AISD: Math Fight Resolved ... For Now

Board of trustees votes to select middle school math text favored by majority of middle school teachers

The AISD board of trustees resolved a split between district administration and faculty over middle-school math textbooks Monday, voting to select Holt, the text favored by a majority of middle school teachers. In a six-to-one vote, the board selected Holt over Connected Mathematics Project, which was originally recommended by administration officials and the textbook committee. The adoption will be in effect anywhere from five years to a decade.

The administration's recommendation prompted teachers to pack Monday's meeting in protest. Many were angered over what was seen as a flawed process, which apparently violated the board's own policy. The policy states that a textbook-adoption committee must contain a majority of classroom teachers, but the five-person committee only contained two teachers, both high school math teachers.

The structure of the process was incohesive, teachers said. Instead of creating one large committee with teacher representatives from each grade level, the district formed three subcommittees, each of which selected different texts. The selections were narrowed to two, and the administration chose Connected, citing data showing success with an earlier version currently in use by the district.

An informal survey later done by Education Austin, the union representing district employees, found that roughly two-thirds of Austin teachers chose Holt over Connected. Teachers at the meeting said they thought Holt was a better fit for students' needs because of its emphasis on structure and its tools for parents. Administration officials Darlene Westbrook and Ann Smisko, who favored Connected, pointed to its orientation toward discovery and conceptual learning.

Shortly before the vote, Superintendent Pat Forgione urged the board to "stay the course," warning that selecting Holt would be a turn toward skills-based learning and away from conceptual understanding. "We're doing this at a time when everyone else in the state is heading in the other direction," he said.

Cathy Franke, who teaches sixth-grade math, said AISD teachers have always been creative in their approaches, using various methods. "It's very erroneous to say that if we adopt Holt, we're not going to do discovery," Franke said. "I was doing discovery before it was cool."

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