Hearing excludes important testimony from mathematics experts and parents

NYC HOLD Press Release
November 4, 2003

NYC 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

Elizabeth Carson, Co-Founder
212.529.1302, 917.208.7153

Tomorrow, Wednesday, November 5, the New York City Council Education Committee will hold its first hearing on mathematics education since the launch of the highly controversial universal mathematics reform in NYC schools, part of the Mayor's Children First Initiative. 10am-1pm, Council Chambers, City Hall.

The Education Committee's advance planning and scheduling of testimony on the Mayor's math initiative, excluded invited testimony from local mathematics experts, among them many critical of the city mathematics reforms, known as "constructivist math" or "fuzzy math." The Education Committee plans failed to provide parents across the city the opportunity to express their views - showing all the signs of inflaming long simmering controversies in local mathematics education, known as the NYC math wars.

Education Committee Chair Eva Moskowitz is set to join the ranks of other elected representatives who have acted to protect city education officials from scrutiny or accountability, by refusing to provide a policy hearing where subject area expert opinion, the voice of the long muzzled classroom teachers and parent views are invited and substantively incorporated into education reforms and oversight.

NYC HOLD, Honest Open Logical Debate on Mathematics Education Reform co-founder Elizabeth Carson: "Public trust of the Mayor's education initiatives have been severely eroded in large part as a result of the secretive and exclusive deliberations of Children First, which produced the controversial math and reading reforms."

"The poor planning of the City Council Education Committee math hearing, fails public expectations of the Committee to provide needed oversight, and may well undermine public trust in the education committee, and most certainly will do nothing to reverse the cynical view of parents and many others about the Mayor's Children First initiative," Carson concludes.

NYC HOLD, a coalition of parents, educators, mathematicians and citizens was established several years ago, in order to provide opportunites for various and diverse constituencies to share experiences, expertise, information and research, and to help inform district and city education policy makers, in support of improvements in mathemtics education reforms in NYC schools. www.nychold.com

Elizabeth Carson suggests, "The City Council education committee needs to rethink, and quickly, its precision exclusion of mathematics experts and parents, from its review and oversight of mathematics education in NYC schools."

Eva Moskowitz, chair of the City Council Education Committee, has made NO effort to include in her hearing, representative mathematical expertise from NYU And CUNY mathematics departments, or any effort to include the invaluable expertise of individual mathematicians at NYU and CUNY who have, over the past several years, become extremely knowledgeable about local math reform efforts.

Members of this special group of mathematicians, among them Charles Newman, acting director of the Courant Insititute of Mathematical Sciences at NYU , and Robert Feinerman, Chair of the Lehman College Mathematics Department and Chair of the CUNY Committee of Mathematics Department Chairs, have many times reached out to the City Council Education Committee with their researech, concerns and recommendations - and yet not one was invited to testify before the Education Committee, nor even informed of the final hearing date by Moskowitz's staff.

While the City Council Education Committee proudly informed the press yesterday that the hearing would include a parent "speak out," the parent community was not informed of this.

Not even InsideSchools, Advocates for Children's citywide parent advocacy e-news network organization, was notified. Clara Hemphill, an Inside Schools writer, after receiving a NYC HOLD notice of the hearing this past weekend, contacted NYC HOLD asking for more advance notice about City Council education hearings in the future.

Adding insult to injury, the parent "speak out" segment of the Committee hearing is scheduled in conjunction with the segment devoted to general public testimony, lasting 30 minutes in total and slated at the very end of the hearing. (12:30pm-1:00pm) A 30 minute opportunity is all that is afforded the NYC parents and he general public in order to share their experiences and views on the new citywide experimental mathematics programs most of the 1.1 million children the system serves are now being forced to use.

Mathematicians and scientists at NYU and CUNY schools have provided Moskowitz's office from the beginning of the Children First deliberations up through last month's preliminary planning for the Wednesday hearing, their concerns, analysis and recommendations regarding the mathematics programs, assessments and standards in NYC. The math experts generously offered to support City Council education committee's oversight of Children First instructional reforms and to help guide their future efforts to insure the NYC Department of Education's delivery of a sound, basic, and quality mathematics education to all city students.

It is apparent that the Education Chair does not wish her committee to hear expertise critical of the Mayor's instructional reforms at this time.

