Bizarre School Skirmish (Sch-irmish?)

14 06 2007

And this time it’s not sex education, Harry Potter, cupcakes, or even phonics. It’s that most seemingly rational and non-controversial of the three Rs, ‘Rithmetic — although the emotional charges being flung sound, well, not rational at all. Maybe this community needs to revamp their psychology curriculum instead? 😉

Joseph G. Rosenstein, a math professor at Rutgers University who supports reform math, said that it is often the more educated parents who grow angry and frustrated at the approach because they do not understand it. “They want their children’s education to resemble their education because they are successful,” he explained. “They say, ‘It worked for me, why won’t it work for them?’ ”

Few in Ridgewood knew much about reform math until several parents started to mobilize in the past year, stepping up their efforts after the hiring of Dr. Brooks.

He has spent the last seven years as superintendent of Plainview-Old Bethpage, on Long Island, which put a reform math program in effect during his tenure.

An anti-reform math movement has sprung up there as well. More than 900 residents have signed a petition asking for reform math to be removed from the schools, and the approach became an issue in school board elections this spring, when three of the seven board members were ousted.

In Ridgewood, e-mail messages circulated by parents and items posted on an online forum, The Ridgewood Blog, contended that Dr. Brooks and his wife, who is a Hofstra University education professor, were ardent supporters of reform math and that she had received grants from the National Science Foundation to promote it.

Dr. Brooks said in an interview that his wife’s science foundation grants had nothing to do with reform math, and that while he supported the approach, neither he nor his wife had ever worked to promote it.

Dr. Brooks said he had received several e-mail messages from Ridgewood parents and several anonymous phone calls saying not to come, or questioning his position on reform math.

“I was tremendously offended by some of the blogs; they were just baldfaced lies,” he said. “I had heard so many wonderful things about the Ridgewood community in the past, it would be surprising if these voices spoke for that community. I’m hoping that Ridgewood is able to recapture its real voice in the future.”

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