STOP Taking Excessive
Risks with our Children

  Abstract   (Revision 107.A, June 8, 2012)

VIDEO: Sue Middleton June 10, 2009
FCPS implements Investigations: This white paper discusses the Frederick County Public School (FCPS) System (in Maryland), and their decision to adopt an elementary 'fuzzy math' program called Investigations. And while Investigations does have a lot of very good concepts to offer, sadly as implemented it also comes with some very large problems -- which are the subject of discussion in the TERC Investigations review [§4.0]. At the January 20, 2010 Board of Education meeting, FCPS said they were buying a second elementary math textbook, claiming that FCPS now all of a sudden has tons of 'advanced' math kids, even though math test scores have been flat since implementing Investigations. The war is over, but the battles continue. Check out our new FCPS Watchdog Group

Investigations math at FCPS is DEAD -- The newly elected FCPS Board of Education fulfilled a campaign promise and threw Investigations math out of the school system! The local newspaper thanks parents for working to get Investigations replaced.

Proven Correct: And math test scores have taken a dramatic increase after the removal of Investigations. The local newspaper gives credit to the removal of Investigations Math.

FCPS Integrity
FCPS Integrity: This paper has been greatly expanded to discuss FCPS integrity [§3.0] that I experienced first-hand while researching this paper -- especially concerning FCPS administration responses to emails and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Read about the incredible Dr. Bonnie Borsa attack [§3.9.b] on Board Member Donna Crook and look at all of the evidence in the case (obtained via FOIA) for yourself.

Getting Started: The entire paper is this entire web page, and the index is immediately below. Start by reading the Executive Summary [§1.0], and go from there. The paper is approximately 78 pages printed, but it is a very quick read due to the number of graphics and appendices.

This white paper is still undergoing revisions (new sections) and corrections on a regular basis. Please provide comments and feedback at the end of this page [§A.7].


1. Introduction
   1.0 Executive Summary
   1.1 Excessive Risk
   1.2 FCPS Point of View
   1.3 FCPS Terminology
2. Smoking Guns
   2.0 Fails NCTM Focal Points
   2.1 Fails NMP 2008
   2.2 US Department of Education
   2.3 Bogus Success Claims
   2.4 Inefficient Strategies
3. FCPS Integrity Problems
   3.0 Introduction
   3.1.a FCPS lied in a PIA reply
   3.1.b Math Facts Harmful to Public
   3.1.c Jamie Cannon violated Reg.
   3.2 Multiplication was not taught
   3.3 Emails were ignored / deleted
   3.4 No curriculum changes?
   3.5 St. Mary's County quotations
   3.6 NMP 2008 timeline lies
   3.7 EC standard algorithms?
   3.8 TERC standard algorithms?
   3.9.a Borsa 'facts' not verifiable
   3.9.b Borsa ambushes Donna Crook
   3.9.c Borsa proposes illegal act
   3.9.d Borsa LTE false statements
   3.10 Destroying documents
   3.11 TERC session missing in PIA
   3.12 Ann Reever denies co-principal 
   3.13 Marita Loose says 'go FOIA'
   3.15 FCPS Code of Conduct Policy
   3.16 FCPS Ethics Policy
   3.17 Half-truths spin a story
   3.18 Curriculum Dept BoE antics
   3.19 Open Meetings Act Violations
   3.20 No standard Sub/Div in TERC
   3.21 Enrollment up, up, up?
   3.22 Homeless? Go away!
   3.23 FCPS violates PIA law
   3.24 Conclusion
  4. Investigations
   4.0 What is the big deal?
   4.1 Calculator Usage
   4.2 Flawed multiplication strategy
   4.3 Division strategy is worse
   4.4 'Standard' Algorithms
   4.5 Clear and Concise Euphemism
   4.6 Fails its own benchmarks
   4.7 'Skip Steps' Strategy
   4.8 Errors in teaching guides
   4.9 Self-importance claims
   4.10 Deep Understandings?
   4.11 The Bottom Line
5. Fact Checking FCPS
   5.0 'Get the Facts' versions & troubles
   5.1 No doubling at Lincoln Elementary
   5.2 St. Mary’s County: success reasons
   5.3 Other Counties: really using TERC?
   5.4 Mastering Math: playing with squares?
   5.5 Lincoln Elementary Teachers
   5.6 BoE says 'Curriculum has not changed'
   5.7 Says 'standard algorithms are taught'
   5.8 Only half the story?
6. Notes
   6.0 For concerned Parents
   6.1 For FCPS Teachers of Math
   6.2 Results will not be measureable
   6.3 Teach Multiple Strategies
   6.4 What should FCPS do?
   6.5 Six-year-olds are very smart
   A.0 How to get a grievance heard
   A.1 Maryland Public Information Act
   A.2 Frederick News Post Coverage
   A.3 Gazette Coverage
   A.4 What is wrong with the MSA score?
   A.5 Other Web Resources
   A.6 Are you any good at math?
   A.7 Questions / Comments / Feedback

  1.0 Introduction: Executive Summary

Investigations Series of Teacher Guides
Investigations is a K-5 mathematics curricula -- namely, a curriculum for teaching elementary school math. If you are unable to visit your school to review actual Investigations materials, start out by visiting the Investigations Online Library and review the documents, especially the 'Curriculum by Math Content' section.

Investigations consists of teaching guides, manipulatives, overheads, worksheets, etc for teaching mathematics K-5. This all sounds very good, and it mostly is. However, Investigations abandons 'standard algorithms'. Over the entire K-5 years:
  • standard addition is 'taught' once (grade 4)
  • standard subtraction 'taught' once (grade 5)
  • standard multiplication 'taught' once (grade 5)
  • standard long division not taught at all
Only three sessions out of 959 (in all six years of K-5) teach standard algorithms [§4.4]. Because of this failure to teach 'standard algorithms', Investigations fails horribly to meet the:
  • National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) focal points for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division [§2.0]
  • National Mathematics Advisory Panel 2008 Final Report finding #11 regarding fluency with standard algorithms [§2.1].
So, the bottom line on Investigations: Horribly slow pacing.

In February 2009, the United States (US) Department of Education published the results of a peer-reviewed study. The conclusion of this study casts significant doubt on Investigations vs other superior curricula (where achievement was significantly higher). [§2.2]

Evidence for Success Cover Page
The publisher of Investigations, Pearson Scott Foresman, has impeached their veracity by publishing an 'Evidence for Success' document (cover seen right) citing school successes -- because many (40 out of 70) of the schools cited in the Pearson publication are no longer using (or in the process of dropping) Investigations, according to an independent survey. [§2.3]

On April 23, 2008, the FCPS (Frederick County Public Schools) BoE (Board of Education) selected Pearson's Math Investigations as the new K-5 mathematics primary resource. This was done on the recommendation of the Textbook Selection Committee (curriculum department). Investigations was first implemented county wide during 2008-2009 for grades K, 2, and 4 and is now fully implemented in K-5 as of the 2009-2010 school year. [ Math Facts §5.0 | BoE Minutes ]
Former Board of Education member Leslie Mansfield said the Investigations resources "were sold to the board as a supplement in the classroom -- one of many resources available to teachers -- but the materials have become the only resources in the classroom" [as per FNP 02/06/2009].
FCPS publishes a 'Get the Facts' document [§5.0] claiming Investigations success during trials in Lincoln Elementary School and St. Mary's County. Lincoln Investigations actually failed in 2003-2006 and math was a mixed success immediately after an 'alternative governance plan' was set in motion [§5.1]. St. Mary's claimed math test score increases are nothing special, and closely match those of Frederick County (and the entire State of Maryland) over the same time frame [§5.2].

In fact, the Curriculum Director of one cited success calls Investigations a "disaster" [§2.3]. Any Pearson claims can no longer be trusted as accurate. Instead all claims must be rigorously and independently fact-checked and verified.

The Investigations multiplication strategy may be great for initial learning (this needs research), but it is non-standard and fundamentally flawed because the strategy is easily demonstrated to be too inefficient for everyday use [§4.2] The division strategy used is based upon non-educated guessing and is also inefficient. [§4.3] These multiplication and division strategies are not 'test' friendly because they take a lot more time when compared to the 'standard' multiplication/division strategies. [§2.4]

FCPS claims in their "Get the Facts!" document [§5.0] that 4th graders are taught the 'standard U.S.' addition and multiplication algorithms. Bonnie Borsa (VP of the Board of Education) in a newspaper editorial says "Ultimately, students choose the approach that is most efficient for them -- and in many cases, that will be the use of the standard algorithm." But according to the county's own 4th grade curriculum maps [§1.3] (Curriculum Unit Guides; what is taught in every day of class), the standard algorithm for subtraction is only mentioned once in one class period -- and mentioning once is not teaching. The standard algorithm for multiplication is not mentioned at all in the 4th grade curriculum map. What FCPS states in public is not what their own 'curriculum maps' say they are teaching in the classroom.

PIA5: Standard Multiplication was NOT taught: Under the Maryland Public Information Act (Freedom of Information Act), FCPS can provide no Investigations sessions, no supplemental resources, nor any other documents that shows that teachers in 4th grade taught 'standard multiplication' during the 2008-2009 school year. [view PIA letter & FCPS reply]

There are serious factual errors in Investigations and online documentation, which raises questions about the diligence of the book's authors and reviewers. [§4.8]

The core failure of Investigations is that it fails to graduate children from 'strategies designed to teach math' to 'strategies designed to be efficient for everyday (and test-taking) use'. The strategies Investigations teaches also have intermediate steps missing [§4.7], which should alarm any math teacher.
FCPS Integrity

The integrity of FCPS school officials is called into serious question. There are far too many issues (and an ongoing pattern of behavior) to simply ignore. [§3.0],

Read the letter that the President of the Frederick County Board of Education, (Jean Smith), refused to allow read into the public record at a Board of Education meeting. The letter was apparently handed out to all board members, but not a single board member responded to my letter -- which should tell you something about the FCPS Board of Education.
Sign Petition
If you are a parent, don't stand on the side lines. Look into Investigations and voice your opinion. If you are 'for' or 'against' -- it does not matter -- just let your school system know what you think about this issue. Write a letter to your child's principal. Go to your school's web site, look up the name and email address of the principal, and write an email.

Also, if you are a Frederick County Maryland resident and are against Investigations, sign this online petition.

Any school system currently using or considering using Investigations needs to re-evaluate their decision to use Investigations.

