Welcome to Laurie Goodman's blog. I use this space to share news and opinions about education and schools in Ridgewood, the state of New Jersey and the nation, in addition to other issues I'm personally interested in. I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, questions or opinions, too, by posting comments on any blog entry. Please observe basic courtesy -- keep your comments focused on issues, no personal attacks or bullying, please. Contact me directly at: lauriegood@mac.com

Monday, May 18, 2009

On the agenda for the May 18 Board of Ed meeting.

(Updated 10:40 AM)
The big day is here: MATH is on the agenda. It's a big day because it will hopefully be the beginning of the end of two-plus years of Ridgewood's "math war." Dr. Fishbein will present the Math Planning Team's recommended math textbook for grades K-2 (following to grades 3-5 in 2010-11). As noted in the meeting agenda, which was posted on the district website on Friday, the recommended text is enVision Math.

The Board and the public will hear a presentation on the rationale for the recommendation, how enVision meets our criteria for a math program, and how it fits with our vision statement. The Board will be asked to vote to approve the purchase of the textbooks. The Board will listen, ask questions, consider the Math Planning Team's background and the research that we've been doing individually since the four finalists were announced.

For those who may have heard that the Board is somehow "breaking the law" in the process to be followed in approving the textbook...don't believe it. Here's the thing: Those who are claiming "foul" are mistakenly using the wrong section of Board policy. Policy 6141 states that the superintendent shall "establish procedures for curriculum development which ensure the effective participation of... parents/guardians and the community...” etc etc. This policy pertains to curriculum, NOT textbooks. We've had this discussion before, as you may recall: curriculum is what the students will learn... textbooks are how it will be taught. We're not voting on a new curriculum -- the curriculum is elementary math and we already teach elementary math. The curriculum that we follow is not changing. Just the textbook is changing. (An example of a new curriculum would be the RAHP program...or the new SAIL (special ed) program at the high school.)

We do have a policy for textbook adoption and approval. It's #6161.1 and it says any recommendation for new textbooks requires:

A. Review and recommendation for selection by teaching staff members, particularly those who will be using the materials. (This was done by the Math Planning Team and teacher-input meetings.)

B. A written summary of the review process and the reasons for the selection, including the titles and publishers of other texts selected. (This would be the Math Plan, the criteria, the vision statement, and the four finalists, all of which have been publicly announced.)

C. Opportunity for Board members to examine recommended texts and other instructional materials prior to approval pursuant to NJSA 18A:34-1. (Board members have had access to the finalists for quite some time, and each of us has reviewed the books and materials, in addition to other research, which could include readings, interviews, etc.)

It does not say anything about a waiting period between the recommendation and the vote.

(Note to self: as we are updating and revising our policies this year and next, let's clear up these sections so there's no confusion.)

What else is on the agenda?
• We're going to talk about establishing a committee (as per our policy) to consider awarding naming rights for various facilities (such as the stadium or other athletic facilities). This is a topic that's coming up more and more across the country, as cash-strapped districts look for new ways to create revenue. Click here for an article from the Bergen Record last year. Before anybody reacts with shock or excitement at the prospect of a named football field or whatever, keep in mind this is just a committee being established, to start talking. We already have a policy for this, so if it's something that might be on the radar, let's follow the policy and start by forming a committee.

I don't have my agenda in front of me and I can't remember anything else at the moment. I'll update more tomorrow if I think of anything else notable.


Anonymous said...

I've got to ask why on earth the board would take a vote before the new state curiculum standards are released. Wouldn't it be more prudent to take the planning team's recommendation under advisement but put off a final vote until then?

Laurie said...

No one knows how long it will take before the new state curriculum standards will be final, but given the strong positions of the educators and others involved on both (or all) sides of the debate, I doubt it will be anytime soon. Also, the process is as much about politics as it is about math and, as this is an election year, the potential for political influence on the process is likely to increase.

Here in Ridgewood, we have been working through our math issues for years. The District made a commitment to make a decision this spring. We need to move forward, in a reasoned and thoughtful manner, for our students and our community. Fortunately, the Math Planning Team reviewed the four finalist math programs against both the current standards and the proposed draft standards, and any of the four will meet both sets of standards.

Anonymous said...

What legal nitwit told you that you are only voting to fund a new textbook?

That is pure baloney and you should know it. You are "voting" because the district is about to adopt a "new math program." Program, that's right. Policy 6141 applies to the adoption of programs and/or curriculum as these words are often used interchangeably.

Nice try, though. But you look worse than Nixon did explaining the 18 min. gap.

BTW: enVision is just the sort of new program Ridgewood should NOT use. It's too new, too reliant on technology and has no research to back up its efficacy. You are about to rubber stamp a Pearson math marketing gimmick. I had hoped for more intellectual heft from at least you.

Laurie said...

While the selection of a math textbook to be used in all six schools is a meaningful event for our District, more than your "average" textbook adoption, I disagree with your position that we are adopting a new program or curriculum.

Anonymous said...

Laurie, you can lie to yourself all you want about adopting a textbook vs. program/curriculum. However, it is beneath you and shameful. How sad that you are so intellectually corrupt. You sound like you got your talking points from Charlie.

Anonymous said...

Wow, chill, there's no need to be rude. I know Laurie and have worked with her on town issues over the years. She is far from "intellectually corrupt." Is there no possibility that you and she simply disagree? You know, reasonable people can disagree without one of them being a liar or an idiot. But wait--that would mean you were a "reasonable" person and it sure does not sound like it.

Anonymous said...

Just curious: about what percentage of BOE votes are unanimous?

Anonymous said...

3:05 -- Unfortunately, people who don't fall in lockstep with the lunatic fringe in the Village are labeled "idiots" and "liars" who are "intellectually corrupt".

Such is the rhetoric from the nattering nabobs of negativism.

Laurie said...

I have no idea, but it's high, right? I have thought about this a lot and spoken about this before, including at the Board table.

Would it "seem" more realistic if we had more contentious votes? I suppose. But does that mean I should vote "no" now and then just for show? Is that how public service is supposed to work? Whenever I think about this, it doesn't feel right. We're not putting on a faux-reality show, with scripted drama.

I cannot speak for my fellow Board members, but I know I've never voted for something that I didn't actually support. And I've never discussed my planned vote in advance with other BOE members. Do we talk about things in committees or one on one, and do we ever disagree? Of course.

Anonymous said...

I don't think anybody (or at least most people) think in terms of collusion on votes. From what I've seen, all the trustees seem dedicated, hardworking, and well-meaning. Rather, maybe it's possible a little bit of Groupthink has taken hold? I find it hard to believe that on every issue, especially the tough ones like math in which there are more than one valid viewpoint, everybody always agrees and comes to the same conclusion. This circles back to that bunker mentality somebody mentioned last week. Just because some of the messengers can seem unpleasant is no reason to discount the entire message.

Laurie said...

I'm reading up a little on the theory of "groupthink." It's worth exploring and thinking about. And while I suspect it's somewhat a part of human nature, I agree with you that the messenger should not dilute the validity of the message.