`F’ leads BHS parent to say IMP is BS despite NSA scores
Educators and parents have debated for decades about the best methods to teach math.The Interactive Math Program, introduced into high schools in the Roaring Fork Re-1 School District this school year, is no exception.While critics contend that IMP should be ousted and schools should return to traditional ways of teaching, educators defend the program and tout its successes.The program, designed in response to a need for overhaul in mathematics education in the 1980s, offers a curriculum that replaces traditional problem-based algebra, trigonometry and calculus classes.It is intended to challenge students to “actively explore open-ended situations, in a way that closely resembles the inquiry method used by mathematicians and scientists in their work,” according to IMP literature.But critics say programs like IMP don’t work and fail to give students the foundation they need for college and beyond.Basalt parent George Sever wants the IMP program ousted from valley schools. His son is a freshman, taking IMP courses at Basalt High School, and received his first F ever, Sever said. “I don’t want my son in IMP,” he said.IMP is part of a larger “whole math” movement that is not working, Sever said. He said whole math courses don’t prepare students for college, Basalt students are failing the course, students aren’t offered the option of taking traditional courses and are turning to tutors for help, and that schools around the country have dropped the curriculum after parents filed lawsuits.”It doesn’t prepare them for college. That’s my concern,” he said.In response to his concerns, IMP proponents defended the program.-Sever said the average score during the first semester at BHS for students in the IMP class was less than 70 percent, which means students are failing math.The most current grade information, according to Basalt High School Principal Jim Waddick, shows that 12 percent of students failed, 18 percent received a D, 25 percent received a C, 31 percent earned a B, and 15 percent had an A.By comparison, last year’s freshman math students had a very similar point spread, Waddick said. Twelve percent of students failed, 18 percent earned a D, 28 percent a C, 26 percent a B, and 17 percent an A, he said.-Sever said he knows of several students seeking tutoring so they can pass freshman math.That’s not uncommon, said Karen Harvey, assistant principal at Basalt High School. Because of a demand for additional math instruction, BHS even offers after-school math classes through Project Star.-Sever said Basalt High School doesn’t offer traditional math courses as an option, and contends that parents are told that they can enroll their child in another school if they insist on these courses.Harvey said she was not aware of any parent being told they could take IMP or leave it. Basalt High School continues to offer optional advanced math courses including algebra II, trigonometry and statistics, to its upperclass students.-Sever cited the Plano Independent School District in Plano, Texas, as an example of a whole math program that failed. He said the district had been sued by parents and was forced to drop the program and return to traditional courses. Jim Wohlgehagen, the secondary math coordinator for the Plano School District, said the district offers a course similar to IMP, called “Connected Math.” When it was first introduced in 1999, he said, a group of parents rallied to protest the change and threatened lawsuits after pulling negative information from the Internet. “Once the program was fully integrated into our schools, we never heard from them again,” he said.Wohlgehagen also said that math test scores in the district have risen gradually since the program began, and that the curriculum has thus far been successful.-Waddick understands Sever’s concern for his son’s education. “Parents should question any new program that comes into a school,” he said. However, the decision to bring IMP into the curriculum was not taken lightly or made overnight. “Change is hard,” said Waddick. “But this change is based on a lot of thought and research.” Part of that decision was based on standardized test scores, which have consistently shown that IMP students perform as well as, if not better than, students in traditional math tracks. Waddick referred to 1998 New Standards Assessment (NSA) test scores from Durango High School, which showed that IMP students fared better than traditional track students in skill, mathematical concept and problem solving.While CSAP test scores won’t be available until July, Waddick said the school won’t rely just on those scores as a measure of the program’s success.”We’re going above and beyond that,” he said.NSA tests will be administered later this month to about 200 freshman students at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale and at Basalt High. An equal number of students will be from traditional and IMP math classes to compare the two programs.Waddick said he expects test results in four to six weeks. “That will give us an idea of where we stand,” he said.Waddick said his teachers are excited about the IMP program. He welcomes all comments and will meet with parents to address their concerns.He’s confident that IMP will pass the test of time. “We’re doing the right thing,” he said.
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