For months, parents in St. Tammany Parish have been venting their frustration with Common Core, the controversial educational standards that were adopted by the state in 2010 but only fully implemented this year. Lately, that anger has focused on the parish’s math curriculum, specifically on materials culled by the parish from Eureka Math, a Common Core-aligned curriculum.
Complaining parents said some math worksheets from the Eureka curriculum are confusing, overly complicated and at times rife with typos and other errors. Some also said the work is not age-appropriate and is leading to frustration in their children.
During a special meeting last week, parish Assistant Superintendent Cheryl Arabie said Eureka Math was only a part of the parish’s math curriculum. St. Tammany school administrators write the parish curriculum, she said, and they do not rely solely on one source for instructional materials.
The School Board, however, directed Arabie to deliver a report Thursday night on what it would take to remove Eureka-based materials from St. Tammany’s math curriculum.
Doing so immediately — as some have begged the board to do — would place a burden on the system’s teachers to find new materials and would create inconsistencies that could lower the quality of education for some St. Tammany students, Arabie said Thursday night in delivering her report. A similar option, one that would remove Eureka Math from the curriculum by January, would create similar problems, she said.
Instead, Arabie encouraged the board to select a third option — one that would continue to incorporate Eureka Math during this school year, but paired with an increased emphasis on traditional math instruction, and that would modify the pace at which the material is taught.
“We remain committed to making the best of this situation,” she said. “Our aim is to do what is best for the kids.”
As at previous meetings, a steady parade of parents walked to the podium to denounce any use of the Common Core-aligned math materials.
“Teachers are having to supplement from the old curriculum,” Amy Edwards said. “There does not seem to be any consistency to what my kids are bringing home.”
Lauren Vogel, an eighth-grade math teacher at Mandeville Junior High School, said some outgrowths of the curriculum trouble her.
“Those students who were struggling already, they are starting to fail and flounder,” she said. “Over the last couple of years, I have seen a decline in their performance and their love of math.”
However, several teachers and at least one principal went to the podium to speak in favor of the third option.
“There are many positive aspects to the curriculum we are using,” Tanya Thompson said. “Yes, there are some mistakes. I am in favor of continuing with this curriculum through this year.”
Thompson said a task force should study the issue and seek an alternative curriculum for next year.
Mike Alford, principal at Abney Elementary School in Slidell, urged patience.
“If the curriculum is eliminated, it could be disastrous for students and teachers,” he said.
After more than three hours of debate the School Board voted to phase out Eureka Math over the next year and immediately remove Eureka Math worksheets from parish classrooms. It also voted to establish small groups to study the district’s curriculum.
Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon.