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Archive for July, 2007|Monthly archive page

Should Ridgewood Village Council Follow In Paramus Borough Council’s Footsteps?

In Uncategorized on July 31, 2007 at 8:05 pm

Today’s The Record reports that the Paramus Borough Council may hire a forensic accountant to review their school district’s finances.

Although Paramus Councilman Richard LaBarbiera refused to state what prompted discussion about such a proposal, speculation is that he and other governing body members are upset by a perceived mismanagement of taxpayer monies related to soil contamination at a Paramus middle school. In addition, it was recently revealed that even though Janice Dime, Paramus’ embattled Public Schools Superintendent, is on an indefinite suspension with pay, school board members there granted her a salary increase.

In light of recent lackluster financial performance from the folks at Cottage Place, The Fly wonders whether now would be a good time for Ridgewood’s Village Council to undertake a similar review our BOE’s spending habits. Specifically, the following actions/decisions deserve a closer look:

A disastrous superintendent search
The controversial TERC program
An obsolete private fiber optic network (when everyone else is going wireless)
An antiquated telecommunications system
Another Question 2 (we’re tired of question 2’s)
A planned $600K+ fire alarm/electrical upgrade at the high school
Revelations that Jane Reilly’s salary increased more than 50% in 3 years
NOV’s from NJDEP related to unlawful property use
The BOE’s continued willingness to create new administrative positions (we want more for less, not less for more)
A high school that’s falling apart at the seams

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Unusual Activity On The Ridgewood Blog

In Uncategorized on July 31, 2007 at 6:09 pm

just wanted to let readers know that there will continue to be unusual activity on the The Ridgewood Blog for the next several weeks do to seasonal indulgences

Math Chat is Coming!

In Uncategorized on July 31, 2007 at 11:38 am

Attend the MATH CHAT

THURSDAY AUGUST 9th 7:30pm

@The Unitarian Society of Ridgewood

113 Cottage Place, 1st floor

Presented by the Math Moms

http://www.vormath.info/WordPress1/

I am pround to announce that the Ridgewood Blog now has “just say no to reform math ” T-shirts….

http://www.cafepress.com/ridgewoodblog

the fly asks why not pay the kids?

In Uncategorized on July 31, 2007 at 4:54 am

Last week The Ridgewood News featured a ‘thank you” to the Rec Dept for use of town fields for the recently completed PONY U17 softball qualifying tournament ,a job well done ,but it seems interesting to the fly that there was time to coordinate this boondoggle but no time to pay the kids who worked long hours umping the final month of the Rec season.

Extramarital relationships involving BOE and VOR employees

In Uncategorized on July 30, 2007 at 1:05 pm

Since the inception of this Blog, the Fly has periodically received anonymous reports of extramarital relationships involving employees of the BOE and VOR. Since off duty conduct is a private matter, and none of the allegations have been accompanied by substantiation, our Blog’s moderator has thus far chosen not to post any comments related to “immoral activities.”

However, the Fly understands that extramarital relationships between employees (or a administrator/teacher-parent, police officer-resident relationship) can create moral issues in the minds of other employees, as well as Ridgewood’s residents.

What do you think – Do BOE and VOR leadership teams have a responsibility to address reports of extramarital relationships involving their employees? Or is what goes on in private just that, a private matter? If the Fly receives substantiated reports of affairs with obvious conflict of interest issues (e.g., a manager-subordinate relationship), should they be posted?

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U.S. math woes add up to big trouble

