Traverse City Record-Eagle

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May 15, 2014

Forum: Elementary math improvement job No. 1

As the Traverse City Area Public Schools school board searches for a new superintendent, one of the first questions they should ask a candidate is “How would you improve our struggling elementary math program?”

The state average for Michigan Educational Assessment Program scores last year in math for 7th-graders was 39.2. Our 7th-graders’ average was 26.7. The 8th-grade state average is 34.5 while our 8th-graders stumble in at 23.8. TCAPS’s administration has promised our kids will compete in the world market. We’re having a rough time competing in our own county.

Other area schools are doing fine. For example, here are corresponding MEAP 7th- and 8th-grade scores for Elk Rapids (50.5, 43.5), Kingsley (53, 38.2), Leland (45.5, 53.8) and Frankfort (55.0, 53.2). Other 8th-grade scores include Buckley (40.7), Northport (29.4), Suttons Bay (31.6, and Kalkaska (25.8). Congratulations to Glen Lake, they had the highest area scores with 54.2 and 48.3. None of these area schools use our math curriculum.

It’s not in the water our kids are drinking, nor is it the teaching staff. Our school board and administration have volunteered all of our elementary schools to be part of “test sites” for the Connected Math series (and they have been for several years). This is a program that emphasizes “discovery math”, group projects and lots of discussion. Fortunately, our kids seem to recover at the high school level, where the scores are above the state average. This is probably a combination of student achievement, teacher determination, and, definitely, a better math curriculum.

This teaching concept was part of the highly controversial CORE Math program that has been dropped throughout the nation. R. James Milgram, writing “An Evaluation of CMP” several years ago, stated “In fact, it is generally acknowledged that there are no reputable studies showing any of the NSF (National Science Foundation) developed mathematics programs actually benefit students in testable ways.” Connected Math was developed by the NSF at Michigan State. There are only two other schools using this program in Michigan. Why is it part of our curriculum? Let’s find a superintendent who will put our kids on a more successful path. Nor should internal candidates be considered. They are part of the reason we have this problem.

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