West Seattle schools: K-5 STEM at Boren plans Singapore Math

If you weren’t at the last Design Team meeting for the new K-5 STEM at Boren school, or missed the mention in the WSB Forums, the official district notes for that meeting are now published online. The notes confirm a major curriculum decision: The Design Team supports seeking a waiver so the new science/tech/engineering/math school can use Singapore Math, which, in West Seattle, has led to major math success at Schmitz Park Elementary. The meeting notes also include an enrollment update:

Three kindergarten classes
One first-grade class
One first/second-grade class
One second/third-grade class
One third-grade class
One fourth-grade class
One fourth/fifth-grade class

Total enrollment as of last Thursday, 233. There has been some confusion over whether people are still being encouraged to apply in hopes they will add another class or two; the meeting notes say “still encourage people to get on the waitlist.” Next team meeting (public always welcome): 6:15 pm May 24th, Madison Middle School. There’s also an ongoing online-discussion group here.

30 Replies to "West Seattle schools: K-5 STEM at Boren plans Singapore Math"

  • StringCheese May 14, 2012 (9:38 pm)

    There is still room for quite a bit of growth. The end goal has always been considered 3 K classrooms and 2 classes of each grade 1-5. The configuration will remain fairly fluid as enrollment keeps increasing.

    It is so exciting watching all of this come together! Yay Singapore!!!!

  • Seattleseabug May 14, 2012 (9:56 pm)

    It would be nice if all of our schools could have a great math program, not just the special schools . Maybe this will be the beginning of a change for our district…this new school and a new Superintendant.

  • star May 15, 2012 (6:42 am)

    Let’s remember that just because they applied for a waiver, doesn’t mean the district will approve SM. Many schools have applied for waivers and didn’t get them.

  • Cheryl May 15, 2012 (6:59 am)

    Oh what I’d give for ALL Seattle public schools to adopt Singapore Math (or similar). I’d actually feel like they care about teaching our kids something valuable & something that will allow them to compete in the real world… Alas, we’re stuck with Discovery Math (or equivalent) which teaches them nada, zip, zilch. Bad enough when your kid likes math, and an absolute disaster if they don’t.

  • StringCheese May 15, 2012 (7:55 am)

    The waiver situation has changed dramatically since the election of Marty McLaren and Sharon Peaslee to the school board. One of the first things they did was propose a new waiver policy. In the past, the process was shrouded in secrecy with no one knowing who had denied the waiver or why with no real chance to appeal. Now the process is more transparent and schools will be able to appeal to the School Board who will have the authority to grant the waiver. BIG difference. I would recommend that you contact your PTSA and admin at your school about applying for a waiver. I think the deadline just passed for submitting orders for materials for next school year but you could, feasibly, be on a good track for a change in 2013-14.
    As for STEM, the district has been part of the design process from the very beginning and approval of the waiver is essentially guaranteed.

  • a parent May 15, 2012 (7:56 am)

    without causing a feeding frenzy of ill-will opinions, can someone calmly explain to me the difference between Everyday Math and Singapore? I’ve read from Math experts that there are down sides to Singapore ~ and that’s it’s main point is that it’s really good at getting your child to test in math well (ie: local test scores of schools that use it). But if your child is in EDM and doing really well ~ why change to a school with Singapore? Plus, we aren’t in Singapore which has different and some say better study habits all around, that the US doesn’t come close to.

  • Bonnie May 15, 2012 (8:11 am)

    One note about the waiver though I believe that Schmitz Park (who has had the waiver for awhile and *shocker* is #1 in the district in math) has to pay for all training and supplies for their math program. So the pta has a special fund to raise money for it. I believe all schools will have to fund the math program on their own.

  • evergreen May 15, 2012 (8:50 am)

    There are an multiple articles on the STEM yahoo group elaborating upon the benefits of Singapore Math. Per research comparing systems, Singapore vs EDM cultivates better math problem solving skills & mastery of math concepts. We didn’t advocate for Singapore b/c of MAP scores, but rather b/c it is a stronger math program in preparation for middle and high school. It is similar to what is used in Singapore, but actually out of California and designed for the American audience. It has had terrific results all around the country. It is highly visual, incorporates manipulatives, and is intuitive.

