Hedrick Smith "Schools That Work" and Manhattan District 2

From: Betsy Combier
Sent: Saturday, March 26, 2005 12:19 PM
To: Hedrick Smith Productions
Subject: Comments on Your Film about NYC District 2 "Schools That Work"

Dear Mr. Smith,

I have four daughters and we live in District 2, New York City's experiment in programs such as Everyday Math, TERC, Balanced Literacy and other such curricula. These programs were dreamed up years ago as the tools for The Great Equalization of American Learning. which can be described, in my opinion, as raising the scores of those students at Level 1 or 2 while dumbing down those who could score an easy 4 so that everyone is "comfortable" with a high Level 2 or 3. In fact, scratch the "high". A Level 2 will get you through school and into the job at McDonalds that you have been pushed through the system to obtain.

The problem is most visible in elementary school, where some children who achieve only a Level 1 are given remedial help and then socially promoted in summer session to support the massive amounts of money the tutors receive from the BOE. The system as it exists cannot, and will not, permit failure. We now know that our Federal Government and our state and local school administrators give millions of dollars to newspaper, radio, TV, and film producers every year to pay for political PR to support these programs.

After these children receive the tutoring they are once again thrown back into classrooms where teachers simply do not know how to teach "fuzzy math" and dont want to. Let's look at both of these :

1. Teachers who do not want to teach the new curricula:

Teachers who have been teaching traditional math for years are not ready and willing to drop what they have been doing and switch to a new curricula that they do not believe in. As the Chancellor and Mayor are not now, nor have they ever been, members of the education establishment, they do not understand - or respect - the bond teachers have with their students, given the freedom to teach the curricula they believe in. A dedicated teacher who loves children and is allowed to decide the curricula in his/her classroom and to be creative, is a wonderful thing, except to the funders and administrators of the District 2 experiment who cannot and will not now or ever admit failure. We at the E-Accountability Foundation have spoken with countless teachers who are angry at the Chancellor for forcing them to teach Math and Reading in a way that seems to confuse and "dumb down" the children. Many of them resign voluntarily and many of them are accus! ed of crimes and are forced out unfairly. We have been with several of them along their path of fighting back, and it is a horrific struggle as the teacher tries to save his/her career in front of people paid not to listen.

2. Teachers who cannot teach the new curricula:

It is indeed ironic that the District 2 administrators of "Fuzzy Math" never saw that to implement a curriculum you need teachers who know how to teach it, above and beyond wanting to teach it. The New York City BOE is forcing teachers to teach a curriculum that they do not know how to teach. Last spring we discussed this problem with the publishers of Everyday Math. The representative we spoke to was extremely distressed because he said that the NYC BOE was sabotaging the implementation of the program by giving teachers no time to learn it. In California, Diana Lam ordered teachers to come to training during the summer, voluntarily, to learn TERC and Everyday Math. Teachers were furious, and started the successful movement to remove Ms. Lam. Unfortunately NYC got her next, and she ordered teachers to come in for training WITH pay, but only for 5 days. In order to make this happen, Chancellor Joel Klein moved the beginning of school to Sep! tember 13, 2004 alienating parents, teachers, and everyone else. 5 days to learn a new curriculum is not enough, and teachers are resentful, except the teachers "trained" in the techniques by the teachers colleges given no bid contracts to teach the fuzzies. These teachers are the replacements for our "old" teachers or rebellious ones who refuse to switch to the new curricula.

How do I know what a set up this is? My daughters have been lucky, and have made the system work for them by being gifted students. Therefore they may graduate knowing something IN SPITE of what they were taught. My three oldest daughters were trained traditionally in elementary school because they attended an elite private school here in New York City through 5th-6th grade. They then were accepted into the Delta Honors Program at Booker T. Washington MS 54, where the Administrator Fred La Senna and his wife Lorraine decried the fuzzy math program for giving them seventh graders from District 2 who could not do fractions. They were really upset, and told me that they had never seen this before.

My oldest daughter and my third daughter were accepted into Stuyvesant High School where Danny Jaye, the Assistant Principal of the Math Department is so upset at District 2's "Fuzzy Math" Program that he had to establish a new math curriculum for those kids from District 2 who were accepted into Stuy but could not do the Math that was already in place. He set up a new program to teach these kids the basics, basics that they had never been taught.

My youngest daughter Marielle never went to private school. She attended PS 6 where Carmen Farina was Principal. Carmen ended the Gifted and Talented Program the year after Marielle entered as a G&T student (we live outside the catchment). Marielle is a professional opera singer since she was 5 (New York City Opera) and simply did not have the time or interest in doing Fuzzy Math for hours, or counting eggs in egg cartons. So, she wrote a letter to the NY SUN, "Why TERC?" http://www.nychold.com/let-combier-020124.html

Immediately afterwards her teacher started telling her that she was smart, but not in math. She was thrown off the Math Team, and not re-admitted in 5th grade. She started believing the constant "You cant do math" and I asked her if she wanted to take the Johns Hopkins Center For Talented Youth test, because she got 804 on her math citywide tests (782 English). She said yes, took the test, became a member of CTY in 5th grade, and on January 22 2005 took the College Board SAT and scored high enough to be admitted to the CTY program through high school. Whew!! What a relief. Because now I can sign her up to the online math and english courses that have nothing to do with the Fuzzies and the "dumber the better" philosophy.

My conclusion is that schools with this new philosophy cannot work, and all the publicity and promotion of the Fuzzies and the "All Children Can Learn If They are Comfortable" and "It Doesn't Matter If You Dont Get The Right Answer" speeches will be proven bogus. Take a look at this: parentadvocates.org
President, The E-Accountability Foundation

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