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Math "Reform?" - Part II

December 9, 2002

MONEY DRIVES THE CURRICULUM - National Science Foundation

NCTM = National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
NCTM creates the "reform math" national standards (See Part I)

A little acknowledged fact is that school districts are taking grant money (our federal taxes) to adopt the NCTM-based curriculum.

For example, the National Science Foundation gives out millions of dollars across the country to districts that will "fully implement" NCTM "standards based curriculum." Here's how it works in Minnesota, but the system is replicated in other states.

The University of Minnesota Education Department (Department of Curriculum & Instruction) accepts a National Science Foundation grant for over $2 million for a "Teacher Enhancement Program" called MASP (Merging to Achieve Standards Project). This grant was first authorized in 1997 for six years. It has just been reauthorized.

The University Education staff works closely with Minnesota's Education Department (Department of Children, Families and Learning), the Manager of the "Division of Learner Options."

The grant abstract lays out the scheme - Grant #9618741.

"Twenty-four Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area K-12 school districts, acting in a comprehensive collaboration, will participate in this project.

By the year 2002, five hundred teachers, representing all or nearly all grade 7-12 mathematics teachers in these districts, will be teaching a standards based curriculum to very diverse populations of students.

This project will create a critical mass and an infrastructure for the development of a systemic implementation in all schools by all teachers in the Greater Minneapolis/St. Paul area and beyond.

This project operationally defines "implementing a Standards Based Curriculum" as teaching one (or more) of the new NSF middle or high school curriculum projects or newer curricula packages which have direct and verifiable linkages to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Curriculum & Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics..."

"THOSE WHO WILL, FROM THE BEGINNING, FULLY IMPLEMENT SUCH A CURRICULUM, will attend a two-week intensive summer workshop on both content and pedagogy related to the new curricula followed by academic year staff development..." [Emphasis added.]

"Each teacher will receive at least 130 hours of professional development activity."

"These mentor/leaders will be the core of the ongoing implementation of curricula in partner school districts. A MAJOR GOAL OF THIS PROJECT IS TO DEVELOP AND IMPLEMENT A REPLICABLE MODEL FOR LARGE SCALE SELECTION AND IMPLEMENTATION OF MAJOR CURRICULUM REFORM. The model is based on long-term, purposeful and planned professional development for each 7-12 participating mathematics teacher, and on the development of long-range, skilled leadership teams in every school." [Emphasis added.]

When parents from Eden Prairie began to challenge and demand a more demanding traditional math curriculum in their schools this year because students were doing so poorly, they didn't imagine that their math teachers had been trained at taxpayer expense to be part of the model NCTM/National Science Foundation plan to restructure math curriculum in schools everywhere.

In other words, the school district had accepted grant money to agree to implement the new fuzzy math. School administrators had apparently been bought off long before parents even knew that they objected to the new math.

About 30 Minnesota districts have received the same grant money, with the University of Minnesota being the state distributor. No wonder fuzzy math is spreading across the state like germ warfare. Parents think they are battling a bad idea. In fact, they are battling pay-offs from agencies of the federal government.

In a very underhanded way, federal law and federal agencies are choosing local curriculum according to federal math standards. State legislatures are being bypassed. Perhaps even local school boards are being bypassed.

"No Child Left Behind," the new federal education funding bill just passed in 2001, provides $450 million dollars each year for grants to states for developing and redesigning math curriculum that is aligned with "state standards" and that are coordinated with the National Science Foundation. State standards, in turn, are approved by the federal government, using national standards from the NCTM. Partners accepting math grants must have an "accountability plan" approved by the federal Education Department that measures their progress toward standards based curriculum.

If your school district is implementing "standards based math curriculum," follow the money. Whether it is "integrated math," "Core Plus," "Investigative Math," or other reform math curriculum, belief in the quality of the curriculum may never have been a serious factor in its adoption. Money talks.

Look for Part III, MONEY DRIVES THE CURRICULUM "No Child Left Behind"

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