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>Our school board has turned Ridgewood’s once great school system into"high-performing" mediocrity. This letter in today’s Record explains

>Turning mediocrity into high standard

Board of education members claim they are obligated to meet state standards. School districts then purchase material based upon their alignment to those state standards. Tests are then developed and are given based upon those state standards.

In 2005, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in Washington gave New Jersey core-content math standards a C, two Ds and a big fat F — an overall grade of D. Then, in 2007, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found New Jersey math standards to be poor.

So it comes as no surprise to read New Jersey ranked 17th out of 26 for difficulty in elementary school mathematics tests (“N.J. tests are far from toughest,” Page A-3, Oct. 4).

When our standards have set the bar so low, when education leaders purchase illiterate mathematics programs such as Ridgewood’s TERC (Investigations in Number, Data and Space) because they meet those low state standards (“Trying to solve problem in math,” Page L-1, June 25), all that is left to follow is the state tests to measure that low standard.

Even in high-performing districts, all education seems to be aiming for these days is mediocrity.

Elizabeth Gnall

31 thoughts on “>Our school board has turned Ridgewood’s once great school system into"high-performing" mediocrity. This letter in today’s Record explains

  1. >Some boards do this and hide out of shame. Ours in Ridgewood takes pride in lowering our standards to the State’s minimum. BOE president Bombace even thinks he’s a good board member. How can you help someone like that understand that standards matter, when they have never mattered for him?

  2. >great job liz keep up the good work

  3. >Way to go, Elizabeth! Keep up the steady drum beat. This long local nightmare will someday come to an end.

  4. >yes I have found it very disturbing that our board and many members of our community continue to brag about lower standards and how lucky we should feel to have our kids get a “good education” ….

  5. >Thanks, Liz!!!

    I have some hope though that Dr. Brennan has clearly stated that the NJ Standards should be the minimum. The administration and BOE now speak to this as well, finally!
    At Travell talks, Ms. Lieninger echoed that statement in her talks, so hopefully it is sinking in.

  6. >I couldn’t have said it better Ms. Gnall. Thank you for taking the time to write the letter to the editor.

  7. >Other towns are surpassing Ridgewood in the rankings. We were at the top of the heap 25 years ago when we moved here for the schools. Now families are realizing that they can live in a surrounding town, pay less taxes, and have a better school system than moving to Ridgewood.

    Our BOE better wake up pretty darn quick and get rid of that crappy reform math and start setting the bar higher for our children or this is all going to come back and bite them in the butt.

  8. >Thanks Liz, you’ll go down in Ridgewood History for having the guts to say what everyone has been thinking for a long time.

  9. >to 12:12pm

    according to vormath web examples, nj standards are 2 years behind california

    As an analogy, if minimum wage in NJ was $1 and your nj employer said he pays more than minimum wage at $3, would you be impressed knowing the minimum wage elsewhere was already at $5?

  10. >Never thought I’d see the day that our school district would settle for the minimum. What a crying shame.

  11. >Let’s not forget about Everyday Math and CMP2 that are being used at our other elementary and middle schools. ALL reform math must go NOW.

  12. >Thank you, Liz. Beautifully done as always. What I would give to have someone like you on the BOE. It’s so sad that we’ve sunk so low. We were at the top in the 70s, now look at us. We’re lucky to scrap out a listing in the top 20. We are also greatly aided in this be the Asian students who maintain the highest standards with after school tutoring and others who are being tutored as well.

    If we took those two groups out, what a shock we would get with regards to how well (or not well) we are doing. Imagine that the BOE shamelessly takes credit for groups doing extra work to maintain excellence. What thieves.

  13. >4:06 PM “Imagine that the BOE shamelessly takes credit for groups doing extra work to maintain excellence. What thieves.”

    School officials will never want to know how many students are being tutored because then they would have to admit that our curriculum is lacking just as they are lacking.

  14. >Hey, Liz. Why DON’T you run for the BOE. Puleeeeeeze?

