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Letter: Pay 'Sharp Attention' to Fairfield Math Curriculum

A Fairfield resident asks that other citizens make themselves aware of the 'direction our school is taking our children's math curriculum...and our town's budget.'

If you are a Fairfield parent or taxpayer, now is the time to start paying sharp attention to the direction our school administration is taking our children’s math curriculum (K through 12) and our town’s budget.

A new controversial math program being rolled out in our middle and high schools is failing our students and will cost our community between an estimated $350,000-$500,000 if approved by the Board of Education in a few short months. Frustrated parents have formed a group, Fairfield Math Advocates, to push the school district to disband the use of the contentious textbook, called CPM, at the center of parents’ concerns.

Thankfully, Fairfield’s school administrators and Board of Education members have taken note. According to Superintendent Dr. David Title, who spoke at the Jan. 15 Board of Education Meeting, the selection of CPM “is not a done deal.  We are committed to evaluating all available curriculums.” Dr. Title also noted that the textbooks under consideration for secondary math classes will be made available for public review and feedback before a new curriculum and textbook is adopted in April.

As parents, we appreciate that the district is providing the public “unprecedented access” to the textbooks under consideration and is requesting feedback on the textbooks and curriculum from the community. CPM was selected by our district in the spring of last year in part because it was one of the first textbooks to align with the Common Core Standards.

As we approach the adoption of a secondary math textbook, our district should look to how surrounding top-performing districts are proceeding in their adoption to the Common Core. Since the curriculum review process takes place once every five or six years, our district needs to be prudent with its selection.  In fact, many of our neighboring districts are waiting until more publishers roll out revised textbooks.  

Our district should not rush into the purchase of a textbook, without reviewing updated textbooks that align with the Common Core. That being stated, the change needs to be in a metered and thoughtful manner, rather than trying to meet a self-imposed time line.  

If the district adopts CPM as their textbook and curriculum, we are committing to purchasing the CPM textbooks for all middle and high school math classes. An extrapolation of the Algebra I cost to the remaining math courses is estimated between $350,000-$500,000. This cost does not include a significant amount of professional development by the publisher that is needed for CPM’s new teaching methodology in the classroom. Nor does this include the math manipulative materials needed for the CPM program.

The community appreciates the district's steps in developing an open and transparent process. We hope that the process remains transparent, open and most of all objective in its evaluation and selection of a textbook and curriculum. Time will tell if Central Office is truly willing to work in partnership with parents or is just stating what they think the community wants to hear.

 

