New California Math Curriculum Close to Implementation

By Robert Rothman — October 28, 1987 3 min read
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California’s new mathematics curriculum moved a step closer to implementation this month as the state department of education approved two more of the elementary-school textbook series revised to meet specific state standards.

The approval of series by Addison-Wesley Publishing Company Inc. and Silver Burdett & Ginn brings to six the number accepted since last year’s controversial decision by the California State Board of Education to reject all of the elementary-mathematics textbooks submitted to it for adoption.

If the board ratifies the department’s decision next month, officials said, the state can begin full implementation of its new curriculum, which stresses hands-on and cooperative learning over rote drill.

The board has already adopted revised series submitted by the Open Court Publishing Company; Holt, Rinehart & Winston Inc.; D.C. Heath and Company; and Scott, Foresman & Company.

“We have made good progress toward our long-term goal” of curriculum reform, said Francie Alexander, director of the department’s office of curriculum framework and textbook development. She called the books approved “a sharp departure from what is there presently.”

Ms. Alexander noted, however, that the curricular-reform effort had been hampered this past summer when Gov. George Deukmejian vetoed funds intended for use in staff-development programs to train teachers in the new math framework.

“That was a setback to our whole staff-development effort,” she said. “Everything is going to take longer.”

Some districts and publishers are conducting inservice workshops on the new program on their own, she said.

Process of Revision

Following the recommendation of its advisory commission on curriculum development, the state board in 1986 rejected all 14 of the K-8 math series submitted for adoption, and gave publishers one year to revise them. (See Education Week, Oct. 15, 1986.)

Over the past year, state officials have met with publishers to discuss changes needed to meet state curricular guidelines. During the course of these discussions, eight publishers decided not to go through the entire process. While reasons varied, industry officials said that many publishers had decided that the additional investment required for revisions--in some cases, up to $2 million--would not pay off.

“We were discouraging to some of them,” said Joan Akers, chairman of the math-subject-matter committee of the state’s curriculum commission.

“Some did not show much promise of succeeding.”

Those who stayed with the process had to make relatively few changes, Ms. Akers noted, but those that were required were substantive.

In most cases, she said, publishers had to include in student editions--not just in teacher’s guides--an indication of which materials could be used in certain lessons and the ways students could work together and discuss the problems.

“The books should not just present information,” Ms. Akers said. “They should get students involved in investigatory activities.”

Long-Term Effect

While California officials have touted their curriculum framework as a national model, it is unclear what effect their textbook-adoption process will have on the rest of the country.

Only two states--Mississippi and Oregon--are scheduled to adopt math textbooks in 1988. In the other 19 states that adopt texts statewide, schools must choose from among previously approved editions.

In the rest of the states, publishers of the six series approved in California can present districts with two editions--the one that was rejected by the California board in 1986, and the one that was accepted in 1987, noted Donald A. Eklund, vice president of the school division of the Association of American Publishers.

“Districts will look at their framework and decide which of the two series most closely matches it,” he said.

At least one publisher--Open Court--will sell only the edition the California board approved, according to Richard Leffingwell, director of math for the company.

Ms. Akers predicted that most educators will go along with the California board. “There is pretty much a national consensus that [the framework represents] what should be in a math program,” she said.

Shirley M. Frye, president-elect of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, agreed but also noted that math educators are studying the new textbooks to determine whether they actually reflect the framework.

“The California framework is an excellent, forward-looking document,” she said.

“But just having a document does not necessarily ensure that changes occur.”

A version of this article appeared in the October 28, 1987 edition of Education Week as New California Math Curriculum Close to Implementation


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