PRINCE WILLIAM NEWS ALERT: Board to Vote on Tax Reduction

taxes.pngWe are in a recession.  Tax revenues are declining.  What caused the recession?  The most likely answer is both too much government spending and too much government interference in the economy.   Nonetheless, only our local government has any intention of reducing spending.

Prince William supervisors are scheduled to set the fiscal year 2010 budget tax rate for advertisement this Tuesday, and the latest figure is a bit higher than what was originally discussed.

For weeks, it seemed supervisors were set on a $1.198 rate. But they’re now on track to advertise a $1.212 rate, which “will give them a little more flexibility,” said Susan Roltsch, assistant county executive, during a Friday morning press briefing.

In e-mails received by the News & Messenger, Chairman Corey Stewart, R-at-large, and Supervisor John Jenkins, D-Neabsco, said they favored rates of $1.198 and $1.295, respectively.

“This tax rate of $1.198 will support the county executive’s proposed budget, which reduces govern-ment spending by $56 million,” Stewart stated in his e-mail. “The county executive’s budget is responsible and sustainable. By focusing our resources, it allows us to protect vital county services while providing tax relief.” (from here)

Would you like to see the lower figure?  Corey Stewart needs your support.  Here is an email he is distributing.

The Prince William Board of County Supervisors will vote this Tuesday March 3 on advertising a property tax rate.   I am proposing a rate that will reduce tax bills for homeowners by an average of $548.00 (a 16 % reduction).   I want to thank Supervisors Maureen Caddigan (Dumfries), Wally Covington (Brentsville) and John Stirrup (Gainesville) for joining me in supporting this tax relief.

This tax rate of $1.198 will support the County Executive’s proposed budget, which reduces government spending by $56 million compared to last fiscal year without cutting any of our uniformed police or fire and rescue personnel.  The County Executive’s budget is responsible and sustainable.  By focusing our resources, it allows us to protect vital county services while providing tax relief to you during these uncertain times.

To pass this tax reduction, we need at least five supervisors to vote this Tuesday in support of the $1.198 tax rate.  Please email the Board at urging the whole Board to join Supervisors Stirrup, Covington, Caddigan and myself in supporting this rate and ensuring tax relief for you.

Please be sure to tune into Comcast Channel 23 or Verizon FIOS Channel 37 to see how your supervisor votes.

Corey A. Stewart
Prince William Board of County Supervisors
1 County Complex Court
Prince William, VA 22192
(703) 792-4640 – Telephone/(703) 792-4637 – Fax

Do you want to see an economic recovery?  Then I suggest the lowest possible tax rate.  To illustrate the point, let’s compare the relationship between People and government with two different types of biological relationships,  symbiosis and parasitism.   When two organisms mutually gain from their relationship, we have symbiosis.  When one organism gains at the expense of the other, we have parasitism.

Throughout much of history, government has had an almost parasitic relationship with the People.  This is comparable to when a ruthless warlord rules.  The leader, his family, and his cronies take what they want, and they call this taxes.  They leave the People, their people, just enough so that they do not starve can produce more taxes.

The exception is a government that protects the People and seeks to maintain order.    This creates a symbiosis between government and the People.   Such a government minimizes taxes and encourages growth, stability, and mutual loyalty between the People and those who lead them.  Here the leadership forms a covenant with the People.   In return for the loyalty of the People, the leaders voluntarily limit their powers to those needful for good government.  Within the United States, we call this covenant our Constitution.

Unfortunately, those individuals seeking leadership tend to be overly ambitious.  So government leaders almost always want more money, but there is a limit to everything.   When tax revenues rise above a certain point, taxes must inevitably stifle economic growth.   Money that should have been reinvested in the economy is instead diverted to the pet projects of politicians.   When that happens, government must reduce its spending and taxes to revive the economy.

Other Views

Anti-BVBL has published the same memo, and the usual string of comments (here).

The Cartoons


school.pngWith Internet speed, news travels.  So it is that an Independent Survey – Math Investigations Success Stories is making its way around.  Soon everyone who wants to know will know that Math Investigations lacks solid evidence for success.

