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Originally published Sunday, February 7, 2010 at 4:00 PM

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Judge tells Seattle School Board: Do the math

The Seattle Times Editorial Board agrees with Judge Julie Spector that the decision by the Seattle School Board to adopt the Discovering series of math texts should be revisited.

FINALLY someone has stood up to the institutional urge at Seattle Public Schools to adopt constructivist or reform math: Judge Julie Spector of King County Superior Court ruled Thursday that the district's adoption of the Discovering series of high-school math texts was "arbitrary" and "capricious."

This is a kind of judicial activism, and as a method of selecting or rejecting math books it makes us uneasy. Normally a judge would defer to the School Board. But the four members on the School Board who voted for the books were deferring as well.

In the crucial School Board meeting last May, none of the four members voting for Discovering — Cheryl Chow, Steve Sundquist, Peter Maier and Sherry Carr — argued that the constructivist method of teaching is superior. They accepted a decision presented to them.

Someone has to use some judgment here.

The Seattle Times is not in the business of choosing math books. We do have an ear to the ground — and what we hear when we publish articles critical of reform math is unmistakable. Parents loathe reform math. The letters we receive from math tutors and Boeing engineers, in particular, are almost 100 percent against this curriculum.

Maybe they are wrong. Maybe the Washington State Board of Education, which pronounced the Discovering books "mathematically unsound," is also wrong. We don't think so. If the Seattle School Board thinks constructivism is a superior way to teach math, it had better be willing to explain why.

Don't appeal the ruling. Review the decision and vote again.

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