My meeting with Barry Graff on 7/22/05
I went with David Cox, a local school teacher that has a distaste for "constructivist"
programs and currently serving as a state legislator, to meet with Barry Graff
the district curriculum specialist (or something like that--Sorry if I got
After pleasantries, Barry informed me that the board had been kind of offended
at my comments the other night when I brought up kickbacks potentially received
in exchange for implementing the Investigations Math program. I told Barry
I would email the board to clarify I wasn't implicating them personally in
an Olympic type scandal where THEY had actually received something, but that
it was my understanding that the district may have received a grant or "kickback"
from the National Science Foundation that essentially put the school under
contract to use Investigations Math for a period of years. Barry informed me
that this was not the case and that the school district had used their "leeway"
funds from prior years to make the purchase. More importantly
he stated the school district was under no contract to keep Investigations
and could switch
at any time if they chose to do so.
The way Investigations got started is loosely like this. Most of the schools
in the district were running their own choice of math programs. The programs
weren't standardized across the district and principals every year had a budget
for the classrooms. So there was a meeting and at the meeting with all the
principals, the district said, "OK, anyone that wants to be part of a
pilot program called Investigations Math next year won't have to buy your own
the district will do it. How many of you want to participate?" Every hand
went up and the district became standardized. Now that standardized thing isn't
You can then have teachers collaborate and share classroom materials, however,
lies. (and it would be nice if schools that didn't want to teach Investigations
had the freedom to "defect" and do as that school wants to do)
Other questions Barry answered for me:
1) Textbooks being confiscated? David and I only knew for sure of one school
where that happened, Barrett Elementary, and the principal there is gone now.
David had heard of other instances but didn't know names off hand. Barry said
it was probably just an isolated incident and said it was also before Investigations
started up when that school was using "Mathland" (precursor program
2) Teachers not allowed to teach times tables? Barry said the "all or nothing"
approach is gone and that this was one of the holes they have plugged in Investigations
by allowing teachers to teach the tables again and doing things like "10-minute
3) Were students retested after failing tests and/or were students supplemented
right before exams? Barry said there's no direction being given by the district
to do this and teachers choose what to teach, however, he did not think this
would be happening on any kind of standardized test because they are generally
in a controlled manner and it was most likely just the teacher's own classroom
testing that it could have occurred on. However, if it did occur, which my
co-worker says his child's teacher told him directly, it is a pretty strong
statement about the math program.
In closing my meeting with Barry, I told him about a letter
given to President Clinton from a bunch of educators begging him to read E.D. Hirsch's book,
The Schools We Need & Why We Don't Have Them. I asked him if I
got him a copy if he would read it and he agreed. I have ordered it and am
waiting for it to arrive to deliver it to him.
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