  1.1 Introduction: Excessive Risk

The Risk: FCPS BoE is taking excessive and unnecessary risks with the future math education of our elementary school children by implementing Pearson Math Investigations -- a math program which has been determined by the United States Department of Education to be a sub-par math teaching curricula. [§2.2]

Investigations grossly fails the NCTM focal points [§2.0] as to 'when' these standard algorithms should be taught (in addition not teaching, but just mentioning). Investigations also grossly fails the National Mathematics Advisory Panel 2008 final report [§2.1]

Pearson Math Investigations: Investigations in Number, Data, and Space: The Pearson Math Investigations program was created by an education research and development organization. As per a published FCPS document "Investigations is available in each elementary school media center as well for parents to review".
Investigations is not a textbook for students. Instead, it is a "K-5 mathematics curriculum designed to engage students in making sense of mathematical ideas" [source: Grade 1; Unit 1; Page 6]. The "curriculum units are the teaching guides" [source: Grade 1; Unit 1; Page 6]. There are additional resources, including CDs, student activity books, student math handbook, etc. It is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) under Grant No. ESI-0095450.
So, why would any school system continue to implement a math program known to the United States Department of Education to be 'sub-par'? Supporters of Investigations might say "Investigations is only a piece of a bigger curriculum. The kids are fine." I argue that 'sub-par' is still 'sub-par'. And if Investigations truly is only 'a piece of a bigger curriculum', then why the fuss to keep it -- as any math text could fill in nicely and still just be 'a piece of a bigger curriculum'. Why not instead use texts where "achievement was significantly higher"?

It is painfully obvious to any parent that teaching methods which can be shown (dare I say 'proven') to work should be used. Various teaching methods will always have those 'for' and 'against' the method, which is why studies are conducted, with full peer review, to help boards make decisions.

Why would a school board continue to support a known sub-par math teaching method, especially after being notified of the US Department of Education study? Is this a lot of politics behind the scenes?
head in sand

Bonnie Borsa, VP of the Board of Education, has stated in regards to negative Investigations results from other states "I'm only interested in what's going on in Maryland" [listen]. What a strange 'head in the sand' (and risky) attitude. Well, Bonnie needs to review [§5.1], [§5.2], and [§A.4] and understand that results in Maryland are not what they appear to be.

  1.2 FCPS Point of View

To understand why FCPS wanted a new elementary math textbook, review what Nelson Palmer said in the Elementary Math Textbook Selection Overview:
"for low-performing sub-populations"
- Nelson Palmer, Elementary Math Curriculum Specialist, FCPS
"Parallel to these events has been the continual change to the demographics of Frederick County Public Schools as well as the continued desire for improvement. This improvement has focused not only on improved math instruction and learning for all children but specifically improvement in instruction and instructional resources that can lead to closing of significant achievement gaps FCPS for low-performing sub-populations." - Nelson Palmer, Curriculum Specialist, FCPS
and what FCPS states in Version 1 of 'Get the Facts' [§5.0]:
"we wanted a text that would satisfy ... National Mathematics Panel’s 2008 recommendations for ... computational fluency"
To understand the FCPS point of view on Investigations, review:
  1.3 FCPS Terminology and Reference

This section is a reference of terminology and important public FCPS documents relating to this paper from the now defunct 2008-2009 elementary math section of

Standard Algorithm: "Historically validated mathematically efficient procedures" (as per NCTM), which the far majority of the population uses to learn how to add, subtract, multiply and divide whole numbers. Very likely, the algorithms your parents learned in school. Investigations calls these 'Standard U.S. Algorithms'. [§4.0]

Regrouping: A modern name for 'carrying' and 'borrowing'.

Number Combinations: The single-digit addition and multiplication pairs and their counterparts for subtraction and division.

Math Facts / Basic Math Facts: Facts about math that students are expected to memorize and have instant recall of (as opposed to spending time to calculate the answer). For example, we expect that 6×3=18 is just 'known', whereas 66×34 is not and must be calculated. FCPS expects all 'number combinations' to be memorized.

Primary Resource: The single resource that is taught the far majority of the time. Like Investigations, which was taught in 157 of 170 4th grade class periods in 2008-2009.

Supplemental Resources/Materials: Any non-primary resource. Sometimes even FCPS internally created materials and lessons, usually to fill a deficiency in a primary resource. For example for the 2008-2009 year FCPS created Supplemental Lessons and 10-Min. Math - Grade 4.

Voluntary State Curriculum (VSC): That which the State of Maryland says students should know and be able to do at each grade level [Math VSC]. The FCPS Essential Curriculum is closely tied to the Maryland Voluntary State Curriculum. These are minimum standards.

Essential Curriculum (EC): That which FCPS says students should know and be able to do at each grade level. A very short couple page document (for math) per grade level. For example the EC as of January 2009: Grade 1 | Grade 2 | Grade 3 | Grade 4 | Grade 5 | Grade 6 | Grade K | Grade Pre-K | Overview. FCPS defines 'Essential Curriculum as "skills and competencies that all FCPS students are expected to achieve by high school graduation" [source: FCPS Glossary]

Curriculum: All of the primary resources (like Investigations), supplemental resources, etc used by a teacher to teach the Essential Curriculum. WARNING: Sometimes FCPS uses "Curriculum" when it obviously meant "Essential Curriculum", and vise-versa! To keep it straight, think 'the Curriculum is used to teach the Essential Curriculum'.

Curriculum Maps / Curriculum Unit Guides: FCPS prepared materials that instructs a teacher how to teach the Essential Curriculum using the Curriculum resources. Namely, a guide for what to teach every day of the year. For example, Grade 4 Curriculum Unit Guides for 2008-2009: Unit 1 | Unit 2 | Unit 3 | Unit 4 | Unit 5 | Unit 6 | Unit 7 | Unit 8 | Unit 9

Get the Facts: What FCPS calls their publications explaining the FCPS decision to switch to the Investigations math text. [§5.0]

Grouping: It is the position by FCPS that math classes should be heterogeneous [Grouping in Math]. Namely, math classes should be filled with students of varied skill levels that work together. As opposed to homogeneous, where only students at the same skill level work together.

  2.0 Smoking Gun: Fails NCTM Focal Points

FCPS in their 'Get the Facts' document states they "wanted a text that would satisfy the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Curriculum Focal Points" [§5.0].

However, Investigations fails to meet these (and likely other) NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) 2006 focal point recommendations to "develop fluency with efficient procedures", including the:
  • standard algorithm for adding whole numbers, a grade 2 focal point.
    Investigations mentions 'standard addition' in Grade 4 in only one class session
  • standard algorithm for subtracting whole numbers a grade 2 focal point.
    Investigations mentions 'standard subtraction' in Grade 5 in only one class session
  • standard algorithm for multiplying whole numbers a grade 4 focal point.
    Investigations mentions 'standard multiplication' in Grade 5 in only one class session
  • standard algorithm for dividing whole numbers a grade 5 focal point.
    Investigations does not teach 'standard division'
NCTM Standard Multiplication Example
And what is meant by 'standard algorithm' is well understood by everyone in the world, except for FCPS. FCPS has improperly redefined 'standard algorithms' to mean what they are teaching (all the algorithms in Investigations). There is no question what NCTM means by 'standard algorithm'. Just go to NCTM and search and you will find examples (one seen right). The examples match what Investigations calls the "U.S. standard algorithm for multiplication", and is NOT what is taught every day at FCPS.

As per NCTM, "The standard algorithms are historically validated mathematically efficient procedures" [source]

"We would hope that use of a partial sums algorithm for addition and partial product algorithm or proportional box algorithm for multiplication help to provide students with a precursor to using the more efficient standard procedure or algorithm" - Skip Fennell, NCTM President - as per 6/15/2009 email with NCTM
Grade 5, Unit 3, page 76
Investigations mentions standard addition, subtraction, and multiplication algorithms, but mentioning once (and many grade levels too late) does not teach (develop fluency) with the algorithms. [§4.4].

This is made even clearer when Investigations states that "students are not expected to switch" (Grade 5, Unit 3, page 76) to standard U.S. algorithms (right).

It is very ironic that Investigations was created in response to the 1989 NCTM publication "Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics". Ironic because Investigations clearly misunderstood what the NCTM was advocating. The NCTM has stated that the 2006 focal points (advocating fluency with standard algorithms) are not a "change of direction or policy" [source].

For Investigations to now ignore the NCTM focal points, which advocate fluency with standard algorithms, clearly demonstrates how 'out of touch' Investigations is with mathematicians today.

  2.1 Smoking Gun: Investigations Fails NMP 2008

NMP 2008 Final Report
NMP 2008 Final Report
NMP 2008 Documents
Fact Sheet
Preliminary Report
Final Report
On March 13, 2008, the National Mathematics Advisory Panel published their final report. The report contains 45 'Findings and Recommendations'.
FCPS in their 'Get the Facts' document (Version 1) states they "we wanted a text that would satisfy ... National Mathematics Panel’s 2008 recommendations for ... computational fluency" [§5.0].

In the Elementary Math Textbook Selection Overview document, Nelson Palmer cites "The Final Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel" as one of the reasons a new elementary textbook is needed.
One key NMP 2008 finding (of eight) in the "Learning Processes" category dealing specifically with 'computational fluency':
"11) Computational proficiency with whole number operations is dependent on sufficient and appropriate practice to develop automatic recall of addition and related subtraction facts, and of multiplication and related division facts. It also requires fluency with the standard algorithms for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Additionally it requires a solid understanding of core concepts, such as the commutative, distributive, and associative properties. Although the learning of concepts and algorithms reinforce one another, each is also dependent on different types of experiences, including practice." - NMP 2008 page xix
So, FCPS wanted a text that would satisfy NMP 2008 recommendations for computational fluency -- and then selects Investigations, which does not teach, as NMP 2008 states in the quotation above, the required standard algorithms? Incredible!

Investigations mentions standard addition, subtraction, and multiplication algorithms, but mentioning each algorithm once and only once (and many grade levels too late) does not teach (develop fluency) with the algorithms -- and standard division is totally missing [§4.4]. Also, Investigations actually instructs students to not use standard algorithms [§4.5].

Also, this quotation from the NMP 2008 report is interesting:
"Few curricula in the United States provide sufficient practice to ensure fast and efficient solving of basic fact combinations and execution of the standard algorithms." - NMP 2008 page 26
The report recognizes that curricula like Investigations have inappropriately shifted away from 'standard algorithms'.

In response to this, FCPS goes ahead and selects Investigations.

  2.2 Smoking Gun: US Department of Education

Achievement Effects of Four Early Elementary School Math Curricula: Findings from First Graders in 39 Schools
United States Department of Education Study: The United States Department of Education recently published a peer reviewed study entitled Achievement Effects of Four Early Elementary School Math Curricula: Findings from First Graders in 39 Schools.

One conclusion of this study was (this is not my opinion, but rather the results of a peer-reviewed study):
"First-grade math achievement was significantly higher in schools randomly assigned to Math Expressions or Saxon Math than in those schools assigned to Investigations in Number, Data, and Space or to Scott Foresman-Addison Wesley Mathematics."
I recommend that you first read the executive summary (11 pages) of this study, possibly followed by the full report (148 pages).

