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Pelham Math Curriculum Discussed at Board Meeting

PELHAM, N.Y. – A summary of the 256-page report on the K-8 mathematics program in the Pelham School District discussed during Monday’s school board meeting presented the strengths and weaknesses of the curriculum and could lead to the formation of a parent-teacher group.

Alice Alston, a researcher and professor at Rutgers University, led the presentation and was the director of the nearly $18,000 project. She, along with six other researchers from Rutgers, Syracuse, and Seton Hall universities, who began in January, utilized surveys and meetings with parents, teachers and administrators in addition to classroom evaluations to draw conclusions in the final report

The report, which can be found on the Pelham Schools website , discovered 48.8 percent of the 409 parents who took an early May online survey “expressed some dissatisfaction with the program,” including “emphasis on computational fluency,” “providing sufficient activities for children to learn and practice procedures,” “providing adequate opportunities for enrichment and/or remediation,” and “preparation for middle school, secondary and college mathematics.”

51.7 percent of parents say they have hired a tutor to “supplement their child’s math instruction,” the report said. Alston said the Pelham teachers were “wonderful, generous, and welcoming” and the school district had a “fine, stable committed faculty,” but she wished more teachers responded to the online survey. Just 40 of 268 teachers, or 15 percent, responded to the May 3-8 survey.

At the end of her presentation, Alston provided the board with three suggestions for “district consideration,” including ongoing professional development, better communications between parents and schools and aligning the curriculum between kindergarten and eighth grade.

The board suggested the use of parent-teacher groups to improve the mathematics curriculum. When asked by Pelham School Board President Robert Eicher if the school district had bought a “teachable curriculum,” Alston responded by saying the district must be willing to invest money in professional development because she has seen the curriculum work in other districts.

Paul Prencis, a math teacher in the Eastchester School District, said the suggested five or six professional development days throughout the year would not “do much in terms of how they teach and understand it.” He added that in a “short amount of time,” the board and community could find a “fairly inexpensive and effective solution” to the curriculum problems.

Jennifer Slattery, a member of the Pelham Math Committee , said it was “pretty incredible” and “pretty much unheard of” to have 409 parents respond to a survey. Slattery told the board she thinks they have their answer on what to do with the curriculum, stating, “it’s not a few of us – it’s a lot of parents.” She also volunteered to be part of a “task force” to help solve the problem, which some board members suggested could be started this summer.

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