standards, such as
Bennett-Kew Elementary and Sacramento Unified.
>The only math program I have ever publicly advocated for, a
>K-5 program called Investigations in Number, Data and Space, ...
Would you tell us why you would be recommending a mathematics program that was
not submitted for SBE approval? Do you believe that it actually does meet the
California Mathematics Content Standards? If so, on what do you base that
assessment? If not, do you make this belief clear to parents in your popular
>The standards fairly well ensure that education in California
>will continue to be "a mile wide and an inch deep"
On what do you base this assessment? Which topics are under-stressed in your
judgement? And what topics should be eliminated or down-played in order to
accommodate this additional depth? The Fordham Foundation report ranked the CA
standards above even those of Japan. Do you consider the Japanese mathematics
standards to outline a program that would be "a mile wide and an inch deep"?
If not, please explain for us why one does and one does not.
>Even Liping Ma, whose work is supported by all sides of the so
>called "math wars", has repeatedly stated that she opposes the
>notion of using the Singapore, Japanese, or any other country's
>curricula in the U.S.
Are you sure that this is an accurate representation of her words? My
interpretation was that what she says is that she does not recommend their use
(nor any other that I know of, but could be wrong), which is quite different
from recommending that they not be used.
>Why do many Asian educators come here to study what we do?
Well, I'm sure there are lots of reasons. A paid trip to the U.S. is reason
enough for some, I assume. I do not see *any* of these countries adopting
MathLand, Quest 2000, Investigations in Number, Data and Space, etc., for use
in their countries. Do you?
Thanks in advance,
The following has been sent to the Mountain View Voice for publication.
Perhaps, in fairness, Wayne will post this to all of the listserves to which
he posted Ms. Hobel Schultz's misleading opinion piece.
In her Guest Opinion, "District parents were poorly served by expert's math
presentation", Vicki Hobel Schultz wrote a false and misleading report of a
talk I gave in Mountain View on August 22nd.
There were nearly sixty attendees at the open public session. All
participants were given an opportunity to provide written feedback at the
end of the session. Most participants responded, yet only three negative
responses were turned in -- those of Ms. Hobel Schultz and the two women
sitting at her table and talking to her throughout the session. Ms. Hobel
Schultz's column is unrepresentative of the Mountain View community's
response to the session and only serves to misinform the public. Although
her column is inaccurate and misleading, it has already been posted to
several list-serves where it is being used to discredit my work and the work
of others who are very committed to improving mathematics instruction for
For the past five years I have worked to help school districts learn to work
with their public. I do so because I do not believe we will have the kind
of schools we need until the public is brought fully to the table. To my
knowledge, I have never laughed at my "detractors". Indeed, I welcome
constructive dialogue about what should constitute good mathematics
instruction for our children. What I do not welcome is Ms. SchultzÃÂ¹s
unsubstantiated and very public personal attacks and mischaracterization of
what was presented.
Ms. Hobel Schultz misrepresents my position on arithmetic. During the
Mountain View session I explicitly called for daily drill focused on number
computations. Children need to understand a variety of algorithms, have
facility with numbers and understand number relationships if they are to
make sense of numerical information in the world around them. One cannot be
a powerful user of mathematics without facility with number. Participants
saw plenty of evidence of my fifth graders computing with fractions in the
student work I shared during the talk.
I have never stated, as Ms. Hobel Schultz claims, that standardized tests
are not important. Norm-referenced standardized tests, however, guarantee
that there will always be fully half of our students and roughly half of our
schools at or below the 50th percentile and thus considered inadequate.
High-stakes norm-referenced testing is detrimental to education and children
as teachers experience increased pressures to just teach to the test. The
multi-billion dollar textbook/testing industry is driving educational policy
in this country to the detriment of mathematics education.
IÃÂ¹m sure Ms. Hobel Schultz meant to say that the Johns Hopkins Center for
Talented Youth requires elementary children to be in the top 3% rather than
the top 97%. I would guess that roughly 3% of our nationÃÂ¹s youth are so
gifted in the area of mathematics that special programs that provide unique
and challenging opportunities for them to pursue mathematics are
appropriate. There are ways to identify these children, however, that donÃÂ¹t
at the same time indict one out of three of our nationÃÂ¹s children to scores
below the 34th percentile and to the resulting low expectations and
diminished futures that accompany such scores. Norm-referenced standardized
tests by their very design guarantee low scores. This is an abominable way
to measure the progress of our children and our schools.
Ms. Hobel SchultzÃÂ¹s charge that I advocate a math program that will keep
Mountain View students from college is especially troubling. The only math
program I have ever publicly advocated for, a K-5 program called
Investigations in Number, Data and Space, is currently used in districts
like Palo Alto, San Mateo, Oak Park and Las Virgenes as well as many other
districts throughout the nation. Students from these districts score well
on state and national tests. To imply that this program will keep children
from the university is just a wild charge meant to inflame. There is no
evidence to support this absurd claim.
I am not familiar with the test scores of either Los Altos or Mountain View.
However, if we are using the wrong measures, and I believe that California
is with the SAT 9 and the STAR augmentation, then we should not pretend that
children will be well prepared for their future.
I have never blamed our teachers or students for the state of mathematics
education today. I would challenge Ms. Hobel Schultz to substantiate this
claim. If she cannot, then she should print a retraction and an apology.
Ms. Hobel Schultz states that the California math standards have received
critical acclaim. It would be equally true to state that CaliforniaÃÂ¹s math
standards have been widely criticized both nationally and internationally by
mathematicians, mathematics educators and teachers, as little more than a
long laundry list of abstract skills pushed earlier into the grades. The
standards fairly well ensure that education in California will continue to
be "a mile wide and an inch deep" ÃÂ a state of affairs decried in reports of
the Third International Math and Science Study (TIMSS).
Ms. Hobel Schultz states that when she asked me about Singapore math, I
said, "what was good for Singapore might not be so good for us because,
after all, they are different over there." This is NOT what I said in
response to her question. I said that improving mathematics education in
this country is a far more complex issue than simply taking a textbook from
Singapore or any other country and implementing it here in the U.S. Even
Liping Ma, whose work is supported by all sides of the so called "math
wars", has repeatedly stated that she opposes the notion of using the
Singapore, Japanese, or any other country's curricula in the U.S. though she
clearly believes, as we all do, that we can learn from examining them.
Regarding Ms. Hobel SchultzÃÂ¹s statement about the offensiveness of my view
of children and families from Singapore, I offered NO view. I know very
little about education or life there, so it would make no sense for me to
give any description at all. It is a FACT that cultures differ. Why do
many Asian educators come here to study what we do? Because they view us,
perhaps accurately, as having some strengths where they have self-perceived
weaknesses, most notably in creative, original thinking. I doubt they are
going to take our programs and adopt them on a wholesale basis and neither
should we do so with theirs.
It is a shame that Ms. Hobel SchultzÃÂ¹s inflammatory review has been given
such prominence. It does not represent the communityÃÂ¹s response and it has
done a disservice to local dialogue about mathematics education.
Bio: Ruth Parker is a former classroom teacher of grades 1 through 9. She
currently works for the Mathematics Education Collaborative, a non-profit
organization founded to help school districts learn to work together with
their parents and public.