  2.3 Smoking Gun: Bogus Success Claims

Problems with Pearson's Claims of Success: The publisher of Investigations publishes a document entitled Investigations in Numbers, Data & Space - Evidence for Success. Read this document and Investigations seems like the greatest thing since sliced bread -- test scores go up whenever Investigations is used.

Coventry Local School District, OH
However, there is an Independent Survey of Math Investigations Success Stories and the results are rather shocking. Many (40 of 70) of the 'successes' cited by the Publisher are no longer using Investigations at all, or are in the process of dropping Investigations due to problems with the program.

So the successes cited by the Publisher can now be seen for what they really are -- marketing material -- and not actual research subject to any review and verification.

This Independent Survey document is a must read for any school system considering adopting Investigations. It will open your eyes -- Especially the comments by some of the schools that dropped Investigations.

In fact, one of the claimed successes was "a disaster":
On May 13, 2009, I personally verified that the quotation that you see above from the "Coventry Local School District, OH -- Curriculum Director" is indeed a quotation from that school's Curriculum Director. In my email communications with the Coventry Curriculum Director, she confirmed this, and added:

"it was a disaster"
"The discovery/exploration approach it uses did not work for our students and families. It was a disaster and put our students years behind in the demonstration of basic math skills and competencies. Each teacher, during that time, will fully admit that they had to develop their own program for teaching math and if the students were successful on our state assessments it was because of what each teacher did individually, not what the program offered."
The bottom line is that the veracity of Pearson, who publishes Investigations has been impeached. Pearson in 2007 produced a 'success' document, and included a school system where Investigations was "a disaster" and dropped Investigations around 2002-2003. This failure by Pearson in basic research and fact checking calls into question anything Pearson says in support of Investigations. Anything now said by Pearson about Investigations needs to be fact checked and verified.

Pearson has inappropriately taken credit for gains in test scores, which instead were the result of what "each teacher did". This actually will be a huge problem for any school system (like FCPS) that will use Investigations with supplemental instruction. Any test scores will measure not only Investigations but also the supplemental instruction. [§6.2]

  2.4 Smoking Gun: Inefficient Strategies

The clock is ticking
Investigations is fundamentally flawed in that the increased time that it takes for a child to implement Investigations strategies is not 'classroom' and 'test' friendly, when compared against other superior 'standard' strategies. [§4.2]

When exercises take more time, that means fewer exercises are conducted in a fixed time frame. Meaning that progress towards a deeper understanding is slowed (or takes more classroom time).

Also, when a strategy 'takes more time', any child taking a timed test will be at a significant disadvantage, as compared to children using more efficient strategies.

This is not an issue about being 'fast' or 'slow' -- but rather it is an issue of efficiency -- or quite simply -- time management. You teach a child how to multiply and how multiplication works, and make sure they understand it deeply. Then, move on, and give the child a tool (an efficient strategy), they can use the rest of their lives.

For children who understand math quickly, Investigations monotonous strategies will turn children off to math.
My sister-in-law is a college math professor in my home town. She is very concerned with math education trends she is witnessing first hand. She is concerned that ever since the home town high school adopted a 'fuzzy math' curriculum, that not a single student going to her college from that high school has selected 'math' as a major.
Also, Investigations is fundamentally flawed in that its strategies are skipping intermediate steps, which for a math teacher, are simply not acceptable. [§4.7]

  3.0 FCPS Integrity Problems

Check out the new FCPS Watchdog Group

This section is about the integrity of FCPS, a public organization with the responsibility of 40,000 of our children. We the public have a right to expect that FCPS officials will interact with parents in an honest manner -- and that they will not only tell us the truth, but the whole truth (after all, a half truth is a whole lie).

Probably one of the most shocking recent events is the very public attack by Dr. Bonnie Borsa on Donna Crook [§3.9.b], where Dr. Borsa openly made false statements in her attack of Donna Crook.

LIED: to express what is false;
convey a false impression

- Webster's College Dictionary
The integrity of FCPS is simple to judge. Look at what FCPS says in public, and compare that to what can be uncovered by Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, or by other fact-checking.

  3.1.a FCPS LIED in a 'Public Information Act' reply

Mathematics Position Statements
Secure documents in June 2009
On June 5, 2009, a Maryland Public Information Act request was filed with FCPS to obtain access to all the elementary math 'secure' documents at
FCPS drastically changed their web site after my PIA. Most documents were removed from their web site.
A small subset (7 of 46) of these 'secure' documents can be seen right under the heading 'Mathematics Position Statements'.

PIA3/DENIAL ONE: In a Maryland Public Information Act reply dated June 22, 2009 FCPS denied access to ALL 'secure' documents citing §10-618(C) and stated:
"To disclose the information would be contrary to the public interest as the information includes testing and assessment related academic materials. Specifically, to disclose secured testing materials would significantly compromise the integrity of our instructional program."

§10-618(C) is "Examination Records", which under PIA law is defined as "test questions, scoring keys, and other examination information."

Of particular note in the PIA request is that I asked that if I were denied access to some of the documents, to "please provide me with the portions that can be disclosed". But more importantly, under §10-614(b)(3)(iii) of the PIA law, FCPS has an obligation to "permit inspection of any part of the record that is subject to inspection and is reasonably severable."
FCPS Integrity
The huge legal problem with the FCPS FOIA reply is that FCPS inappropriately denied access to these documents FIVE TIMES; (1) in the PIA reply, (2) by refusing to return my phone call, (3) in a letter from Cannon replying to my email, (4) in a email from Burgee replying to my email, (5) in my letter from Burgee, replying to my formal complaint letter. But by simple inspection, the "Mathematics Position Statements" (and likely other documents) clearly do not fit the denial criteria and should have been disclosed.
Namely, all of the secure "Mathematics Position Statements" documents (seen below right) do not fit the denial criteria because they were previously published by FCPS (seen below left):

And as FCPS Regulation 400-77, makes very clear, any content posted on a FCPS website only gets there after being "approved" for publication by a Principal or Department Head!

Learning Communities Document
'Learning Communities' document
Take the "Learning Communities" secure document highlighted in a red box above right, which is a single page document (seen right), and authored by "npalmer". This "Learning Communities" document is clearly not an "Examination Record" as FCPS claims as per §10-618(C). It has no 'testing' nor any 'assessment' related information. So, it fails the FCPS denial criteria.

Just look at all the rest of the "Mathematics Position Statements" documents that FCPS also claims are "Examination Records":
Grouping in Math
Learning Communities
Placement Testing
Rules in Math
Test Preparation
What We Say About Mathematics
Math Vision Documents
'Learning Communities' public
from May 2005 until May 2009
But worse yet legally for FCPS is that this 'Learning Communities' document was publicly available for nearly four years on the web site (right) from around May 2005 until May 2009 [source: and files downloaded on Jan 15, 2009].

So, if you take the FCPS rejection statement at face value and as accurate, you have no choice but to conclude that FCPS itself, by having these now 'secure' positions statements public for the last couple of years, 'significantly compromised the integrity of their own instructional program'.

DENIAL TWO: Probably most telling is that I left a message on June 24, 2009 at 3:39 pm for Jamie Cannon (FCPS attorney) to call me back to discuss why FCPS failed to disclose documents. But on Thursday, June 25, 2009 at 4:14 pm, Monique Wilson (paralegal) called me back instead. We spoke for about 12 minutes. I told Monique that some documents were inappropriately withheld and why. I said that I needed to speak with Jamie about this issue. Monique said Jamie would call me back early the next week. [Jamie never called me back].

DENIAL THREE: I also sent an email [view email] to Jamie on June 26, 2009. I have confirmation Jamie read the email just hours later, but Jamie never emailed back. But, in a letter dated July 2, 2009, Jamie denies any problems. More importantly, Jamie Cannon states in her letter that she confirmed with custodians Steve Lockhard (Associate Superintendent), Bonnie Hain (Director of Curriculum), and Nelson Palmer (Curriculum Specialist for Mathematics) that FCPS did nothing inappropriate. Linda Burgee (Superintendent) is listed as a CC on the letter. So, FCPS inappropriately not releasing public documents in a legal PIA goes all the way up the entire chain of command to the very top person at FCPS, Linda Burgee, Superintendent.

In the July 2 letter Jamie Cannon once again denies access to all secure documents, but this time improperly using a catchall "confidential" claim (not allowed under PIA law) and mentions 'interagency' materials, which is §10-618(b) of the PIA code, which states "A custodian may deny inspection of any part of an interagency or intra–agency letter or memorandum that would not be available by law to a private party in litigation with the unit."

Now that is all you need to know about FCPS integrity. FCPS claims that the "Mathematics Position Statements" are not available -- even through the 'discovery' process during litigation -- for documents they themselves knowingly previously published.

Also note that the original denial only cited 'Examination Records', which is §10-618(c). However, it is the opinion of the local Circuit Court, in City of Frederick v. Randall Family, LLC, 154 Md. App. 543, 841 A.2d 10 (2004), that a custodian later citing denial reasons not stated in the original PIA denial means that (in the words of the Maryland Attorney General) the original PIA denial was a legally deficient denial [See Maryland Public Information Act Manual (11th Ed.) (October 2008), Chapter IV]. And a third source is William Varga, Maryland Attorney General, on Oct 13, 2009 5:43pm.

Also, Jamie's denial excuse of 'interagency materials' is a literal reading of the words in PIA law, but fails to grasp the true meaning of those words, which case law clearly says it only applies to pre-decisional materials, not post-decisional materials. And a publication of a document like a 'position statement' on a FCPS website (which requires department head approval) is de-facto 'post-decisional'. [as per section D.1 of PIA Chapter III].

Simply inexcusable mistakes for the FCPS lawyer, Jamie Cannon, to make.

DENIAL FOUR: And what makes the FCPS PIA reply and follow-up letter even sillier is that FCPS refuses to listen. In November 2009 I notified the Superintendent of FCPS, Dr. Linda Burgee, that some of the secure documents were previously published by FCPS and that I had some of the documents in hand [view email]. And did FCPS listen? Of course not. Dr. Linda Burgee wrote an email back stating that FCPS was "appropriately providing responses" [view email].

FCPS Grade 4 Assessment Packet
FCPS Grade 4 Assessment Packet
I have seen most (if not all) of the 'secure documents' already. Just review the document seen to the right to verify the veracity of my claim. Frankly, the FCPS denial is all about FCPS wanting to shut me down and say 'NO', rather than the actual contents of the requested documents.

So, the core issue is that FCPS administration is knowingly denying access to public documents. Why?

I have no doubt that FCPS administrators see me as a thorn in their side, especially given what I have uncovered (they are already deleting my emails without reading them); [§3.3]. But after you read this entire section on FCPS integrity, you will see the pattern of how FCPS administration (mis)behaves.

However, no matter who I am, FCPS has the legal obligation to properly respond to FOIA requests. And FCPS has made it clear that they are now willing to block my PIA requests and force me to file a civil suit to gain access to documents which FCPS itself previously published.

