Presentation of a Mathematics Petition to Penfield (NY) Board of Education

Penfield School Board of Education Meeting
April 26, 2005
Penfield High School, 7pm

[Note: NYC HOLD has reviews of the mathematics programs at issue. TERC: Investigations in Number, Data, and Space, Connected Mathematics Project, and Core Plus Mathematics Project (Contemporary Mathematics in Context ).]

To: Dr. Susan Gray and Members of the Penfield School District Board of Education

From: Bill Munch

Subject: Presentation of Math Petition at the 4/26/05 School Board of Education Meeting, Room G-18, Penfield High School, 7 PM

Good evening - Dr. Gray, Mr. Felicetti, other school board members, parents, students, and members of the community. My name is Bill Munch. I have been a resident of Penfield since 1989 and I reside at 1 Peabody Circle.

I come before you tonight to bring the following petition:

We, the undersigned, state that the Investigations, Connected Math, and Core Plus Math programs, recently implemented in the Penfield School District, do not teach the fundamental math skills that children must know to succeed in furthering their education. We therefore ask that a traditional math program be offered as a choice for all Penfield students.

This petition was signed by 671 Penfield residents 18 years of age or older, and 65 residents under 18 years of age.

I am the parent who early in January of this year organized the parent group which created this petition. We are calling ourselves "Parents Concerned with Penfield's Math Programs". This group was formed as a result of many parents' total frustration with these new reformed math programs brought into Penfield Schools starting in 1999. This group currently has about 70 active families, who, in addition to collecting petition signatures, are trying to educate our community on the issues.

What are the issues? At the heart of these issues is a math program which expects students to learn math on their own, through investigative group work in a process referred to as constructivism. Through nationally funded studies many of which were authored by those that don't teach mathematics, investigative group work was shown to be the "best" way to teach mathematics.

Although it has taken some years for Penfield parents to figure out what is really happening, we now understand. Our students are not learning math! Why? Because they are never taught the math in the first place, and have no reference material to learn it on their own. Because multiplication tables and basic number sense are not practiced by our children in elementary schools, they don't have the number sense they need in middle school to understand basic algebra and geometry skills. By the time they reach high school, they are ill prepared for college preparatory classes like calculus, and then it is too late.

Quite disturbing about all of this is our administration's firm belief that these studies absolutely show this is the best way to teach math. The successes of this program are touted based on rising test scores, when in fact there are many factors affecting scores such as watering down of tests, lowering of grades required to pass, many students being tutored, and the list goes on an on. Further, since the start of the reformed math program, over and over again deep concerns have not been answered. It is only since January of this year AFTER the formation of a parent group, that our administration is starting to listen. Yet, at every turn, there is a very limited concern for those children whose lives have already been adversely affected by this program.

Different members of our parent group have met a few times since January with our administrators, and it feels like the same old delay tactics. When we ask, "Why can't we be allowed a choice right now?", the comment is that it must be reviewed by committees. The disturbing fact is that, this program was brought in very quickly with little to no attention given to the comments from those teachers and parents that showed concerns. Our administration can't have it both ways - you can't, on the one hand, bring in a program quickly, and then, on the other hand, tell us it can only be removed based on committees.

We also have been told by our administration that the traditional instruction methods were failing based on looking at math aptitudes in the United States in comparison with other countries. This is then followed by asking: "Isn't the chance of success of improving student's math abilities worth the risk?" We as a parent group say, NO! IT IS NOT WORTH THE RISK! DO NOT EXPERIMENT WITH OUR CHILDREN! Many parents believe that the administrators have forgotten who the customers are - that is us, the parents of the Penfield students, the taxpaying residents of Penfield!

It is difficult for us to put into words the utter distaste for this math program from family after family in our community. Some have thrown their hands up in the air, and now tutor at home or pay for tutors. Others have completely given up and, because of this program, now have their students in private schools. Many of us who live in Penfield tell prospective home buyers not to buy homes in Penfield or other communities using reformed math - and, in fact, several have not.

As you may be aware, this is not just a Penfield issue. There are concerns about reformed math programs in city after city across the United States, including:

Concerns about the math program are best presented by our own Penfield students. I would like to repeat part of what was said at the April 5th Board of Education meeting by two different Penfield High School seniors, especially since these comments were not taped due to technical difficulties:

Samantha Meek, a Penfield High School senior, stated the following: "Believe it or not but some of us students want to learn. There have been students who have gone to math teachers and asked them stop using this book and to teach them something and make them learn and understand math. The frustration level is high among the students. We despise this math program. I cannot give you all the statistics on how well the students do on SATs or other standardized tests but I can tell you that the students are not happy with this program; they hate it."

Katie Elliot, also a Penfield High School senior, stated the following also at the April 5th Board of Education meeting: "Ask any student at PHS and they will honestly tell you how horrible our new program is and how much they dread going to class because they just get confused. I have never talked to someone who took the new program and liked it. Rather, they hate it with a passion and most drop math all together as soon as they can. This I find very sad, because I enjoy math and I believe that many of these students who say that they don't like math, in reality, do not like the style in which it is being taught, and would enjoy math if it were to be taught in the old way."

The time for waiting is over. The time for analysis and test results is over. Our Penfield parent group is asking that ALL Penfield students be allowed to choose traditional math right now.Please remember that the parent group consists of Penfield taxpayers who will use all options open to them, including all voting opportunities, to pursue our goal of having each child in Penfield offered traditional math.

1 Peabody Circle
Penfield, NY 14526

Just so you know this is not one voice speaking out, here is a list of those that reviewed and endorsed this document:

Kelly Battoglia # Pam Beyer # Glenda and Chris Bondy # Matt and Cheryl Brookmire # Mike and Donna Caito # Anand Choudri # Kim Comeau # Lee Drake # Chuck and Linda Dronsfield # John and Eileen Fuest # Matt Geherin # Joe and Nancy Hoover # Michael, Donna and David (student) Kaser # Dr. Linda M. Lee # Benjamin R. Lee # Claudia and Jerry Lioy # David and Darleen Pulito # Eileen Ramos # Chris Schnaufer and Beth Schachtman # Drs. Saul and Alice Sokolow # Kathleen Stear, and Kimberly (9th grade) # Karen and Dan Sweeney # Mary Jo Wells # Joy Zaccardo # Karen and Steve Zilora

[Related: Math Petitions to Be Presented to Penfield Board of Education, a press release by "Parents Concerned With Penfield's Math Programs". Contact information:]

For more about the Penfield, NY, Mathematics curriculum controversy please visit Parents Concerned With Penfield's Math Programs and see the NYC HOLD summary page Controversy over Mathematics in Penfield, NY, Public Schools.

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