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Math education: Mayor's foe is critical; he says it's about flexibility

By MARK HAYWARD
New Hampshire Union Leader

September 25. 2017 9:06PM
Teacher Jennifer Aboshar teaches math using a variety of improvised teaching materials because of no math textbooks at McDonough Elementary School in Manchester. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — Mayor Ted Gatsas said elementary school teachers are “teaching math the way they want to,” while election opponent Joyce Craig said she would push for a district-wide mathematics curriculum if elected.

Both spoke after the New Hampshire Union Leader reported on Monday that Manchester’s 14 elementary schools lack a standard mathematics curriculum, that students don’t have workbooks, and teachers cobble together lesson plans and materials from various sources.

Craig, who is mounting her second run for mayor, faulted Gatsas

“Textbooks and curriculums are a basic necessity for a quality education. Mayor Gatsas lets problems go unaddressed and shows he is not focused on leading discussions to improve student achievement,” she said in a statement.

But Gatsas said Manchester schools have the Manchester Academic Standards, which detail the knowledge, skills and concepts that students are expected to master based on their grade.

Gatsas and the school board adopted the standards in 2014, after jettisoning the Common Core standards.

“They (teachers) are teaching math the way they want to teach. They know what they have to teach and they decide,” Gatsas said. “They’re in the classroom, I’m not. They know what’s best for students.”

Last year, Gatsas said, the school district spent $67,200 on elementary school workbooks. Principals have the discretion on what to purchase, he said.

Craig, a former school board member and alderman, said it wasn’t news to her that the school district lacks a math curriculum. Her eighth-grade daughter doesn’t have an algebra textbook.

She said teachers need proper training, and the district needs a standard curriculum.

“We have a transient population,” Craig said in an interview. “Families move around a lot. If a child moves from one school to another, she should be able to pick up where she left off.”

Craig said resources have to be realigned while remaining within the tax cap.

And she said the schools have not addressed key recommendations made in 2014 by Curriculum Management Systems, an outside group.

Gatsas said the school board Curriculum and Instruction Committee is working with Superintendent Dr. Bolgen Vargas to address curriculum issues.

Committee member Richard Girard said the committee has been grappling with curriculum since April, and Vargas has asked for time to develop recommendations. The superintendent’s priority was to overhaul the district’s assessment system, and that overhaul is under way, Girard said.

He said previous Superintendent Debra Livingston did away with textbooks after the adoption of the Manchester Academic Standards and didn’t tell anyone. The problem is not limited to math; reading and writing have similar curriculum problems, Girard said

mhayward@unionleader.com


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