  15. >I moved here many years ago. I did it for the schools. I did my research at the time and Ridgewood was way up there. I would tell people at work that I was moving to Ridgewood, and even people from Long Island or Westchester would comment about how they knew about Ridgewood schools. So here I am now, angry as hell about seeing Ridgewood go from one of the best in the nation to being pretty average at the State level. I don’t know what it takes to get people fired up about this situation, but our property values will adjust accordingly. Yes, it’s still an attractive place to live, but school ratings play such a key role in real estate values.

  16. >Thank you Elizabeth for speaking out publicly

  17. >”ALL reform math must go NOW.”

    Actually, no, there is a need for some reform math for some kids. It just needs to be BALANCED. Some kids, like mine, really do need the reform/Everyday Math approach. Please don’t sacrifice MY kids’ education so that the high-performing math genius kids only are served.

  18. >9:31 – Sorry but the traditional math books have incorporated reform math concepts into their current editions. Traditional math texts, while still primarily traditional, are a hybrid of sorts representing the best of traditional and reform so that ALL children do well. Reform math does not attempt to incorporate ANY traditional. It stinks for most kids. Please take a look at the recent editions of math texts before you make your final decision. While your kids (and you) might get a warm, fuzzy feeling from reform math, do you really want them two years behind their peers upon H.S. graduation? Do you want them taking 5 years to get an undergraduate degree because their first college semester was spent in remedial classes? I’d like my kids to have the option of attending MIT or Rensselear but that won’t happen if we continue down this road (oh, but I’m alreadyy homeschooling in math!).

  19. >It’s not just the high performing kids that are underserved.

    Many middle-of-the road kids, and kids who struggle with math, need systematic, direct instruction. Reform math doesn’t work for them, either.

    Actually, all it takes is straightforward curriculum materials, and a teacher who deeply understands math, the value of some discovery work, a knack for unraveling word problems, an understanding of all the different skills required to work through a word problem, and a good understanding of different kinds of learners.

    Such teachers do exist but unfortunately elementary schools tend to attract teachers whose weak area is math, so they’re not common enough. Aspiring teachers who love math tend to become middle or high school math teachers (or science) instead of elementary school teachers.

    The purpose of reform math in the ementary schools, in part, was to provide ongoing training to the teachers but unfortunately, the curriculum materials lose sight of the goal, and get too caught up in alternative teaching methodologies rather than real training for teachers.

    Probably teacher training should be separate from curriculum materials after all.

    It may be better to turn math into a special, not unlike the way the fourth and fifth grade teachers specialize in social studies or science.

  20. > Please don’t sacrifice MY kids’ education so that the high-performing math genius kids only are served.

    my kid is not a math genius

    with reform math i’ve been told my kid can’t do basic arithmetic

    with reform math i’ve been told my kid can’t problem solve

    YET when out of that environment my kid (with a good text and practice) has been TAUGHT to do basic arithmetic and is now learning SOLID techniques to problem solve and disect word problems

    all reform math was doing was confusing the kid

    and as for techniques, they taught NONE other than draw a picture and grab the calculator

    the sad part of all of this is the TEACHER had no clue how to TEACH math and BLAMED the kid

    maybe that TEACHER could use some professional development to learn that mathematics is systematic, has precision, and algorithms

    Tools to take the complex and simplify it

    and those tools are what need to be taught

    but sadly, that point was missing on this teacher

    and yes, this is criticism on the teacher – BUT CONSTRUCTIVE criticism

    because when the teacher saw the outside methods working – the TEACHER never adjusted

    and that is a major problem of what is wrong inside our schools

    they keep attempting to pound the square peg into a circle whole even after being shown it does not work

  21. >Also true is that Everyday Math is targeted to kids who will not go further than everyday use of math. Hence the name.

    In order to compete in a global economy, our schools are trying to prepare future scientists, mathematicians, and engineers.

    Yet the curricula like Everyday Math will not lead to that. It’s why our district is taking a second look at what they’re doing.

