Seattle School Board chooses math texts for Seattle elementary schools, overruling district managers

June 9, 2014

Last week, in a bit of good news for Seattle children, the Seattle School Board voted 4-3 to adopt the Math in Focus textbook for Seattle’s elementary schools. Math in Focus is a solid curriculum based on the effective Singapore method for teaching math. The board of the state’s largest school district, serving nearly 50,000 students, has exercised its authority to reject a lower-standard math text chosen by school district officials, EnVision Math.

As I recently explained here, EnVision Math was the weakest educational choice available to the district.

This is not the first time school district managers have chosen poor math texts.  Seven years ago district officials selected Everyday Math for Seattle’s elementary schools. Everyday Math uses controversial methods to teach basic math skills to students, an approach widely criticized as “fuzzy math.” Although most districts in Washington state have dropped this curriculum because of its poor results, Seattle district managers stubbornly clung to Everyday Math despite pleas from parents, math experts, and the community to drop it.

Imagine the thousands and thousands of students in Seattle who have been discouraged in their study of math because Everyday Math was their introduction to learning basic math skills.  Imagine the thousands of students who will now benefit from the solid concepts taught by Math in Focus.

All this confusion could have been avoided if school officials allowed more family choice in education.  Parents have almost no influence over their child’s education, as seven wasted years of teaching Everyday Math sadly demonstrates. 

Letting parents transfer kids out of schools that are not working would avoid a repeat of Seattle’s Everyday Math fiasco and other misguided plans imposed on families by the narrow-minded focus of school district officials.  Greater family choice in education would induce officials to really listen to parents, and would let children attend schools that respond more quickly to their needs.