To the Bergen teacher in an “affluent” district who risks her standing on behalf of her your students by secreting old Addison materials into her classroom: Thank you. Thanks for having an independent mind and the courage to use it to produce the right results. Thanks also for not referring to them as “learners”. You are a true “teacher”.
I presume you are also aware that the publishers of traditional math curriculums have now updated their textbook and curriculum offerings to incorporate the valuable and useful parts of the Everyday Math/Investigations materials, such as “manipulatives”. The fact that such materials have not been incorporated not as part of the main instructional “thrust”, but rather as an addendum, tells me that these publishers view such materials as being most beneficial when used as an optional activity geared toward enhancing understanding of the main math lesson.
The point of this is, your district has only officially sanctioned what traditional math publishers consider the “fun and games” part of an appropriate modern math curriculum. Not only that, but the fact that the only suiable supplementation materials you have at your disposal are old Addison materials tells us your district is unwilling or unable to officially recognize this deficit by committing real resources to eliminate it.
In the Ridgewood district, we have learned that the professional administrators involved in curriculum development have an emotional, almost religious devotion to the Reform Math movement. As a practical matter, this means that in any school in which Everyday Math or TERC/Investigations materials form the core math curriculum, any supplementation of such materials (if there is even any time to do this) can only be done in an ad hoc, cobbled together, piecemeal fashion. In any given week during which the Reform Math curriculum takes up all the “retail shelf space” (i.e., all the available time in the classroom, and at home via homework), the supplementary materials have to remain in the supply closet.
In those rare instances in which the adminstrators take time out of their busy schedules to try to explain to parents and taxpayers why things are the way they are, or more particularly, why they are so different from the way we may prefer them to be, the only thing they ever seem to say is that “the district favors a balanced approach.”
Presented with nothing other than this cryptic statement, we can use logic to conclude that the district must not “favor” any “approach” that lacks balance. Yet as I explained above, this is precisely what occurs week-in, week-out in those schools in which Reform Math forms the core curriculum.
So in Ridgewood, the words “favor a balanced approach”, when viewed a light most favorable to the district, must actually mean “We wistfully imagine or dream about an aspirational goal of one day achieving balance. But if what is happening in our classrooms in the meantime is the absolute antithesis of balance, we’re not inclined to intervene.”
So it is clear that for at least the foreseeable future, the Ridgewood district will continue to turn a blind eye to classrooms where an utter and complete imbalance exists in favor of reform math.
The publishers of traditional math curriculums, having now enhanced recent editions of their textbooks and workbooks with the best aspects of reform math, would appear to have responded to this stated preference for “balance”. Yet for some reason, the Ridgewood district has lost the phone number to each and every one of these publishers.
Parents and taxpayers in Ridgewood are now demanding that the district act on its stated preference for balance by putting its money where its mouth is. Yet the district continues to pour money into the pockets of the intransigent Reform Math publishers.
We ask why they say one thing and do another, and that’s exactly when they explicably lose their voice!
This is the process by which we in Ridgewood have come to learn what our curriculum development professionals are all about. For nearly three years these individuals have been freed from the shackles of a full-time superintendent. As a result, they have become completely unconcerned with the comings and goings of the snoozing trustees of our Board of Education. Left to their own devices, they gone off the deep end and exposed their narrow-minded biases for all to see.
The jarring disconnect between the words of our curriculum development professinals and their actions is simply too obvious to be denied. Normal people who are daily accountable to real bosses and who cut sizeable checks for large mortgage payments and hefty tax assessments (read: Ridgewood’s parents and taxpayers) just don’t do this sort of thing. The main reason for this is obvious: such behavior is simply unacceptable in the real world, and will get you fired before you can even say “I favor a balanced approach!”
Our only hope appears to be to
1) put together the right people on the Board of Education with a mandate to find and hire the right Superintendant, who will
2) have the guts to fire intransigent and agenda-driven (non-tenured) curriculum development professionals, or demand their resignations, and
3) hire a new curriculum development team truly dedicated to the best interests of the students, willing and able to accept responsibility with dignity, and comfortable with demonstrating true accountability and transparency to the parents and taxpayers, both with regard to the math curriculum and otherwise.
Help Wanted: a modern Hercules. Work environment: an enormous and very rudely smelling stable. Job responsibility: Clean It Up! Credentials required: Two strong arms and the ability to face an impossible job without fear. Compensation: the gratitude of an entire village (and maybe a statue of yourself, prominently displayed in front of our new parking garage!)