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February 09, 2005

Educational neglect

Back in 1999 some Liberal educators at Massachusetts's Newton Public Schools (per pupil '03 expense: $11,057) had a “bright” idea.

...the math curriculum was redesigned to emphasize "Newton's commitment to active anti-racist education" for the elementary and middle schools. This meant that no longer were division, multiplication, fractions and decimals the first priority for teaching math. For that matter, the teaching of math was no longer the first priority for math teachers, as indicated by the new curriculum guidelines, called benchmarks, which function as the primary instructional guide for teaching math in the Newton Public Schools.

Since then the math scores for elementary students have dropped to the point that the school is in danger of being placed under the federal No Child Left Behind Act for failing to keep pace under the minimum "adequate yearly progress guidelines."

The Liberal “thinkers” who came up with the idea were Superintendent Jeffrey Young (Jeff_Young@newton.mec.edu, 617-559-6100) and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Carolyn D. Wyatt (Carolyn_D_Wyatt@newton.mec.edu, 617-559-6125).

The school department offered no tangible explanation for these declining scores other than to admit that they have no explanation, as articulated by Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Carolyn Wyatt (salary $106,804), "[The results] have decreased, incrementally, each year and continue to puzzle us." She went on to admit that this downward trend is peculiar to Newton and "is not being seen statewide." Again, she offered no explanation, but she did assure the School Committee that her assistant, Math Coordinator Mary Eich (salary $101,399), is currently investigating the problem.

Meanwhile parents have been forced to pay out of their own pockets to ensure their children get an adequate education.

"The 'antiracist' and, actually, 'anti-American' curriculum permeates the school environment," Lillian Benson, whose children, ages 8 and 11, attend the district's schools, told FOXnews.com in an e-mail.

"My children do not know Christopher Columbus, except that he was a racist who caused the death of many innocents or the founders of the nation. They have hardly heard of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln even though we live in the area that began it all. What they do know about is the wonders of Ghana, Mexico and China," she said.

Another parent, Julie Agarkov says it's ridiculous that people living in the community pay top dollar so their kids can attend good public schools, yet she still pays to send her son to the Boston area's Russian School of Mathematics "to ensure that he gets a good math education."

The Russian School of Mathematics is a private, after-school math institution for kids grades K-12. Iness Rifkin, founder of the school, told FOXNews.com that of the 700 kids now enrolled in her school, 400 of them are from the Newton district; 120 of them are middle schoolers. She began the school out of her home seven years ago with her two children and a few of their friends.

"Now, seven years later, I have 700 students, mainly from Newton public schools … I can't even accommodate all the people who want to be in the school this year," Rifkin said.

Rifkin said she approached Young to offer to either teach Newton teachers how to better teach math or to have the district give kids a choice to either attend Math at Newton or at her school at no extra charge to the district; parents already are paying to send their kids to her school. This way, kids wouldn't have to take math at two different places.

"He didn't want to listen to that," she said. "Parents tell me they feel sorry for their kids to spend double time — time in public school and time in my school."

Posted by Jack Lewis at February 9, 2005 09:24 AM

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