New Math Curriculum Approved, But Not Without Criticism
Opponents say school board didn't have enough information on alternatives.
Eighth graders will begin learning algebra this fall as part of a newly approved mathematics curriculum at RDMS.
The curriculum change was approved Monday during the River Dell Board of Education meeting by a 5-2 vote with board members Darlene Ross and Michael Chakansky abstaining.
Board member Roger Tashjian, who has been an outspoken proponent of a four-year mathematics graduation requirement at River Dell for the past several years, expressed concerns that the board didn't have the information it needed.
"In my last three years this is the best of the math curriculum I have seen," Tashjian said. "But it feels like our back is against the wall because we have no choice. This is the third year and we have never seen a comprehensive study that includes what other options were considered. ... If we don't approve [the new curriculum], then [students] go back to the Holt textbook program and are left out on a ledge."
There are three reasons as to why the curriculum is being revised, Supervisor of Math Jennifer Ali said.
"First being a change in the common core standards," Ali said. "We knew over the past three years this was coming for a tremendous change in grades 5 to 8. This document reflects the common core standards and a rigorous content. Second is the end-of-course exam that will be an expected high school graduation requirement. And lastly, we found that our students are good at the skills involved but not at understanding the concepts. There is a focus on drilling and memorizing the steps rather than understanding why you take those steps. For the program change, we want students to have both the skills and conceptual understanding."
The eight-unit curriculum will cover: Modeling Linear Patterns, Radicals and Applications, Exponential Relationships, Quadratic Relationships, Symmetry and Transformations, Expressions and Equations, Linear Systems and Inequalities, and Data and Statistics.
"It's not just a Connected Math program, but our interpretation of those aspects that are important for the understanding and connecting with the Holt textbook for Algebra I and Connected Math," Ali said.
To stay under budget, the mathematics teachers will most likely be trained during the summer on the new curriculum. Students will also continue taking the district math assessments at the beginning and end of year to measure their academic achievements along with the state-mandated NJASK and End of Course Algebra assessment.
Tashjiann and Dorothea Durand both voted against the curriculum, saying they did so because of a lack of data. Board members Chakansky and Ross abstained, saying the proposal didn't follow the district's policy in showing a detailed reasoning for the change.