Dawn Llewellyn

Nancy Haberly January 28, 2013 at 12:44 PM
Beautifully said...thank you for being a voice for our community, Dawn!
Dwight Mom January 28, 2013 at 06:07 PM
Excellent point about looking toward high-performing districts. My 8th grade daughter has been in the "higher" grade level math -- algebra this year. She's been having a very hard time with the new math curriculum -- yet she somehow still manages to stay at the B+/A- level. I've been confused by this because she's really been struggling. My concerns were validated when I had her take a private high school admissions test -- only to get back results that show her below-average in almost every mathematical test area -- ESPECIALLY algebra. In some cases, rockbottom vs. the population overall. That's one heck of a disconnect, Fairfield. You are not doing these kids any favors by lowering the bar. When our kids fill out their college applications, will they be able to asterisk their math SAT scores stating, "*but I was one of the CPM guinea pigs." She will probably repeat algebra next year, despite her report card -- which is apparently a misrepresentation designed to mask what is actually going on.
Chris Kral January 28, 2013 at 08:07 PM
You Dwight parents complain about EVERYTHING!!!! e pay Dr. Title 300k a year for a reason. Give the program a chance. Don't worry, Syracuse will still accept your 8th grade daughter.
Joan Gill January 28, 2013 at 08:15 PM
My 9th grader is struggling, too! She says that too much time is spent working in small groups, and that the teacher leaves the group to figure out the solution to the problems. I'm all in favor of group work, but not for the entire class period.
Dwight Mom January 28, 2013 at 08:45 PM
Chris.... Dwight/Riverfield/Stratfield/etc. or BURR.... Makes NO difference. Knowing you, the laughable IRONY of your statement is surprising -- the tone is not.
Fairfield Parent January 28, 2013 at 09:04 PM
Dwight mom - I am a fellow/former NSS mom - I completely agree with your statement. And as a SU alum I take offense to Chris's statement. I had a choice of an Ivy league school and chose Syracuse for it's excellent Newhouse Communications program. Either way, this program is the exact opposite of what most school systems are leaning toward. My friend works with a major text book company and laughed when she saw this program...and wished us good luck. She is so glad she moved from Fairfield. With the way we are dismantling class size, arts programs, gifted programs, school sports/clubs - I repeat our housing values will sink as our children are under-educated. I am grateful the BOE is being transparent, but are they going to listen to the community that votes them in to office? Tomorrow there is an important BOE Budget meeting at Warde High School - you may want to attend. BTW the new way to teach math that is getting high reviews is to have students watch their teachers' lectures via computer devices as "homework" then the next day they come to school and work with the teacher as they do the work. The teacher spends dedicated time with every student 2x a week and the class is doing ACTIVE work versus Passive listening. Interesting concept.
tfd January 28, 2013 at 09:10 PM
Chris, I am sure you realize that math is cumulative If you don't get the basics, you will fail in the future. If Dwight Mom's daughter is not understanding the concept of Algebra, she will not get Algebra II or Pre Calc, etc. The validity of the program needs to be addressed.
Chris Kral January 28, 2013 at 09:31 PM
TFD-Please note that Dwight Mom was comparing her daughter's score with a "Private High School Admissions" test. While similar, curriculum from public to private are not always parallel. So, yes, I do understand the "cumultive" aspect of Math. So laugh all you want at my "Irony", but Dwight Mom, you are comparing apples to oranges. Change is always dificult, but give the plan a chance and stop your darn complaining.
tfd January 28, 2013 at 09:37 PM
@Fairfield Parent. The math program you described sounds very interesting. I wonder if the BOE has looked into it.
TJC January 28, 2013 at 10:09 PM
Change is good, but it needs to be introduced at the right point, measured, and learned-from. This new style of teaching math seems to have been dropped into a point in the curriculum (Middle School Algebra) which is an inflection point, and therefore not a good place to measure a new experience or learn from it. IMO it would have made much more sense to introduce this new style of learning: a) to a younger group that can be measured appropriately on the success metrics that were defined b) to a younger group whose parents were brought in to the fold much earlier, and possibly given the change to opt-out c) to a younger group whose teachers went through significant learning about how to not just teach but how to moderate in a group-learning environment. In the real world, problems are solved in groups similar to how the CPM system works. I think it is a great idea to teach kids how to approach problems in this setting. However, the execution of this test has failed because of the reasons I mentioned above. A pity. Perhaps the parents and teachers can use a similar CPM approach in coming up with better solution in the future.
Chris Kral January 28, 2013 at 10:23 PM
The problem is everyone thinks they have a better plan. TJC seems to think that his/her plan is better than the one put forth by David Title, Phd. One of the best Superintendants in the state. Again, I state, stop the complaining and give the plan a chance.
fully involved January 29, 2013 at 01:33 AM
STOP PROVIDING FALSE INFORMATION. CPM IS NOT A CURRICULUM. CPM is a Textbook, the curriculum that is being designed has very little to do with CPM. CPM is only the mechanism by which the curriculum may or may not be delivered. The results for the first half of the pilot are not even out yet. Lets get the facts as to how they pertain to Fairfield before we rush to judgement.
Dwight Mom January 29, 2013 at 02:33 AM
You are correct to wonder about the apples to oranges comparison. Re: the STS High School Placement Test, (used nationwide - although I have no idea how extensively) offers a potential explanation for disparity. Although, given Fairfield's graduation rates and the percentage of kids here that DO go on to college, this doesn't seem to "fit." .... However, at times HSPT® scores may be lower than middle school standardized test scores. The lower HSPT® scores seem to be related to differences in the norming population. The HSPT® norms are based on student populations that intend to complete high school and continue on to either two or four year college. But the typical standardized test is normed on a sample representing the entire grade population, about 1/4 to 1/3 of whom will not graduate from high school. We are also asked how the tests students take in high school compare with the HSPT®. Once again, when we have conducted validity studies, the correlations among the HSPT®, PSAT, SAT, and ACT are quite high, even though the tests are taken two or more years later... typically in the high 0.70s to high 0.80s. For the record, I'm actually a big fan of Dr. Title's. But before anyone goes hailing this model as a big success - or a failure for that matter - we have to understand how it is being measured and evaluated. Don't trust that it's a success, just because your child brings home an "A." Ask questions.
