Letter to the Editor: New Online Math Program 'A Model for a 21st Century Disaster'
Leader of Fairfax County Federation of Teachers says lack of discussion before textbook program came to fruition has resulted in no buy-in, issues of access and equity.
To the Editor:
There is a new math ‘series’ that is being implemented in Fairfax County Public Schools, currently. It is an online disaster that could have been avoided.
Let’s reflect upon how this happened: Right after the FCPS School Board approved the FY 2013 budget (which was ‘tight’ due to revenue problems), the superintendent dropped a $7.7 million bill on their laps at the FY 2012 budget review, announcing that $10 million dollars was now available from the previous year. Later, it was discovered that FCPS administration had the nerve to sign the contract for the math series before the school board even approved the money for it.
The fact that the new math series was to be primarily an online resource (vs. the more ‘traditional’ approach) was never emphasized.
Although upper elementary and middle school got online texts for some of their social studies classes last year, with enhanced pdf files embedded in ineffective interfaces (that both teachers and students found difficult to use) FCPS still moved to the online math books which include a combination of Flash, pdf, and web-based materials.
The books are online and cannot be put on a stand-alone reader, which means they won’t work on the most affordable devices available like Kindles and Nooks. The materials are inaccessible in places without an internet connection, and difficult to use in homes with multiple people all trying to access a single machine.
There’s the matter of the Flash and Java-based content which isn’t playable on iOS devices and, it turns out, is inconsistently supported on Android devices running a variety of different versions of the OS.
Neither the parents, community, principals, nor teachers were genuinely consulted on this before upper administration made the decision. There was no effective pilot run on the program. None of the stakeholders had any buy-in, nor were any comprehensive steps taken to discuss this with them beforehand. The workforce was given no training. Parents were not aware of the online impact. Principals were not given proper support. There are issues of access, equity, and instructional effectiveness in schools that were never considered or addressed.
There have been stories of parents having to spend upwards of $100 on hardbound copies of the books.
This is about upper level administrators recklessly attempting to look progressive, jeopardizing the quality of our children's education. In my opinion, it reflects incompetence at the highest levels and gross professional malpractice. Those in FCPS leadership who are responsible for this mess should be replaced.
‘Just give us some more money and we can fix the problem’. That’s their answer. The current administration just wasted $7.7 million … remember? How arrogant!
In the meantime our principals, teachers, parents and students are left ‘holding the bag’ to ‘just deal with it’.
Under NO circumstances should the school board allocate ANY new money for math until a new superintendent and administration are seated. The community and teachers should be engaged NOW to ascertain what needs to be done to fix this.
It would assist us all greatly if the current school board would defer from ‘rubber stamping’ any new programs, initiatives, or money requests for ‘projects’ that come from the current administration (I would like to publicly recognize Patty Reed and Megan McLaughlin’s attempts to address this over the past month with FCPS staff; their efforts have been met with the usual amount of resistance).
It’s time for the parents and teachers of FCPS to take back our schools, for the good of our children. We will all need to work together to clean up this mess.
FCFT had a survey of their members (on this issue and others) that closed on November 2nd. The results are posted on the home page of our web site at www.fcft.org.
Parents and teachers are the true educators, and know best. We will all need to be more assertive. Your teachers care!
If you have comments, concerns or questions about the new math online (or any other issue), I encourage you to contact your school board members at firstname.lastname@example.org
Your voice matters (and thank you)!
Steven L. Greenburg
President, Fairfax County Federation of Teachers
AFT / AFL-CIO #2401