GRAMA Request on Supporting Studies
Having grown weary of hearing the phrase, "all the studies show this is the best way to teach," I filed a GRAMA with Alpine School District on 9/5/08 requesting the following information:
"1) I would like a list of all the studies relied on by Alpine School District to implement Investigations math, Connected math, and Interactive math.
2) I would like a list of what outside experts you received information from and relied on to make decisions concerning these programs. Please include any materials they provided to you to aid in your decision making process."
On 9/19/08 I went to the district offices and picked up the results of the GRAMA. It was a thick packet of goods and several books. I was impressed that they had been able to produce so much documentation for me.
However, as I later opened up the packet and saw what it contained, it was almost entirely the process engaged in in 2007 to replace Investigations math, not anything from the original selection in 2000, and absolutely no studies supporting any of the programs they implemented. In the end, there was only a single sheet of paper that contained some information related to my request. (click here for a pdf)
The list contained 6 book titles and 2 outside experts. Of the books, only 2 were published in or prior to the year 2000 so the others are immediately invalidated. The 2 experts are both math educators, one was at BYU at the time of selection and the other at UVSC but is now at BYU.
GRAMA Item 1--The Books
Interestingly, one of the books listed was the "NCTM Principles and Standards for School Mathematics" published in 2000. The NY Times did a review of this book on 4/13/2000. (here's a link to a pdf) The 2nd and 3rd paragraph of the review state:
"A decade ago, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics galvanized math educators from kindergarten through high school by preaching that it was more important for students to understand how they arrived at an answer, rather than the answer itself. In the process, they de-emphasized such basic computational skills as memorization of multiplication tables. As their proposals were put in place by hundreds of school boards, parents and even some teachers and university mathematicians began to rebel.
Yesterday, after being on the defensive for years, the council issued a revision at its national convention
here that critics and even some supporters of the old curriculum said was a retreat. While not abandoning its
original agenda, the council added strong language to its groundbreaking 1989 standards, emphasizing
accuracy, efficiency and basic skills like memorizing the multiplication tables."
This is pretty astouding. ASD justifies the use of Investigations and the dropping of the times tables from the curriculum, using a book that says children need to know their times tables. Amazing!!!
It is well known that when ASD implemented Investigations math they did so in a militant way confiscating textbooks at four known schools (four so far) and threatening teachers' contracts if they didn't follow the new curriculum precisely including not teaching the times tables to students. Numerous teachers have expressed to me that they used to close their doors to teach the children the times tables.
The other book they gave me that could possibly have influenced their decision was "The Teaching Gap" by James Stigler and James Hiebert. I haven't read through the whole book, but I did glance through the index for words like "Investigations," "curriculum," "standards," "strategies," etc... I also read through several sections and found this information interesting:
Pg. 154 mentions it makes sense to have a school district on the same curriculum (that was the goal of ASD and it's a good goal. Getting teachers on the same program would bring many benefits---if it's a solid program...)
These pages contain a fascinating thought that again contradicts the actions of the district. On these pages a division is described between researchers of teaching, and the teachers themselves. Here are a few tidbits. Charles Judd was John Dewey's (the socialist) replacement at the University of Chicago. Judd wanted to make education more scientific.
"The way to do this, they said, was to divide the labor: Researchers would discover the best methods and teachers would implement them in classrooms.
...Research became a specially designated activity, distinct from teaching, and researchers became differentiated from classroom teachers. They even located themselves in different places--researchers moved to universities, and teachers stayed in schools.
The same distinction...continues today, perhaps even more strongly. ...Researchers work on better ways to teach and then hope that their findings will be applied by classroom teachers.
Because of the high status usually assigned to acquiring knowledge and the low status assigned to applying it, this distinction strongly reinforces the low professional status of teachers. And this is a distinction created and sustained within the educational community!
What is most damaging about the distinction, however, is that is prevents our country from implementing a system, sustained by teachers, for improving teaching."
This is significant because the only people ASD relied on to implement their math programs were math educators in the "research" field. There weren't any studies and they didn't ask teachers what they wanted to do. Education colleges are indoctrinating their students that constructivist programs are fully supported by studies and while these "research educators" aren't in the classroom with students to test their theories, they push them out to schools with their PhD in math education behind it and district officials who aren't in the classroom tell the teachers they need to do it. The failure of this was never more obvious than what was recently exposed at BYU when a couple of math educators tried to teach an honors calculus class with fuzzy math techniques.
