So, today brought forth two different points for me about math in Amherst quite directly.
First, I read the front-page story in the New York Times on the growing number of districts moving to Singapore Math (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/01/education/01math.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=math&st=cse). Districts using this math program include public schools in elite districts (e.g., Scarsdale), elite private schools (e.g., Sidwell Friends, where the Obama girls attend school), and inner-city schools in New York City. Interestingly, this is the math program used by the Chinese Charter School in Hadley and by the AIMS program for African American children in Amherst (a Saturday math program). It is interesting to read about the experiences (good and bad) districts have had with this program ... and this article certainly reminds me of how much I'm looking forward to hearing a review of our math curriculum/program by Dr. Andrew Chen (the math consultant located by former superintendent Dr. Alberto Rodriguez).
Second, I received my second child's very first MCAS scores in the mail (he is now a 4th grader at Fort River). I am not going to talk specifically about my own child's performance, but the information provided to all parents included not only how your child does (in both math and English language arts) by also how your child's scores compare to the district and state averages. In a district in which many families have connections to higher education institutions and/or advanced degrees, both Amherst as a district and Fort River Elementary School were below the state average in math. Only 13% of kids in 3rd grade at Fort River, and 18% of the kids in Amherst, scored at the Advanced level, compared to a state average of 25%. That really suggests that our district is not helping kids to achieve at the highest level. However, even more concerning was the finding that 24% of the 3rd graders at Fort River and 14% of the kids in Amherst scored at the warning level, compared to the state average of 11%. So, our district also has more kids at the very bottom level than the state average. In sum, after 4 years in the Amherst schools (K to 3rd), more kids are at the warning level than the state average in math AND fewer kids are at the advanced level than the state average in math. As a School Committee member, a strong proponent of public education, and a mom, I find these numbers highly, highly concerning.
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.