Diana Lam, NCTM Math, and the NCEE New Standards

To Abby Goodnough
The New York Times
September 6, 2002

From Elizabeth Carson

Dear Ms Goodnough:

I am a NYC parent activist, and co-founder of Honest Open Logical Debate on math reform, a coalition of concerned parents, teacher, mathematicians and scientists. We are most concerned about recent efforts to reform mathematics education in NYC schools, and notably but not exclusively, in Community School District 2.

Our web site is in development, however you may visit the non-public draft site if you wish see: http://www.cims.nyu.edu/~braams/nychold/ [Addendum: Now at NYC HOLD.] One of our members, NY research physicist Bas Braams, has a personal web page with much of our research and more see http://www.cims.nyu.edu/~braams/links/.

You probably are familiar with the April 2000 front page New York Times report written by your esteemed colleague, Anemona Hartocollis, in which she reports on the local and national controversy inspired by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) reform, known as the "math wars." http://www.nytimes.com/library/national/regional/042700ny-math-edu.html.

You and I met at the Education Leaders Council conference last September. At that time I attempted to engage your interest in our concerns here in NYC, however then, you deferred to Anemona, who you aptly described as the NYT reporter most focused on the math education issue.

Now, however I understand Anemona is no longer covering education specifically, and this fact coupled with your regular reports on newly appointed top NYC education officials makes it reasonable for me to reach out to you now with any and all information regarding both the ongoing NYC math education controversy and math related actions and policies of upper management in the NYC Department of Education.

Our greatest concern right now is with the appointment of Diana Lam. She has seen to the implementation of fuzzy math (ie constructivist math, or NCTM math) during her superintendencies in both San Antonio, Texas and Providence, Rhode Island.

Lam has been described as Providence's Tony Alvarado.

Of course, you know that Alvarado, as the former superintendent of Manhattan's District 2, brought to our district and the city, systemic implementation of whole language (now hidden behind the title balanced literacy), fuzzy math and fuzzy standards( New Standards Performance Standards)

Special NYC Editions of New Standards which validate - almost prescribe - constructivist math were developed in collaboration with Lauren Resnick's Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh (LRDC) and the National Center for Education and the Economy (NCEE). As a result, and with the influence of District 2 ,various fuzzy math programs are now used in a good number of community schools districts, though to varying degrees, ranging from sole program used (District 2 ) to limited supplemental use along with a core traditonal curriculum (Queens District 26)

Lam is closely affiliated with Lauren Resnick. The entire state of Rhode Island went to fuzzy LRDC/NCEE New Standards reference exams, there known as America's Choice exams, 3 years ago. They are administered across Rhode Island in 4th, 8th and 10th grades.

For information on the New Standards America's Choice travesty, see mathematician Bill Quirk's analysis at http://wgquirk.com/NCEE.html. Bill also has a comprehensive analysis of the fuzzy elementary program TERC, used in District 2 and implemented throughout Providence during Lam's administration http://wgquirk.com/TERC.html.

In both San Antonio and Providence school districts, Lam's implementation of fuzzy math programs inspired considerable objections from parents and teachers. And although test scores seem to have improved somewhat, there is also a good deal of debate about both the validity of the tests used (the TAAS in Texas and America's Choice exams in Rhode Island), and the significance of the improvements, when compared with similar schools and districts in each state respectively. I do not presume to be expert on this, but can refer you to several who are.

I hope that you will continue to press both Diana Lam and Chancellor Klein about their intentions for math education in our schools.

I will forward to you several relevant recent messages and press articles including reports on the seminal, ground breaking math resolution recently passed in Bronx Community School District 10. The board, in a unanimous vote, called for cessation of the fuzzy math initiative intended to replicate District 2's, and in its place,called for the implementation of a K-12 core math curriculum emphasizing traditional college preparatory math instruction for all children in the NYC's largest school district, serving children who are overwhelmingly poor minorities. This important event in NYC math education reform has most surprisingly yet to be covered at all by the New York Times, to my knowledge.

Best regards,

Elizabeth Carson
Co-Founder, New York City HOLD
Honest Open Logical Debate on math reform
A coalition of concerned parents, teachers, mathematicians and scientists working to improve mathematics education in NYC schools

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