CHATHAM, NJ - Chatham Moms have formed a group, Chatham Cares About Schools, and are petitioning the School District of the Chathams to improve its Common Core math program for the 2015-2016 school year.
The group has signaled out CMP3 (Connected Math Program) as an example of one of the Common Core-aligned programs being taught in the Chatham Middle School that needs improvement. It is now in its second year of implementation.
The mothers of Chatham Cares About Schools presented a completed survey and a petition with 250 signatures to the Chatham Board of Education on June 1, and hope to further the discussion on how to improve the math curriculum at the scheduled June 15 BOE meeting.
The survey was completed by 116 parents, along with their children, from Grades 6, 7 and 8 at CMS. Some of the highlights of the survey:
- 71 percent of parents felt the changes in the math program were poorly communicated to them
- 68 percent would like the program supplemented with additional materials.
- 83 percent of students would like to see the teacher spend more time on instruction vs. group teaching
- 71 percent of students feel they don't get enough direction and help from the teacher
- 68 percent of students don't feel they learning and collaborating enough when working in groups
- 41 percent of students receive extra tutoring outside the classroom to complete their homework.
- 65 percent of students are going in for extra help from their teacher
- 30 percent of students are doing their homework independently
- 26 percent are able to do their homework without going online for additional help
- 66 percent of students say their enjoyment of math has decreased since CMP3 was implemented
- 65 percent of parents have noticed a decline in their child's math confidence and self-esteem since the program was implemented
- 19 percent of honor students have requested to drop down to regular math
- 45 percent of parents feel their child is not prepared for high school
- 25 percent of parents with older children feel their middle school child is less prepared than their older child was
- 60 percent of students' grades have gone down
- 54 percent of parents believe their child has been unsuccessful in learning through CMP3
A sample of the quotes that were pulled from the survey:
- "The new math program took a brilliant math student and made her hate math. She is frustrated that the teacher's don't teach and with the group learning style."
- "It is truly disappointing that I need to pay for tutoring for my child who never struggled with math before this program was implemented. I know many others who are in the same situation as my child. This program is clearly not working. It is just causing more frustration and undue stress on our children. Children who once did well in math are now in need of help because they are not getting proper instruction in class."
Chatham Cares About Schools parents believe there is a direct correlation between the problems with implementation of CMP3 and the fact that the high school has added a remedial math class for incoming freshmen.
According to the mothers, the school district did not get enough input from parents before choosing the current program provided by Pearson. They pointed to other districts trying a pilot program for a year before signing a contract.
"I called Pearson and Pearson disclosed that Chatham bought it for a six-year term without piloting it," Chatham parent Kelley Carney said. "Summit's assistant superintendent, Dr. Julie Glazer - sought parent input and teacher input. Dr. Glazer said Summit's curriculum is district-written using best practices. Millburn and Livingston use a best practices approach."
Parents of middle schoolers and younger - Debbie Barnes, Carney, Carrie Conte, Suzanne Harkins, Gail Kology and Christina McGeogh - have been researching the best practices of Common Core and have concluded that Chatham should have gone with a "hybrid" approach.
The Chatham parents found that Wilmette Public Schools in Illinois provided a comprehensive plan that included all the best practices. The six-page informational report by the Wilmette Department of Curriculum and Instructional Services was provided to the Chatham BOE at the June 1 meeting.
Another concern of the parents is that the program implemented at the elementary school level does not include enough basic math that will be needed to solve the CMP3 problems at the middle school.
"It is language-based math that is taught in a non-conventional way," Chatham parent Christina McGeough said.
According to the parents, this "Investigative Learning" technique has the teacher talk about a problem for seven to 10 minutes and then has the students break into groups to solve it by peer teaching.
"The group learning is very hard, especially at a Middle School grade level," Gail Kology, who has twins at the middle school. "A lot of times kids are left with questions when they leave the classroom. My daughter (Regan, who recently finished her freshman year at Harvard) was very well prepared when she went to college. I don't think my twins will be as prepared as she was. Regan offered to teach it to them, but there is nowhere for her to go to learn it. We have no books and we have no website."
One complaint from the parents of Chatham Cares About Schools is that there is no written math curriculum offered by the school district that they can access for review.
The parents noted that the CMP3 program is one of the better ones offered, but that there was not enough support in the implementation for teachers or students.
Kology reached out to Stanford University math professor Dr. James Milgram, through email and received advice from him in response to her questions.
"He was the only math expert on the national common core advisory committee when they were putting this in place and he would not approve it," Kology said. "He said it was not ready. He said in no uncertain terms, if you have the money get your kids out of public schools and send them to private school."
Here are links to what Stanford University professor Dr. James Milgram says about Common Core math practices:
"We are aware of the parental concerns about the middle school mathematics program, and our assistant superintendent and middle school principal have met with parents to discuss the concerns," Chatham Superintendent Dr. Michael LaSusa said. "CMP3 is a Pearson product in use throughout the country, including in districts similar to us, like Millburn and Ridgewood.
"A number of math educators I know personally believe it to be the best math program out there. We selected it in part because of the positive experiences other districts have had with it and also because it aligns to the Common Core and our K-5 program, Envision. This is our second year of implementation of the program. As with any set of materials or program we introduce, we provide professional development for our staff members and we evaluate program implementation. We continue to do that with this particular program and we are in the process of further bolstering the program as we enter its third year of use here in Chatham."
Editor's note: Dr. Michael LaSusa was asked to give a general response about the implementation of CMP3 without prior knowledge of the specific issues offered in this article.