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>The Math Planning Team Meeting; Highs and Lows…

>My wife and I have two small kids on the verge of entering the K-5 program in Ridgewood, and I am a Travell Tiger and Bejamin Franklin grad from 23 years ago, so we went to the Math Planning Team’s meeting tonight to see what was going on.

It started with the attendees breaking down into small groups of 5 – 8 people, facilitated by a member of the District Administration. We worked to answer the following four questions:

1. What is your passion when it comes to mathematics?

2. Reflecting on your own education in mathematics, what would you want that is different or the same for all children today in their mathematics education?

3. What do you think all students should know and be able to do in mathematics when they graduate?

4. What do you want to see in an elementary mathematics textbook or program?

After an interesting hour or so of discussing these questions, the large pages with our responses were grouped according to question and hung on the walls for a gallery walk/review that all could participate in and the meeting was ended.

I was quite pleased with the direction that things seemed to be headed, until I had a moment to speak with Regina Botsford, our Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment in Ridgewood.

I asked her why, if Benjamin Franklin Middle School had been ranked in the top 1% of all middle schools in NJ from 2000 – 2006, did the BOE change the middle school curriculum to “Connected Math?”

Her quick reply through a smile was, “Because they can be even better!”

So I asked her, “But if what we were doing was proven to work so well, why switch to a program that is still being developed?” I don’t even remember what her non-answer was to my question, but I do remember asking her “What was the program that was in place before ‘Connected Math’?”

This answer of Regina’s I remember: “There were various programs, various books.”
“Really?” I asked. “In just two schools (BF & GW) there were many programs and books? Do you mean there was one program at BF and another at GW? Or do you mean there were multiple books and programs within BF?”

To my last question in that list Regina seemed tense when she replied, “There may have been.”

That was an unclear answer so I asked for clarification, “You mean there were or there weren’t?”

This is where I was really shocked. Regina told me clearly, “I don’t have the answer to that and I am not going to research it.”

Whoah. “Ok,” I asked, “then can you help me understand what the core principle of ‘Connected Math’ is?” Here she said, “You can look it up on the website.”

I thanked her for talking with me and then left with my wife.

Here’s the thing: Regina Botsford is an intelligent, educated woman with strong credentials and experience. You can see her profile for youself on the Ridgwood web site. How could she NOT know what the prior middle school math program was before she went ahead and changed it? To change something as important as a successful math program without understanding what it is, seems like a terribly reckless decision, and Regina doesn’t strike me as a the reckless or irresponsible sort.

Further, if it is not true that she has no idea what the prior program consisted of (and I MUST assume that she had to know about the successful pre-existing program), then why would she put up such an offensive wall between herself and an interested and well educated young father who could have become an ally rather than an opponent?

I can only assume that she may have doubts or a lack of confidence about the “Connected Math” program that she shepherded in, otherwise why would she be so defensive right off the bat? If she had a very high level of confidence she might have said something like, “it’s a wonderful program with proven results. Why don’t you come by my office sometime during the week and I can show you in detail why we selected it over other competing programs?”

Instead I was directed to the internet which is FULL of web sites of parents and communities who are very angry that their kids are being taught the “Connected Math” program. I don’t think this is what Regina expected me to find when I followed her advice to look online. Just type “Connected Math” into Google. You can see what sites come up for yourself.

My question is still out there: Why on earth did we dump a successful math program in the Middle Schools for this? I want a serious answer, not passive aggressive retorts or sarcastic commentary from other aggravated moms and adads. A real explanation. I would accept this explanation here on the blog if it can’t be given in person.

Anyway, I am glad my wife and I still have time to see what happens here so we can track our kids into private school if we have to in order to secure a legitimate and competitive math education for them. It’s a shame that a Travell and Benjamin Franklin alumnus like myself wouldn’t want his own kids to go to the same school he went to. That really bums me out.

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