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School officials ask for feedback on math textbooks

Published 1:28 pm, Wednesday, January 16, 2013
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Superintendent of Schools David Title has said that a new math textbook being piloted in secondary math classes this year and all other math textbooks under consideration will be available for public review and feedback.

He made those comments at the Board of Education's Tuesday night meeting after many parents in past weeks complained about CPM Education's Core Connections Algebra textbook and contended there has been a lack of transparency in deciding to use the text.

"We are completely open from my perspective as to what we recommend to you in terms of curriculum and materials for the secondary math" he said. "We are committed to doing a fair and open evaluation of all available textbooks, for not just Algebra I, but for all the grades that lead up to Algebra I and lead up to geometry, so this is not a done deal."

Title said the school administration will give members of the public "unprecedented access" to all textbooks under consideration to solicit feedback by allowing the public to look at the book in Board of Education central office and fill out a feedback form.

"We will be taking any comments people want to make into consideration with respect to our textbooks," he said, adding that data is being collected on student performance to select the best books. "All the options are still on the table."

Title said the public will be notified when the books are avilable for review.

In the meantime, students also may use and bring home the previously used McDougal Littell math textbook and teachers may use them as they see fit for home assignments. He also said support is available to any struggling students through teachers and principals and professional development is being provided to staff.

"The goal we have here is to improve student performance in math," he said, adding that changes need to be made in the math curriculum to improve student performance in math. "We have no other agenda."

Board member Perry Liu said parents deserve credit for bringing the issues they were having over the new math textbook and instructional method to the board.

"If they hadn't, no matter what you think about the math program, the community wouldn't have known about it," he said. "I'm really hoping in the future we can have better communication."

Discussion of the new textbook was continued to Tuesday's meeting after board member Jennifer Maxon Kennelly made motion at the December meeting to add to that night's agenda a board discussion on stopping use of the math textbook. She later withdrew her motion after other board members said doing so would not give fair notice to those not at the meeting but instead asked that a special meeting be held on Jan. 8 to discuss use of the new book.

Title and board Chairman Philip Dwyer decided to add a continued discussion of the matter as an agenda item to Tuesday's meeting instead of holding a special meeting on the matter.

Prior to Title's comments, Dwyer said further public discussions will be held in February and March on the K-2 math curriculum and in April on the secondary math curriculum for grades six through 10, followed by staff recommendation and a vote in May.

At its Nov. 27 meeting, the board requested a presentation on the new group teaching method and textbook for teaching secondary math for its Dec. 11 meeting after parents complained students could not take the book home and had to use an online version for homework. They also objected to students having to struggle through solving math problems in groups instead of being shown how to do so by the teacher.

Parents have formed a "Fairfield Math Advocates" group in opposition to the new book and teaching method.

Board members and parents also criticized the school administration at the November meeting for not bringing the book, implemented this September, before the panel for consideration.

Administrators say the switch to the book and the new instructional method, being used to teach Algebra I to eighth-graders and Algebra II at the two high schools, was done in an effort to align the math curriculum with Common Core State Standards.

At the December meeting, Deputy Superintendent of Schools Karen Parks said the new books and did not have to be brought before the board as the instructional approach, not the curriculum, has changed and the text book is being "piloted" for the current school year. She said, however, that administrators should have brought the CPM textbook before the board in the spring before piloting it during the current school year.

Several teachers supported the new textbook and method at the Dec. 11 meeting, saying it allowed students to gain a comprehensive understanding as to how the problems were being solved.

mjuliano@bcnnew.com; 203-255-4561, ext. 112; twitter.com/mjulianoadv