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Fairfield Parents Demand Answers about Changes in Math Program

The Board of Education is scheduled to hear a presentation on the issue at Tuesday's meeting, held at the Board of Education Conference Room (501 Kings Highway East, second floor) at 7:30 p.m.

A growing group of parents in Fairfield have turned to the Internet to voice concerns about a change in instructional method for Algebra I and II classes at the district's secondary schools.

The blog "Fairfield Math Advocates", created by "concerned parents within Fairfield advocating for students," is mobilizing residents who seek information about the district's implementation of a program called "College Preparatory Mathematics," or CPM.

The CPM model is based on several principles, including "literacy can be strengthened through meaningful/rigorous mathematical study" and "students learn more when they solve problems and discuss their thinking with others." Students work in groups to solve word problems, and each student is assigned a role in the solution process, according to CPM's principles.

Parents at the Nov. 27 Board of Education meeting described this method of instruction as "a complete disaster," some citing children who excelled at math last year and are suddenly struggling.

A major problem, according to residents who spoke during the meeting's public comment, was the lack of communication between the district, teachers, and parents preparing to implement the program. The school board is scheduled to hear a presentation and vote on the secondary school mathematics curriculum in April.

But the district has already begun rolling out the CPM methodology and textbooks in district-wide Algebra I and II classes, according to parents who spoke at the meeting. Most students do not have an individual textbook and are expected to use computers at home to access homework materials, Fairfield Math Advocates allege.

Board members, including Sue Brand, Perry Liu, and Jennifer Maxon Kennelly, asked that district officials present CPM and any changes that have begun to roll out to the school board at its upcoming Dec. 11 meeting.

"We are the last line," Brand said. "It is our job to make sure all students have resources. This didn't come before the board."

Kennelly said she did not want to wait until spring to have answers. "We cannot let this year be a lost cause."  

Liu added he was "extremely troubled" by what parents said during public comment and in emails he received prior to the meeting.

The agenda for Tuesday's meeting includes a presentation on the secondary math curriculum.

In addition to the presentation to the board, residents said they want the district to hold an open forum to better answer parents' questions.

Those questions are many -- and growing -- but chief among them are:

  • Why was CPM selected for the district, when nearby school systems like Westport, Bridgeport, and Wilton are using the Singapore Math program?
  • Why is our district using a textbook that was not approved by the Board of Education?
  • How does CPM help align Fairfield with the state's recently adopted Common Core State Standards Initiative?
  • What studies/research show how students using CPM fare on standardized tests, like SATs, ACTs, etc.
  • How much has the implementation of the methodology cost thus far, how much will it cost, and who approved the funding?

The Fairfield Math Advocates are requesting the board immediately stop the implementation of CPM and either have the administration develop a new math curriculum to align with the Common Core State Standards Initiative or that the district adopt Singapore Math as the new curriculum.

Learn more about the Fairfield Math Advocates' goals and the group's petition to stop CPM from being adopted by the Board of Education here.

Oz Maths teacher December 14, 2012 at 12:39 AM
I am reading this as an educator in Australia. We are having a very similar reaction from a confused and ill informed parent body. Problem based maths allows context and can give motivation. The "skill and test cycle" suits the "gifted" students with good memory, but makes lousy mathematicians. Might I suggest some directed reading first, and in the meantime allow the educators to do their job - they're the experts!
Chf December 14, 2012 at 12:14 PM
Both side of the argument may each have their own merit. The issue at hand is that none of them were discussed or presented to the BOE, who is supposed to oversee and manage how our taxpayer dollars are spent. Taxpayers and parents throught the BOE should have had a chance to weigh in on the textbook being used. That is the law in the state and also our district policy.
David Van Leeuwen December 28, 2012 at 03:35 PM
If the district has quality instructors, adequately prepared students, manageable class sizes, appropriate technology, and caring parents, the choice as debated here is not even relevant. Students are not regular readers of a math textbook, and the problem with any structured curriculum generally revolves around gaps in the students' preparation. Do not expect any "program" to compensate for the 4 items I have referred to here.
Dawn Llewellyn January 01, 2013 at 07:44 PM
First, your belligerent comments seem to portray you as one of those "crazies" you have described in your reply. The district owes answers to parents about the textbook (violation of State Statute), curriculum (CPM's website states "curriculum"), and instructional method (prescribed method of teaching, like a social reform) that has blindsided the students and parents in this district. When curriculum leaders use Common Core as the impetus for this self-discovery UNPROVEN instructional method and they refuse to acknowledge the use of CPM in the Algebra classrooms, it seems that they are the ones who are not forthcoming. Second, the Fairfield curriculum review process is another issue that needs to be addressed in this district. Other districts (i.e Greenwich -in our DRG) have a 12-15 month review of multiple curricula and textbooks with parent involvement. Our district should learn from these other districts whose standardized test scores are increasing over the years versus Fairfield's continual drop in CMT, SAT and CAPT scores. We should be selecting the TOP math programs from TOP districts for our curriculum review. Third, we need transparency...so the BOE member you mention probably feels the same frustration as parents... God Bless her/him for not being concerned about how majority votes on the BOE. We need more BOE members to take the same leadership role, understand their board duties and remember the people of Fairfield voted them into office.
Dawn Llewellyn January 01, 2013 at 07:56 PM
This has to be a fairfield administrator commenting on and promoting the only math program looked at by our town! Where are the SAT scores???

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