A judge in Seattle Washington has ruled that the Seattle Public School District made a bad decision when it selected the Discovering series for High School Math. In issuing her decision the judge stated “The court finds, based upon a review of the entire administrative record, that there is insufficient evidence for any reasonable Board member to approve the selection of the Discovering series.”
Seattle public schools began implementing constructivist texts for math in their elementary schools in the 90’s. They started with elementary schools , moved onto middle school, and then voted this summer to move onto high school with the Discovering Math Series. The district argued that the approach used to teach math needed to be aligned vertically, that constructivist practices needed to be followed from K – 12, for kids to be successful.
But success wasn’t happening in Seattle. Test scores for every demographic group in virtually every grade declined in Seattle public schools after the constructivist program was implemented – and the district wanted to expand that approach using an untested program to High Schools.
Why does this matter to us in PWC Virginia? Because our school district is following Seattle’s mistake.
PWCS began implementing TERC Investigations, a constructivist / standards based / reform math program in it’s public schools three years ago. The initial adoption was just for a constructivist text in grades K – 5 and was mandated countywide so that every school and every elementary grade would be in alignment. Middle Schools and High Schools were left to continue to follow the traditional programs they’d been following.
This fall the first batch of 100% Investigations students will be moving onto middle school. For the past year we’ve been hearing rumbles that Connected Math, TERC’s Middle School cousin, is slowing and quietly working its way into PWC Middle Schools. The county appears to be working to vertically align instruction in all PWC schools to follow the Investigations approach.
Like Seattle, claiming that Investigations is a success in PWCS is a stretch. The Year 3 Report, which the district steadfastly refuses to present to the public in a school board meeting, demonstrates that pass rates are unchanged overall and that certain demographic groups have not made the expected progress. Our analysis shows that our rank in the state is down sharply.
If our county repeats Seattle’s mistake, as it has thus far, and expands constructivism into Middle School and High School despite a preponderance of evidence that such an approach undermines student learning, will a judge have to step in and force the district to act responsibly, as a judge just did in Seattle?