In Uncategorized on July 29, 2007 at 4:27 pm

Concerned parent about math finds a poignant article

SUMS IT UP… pun intended

Apr 8, 2007
There is a war raging all around us, a war the United States cannot afford to lose. No one has died in this war, and no one is likely to. But there are casualties. The injuries are mental rather than physical, but the suffering is lifelong. I’m not referring to the global war on terror or the war on drugs. I’m talking about the mathematics war.
While the United States is the world’s only superpower militarily, mathematically we are a second-rate power, and losing ground every year. In the math war, the superpowers are Singapore, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Belgium. In assessment after assessment, those countries prove that their weapons – fourth, eighth and 12th graders – are more accurate and advanced than our own. Their strategies are more focused. Their national resolve is stronger.
The debate in this country about mathematics education and curricula has been termed the math wars, but it is in reality a generally civil disagreement. There are two distinct sides in the debate, which for simplicity’s sake I’ll label “reformers” and “traditionalists.” Because I subscribe to the BLUF principle – Bottom Line Up Front – I’ll tell you now that I side with the traditionalists.
In this forum, I can’t possibly present all the relevant information necessary for you to make an informed decision on this issue. My goal is to pique your interest so that you will want to become better informed, will want to take a stand.
Why? Because the issue is critical to our nation’s ability to remain an economically advanced world power. Let’s face it: Math whizzes in Taiwan or Belgium will get good jobs in the global economy, but they are not going to grow up to become taxpaying supporters of the American baby-boomers’ social safety net. Only American math whizzes can be counted on to do that. We need to grow our own.
A bit of context is important. The reformers, representing the education establishment, believe learning “process” is more important than memorizing core knowledge. They see self-discovery as more important than getting the right answer. For them it’s the journey, not the destination.
Traditionalists, consisting mainly of parent groups and mathematicians, advocate teaching the traditional algorithms. They advocate clear, concrete standards based on actually solving math problems. The destination – getting the right answer – is important to traditionalists.
Fuzzy vs. clear
Two examples will help to make the difference clear.
One broad standard in an actual reformers’ curriculum states that students should “use computational tools and strategies fluently and estimate appropriately.” A similar statement in a traditional standards curriculum says: “The student will add and subtract with decimals through thousandths.”
Fuzzy standard on one side, clear and concise on the other.
One math project in a reformers’ program – the program used in many New Hampshire school districts – is called “My Special Number.” Sixth graders are told:
“Many people have a number they find interesting. Choose a whole number between 10 and 100 that you especially like. In your journal:
“Record your number.
“Explain why you chose that number.
“List three or four mathematical things about your number.
“List three or four connections you can make between your number and your world.
“At the end of the unit, your teacher will ask you to find an interesting way to report to the class about your special number.”
Sixth graders are given a month to complete this project.
To traditionalists, tools and context are important – in that order. Master the tools, put them in context. Reformers provide context, then attempt to guide students to discover the tools. This is cart-before-the-horse thinking.
The reformers’ approach is to have students devise their own methods for achieving a mathematical goal rather than have them learn the traditional algorithms. “By talking about problems in context, students can develop meaningful computational algorithms,” a reform standard states.
This is not true. If by “meaningful computational algorithms,” we mean simple, accurate and repeatable – things like the traditional addition algorithm, or long division, then the average student will never develop such an algorithm and should not have to try. Universal mathematical algorithms were developed ages ago by Archimedes, Euclid, Descartes and Pascal. There are not many budding Pascals in our school districts, but there are plenty of children capable of learning from the methods discovered by the great mathematicians in history.
Return to tradition
Traditional methods of teaching mathematics have proved their worth. While they could be tweaked, they should not be discarded.
Reformist curricula might make for an interesting doctoral dissertation, but they don’t hold up well when ivory tower meets bricks and mortar. In math education, America’s children once competed well with their foreign peers. But today our students’ mathematical performance earns them a place in the bottom quartile of industrialized countries. They are in the middle of the pack when less-developed nations are added.
What has changed during recent decades? The teaching philosophy. The reformers of the education establishment – Big Ed – took over. Billions of tax dollars have been spent on a social experiment in which the tried-and-true was discarded and the intellectually fashionable was foisted on schoolchildren.
This should spark outrage among both parents and taxpayers. It should trouble anyone counting on today’s students to get good jobs and pay taxes.
The best way to advance students’ conceptual thinking about mathematics is to have them learn and take advantage of the existing core of mathematical knowledge. This is the traditional approach: Students are taught, and made to master, the traditional algorithms.
With such tools, and with the guidance of good teachers, a student can, after 12 years of school, understand and apply mathematical principles that took scores of geniuses thousands of years to devise.
I urge you to learn more about the math wars, about how your school is teaching math, and to take a stand in favor of the traditional, proven methods.
(Ken Gorrell of Northfield works for a New Hampshire-based defense contractor.)
—— End of article
By KEN GORRELL

School math books, nonsense, and the National Science Foundation

In Uncategorized on July 29, 2007 at 4:09 pm


“the fly has noticed while the proponents of TERC Math continue to make personal attacks the facts seem to always fall on the side of the Math Moms….”

