**The following is history of the EM controversy in the Conejo Valley Unified School District (CVUSD):
**

CVUSD has been suffering declining enrollment since the

unsuccessful parent revolt against EM in May of 2005when a few parents united in an effort to get the school board to provide for a choice of math programs.CVUSD lost 500 K-5 students in the fall of 2005, after the district refused to offer parents an alternative to the use of EM. While there are no exit polls to determine the reason for the abrupt drop in K-5 enrollment, certainly a percentage of those students left because of the use of EM. I am privy only to the names of those that took the time to contact me personally over the matter.

The following year (fall of 2006) an additional 400 plus K-5 students left the CVUSD schools. In August of 2006 (an election year), letters to the editor focused parent attention on CVUSD’s low API similar schools scores which contradicted administrator’s continuous claims of excellent district schools.. CVUSD’s wealthy neighborhood of Meadows was a 1 out of 10 in the 2005 similar schools ranking (10 being best), and other wealthy neighborhoods ranked 2, and 3.

40% of the API similar schools score is weighted to math scores. Following the disclosure of the poor similar schools ranking, instead of improving CVUSD math scores as had been suggested in the letters to the editor, it appeared administrators instead worked to have the rankings modified so that most CVUSD schools would be measured against districts that used Everyday Math such as Poway and El Segundo. From 2006 on, most CVUSD schools would not be compared to Manhattan Beach schools which used Saxon Math.

The severity of the decline in K-5 enrollment during 2005 and 2006 was masked by an increase in the number of middle school and High School students that enrolled in CVUSD. Newspaper reports that spoke of declining enrollment never focused on the existence of a problem with elementary enrollment. The declines in K-5 enrollment occurred in all grades and all schools. Job losses due to a poor economy didn’t begin until 2007, so the district’s notion that the enrollment declines occurred because of the high cost of housing in this area don’t hold much water, since enrollment was at its highest when housing costs were at their apex in May of 2005.

The exact number of students comprising the K-5 enrollment declines in the fall of 2005 and 2006 were not made public until October of 2007 when the school board began to hold hearings to close 2 (and possibly 4) elementary schools. The actual figures for the decline in K-5 enrollment (nearly 1,000 students over a 2 year period) were provided in those hearings by CVUSD’s Jeffery Barstead.

In the spring of 2008, amid an uproar of parent dissatisfaction, Meadows and University Elementary schools were designated for closure. Parents whose students attended Meadows Elementary organized to form a charter school and in 2008 had their charter approved by the Ventura board of education (CVUSD refused to grant the charter).

Meadows Arts and Technology Elementary School (MATES) has filed a law suit against CVUSD in an effort to locate the MATES charter school at the original Meadows campus slated for closure. The matter is still pending. The MATES curriculum director has indicated they will pilot Saxon and Singapore math programs. The MATES charter school will draw an additional 200 plus students out of the district.

Mr. Dunn indicated in his email that 175 students left for other districts. I believe this is the current number of students that have applied for permission to attend public school districts other than CVUSD. The number he gave you does not reflect the over all total number of students lost since the 2005 math revolt. His figure does not include private, home school, or online charter schools that local students attend.

CVUSD 2008 MATH ADOPTION:In the spring of 2008 CVUSD was in the process of reviewing math textbooks for adoption (and contending with outraged parents over school closures). Of the piloted programs Harcourt and Everyday Math were the 2 chosen for a vote.

While EM has been used for the past 6 yrs in all K-6 grade levels,

the 6. In public comments one CVUSD middle school teacher (a committee member on the 2007 CA DOE Curriculum Review Panel for math textbooks) urged that 4^{th}grade teachers voted to drop EM for the fall of 2008^{th}and 5^{th}grade math instruction should move to a program that would provide a better transition to middle school math and algebra, specifically pointing to the lattice method of multiplication as one problem with EM.

