NYC HOLD Honest Open Logical Debate on math reform: A coalition of concerned parents, teachers, mathematicians and scientists working to improve mathematics education in NYC schools
Elizabeth Carson, Co-Founder, NYC HOLD. Office: 212.529.1302; Cell: 917.208.7153.
Professor Robert Feinerman, Lehman College, member, Bronx Community School Board 10. Office: 718.960.8870.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, August 16, 2002
Great news for the children of Bronx Community School District 10!
Last night, School Board 10 passed a math resolution calling for rigorous skills-based math programs in District 10 and a halt to officials' plans to implement controversial fuzzy math throughout NYC's largest school district. (resolution attached below)
District 10 administrators, including a director of mathematics newly imported from District 2, sought to emulate Manhattan District 2's fuzzy math initiative, planning to adopt Investigations in Number Data and Space(TERC) and Connected Mathematics (CMP) for grades K-8. The Interactive Mathematics Project (IMP)was to be used in the new high school, a fuzzy program teachers in the Bronx HS superintendency successfully campaigned against last year. Out of the 11 Bronx high schools formerly using IMP, 9 have now opted to drop the program.
The School Board 10 math resolution was drafted by board member Bob Feinerman, chair of the mathematics and computer science departments at Lehman College, and a member of former Chancellor Levy's Math Commission. Professor Feinerman, announcing the board's approval of his resolution said, "And now the hard work begins."
School Board 10's seminal math resolution asks the district to develop a K-12 instructional program that is skills-based and college preparatory. (item 1) The resolution requires grade by grade descriptions of math topics, a schedule, resources, and homework, and that these documents be made available to the entire district community, including parents (item 3) The board recommends the constructivist programs be limited to use as supplementary material ONLY (resolution item 4).
The Board's resolution refers to widespread parent dissatisfaction with the fuzzy math programs, and the consensus among senior officials at NYC's best schools that the constructivist math programs are fatally flawed.
District 2 School Board's performance in comparison, is a profound embarrassment. In the face of sustained public outcry from parents, Stuyvesant math instructors and NYU and CUNY mathematicians, School Board 2 kept their heads in the sand, and did nothing for years to address the math education travesty plaguing the district. Instead they have maintained full support for the district's experimental math programs, TERC, CMP and ARISE, mandated in all district schools, K-12.
While some seasoned District 2 elementary, middle and high school teachers effectively supplement fuzzy math with traditional materials and texts, many do not or can not, and the practice comes with varying degrees of professional risk. The district's public policy strictly forbids the use of materials and teaching practices not consistent with the constructivist philosophy. The practice of classroom supplementation is extremely uneven across schools, raising issues of equity and coherence.
Many parents continue to face costly tutoring or late nights at home and on weekends teaching their children themselves, to ensure their children learn the basics and are prepared for tests used in competitive admissions to the better public middle and high schools in the city.
District 2 parents and seasoned classroom teachers have pleaded for math education programs that are rigorous, coherent and college preparatory, similar to School Board 10's recommendations for the Bronx schools, approved at last night's meeting.
District 2 officials have refused to (1) investigate and report on the nature and extent of supplementation in classrooms (2) identify and disclose the most effective blended approaches already in practice that incorporate parts of TERC, CMP and ARISE with traditional materials and texts (3) develop a district wide policy that allows for the best possible instruction, and in conjunction with clearly defined grade by grade content standards.
District 2 ideologues hold strong to their devotion to constructivist math, its anti-algorithmic approach, disdain for explicit instruction, extensive use of calculators beginning as early as kindergarten, and vague and sub-standard learning objectives. With a multi-million dollar NSF grant still funding the fuzzy programs, and ongoing constructivist research projects with CUNY and the University of Pittsburgh, District 2 will likely maintain their devotion to a failing experiment until the funding and research opportunites cease.
It is highly unlikely that District 2 parents will soon see a resolution of the quality and potential impact of School Board 10's, in their own district.
