The Board of Education at its Tuesday night meeting approved a revised elementary math curriculum for grades three through five.

Prior to the 7-2 vote, board members questioned Anna Cutaia-Leonard, director of elementary education, and Walter Wakeman, curriculum leader for pre-kindergarten to fifth-grade math and science, on the curriculum, developed by teachers over two years with an emphasis on conceptual learning.

Board member Perry Liu, who voted against the proposal with Sue Brand, asked why the new lesson plan suggests continued use of the Scott Foresman textbook, which had been banned in California because of poor ratings, and will be used with other textbooks.

In response, Cutaia-Leonard said the school district would like to use a new math text, but now is not the right time because publishing companies are updating textbooks to Common Core Standards, a state-led effort by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

She said the school district would then choose textbooks that would align with the math curriculum, which would drive instruction.

"No one book will be the magic bullet for us," she said.

Board member Paul Fattibene said the curriculum should work to exceed the Common Core Standards to create a lesson plan that would be "good enough" for the Fairfield community.

Part of the discussion focused on whether the curriculum would improve Connecticut Academic Performance Test math scores for Fairfield high school students. Last year, their results came in fourth out of the five towns in Fairfield's district reference group with 69.6 percent of the students meeting the state goal for mathematics.

Board member Philip Dwyer, referring to a document, noted Fairfield students in grade three through five are in the lower quartile for 2006-11 math Connecticut Mastery Test scores among 19 towns. He said he hopes the new curriculum will help bring those pupils to the top quartile.

Board member Jessica Gerber mentioned the Singapore Mathematics curriculum, which uses textbooks with a consistent and strong emphasis on problem solving and model drawing.

Cutaia-Leonard said there has been inconclusive evidence as to the effectiveness of the curriculum in the United States.

"We'd like to take the time to let Singapore flesh itself out in the surrounding towns," she said.

A motion by Liu to delay voting on the revised curriculum to wait for results of the curriculum's pilot program failed by a vote of 6-3. The motion failed after the majority of the board members and about 15 teachers indicated they opposed delaying a vote on the proposal, while several parents indicated support for the delay.

A focus group of parents appointed to review the plan recently wrote a letter to the board urging it not to approve the revised curriculum for several reasons, including that the Common Core Standards are not "internationally benchmarked." The group also said the curriculum and its materials teach "fuzzy math" and the group had "insufficient lead time" to review the curriculum.

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