Testimony by teacher Pat Bailey re: TERC Investigations Mathematics Program

Below is a sequence of four testimonies by Patricia Bailey, an elementary school teacher, to the Seattle School Board opposing the imposition of the TERC mathematics curriculum.

TERC #1--Testimony to the Seattle School Board, Oct 20, 2004

My name is Patricia Bailey and I am a second grade teacher here in the Seattle School District. Seattle Administrators are apparently in the process of making the TERC Math Curriculum mandatory for Seattle Elementary Schools. A more unworthy curriculum could not be found.

We would laugh at anyone who said he/she wanted to become a pianist, but refused to practice. Yet well-placed practice is exactly what is missing at every juncture from TERC. We would also roll our eyes at the wanna-be pianist who refused to take instruction from the teacher. Yet systematic instruction from the teacher is exactly what is missing from this program. The children are supposed to "discover" and "invent" their own methods of solving problems. Imagine spending $55,000 a year on a piano teacher who let the children "discover" how to play the piano. It would be an outrage--and so is TERC.

To facilitate TERC, I was given a 9 volume set of large manuals. To confound anything, be sure to put it in 9 volumes. It takes several years to ferret out the nuggets of worthwhile material buried in the time-wasting busyness of TERC. It is ironic that those who say we learn by discovering, come out with 9 volumes of direct instruction to teach teachers.

The first question in the assessment book for second grade is a prime example of the lack of logic in this program. The question is open ended, but asks the teacher to look for specific information not asked in the question! TERC mires the children in mind-reading and the teacher in baseless speculation.

In the assessment book for teachers, one would expect at least some objective answers to math assessments, but there are none. Indicators are given of what the teacher is to look for because this is a PROCESS-ORIENTED program, not ANSWER-ORIENTED. This is heady stuff for those who drink the TERC kool-aid. These same reformers who are pushing TERC would not be so sanguine if the engine in their car was off a few centimeters here and there, but the manufacturing PROCESS was good. I dare say they would not care a wit about the process. They'd demand precise calculations.

Fortunately for India, its educational system cannot afford experimental reform programs like TERC. India, which continues to use traditional math curricula, has well-prepared math students who are hired for our technical jobs. It is interesting that big corporations are pushing the reform agenda which dumbs down our students, seemingly giving the corporations an excuse to look elsewhere for technical workers.

A full critique of the TERC program can be found on www.mathematicallycorrect.com, an internet site founded by Berkeley University professors to advise and correct the alarming adoption of programs like TERC into the public schools. Administrators who are concerned about disproportionality, would do well to heed their warning. It is experimental programs like TERC that leave huge gaps which are especially damaging to children of disadvantaged parents. Their parents cannot provide remediation for them like many middle class parents do.

TERC #2--Testimony to the Seattle School Board, Nov 3, 2004

My name is Patricia Bailey and I am a second grade teacher in the Seattle School District. I spoke two weeks ago regarding some of the irrational aspects of TERC math.

TERC is being billed as the curriculum that will help students pass the WASL. This is hardly a recommendation. The WASL sidesteps fundamental skills that children need to know and emphasizes fringe skills that children could very well do without. It's like emphasizing the nifty spoked wheels on a car and ignoring the motor. Children who pass the math WASL do not necessarily have the skills they need to be successful.

It has become more and more evident that the hand that controls the WASL controls education in this state. Let's follow the money. The state designed a quirky math test, the WASL, that then demands a quirky math program, TERC. But what a coincidence! The Pearson testing company for Washington's quirky WASL also publishes the quirky TERC program! This is the way one huge corporation can hold our state hostage, assuring the use of their unproven, experimental programs. Parents, teachers, administrators, school boards and academicians ought to be outraged. Consistent with the WASL, TERC contains no systematic approach to pre-algebra and is extremely weak on other fundamentals leaving students completely unprepared for middle and high school algebra.

Fortunately, we have at our finger tips two studies which show the way we must go in math education. William Hook, a research scientist and engineer, has reported on these sensational results which are "two of the most expensive and well-controlled education experiments in history." In his paper, A World Class K-12 Math Curriculum Verified by Outstanding Experimental Research (www.nychold.com) he outlines the startling results of these studies. U.S. curricula, like TERC, are unfocused (far too many topics), incoherent (not logically organized) and contribute dramatically to the ever widening socio-economic achievement gap as children progress through the grades. The California curriculum is different. It provides "the average or economically disadvantaged student with a quality math education and an excellent preparation for high school math, with emphasis on pre-algebra. This curriculum also provides the bright student with a superior preparation for high school and college." My request is that TERC not be required and that schools be allowed to use the superior California math materials to supplement Scott Foresman-Addison Wesley. A sound approach to math will no doubt help WASL scores for those who are concerned about such things.

