Following are my prepared remarks, which I altered slightly when I read them at the meeting.
During the work session on April fourth, the administration presented three alternatives for transitioning to a mathematics curriculum based on Common Core standards. Dr. Lulow indicated that the administration was outlining options in response to “a public concern raised about the quality of the math curriculum and our willingness to make adjustments in the schedule” of a math curriculum review.
The first two of these options are based on using the current or a Common Core edition of Everyday Math. The third option allows for the adoption of a different curriculum to begin in fall 2012. The points in favor of the first two options revolve around the lower cost for professional development and material, and the minimal change required. I use minimal change to mean, in Mr. Southworth’s words, that “there is a very close, very close alignment” and that there was “not dramatic change coming up.”
Yet elsewhere in the presentation, Mr. Southworth said the Standards are “organized into domains and…. that’s a significant difference in how we have approached mathematics in the past.” Later he indicated, in regard to which grades were impacted the most, that “the most significant shifts between what we are currently doing and Common Core are occurring at the elementary school.” He used fractions and numeracy as examples of the extent and nature of the changes required.
Peter Sherr asked what major things needed to be taught earlier or later, to which Mr. Southworth replied that that was a difficult question and that “we’re really well aligned.” Yet, from the very same document that the administration used to claim a 92% alignment, the percentage of standards being taught earlier or later in K-5, is 35%. For the test years (grades 3-5), the percentage is 44%.
The point here is not to highlight inconsistencies, but to show that any way you slice the pie (that’s a reference to fractions), there is a significant change required.
Still unaddressed, however, is the question of whether Everyday Math is the proper foundation for this transition. The lack of progress in raising CMT scores, particularly at the Goal and Advanced levels, the widening of the gap relative to other districts, and the slow progress made in closing subgroup gaps in our district, indicate to me that the curriculum is failing our students. Do we really want to continue with this program under options one and two, in whatever mutated form it might take?
I proposed a fourth alternative. Begin the curriculum review now. Begin implementation in fall 2013 for grades two through five, and in fall 2014 for Kindergarten and first grade. That will ensure that all grades will have almost two full years of an aligned curriculum before the SBAC tests. You will have the proposed twelve to eighteen months to do the review and preparation. You will save the expense for the option one or option two changes, which would likely have been discarded when the scheduled 2014 review was concluded. And, most importantly, you will have taken the first step toward addressing the impact of this failing program on the lost generation of our students.
Some additional comments and thoughts:
In the presentation made by the administration on the fourth, they promised to post a summary of the options and costs outlined by the Math Coordinator. This was posted, but then removed (I printed a copy). The interesting thing is that during the meeting (and you can watch the tape), the third option was to “set aside the current set of curriculum and to adopt a new Common Core edition.” This was later clarified that the option was to “adopt a K-5 Common Core Edition of a math program” (about 25 minutes into the tape). This appears to open it up to all curricula, not just Everyday Math. Yet the summary that was posted (and removed) contained the words “All options assume K-5 Core Math package is Everyday Math.”
The Math Coordinator also made the comment that he thought the administration could switch to a new edition of Everyday Math (i.e., the Common Core edition) without BoE approval, albeit with some additional funding. Yet if you listen carefully to his rationalization for not switching to another curriculum (about 30 minutes into the tape), the same logic (?) should apply to adopting (actually not adopting) the Common Core edition of Everyday Math. Talk about doubling down on a losing hand!
During the work session, Board member Peter von Braun asked the Math Coordinator “what are the problems that reduce student achievement in mathematics, what causes those problems, and why does this program (Everyday Math) solve those problems.” The Math Coordinator’s response was to highlight new students coming into the district with different math backgrounds, students with “other handicaps” such as language difficulties, and the fact that Greenwich does not group students by ability, but differentiates in the classroom. Don’t other districts also have these factors with which to contend? So why are we falling behind?
If you listen to the math Common Core discussion during the work session, and I have several times, the essence is that the administration (while not recommending any particular path) is moving toward making a little bit of change to the current curriculum (don’t forget, it is already close) to get us through to 2014, then do a full scale review. This would be acceptable IF the current program was not failing, and IF that failure was not jeopardizing the future of our children, and IF the alignment was as good as suggested. Chairman Moriarty said at the conclusion of the conversation that next steps need to be determined, but no plans were made or information requested (as far as I heard). We cannot afford to wait for 2014.
I am betting that at some point a group of parents will realize the impact Everyday Math had on their children (when they drop out of college), and will institute a law suit against the Board of Education and the Greenwich Public Schools for educational malpractice. This has not worked in the past, but with the focus on accountability, who knows what legal avenue some clever lawyer will find to push the issue.