Given that school boards are limited to an advisory capacity, and that they face imminent discontinuation, it remains to be seen to what extent District 10 administrators will duly respond to School Board 10's exemplary math resolution.
Community School Board District 10
MATH FINAL RESOLUTION
Approved by unanimous vote of the board, August 15, 2002
WHEREAS Community School Board 10 intends that all district 10 students meet city and state performance standards in mathematics, and
WHEREAS Community School Board 10 intends that all district 10 students be prepared for advanced study in mathematics in middle school, high school, and college, and
WHEREAS the members of Community School Board 10 have dedicated significant time to understanding the goals and processes of the teaching of mathematics in District 10 having held two committee meetings dedicated solely to this topic over the last six months and having discussed this topic at briefing sessions and District Comprehensive Educational Plan development meetings, and
WHEREAS the members of Community School Board 10 have completed research beyond district 10 having availed themselves of the writings of college and university mathematicians as well as professionals in the fields of education at the primary, middle, and high school levels, therefore,
1. BE IT RESOLVED that in order to promote the achievement of educational standards and objectives relating to the instruction of students, Community School Board 10 establishes the educational policy of Community School District 10 in Mathematics to be as described in sections 1.A. and 1.B. below, and in sections 2., 3., 4., and 5. below, effective for the 2002-2003 school year:
A. Community School District 10's High School mathematics programs will be skill-based, college preparatory similar to those used by Stuyvesant High School, Brooklyn Technical High School, and Bronx High School of Science and the new high schools located at City College and Lehman College.
B. Community School District 10's Kindergarten through 8th Grade programs will emphasize the teaching of standard arithmetic skills. In particular, the standard algorithms for multiplication and division as well as the standard methods for computation with fractions should be taught. Classroom instructional time will include sufficient computational practice for all students
2. BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Community School District 10's mathematics policy includes that all students should receive textbooks that support the teaching of mathematics consistent with the policies listed in 1.A. and 1.B. above. Mathematics homework will regularly be given with problems and computational practice assigned from these textbooks along with accompanying notifications to parents describing the assigned homework. And,
3. BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Community School District 10's mathematics policy includes that Community School District 10 will demonstrate that its mathematics programs align to New York State and New York City curricula and standards by publishing a document for each grade that describes the math topics, schedule, resources, and homework to be assigned to support the year's instruction. A complete set of these documents will be provided to the board by December 31, 2002. They will also be provided to students and their families, as applicable. The District 10 Mathematics Framework, other District 10 publications, and the District 10 web site should be revised to explain the alignment of instruction consistent with this policy and the document described in this section. And,
4. BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Community School District 10's mathematics policy includes that constructivist programs, if used, will be supplementary to topics described in 1.A. and 1.B. above. If constructivist programs are used, their relevance to state and city curricula and standards will be demonstrated in the listing required in 3. above. And,
5. BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Community School District 10 Community Superintendent report to the Community School Board by its September Briefing Session, currently scheduled for September 12, 2002, of the district's plan to implement this resolution as the policy of the district for the 2002-2003 school year and report monthly at each briefing session regarding the district's progress in implementing its plan consistent with this resolution.
The board has received near-unanimous comment from parents about their dissatisfaction with mathematics as it has been recently taught in Community School District 10. We have received information from senior officials at some of New York City's finest public high schools that constructivist programs do not sufficiently prepare students for advanced studies at their schools. The board provided Community School District 10 with a volume of criticism regarding constructivist programs. These criticisms were not sufficiently answered by district staff nor were satisfactory answers found among the information available on the topic.
Community School Board 10 wishes that the district's mathematics program be as direct and comprehensible as possible by students, parents, teachers, and principals. The board wishes that the program aim to prepare students for the most advanced mathematics study within their potential. The board also desires that all students master the basic arithmetic skills we believe are necessary to survive and prosper in American society
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