Testimony by teacher Patricia Bailey re: Math reform and trends in professional development

The following is testimony by Patricia Bailey, an elementary school teacher, to the Seattle School Board. Ms. Bailey had previously testified to the school board about the TERC mathematics curriculum in Seattle and about Integrated Math in the Seattle Schools.

School Reform--Testimony to the Seattle School Board, Jan 5, 2005

I'm Patricia Bailey, a Seattle teacher, and I'm here to talk about math reform and the waste of education dollars on the current trend in "professional development." Those dollars would be better spent on sound textbooks.

Go to OSPI's website: Assessing Teacher Capacity and scroll down to 3b. There you will find the key doctrine behind the current math reform and the WASL. It describes below standard teachers as those whose "students believe there are right and wrong answers to questions." It describes exemplary teachers as those whose "students know their ability to construct understanding and think reflectively about a problem is more valuable than correct answers."

These underlying dogmas have been propagated in virtually every professional development math class I have taken in the last 8 years. The reformers are spending millions of precious education dollars on "teacher training coaches" and so-called "professional development classes" to persuade teachers to believe that PROCESS is more important than CORRECT ANSWERS.

Let's take a look into the future and see the world the reformers have in store for us when the students of school reform dominate the work place. The amounts on our pay checks and retirement checks change wildly--too often not in our favor-- because the bookkeepers' ability to construct understanding is so much more important than those tedious correct amounts. Sometimes the process-oriented bureaucracy tells us to pay 10 times what we were supposed to pay in property taxes, but that's because they're not encumbered with the old-fashioned right and wrong answer syndrome. It's difficult to get cars repaired properly because the auto mechanics will have been facilitated under school reform and believe their ability to "think reflectively about a problem is more valuable than correct answers." Our trips to the bank and grocery store take on a similar nightmare confusion, not to mention our crippling health problems due to the indifference of doctors and pharmacists to correct answers. It seems reform has done its job.

There's one more thing. Those jets on which we will travel will be engineered by WASL graduates, schooled in TERC, Connected Math and Mc Dougal Littel Integrated Math. These professionals will have been indoctrinated to believe "their ability to construct understanding and think reflectively about a problem is more valuable than correct answers." School reformers can be proud they will have succeeded in doing what no one else has been able to do-dismantle civilization by attacking logic and common sense.

California has rejected the "process-is-more-important-than-answers" math reform and has wisely, and with great benefit to students, invested its money in excellent math textbooks. This strategy to improve student achievement is so obvious, it's easy to over-look. Right now there are degraded math textbooks at every grade level in Seattle Schools. Replace those books with sound ones and you will have upgraded math education in Seattle beyond your wildest expectations-without the outrageously expensive so-called "professional development" and "teacher coaches."

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