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Some Background in the Beaverton Math Struggle

Kris Alman, a concerned parent, wrote an open letter to Congressman Wu:

I hope you have been made aware of the controversies of math education in the Beaverton School District:

This controversy has become a topic of national math forums and is nationally ranked news.

These news articles don't outline a timeline that included our school district's involvement in an NSF MSP grant through the Oregon Math Leadership Institute. The grant was awarded in the fall of 2004.

Despite objections by parents concerning detrimental affects on kids identified as TAG or on IEPs or English Language Learners, our current math adoption was an essential ingredient in the fuzzy language of NSF MSP grants pushing fuzzy math. Children in 10 school districts are impacted by this grant.

This is despite the fact that the National Research Council, in "On Evaluating Curricular Effectiveness: Judging the Quality of K-12 Mathematics Evaluations," says there is no proven efficacy for reform math. This text is included in the library for our OMLI grant.

My comments regarding the research from this effort are posted on the Washington Post blog for an article "Science a la Joe Camel."

I should add that the Oregon Department of Ed kicked in money too. Here is the link for the COMPETITIVE RESEARCH GRANT APPLICATION.

Eligibility for schools to be considered for the mathematics partnerships eligibility:

  • Any high school that is in 2nd year AYP status for mathematics AND feeder schools (both middle and elementary.) OR
  • Any high school and feeder middle schools that are in 2nd year AYP status for mathematics.

The research is described thoroughly in this link. This was underscored:

"Additionally, elements of randomization that provide information regarding the progress of teachers involved in the partnership compared to teachers in the same local education agency who are not involved in the project with respect to improved student academic achievement are required."

Here are stats in 3 demographically similar schools. They are within one mile of each other. 2 OMLI schools are Raleigh Park and Raleigh Hills. Montclair, where my son attended, is a non-OMLI school.

On page 3, we see declines in ALL statistically significant cells in mathematics at Raleigh Hills. Not surprisingly, as I predicted in the spring to administration, the worst declines were in ELL and students with disabilities. (For comparison purposes, there was an increase of academic growth overall in English/Language Arts at Raleigh Hills.)

White -3.82
Hispanic -1.43
Students with Disabilities -19.13
ELL -25.00
Economically Disadvantaged -11.41
All -6.37

Raleigh Park is another OMLI school with even worse declines for disadvantaged kids.

White -3.44
Hispanic -28.36
Students with Disabilities -33.33
ELL -35.71
Economically Disadvantaged -12.70
All -5.62

Contrast this to the results of Montclair, a school with identical demographics; where Kathy Pfaendler was not a math police and swooping up texts; where experienced teachers had freedom to teach kids with curriculum that differentiates for learning differences and that emphasizes acquisition of basic math skills.

My son now attends Raleigh Hills K8. His teacher is an OMLI teacher. I have taken him out of the classroom for math and now home school him on that subject, very frustrated with the Connected Math curriculum and teaching methods implemented.

My activism regarding this issue initiated last spring when I saw my TAG identified (then 8th grade) daughter's benchmark testing plummet with reform math. She nearly failed 10th grade benchmarks--appropriately tested at that level because she had completed successfully 2 years of high school math. Integrated Mathematics, a "spiraled" approach to mathematics taught through "discovery learning," is deficient in content. We learned that the hard way with a math tutor this past summer as we filled in Algebra 1 holes.

I was fortunate that our son's exceptional 5th grade elementary school teacher continued to teach math as he always did--with experience and differentiation. He estimated he used the new curriculum 10% instructionally last year. My son (who had been on an IEP for a learning disability for most of elementary education, stemming from language delays identified in pre-school) nearly failed math in 4th grade benchmarks. Last year, he exceeded benchmarks.

Teachers who used "contraband" curriculum, have had no voice and are at risk to be relocated to different schools as punishment for speaking up. Furthermore, I have concerns that the teacher's union will not represent teachers well because a growing number of teachers are TOSAs, teachers on special assignment. TOSAs are better categorized as administrators because they tend to have no direct contact with children. (This is one way to hide administrative costs and potentially skew student:teacher ratios.) The "independent" investigation requested of our district and done by Miller Nash law firm included the investigation of 3 TOSAs. 3 teachers who are members of the teachers union. One of the Board members is my daughter's former math teacher, Geoff Hunnicutt.

My son, like many children, needs direct instruction inclusive of math foundations. This has not been the pedagogical approach promulgated by the NCTM and research grants from the NSF MSP or Foundations. Mired in politics (some of which has been cast as religious, right wing oriented), curriculum development and pedagogical approaches are just a cash cow and do not protect the rights of a child.

Parents of Autistic Children of Oregon (POAC of Oregon) are looking for leadership from math activists in the Beaverton School District to help their kids.

I can understand why. I have hit a stone wall when I seek help from The Oregon Parent Training and Information Center and Oregon Advocacy Center for representation regarding this issue.

Our activist group, OPTIMA, Oregon Parents for Thorough Instruction in MAthematics, has key goals listed here.

Beyond that is our concern regarding human research in the schools that may tap into Constitutional violations.

I believe these two phrases are important:

  • "commonly accepted educational settings, involving normal educational practices"
  • "place the subjects at risk of criminal or civil liability or be damaging to the subjects' financial standing, employability"


Representative Wu, you have told me that you attended Harvard Medical School before you found your calling in politics. I know you recognize the importance of ethics and good science in human research.

Kathy Pfaendler's conflict of interest has impacted our children's math education for years to come. Our school district is in its 4th year of a 7 year adoption cycle. As such, we are in our 2nd year of implementation of these materials. We are in the 2nd year of implementation of the pedagogical approach our OMLI grant is researching. Presumably because of the NCTM focal points, our state is revising math standards and our school district is following suit. A new adoption cycle begins next year. It will be at least two and a half years before we have new materials in place.

In the meantime, most schools, including the principal of an OMLI school, in our school district preach to parents that the current math adoption is comprehensive and meets the needs of all children.

This is utterly incorrect!

I apologize that this email is so long. I am hopeful that you are in Oregon for the holidays. I would love to speak with you further on this topic. The civil rights of our children are being violated.

Best regards,
Kris A., MD