Monday, April 13, 2009

Anti-Reformists & Common Ground: Not Likely

The purpose of the NJDOE task force is to reach common ground on the ongoing math discussion in NJ.  I am beginning to believe, however, that reaching common ground is not really the goal of the anti-reformists in NJ.  To date, I have resisted direct confrontation with these anti-reformists.  However, they have now decided to call my University (several times) and now have made open public records act (OPRA) to find out information about my grants.  Although I have nothing to hide and am very proud of my grants, why would the anti-reformists make such requests?  (To learn more about my grants, see newspaper articles in the Courier and the Chronicle.)   One can only imagine that the anti-reformists want to use such information to disqualify me from the NJDOE task force (even though DOE and the Commissioner is well aware of my successful grant activity.)  Seems that they really don't want to reach consensus, they want to remove anyone who disagrees with them.  There is further evidence of this as below appears an email that I received from one of the anti-reformists.  This email was received when the Concerned Mathematics Educators of NJ was initial formed.  The rhetoric is both disturbing and distressing and show the lengths that the anti-reformists will resort to.  Common ground is certainly not their goal.

I have reviewed the information on your web site and would like to comment.  Given the name of your organization, it is not surprising that the vast majority of those endorsing the positions on your web site are not individuals who are practicing mathematicians, engineers or scientists.  This is a serious flaw.
As educators, your role should be one of teaching, and not driving, the curriculum.  The curriculum goals should be driven by the expected outcomes, which in this case are success in the fields dependent upon proficiency in mathematics.   I find it abhorrent that mathematics educators are hoping to continue to dictate the content of math standards that will drive curricula throughout the state of NJ.  It is becoming increasingly evident that there is a clear divide between those who teach mathematics (or teach mathematics teachers), and those who actually use mathematics in their daily life as scientists, engineers, or in other professions. 

The failures in this educator-driven approach to curriculum are reflected in the continued decline of the United States dominant position in science, engineering and mathematics. Since the NCTM recommendations of ~20 years ago were developed into various curricula, the level of mathematics competency within the US has been abysmal.  Now, with the State of NJ poised to draft new core curriculum content standards for math that eschew many of the components of the NCTM recommendations, your group hopes to continue to hold NJ's students back by holding fast to the status quo.

Your listing of endorsers includes some individuals who have financially benefited from the standards development process.  These individuals have engaged in activities such as:  received grants, acted as consultants for school districts and/or the State of NJ to draft or select standards and/or curricula, or provided training to teachers and administrators regarding the selected standards or curricula.  In other industries, a situation where those who help to make policy then also receive financial benefit as a result of those policies could be considered a conflict of interest.  This is truly distressing. 

I urge the members of your organization to actually LISTEN to the parents, the taxpayers, the mathematicians, the scientists, the engineers, the IT professionals, the economists and others in NJ who are becoming increasingly concerned with the standards that your organization wishes to perpetuate.  I urge the members of your organization to review the studies showing a disconnect between what math educators believe to be important and what is actually important.  It's time for your organization and its membership to realize that the standards that you wish so dearly to hold onto are resulting in NJ's students being poorly-equipped for college or life.  

Please, please, please--for the sake of our children, STOP the pursuit of sub-standard mathematics standards and curricula and partner with parents, mathematicians, scientists and engineers to provide a solid mathematics education for NJ's students.

What is TRULY distressing is the rhetoric and tactics used by the anti-reformists. Common ground - very unlikely.

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