Letter: Portland parents should help pick math textbook

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Portland schools recently spent $140,000 on a middle school math textbook. They failed to include parents in the process. The School Board will soon decide if they’ll give parents a voice in the selection process for the elementary textbook.

The district could have selected the Singapore National Curriculum, the Saxon textbook series, a textbook that blends traditional and constructivist styles, or a constructivist textbook (like “Everyday Math” or “Investigations”). Many school districts control the selection process by only piloting constructivist textbooks. This gives the administration control of the outcome, before the process even starts. Singapore and Saxon textbooks are often used by home-schoolers, private schools and now some charter schools. Public schools in Maine often use “Everyday Math” and “Investigations.” Constructivist programs “spiral” and traditional programs are more sequential. The National Math Advisory Panel Report warns against spiraling curricula.

Some districts claim success with only one program, when in fact they are also using many supplements to the program. Failure to share this information is like telling someone that you lost 20 pounds by diet alone, and not disclosing your exercise routine.

For the sake of the students, the textbook selection process needs to be flawless. The board’s elementary textbook adoption vote should be halted until the process is fixed. Let’s hope Portland gets it right.

Beth Schultz, co-founder
Maine Coalition for World Class Math