This article focuses on the upcoming math review (K to 12), which I know is of interest to many parents (http://gazettenet.com/2010/07/22/amherst-begins-math-review-plan). I would also encourage interested readers to check out the Amherst SC meeting last night (on ACTV), in which we discussed this review for some time, as well as the summary of the scope of the review that is posted on the ARPS website (http://www.arps.org/node/1660). As we discussed at last night's meeting, the present review (as commissioned by our current interim superintendent) will include surveys of teachers (but not parents), and no comparison whatsoever to the experience in other districts, which I find concerning. In addition, the focus of this review is to see how well our curriculum align with the NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) standards, which are somewhat controversial (they are very much in the "reform math" camp, not the "traditional math" camp -- which you can read more about at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Math_wars). That also seems to me to be less than ideal -- I would prefer, and indeed expect, that all evaluation of our curricula and programs be done using an objective lens, as opposed to the lens of a particular ideology (Steve spoke to this point at length at last night's meeting).
However, I'm very glad to hear that the Chair of the Regional SC supports a rigorous evaluation, so that we don't have to just rely on anecdotes to evaluate our programs and curricula (which has been the approach for far too long in this district). That is precisely my view, which is why I asked at last night's meeting for the review to expand to include three additional components (as specified in the evaluation policy unanimously supported by the SC earlier this year): comparison to benchmark districts, surveys of parents, and review of empirical data on the effectiveness of different curriculum. I hope that these three components will indeed be added, which would indeed help us gain a fuller understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of our current K to 12 math program.
My Goal in Blogging
I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.