I have corresponded with Mr. Hook by e-mail. He has generously offered his participation in any presentations or meetings where his background might be of help. He resides in Victoria and is not affiliated with any publishing company. (whook@uvic.ca)

NOTE: The U. S. Department of Education has recently ruled that none of the constructivist math programs, like TERC, are research based as none of their so-called "research" met even the minimum standards of statistics and controls.

TERC #3--Testimony to the Seattle School Board, Nov 17, 2004

I am Patricia Bailey, a Seattle Teacher, and I am here to talk about TERC, WASL and disrespect of teachers.

Administrators are recommending that Seattle Elementary Schools spend either 50% or 100% of math curriculum time on TERC math. When I mentioned this to a 3rd grade teacher at another school, this bright and gifted educator said, "Not in MY class." A recent article in the Boston Globe reported the collective groan from over 100 educators at the mere mention of TERC. Some Seattle teachers are upset over a principal mandating the teaching of this curriculum.

Think back to any math curriculum you may have studied. How well could you have learned if the chapters had been scrambled--let's say, if chapter 2 had come before chapter 1 and chapter 5 before 4? It would have destroyed the logical development and layering of concepts and skills. What would you think of a math program in which the order of the chapters didn't matter? You might suspect that such a math program is chaotic and ineffective. I have just described TERC. Page 20 of the implementing guide states teachers can reverse the order of the units in TERC math.

What does it do to a teacher when he is required to teach what he believes is not good for children? It violates the trust between the students and teacher. It risks detaching the teacher intellectually and emotionally from relationship with students, making them objects and the teacher empty of enthusiasm and commitment--the very characteristics that make for good teaching and learning.

In addition, teachers have been told, "Don't teach to the WASL," but as you saw 2 weeks ago, the Seattle TERC curriculum guide links to WASL questions on OSPI's web site. It's this kind of incoherent administrative leadership that demeans teachers AND our endeavor to serve children.

I would like to speak about the WASL results presented on Nov. 3 which show the steady improvement of students' math WASL scores each year. To make a scientific comparison, we must have only one variable-- the students taking the test. The test questions must stay constant in order to make a valid comparison. But ask any teacher who administers the WASL and he will tell you the test has become less difficult every year. Consequently, our WASL data does not meet the first requirements for a scientific survey because there are two variables--the students and the test. To get the results we have seen over the last 7 years, all we'd have to do is "tweak" a couple of questions every year and voila: steady improvement! We can PRETEND the WASL gives us information, but unfortunately, it tells us nothing and is, in fact, pure fiction for public consumption. It is impossible to exaggerate the dangers of having a secret test control education in this state.

TERC #4--Testimony to the Seattle School Board, Dec 1, 2004

I'm Patricia Bailey, a Seattle teacher and I'm here to talk about TERC math and the misconception that it is more engaging and accessible than other math curricula and that it is research based.

Any good teacher uses manipulatives, pictures and inquiry, but if you take these techniques to an extreme as TERC does, the result is stymied, bored children. The repeated drawing of grouped objects and discussion of self-evident problems day after day is deadly to the love of learning.

About five years ago, Seattle administrators directed teachers to use TERC-like classroom based assessments. I remember contemplating how to get my second graders to write about how they knew that 3+9=12. Somehow I knew the authorities would not react favorably to the reply from a few of my students, "I've known this stuff since kindergarten." So, I invited one of the designers of the assessment into my class to teach two one-hour lessons. I watched as many of my usually enthusiastic second graders mentally dropped out of the lessons. I was thankful the children did not misbehave, but one by one, their eyes glazed over and their minds slipped into daydreaming and restlessness. We simply cannot afford to have children experience school in this way.

The Seattle School District has correctly identified parents as the children's first teachers. However, one of the most devastating aspects of TERC and its middle school counterpart, Connected Math, is the attack on the children's first teachers. The omission of standard computational methods, the lack of standard terminology, the lack of textbooks (there are NO TEXTBOOKS for children), the deliberate lack of examples, all work against the parents' attempts to help their children. What does this do to the achievement gap? Only children whose parents have advanced math backgrounds or can afford tutoring will be able to address the inevitable gaps left by TERC.

Even though TERC's teachers' manuals repeatedly claim to be "based on years of research,? the U. S. Department of Education has ruled that none of the constructivist math programs, including TERC, are research-based. None of their so-called "research" met even minimum standards of statistics and controls.

California was one of the first states to adopt constructivist programs like TERC and was also the first to decisively reject them because of the soaring need for remediation. California test scores in schools which reinstated sound math programs in 1998, dramatically surpassed the schools which retained TERC-like programs. Furthermore, the dramatic rise held true for ALL demographic profiles. The California Curriculum, rich in pre-algebra fundamentals, is the ideal choice for Seattle if we want a curriculum based on real research and sound common sense practices.

Return to the NYC HOLD main page or the NYC HOLD News page.