David Klein Department of Mathematics California State University,

NorthridgeProblem: Find the slope and y-intercept of the equation 10 = x – 2.5.Solution: The equation 10 = x – 2.5 is a specific case of the equation y = x – 2.5, which has a slope of 1 and a y-intercept of –2.5.

This problem comes from a 7th grade math quiz that accompanies a widely used textbook series for grades 6 to 8 called Connected Mathematics Program or CMP.[1] The solution appears in the CMP Teacher’s Guide and is supported by a discussion of sample student work.

Richard Askey, a mathematician at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, reported, “I was told about this problem by a parent whose child took this quiz. The marking was exactly as in the text.”[2] Students instructed and graded in this way learn incorrect mathematics, and teachers who know better may be undermined by their less informed peers, armed with the “solution.” This example is far from the only failing of CMP. Among other shortcomings, there is no instruction on division of fractions in the entire three year CMP series, and the other parts of fraction arithmetic are treated poorly.[3]

Is CMP just an anomaly? Unfortunately not. CMP is only one of more than a dozen defective K-12 math programs funded by the National Science Foundation. More specifically, the NSF programs were created and distributed through grants from the Education and Human Resources (EHR) Division within the NSF. In contrast to the NSF’s admirable and important role in supporting fundamental scientific research, the EHR has caused, and continues to cause, damage to K-12 mathematics education.

At the elementary school level, one of the worst NSF funded programs is the widely used K-5 series TERC: Investigations in Number, Data, and Space.[4] The program relies heavily on calculators and does not include textbooks in the usual sense. Harvard mathematician Wilfried Schmid evaluated it and concluded that by the end of 5th grade, TERC students were roughly two years behind where they should be according to the California, Indiana, and Massachusetts state mathematics standards, the best state math standards in the U.S.[5] Schmid added, “The TERC authors are also opposed to the teaching of the traditional algorithms of arithmetic, such as long addition, subtraction with borrowing, and the usual pencil-and-paper methods of multiplication and division. Not only do they refuse to teach the algorithms, they make clear their preference not to have the students learn them outside of the classroom, either.”[6]

Schmid’s observations are confirmed by a resource book for K-6 teachers entitled, Beyond Arithmetic, which “provides support for teachers, administrators, and curriculum specialists who are transforming mathematics learning and teaching and are implementing curricula such as Investigations in Number, Data, and Space,” according to promotional materials from the publisher (which also publishes TERC). Beyond Arithmetic explains, “In the Investigations curriculum, standard algorithms are not taught because they interfere with a child’s growing sense and fluency with the number system.”[7]

Contemporary Mathematics in Context (Core-Plus) and Interactive Mathematics Program (IMP) and are two NSF-funded secondary math programs that are supposedly college preparatory.[8] But Core-Plus students do not learn how to expand (a + b)2 until their third year of high school,[9] and IMP delays the quadratic formula until 12th grade, at which time a derivation is not even provided.

Despite sharp criticisms by mathematicians and strenuous opposition from parents of school children,[10] IMP, Core-Plus, and CMP, were designated “exemplary” by the U.S. Department of Education in 1999. Several other controversial math programs were also labeled “exemplary” or “promising” at the same time.[11]

The imprimatur of the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education certification of some of the worst math textbooks in the industrialized world makes it particularly difficult to dissuade school districts from using them. Even so, more than 200 mathematicians and scientists attempted to warn the public about these books in an open letter to the U.S. Secretary of Education.[12] Among the signatories were department chairs of many of the nation’s leading math departments and several Nobel laureates and Fields Medalists. Parents cite that letter in their efforts to save their children from mathematical nonsense in the schools, but the NSF, oblivious to the criticisms, continues to fund newer editions of these “fuzzy math” programs, and awards multimillion dollar grants to distribute them to schools.One of many examples is the $35 million NSF grant to “System-wide Change for All Learners and Educators” (SCALE).[13] In addition to other activities, SCALE promotes IMP, CMP, and TERC even in California where those books are not state approved. These textbooks lack the mathematical content necessary to meet the state’s K-12 math standards.

