Email to Ms. Peggy Cooper Cafritz
President of the DCPS Board of Education
and Dr. Clifford B. Janey
Superintendent of the DCPS
Cc to other members of the Board
By Adele J Hlasnik
June 15, 2005
I understand that you are planning to adopt Everyday Mathematics and Connected Mathematics programs for use in your elementary and middle school math programs. It is important for you to know about the Pittsburgh Public Schools experience with these programs before you vote this evening.
Pittsburgh has been using these curricula district-wide for ten years now. The results based on the Pennsylvania System of State Assessments (PSSA) indicate that the curricula are failing the most vulnerable students, those from low-income, minority households. In the 2003-2004 testing year, over 70% of African American fifth and eighth grade students failed to demonstrate proficiency on the PSSA with some 50% measuring "Below Basic" in each grade. The problems with the EM spiral approach are significant and some principals in Pittsburgh have courageously and successfully supplemented the program to improve their students' levels of achievement. Because of this, the Pittsburgh Public Schools will pilot a more traditional math program this coming fall.
Problems with EM include: EM requires teachers to have a math proficiency rarely found in elementary teachers. This background is needed to effectively lead the discovery process and make the necessary math connections.
In districts with significant teacher attrition, transfers or absences, students are often left with poorly trained teachers to fill in. Unless trained in EM at a specific grade level, a teacher is ineffective. And, that translates into less learning.
Parents, especially those who are less educated, end up being excluded from helping their children with their math homework - with both EM and CMP. The schools shouldn't be trying to weaken the parent-school connection; they should be trying to strengthen it. The EM parent-training sessions are often impractical and ineffective because of the numbers of parents they don't reach.
EM is weak in its teaching of standard algorithms especially, long division and working with fractions. Familiarity with these processes is essential for further development in mathematics.
EM is expensive with the consumable workbooks as well as the significant amount of program-specific training required.
It is unfortunate that despite having adopted one of the top math standards in the country you are now proposing to undermine it by adopting a math programs whose performance has been dismal in my own urban school system. I urge you to scrap the whole lot of math programs you are currently considering and adopt something (Saxon, Singapore Math) that will provide your students with the foundation they will need in order to pursue a math-based career - mathematics, science, engineering, medicine, etc. Don't limit their options.
Adele J Hlasnik
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