A Closer Look At The Math, Reading Programs NYC Schools Will Implement Next Year

New York-WABC, January 24, 2003

Video and Transcript available here.


In tonight's Eyewitness News Extra: A uniform curriculum. Beginning next September, New York City's public schools will use one program and to teach children how to read and one to teach them math. But critics are questioning if the city has picked the right programs. Education reporter Celeste Ford has details.

Students at PS 230 in Brooklyn use what looks like a card game to learn addition. Others play with small blocks to learn about patterns and fractions. And their classmates solve math problems in their workbooks.

Celeste Ford, Eyewitness News: "Do you like math?"
PS 230 Student: "I like it a lot."

Mary Murphy, 2nd Grade Teacher "It does definitely engage them. It keeps their interest, while making them learn basic concepts."

To make sure teachers get it right, the Brooklyn school has two coaches.

Howard Wholl, 230 Principal: "The strength comes from the teachers' ability to take the program and take it and run with it."

Today, PS 230 is a model for success. For several years, the school has used a math and reading curriculum. Starting in September, the same format will be adopted by most elementary schools.

When the chancellor laid out the uniform curriculum earlier this week, a group of New York University professors cringed.

Bas Braams, PhD, NYC HOLD: "The way it is taught in Everyday Mathematics, it's going to be very difficult for teachers to teach it and for kids to get it."

The professors are part of a group that says the math program, called 'Everyday Mathematics' buries the basics by making students learn too many elaborate methods.

You probably learned standard subtraction, the type that's been around for 600 years. Everyday Mathematics, meanwhile, has a variation of that, plus the counting up method, the partial differences method, the same change rule and the left to right subtraction method... All for the same formula.

This week, the chancellor said that in today's society students need to know conceptual thinking. But a former assistant secretary of education says Everyday Mathematics has a mixed record, while the reading program, called Month by Month Phonics, has no proven record at all.

Diane Ravitch, Education Historian: "The city should have a powerful evidence that a program works and is very effective before it says 'this is the one program that hundreds of schools must adopt.'"

A published report says the city could jeopardize federal funding because the reading curriculum is not a proven success. The city says it's confident the program will qualify and PS 230, with its stellar test scores, is just one example.

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