For example the blogs have begun spreading the word.

In addition, the news is spreading by email.  In fact, email also brought even more evidence (a government funded study) that other, more traditional curricula, works better than Math Investigations.

For your consideration….

Yet another twist in the saga of how far a small but vocal group of central district educators will go to force ideology over sound  mathematics content on other peoples’ children in our schools.

For years, PWCS central staff have touted the “research” claiming superior comprehension and fantastic results of districts and states using Math Investigations. And the proof? No less than Math Investigations – Pearson Publishers’ “Evidence for Success” marketing guide. Good old marketing “research.” Well, in yet another hot off the presses expose it appears that the Pearson product is well, just more misinformation from the internet. Pearson’s “Evidence For Success” with Math Investigations claims overwhelming success of the program…but when districts cited in the booklet were contacted in support of a  survey supporting PWCS Board requests for data it was revealed that the majority of schools cited in the Pearson publication have DROPPED or are in the process of dropping Math Investigations!! So why is PWCS defending this failed program so aggressively? Guess it all depends on what your definition of “success” is. Interviews with school district leaders as to why the program was dropped are telling. The attached document has apparently been provided to the PWCS Board – a copy was provided to this forum by PWC staff and is now public information.
This is especially timely in light of the fact that the US Department of Education just this month released a formal evaluation report similarly showing Math Investigations as achieving the poorest results of four elementary math programs in a US Department of Education formal evaluation study

IMPORTANT NOTE:  Two Items are up for vote this Wed., 3/4 at the PWC School Board Meeting.  One is for a choice to opt-in to traditional mathematics and the other is for a “balanced” approach (Math Investigations w/Traditional methods).

Item # 29:  “Opt-In for Traditional Math (Trenum)

Item # 30:  “Traditional Math [Balance] in Elementary Schools (Otaigbe)

For those who are subscribers, an article on the government funded study is available in Education Week.  See Study Finds Edge for Certain Early-Math Programs.

Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Education‘s Institute of Education Sciences states the following on its website.

No studies of Investigations in Number, Data, and Space® that fall within the scope of the Elementary School Math review protocol meet What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) evidence standards. The lack of studies meeting WWC evidence standards means that, at this time, the WWC is unable to draw any conclusions based on research about the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of Investigations in Number, Data, and Space®.  (from here)

Comments on Math Proposals Currently Before the Board

school.pngAt the next School Board meeting (See the March 4th agenda here.), the board will decide whether or not to institute an Opt In Option for Traditional Math (See item 29 on the agenda.).  In addition, the board will consider a motion to enforce an increased emphasis on Traditional Mathematics (See item 30 on the agenda and read Dr. Otaigbe’s motion, Traditional Math in Elementary Schools (Otaigbe).).

The Opt In Option for Traditional Math would provide parents with grades K – 5 children the option of having their children taught in a traditional math class.  Otaigebe’s proposal is described in detail at the link above.

Below is a letter a parent sent to the School Board about those two proposals.

Dear Chairman and School Board Members,

I have been thinking hard about the two math proposal drafts presented at the recent board meeting.   The two proposals or motions were for the “opt in to traditional math” (option 1 presented by Trenum) and the “dual textbook blended approach” (option 2 presented by Otaigbe).   I have reached out to a number of parents to solicit their feedback and most have expressed great concern that option 2 (the dual text blended approach), if approved, would leave things essentially unchanged for the math program in our schools.   I too am concerned that the spirit of this proposal would never be fully supported by the math department and as a result there would be no consistent implementation between classrooms or schools just as we see now.  Another risk with option 2 is the potential disruption that could be caused for the less experienced classroom teachers if there are any broad changes to the math program without the full support of the math department.  I think it is critical that something be approved soon to allow execution time to have it in place before school begins in the fall, I think that we are all eager to move forward.

