Recent Directions in San Diego Mathematics Education

Mathematically Correct

Recent Directions in San Diego Mathematics Education

by Paul Clopto


State textbook adoptions are made on the basis of frameworks. The last mathematics adoption by the state was made under the guidelines of the 1992 Mathematics Framework. This was from a time before the state had mathematics standards at all. This framework had little or no emphasis on mathematical content and instead stressed an extreme version of discovery learning based on a radical constructivist view of learning. Textbooks were judged on their adherence to the pedagogical ideas of the framework. Not surprisingly, the textbooks adopted by the state under this framework were awful. The 1992 framework and the direction we were headed lead directly to the birth ofMathematically Correct.

It was clear that the state was lacking in direction relative to the content of mathematics education. A new California Mathematics Framework was drafted at the same time that the new California Mathematics Standards were developed.

Following the state adoption of the standards, it became evident that schools lacked the materials they needed to allow students to learn the required content. If nothing had been done, money to buy new textbooks aligned with the new framework wouldn’t have been available for years. To correct this problem, AB2519 authorized $1 Billion in a special, one time allocation, split over several years, so that schools could buy new materials to meet the standards. Textbooks aligned with the standards and authorized for purchase with AB2519 funds were selected by the state for use in grades K-8, as is the custom in California for textbook adoptions. Because the state standards now describe algebra as a grade 8 course, algebra I textbooks are, for the first time, subject to the state textbook approval process.

The Past

Members of Mathematically Correct served on the San Diego Math Standards Committee for many months. The committee produced high level Mathematics Standards that were unanimously approved by the Board. The “math wars” issues were actually resolved and everyone was in agreement about the direction to take.

District adoption committees for mathematics were ongoing at this time. These were run by administrators, but the members included teachers and parents. The recommendations of the committees were passed on to the board which ruled in public on the recommendation. This is the typical adoption method in use throughout the state. Those committees recently began to make reasonable decisions. Prior committees had not, and the evidence suggests that this was caused by administrators, not by teachers.

Then, the new Superintendent came in and the Standards were ignored. The district lost funding for the USI grant for lack of attention to mathematics and science, which was the truth.

Next, a draft document circulated around the district math advisory panel. It indicated that Mr. Alvarado had decided that the textbooks approved by the state under AB2519 were not going to be used in San Diego. Instead, the district would seek alternative funding to get around the state guidelines.

When questioned a little too publicly, the draft document was quickly changed to wording that was more vague on this point to obscure the truth.

While the state and district standards continued to be ignored in San Diego, the Blueprint was drafted by the district. Following this the so-called San Diego Math Framework was developed. These documents together are essentially worthless as they provide no direction. The standards and frameworks provided by the state are vastly superior. Nonetheless, these local documents are important to the administrators as they can claim that there actions are aligned with policy (it is hard to find actions not aligned with these policy statements), and continue as if their ideas are already approved.

The Present

Indeed, the district has now adopted textbooks for the lowest achieving schools that are not approved by the state, and HAS done so without a public hearing, without public involvement, and with no board action.

District administrators stressed Everyday Mathematics in their “informational” presentation to the board. They noted that this program was approved by the state. However, it was approved only under the 1992 framework, not as part of AB2519. In fact, the 1995 edition was approved under the old framework. The district wants to buy the 1999 edition. The publishers applied for approval of the 1999 edition under AB2519, but the review committee found the material to be inadequate. The curriculum commission and the state Department of Education worked together to inform the publisher of the changes that would be required to be considered adequate for AB2519. The publisher withdrew from the adoption process, never making the changes needed.

So, we know that this program is not aligned with the state standards. This fact has not been disclosed by the district to the board. The board members were mislead by the administrators.

However, it is quite likely that the Everyday Math program highlighted by the administrators is actually the best of the programs they adopted without a board vote. When districts in Texas were looking at textbooks for adoption, we did a review of several programs. Since the standards in Texas were not as high (or as clear) as ours were, we used the San Diego standards as the benchmarks for our evaluations. We gave Everyday Mathematics grades of C and C- in our review. We also happened to review one of the other programs in the new San Diego list, Connected Mathematics. The program received an F rating. It is simply awful. It is completely and totally unrealistic to think that this program comes anywhere close to meeting either the state or the district math standards.

It is obvious that the district is planning to used dumbed-down mathematics in the focus schools. They are taking the approach we have fought so hard to avoid – lowing expectations while claiming otherwise.

The Future

In March, April, May, and June, we are likely to see evaluations made by the district of the success of their methods. They will issue glowing reports of their accomplishments in the focus schools. At this point, they will try to use their own evaluations to press for more dumbed-down mathematics in non-focus schools in San Diego. When the truth comes out with the state test results next summer, it will be too late.

Mathematically Correct is not in the business of endorsing political candidates. A rare exception has been made in the support of Frances O’Neill Zimmerman for her support of mathematics education in San Diego. Regarding this problem, she has said:


… the Board of Education … now has a 3:2 rubber stamp majority voting yes for anything that is proposed. At present, I am one of two members looking skeptically at a weak proposal for a new math framework which has been severely criticized as empty by mathematicians from Stanford and Berkeley…

The 3:2 rubber stamp majority allowed the district administrators prescribe watered-down math for the children in San Diego’s focus schools without so much as a vote or a hearing. Until this situation changes, there is little hope for any real improvement.