Weekly Math Updates

March 1, 2007


  • Program Selection
  • Deseret News Article
  • Legislative Correction
  • Poster Project

Program Selection

Hi all,
As you are all aware, there are principals within the district boundaries who are stating they are only going to offer patrons a choice of the 2 programs the district committee selected. Some principals apparently are stating they will be just setting out all 8 programs for patrons to select from (bad idea). Some schools will be having the community council and/or PTA vote on the program while others will be letting every patron walking in the door vote on a program. In short, this will be a mess. The reason for our mess is that the district created one single rubric to determine the math programs they would choose. It was a "balanced" rubric, meaning "standards-based," meaning non-traditional. That's why Saxon didn't make it onto the final selection though the committee saw fit to have it on their list of 8 programs knowing it would never make it through, but they could tell us all that they considered it.

Now a couple of things. First, you need to know that Vern Henshaw, the superintendent, told all the principals of the elementary schools on Thursday, February 22nd, that they were allowed to choose from any of the programs the district committee looked at. The choice is there and it's up to you to have your principal hear your voice that you would like a couple more options added to your selection pool. My recommendations are Saxon and Houghton Mifflin Math, NOT Houghton Mifflin Math Expressions (which is a fuzzier program).

Saxon is a known quantity. It just works. With the growth of the district and Utah hiring 44,000 teachers over the next decade, it's a bullet-proof program that gets results for every demographic when teachers are trained how to teach it. That said, some teachers hate it because they feel it doesn't let them "teach" to their own style. A program will no doubt be more successful if everyone buys into it and even if you get a lot of resistance and cannot get your principal to put Saxon or H.M. on the table, the other choices are still far better than what we've been dealing with these past several years.

If you have a principal that says he/she will put all 8 options on the table, tell him/her that's silly and just a couple of strong programs should be added to the selection. Saxon is an obvious choice since 8 of the 10 top performing private schools in the state use it and most of the charters do as well and they're all top scoring schools. Saxon also works for low scoring schools which I have previously sent links to the California and Maryland success stories wherein 100% of the schools that switched to it had major gains.

Once there are stronger programs on the table, if the teachers are eager to use one, they'll be eager to prove it works. I'm not Saxon-or-die, I'm in favor of a strong program that keeps us on pace with the international community. I think both of these two will do that nicely, though I haven't seen the Hougton Mifflin up close yet but have heard some good things from folks and seen solid math problems online. I also think these will have the best chance of meeting the new state standards that will be coming out.

You also need to know (in case anyone challenges you on this) that Saxon DOES meet the state math core or else these other schools wouldn't be so eager to use it. Do not let anyone tell you it doesn't. It does in a big way.

So what should you do right now? Contact your community council, PTA, and especially your principal and request that both Saxon and Houghton Mifflin Math be the only programs added to the selection process. Take a positive approach and tell the principal the nice things that you'll do to support math nights and be more involved in the school if he/she will allow these programs to be on the table for the selection process. Your principal has some measure of autonomy on this so you'll need to press for this in your own area. There may yet be district intervention, but don't count on it at all. There are other things happening that may significantly impact the district but it may not affect anything in time for this process. Don't give up, just be persistent. Email, call, and get others in your area to contact these folks as well.

The strength of our schools depends on having strong state standards, strong teachers, strong programs, and committed parents. There is no reason Alpine School District can't be the top performing district in Utah within a few short years and no reason why Utah can't be the top performing state in that time as well.

Deseret News Article

Today I received word of this timely Deseret News article.

Schools' Grades Mixed

"The chamber gave Utah a D for "truth in advertising," ranking the state low because it deems more students proficient than are actually recognized as proficient by national standards."

No way! How can this be? Hmmm, perhaps this is the answer: (click for "Truth in Humor").

Here's a link to all the states' reports though there are some serious issues with WA and CA which make me wonder about the full scores being assigned across the board. WA has major deficiencies not reflected in the scores and CA has major illegal alien issues. CA has better national scores than we do and yet they're shown getting an F while Utah gets a C for academic achievement. I know this is more than just math though so perhaps I'm just being too narrow on this analysis.


Legislative Correction

Someone who is paying better attention to things than me :) sent me this update to the legislative passings I sent out about yesterday.

Hi Oak,

You need to double check the bill contents on the bills you have been following.

HB 240 was amended so additional pay is not a consideration. This allows teachers with a math endorsement to apply for a scholarship.

SB80 was changed drastically and superseded by HB164. All of the charter school items were removed from SB80. (See SB80S03)

HB164 does provide a small increase in funding for charter schools over last year but does not move ahead like SB80 was proposing. They allowed more charter schools to open next year, up to 5000 more students, but no limit on the number of schools, which is good.

Poster Project

Only $70 needed on the poster project now. Act fast or you'll miss your chance to tell your kids and grandkids you participated in getting the "In God We Trust" posters into Alpine District schools. :)


Oak Norton

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