From my observations, everything from the current math pacing guides to the professional development by the math dept, to the messages sent by the math specialists and  subsequently principals to our teachers in the schools, support Investigations and ONLY Investigations 100%. Most parents are seeing only smatterings of supplementation that is supported for those SOL objectives which are not covered at all in MI.  In my experience this year even the supplementation that has come home is far below the ability of most students and insufficient to teach the content missing or weak in MI.  Only option 1 (the opt in to allow use of a traditional math text as the primary text) will ensure that our children and teachers are allowed to use a non-spiraling traditional  textbook as the core.  And only option 1 frees teachers from the tightly scripted MI curriculum and pacing guides and gives teachers the tools and flexibility to adjust instruction to meet the needs and challenge all learners.   Option 2 on the other hand may easily result in just more “talk” of a blended curriculum without anything really changing unless Investigations becomes the supplement and a traditional text the primary.

The logistical problems we have heard voiced from some speakers who appeared to be opposed to the “opt in” option 1 don’t have any basis in fact.  As I see it there are a couple of options for implementation of the opt in approach, neither of which would even require transferring students between schools.  Parents would need to notified of the options and given an opportunity to select a core math text preference for their children as:  “Investigations in Number Data and Space” discovery learning spiral text, a “Traditional Math” Textbook that is non-spiraling and supports direct instruction, or “no preference”.  First scenario is, the “opt in” traditional math students could be assigned to one class together and the number of students in that class can be balanced out with students who are transferring in or out mid-year (who probably would struggle with the transition to MI mid-year anyhow) and/or balanced out with students whose parents indicated they have no preference in which math program their children participate in.   In the second scenario we can see that we actually don’t even need to have separate classes for the traditional math students.  This may in fact  make things even easier at the school level, because math can and should be treated as just another subject and the schools already have a system in place for these rotations.  Just as teachers and schools currently do now for reading, students in the same class would be assigned to math groups and the opt in students could just be taught with the traditional texts and materials as the teachers did a couple of years ago prior to MI implementation.  Just as with reading this better allows differentiation of instruction to challenge and ensure progression for all students.  Some grade levels already use this model to switch classes during reading time so that one teacher can focus on students who are at a similar level.   Regardless of the math text used there should be consideration of ability and differentiation to better challenge and meet the needs of all students.  Those students who opt in for traditional math would simply be grouped together during math instructional time as is already done now for reading.  Does it cause problems at a school if there aren’t exactly 25 or 28 students in each reading group now?  No, and it wouldn’t for math either!  There most likely wouldn’t even be a need to transfer kids between schools to participate in a traditional math program.    The “no preference” students can be used to balance the classes or math group sizes and gives the teachers the ability to also place those students where they think they will do best as well as to balance out the math groups.

I have seen no evidence in recent months or weeks that the math department would work to implement option 2 in the spirit which parents are advocating for, even if that proposal was approved.  Many of the staff and educators we have heard speak at the board meetings seem to approach this as more of a philosophical argument and recent math nights and memos to teachers all demonstrate that the math department has no intention of backing down from their full and complete support of a pure constructivist math curriculum using Investigations.

Neither of these draft proposals before us are a perfect solution but we need to move forward and parents will have an easier time supporting the Opt In proposal because it would at least provide the assurance of choice.  I hope that regardless of the outcome of these two proposals there will be a shift in the focus of the professional development to ensure that the professional development for our teachers in math will focus more on content and direct instruction of that content; and less on pedagogy, discovery learning and trying to sell the ideas to the parents and teachers.

I have been just researching some of the curriculum and standards from outside PWC  for my own information and came across these California State Standards for Math.  I wanted to share these with you because the sections are well organized and topics are designed to build upon one another to progress in an organized fashion.  There is a table on page 10 of this section that has a brief summary:

This chapter of the same CA state standards addresses what content should be covered at certain grade levels top best prepare students for algebra and higher math:

The complete document can be found here:

I have also attached are a couple of articles written by Dr Stephen Wilson, a well respected math professor at JHU and consultant who was involved in a recent review of WA state standards and evaluation of math texts.  Dr Wilson has analyzed select strands of the WA state standards and assessed those against several texts including Investigations and on page 27 is a brief summary of his findings for TERC Investigations:

There was also a recent elementary textbook review done for the State of Texas in which the publisher of MI pulled the Investigations text from consideration.  I contacted the reviewers for additional information because Investigations was missing from the evaluation and will attach the letter of explanation and text review summary I received from them.