GRAMA Item 2--The Experts
I wanted to know the extent of the involvement of the experts ASD relied on so I sent the following email to Drs. Damon Bahr and Eula Monroe on 9/19/08. Dr. Bahr was also the primary expert during the 2007 selection to replace Investigations.
I recently received information from a GRAMA request from Alpine School District in which they listed you as an outside expert who helped them select Investigations Math, Connected Math, and Interactive Math. I am asking you to affirm that you did make these recommendations to Alpine School District and, if so, do you still stand by these recommendations. I also request information about your training in mathematics (not mathematics education).
I received a joint reply back from Drs. Bahr and Monroe on 9/25/08:
Dear Mr. Norton:
We have received your request concerning the degree of our involvement with the Alpine School District textbook selection process and about our mathematical preparation. Both of us have made presentations to individuals involved with the selection process in the Alpine District, but the purpose of those presentations was to share research relating to the teaching and learning of mathematics, not to recommend a specific textbook or program. As to our preparation, our curriculum vitae are on file with the District.
Eula Ewing Monroe
Damon L. Bahr
I thanked them for their reply and then sent this email after I examined their Vitaes:
Damon and Eula,
I have read through your curriculum vitas online and I can see you are both very well published and have obviously done a lot of work in your field. Very commendable. I would like to know more about your actual mathematics backgrounds though. I see you are both very heavy in the pedagogy side of education, but I'd like to know about your content knowledge and what levels you attained.
Damon, you list getting a math minor at BYU. Can you please tell me what math courses you took from a math department in college?
Eula, I don't see anything on your vita regarding any upper math classes. Can you tell me what math department classes you have taken? Have you ever had a college level calculus class?
These answers are important for me to understand the nature of the reliance Alpine School District placed upon your recommendations. I greatly appreciate your responses.
Today is October 13th and they have still not responded with any additional background about their credentials.Clearly ASD has not done any research on these programs. In December 2005, I received an email from one of the board members telling me if I ever got "open minded" to please look into the ARC Center study and see how Investigations really works for students. My quest has always been one for truth so I did read the study and it stated Investigations math was the very best program for all students in all demographics and all circumstances. Really a remarkable conclusion. The only little problem with the study was it was paid for by TERC, the company that produces Investigations math.On January 10th, 2006, I presented these findings to the ASD board at their public meeting. I challenged them to find me just one study that would support the programs they were using by the end of that month. Since I'd been at odds with the district and created quite a stir, and represented a lot of people, I offered to send the study out to my email list. One board member told me the request was fair. As the month went on and there was no communication from the district I reminded them of this challenge. At the end of the month, the board member that told me the request was fair, then informed me that the board and district personnel were very busy and didn't have time to be getting me a study just to satisfy my desire to see one.
Nearly three years later, I'm still waiting, even after filing a GRAMA request for one. The plain and simple truth is, they have nothing. They have committed intellectual fraud. The disrict has deceived the board and the board has been the unwitting accomplices of the district. They have experimented on tens of thousands of students who now fill the remedial math classes at universities. The future they could have had is forever gone because publicly elected board members chose to ignore their oath of office and duty to protect the public in an effort to be apologists for the district. You must vote them out of office.
This is the legacy of the Alpine School District in an email I just received.
Five years ago, our daughter was entering Oak Canyon Jr. High as one of the first group of investigative math students being taught in elementary school. When the math was introduced to the parents in elementary school two years earlier, the question was asked, “What will happen to them when they get to junior high?” The district simply said that they would be placed back into the regular math classes but they would do just fine.Well, our daughter didn’t do just fine. The first report card came home and she had failed the math class along with almost all of the other kids from this same teacher. As a concerned mother bear mom, I marched to the school to give this teacher a piece of my mind and let her know that she was not a good teacher. When I left that day, the teacher had given me a piece of her mind. As soon as I mentioned that I hated the investigative math, she rose from her seat and shut the door. She told me that 90% of the students in her math classes were also failing due to investigative math. She said that they did not know their times tables, fractions, how to tell analog time nor do simple division. She said that the principal had told her to restructure her grading so that not so many kids failed. I asked her how that would help my daughter learn math. She informed me that in order to teach these kids the junior high math she was going to have to step back and teach them the basics that they should have learned in elementary school. Needless to say, that teacher did not return to teach math at the junior high the next year and my daughter spent the next three years taking the same math class over and over again. To this day, now a junior in high school, she still hates math. The other day she said “I hate math. I would have straight A’s if I were not getting a bad grade in math.”