The only thing FCPS has done in their repeated denials is make themselves look incredibly silly, and likely criminally violated (§10-627) the Maryland Public Information Act law.

DENIAL FIVE: On January 29, 2010, a formal complaint letter was filed with FCPS on these issues. A reply from the Superintendent, Dr. Linda Burgee, confirms that Jamie Cannon violated FCPS Regulation 200-42! And then goes on to claim their denial was 'proper'!

And contrary to previous emails with the Linda Burgee, who indicated that Steve Lockard would be helpful on this issue, Steve Lockard totally failed to respond to my letter! Once again, so much for FCPS integrity.

Civil Case 10-C-10-000494: On February 12, 2010 a Petition for Judicial Review was mailed to the Frederick County Maryland Circuit Court -- so that the courts can determine once and for all if FCPS violated State Law by withholding these documents.

March 13, 2013: After FCPS stalled (the court had to ORDER FCPS to produce the administrative record for the case to move forward), missed court deadlines, violated court rules (failed to properly notify me of certain court events, as required by court rules), claimed to the courts that the documents were "Examination Records", the court finally ruled that FCPS' claims were "discredited" and "over-broad", and ORDERED FCPS to turn over the requested documents!

News: WFMD · Gazette

  3.1.b FCPS claims 'Basic Math Facts' harm the public

Basic Math Facts
Secure documents in June 2009
PIA3: In a Maryland Public Information Act reply dated June 22, 2009 FCPS denied access to many documents, including 'Basic Math Facts' Cards! But take a look at the 'Basic Math Facts' documents (seen right) that were requested in my PIA.

Remember that basic math facts are those facts that must be memorized by all children, like 2+2=4.

It is simply beyond any 'common sense' that FCPS honestly thinks that disclosing a math fact, like 2+2=4, to the public "would be contrary to the public interest".
Remember, the administration officials responsible for telling me that disclosing 2+2=4 to the public would harm the public interests are the same administration officials responsible for making decisions about what your child will (or will not) learn.
And the PIA denial is clearly seen to be incredibly arbitrary and capricious after you realize that FCPS itself publishes a Basic Math Facts Testing Package, which clearly has tests and answer keys in the package!

Please note that FCPS in its denial letter denied access to not only copy the documents, but also denied the ability to even inspect the documents! So, FCPS thinks that your kids can see and use Basic Math Fact Cards, but that you, as the parent, may not see the cards.

  3.1.c Jamie Cannon violated FCPS regulation 200-42

PIA3: In a Maryland Public Information Act reply dated June 22, 2009 FCPS denied access to ALL 'secure' documents -- discussed in great detail in the prior section [§3.1.a]) -- which states the following:
"Please be advised that pursuant to 10-623 of the State Government Article, you have the right to file a complaint in Circuit Court seeking a review of this decision".
However, FCPS regulation 200-42 "Public Information Act Requests" states "If the custodian denies the written request, he shall within ten (10) working days give the applicant a written statement that gives the reasons for the denial, the legal authority for the denial, and notice of the applicant's appeal rights under section P. of this regulation" and section P of the regulation states "If a written request is denied by the custodian the applicant may, within thirty (30) days after receipt of the notice of the denial, request a hearing with the superintendent."

Jamie Cannon was required to disclose in the PIA denial letter the right to request a hearing with the superintendent - but did not!

Jamie Cannon never disclosed the right to a hearing with the superintendent for the very PIA denial she herself authored -- talk about a major conflict of interest!

The result: Jamie Cannon's failure to follow FCPS regulations very negatively affected my legal rights to have Jamie's PIA denial properly reviewed!

And Jamie Cannon refused to return my phone calls on this PIA. So, just one more very clear example of how FCPS administration is violating their own rules and regulations, and apparently without consequence, and refuses to listen to public concerns.

On January 29, 2010, a formal complaint letter was filed with FCPS on these issues. A reply from the Superintendent, Dr. Linda Burgee, confirms that Jamie Cannon violated FCPS Regulation 200-42!

  3.2 Std Multiplication was not taught in 4th grade

The FCPS Get the Facts document [§5.0] states that students will be able to multiply using the standard U.S. algorithm.

FCPS Integrity
PIA5: In a Maryland Public Information Act reply, FCPS admits that it can provide no Investigations sessions, no supplemental resources, nor any other documents that shows that teachers in 4th grade taught 'standard multiplication' during the 2008-2009 school year.

The same can be said for subtraction and division -- simply by reviewing the 2008-2009 'Curriculum Unit Guides' (what is taught in math every day of the school year) and 'Supplemental Materials' posted on [§1.3]

What FCPS has said in public about standard algorithms being taught does not match up with what FCPS admits in legal FOIA replies, and in private [§3.3].

And incredibly telling is that FCPS changed "study" to "work with" [§5.7]. So, your children no longer "study" standard algorithms, but apparently just "work with" them -- understandable once you realize that under Investigations, 'standard algorithms', are only mentioned, not taught [§4.4] and are told not to use standard algorithms [§4.5].

  3.3 Emails were ignored / deleted

In the very specific context of standard multiplication being taught in 4th grade in the 2008-2009 school year, Nelson Palmer in a June 6, 2009 email stated "The grade 4 unit guide indicates initial instruction in unit 1 and mastery by unit 8." [view email] But in fact, the unit guides do not even mention standard multiplication (they DO mention standard addition). So what is Nelson Palmer even referring to?

FCPS Integrity
But only days later, on June 10, 2009, Nelson Palmer admitted via email "The guides this year do not specifically direct teachers as to exact sessions in which the algorithm is taught", [view email] and that guides for 2009-2010 were being revised. Very strange wording considering there are no Investigations sessions in 4th grade guides dealing with standard multiplication (but they are in 5th grade). But a direct contradiction with what he said only days earlier.

First Mr. Palmer claims that the algorithm is 'indicated', but then later changes his mind and says teachers were 'not directed' to sessions. Note the timing of Mr. Palmer's replies vs the June 10, 2009 FOIA reply in 3.2.

I sent in a follow up email to Bonnie Ward and Mr. Palmer on June 11 [view email]. Later I received confirmation that my email to Mr. Palmer was deleted without being read [view deleted notification]. I received confirmation that Bonnie Ward read the follow up email [view read confirmation], but she has not replied either.

The unwillingness of top officials at FCPS to even discuss this issue is more telling than any actual response -- especially since only days earlier in a June 7 Frederick News Post article Bonnie Ward was quoted as stating "she and her colleagues will continue to respond to parents' concerns".

Well, I am the parent of a child at FCPS and only days later (1) Bonnie Ward read my emails on this issue and never responded and (2) her colleague Nelson Palmer 'deleted without reading' [view deleted notification] my follow up email.

  3.4 No curriculum changes?

Curriculum Unit Guide Cover
Curriculum Unit Guides
Is Investigations just one component of the curriculum [§5.6], or basically the entire curriculum?

The 'Curriculum Unit Guides' (example cover seen right) on [§1.3] tell a very different story.

These unit guides [§1.3] spell out what is to be taught every day of the entire school year. In 2008-2009, FCPS strongly followed Investigations. Out of a possible 160 4th grade Investigations sessions spread over 9 units, the FCPS unit guides point to ALL but three sessions, and they point to an additional 13 supplemental lessons (created by FCPS; none of which mention standard algorithms).

So, in 4th grade for 2008-2009, roughly 157 of 170 sessions were Investigations sessions. And Investigations is a curricula very different than the old curriculum. Investigations has just a single session on a 'standard algorithm' (addition) in 4th grade [§4.4]. So, where is standard subtraction, multiplication, and division? In emails and FOIA's, FCPS admits there will be (significant) changes next year. But what about the 2008-2009 school year? What about their public statements to the contrary?

The 'essential curriculum' is a four page document that has (probably) not changed. However, what is taught every single day of the year (the curriculum) has dramatically changed to Investigations (which does not 'teach' standard algorithms).

  3.5 St. Mary's County quotations

Dr. Martirano
Dr. Martirano
In the FCPS 'Get the Facts' document [§5.0], FCPS quoted Dr. Martirano, the Superintendent of St. Mary's County Public Schools (SMCPS), as stating some very pro-Investigations statements. However, the quotations were quickly (and quietly) removed.

PIA4: In a Maryland Public Information Act reply dated June 10, 2009, FCPS can provide no documentation on where quotations attributes to Dr. Martirano came from. There were quotation marks around sentences attributed to Dr. Martirano. So, where did FCPS get these quotations, if FCPS has no documentation on these quotations?

On June 12, 2009, I asked Bonnie Ward (the author of the FCPS 'Get the Facts' document) about the source of the SMCPS quotations and how/why they were added and then removed [view email]. I received confirmation Bonnie Ward read my email only minutes after I sent it. But Bonnie Ward never replied to my email questions [view email].

FCPS Integrity
On June 12, 2009 Dr. Martirano released a statement via his lawyer stating he never provided a quotation to FCPS for publication.

No wonder FCPS does not want to talk about this issue. If Dr. Martirano never provided a quotation to FCPS for publication, where did FCPS get the quotation it published and attributed to Dr. Martirano?

  3.6 NMP 2008 timeline lies

Once: In a document (seen via the Maryland Public Information Act process and obtained electronically via a second source) entitled "Elementary Math Textbook Selection Overview" the author, Nelson Palmer (Elementary Math Curriculum Specialist) states one of the reasons for a new math textbook selection process is "The Final Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel" in 2008.

Twice: The following claim appears in the FCPS 'Get the Facts' document (Version 1) [§5.0] "we wanted a text that would satisfy ... National Mathematics Panel’s 2008 recommendations for ... computational fluency".

FCPS Integrity
However there is just one huge timing problem. The NMP 2008 final report came out on March 13 of 2008, which is AFTER the FCPS Textbook Selection Committee had already selected Investigations on February 22, 2008. This means that it was impossible for the NMP final report to play any part in the FCPS textbook selection process, as FCPS claims.

But worse yet, even if the timeline were correct, had FCPS actually carefully read the NMP 2008 final report, FCPS would have noticed that Investigations fails to meet the report's guidelines [§2.1] on computational fluency!

  3.7 Essential Curriculum standard algorithms?

The FCPS "Get the Facts" documents (V2 and later) claim that the "essential curriculum includes ... standard algorithms". [§5.0]

What is meant by 'standard algorithms' is very well defined, not only by the NCTM, but also by the new Investigations curricula, which uses the term 'standard US algorithm' for 'standard algorithm'.

Simply review the "FCPS 4th Grade Essential Curriculum" [§1.3] (only 4 pages) and verify this FCPS claim for yourself (search the document for 'standard').

Take multiplication. The only goal in the Essential Curriculum dealing with multiple-digit multiplication is MA.400.60.28, which states "Multiply a 2- or 3-digit number (including money) by a one-digit number" and that is all!

