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Parents Urge Fairfield School Board to Address Math Curriculum

A focus group tasked with reviewing the elementary math curriculum would like to see the board choose a 'stronger' educational plan.

The Fairfield Board of Education is scheduled to vote Tuesday on the elementary math curriculum (grades three to five), but a group of parents tasked with reviewing the proposed plan are asking that the board vote it down.

Instead the focus group would like to see the board choose a “stronger” curriculum “supported by a well-established text…and planned professional development,” according to resident and parent Susan Marcus, a member of the review group.

The problems with the current and proposed curriculums were summed up by members of the review group in a letter addressed to school board members. Those concerns are:

  • The proposed curriculum is based on the Common Core Standards Initiative, which is meant to ready students for college and career but is “not internationally benchmarked,” according to the group’s letter. Further research brought forth by the focus group showed U.S. students are one to two years behind Asian students by sixth grade in mastery of basic facts and algorithms.
  • The current textbooks and resources utilized in the curriculum are “poorly rated,” outdated, and teach “fuzzy math.”
  • The focus group was given “insufficient lead time” to review the curriculum in depth. According to the document “Curriculum Development in the Fairfield Public Schools, Framework and Procedures” on the district’s website, residents may have input into the formation of the curriculum. The review group felt sufficient input was not granted.

The faction is also concerned with the results of the 2011 Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT) math scores, Marcus said. In Fairfield, 69.9 percent of high school students met the state goal for mathematics, ranking fourth in the school system’s district reference group (DRG) towns. That DRG include Greenwich (71.9 percent), Monroe (72.4 percent), Newtown (68.5 percent), Trumbull (71.7 percent), West Hartford (62.4 percent).

Marcus contended that Fairfield should not only compare its pupils to within its DRG, but to neighboring towns’ students as well.

“We believe it is important to look not only at our DRG, but also neighboring towns that are successful so we can try to emulate their successes.”

New Canaan, Wilton, Ridgefield, Weston all saw more than 80 percent of students meet the state’s math goal. Ninety percent of Westport students satisfied the goal.

The group has proposed a first-step solution to addressing the issues they found with the curriculum. That step is to replace the textbooks used in grades 3-5. The text Singapore Math is one suggestion from the group: a textbook that aligns with the Common Core Standards and one the group feels is well established.

The Board of Education will meet Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Board of Education Conference Room (501 Kings Highway East).

Laura April 09, 2012 at 11:39 AM
This is long overdue! Let's take this chance to bring our math curriculum into the 21st century.
Michele Modugno April 09, 2012 at 01:54 PM
Just saying...Singapore Math is being used in Westport and oh..."90% of Westport students satisfied the goal"....gee...maybe it is time for a change, Fairfield!
Roseanne Italiano Levy April 09, 2012 at 02:04 PM
I agree with the recommendation for better textbooks in Fairfield. Another part of the problem with math is that the teaching staff are very uneven. Several of my children's teachers at Mill Hill were useless at teaching math. They have since retired, but I hope the new teachers have better training. At Tomlinson, the advanced (2 years) students were put in with older kids in 6th and 7th grades and the ones who had the bad teacher got left behind while the ones with the good teacher went on. The math person at Mill Hill tried to discourage kids from taking advanced math, but most of the problem seemed to stem from one bad teacher at Tomlinson. The kids who made it to 8th grade Geometry had it good because they were all in the same class with students from Ludlow Middle school with a good teacher. I was also surprised that come Middle school awards, it appeared that none of the advanced math students received awards for the tremendous amount of work that is required. It appeared that they could have stayed in the easier classes and gotten easy A's to receive accolades. But once at Ludlowe High school we found the teachers were hit and miss again. If the advanced students were not taught with concern, it is not surprising the other students were not taught well. Westport has a more rigorous curriculum for all students, better teachers and a more supportive environment for advanced math students so it is not surprising that they do a better job at teaching math.
momof3 April 09, 2012 at 02:38 PM
The new proposed curriculum is internationally benchmarked against Japan and Singapore. The text that is currently being used does not reflect new curriculum. Textbook publishers are still developing text books that are reflective of Common Core Standards. State of CT adopted Common Core Standards (as did 47 other states). If standardized tests are being used as a way of deciding how equipped our kids are in math, what do you think will happen when our kids need to take standards tests based on the Common Core Standards? Parents have had at least a month to weigh since new curriculum was presented to the public. Teachers were instrumental in developing the curriculum. Parents should have input, but we also need to trust our teachers to know what is needed. They are the experts after all. As far as comparing us to Westport, have you compared the school budgets? Might they be paying their teachers more? Might they be willing to spend more to educate their kids? I don't know--just something to keep in mind as our RTM is about to vote on our school budget.
Fairfield native April 09, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Good points momof3
Ann Marie O'Keefe April 09, 2012 at 04:04 PM
To clarify a few points presented in the article. The CCSS or Common Core State Standards is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Govenors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The K-12 Standards cleary communicate what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. They focus on core conceptual understandings and procedural skills and sequence them in a coherent and logical progression to prepare students for career and college readiness. The CCSS are internationally benchmarked with similar learning expectations of top-performing nations like Singapore, Japan, Germany, Korea and Finland. A review of the CCSS conducted by Achieve, a bipartisan, nonprofit education reform organization, found that the CCSS are on par with those learning expectations set by Japan and Singapore in terms of rigor coherence and focus. The proposed math curriculum also addresses the problem of the current curriculum that is a "a mile wide and and inch deep" by providing more balance in conceptual understandings and proceedural skills. It also provides coherence and equity within and across grade levels in the school district. The newly proposed curriculum, just like the high - performing nations, focuses on fewer standards in each grade levei with emphasis on developing an understanding of "number" in the elementary grades
momofone April 09, 2012 at 04:08 PM
http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/PDF/dgm/report1/basiccon.pdf Fairfield spent $14,380 per pupil and Westport spent $17,435 per pupil.
Fairfield native April 09, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Thank you Ann Marie!
DM April 09, 2012 at 06:17 PM
Bridgeport spent about the same as Fairfield.
Just One Teacher April 09, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Bridgeport also had 33.7 Math Proficient & 10.3 Math Goal in 2010 http://www.courant.com/news/education/hc-cmt-connecticut-2009-search,0,2306865,results.formprofile?SortBy=cdb_04_txt+%2Ccdb_01_txt+%2Ccdb_03_txt+desc+%2Ccdb_02_txt+desc+&PageSize=50&Page=1&turbine_cdb_lib__cdb_04_txt=Bridgeport&turbine_cdb_lib__cdb_05_txt=&turbine_cdb_lib__cdb_06_txt=&turbine_cdb_lib__cdb_03_txt=&turbine_cdb_lib__cdb_02_txt=2010
Kelly Crisp April 09, 2012 at 11:33 PM
In 2008-09, CT Dept of Education's Strategic School Profile Report's "Number of Instructional Hours Per Year," the average of instructional hours per year for State High Schools is 1007. FLHS is lowest in the area at 929 hr/yr. Warde is 933. Bridgeport is 989. Westport is 972. Weston is 1000. Greenwich is 1027. New Canaan is 990. Stamford is 1004. Trumbull is 988.
Kelly Crisp April 09, 2012 at 11:40 PM
In 2009-10, the state average in instructional hours per year was 1006. FLHS was 927. Warde was 927. Bridgeport was 983. Westport was 972. Greenwich was 1027. You are welcome to look up any school in the state using this link. http://sdeportal.ct.gov/Cedar/WEB/ResearchandReports/SSPReports.aspx
Just One Teacher April 09, 2012 at 11:40 PM
If problems are spotted, then we should fix them. We should always be striving for excellence. We have gone up from 66.2 in 2010. However, we were higher a few years ago. Some of us are wondering how much the elimination of level 3 courses have played into this. It will be interesting to see this years scores. Here are the 2010 scores by DRG: http://www.courant.com/news/education/hc-cmt-connecticut-2009-search,0,2306865,results.formprofile?SortBy=cdb_04_txt+%2Ccdb_01_txt+%2Ccdb_03_txt+desc+%2Ccdb_02_txt+desc+&PageSize=50&Page=1&turbine_cdb_lib__cdb_04_txt=&turbine_cdb_lib__cdb_05_txt=&turbine_cdb_lib__cdb_06_txt=B&turbine_cdb_lib__cdb_03_txt=10&turbine_cdb_lib__cdb_02_txt=2010
Just One Teacher April 09, 2012 at 11:56 PM
I would love for them to explain the math on that. 929/182 + 5.1 hours/day. If a child takes 7 classes and a lunch it should be closer to 5.25. Many of my students have classes ALL 8 PERIODS. Seems odd???
Just One Teacher April 09, 2012 at 11:56 PM
929/182 = 5.1 (darn shift key)
DM April 10, 2012 at 12:32 AM
So how much money spent doesn't correlate with scholastic results.
Kelly Crisp April 10, 2012 at 12:33 AM
Fairfield high schools are 79 instructional hours below the state average. We are a few hours above the state minimum. This issue is not new although very few are aware of the incredible disparity.
Fairfield Resident April 10, 2012 at 12:32 PM
Spend........Spend.......Spend.......
tfd April 11, 2012 at 12:32 PM
I agree with a several of Ms. Levy's points. 1. My daughter was discouraged from going into the advanced math in 6th grade. I pushed it and insisted on advanced math (transition to pre-algebra) and she is getting an A. 2. My son was discouraged from going into 7th grade math while in 6th grade. He wanted to take the more advanced class. He is currently in 9th grade taking an honors Algebra 2 class and is getting an A. 2. He was one of 12 kids at Woods who were taking honors Geometry in 8th grade. Only 2 of those kids got awards while many (at least more than 5) got awards for taking pre-algebra in 8th grade. Twelve 8th graders took (and I believe all did very well) honors 10th grade class, they should have all received an award. 3. The schools need to raise the bar of expectation of what the children can do.
fully involved April 11, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Westport won't star using Singapore math until next year.
fully involved April 11, 2012 at 09:17 PM
This problem could be solved with the revised 8 drop 2 schedule that was developed three plus years ago. Unfortunately, the implementation would cost upwards of $1M annually with the increased staffing requirements

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