One final item of concern is that neither of the two proposals discussed above seem to limit or eliminate the use of Investigations in 5th grade.  MI doesn’t meet the minimum number of SOL objectives to support the VA SOLs and as such, MI was NOT approved by VDOE for use in 5th grade.

I really appreciate the serious consideration and thought  that board members have put into this issue and I look forward to hearing your refined proposals at the next meeting.  Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you would like further clarification on anything.


school.pngUPDATE:  Independent Survey – Math Investigations Success Stories is the update that was promised.  See the original post (below) for an explanation.

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.  — Thomas A. Edison

Most of us want to avoid hard work and drudgery.  We would rather divert ourselves with something entertaining.  Yet even the things we find entertaining often at one time involved hard work and drudgery.  To acquire any skill, even those we may latter find suitable for amusement, there is often a price to be paid.

Learning mathematics traditionally involves study, drill and practice solving innumerable problems.   So children avoid math like the plague, and educators search for schemes to make learning math fun and easy.

Is Math Investigations a solution?  Some say emphatically yes.  Others, with equal force, say no.  So it is that we have an ongoing struggle over whether or not to continue using Math Investigations as an instructional method for elementary school children.  In fact, in Prince William County the struggle is about to reach a climax.  At the next School Board meeting (See the March 4th agenda here.), the board will decide whether or not to institute an Opt In Option for Traditional Math (See item 29 on the agenda.).  In addition, the board will consider a motion to enforce an increased emphasis on Traditional Mathematics (See item 30 on the agenda and read Dr. Otaigbe’s motion, Traditional Math in Elementary Schools (Otaigbe).).

In our county, the mathematics instructional development staff serves as the primary advocates for Math InvestigationsHere is a link to their web site.   Local parents opposed to the program, fighting for Traditional Math, have set up the own websites,  PWC Education Reform Blog and Teach Math Right.

So who is right?  The parent’s case is beginning to look stronger.  Some may recall that in my last School Board report (here), I requested information from those opposed to the Math Investigations program.  Both a citizen commenter and a school board member had observed that schools which had formerly been listed as Math Investigations successes were dropping or scaling back the program.  Here is a description (from the parent of what was  provided.

The data I referred to in my citizen comment (See Math Investigations Success Stories.) was compiled by a parent calling / emailing all the school districts in Pearson Publishing’s 2007 Evidence For Success booklet (except for school districts whose dropping of the program has been carried in the mainstream press, such as Columbia, Missouri and Washington State schools).  The parent put together a spreadsheet of all the replies that were received. That spreadsheet was sent to all of the PWC school board members, but I’m not sure if it has been posted online (there is a summary up on the pwceducationreform blog), but I don’t see the spreadsheet itself.

I took a look at your blog entry and it looks like I wasn’t clear on the spreadsheet results.  Of the 66 districts, 47 of them replied. Of those 47, 31 have dropped or are in the process of dropping the program just 2 years after they were considered “success stories”.  (Note: I think a few more have replied since then, but I haven’t seen the updates).  My other point (that I also may not have made well) was that the trend in test scores in virtually all states/grades is up.  In some cases tests are rewritten, in other cases the scores required to pass or pass advanced are changed, which can artificially create “progress”.  Thus the Pearson document, which shows the pass rates without any context (state average or state ranking) can show “progress” where in fact there is none.

The document compiled by the parent is still somewhat preliminary.  More may soon be available.  Here is an extract from a latter note.

This is the old file that is referenced in the summary (see here). There was an update being done today to include feedback from some of the 19 districts that whose responses weren’t received in time for this version.  I’d expect an updated version to be out in the next few days.

Prince William County Schools cites Pearson Publishing’s 2007 Evidence For Success booklet as evidence Math Investigations works. Is the evidence for success provided in Pearson Publishing’s 2007 Evidence For Success booklet real or not?