When teachers’ votes for the math textbooks were tabulated by grade, over 60% of the 5. 4^{th}grade instructors voted to drop EM in favor of Harcourt^{th}grade teachers split evenly between Harcourt and EM. In grades K-3, which has a higher number of teachers due to small class size mandates, the majority went with EM.The CVUSD vote indicates EM did not have the support of teachers in higher grade levels. Fewer 4

^{th}5^{th}and 6^{th}grade instructors chose the EM program over a more traditional Harcourt offering.

PROBLEMS TO LOOK FOR WITH EMThe CA Dept of Education Curriculum Review Panel approves textbooks for adoption in CA.

In the most recent adoption in the fall of 2007, the CA CRP rejected the 5. The full EM series had been rejected in two previous attempts at gaining approval (1998 and 2001). I am not aware of the changes that were made to gain approval of EM’s 5^{th}grade EM textbook^{th}grade textbook, and would recommend extreme care to supplement it heavily in order to ensure student mastery of material.The shortcomings that I am aware of with EM are as follows:

In CVUSD there has been a wide difference in the math instruction between classrooms. Teachers that prefer constructivism choose to use only the EM textbooks and avoid supplementation. Instructors that follow a more traditional approach, such as the ones teaching at Wethersfield Elementary, chose never to use the EM textbooks except as a supplement on occasion. This creates a wide variation in the type of math instruction students receive.

On one occasion a parent has reported that his child’s entire class (according to the teacher) had failed an exam. The teacher then decided to give credit for wrong answers (if you got within 10 of the actual answer). So a child who had initially received a score that would be an F was actually given a B grade.

EM promotes the use of calculators beginning in kindergarten.

EM has inadequate skill and drill practice problems, students can fail to obtain mastery of math facts or standard algorithms, and are weak in computational skills.

The EM spiral moves much too quickly through far too many concepts, leaving students merely exposed to a myriad of math concepts rather than mastering the basics.

EM introduces a multitude of problem solving methods rather than focusing and practicing with the standard algorithms to automaticity. This causes a great amount of confusion for students.

Parents are not able to help with homework, especially when the unfamiliar EM algorithms are used (lattice method of multiplication etc.)

Previous textbook reviews have indicated that EM failed to provide adequate instruction in fractions, EM did not teach the standard long division algorithm, and EM did not provide adequate instruction of division with decimals.

EM can leave students woefully unprepared and lacking in an understanding of decimals.

The pitfalls of EM suffered by CVUSD students are not due to a lack of teacher professional development. CVUSD provided ample teacher support for use of EM in order to acquire the waiver to use EM from 2002 -2007 before EM had received state approval for classroom use.

IN CLOSINGThe current controversy over EM has caused significant declines in enrollment, and school closures, and is proof that history often repeats itself. In an earlier decade, controversy over the adoption of whole language reading textbooks in CVUSD created declining enrollment which resulted in the closure of 2 schools. Wethersfield Elementary is where many of the teachers who had supported phonics ended up after that decade’s round of school closures.

During CVUSD’s 2008 math adoption, Wethersfield teachers indicated they have never used EM except as a supplement. 100% of Wethersfield’s teachers voted against using the EM program. Wethersfield is one of only 2 elementary schools in CVUSD’s district of 22,000 students that was able to get a 10 on their similar schools scores in the most recent API listings (other high SES CVUSD schools were below 5). I would provide a link but the API similar schools reports which were readily available on the CA DOE and CVUSD websites yesterday, has magically disappeared.

Parent participation in the math revolt in Conejo Valley was very minor in comparison to what I gather is occurring in Palo Alto. Very few CVUSD parents participated openly in the May 2005 efforts to gain an alternative math program to EM. If CVUSD’s conflicts are any indication of what to expect when a district adopts EM, Palo Alto must be prepared for a decline in enrollment, and the potential for the necessity to close schools. It will only take a few highly motivated parents to increase the likelihood that a charter school will enter the equation.

Sincerely,

Jo Anne Cobasko

Thousand Oaks, CA

Conejo Valley Unified School District

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