With all due respect to the Superintendent of Schools in North Andover, you might think his previous job experience in Reading would have taught him a lesson or two about listening to parents and not supporting fuzzy math programs. Unfortunately for him, and the children of North Andover, it looks like he never did.
You see, Harry
Harutunian was once the Superintendent of Schools in
Reading, Massachusetts. He was forced out because he
insisted on thwarting the will of parents by shoving a
program called Every Day Math down their
throats. A program heralded by some educators who think
dumbing down standards and subject matter will somehow
make children feel better about themselves.
I'm not saying
that's Mr. Harutunian's reason for allowing the program
into North Andover. But, whatever his reasons, Harutunian
would be smart to listen to the parents and not the
What parents are
objecting to is that Every Day Math relies on the use of
calculators in the classroom. But, Im not talking
about high school kids taking calculus. Im talking
about seven year olds taking basic math in the second
grade. Im talking about a math program that is so
woefully inadequate that it must be
supplemented with another math program
because Every Day Math just doesnt give kids the
tools they need to memorize multiplication tables, do
basic fractions or figure out percentages.
The issue in the
Reading schools was so contentious when Harutunian
refused to listen to parents on EDM, that they literally
rode him out of town. They even established a web site
detailing how Harutunian tried to "convince"
(I'm being kind) the parents and the School Committee
into adopting Every Day Math as part of the curriculum.
And they issued a warning to the Town of North Andover
about what would soon be coming our way. (their website
is www.iror.org) See page 3
For his part.
Superintendent Harutunian has set up pilot
programs for Every Day Math as well as other experimental
math programs in the North Andover Schools. He says he
will make a final decision in March of this year as to
which math program will be chosen for the entire system
(for those of you keeping score at home, that will be
right before the town elections for School Committee).
As a former School
Board member myself, I can tell you first hand that I
have seen this movie before and it always ends the same.
Superintendents spend a ton of money (in this case
its more than a quarter of a million dollars) on a
consultant (whom he selected, hired and signs
the paycheck for) and a committee of hand
picked educators (who work for him) to study
the issue and come to the School Committee with a
recommendation. This movie always ends with the
consultant and the committee
coming back to the School Committee table recommending
whatever the superintendent wanted from the beginning.
The use of surrogates like consultants and
committees gives the appearance that it was
solely an educational decision and that the
superintendent had very little to do with it.
Dont believe it for a minute. I
dont think Superintendent Harutunian is a bad
superintendent. I dont think he is purposely trying
to do something he believes will harm our childrens
chances of advancement. But he does have a fixation
(obsession?) with this Every Day Math Program and he is
very good at using the system to achieve his goals.
What he seems to
be forgetting is that there are people out here in the
community who have already done the research and are
simply outraged that he is experimenting on our kids
using pilot programs when the proof of
failure in Every Day Math has been well-documented.
Let me be frank.
The fact is, Superintendent Harutunian has wasted a
quarter of a million dollars and a year of our kids
educational experience to find out what
hundreds of web sites on "GOOGLE" could have
told him for free. In fact, had he read The Valley
Patriot several months ago, he could have read all about
EDM in Dr. Ormsby's column.
I suspect he
doesnt want to read those studies though, because
they wont give him the answer he apparently wants.
A math program that relies on calculators and has to be "supplemented" with other programs may sound good to the NEA and other elites who obsess on abstract concepts. But the parents of North Andover care about their real children more than studies, pilots or hypotheticals.
The one thing I know for sure is that there is a School Committee election coming up next spring. The current School Committee would be wise to listen to parents now and get rid of EDM and any program that uses calculators in the classrooms. If they don't, they may hear a louder roar from the parents on election day.
*Tom Duggan is
president of Valley Patriot, Inc., a monthly conservative
newspaper in Northern Massachusetts and is a former
member of the School Committee in Lawrence Massachusetts.
*Send your comments to ValleyPatriot@aol.com
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