Panel For Educational Policy and "Children First"

To Professor David Chang
New York City Panel for Educational Policy
Saturday, March 15, 2003

From Bas Braams

(Essentially the same letter was sent to PEP member Philip A. Berry on March 15 and to members Evita Belmonte, Jacquelyn Kamin, Natalie Gomez-Velez, Ramona Hernandez, Richard L. Menschel, and Susana Torruella Leval on Monday March 17 - it took some time to find the email addresses.)

Dear Professor Chang

I hope this email reaches you before the meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy this Monday.

One of the agenda items is an update on Children First. I am a researcher in the Department of Mathematics at the Courant Institute, New York University, and am also active in the New York City HOLD group (parents, mathematicians, and educators concerned about mathematics education reform). In that context I have paid much attention to Children First. I believe that Chancellor Klein and Deputy Chancellor Lam made a poor choice when they selected Everyday Mathematics as part of their new core mandated K-5 curriculum. In addition I am very disturbed by the process that was employed.

You will know that Children First involved ten Working Groups of which the ones most relevant for curriculum [were] the Literacy, Numeracy, and Special Populations working groups. What you may not know, and what I learned through a Freedom Of Information Law request, is that these working groups operated without formal charge and did not produce reports. As a result there is no documentation of the considerations that went into the choice of mandated curriculum, not even for the Department's own future reference. There appears to be no clear record of the Department's priorities, no record of any comparative evaluation of candidate curricula, and no record of any expert testimony or opinion.

I find this remarkable and would urge you and the Panel to pay attention to this lack of documentation to support a major decision.

References for the Children First process:

References for Everyday Mathematics:

General references:

Yours Sincerely,
Bas Braams

Bastiaan J. Braams (Research Associate Professor)
Dept. of Mathematics - Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences
New York University - 251 Mercer Street - New York, NY 10012-1185


In email of March 18, 2003, Professor Chang replied to say that he was sending Deputy Chancellor Ms. Diana Lam a copy of my e-mail so that her office could address my concern directly. I have no indication that any member of the Panel for Educational Policy ever displayed his or her own interest in the reports or absence of reports of the Children First working groups. Deputy Chancellor Lam sent me a form letter defending her choice of programs but not addressing the procedural issue, and some time later the DOE's First Deputy Council, Ms. Judy Nathan, sent me a highly obfuscatory letter that she claimed was to clarify my "misunderstanding" that the Children First working groups operated without formal charge and did not produce reports. I've reproduced Ms. Judy Nathan's letter in its proper context here.

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