FCPS Integrity
So, under the pre 2008-2009 math program, 'standard algorithms' were taught by default. Under Investigations, other strategies are instead taught, and 'standard algorithms' take a very back seat and are mentioned only once, or never. [§4.4]

So, the essential curriculum in fact makes no reference to 'standard algorithms', as FCPS claims.

  3.8 TERC Investigations standard algorithms?

After you read the 'Get the Facts' document [§5.0], you are left feeling that 'Investigations teaches standard algorithms to students'. However, look very closely. FCPS is being nothing short of very misleading. FCPS uses the word 'USES' -- notice that FCPS does not use the word 'teaches.'

Well, in 959 Investigations sessions K-5 (six years), there are only three sessions on standard algorithms [§4.4]. Standard addition mentioned once in six years. Standard subtraction mentioned once in six years. Standard multiplication mentioned once in six years. Standard division not mentioned at all.

So, is this what you understood when FCPS says that Investigations "uses" standard algorithms?
FCPS Integrity

In fact, Investigations actually instructs students to not use standard algorithms by telling students to only use "clear and concise" strategies and then instructing children that 'standard algorithms' are not clear. [§4.5]

To then state that "Investigations uses standard algorithms" is then incredibly misleading on the part of FCPS.

  3.9.a Borsa 'facts' not verifiable

Dr. Bonnie Borsa - VP Board of Education, FCPS
Dr. Bonnie Borsa
Dr. Bonnie Borsa is the VP of the FCPS Board of Education. She appears to be the spokesperson in regards to Investigations, and some of what she had said in public about Investigations is simply not verifiable, even by FOIA requests.

Policy 100.8 - Code of Conduct "a standard to guide the members in interactions with each other and with the community" states the Board Members are to "Clearly distinguish opinions from facts. Ensure all statements of fact are accurate and verifiable".

Dr. Borsa claimed on a radio show about Investigations "We know it does work. We've had it in Lincoln Elementary School for four years and they have doubled their achievement in math."
FCPS Integrity

But the MSA test data, and results of a Maryland Public Information Act reply show that Dr. Borsa can not back up her claims that 'Lincoln Elementary School' doubled math achievement. [§5.1] I even have the internal memo where I believe that 'doubling' claim was first (incorrectly) made and likely found its way onto Dr. Borsa's desk [view email].

PIA12: Dr. Borsa claimed [§5.2] in a Frederick News Post article, "Math teachers were finding that some upper level math students knew math only by rote and did not have a broader understanding of why they performed certain mathematical operations." But the results of a Maryland Public Information Act reply indicates Dr. Borsa has no documentation to back up her claim. FCPS can not point to a single FCPS teacher that said this.

So, where did Dr. Borsa's claims come from? Did she properly follow the code of conduct? Since her statements of fact can not be verified, even via PIA requests, Dr. Borsa likely did violate policy 100.8.
So what happens when a Board member violates a policy? Nothing according to Jamie Cannon "there are no penalties included in the Policy nor are there consequences listed in other Board policies" [§3.15].
Isn't is nice to know that FCPS Board Members can say anything they want, violating Board Policies, all without any consequences.

  3.9.b Bonnie Borsa ambushes Donna Crook

Dr. Bonnie Borsa 'Pointing Fingers'
VIDEO: Dr. Borsa attacks Donna Crook
On October 26, 2009, Dr. Bonnie Borsa attacked Donna Crook at the end of a Board Meeting [FNP article].
To watch this incredible attack unfold, watch these YouTube Videos: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Another source of this video is FCPS itself in 10.26.09 BOE 701-801.
And according to Lennie Thompson, Frederick County Commissioner, at the Commissioners' meeting on October 27, 2009, Lennie states that he is 100% behind Donna Crook in one of Dr. Borsa's allegations (so, is Dr. Bonnie Borsa wrong). watch video

A complaint letter was filed with the President of the FCPS Board of Education (Jean Smith), on October 28, 2009, in response to Dr. Bonnie Borsa's ambush of Donna Crook. [FNP article].

PIA 16 Evidence: Receipts | Regulation 300-31 V1 | Regulation 300-31 V2 | Regulation 300-31 V3 | Transcripts
A second complaint letter was filed with the President of the FCPS Board of Education (Jean Smith), on November 10, 2009 - after results from a Public Information Act request (evidence right) were obtained. The complaint letter deals with the numerous factual errors Dr. Borsa made in regards to the evidence that Dr. Borsa claimed she had, but did not.

A complaint letter (referencing both letters above) was also filed with Nancy S. Grasmick of the Maryland State Department of Education on November 11, 2009. [FNP article].

On January 15, 2010 a letter was sent to the Maryland "State Board" of Education detailing concerns in this matter. On February 12, 2010 a follow-up letter was sent to the Maryland "State Board" of Education detailing additional concerns in this matter. It is more than interesting that in the State Board ruling on this issue, they cite "First Amendment" issues in declining to take action.

And now, Dr. Bonnie Borsa, Vice President of the FCPS Board of Education is herself in serious trouble for violating well published Board rule and regulations in the Board of Education member handbook:
  1. Code of Conduct: Be Responsible: Demonstrate fairness. Ensure that all sides have a fair opportunity to present their respective positions: Of course Dr. Borsa gave Donna an opportunity to speak, but without giving Donna any time to research and prepare. Dr. Borsa obviously prepared well in advance by having transcripts, receipts, etc. Dr. Borsa refused that same time to prepare to Donna Crook, so it was not a fair opportunity.
  2. Code of Conduct: Be Responsible: Clearly distinguish opinions from facts. Ensure all statements of fact are accurate and verifiable: Dr. Bonnie Borsa claims that receipts prove that no alcohol was paid for on a FCPS card (that if it was paid for that it would have showed). But that is simply not the case after examining the receipts obtained via a PIA request. Dr. Borsa has a lot to answer for -- for claiming having the prior superintendent receipts, which in fact she clearly did not have the receipts in hand!
  3. Board of Education Norms: Avoid surprises by articulating concerns in advance: Dr. Bonnie Borsa did not tell Donna in advance that she was going to 'call out' Donna in a PUBLIC meeting. The attack was a huge surprise to Donna, which we can all see unfold on the video, and nothing Dr. Bonnie Borsa says about their prior history ('we talked about issues in private') can change the fact that what unfolded on Oct 26 was a total surprise to Donna.
  4. Board members and staff are expected to maintain the confidentiality of closed session discussions at all times. Dr. Borsa says she tried to address issues in private "behind closed doors". In a radio show, she admits this was in closed sessions. If anything from those closed sessions made it into the public meeting, Dr. Borsa violated the confidentiality of those closed sessions.
  5. Board Members’ Requests for Information: When any Board Member requests information from staff, all Board Members must be copied on the request, and response. How did Borsa obtain receipts? How did Borsa obtain the policy from the 80's? How did Borsa obtain transcripts? Since Donna was surprised by Dr. Borsa's attack, did Donna receive copies of these? If not, Dr. Borsa once again violated Board rules and regulations.
And now let's look at some of the 'facts' Dr. Borsa presented:
  1. Alcohol Policy: On the radio show Dr. Bonnie Borsa refers to, the context of the discussion was Board Policy 112 on alcohol which was adopted on 7/13/2005. Not a decades old policy as Dr. Borsa wants us to think. So was there was another decades old policy on alcohol? Very likely, but that does not take away from the fact that Donna was present in 2005 for the adoption of Policy 112 [source]. Listen to radio show hour 1 and hour 2
  2. Receipts: Dr. Bonnie Borsa holds up a pile of 'receipts' and states that there was no alcohol paid for. However, that is not a true statement. Given the many 'amount/tip/total' receipts (one seen right), alcohol could easily have been paid for and would not show. Also, the receipts for the former superintendent are clearly missing, which Dr. Borsa admits on November 13, 2009 in a FNP article. [§3.17]
  3. Private Restrooms: Dr. Borsa states: "of course there will be a number of public restrooms within the building. And there is one small unisex toilet on the 5th floor that's going to be used by school board members, by legal services, by Dr. Burgee and her staff." [Listen to quotation] Notice that Dr. Borsa did not say that the public can use that 5th level restroom. Dr. Borsa then attacks Donna for comments made on a radio show, stating: "I have another transcript on August 31st on a radio talk show again. You were discussing the restroom facilities at the central office and you stated, and this is a quote: I'm sure there are several personal poopers I'm sure there are private poopers too. And that is a quote from you Mrs. Crook." [Listen to quotation] OK, so language aside, what did Donna REALLY say on the radio show: "Well, I'm sure there's several personal poopers. I'm sure there's a couple private poopers too." [Listen to quotation] [Listen to Entire Radio Show] So Dr. Borsa misquoted Donna Crook! Now if you are going to claim you are reading from a transcript, you had better make 100% sure the transcript is accurate! And then after misquoting Donna, Dr. Borsa then hammers Donna over the word 'private' and 'personal' (for a restroom that may not even be open to the public) View blueprint for new building. On February 3, 2010, I personally attended the Facilities and Finance Meeting, where it was discussed that a "swipe card" is needed to access everything in the new office building. The only area accessible to the public is the lobby. Access to bathrooms and the rest of the building will require a swipe card.
  4. All Board Members present? Borsa says "All Board Members are here" Listen to quotation. And yet, Angie Fish is clearly not at the meeting (just look at the videos above). So Borsa makes a blatant error in a factual statement. Funny, do you see a 'pattern' developing in Dr. Borsa's own statements?
Was then 'President of the Board', Jean Smith, also involved in the attack on Donna Crook? It is very interesting to note that it is not just Bonnie Borsa who attacked Donna Crook. Just listen to this quotation and you will hear what appears to be Jean Smith stating "it would have showed" (in regards to an alcohol purchase in the receipts), and then Bonnie Borsa latching onto the quotation and repeating it. It is clear that others on the board owe Donna Crook a very public apology as well.

  3.9.c Borsa proposes illegal act

A January 21, 2010 newspaper article reported the following about the January 20 Board of Education Planning session:
"Board members expressed concern about the amount of money spent annually on consumable workbooks for the Investigations Math program. Board member Bonnie Borsa brought up the possibility of having parents pay for the workbooks."
You can watch the discussion of this at the FCPS BOE meeting videos web site [1.20.10 BOE Part1 28:36-35:00].

However, there is just one huge problem. According the Maryland Attorney General:
"anything directly related to a school's curriculum must be available to all without charge"
And it is rather obvious that a non-optional elementary math workbook is a part of the curriculum.

And Maryland Law, Education Code "§7-106 Textbooks, materials of instruction, and supplies" states that these are "materials to be furnished free of charge"!

