Letter: School board must demand fiscal details
Published 9:11 am, Wednesday, April 24, 2013
On April 9, the Fairfield Board of Education voted 7-2 to approve a new, and unproven, district-designed, teacher-written kindergarten to second grade math curriculum. The board is not being fiscally responsible at budget season.
Instead of a curriculum based on proven math textbooks, written by leaders in the math profession, based on long-term research and supported by proven statistical results, our board has supported the superintendent's decision to reallocate $80,000, originally earmarked for purchasing math elementary textbooks, to pay teachers additional salary over the summer to write units of study for K-2 Math, as well as develop a parent math guide.
Although our teachers have good intentions, are they best qualified to write the math curriculum? Do they hold masters or doctorates in mathematics or curriculum design? Publishers employ full time "experts" to design curriculum. Can Fairfield design better?
The director of elementary education, Anna Cutaia-Leonard, stated that under program implementation, $25,400 will be used to "build a teacher's mathematic knowledge about math." Are these the same teachers writing the new curriculum?
Teachers writing the math curriculum will use current math resources (work books) as source material to create a "patchwork" text. Yet, our current math resources are outdated and widely criticized in math journals and by other school districts across this country.
In Connecticut state rankings, eight of Fairfield's 11 elementary schools have dropped in fourth grade mastery test math scores from 2007 to 2012. Over the last six years, Fairfield math scores for grades 3, 4, and 5 place us in the bottom quartile of 19 schools (district supplied metric). Do we want to use the current outdated resources and the current elementary math curriculum leadership to "design" our new de facto textbook?
In addition, Superintendent David Title stated that he may shift some allocated funds from elementary math textbooks to the secondary math textbooks for grades six to 10, without BOE approval.
So, no one really knows how the administrators will be spending the money specifically allocated in the budget for elementary math textbooks? But, board members agreed that approving this curriculum will not preclude the adoption of a new math textbook in the near future. Why spend twice?
What is the total cost comparison for developing this "patchwork" math curriculum versus purchasing a proven third party textbook? We have not been told, nor has the board demanded this information from Title. In Ridgefield, administrators presented a cost analysis to its school board that was so detailed it even included the cost for substitutes, should release time be utilized when teachers are in professional development. So why is Fairfield unwilling to report to taxpayers exactly how the $80,000 will be spent, as well as disclosing the total cost to create something that can be readily purchased, and more likely for less investment?
We need all board members, not just a few, to enforce the transparency of financial details and metrics, and not allow the administration to run unchecked and unaccountable.