TJC January 29, 2013 at 03:03 AM
Kral, you seem to be very quick to point fingers at other people. This is a forum where anyone and everyone can submit whatever ideas they want... Why you say that "TJC seems to think that his/her plan is better than the one put forth by David Title, Phd. One of the best Superintendants in the state" is beyond me. Did I say that? I simply stated above what I think the approach to this should have been, in my opinion. I am not suggesting that I can do, or could do better, than someone like Dr. TItle. I am, however, applying my own professional experience in problem solving and issue resolution to this situation and offering my opinions about it. You need to relax. Go for a walk. Hug a furry animal.
lbh January 29, 2013 at 04:16 AM
Many states have already started petitions to repeal the Common Core Standards. Petitions have sighted the fact that standards are actually lower to meet the CCS. Lowering standards does not make our students more competitve. I am all for change and giving something a chance but when a new practice has a such a negative impact so immediately then we must ask ourselves if continuing is best. And remember the Common Core Standards are tied to 4.5 billion tax dollars President Obama's Race to the Top stimulus. The State of CT so desperately needs this money that we will have no choice but to accept lower standards in all subjects.
Ajack January 29, 2013 at 07:12 PM
It all boils down to Money doesn't it. I have said before, cut the ties to the government educational bribes and you will be able to get the education that our fine Fairfield Teachers are capable of delivering. If someone were to offer our education system $5,000,000 to have all of administrators jump off a roof, would they do it? Don't make decisions solely based on"'what extra money ( bribes) we are going to get" This is the problem when you have a school system that is so fixated on the $ and who has blown their budgets out the window. They scrabble all over looking for $ to pay their salaries and perks. This saddens me a lot.
Kelly Crisp February 05, 2013 at 02:51 PM
@Chris - you assume Dr. Title is one of the best superintendents in the state? How did you arrive at that conclusion? Just because he is one of the highest paid, doesn't mean he is the best. Our test scores are declining.
monique thomas June 01, 2013 at 06:15 PM
Welcome to Common Core State Standards. This is No Child Left Behing on steroids. Outcome based education FAILED in the 90's as an experiment on the individual student. NCLB-FAILED to get the desired outcome in the 2000s. Now change it up with a bribe for Race To The Top funding. In order to get that money 48 states and 2 territories and DC signed on to the initiative before Sept. 1, 2009 to a program sight unseen, no cost analysis done and no idea what kind of datasets were going to be taken from our children. Inorder to get the $$$ the states had to accept ALL the requisites for Common Core State Standards. Since then the unraveling of the corporatists/501(c)3 charitables' veil is thinning. Parental rights are being stripped as childrens privacy and minds are being stolen. Don't fall for you have transparency and local control over your curriculum. All texts are aligned with the CCSS. As Bill Gates, contributor over over $4 billion of his own money, has said-the Standards are set, the assement tests designed--the curriculum will follow. Say NO MORE COMMON CORE! www.facebook.com/stopcommoncoreinct to educate yourself and find out what you can do to get out of this rotten to the core program design as a one-size-fits all classroom to a job placement program. www.stopcommoncore.com for more general info.
Fairfield Parent June 03, 2013 at 07:19 AM
In Kindergarten our principal had a "tea" - during that tea way back in 2003, she warned of the dangers of "No Child Left Behind" - how it was about schools obtaining money and not really about children learning. We witnessed our children be taught to master a standardized test, whereby the school would need to show it was "excellent" or lose Federal funding. Our children complained they were NOT learning - even at a young age - they were learning about HOW to fill out a test. When speaking to the teachers then, even the teachers commented they were no longer allowed to teach ideas and develop our children - they had to ensure the children had data memorized and knew how to fill out a test. Think I am exaggerating - I was cleaning up this weekend and found a bin of school work - many papers were "practice tests" my children had to take for MONTHS preparing for the CMTs. Precious time that could have been spent on math, English, etc. was spent instead on ensuring they could master a test. This type of learning is extremely shallow. I quickly realized I needed to supplement the education at school and at night home schooled. The teachers commented I was smart to do this. I have smart children - they were under challenged in so many ways....their brains were not learning. By Middle School I saw a slight positive shift - however - there was "Writing Across the Curriculum" was introduced. This was introduced due to low middle school CMT test scores in writing. What a surprise....kids were never truly taught to THINK or WRITE in elementary school. So our own system was failing us! Suddenly I saw writing projects in Math - a true waste of time quite honestly in Algebra 1 no less. The kids had to make posters and write about Math instead of learning math...OK posters are fun, but it is the point that the schools are do desperate for state funding they will do anything! No Child Left Behind taught our children how to take test - and nothing more IMO. Now I see a new math program being introduced - I think my family is a year ahead of it. Group learning is wonderful - by anyone's commonsense is not the place. A group biology experiment is one thing. Ditto a social studies project. When I am standing at a register and hand a young person bills plus change - there is no one standing there in a group telling him/her how to solve this issue (ie register says $12.95, and I provide $13 and a 5 cents to get a dime back....this throws too many young people nowadays! And I am not that old!). We can all point fingers, what we really need to do is find out how our children can have the best possible education that we the town of Fairfield pay for currently. Would the BOE subject their children to this math program? I hear everyone is taking their kids to KUMON to learn math. What are we paying tax dollars for if we are not teaching our children how to stand on their feet and learn and apply key math strategies? Again, my friends in other towns and other states are in disbelief that our town would think to introduce a program like this. We need to educate and create strong minds!

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