To support her argument, Bonnie Borsa cites other classes with required fees. However, Bonnie Borsa is wrong! FCPS Regulation 500-33 clearly states:
"Schools may request, but not require, that students provide specific school supplies and may charge fees for workbooks, newspapers, physical education uniforms, industrial arts, home economics, and other materials that will become the student’s personal property when the course or project is completed".
  3.9.d Borsa false statements in FNP LTE

Textbook 2011-2013
In a January 20, 2010 Board Meeting about budget reductions, in the context of a discussion about the $257,000 yearly cost for the consumable TERC Investigations student workbook (seen right).

Bonnie Borsa later said:
"Have the parents buy the workbook ..."
On January 31, 2009, a Frederick News Post Letter to the Editor appeared on this very issue, with a lot more details.

FCPS Integrity
Amazingly, Bonnie Borsa blew a gasket and in a follow up Letter to the Editor complained bitterly that she never said that.

Isn't it amazing how quickly Bonnie Borsa forgets that the Board Meetings are video taped and published by FCPS. Just visit the FCPS BOE meeting videos web site and watch '1.20.10 BOE Part1 28:36-35:00' and watch Dr. Borsa say this and be amazed.

If Bonnie Borsa is so willing to make false statements in a Letter to the Editor in an attempt to change public opinion, what else has she done that we have not yet found out about?

  3.10 FCPS is Destroying files - or LIED in a FOIA

I went to the FCPS Church Street building on June 17, 2009 to review documents available to me via a FOIA filing. Monique Wilson gave me a file a couple of inches high full of paper documents to review. I saw a document I had seen before ("Elementary Math Textbook Selection Overview") and asked Monique for the 'electronic' original of that document. Monique left the room (apparently asking others), and came back and stated (on June 17, 2009) that there was no electronic original of that document. Note, not that I could not have it, but that it no longer existed.

But that was incredibly strange, because I already had that document as a PDF original via another source. Download ("Elementary Math Textbook Selection Overview") yourself, save to your hard drive and then open that PDF. Review the 'File / Properties' and verify that the original author is "Nelson.Palmer", and that the original Microsoft Word Document filename is "Selection Process.doc".

No matter how you look at it, FCPS is in trouble. Either (1) FCPS has the electronic original and they lied to me during the FOIA query (about not having it), or (2) FCPS really no longer has the electronic original, proving (since I have a copy of the original via another source), that FCPS is destroying electronic originals.

And probably most telling is Jamie Cannon's (lack of any) response days later. On Wed, June 24 at 1:46pm I emailed Jamie Cannon in regards to my PIA request and asked "Please email the original "Elementary Math Textbook Selection Overview" document to me.". Jamie Cannon read my email on minutes later at 2:08pm. However, Jamie Cannon never responded to my email. Later, a "Monique Wilson" asked for clarification (which she received from me). I never heard back from Monique either.

FCPS's unwillingness to even respond to a very simple email question in regards to a document (part of an issued PIA) is not acceptable and is legally deficient.

  3.11 TERC session missing in PIA reply

Investigations 4th grade Unit 5 Session 2.4
Investigations 4th grade Unit 5 Session 2.4
On June 12, 2009 a FOIA request was made requesting primary resources and any other documents in regards to 'standard U.S. addition' in 4th grade 2008-2009.

PIA8: The Maryland Public Information act reply did not disclose the requested primary resource Investigations sessions.

FCPS Integrity
Namely, 4th grade session 2.4 in unit 5 entitled "Studying the U.S. Algorithm for Addition" (seen right) had to be legally disclosed by FCPS in the FOIA reply, but inappropriately was not disclosed.

In an email dated June 26, 2009 I notified Jamie Cannon of this problem with the FCPS PIA reply. In a letter Ms. Cannon simply dismisses any problems.

This rather blatant omission -- not once, but twice -- by FCPS is yet one more demonstration that FCPS does not treat FOIA requests seriously. This demonstrates that FCPS is willing to knowingly withhold public information that was specifically asked for and that FCPS is legally obligated to provide.

  3.12 Ann Reever denies co-principal

On May 26, 2009, I emailed Ann Reever, Principal of Lincoln Elementary School and asked her some questions about Investigations, staff, and the co-principal. In her reply she stated:
"No one from the staff was replaced! Nor did we have a co-principal" [view email]
Lincoln co-principals Ann Reever / Yvonne Wright
VIDEO: Aug 27, 2007
FCPS Integrity
Well, watch this video (right) by the Frederick News Post where co-principals Ann Reever and Yvonne Wright discuss how they split language arts and math responsibilities. And where Ann Reever actually uses the word "co-principal"!

Also, there are a couple of relevant newspaper articles. Two (school) heads are better than one explains when the co-principal was hired and Teamwork discusses the first day of school.

A follow up email to Ann Reever on June 19, 2009 about Investigations was deleted without being read on June 22, 2009 [view deleted notification].

  3.13 Marita Loose says 'go FOIA'

On June 12, 2009, Marita Loose (executive director, communication services) was asked via email how the 'Get the Facts' document (which she claims she 'produced') ended up with an Author of 'Steve Ward' (who is not a FCPS employee) and a Company of 'Ward Systems Group'.

Marita Loose refused to answer and stated "For further clarification, I recommend you submit a FOIA request through the office of Jamie Cannon, FCPS attorney" [view email]. Well, so much for FCPS cooperation.

  3.15 FCPS Code of Conduct Policy

Policy 100.8 - Code of Conduct "a standard to guide the members in interactions with each other and with the community" states the Board Members are to "Clearly distinguish opinions from facts. Ensure all statements of fact are accurate and verifiable".

Jamie Cannon was asked "Are there any consequence to violating this 'code of conduct'?" Ms. Cannon's reply was:
"there are no penalties included in the Policy nor are there consequences listed in other Board policies." [view email]
So, I guess the Board policies are there to make the public feel good, not to actually keep board members in check. A FCPS Board Member could lie to you, tell you they are lying to you, and the Board Member would suffer no consequences whatsoever.

  3.16 FCPS Ethics Policy

Visit Policy 109 - Ethics and review "109.3 Prohibited Conduct and Interests".

Amazingly, this ethics policy prohibits only very specifically named unethical activity in which the net effect appears to involve financial gains by the Board Member or very close family members

All other unnamed unethical behavior is not prohibited! So financial gains to other relatives or friends is allowed, as well as most other unethical behavior!

And when there was an ethics complaint brought against the BoE for violating FCPS "Pilot" vs "Field Test" policies [source], Bonnie Borsa stated "the Ethics Panel declared that such an investigation was not in its purview" [source].

So, it was not that the ethics panel found that nothing unethical had taken place, but rather, that there was no policy that covered the reported unethical behavior. An ethics complaint not in the Ethics Panel purview? Now that pretty much says it all about FCPS policy 109, doesn't it.

So once again, an ethics policy that allows for unethical behavior is simply a policy for public 'bark', but it has very little 'bite' as the policy allows unethical behavior.

  3.17 Half-truths spin a story

FCPS is very good at knowingly spinning a story using very carefully worded partial-truths, but not the whole truth.

The most blatant fully documented example of this is Dr. Borsa's attack on Donna Crook. [§3.9.b], and the FCPS 'spin machine' that went into effect after that attack. Here is what FCPS said:
  • Oct 26: "Well, I have all the receipts from that trip right here, and there is absolutely none that shows that a procurement card was used to pay for alcohol" - Dr. Bonnie Borsa, Vice President Board of Education in the Oct 26, 2009 meeting
  • Nov 2: "There are no records that indicate Jack Dale used his FCPS procurement card to pay for alcohol for Board members at the April, 2003 NSBA conference" - Dr. Linda Burgee (Superintendent), as per a Nov 2 email from Linda Burgee to a County Commissioner [source: Nov 12 email with the County Commissioner]
  • Nov 4: "The county attorney said the procurement card shows no purchase of alcohol" - FNP article of Nov 4, 2009 - but I have good reason to suspect that 'county attorney' is incorrect and should instead be 'superintendent'
And these statements from FCPS are indeed true statements (except for having 'all' receipts), but they are not the whole truth! The whole truth is that receipts are missing, and even if alcohol were purchased on a procurement card, that the procurement card would still show 'no purchase of alcohol'!

In fact, on Friday November 13, 2009, the whole truth was fully disclosed in a FNP article which stated "Borsa said Thursday that neither she nor the school system could find any of Dale's receipts from the 2003 trip".

Now, given that Dr. Borsa and FCPS knew they did not any of Dale's receipts, reread the quotations above, and decide for yourself the integrity of (1) Board of Education leadership, (2) top FCPS administration officials, and (3) the FCPS school attorney

I don't know about you, but I consider knowingly telling a partial truth -- with the obvious intent for the listener to conclude something 'not true' -- is the same as lying.

  3.18 Curriculum Dept BoE antics

On November 11, 2009, the FCPS Curriculum Department provided an elementary math update to the entire Board of Education [11.11.09 BOE 501].

Primary Resource: Board Member Angie Fish expressed concern over Investigations stating "When it was first implemented it was said that it would be a supplemental resource. It clearly is not. I don't care how we want to word it. It just is not" [11.11.09 BOE 501 22:06]. Board Member Katie Groth then followed up and stated "Say what you want to -- Investigations has become the major curriculum resource" [11.11.09 BOE 501 24:45]. Bonnie Hain (the K-12 Curriculum Manager) spoke up and refuted that stating "The primary resource is our essential curriculum and I want to make sure that everyone is clear that that is our primary resource" [11.11.09 BOE 501 25:24]. That is an obvious false statement because the FCPS 'Get the Facts' document [§5.0] comes right out and states that Investigations is the primary resource! Furthermore, this is an obvious false statement given that the 'essential curriculum' is simply a 4-page document for 4th grade. But the best part is that in the same meeting, Bonnie Hain totally contradicts herself by stating "the 3rd graders who participated last year in the 2nd grade and had Investigations materials as their primary resource" [11.11.09 BOE 501 33:22].

Misusing Multiple-Choice Pretest Data: The curriculum department showed a slide (seen right) showing 'Average Percent Correct Response" from a 50-question multiple choice test and stated "So what this data is telling you is that the 3rd graders who participated last year in the 2nd grade and had Investigations materials as their primary resource -- they already know in the area of number and operations -- 58% of them already know those materials for 3rd grade -- they don't need to have the third grade piece of instruction - they are ready to go on and move on to deeper level or more advanced level work." [11.11.09 BOE 501 33:19]. What the curriculum department fails to understand is that (1) randomly selected answers yields a 25% correct response and (2) that there is overlap in math knowledge between grade levels. Also, notice how 4th grade was left out -- it apparently hurt their point of view.

Resorting to reporting 'subtest' data: The curriculum department shows a slide (seen right) 'proving' that Investigations causes test scores to increase. However, if you simply look at the overall 4th grade MSA math scores, you will notice that test scores actually decreased from 2008 to 2009 [chart] while in other grades, test scores increased. When the curriculum staff resorts to not reporting the overall decline in MSA results and instead resorts to reporting some small subset of the data that shows mixed results, you know the curriculum department is trying to spin the message.