The NSF is not the only funding source for defective math programs. Corporate foundations also contribute. In 2001, for example, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation teamed up to award the San Diego Unified School District $22.5 million, but only under the condition that the school board retain its superintendent and chancellor of instruction so that they could institute educational “reforms.” The two administrators required schools to use a controversial high school physics program, an ineffective reading framework for elementary school, and Everyday Mathematics, an NSF-funded, K-6 series not aligned to the state’s standards.[14] By the next school board election, both administrators had left the district, but San Diego school math scores had already declined relative to the state as a whole. Because I have written and spoken publicly about issues in math education, I regularly receive emails and phone calls from parents across the country asking for help and advice on how best to avoid the negative effects of NSF-funded math programs in their children’s schools. I receive more complaints about Everyday Mathematics than all of the other NSF-funded programs combined. And the complaints are legitimate. Like TERC, Everyday Mathematics eschews the standard algorithms and does not develop fluency in basic arithmetic.During the previous decade, the goal for students to achieve fluency in algebra and arithmetic was often derided by educators as “mindless symbol manipulation” or “drill and kill.” This point of view guided the creation of math textbooks. The resulting radical deemphasis of algebra and arithmetic — the prerequisite to algebra — in NSF-funded and NSF-distributed math programs has stark consequences for science education, especially physics. When the isolation of a variable in a simple equation is laborious for students rather than automatic, the depth of instruction in high school physics courses is severely limited. At the university level, students struggling with elementary algebra find themselves adrift in their calculus classes, and success thereafter in physics courses is elusive.

The root cause is money badly spent. The NSF and corporate foundations maintain a gravy train of education grants and awards that stifle competent mathematics education. Although it is conceivable that ongoing NSF grants for new editions of defective math programs, such as those I have described, will improve matters, that is a poor strategy. It amounts to throwing good money after bad. The most that one can realistically hope for is that the original NSF-funded math programs will eventually rise to the level of mediocrity.

The organization’s strategy is analogous to placing in charge of the hospital the surgeon who consistently amputates the wrong leg. School district grant recipients involved in implementing low quality K-12 math education programs gain prestige from their association with the NSF and often gain authority over school district math programs. But the reputation of the NSF is suffering from this association. The National Science Foundation logo, prominently displayed on promotional materials for its math programs, has become a warning symbol for parents of school children. It identifies programs that are best avoided, much like the skull-and-cross-bones symbol on poisons. The NSF should drastically change course, or get out of the business of funding K-12 mathematics education altogether.

References[1] Lappan G. et al, Connected Mathematics Project, series of 24 books for middle school mathematics, Dale Seymour, Menlo Park, CA, 1998.[2] Richard Askey, Good Intentions are not enough, www.math.wisc.edu/~askey/.[3] A recent new edition of CMP marginally covers fraction division; students are essentially expected to “discover” it.[4] Investigations in Number, Data, and Space is a K-5 curriculum developed by TERC Inc., Cambridge, MA, and marketed through Pearson Scott Foresman and previously by Scott Foresman – Addison Wesley and by Dale Seymour.[5] This ranking is according to the Fordham Foundation report, The State of State Math Standards 2005 of which Schmid and I along with four other mathematicians were co-authors: It is posted at www.edexcellence.net/foundation/publication/publication.cfm?id=338.[6] Quoted from www.nychold.com/forum01-schmid.html.[7] Jan Mokros, Susan Jo Russell and Karen Economopoulos, Beyond Arithmetic (Dale Seymour Publications, White Plains, NY, 1995), p. 74. I thank Richard Askey for identifying this passage.[8] For bibliographic information and reviews see: www.nychold.com/#prog-nctm[9] www.nctm.org/dialogues/2001-01/20010113.htm.[10] Parents’ organizations such as, “Mathematically Correct,” “New York City Honest and Open Logical Debate,” and “Where’s the Math?” among dozens of others continue to resist the imposition of “fuzzy math” in their schools.[11] David Klein, Math problems: Why the U.S. Department of Education’s recommended math programs don’t add up, Am. School Board J. 187 (4) (2000) www.mathematicallycorrect.com/usnoadd.htm.[12] The Open Letter of which I was a co-author is posted along with the signatories at mathematicallycorrect.com/nation.htm.[13] See: scalemsp.wceruw.org/IHEConference2005/main.htm[14] For bibliographic information and reviews see: www.nychold.com/#prog-nctm

