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Letter: Ask for a Choice for Fairfield Algebra Curriculum

The parent group 'Fairfield Math Advocates' urges parents to attend the Jan. 15 Board of Education meeting.

[Editor's note: This letter to the editor was submitted by the Fairfield Math Advocates.]

Would you vote to remove your child from controversial new math program?

We are deeply concerned that Fairfield will quickly adopt a new math curriculum that we believe is contrary to the best interests of students, not in line with top performing schools, has no proven track record, and is based on suspect research. Mansfield, Conn. is the only other school system in the state using this curriculum.

This controversial 20-year-old curriculum, called College Preparatory Mathematics or CPM, has been implemented in Fairfield’s 8th grade Algebra I and High School Algebra 12 classes this year without the benefit of a formal presentation to a Curriculum Committee, input from the community, or presentation to the full Board of Education. If adopted, the curriculum will expand into secondary math classes and will be in place for a minimum of 5 years.

How did this happen?

Under our current BOE practice, curriculum leaders develop curriculum. We believe that Fairfield adopted a de facto curriculum when we entered into a $13,000 contract with CPM that includes purchase of textbooks and four days of teacher training.

“Curriculum” or “Piloting a Textbook”?

CPM’s publisher provides textbooks and teacher guides that include lesson plans that are currently utilized in our schools. CPM calls its educational offerings “professional development and curriculum materials” (www.cpm.org). Contrary to a June 26, 2012 request by BOE member Sue Brand that the administration inform the Board about pilot studies, the administration has chosen to call the new roll out of CPM an “instructional method” or “piloting a textbook," explaining that it did not need to notify the BOE because CPM is not a curriculum.

No Evidence to Support CPM Success

Concerned parents who have looked into CPM have found no evidence to support its success, including SAT results. Instead, parents found school systems that have adopted CPM have since rejected it. After a decade of using the CPM curriculum, many California schools decided to reject CPM altogether or offer an alternative traditional math track. 

If your child had a choice to opt out of CPM, do you know enough about the program to make an educated decision?  

College Preparatory Mathematics Framework

Self-Discovery

CPM relies heavily on students discovering math concepts while working in groups of four rather than a more traditional teacher led discovery and instruction with group work as a secondary component. 

“Guess and Check”

Students “guess and check” their answers until they discover what they believe is the right answer. Teachers cannot provide answers.

Students Learn in Student Led Groups

After a brief teacher led overview, students break into groups of four: facilitator, team captain, recorder and resource manager. Only the facilitator can ask questions. Only the recorder can take notes, etc.

Students Teach Other Students

Students are expected to teach each other concepts and cannot move on until all students in the group understand. Students receive group grades. Individual grades are often lower, according to parents. 

Ask for a choice! Attend the BOE meeting on January 15!

By:

Fairfield Math Advocates

R. Ludlowe January 10, 2013 at 03:51 PM
Its a shame that this was not approached in a better manner. Overall, the CPM approach is innovative and much more realistic to today's world than that of a teacher standing at the front of class lecturing for 45 minutes. Collaborative learning is on the upswing at all levels of education. It sounds to me that the execution of this program is what is killing it rather than the methods themselves. Its most likely ahead of its time, and beyond the reach of teachers that havent been trained properly about how to correctly facilitate.
momof3 January 10, 2013 at 09:20 PM
Does Fairfield follow CPM that closely or are they just using the textbook as a resource? It is clear from Fairfield's past test scores that traditional instruction was not producing the desired results, and just because CPM isn't what Westport is using doesn't mean there is something wrong with it. Teachers have spoken in favor of a more inquiry based model of instruction. CPM has been around for 20 years; it is hardly new. Not sure it is fair to say it is controversial. Feels like a controversy is being created over this because a handful of students are struggling and the district may be going in different way then a handful of parents want it to go. Can't help but wonder what would happen if Westport suddenly adopted CPM, would the "controversy" die down?
DKR March 18, 2013 at 06:22 PM
Thank you for keeping the community informed on the controversial CPM math issue!

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