District 2 parents have many times reached out to Councilmember Moskowitz, providing research and parent testimonials, with pleas for support in their request for a fair and open hearing on the math programs in their district. It was Eva Moskowitz who wrote a letter in December of 2000 to former School Board 2 President Karen Feuer asking the School Board to accommodate parent requests for an open public forum where the expertise and opinions of NYU mathematics experts could be heard. Ms Moskowitz's request was ignored by School Board 2.

Now it seems Ms Moskowitz doesn't view her own advice in 2000, worth following now, and is in danger of appearing as anti-democratic, anti-parent and as unaccountable to the public, as previously demonstrated by School Board 2.

Earlier today (Tuesday, November 4) in a phone conversation between Carson and Emily Merrill, Eva Moskowitz's, Deputy Chief of Staff, Carson was informed that the position of the Education Committee regarding tomorrow's Committee hearing on the Chancellor's Children First math reforms, is that the committee has an interest ONLY in hearing from a certain set of "experts," that is "mathematics educators" who "teach our children math ." It remains unclear which teaching experts precisely the Committee includes in this category ( for example, is the expertise of seasoned classroom teachers included?) Among those scheduled to testify are 'constructivist' math professional developer and researcher, Catherine Fosnot (Co-Principal Investigator on the $3.5 million District 2 teacher enhancement grant supporting Investigations (TERC) and Connected Math (CMP), two highly controversial sister constructivist programs to the Chancellor's universal 'reform' math programs, Everyday Math and Impact Math. Also slated to testify: Al Posamentier, Dean of the City College School of Education, where Professor Fosnot conducts her 'constructivist' professional development services and research.

In today's phone conversation, Merrill informed Carson that the Education Committee does not view mathematics experts (ie mathematicians in colleges and universities) as holding an expertise relevant for Education Committee consideration in their review of mathematics education reform in NYC schools.

The extent (if any) of City Council's inclusion of the expertise and opinions of seasoned classroom teachers now forced to use the 'reform' math, teachers who are all working during hearing hours, remains to be seen.

Ms Merrill also relayed to Carson that the Education Committee didn't think parent testimony on mathematics education merited a very large segment of time at tomorrow's hearing, nor was it deemed necessary to convene a separate hearing for the Education Committee to learn their views; in the Education Committee's view, provision of 15 minutes at the end of tomorrow's hearing was sufficient time to hear from parents. The Committee is calling this 15 minutes a "Parent Speak Out" ... 15 minutes during working hours, at a hearing held in downtown Manhattan, in a system that serves 1.1 million children across five boroughs...a parent speak out, which comes with no advance due notification to parents of the 15 minute opportunity.

Several of the concerned mathematicians, who became aware of the date of the math hearing over the weekend, will attempt to secure a time to give oral testimony at tomorrow's hearing. Others will submit written testimony which will be distributed to the Committee and made available to the press.

The beginning portion of the hearing will be devoted to Department of Education presentation, followed by a panel discussion.

Concerned mathematicians joined parents several years ago in voicing informed critical perspectives on the so-called "reform" math programs, known as "constructivist" or "fuzzy math," first piloted in Manhattan Community School District 2. The concerned mathematicians as well as senior teachers, including Stuyvesant Assistant Principal Danny Jaye and Stuyvesant BC Calculus instructor Bruce Winokur, have repeatedly warned district and city officials of serious content deficiencies in the K-12 'reform' math programs used in District 2, and in some other local districts, programs similar to the K-8 programs mandated in Children First. They warned administrators then and representatives of the Children First working group last fall, of the great potential for inadequate preparation for all students, inadequate to prepare those students who may later wish to advance into high school math and science courses, inadequate to prepare students who may later wish to enter college level math and science courses, inadequate to prepare students who might wish to pursue math based careers.

The only parent communication regarding the Education Committee math hearing, distributed on a city parent email list, of which Carson is aware is her own, sent out on Saturday, November 1, and a shortened version of Carson's notice subsequently sent out by District 2 Parents Council on Monday November 3, to the District 2 parent community.

Carson was not aware of the 15 minute parent "speak out" segment until Monday, when a member of the press informed her of it. She expects that some parents will be able to attend, even with the short notice and that a few will have the opportunity to speak.

NYC Council Education Committee Hearing
NYC Mathematics Education
Wednesday, November 5, 2003
City Council Chambers
City Hall

New York City Council Committee on Education

New York City Council

Return to the NYC HOLD main page or the NYC HOLD News page.