PAYING ATTENTION WITH TOM DUGGAN
By: Tom Duggan – November, 2004
With all due respect to the Superintendent of Schools in North Andover, you might think his previous job experience in Reading would have taught him a lesson or two about listening to parents and not supporting fuzzy math programs. Unfortunately for him, and the children of North Andover, it looks like he never did.
You see, Harry Harutunian was once the Superintendent of Schools in Reading, Massachusetts. He was forced out because he insisted on thwarting the will of parents by shoving a program called “Every Day Math” down their throats. A program heralded by some educators who think dumbing down standards and subject matter will somehow make children “feel better” about themselves.
I’m not saying that’s Mr. Harutunian’s reason for allowing the program into North Andover. But, whatever his reasons, Harutunian would be smart to listen to the parents and not the educational elite.
What parents are objecting to is that Every Day Math relies on the use of calculators in the classroom. But, I’m not talking about high school kids taking calculus. I’m talking about seven year olds taking basic math in the second grade. I’m talking about a math program that is so woefully inadequate that it must be “supplemented” with another math program because Every Day Math just doesn’t give kids the tools they need to memorize multiplication tables, do basic fractions or figure out percentages.
The issue in the Reading schools was so contentious when Harutunian refused to listen to parents on EDM, that they literally rode him out of town. They even established a web site detailing how Harutunian tried to “convince” (I’m being kind) the parents and the School Committee into adopting Every Day Math as part of the curriculum. And they issued a warning to the Town of North Andover about what would soon be coming our way. (their website is www.iror.org) See page 3
For his part. Superintendent Harutunian has set up “pilot” programs for Every Day Math as well as other experimental math programs in the North Andover Schools. He says he will make a final decision in March of this year as to which math program will be chosen for the entire system (for those of you keeping score at home, that will be right before the town elections for School Committee).
As a former School Board member myself, I can tell you first hand that I have seen this movie before and it always ends the same. Superintendents spend a ton of money (in this case it’s more than a quarter of a million dollars) on a “consultant” (whom he selected, hired and signs the paycheck for) and a “committee” of hand picked educators (who work for him) to “study” the issue and come to the School Committee with a recommendation. This movie always ends with the “consultant” and the “committee” coming back to the School Committee table recommending whatever the superintendent wanted from the beginning. The use of surrogates like “consultants” and “committees” gives the appearance that it was solely an educational decision and that the superintendent had “very little” to do with it. Don’t believe it for a minute. I don’t think Superintendent Harutunian is a bad superintendent. I don’t think he is purposely trying to do something he believes will harm our children’s chances of advancement. But he does have a fixation (obsession?) with this Every Day Math Program and he is very good at using the system to achieve his goals.
What he seems to be forgetting is that there are people out here in the community who have already done the research and are simply outraged that he is experimenting on our kids using “pilot” programs when the proof of failure in Every Day Math has been well-documented.
Let me be frank. The fact is, Superintendent Harutunian has wasted a quarter of a million dollars and a year of our kids’ educational experience to “find out” what hundreds of web sites on “GOOGLE” could have told him for free. In fact, had he read The Valley Patriot several months ago, he could have read all about EDM in Dr. Ormsby’s column.
I suspect he doesn’t want to read those studies though, because they won’t give him the answer he apparently wants.
A math program that relies on calculators and has to be “supplemented” with other programs may sound good to the NEA and other elites who obsess on abstract concepts. But the parents of North Andover care about their real children more than studies, pilots or hypotheticals.
The one thing I know for sure is that there is a School Committee election coming up next spring. The current School Committee would be wise to listen to parents now and get rid of EDM and any program that uses calculators in the classrooms. If they don’t, they may hear a louder roar from the parents on election day.