Parents Protest Fairfield's New Math Classes

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Members of Fairfield's Board of Education listened to debate on new methods of teaching math Tuesday night.
Members of Fairfield's Board of Education listened to debate on new methods of teaching math Tuesday night. Photo Credit: Greg Canuel (File)

FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Deputy Superintendent Karen Parks admitted she made mistakes in rolling out new teaching methods for algebra in Fairfield’s schools. But parents of eighth-grade students were still not satisfied with the administrations’ report on the program.

This year, Fairfield’s public schools began using new methods to teach math to better prepare for new state exams coming in the future. The new system has teachers break students into smaller groups to work on problems after a brief introduction to math concepts.

A group of parents have complained to the Board of Education that the new program was not explained before it went into effect. Specifically, there was no presentation on the changes before they went into effect and no vote on adopting the new textbook used in classrooms.

“I feel like, as a parent, this was an implementation issue,” Cindy Johnston told the Board of Education Tuesday. “I’m just not sure that there were the checks and balances. … I think that’s what caused a lot of the concern initially.”

Fairfield is using a one-year trial to test CPM Education’s Core Connections Algebra. Because the books may need to be returned this summer if Fairfield decides not to buy them outright, students have been asked to leave them in school. They have been given access to electronic versions available online for homework.

Parks and the district’s math leaders offered a presentation at Tuesday’s meeting. Parks explained that the old math textbooks should have gone to students as well, but admitted that they had not yet been handed out.

“There’s no denying that, last spring, we should have informed the board about the use of the CPM textbook as a pilot, and, believe me, we all regret that that was not done,” Parks said.

Teachers defended the new method as more effective. “The students are no longer passive participants in the learning process,” said Fairfield Ludlowe teacher Lauren Mason. “They are now active and engaged.”

Math Curriculum Leader Paul Rasmussen used one particular type of problem on standardized tests as an example. The problem had three parts, each with a multiple-choice answer. On last year’s CMTs, 77 percent of students answered incorrectly on at least two parts. On tests at the end of the quarter this year, that number had already dropped to 42 percent, Rasmussen said.

Board member Jennifer Maxon Kennelly called for a vote to stop using the new CPM textbook immediately. But after other board members suggested that they give more notice to people who want to defend the book, she instead asked Chair Phil Dwyer to call for a meeting on the math program in January.

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