Controversy swirls around math programs for the new high school
in the planning stages in District 2: The Upper East Side HS

NYC HOLD Press Release, January 15, 2001

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

Contact: Elizabeth Carson, Co-Founder.
Phone 212.529.1302; Cell: 917.208.7153; email:

January 15, 2001

Controversy swirls around math programs for the new high school in the planning stages in District 2: The Upper East Side HS

NYC HOLD members' recommendations at the NYC Board of Education hearings on the new District 2 high school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, delivered in letters and testimony in December, warned of the serious deficiencies in the mathematical content of the mandated math programs in District 2, and particularly the limitations of the District 2 one size fits all math instruction policy to adequately prepare college bound students.

Concerned parents and university math and science professors, assert District 2's K-11 math instructional continuum, Investigations in Number, Data, and Space ( TERC ) Connected Mathematics Project (CMP) and Mathematics: Modeling Our World ( ARISE) do not constitute college preparatory programs and as a consequence, the rigor of math and science instruction in the new high school will be severely compromised, from the start.

The professors, who have examined all three levels of the District 2 math programs and monitored implementation of the programs through teacher interviews, classroom observations and consultations with parents, warn District 2 students will not be prepared for AP math or science courses the two new high schools might offer.

NYC HOLD has urged District 2 to comply with the the recommendations for high school mathematics outlined in the report of Chancellor Levy's Commission on Mathematics Education (May, 2001) and provide an alternative to ARISE: offer District 2 students a choice of a second, more rigorous, college preparatory series of high school courses. "The content and scope of courses should emphasize more extensively and in greater depth the logical, formal and abstract aspects of topics associated with Mathematics A and Mathematics B, especially algebra, geometry and trigonometry and delve more deeply into mathematical algorithms, rigor and proof."

The Math Commission draft report described the NCTM aligned programs (which include TERC, CMP and ARISE) as follows:

"Whenever an emphasis is placed on ensuring that applications are made to 'real world' situations, time must be made available not only for the mathematical ideas, but also for the application of these ideas. The net effect of these applications is that less emphasis is placed on arithmetical or mathematical ideas, and the formal, abstract, contextual settings sought particularly by students who will go on to become scientists, engineers, mathematicians, computer scientists, physicians and educators of mathematics. Despite their many strengths, the NCTM standards do not contain the rigor, algorithmic approach, formal methods and logical reasoning which are required of this small but critically important portion of the population. "

NYC HOLD has repeatedly advised district and central board officials to take an honest look at the integrity of the math programs in District 2, to survey the realities of their implementation in our schools, to assess the nature and extent of parent tutoring, to evaluate teacher supplementation, especially where student performance is improving and develop a coherent policy that allows teachers the freedom to use a combination of the most effective practices and materials, both constructivist and traditional.

The various degrees and combinations of teacher supplementation and parent tutoring occurring in schools throughout District 2 has led to incoherence and inequity in the math instruction District 2 students are receiving. An erratic pattern of test score rises and declines over the past three years ( 1999- 2001) has occurred. While some schools' scores have improved, many, including most of the poor and majority black and Hispanic schools as well some of the historically top performing schools show marked declines. The majority of schools show a drop between 2000 and 2001 in the percentage of children reaching the top performance level (4).

In January 2001, a memorandum to heads of schools from Superintendent Shelley Harwayne and Director of Mathematics, Lucy West reveals the nature of the district's extreme and doctrinaire math policies, advising against the use of any materials other than NCTM publications and constructivist training programs. The communication also includes a striking example of teacher bashing. Based on anecdote and innuendo, rather than comprehensive investigation, the directive puts into question both the integrity and knowledge of teacher concerns about basic skills development in TERC and CMP, suggesting those concerned teachers who feel supplementation of TERC and CMP is critically important, might lack an adequate 'comfort level' with the mathematics themselves or might have not yet received enough constructivist professional development!

"Concern regarding supplementing the curricular materials was raised. Some people felt that supplementation was necessary for students who needed more practice in basic skills. However, when asked specifically what evidence was being used to make this determination, we began to wonder how much authentic assessment was driving the supplementation It has been the experience of some of the staff developers that the teachers who are doing the most supplementation are the teachers who have received the least amount of professional development support and/or are teachers who are uncomfortable with the mathematics content being taught and are least familiar with the materials" -Excerpt from District 2 memo to heads of schools, January 2001

Recent NYC HOLD testimony and letters submitted to the Central Board have been distributed to District 2 officials, and all city and state elected officials who represent District 2 schools.

To date, City Council member Eva Moskowitz is the ONLY elected official to respond to letters of concern from parents and mathematics professors.

Assemblyman Steve Sanders, Chair of the NYS Education Committee has once again chosen to ignore the concerns of parents and mathematicians and scientists about the controversial math programs, and has done nothing to address his constituents' complaints of unresponsiveness on the part of the District 2 administrators and the school board.

The District 2 superintendent and school board members, the Chancellor, and Central Board members have all chosen to ignore the mounting evidence against the District 2 experimental math initiative, and have chosen to turn a deaf ear on the concerns of the District 2 community.


NYC HOLD has begun to develop a citywide network, sharing information with parents in districts such as Brooklyn District 15 and Bronx District 10. District 15 parents are now seeing the damage at the high school level, their children have been left poorly prepared for rigorous high school math and science course work after poor elementary and middle school math training. District 15 adopted Everyday Math, a fuzzy elementary program similar to TERC, and Math in Context, a middle school sister program to CMP.

Both programs are used in other NYC school districts as well.

Parent concern in Bronx District 10 in Riverdale is increasingly, where TERC is now used in 70% of the district's elementary schools. Reports are surfacing of widespread parent supplementation and tutoring. CUNY mathematician, Bob Feinerman, who was a consultant to Chancellor Levy's Math Commission, has joined NYU colleagues in voicing his concerns about TERC and other constructivist programs. He is considering a run for the District 10 school board to try to help improve the district's math policies and programs, in his home district.

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