Well, so much for the accuracy of the entire curriculum department.

  3.19 Open Meetings Act Violations

The FCPS Board of Education was found by the Maryland State Open Meetings Compliance Board to have violated Open Meetings Act rules [source: FNP article].

Aug 3, 2009: The Frederick News Post notified the Open Meetings Compliance Board about problems with the FCPS BoE. And the Open Meetings Compliance Board agreed with the Frederick News Post. This ruling, dated August 3, 2009, can be found in the Maryland Register and in this Open Meetings Act Board opinion.

May 24, 2009: And this is only the most recent violation. There is a long history of problems with the FCPS Board of Education violating Open Meetings Act rules. Simply Google this and you will find many articles on this issue, including another opinion on May 24, 2006 by the Compliance Board against the FCPS BoE.

March 15, 2007: In another opinion on March 15, 2007, the Board of Education failed to turn over minutes for a meeting in order for the Open Meetings Act Board to make a final determination.

Clearly, the FCPS Board of Education has huge (and well documented) problems with being 'open' with the public.

View index of all Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board opinions

  3.20 FCPS says 'no std subtraction/division' in TERC

PIA15: In a June 26, 2009 Maryland Public Information Act, I asked FCPS to disclose any and all Investigations sessions with the scope of teaching U.S. algorithms [Maryland Public Information Act Request & Reply].

Incredibly, FCPS claims in this PIA reply that Investigations does not teach standard U.S. division, nor does it teach standard U.S. subtraction -- and that FCPS needed to create supplemental lessons to teach those standard U.S. algorithms.

  3.21 Enrollment is up up up - or is it!

FCPS produces an enrollment line graph (seen right) in an official FCPS publication (meaning it had to be approved by a department head).

The top of the line for each successive year keeps going up, so it sure looks like enrollment is going up and up and up, right?

However, look very closely at the raw numbers.

Notice that 2009 enrollment is less than 2006 enrollment and stagnant since around 2004 or so.

The graph is NOT a proper 3-D projection. Instead, the graph is actually tilted up. See the base of the graph (zero) -- it is slanted UP at an angle. Meaning that 'what is zero' on the graph is a little higher each and every year. This makes it virtually impossible to accurately visually compare years -- unless you look at and compare the raw numbers.

So anyone who casually looks at the graph will clearly see increasing enrollment.

This graph is outright deceptive in the best of circumstances.

  3.22 FCPS to Homeless? Go away!

New FCPS Central Office Building
I personally attended the first 30 minutes of the Facilities and Finance meeting held on February 3, 2010. A topic of discussion during that time frame was the 'swipe card' access system that is going to be in place at the new FCPS Taj Mahal (aka: Central Office Building).

One conclusion: A general member of the public may access only the lobby of the new office building. No office access and no restroom access -- without explicit permission. In order to use even restrooms on the first floor, a visitor will need to (a) obtain permission and then (b) obtain a 'swipe card' from the main lobby receptionist.

So, a swipe card will be needed to even just use the first floor restrooms! Schaden, Board of Education member, then stated that you don't want homeless people coming in and using the bathrooms.

Well -- So much for compassion at FCPS! I guess there is 'public' and then there is 'FCPS public'.

  3.23 FCPS violates PIA law regarding copies

PIA1: In the very first PIA that I issued to FCPS, FCPS allowed me to come into the central office building and inspect public records. However, one of the records had a 'sticky' on it that said 'do not copy', and I was told that I would not be allowed to leave with a copy of that public record.

However, there is just one huge problem -- that was a violation of State PIA Law.

PIA law in §10-620 clearly states that if you are allowed to inspect a public record, that you must also be allowed to copy the record as well, if you want a copy.
The only exceptions to this rule are (a) §10-620(a)(2) copies of a court judgment to non-litigants and (b) §10-618(c)(2), which involves a promotional examination that you personally took where you personally (and not others) are allowed to review the exam and results, but not copy.
PIA19: In a Maryland Public Information Act reply FCPS does it again. FCPS refuses to turn over copies of public records (that they allow inspection). Only this time, FCPS overtly violated State Law. Read the actual PIA request that I made.
  3.24 FCPS Integrity Conclusion

FCPS Integrity
FCPS in public gives every indication that they are willing to answer any and all questions, and have said as much in newspaper articles. However, when really easy questions are asked on topics FCPS considers sensitive, FCPS is evasive, uncooperative, unwilling to answer, deletes emails without reading them, and has outright lied in emails and FOIA replies.

And more importantly, why does the head of the FCPS legal office, Jamie Cannon, refuse to return my phone calls, especially after Monique Wilson (paralegal) states that Ms. Cannon will call me back.

FCPS is very good at knowingly telling half-truths. Some people call that lying. I like the proverb that says a half truth is a whole lie.

FCPS denies any and all problems.

Apparently FCPS thinks everything documented here is 'business as usual'.

  4.0 Investigations: What is the big deal?

Grade 5, Unit 3, page 76
The core issue for most people is this: "In the Investigations curriculum, standard algorithms are not taught because they interfere with a child’s growing sense and fluency with the number system" - from the author of Investigations in the book 'Beyond Arithmetic'.

Investigations drops the 'standard' method/technique (strategy) for multiplication and division, and instead adopts other methods that seem crazy (overly lengthy) to anyone who was taught the 'standard' methods.
Now, these new Investigations methods would be OK if children were quickly graduated to the standard and efficient algorithms, but they are not! Investigations expects children to continue to use mundane 'learning algorithms' the rest of their life. Investigations comes right out and says "students are not expected to switch" to standard algorithms as adults. [source: Investigations, Grade 5, Unit 3, page 76].
Here is an example of how to multiply 142 by 48 using both methods. The Investigations answer was taken directly from a Grade 4 Investigations example, and the 'standard' method is 'well known' around the world, so something I do not need to explain.
Investigations Method 'Standard' Method 
Investigations: Multiply 148 by 42 Multiply 148 by 42

It is readily obvious to anyone who has learned (and understands) the 'standard' method, that the Investigations method is a rather laborious process (count the number of digits written above). Of course it works and produces the same result as the 'standard' method, but at the expense of being very inefficient (tedious).

For some reason (their intentions were good), the authors of Investigations felt that by greatly 'dumbing down' math, that it would be easier for students to understand. It may (this needs research) be easier for some students that initially find math hard. But for those that can easily grasp 'standard' strategies and how they work, it is a time waster. The authors of Investigations have failed to consider the ultimate consequences: That they are producing a lot more work for a student, which takes more time. Time that adds up after many multiplication learning exercises, as well as creating a disadvantage during timed tests.

Quite simply, the Investigations method of writing out 62 digits to obtain an answer is going to take a lot more time than the time to write out 16 digits to obtain the answer. Time that instead could have been used to teach the 'standard' method in great detail so that any student can fully understand it and teach it to others.

Math Education: An Inconvenient Truth
VIDEO: Math Education: An Inconvenient Truth
In fact, a child very fluent in the standard multiplication method does not need to write down the 'carry' numbers, but rather keeps them 'in their head' as they are immediately used in the next step. That means that a child only needs to write down 11 digits to multiply 148 by 42, instead of the 62 digits needed by Investigations.

Please note that this 'keeping carry numbers in your head' is only appropriate after multiplication has been properly learned (not appropriate while still learning).
YouTube Video: Math Education: An Inconvenient Truth -- MJ McDermott speaks out about problems with math today.

But wait, you say, the Investigations strategy promotes a deep understanding of math. Yes, I hope it does and I totally agree with that intent. That is not the issue. The issue is that in Investigations, children are not graduated to learning more efficient strategies after they understand what is going on (they have the deep understanding).

People defending Investigations can not have it 'both ways'. Either a child has a deep understanding, in which case they can understand a more efficient strategy, or a child does not have a deep understanding, in which case the Investigations claim of 'we teach deep understanding' has failed. So, which is it?

  4.1 Investigations: Calculator Usage

Another core issue and concern for many parents is that the authors of Investigations place too much emphasis on the use of calculators as a tool that should be used.

Beyond Arithmetic
In fact, in the book "Beyond Arithmetic", on page 76 it states "Multiplying 1346 × 231 is problem that is best solved with a calculator" (source). Best how? Best for the student because Investigations multiplication strategies don't work efficiently (more on this in [§4.2])?

Do you think that a math book should actually have a chapter on using a calculator? Why? Instead, if a child actually understands math (after all, this is the subject being taught) and can read English, then by definition, that child is able to read the calculator manual and learn how to use a calculator. It really is that simple. Can they read? Do they know math? There is no need for a chapter on how to use a calculator. That should be a homework exercise. Please keep in mind the context of this discussion: K-5 addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

The fact that Investigations includes a chapter on using a calculator (reference) is very telling in that Investigations is not fully teaching how to first understand and then do math, but just how to use math.
This needs more research as according to this document the use of calculators in Investigations appears much more limited. This may be a first / second edition issue. If so, Investigations now knows they were wrong in the first edition.
Also, FCPS in their "Get the Facts!" document [§5.0] clearly states that (it thinks) using calculators is just fine, in part because "tests such as the Maryland School Assessment, High School Assessment, the SAT and PSAT/NMSQT, and Advanced Placement exams allow calculator use for some or all portions of the tests". This is all rather convoluted logic to me. Namely, 'we (FCPS, a county in Maryland) allow calculators in class because we (the State of Maryland) allow calculators on the MSA test'. Take a look at MSA [§A.4] and the test question for a third grader, where a calculator is (inappropriately) allowed, and decide for yourself.
This actually explains a lot. Say I purchase a candy bar and, for example, it costs $0.76 total. I hand the clerk a one dollar bill and one penny. Many clerks have a puzzled look on their face. Some even try to hand the penny back to me. If kids today can't understand what is happening instantly, then I have to seriously question calculator use in the classroom. There is no substitute for using your head (your ultimate tool -- your mind) and 'thinking'.
Google search on iPhone
If math tools are OK, why not Geography tools?: If a Board of Education embraces Investigations (or tools -- like FCPS) they are embracing use of a tool to assist in math, like calculators. That sets a precedent. So tools should also be able to be used in subjects other than mathematics, like Geography? If I have a phone with Internet access (Google), it is just as much of a tool as a calculator is a tool. I should be able to use it to look up geography information during Geography classes whenever I want or need to, even during tests. But you exclaim, 'That is cheating' -- and you would be right. So why is cheating at Mathematics using a calculator OK, but cheating at Geography (using Google) not OK?

The entire point of learning Mathematics is not to learn how to use a tool (calculator) that obtains the math answer for you, but rather for the individual to learn Mathematics so that they can obtain the answer themselves without a tool.