  • evergreen May 15, 2012 (9:25 am)

    As for transferring to Singapore from EDM…if your kid has strong math skills, he/she would also succeed in Singapore. If your child does not in actuality have the concrete math knowledge and abstract reasoning skills to do real math operations and word problems, wouldn’t you want to intervene now prior to high school? Success in EDM does not necessarily mean success in math. Read the petition signed by multiple UW departments stating that SPS kids w/ good GPA’s and entering college needing remedial math b/c “fuzzy math” does not adequately prepare kids. When my child started K last year, we knew six families supplementing their kids at home with Singapore books. Take a look at EDM and Singapore teaching manuals and you will understand why.

  • Nick May 15, 2012 (9:38 am)

    All schools should be using Singapore math its bs we have to fight for this

  • a parent May 15, 2012 (11:17 am)

    Thanks for the info! Perhaps since our new super is from CA ~ he could make the change to the math circ for the WHOLE district. although this would involve reteaching, books = $$$$

  • wsmama3 May 15, 2012 (12:52 pm)

    They don’t call them the “math wars” for nothing! I don’t feel upset when people ask about the difference – I think it is a valuable question that needs to be addressed with as little opinion as possible. Here is my take.

    The 2 biggest differences I noticed in all the research were:
    EDM uses spiraling (touches on a concept to then drop it till later) while SIngapore teaches the concept till mastery. Singapore uses less language (and is better for non-English learners), EDM is heavy on using language to explain math. Are there issues with Singapore – yes. You need practice at home. Singapore can both move too fast and too slow – but the program is good with differentiation so if a teacher is good they will make the struggle work for kids.

    While Schmitz Park has great test scores – I think the more important thing to look at is how the kids are actually doing once they head into middle school. Similar students in terms of all demographics from Alki and Lafayette are not jumping from EDM into middle school math at levels as high as the Schmitz Park kids are. And not just the “good at math” kids – many of the SP students are skipping 6th grade math after using Singapore because they already are doing algebra and higher math learning in grade school.

    My “vote” was for Singapore Math because it gives students number sense. They know the process, and how to look at a problem and get to the right answer. I understand that Singapore (the Country) offers a lot of support (math nights, math clubs, parental support) and STEM hopes to replicate that and make math a real priority in our community.

    We’ve always thought of STEM as a lab school – we agree that all kids need programs that better prepare them for lifelong learning and education. Ideally we would be an example of the change we want for all schools and all students.

    The PTA, grants, foundations – this is a priority so it will be paid for. We’ve assumed a calculated risk based on the communities commitment to having a different math program. Hopefully we can gain funding to ease the burden on the community.

    The Design Team has asked outright and was given assurances that the waiver would be approved. SPS has been very understanding and committed to the STEM concept. The waiver asks for a commitment from the staff and a financial plan to pay for the program – we have both.

    I would encourage anyone who is interested in STEM to come to the first PTA meeting this Thursday. The commitment and excitement from the parents is infectious!

  • StringCheese May 15, 2012 (1:44 pm)

    wsmama3, great post! I couldn’t have said it better myself!

  • star May 15, 2012 (2:31 pm)

    So if schools have to come up with the money to use different texts, how will the STEM school pay for Singapore Math?

  • seattlesouth May 15, 2012 (2:45 pm)

    Lost in the comments: if you have an interest in having your child in STEM, please please please move them to the waitlist sooner, rather than later. The classroom situation is fluid now, but more kids means more classrooms… But if you wait, it might be too late for another room to be opened.

  • Bonnie May 15, 2012 (3:38 pm)

    Star, obviously I have not attended the meetings but my assumption is that there will be some sort of fund up front for the start up of a program and that is how it will be paid for in the beginning. I’m assuming that the pta will have to raise money to keep it going. I know SP is constantly having to raise funds for their math program and I assume STEM will have to do the same. I just don’t understand why the good math program isn’t just simply at all the schools.

  • MarcO May 15, 2012 (3:47 pm)

    can someone point me to the statistics that Singapore math at Schmitz Park is working better than EDM at other schools in the area? I’m looking at School reports on SPS web page and OSPI as well and I’m not seeing the data to support it.

  • WSMama3 May 15, 2012 (3:58 pm)

    Ditto to SeattleSouth!

    Schools pay for all sorts of extras with PTA support (teachers, arts programs, clubs, etc) and we are looking for grants and other funding streams to support math and other programs at STEM. PTA’s make money in a lot of different ways – auctions, direct gives, sports events. This is a commitment we have made based on what the community asked for. At some point I am gonna smile and say “now it’s time to give” and I know parents who can support it will.

