Chris Jenner comments on curriculum from Open Forum section of Dec 19, 2005, Cary D-26 school board meeting



I need to say a few things about curriculum.


First, I want to thank Dr. O'Connor and the Math Task Force for bearing with the board and answering the barrage of questions we had. As I've mentioned before, there are five new board members unfamiliar with this process, and this board is very concerned about its weakest function, monitoring district progress. I really appreciate the time and effort the staff put in in responding.


I respect the members of the Math Task Force and their backgrounds, and I appreciate the research and work they've put in over the past four years. Whatever program we use, and this goes for any subject -- not just math, its success is more dependent on parents and staff than the program itself. And we have great parents and staff here in District 26.


I'm not a trained curriculum professional. But I am capable of doing research and applying critical thinking. I've been researching and reading about curriculum for a couple years, I didn't just start when the topic came up at the October board meeting.


Our curriculum selection is based on a lot of research. There is one *huge* body of research that is continually ignored, and it shouldn't be. Project Follow Through was one of the largest education studies ever. It started in 1967 and ran for almost 30 years, having about a billion dollars invested in it.


I get the impression that education colleges don't even mention Project Follow Through to their students, let alone require them to analyze its findings. Why? I don't know. But the study is too large to ignore, and its findings fly in the face of the education theories that have gotten to be "in vogue" over the past 25 years, like spiraling, multiple intelligences, discovery learning, and other theories and methods that programs like Everyday Math and Connected Math are based on.


Project Follow Through concluded that the most effective educational model happened to be the most simple, direct, and inexpensive. Singapore Math would be an example of an educational model that Project Follow Through would find to be highly effective.


I mention Singapore Math because in three straight international comparisons -- the TIMMS studies of 1995, 1999, and 2003, Singapore consistently ranked first at all age levels. In the 2003 TIMMS rankings, the United States ranked 19th, behind countries that include Hungary, Canada, The Czech Republic, Australia, The Russian Federation, Bulgaria, and Latvia.


I'm not trying to make a recommendation that we ignore four years of work by the Math Task Force and change the direction we're headed, although I wouldn't mind if the Science Task Force got familiar with Project Follow Through. I'm only stating my position on curriculum issues, and how and why it was formed.


So after two years of my own investigation and study, and applying critical thinking, I believe in the conclusions of Project Follow Through, and I am not sold on the "fad" educational models. I promise if I were the only person in District 26 that held these beliefs, I'd vote the will of the community -- I'm here to represent the community and not advance a personal agenda. I do know of other parents and community members who share my views on this.


Whatever programs the board adopts, for math or any other subject, I'll support it. I'll support whatever we need to do for our staff to be successful with the program. And I'm sure our staff and parents will overcome any weaknesses the program may have, and that we will continue to send well-prepared freshmen into District 155.


Again, I just wanted everyone to know where I stand on curriculum and why. And while there will be times when I disagree, there's nothing personal -- I respect our staff, and will support the board's decisions. I know the board wants to support our staff, and will always keep highly educated kids at the forefront of our decision making.  


American Institutes for Research report on U.S. International Mathematics Performance


More information on science curricula


Responses to criticisms of Direct Instruction




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