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Topic: Congressional Hearing: Connected Math
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Congressional Hearing: Connected Math
Posted: Feb 1, 2000 10:00 AM
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From The Plano Star Courier (Texas), Sunday, January 30, 2000

Connected Math battle brought to House of Representatives

By Matt Pearce

A Plano resident who disagrees with the teaching of Connected Math in
public middle schools is taking her grievance to the United States House of

Susan Sarhady, mother of a Plano eighth-grader and president of the Plano
Parental Rights Council will testify Wednesday before House subcommittees
on Early Childhood, Youth and Families, and Postsecondary Education,
Training and Life-Long Learning. The hearing will focus on various aspects
of math reform in the U.S. and the role of the federal government in that

Sarhady, one of five panelists at the hearing, said she will address the
subcommittees on why she thinks Connected Math, a program implemented at
all nine Plano middle schools this year after three years as a pilot
program at four schools, does not benefit children as much as traditional
math programs do. She said she and hundreds of other parents want the Plano
Independent School District to implement an alternative to Connected Math.

"The main point is that we've been trying for a year and a half to gain an
alternative for the parents in Plano that want it, and have not been able
to do so," Sarhady said. "Even on a national basis, it is hotly debated
whether this program is going to help our children prepare themselves for
higher math."

Connected Math has children solving math problems through investigation, in
which they are expected to discover which math concept their investigation
is teaching. Sarhady said she objects to the way the program has children
working in groups, with some failing to acquire necessary math skills.

"The difficulty with that is, in many cases ... that some kids do
understand and go along and discover whatever the concept is," she said.
"But a lot in the group, possibly the majority, don't really get it, and
copy down what the rest of the group has discovered."

Sarhady, whose eighth-grade daughter is not in Connected Math, wrote in a
written statement for the hearing stories of other parents who feel their
children have suffered as a result of the program. She wrote that one
friend's son had to throw marshmallows in the air to see whether they
landed on their ends or heads for homework one night, and about another
woman, who has one child who got accepted to a private school after one
year of Connected Math and one who didn't after three years in the program,
because he lacked Algebra skills.

Calls to Marilyn Brooks, PISD associate superintendent for curriculum and
instruction, were not returned Friday.

Sarhady said 600 parents have signed a petition requesting an alternative
to Connected Math, but the school board has not responded favorably. She
said there are other school boards around the country who have adopted and
later dropped the program, and Plano middle schools will continue to suffer
if they don't do the same.

"It's not helping the achievement of the kids," Sarhady said. "Teacher
training is a huge issue with this program, and we lost a lot of teachers
last year - middle school math teachers."

In August, a group of parents represented by the Texas Justice Foundation
filed litigation concerning Connected Math against PISD, saying the
district violated the Texas Education Code by adopting the program outside
of the best interests of parents. After the suit was announced, PISD
Superintendent Doug Otto called it "sad" and defended Connected Math,
saying it gives students rigorous preparation for higher math.

Sarhady said neither she nor Plano Parental Rights Council, a recently
incorporated non-profit group, are involved in the lawsuit.

In October, Connected Math was lauded by the U.S. Department of Education
as an exemplary program. Jim Wolgehagen, PISD secondary math coordinator,
said the announcement "helps to validate the research that we had done and
that the teachers had done."

But the Department of Education's praise drew harsh criticism from
educators and mathematics experts nationwide. More than 200 mathematicians
and scientists, including four Nobel Prize recipients, wrote an open letter
to Education Secretary Richard Riley, asking him to withdraw the
department's ratings of Connected Math and similar reformed math programs
as "exemplary" or "promising."

Sarhady said through her written and five-minute oral testimony, she will
advocate "stricter controls to prevent schools from using untested programs
without the informed consent of parents and students." She said the federal
government should not promote Connected Math and similar non-traditional
programs, and PISD was wrong to implement it without input from parents.

"We'd like the district to be more responsive to the parents' requests,"
Sarhady said.
Contact staff writer Matt Pearce at (972) 543-2232 or
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA
Fax: (618) 453-4244
Phone: (618) 453-4241 (office)
(618) 457-8903 (home)


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