It has been weeks since the Board of Education took up the topic of alleged changes to the Algebra I curriculum at Fairfield's public schools, but parents and board members still seek information and answers about the text and instructional method.
At the Dec. 11 Board of Education meeting, board member Jennifer Maxon Kennelly requested that a special meeting devoted to discussion of the math curriculum be scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 8.
The parents behind the group "Fairfield Math Advocates" agree.
"Parents are looking forward to hearing from the superintendent and the Board of Education chairperson with regard to the proposed special session of the board, so as to continue the discussion related to the merits of alternative programs and/or options," the group relayed in an email to Patch.
To date, a special meeting on Jan. 8 has not been scheduled. The secondary math curriculum is up for review and adoption by the board in the spring.
School administrators did attempt to address concerns about the Algebra I program at the December meeting. Deputy Superintendent Karen Parks, Director of Secondary Education Margaret Boice, and Paul Rasmussen, the secondary mathematics curriculum leader, spoke about College Preparatory Math (CPM), the program associated with the text and instructional method rolled out in this year's Algebra I classes:
- Parks confirmed that the curriculum for Algebra I has not changed since it was adopted in 2006 -- which many parents had feared -- but that the district has indeed implemented the CPM method of instruction and textbook.
- The decision to roll out the new group method of teaching and the CPM textbook was fueled by the Common Core State Standards, which demand a greater comprehension of mathematical concepts and procedures, Parks said.
- The instructional method -- which utilizes group work and a group teaching method -- is used in kindergarten through fifth grade and is being expanded to grades six through 12. Parents had decried the method as "constructivism," but Boice advised that the constructivism is used frequently and is a principle of Singapore Math, the curriculum that some parents have been advocating for Fairfield as an alternative to CPM.
- The CPM textbook is being piloted this school year at a price tag of $13,000 (which includes the cost to train teachers to use it). Parks admitted the administration "made some mistakes" in its haste to roll out the program. The "mistakes" include not presenting the CPM book to the board before piloting it and not using the approved McDougall Littell book for Algebra I students to supplement the new book. The intent was to avoid confusion with students but officials said at the meeting that would distribute the McDougall Littell text and provide a link to the parent guide for the new CPM book.
- If the school board approves the proposed math curriculum in the spring, the CPM text will be purchased for an additional $52,000.
But questions and unease remain, and the parents behind Fairfield Math Advocates want a dialogue with the school board and administrators to happen before the curriculum approval process begins.
The group seeks an explanation as to why a curriculum with a "proven track record" isn't being considered for Algebra I, when Wilton, Westport, and Bridgeport are using the vetted Singapore Math curriculum.
The advocates also want the district to produce results on how students who learn under a CPM curriculum score on SATs and other standardized testing.
"The move to Common Core allows us to make this change [in curriculum] – let’s maximize this change," the Fairfield Math Advocates stated in an email.