Seattle’s adoption of a “discovery” math curriculum was ruled “arbitrary and capricious” by a King County Superior Court judge, who ordered the district to reconsider.
The district probably will appeal.
The plaintiffs “argued that the curriculum would do harm, not good by widening the achievement gap between middle-class and underprivileged students,” reports the Seattle Press-Intelligencer.
In her ruling, (Judge Julie) Spector noted that the state’s Board of Education had declared the curriculum “mathematically unsound” and that the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction did not recommend the curriculum.
And she said WASL scores from a similar inquiry-based math at Cleveland and Garfield High Schools showed that test scores declined and dropped significantly for students who were learning English, including a 0 percent pass rate at one school.
The Discovering Math books are supposed to help teachers reach students with different abilities by having students work together to solve problems.
Discovery math is “dumbed down” for equity reasons, writes plaintiff Cliff Mass, a metereologist and University of Washington atmospheric science professor, on his blog. Seattle Public Schools has been using discovery math in elementary, middle and high school, he writes.
“Direct instruction” — that is the teacher telling the students the best approach — is frowned on, calculators are brought in very early in elementary schools, group learning is pushed, and students are encouraged to play with objects (manipulatives).
Seattle students do poorly on the state’s math exam with a huge achievement gap based on income and race.