Village Council Work Sessions and Public Meetings

In Uncategorized on July 28, 2007 at 5:14 pm

08/01/07
7:30pm
Village Council Work Session

08/08/07
8:00pm
Village Council Public Meeting

09/05/07
7:30pm
Village Council Work Session

09/19/07
8:00pm
Village Council Public Meeting

09/26/07
7:30pm
Village Council Work Session

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Public Access Channel 77 Available for Ridgewood Events

In Uncategorized on July 28, 2007 at 5:13 pm

Included in the Village’s franchise agreement with Cablevision for Ridgewood cable service, is the use of the Public Access Channel 77. The Channel is used by the Village to broadcast Village Council meetings and advertise Ridgewood non-profit events. The Board of Education also uses the channel to broadcast their public meetings as well as several other school related events.

The Village is looking for additional apropriate quality produced video programs to air. Do you have film of Ridgewood events – artistic performance, special interview or presentation of a topic of interest to fellow Ridgewood residents? Please contact the Village Manager’s office at 201/670-5500 ext.204 to check into this opportunity and to offer any suggestions for the volunteer use of the channel.

Around the Village

In Uncategorized on July 28, 2007 at 5:08 pm

Kasschau Memorial Shell
Sponsored by Daily Treat Restaurant & Ulrich, Inc.
Bucky Pizzarelli will give a jazz guitar performance Tuesday, July 31 at 8:30pm at the Kasschau Schell, Veteran’s Field. Bring a chair or blanket and enjoy this free concert under the stars! Recorded Information: 201/444-1776.

Ridgewood Newcomers Event
Annual Ladies Summer Social on Wednesday, August 1 at 7:30pm. at a private home of one of the members. New residents of Ridgewood and surrounding communities, individuals who have lived in the area for some time but not yet joined Newcomers, and new spring members are invited to attend this free event. The evening includes a brief overview of the Newcomers Club as well as an opportunity to meet some current members. Appetizers & desserts will be served. Please call Eileen Seaman at 201/445-2637 by July 25th to learn more about the Summer Social or Carol Cho at 201/612-1155 if you are interested in joining Newcomers.

Kasschau Memorial Shell
Sponsored by: Care One at Pine Rest & Care One at Cupola
Silver Starlite Orchestra will perform on August 2 at 8:30pm Kasschau Shell, Veterans Field. Bring a chair or blanket and enjoy this free concert under the stars! Recorded Information: 201/444-1776

Kasschau Memorial Shell
Sponsored by: Burgdorff Realtors, ERA& Boiling Springs Savings Bank
Phil Amarante and Manhatten Jazz – Sophisticated Swing – will perform on Tuesday, August 7 at 8:30pm on Veteran’s Field. Bring a chair or blanket and enjoy this free concert under the stars! Recorded Information: 201/444-1776

Math Chat Thursday, August 9th
The Unitarian Society of Ridgewood
113 Cottage Place – 1st Floor – 7:30PM

Kasschau Memorial Shell – Season Finale
Sponsored by: Brogan Cadillac & Buick; Feeney Funeral Home
Andy Cooney and His Band, Irish Music will perfom Thursday, August 9 at 8:30pm on Veteran’s Field. Bring a chair or blanket and enjoy this free concert under the stars! Recorded Information: 201/444-1776

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