NYC HOLD Honest Open Logical Debate on Mathematics Education
A coalition of parents, educators, mathematicians and scientists working to improve mathematics education in NYC schools
December 16, 2002
Dear fellow NYC parents:
Chancellor Joel Klein's Children First Initiative has convened a set of committees called `Working Groups' to study various aspects of the city school system and make recommendations to the Chancellor for systemic reforms. The Numeracy Working Group is deliberating on a large scale "blueprint" for changes in mathematics education that will include curricular recommendations for all schools. The Numeracy Working Group plans to deliver their recommendations to Chancellor Klein sometime in the next several weeks. NYC HOLD has been consulted by the chair of the Numeracy Working Group, and some of us have supplied responses to a questionnaire. (The responses are posted on our web site, www.nychold.com.)
Even though the Children First Initiative is soliciting public input to inform the Working Group deliberations through an online questionnaire for parents and educators, parents have not been informed of who is serving on the various working groups, we have no access to other parents' survey responses, we have no idea who is reading the parent responses, or how they are being recorded and used by the working groups.
And so, NYC HOLD parent steering committee members ask that you join us in sending a clear, strong and public message to the Numeracy Working Group and to Chancellor Klein.
Please review and sign the open letter below. You may sign the open letter by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please help build the list of parent signatures by (1) forwarding this email message and the letter to individual parents and to school and community email lists (2) copying out the open letter and gathering parent signatures at your school, after-school classes and activities, etc.
Please send lists of signatures that you've collected in an email to email@example.com or fax to 212.529.1302.
The open letter and a current list of signatures is posted on the NYC HOLD Web site.
We plan to deliver the open letter and signatures to Chancellor Klein, Deputy Chancellor Lam and the Numeracy Working Group sometime in late December or early January.
Parent Members of the NYC HOLD Steering Committee
Dear Chancellor Klein, Deputy Chancellor Lam and members of the Children First Numeracy Working Group:
We have followed our children's experience and progress in NCTM Standards-based "constructivist" mathematics programs, and have grown increasingly concerned. Our children's schools have adopted one or several of the experimental programs, among them: Investigations in Number Data and Space, (TERC) Everyday Math (Chicago Math), Connected Mathematics Project (CMP), Mathematics: Modeling Our World (ARISE) and Interactive Mathematics Program (IMP). We have been dismayed and frustrated to find many classroom teachers oppose these programs, but report that their hands are tied, that they're not free to teach with the materials and methods they believe best suited for our children. Standardized test scores have declined in many of our schools, since the programs have been adopted.
Some of us have researched the programs and their use in other regions and found that we are not alone in our concerns, rather, our experiences and worries are shared by parents across the country.
We have learned that many mathematicians and scientists share our concerns, and report the "constructivist" programs lack adequate skills development, are missing important topics, and lack the rigor necessary to prepare our children for advanced high school math and science courses and pursuit of college math-based courses and majors.
We are aware that the experimental math programs being imposed on our children have already been tried on a large scale in California and failed.
While we value strategies to engage students, that promote understanding and help make the study of mathematics accessible to the broadest number of students, we reject a "constructivist" approach that (1) de-emphasizes and devalues basic skills mastery (2) denigrates the importance of memorization and practice (3) lacks prescription for regular assessment of skills mastery, conceptual understanding and problem solving (4) promotes literacy skills to a greater degree than mathematical competency (5) is dismissive of the fundamental value of a textbook to provide coherence, to bridge classroom instruction with parent support at home (6) that leaves our children poorly prepared for standardized assessments and entrance examinations for competitive middle school admissions and the specialized math and science high schools (7) that leaves our children bored or hopelessly frustrated.
Our children, though often earning good grades in the "constructivist" programs, and praised by their teachers, are left confused and frustrated, and unable to perform even the most routine calculations.
Many of us have spent countless evening and weekend hours with our children, attempting to fill in the large gaps in their school mathematics instruction. Those of us with the means, have spent enormous sums on outside tutoring. We recognize our efforts, at best, are only a partial remedy.
Some of us have previously spoken or written of our concerns to school and district staff, others of us have appealed, individually and in group, to district and central board administrators, all to no avail.
We believe our children are victims of curriculum experimentation that has been imposed without parent choice, without independent review, and without regard for even the most evident near- and long-term damage to our children's education.
We want an alternative to the NCTM Standards-based "constructivist" math programs. We ask for the opportunity for our children and all NYC school children to study in coherent, rigorous, college preparatory K-12 mathematics programs.
Denise Matava Haffenden, Educational Evaluator, Manhattan High Schools
Amy Lestner Thomas
Maureen McAndrew, DDS
Marilyn Schorr, Mathematics Teacher
(Parent Members, NYC HOLD Steering Committee)
(For additional signatures, please see the letter as posted on the NYC HOLD Web site)
In order to sign on to this open letter, please send email to firstname.lastname@example.org
(Return to the NYC HOLD main page.)