A new math program being implemented on the elementary level in the Three Village Central School District is adding up to controversy among local parents.
More than 100 parents showed up at an open presentation on Thursday, many of whom grilled the district on its new Everyday Mathematics curriculum, which diverges from the traditional ways students are taught the basics.
Anne Rullan, Ed.D., the district's executive director of curriculum and instruction, said curriculum changes were necessary to make sure the elementary math program meets the common core standards recently adopted by New York State — standards that will govern how the students are tested when it comes time for state assessments.
"You look at what your current practices are and what your resources are. We realized there wasn’t a consistent approach to how we teach math, kindergarten to sixth, building to building, and maybe even classroom to classroom," Rullan said, calling Everyday Mathematics "a consistent and fair approach."
According to Jeff Carlson, the assistant superintendent for business services, the district allocated $220,000 for textbooks, teaching materials, and teacher training related to Everyday Mathematics.
Sue Stewart, a former teacher and mathematics consultant who helped train the district's teachers, said the curriculum encourages multiple ways to learn how to solve mathematical problems. She said Everyday Mathematics continually revisits previously learned concepts, introduces certain concepts at earlier grade levels, comes with games to help students learn, and has more emphasis on the language of math as part of the curriculum.
Rullan said teachers have each had one full day of training so far and will receive additional support via grade level meetings, conference days, and other professional development sessions.
The Daily Review reported that administrators in a Pennsylvania school district saw test scores rise even as parents aired gripes about the curriculum. An opinion published on a New Jersey-based blog criticized Everyday Mathematics, saying it "doesn’t provide enough practice for students to master fact recall," "fails totally in areas like fractions and pre-algebra" and causes parents to spend more money on private tutors. But the curriculum received rave reviews in Illinois, where Jay Howe, an assistant superintendent in Glencoe, Ill., said families support the curriculum because they have seen the results.
"The kids understand math better, learn additional ways to solve problems, have better number sense, can explain their operations and answers with more finesse," Howe told Palo Alto Online.
Three Village parent Shari Fontana said she has an open mind about the program, but said the district essentially has an uphill battle to fight.
"I think you've got a lot of parent negativity," she said. "If you put out more information, and more detailed information, you might get a better response. Unfortunately, the burden lies on you."
Mike Opie, a father of a sixth grader and a third grader, said he has no confidence in the new math curriculum, and called the meeting "a broad outline of nothing."
"There's too much open-endedness," he said. "I don't think they did a very good job of explaining it."