- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 15, 2001

Parents and teachers in Fairfax County, concerned that the school districts approach to mathematics education is shifting from a focus on fundamentals to a more conceptual approach, are expected to air their views tonight at a town hall meeting.
Republican-endorsed School Board member Mychele Brickner says the purpose of the meeting is to keep parents informed of textbook lines that are being considered in the school systems seven-year review of its textbooks.
But some on the board are accusing Mrs. Brickner and fellow School Board member Rita Thompson, also Republican endorsed, of playing politics with the selection process.
"My biggest concern is how it reflects on the fairness of the process," said Stuart Gibson, a Democrat-endorsed School Board member. "Its the timing. We just started the process to award a $9.5 million textbook contract. If the issue is how we teach math, it should have been done a lot earlier."
Mr. Gibson criticized tonights meeting in an April 26 memo to the School Board.
"What is wrong with making sure parents know what is about to happen in Fairfax County with a math textbook adoption?" Mrs. Brickner said.
"Parent input is very much needed right now in the process. I think now is the appropriate time."
The town hall meeting will take place at Luther Jackson Middle School at 7 p.m. Parents will have a chance to comment in the debate.
Mrs. Brickner said she suspects the real reason some board members dont support the math town hall meeting is because "the kind of math approaches that were interested in are not the type of math approaches theyre interested in."
Mr. Gibson denied that charge.
"I dont have a predisposition that we should pick one book over another," he said.
The School Board, which is nominally nonpartisan, but whose members are endorsed by the major political parties, is split 7-5, Democratic members outnumbering Republican members. A committee consisting of 13 board appointees, 13 administrators and 26 teachers evaluate the textbook material submitted by 30 publishers.
Tonights town hall meeting comes two weeks after a contentious School Board meeting during which one of Mrs. Thompsons nominees to the textbook adoption committee, Robert Nash, was rejected in a 6-6 vote by the School Board. Board members said they voted against Mr. Nash because he had denounced the current supplier of math textbooks, Houghton Mifflin, after discovering several errors in his daughters textbook.
"Id hoped to play a positive role in the process to select the possible math books for the children of Fairfax County," Mr. Nash said. "Im disappointed that the School Board did not let that happen."
But despite the political differences of board members, Mrs. Brickner says most members of the board defy categorization in their approach to mathematics. She says her own experience has shown her that neither approach can be totally disregarded.
"The issue is, how can we do what we need to do to improve math achievement, especially for students at the lower end of the spectrum?" she said.
Fairfax County plans to hold a math textbook fair open house on May 19.


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