Ralph A. Raimi
Department of Mathematics
UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER
15 March 2001
Lucy West, Director of Mathematics
CSD #2 Math Initiative, PS 89
201 Warren Street
New York, NY 10282
Dear Ms. West:
I have your email address but thought a paper letter would have less chance of getting lost; you may reply by email if you like, as I do not wish to take much of your time.
You will recall that we met at the meeting some of my NYU friends attended, with me, you and Mr. Thorpe, the meeting itself being a regular event for the chairmen of the CUNY math departments. I also knew of you earlier, from having been scheduled to appear on a Forum called for by a parents group led by Ms. Carson and Ms. Larson a good year ago, since I have been working on projects involving K-12 math education since my retirement as a professor here in 1995, and have done some work in particular concerning the New York Standards for math, and the new Regents B examination.
My understanding at the time Ms. Carson asked me to speak at the Forum was that this was to be a public discussion, with questions, concerning the math curriculum of District 2, including the TERC Investigations, the CMP for middle schools, and MMOW for the high schools, a program opposed by some parents and by me. I was under the impression that public input, augmented by some expert opinion, might change the mind of District 2 concerning the value of this program, to replace it with another.
As you know, the Forum never came off. It was delayed for one reason or another, though I had it on my calendar for two separate approximate dates last year and this, and finally canceled by the District as unnecessary. I was very sorry about that.
Now it happens that I have a daughter who lives in Tribeca and is associated with a monthly neighborhood newspaper called The Tribeca Trib, and since she is their copy editor she sends me each issue to show off her handiwork. In the current issue there is a rather plaintive letter-to-the-editor from a man named Peter Gale, a man I never heard of though he says he is "a former mathematician". In his letter he calls again for a Forum of the sort that was recently aborted.
But between the time the Forum was canceled and my reading of Mr. Gale's letter I have found, while scanning the NSF web page (I have an NSF grant of my own, though for a different purpose), that District 2 holds a grant for a project called Reconceptualizing Mathematics Teaching and Learning Through Professional Development, which according to its description is a tightly organized research project involving several organizations outside District 2 and promising to use the K-8 textbook series named above. The cost of the project is about 400,000 dollars a year, and it has been running for three years and has two to go. Apparently the textbooks were selected more than three years ago by the Principal Investigator, and it would appear that the conditions of the NSF grant are such that you could not change them if you liked.
In other words, the Forum which we did not have would have been futile for the purpose we, who intended to participate in it, thought it might have. That is, it would have been impossible, unless you were to renege on your obligation to the NSF, for you to have changed the program we were objecting to.
Please tell me whether the facts I have just cited are correct, or whether (to the contrary) holding the Forum and getting other advice might have been able to change anyone's mind to real effect. I would like to know what I can safely take as fact in writing as a letter to The Tribeca Trib in answer to the Mr. Gale, who is under the impression that a Forum might have some effect. To be precise: Would there have been, or is there, any possibility whatever, for a change of math program in District 2 before the expiration of the full remaining time of the NSF grant #9731424?
Ralph A. Raimi
Shelley Harwayne, Interim Acting Superintendent, District 2
Harold O. Levy, Chancellor, Board of Education of the City of NY
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