School district math plan doesn’t add up

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I am a concerned parent who recently served on the Coeur d’Alene School District’s Ad Hoc Math Committee. My Idaho roots, background teaching in Minnesota, and a strong desire to better education for local children, led me to join the committee, which was primarily made up of school district employees and a few community members. The purpose of the committee was to make a recommendation to the school board about ways to address failing high school standardized math scores. At the last meeting on Feb. 22, the committee voted on a plan to be presented to the board on Monday, March 5.

The district is pursuing a plan it has created in which students will take Math 1, 2 and 3 instead of the traditional Algebra, Geometry and Algebra II classes. They are calling this an integrated path. Integrated math programs are used throughout the country, but I have never heard of a school district using traditional books to come up with its own plan and then labeling it “integrated.”

Here are the major problems I have with the district’s plan and some of the reasons I am urging the board to vote against it.

First, the district invented this approach instead of utilizing a research-based curriculum or plan. Since district employees wrote this plan, there is no evidence to support it. Integrated math has been researched. The plan Coeur d’Alene has come up with on its own has not been researched.

Second, Coeur d’Alene High School is already running what it calls a “pilot” of this program with its freshman class. Hundreds of students are being experimented on without board approval. As a committee member, I asked for results from the pilot. I still have not seen any. The district wants the board’s go-ahead to expand a program that doesn’t have any data to back it or to prove its success.

Third, the plan is designed to teach to the test. It was written around the frequency of math concepts as they appear on the SAT. Instead of focusing on giving kids a solid foundation in problem solving through math, the focus is on what is currently tested on the SAT.

Finally, and most concerning, is how quickly the district is trying to push this through before our new superintendent assumes his position in a few months. It was the expressed intent of those leading the committee to get this passed before new leadership arrives.

The board needs to take a hard look at the district’s approach to math, but gambling with our kids is no way to turn failure into excellence.

Katrina Zepeda has a Master of Arts in Teaching and lives in Coeur d’Alene.

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