  • Oliver May 15, 2012 (4:42 pm)

    Star – STEM is in the unique postion of having capital funds to pay for curriculum materials. It has no curriculum materials, so the capital funds are used for the start-up. Existing schools don’t have capital funds because they already have materials previously purchased and if they want to replace a standard curriculum that has already been paid for, the funds have to come from PTA/other donors.
    I agree with all, it’s not fair that others are basically stuck with a poor math program. Just pointing out how it’s being paid for at STEM.

  • WSMama3 May 15, 2012 (5:17 pm)

    MarcO – check out the WASL reports and
    is a good non-political site to reference.

    “Where’s the Math” is also an interesting reference – they are very heavy on in the anti-reform math camp.

  • Bonnie May 15, 2012 (5:42 pm)

    MarcO, I don’t have any data and don’t even know where to look it up but here is an interesting article that was in the Seattle Times a few years ago. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2011097718_bruce17.html

  • evergreen May 15, 2012 (11:25 pm)

    There is countless material on the net about the math wars, which I find fascinating. For anyone interested, in addition to the yahoo group links (and Where’s the Math? and The Math Underground), here is another site that has great articles and videos:


  • MarcO May 16, 2012 (8:42 am)

    thanks but neither of those show any substantial math proficiency advantage for Schmitz Park over the other northern West Seattle Elementary schools.

    greatschools.org 2011 data:
    grade 3
    Laf 91%
    SP 75%
    alki 59%

    grade 4
    Laf 80%
    SP 79%
    alki 72%

    grade 5
    Laf 87%
    SP 84%
    Alki 87%

    SPS school reports – 2010-11
    Grades 3,4,5 Math proficiency:
    SP 79%
    Alki 74%
    Laf 86%

    4th graders
    SP 79%
    Alki 72%
    Laf 80%

    not sure why they don’t have 5th grade data but it seems to align with the greatschools and other external site data.

    While I’m not a huge fan of EDM – Singapore math doesn’t seem to be the savior as everyone makes it out to be.

  • StringCheese May 16, 2012 (2:47 pm)

    MarcO, one factor that needs to be taken into account is the Spectrum program at Lafayette inflates the grade level scores. This is to be expected – a 3rd grade Spectrum class is doing 4th grade math curriculum but is scored on state tests as 3rd grade. If there is a data set that excludes the Spectrum classes, it would be a more accurate representation.

  • evergreen May 16, 2012 (10:00 pm)

    What convinces me is the feedback from higher education instructors, middle school on up, about an avg EDM kid vs avg SM kid. However, I am wondering where some of the data we have heard cited is coming from. MAP is obviously not the only measure. SP was awarded a WA achievement award in 2010, in addition to special recognition for their math succes. Does anyone have data about SP besides the MAP?

    But beyond SP, there are countless studies and articles comparing the two types of math. Check out the links.

  • MarcO May 17, 2012 (8:33 am)

    @ string cheese – yes, but isn’t the spectrum program still using EDM? It seems to be working for them – and how do you explain Alki’s 5th grade math proficiency % being the same as SP?

  • sps parent May 18, 2012 (9:06 am)

    good question MarcO! I am going to go out on a limb and say that “spectrum” or any above average child that can handle math will probably excel at any math program.

    Seriously, is EDM or Singapore better or worse than what we all grew up with? And look how many went thru the public school system in the 50s – 80s and are now successful individuals?

  • StringCheese May 18, 2012 (12:32 pm)

    Singapore is much more like “traditional” math programs from the last half of the 20th century. EDM is a “reform” math curriculum that tends to shun the traditional algorithms that we grew up with:


  • Mom of Pre-K Kid May 19, 2012 (4:11 pm)

    @SeattleSouth I would LOVE to add my math-adoring 5yo to the STEM Kindergarten waitlist, but there is no before- or after-school program. Both my husband and I have 8am – 5pm schedules, so we need the daycare.

    Sadly, my son will be attending either Alki next year, or continuing at his current private school where he attends pre-K (both of which have before- and after-school).

  • Trudy May 30, 2012 (10:17 pm)

    @ mom of preschool kid
    CDSA – community day school association runs after school programs at many other local schools and children from other schools can enroll and take a bus there

Sorry, comment time is over.