Petitioners call for changes to school math curriculum

The school district has not responded.
Thursday, April 19, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:41 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

By Wednesday afternoon, three days after traditional math advocate and Columbia Parents for Real Math founder Michelle Pruitt launched a petition to change the math curriculum in the Columbia Public Schools, more than 280 signatures had been collected on the online version of the petition.

Pruitt said she began plans for the petition after receiving positive feedback at a meeting she hosted March 13 for parents to express frustrations with nontraditional math curriculum. She said Parents for Real Math hopes the petition brings about eventual changes in the curriculum and immediate changes in parental feedback. She said she thinks parents should have more of a voice in the curriculum.

“(I hope) that the school district’s math curriculum actually responds to what parents and students need so that they are going to reach achievement goals,” she said.

The petition, which is available online at, is addressed to “Columbia Public Schools Board of Education and Superintendent Phyllis Chase.” It states that the current curricula used by the district “have been discredited and abandoned in other regions of the country after they failed to deliver demonstrable results.”

The school district implemented the nontraditional math program “Investigations in Number, Data and Space” in all elementary schools in 2003 after phasing it into individual schools in previous years. The district’s nontraditional middle school curriculum, “Connected Math,” was introduced to sixth-graders in 2001 and to seventh-graders in 2002.

The district also offers the nontraditional curriculum “Integrated Math” to high school students, although 30 percent of these students choose to take the traditional track.

The petition proposes the adoption of four main goals:

n To “protect the rights of students to become computationally fluent in mathematics,” meaning students are taught algorithms that aid in computing basic problems;

n To “ensure that math instruction is flexible enough to allow for various learning styles and is age and grade-level appropriate;”

n To “offer secondary school math options that meet the diverse needs of older students;” and

n To “actively encourage participation from parents and other community members.”

Pruitt informed Chase, district math coordinators Linda Coutts and Chip Sharp, and all school board members of her petition through an e-mail. “I primarily just wanted them to be aware,” Pruitt said. “I try to keep them informed as a courtesy because I realize they have a lot of other things to care about, too.”

Coutts, who coordinates elementary math in the district, said the petition contains inaccuracies but declined to elaborate until the school board has a chance to evaluate the district’s response to the petition. She said the district is working on the response to give to the school board, but she wasn’t sure when this would be completed.

Pruitt said the number of signatures on the petition has left her pleasantly surprised, although she said she will continue to gather as many as she can until the May 24 school board work session to review the Secondary Math Task Force’s assessment of math curriculum in middle and high schools. The review happens every five years and is not related to this recent push by parents.

“I think because of the timeline of what is happening with the secondary school curriculum review, we probably will deliver an immediate list of names at the May school board meeting,” Pruitt said. “Because the elementary curriculum review will extend into next year, it may be that we consider getting signatures after May. It depends on how the school district responds, I suspect.”

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Jen Rachow May 15, 2007 | 11:20 a.m.

From your article -- "Coutts, who coordinates elementary math in the district, said the petition contains inaccuracies but declined to elaborate until the school board has a chance to evaluate the district’s response to the petition. She said the district is working on the response to give to the school board, but she wasn’t sure when this would be completed." Nearly one month has passed since this statement was made and no reposponse about her alegations that the petition information is innacurate to my knowledge. They certainly have not responded to Columbia Parents for Real Math. We would like to know what these inacuracies are. What about Chip Sharp's withholding information about Ivy League schools who "gladly accept" students who have had the integrated math curriculum. True they do, however the detail he fail to mention is that they will accept them as long as they take and pass calculus. What about the number of students in remedial math - reported as a low 17% much less than other MO schools, true, but he did fail to mention that the rate of CPS students in remedial math is 5 times greater than it was 10 years ago. Mr. Sharp claims that students are staying in math longer in highschool. Could this be due to students repeating courses? Where is that data? What about the ACT scores decreasing in recent years? Is Mr. Sharp willfully witholding information from parents who would normally not check for the accuracy of his data. Mr. Sharp also claimed that parents are not required to sign a waiver to have their Jr. High school children in the more traditional math track begining with Algebra. I guess the schools dont know about this, because I certainly had to sign a waiver.

If Mr. Sharp wants to share the statistical data, he should share all of it, not just the one that makes everything look rosey.

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