Everyday Math textbooks and materials (above) as they were displayed to the school board in 2013
POTTSTOWN PA – The effectiveness of Everyday Math, a multi-grade mathematics curriculum into which the Pottsgrove School District invested more than $309,000 during mid-2013, is now being questioned by not only Pottsgrove officials but those in five other area districts as well, the Board of School Directors heard Tuesday (Sept. 29, 2015).
Parents have complained over the past two years that the program promotes math learning concepts which make it hard for adults unaccustomed to them to help their children with understanding and homework. Due in part to declining scores on state standardized tests, Pottsgrove administrators acknowledged in August they were re-evaluating how well Everyday Math worked.
They’ve since found they are not alone.
Pottsgrove Director of Education and Assessment Daniel Vorhis told directors he is part of a Montgomery County Intermediate Unit group now consisting of representatives from six districts – he declined to publicly identify the other five – who are conducting an Everyday Math “program quality review.” Its initial meeting was scheduled for Wednesday (Sept. 30) in Norristown.
Vorhis candidly told the board that group members perceived Everyday Math may be among the reasons their students’ math abilities aren’t what they should be. “There’s a sense of urgency about this,” he admitted to directors. “We’re working now with teachers to ask about what and how they’re teaching.”
Everyday Math, according to the Chicago Tribune newspaper, is “one of the most widely used math curricula in the country.” The product competes against almost a dozen other similar programs, a select few of which Pottsgrove parents have vocally favored in page after page of argumentative Facebook status updates.
“No one program’s the solution,” Vorhis said. “And that’s where the art and science of teaching comes in. We need to determine how we can find and utilize resources to help one another,” he said, speaking of the review group. Wednesday’s meeting, he said, was intended to be a start in the discovery process.
“We’re doing something wrong,” director Rick Rabinowitz agreed.
Rabinowitz has long challenged the district’s reliance on Everyday Math, and like others thinks there are better programs available. In discussing it during the board’s Aug. 25 meeting, he charged the district was “treating an emergency like a little problem.” On Tuesday, he seemed heartened Pottsgrove was playing a role in the quality review.
Superintendent Shellie Feola during August suggested that in May 2013, when Pottsgrove approved buying the Everyday Math edition that was touted as its “Common Core State Standards” offering, it may have been improperly “marketed.” That prompted Rabinowitz, also in August, to ask if the district could get a refund on some or all of its purchase price.
“We should definitely seek to get our money back,” Rabinowitz repeated again Tuesday.
Vorhis didn’t address the call for a refund, but said it seemed possible the IU group could complete its review and issue findings by next January. He promised to report in full on the Wednesday discussion for the board’s Curriculum, Technology and Student Affairs Committee meeting Oct. 20.
Related (to the Pottsgrove Board of School Directors’ Sept. 29 meeting):