    Possibly early tracking is the answer. Allowing for parent input as well is a good idea. I think many parents know pretty early on whether their child will be math-minded and science-minded. You can just tell. I have a mix of both kinds of kids.

    And that tracking can stay flexible to allow for change as well.

    It can all be done. But giving everybody Everyday Math or TERC Investigations? Big mistake. It doesn’t produce scientists.

  22. >If our board members want to take credit for something, let them take credit for making Ridgewood a less appealing place to move to because our schools are now mediocre compared to two decades ago.

  23. >Reform math was invented to aid our current workforce of ill-prepared TEACHERS. As they pour out of “education” schools, they are woefully undereducated in the sciences and mathematics. They are trained in diversity, multiculturalism and the politics of achieving equality outcomes.

    As a result, tey come into our elementary schools unable to comprehend or teach basic elementary algorithms and those without textbooks, such as in our district, don’t have a clue where they were, where they are or where they are headed. Without textbooks, teachers and administrators must rely on state standards and mandates religiously. They have nothing else. That is why our BOE president, under guidance from Regina Botsford, decided to cling to this unfortunate and misguided reasoning of achieving state standards, not realizing how inappropriate such a low bar is for Ridgewood.

    But the problem remains: What to do about a teacher workforce that grows ever more academically diminished over time?

    Invent materials that cover up their shortcomings and forces parents to take on the REAL education of their children.

    This is the future that a unionized workforce has delivered to us. With this system, failure over time becomes the only option.

    Be prepared to protect your children. Or sell them down the river by maintaining your silence in the face of such a huge public con.

  24. >”Please don’t sacrifice MY kids’ education so that the high-performing math genius kids only are served.”

    You’ve got to be joking. This is not about gifted kids, this is really about average and challenged kids.

    The gifted kids will learn math regardless of the program.

    The average kids and non-mathematically inclined kids just get more confused by the multiple was to do problems and the labourous ways taught to solve things.

    If you kid doesn’t grasp straight math, what makes you think that they would love doing something like adding seven 5s in a row to solve 7×5 because they don’t know their multiplication tables or drawing blocks of 100s to add large numbers?

    Is that easier than standard math?

  25. >I still can’t get over how our community has accepted
    such low expectations form our selves and our children

  26. >”Some kids, like mine, really do need the reform/Everyday Math approach.”

    Who sold you this bunk? No matter where a child is in their math growth, they do not need, nor benefit from reform junk.

    Your child needs a good math teacher who understands how to teach math, period.

    Now, there’s a rare commodity.

    Shake off that propaganda mom/dad. Don’t give up on your child so early. Einstien was considered a dunce in elementary math…remember!

  27. >”The gifted kids will learn math regardless of the program.”

    I’d like to respectfully take exception to this. Gifted kids need as much direct instruction as everyone else. If you don’t teach it, they won’t learn it.

    The gifted kids either go unnoticed and miss out on opportunities, or their parents get them outside tutoring.

    In other words, they’re in the same situation as everyone else.

    The upshot? Reform math serves no one.

  28. >It’s true. Einstein’s teacher thought he’d never amount to anything.

    Our schools need to set their expectations high for each kid, and then teach well.

    Too often, parents assume their kids can’t do well in traditional math because they themselves struggled in math.

    But all it takes is good teachers. Sounds simple, I know, but it’s the answer. Not all the glitter and glitz of new curricula.

  29. >New statistic just published: Ridgewood has the highest tutors per capita in the nation.

    Either the students are way behind the school system . Or, the school system is way behind the students.

  30. >dear boe

    please install authentic assessment

    keep reform math, especially TERC

    introduce IMP into the high school

    can we have whole reading back again

    as i am laughing all the way to the bank


  31. >5:27 “Tutors per Capita.” TPC. I like it. A new statistic to check out when house shopping. We can all say to realtors, “what’s the town’s TPC?”

    Our TPC is higher than yours.
    The TPC is off the charts.
    Guess what the TPC here is.
    Nice town, but its TPC is really high.

    I could get used to this.

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