I am not against calculators by any means. Calculators are a very nice tool, but not a tool to replace learning math (like 3 digit by 2 digit multiplication). A calculator should only be used after a student is already very proficient at multiplication and division. A calculator helps you to perform a mathematical operation much faster -- it does not help at all to learn how to perform that mathematical operation in the first place.

  4.2 Investigations: Flawed multiplication strategy

1346 × 231 =
200 × 1000 = 200,000
200 × 300 = 60,000
200 × 40 = 8,000
200 × 6 = 1,200
30 × 1000 = 30,000
30 × 300 = 9,000
30 × 40 = 1,200
30 × 6 = 180
1 × 1000 = 1,000
1 × 300 = 300
1 × 40 = 40
1 × 6 = 6
200,000 + 60,000 + 8,000 + 1,200 + 30,000 + 9,000 + 1,200 + 180 + 1,000 + 300 + 40 + 6 = 310,926
Why would a book for Investigations teachers recommend using a calculator to multiply 1346 × 231? The answer is painfully simple. Actually try to multiply these two numbers using the strategy Investigations teaches to children (right) and you will never want to use that strategy again. Look to the example to the right.

Anyone who embraces Investigations needs to get a pencil and paper and multiply these two numbers together using the strategy seen above. You need to understand what children are going through. I am 100% serious about this -- do you practice what you preach?

The goal is to teach our children Mathematics, and that includes how to multiply two numbers, like 1346 × 231. If the Math program being used instead recommends using a calculator, the school system has failed to properly teach multiplication to our children.

Multiply 1346 by 231
Compare this to the much simpler (and efficient) standard multiplication method seen to the right. It is not hard at all to multiply 1346 × 231. It is fast and easy. It only becomes hard and difficult when the Investigations multiplication strategy is used.

Compare having to write 151 digits using the Investigations strategy (above) vs 19 digits for the 'standard' strategy (right).

Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy. They say 'use calculators when math problems become hard'. But then the strategy Investigations teaches to multiply is in fact very hard to use beyond the most simple basic problems. Therefore, use calculators to solve the problem, overcoming a failed/hard multiplication strategy.

Quite simply, the Investigations method of multiplying is flawed because it does not work well at all with 'larger' numbers. It creates a tremendous amount of tedious writing of digits (mostly zeros), which in turn forces a recommendation to use a calculator.
If you disagree with me, I offer you a challenge. Multiply a nine digit number by a nine digit number using the Investigations method. It is a total failure, when compared to the 'standard' multiplication strategy.
The clock is ticking
Your child is taking a test, and we all know that most of them are timed. Do you want your child to multiply 1346 × 231 by using the Investigations strategy, or by using the 'standard' strategy. Tick Tock Tick Tock. The clock is ticking.

An 'edge condition' test of Investigations multiplication:

As a computer scientist, I am trained to evaluate algorithms (strategies), paying careful attention to how an algorithm performs at what computer people call 'edge conditions'.
For example, to evaluate a computer 'sorting' algorithm, I might test how well (or not) a sorting algorithm works. But I am concerned about performance at the edge conditions. Like, what if I sort a list and that list is already sorted? How does the sorting algorithm perform? Being able to identify and analyze edge conditions is important in computer science.
So let's evaluate Investigations multiplication strategy on an 'edge condition'. Let the strategy/algorithm run on two specially selected numbers, and then evaluate how the algorithm performs.

So, multiply one number that is small (single digit), and another number that is large (many digits). Let's multiply 123456789 by 2:
123456789 × 2 =
100000000 × 2 = 200,000,000
20000000 × 2 = 40,000,000
3000000 × 2 = 6,000,000
400000 × 2 = 800,000
50000 × 2 = 100,000
6000 × 2 = 12,000
700 × 2 = 1,400
80 × 2 = 160
9 × 2 = 18
200,000,000 + 40,000,000 + 6,000,000 + 800,000 + 100,000 + 12,000 + 1,400 + 160 + 18 = 246,913,578
You get the correct answer, but only after a lot of work. Compare having to write 164 digits for the Investigations strategy (above) vs 10 digits for the 'standard' strategy (below):
Multiply 123456789 by 2
Hopefully this 'edge condition case' of the Investigations strategy clearly demonstrates how horribly inefficient the Investigations multiplication strategy really is. This makes it a flawed strategy for day-to-day use.

  4.3 Investigations: Division strategy is worse

Investigations: Divide 1275 by 21
How do you divide 1275 by 21? The method (right) is an Investigations strategy and claims to be "clear and concise" method of dividing, and is taken directly from Grade 5 Unit 1 second edition 4th printing page 134 (and also this published document):

Would someone who embraces Investigations please explain to me how guessing "20" as the first answer is at all "clear" (as is claimed) and how it is an effective or efficient strategy, or even "concise" (as is claimed)? How was "20" selected? It is a horrible strategy that is way off the mark (the final answer is 60, but yet the first 'guess' is 20?). That is not mathematics, but rather 'guessing'. And worse yet, not even an educated close guess.

Is that what you want your child to learn? Take any guess? 'Divide by guessing' is a strategy that does eventually obtain the right answer. But it simply is not efficient and certainly is not teaching core math. Is this the 'deep understanding' that Investigations teaches?

At the very worst, I would have expected Investigations to use "50" (a 'landmark' number) as the first 'guess', not "20". The craziness of Investigations is now being exposed for what it truly is. ('Beyond Arithmetic' and not mathematics; and yes, for those that get it, pun intended).

At the very least, have the child make an educated guess to start with. Round the numbers to 'well known' values. Look at the problem and think "how many quarters (or 25) go into twelve dollars (1200)". Do you really want your child to guess "20"?
Worse yet, after a child makes the horrible guess "20" and can see that "420" was way too small -- there is still "855" left -- the child can not 'see' that "420" goes into "855" very nicely twice (2*20, or 40 times)?
Now, let's try the 'standard', and very efficient, strategy of division as follows:
Divide 1275 by 21
Mentally, it starts like this.
  • Does 21 go into "1" (does 21 go into 1000 1000's of times)? No.
  • Does 21 go into "12" (does 21 go into 1200 100's of times)? No.
  • Does 21 go into 127 (does 21 go into 1270 10's of times)? Yes. But how many times?
21 goes into 127 -- 6 times (see note below for why 6). Write 6 above 127 (the 6 is in the tens position and really means ten times six). 6 times 21 is 126. Write 126 below 127 and subtract. You get "1". Drop the "5" and now you have "15". Does 21 go into 15. No. Write a zero above the "5" in "15" above the top line. The Answer is 60 remainder 15.

Why 6 times: How many times does 21 go into 127? Well, rather than taking a wild guess like Investigations, discard the 'ones' digit of both numbers (divide by 10 and discard fraction). 21 becomes 2 and 127 becomes 12. 2 goes into 12 six times. That is a first educated guess. 6 × 21 is 126, so that indeed is our first (educated, and very good) guess.
This method is simple, and easily understood, but it involves understanding 'place value' (eg: '6' may actually mean '60') to see how it works. However, for anyone who understands multi-digit numbers (eg: 123), that person already fully understands 'place value' (For '123', 1 is really 100; 2 is really 20).

  4.4 Investigations: 'Standard' Algorithms

Investigations actually does mention (but not teach) the 'standard' algorithms:
  • standard addition in grade 4, unit 5, 2.4, page 85 - two grade levels too late
  • standard subtraction in grade 5, unit 3, 2.4, page 75 - three grade levels too late
  • standard multiplication in grade 5, unit 7, 2.3, page 58 - one grade level too late
  • standard division - total failure - not taught
Studying the U.S. Standard Algorithms
Investigations Grade 4 documentation
SOURCE: The source of this information was from me paging through every page of the Investigations K-5 teacher guides. You can independently verify this information by looking at Investigations own Scope and Sequence document and searching for "U.S. algorithm" (what Investigations calls 'standard' algorithms).
The second source of this is page 46 of the grade 4 implementation guide (seen right). Note that standard division is not mentioned and the intentional delay in teaching the other standard algorithms.

During the entire Investigations K-5 curricula, how much time is spent teaching standard algorithms?
 Investigations sessions spent on standard U.S. algorithms 
[ Source: K | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | Scope and Sequence ]
So, in 959 Investigations sessions (over six years), there are only THREE sessions on standard algorithms. One session on standard addition, one session on standard subtraction, one session on standard multiplication, and no sessions on standard division.

Investigations grossly fails the NCTM focal points [§2.0] as to 'when' these standard algorithms should be taught (in addition not teaching, but just mentioning). Investigations also grossly fails the National Mathematics Advisory Panel 2008 final report [§2.1]

In addition Investigations only mentions what they call the most "elegant and efficient" (page 127 of Grade 5, Unit 7) 'standard' algorithms and then don't talk about them again. Talking about once is not teaching. In fact, Investigations goes out of their way to encourage continued usage of non-standard algorithms:
When talking about the standard U.S. Algorithm for subtraction, Investigations states "However, students are not expected to switch to using this algorithm. Continuing to use the methods they have developed will serve them well for their computation needs now and as adults" - Investigations, Grade 5, Unit 3, page 76.
Investigations does not teach standard algorithms. Simply mentioning a standard algorithm once in a single hour session is not teaching.

If an Investigations child actually had a deep understanding of math (as claimed), a child would be able to use the 'standard' algorithms -- which are more efficient than the strategies Investigations teaches.

And please note that mentioning a strategy is a lot different than teaching a strategy. Investigations does not teach 'standard' strategies -- it only mentions them.

  4.5 Investigations: Clear and Concise Euphemism

Grade 5, unit 7, session 2.3, page 60
Grade 5, unit 7, session 2.3, page 60
Investigations tells children to NOT use standard algorithms!

This is done via the Investigations "clear and concise" euphemism. Students are drilled over and over that Investigations algorithms are "clear and concise".

But, in the one (and only!) Investigations session on standard multiplication seen right in grade 5, unit 7, session 2.3, page 60, teachers are actually instructed to discuss with students that standard multiplication is "an example of notation that is concise but not necessarily clear".

It took me months of reading through Investigations materials to realize this -- because frankly how can any parent argue with a math text that asked students to use 'clear and concise' notation when working on a math problem (see example below) -- it seems obvious and a good thing to require.

However, once you realize that Investigations tells students that "standard algorithms" are not clear - everything all of a sudden falls into place! Investigations is telling students to not use standard algorithms!

Once you realize that 'clear and concise' is a Investigations euphemism meaning 'Investigations algorithm', all of a sudden you look at Investigations in a totally new light.

Grade 5, unit 7, session 2.4, page 64
Grade 5, unit 7, session 2.4, page 64
In the very next session in grade 5, unit 7, session 2.4; page 64, students ability to multiply is tested (seen right).

Students are instructed to multiply "253×46" using "clear and concise notation".

So, if you are a 'good student' and listened to the teacher tell you the prior day, would you select the 'clear and concise' Investigations algorithm, or the 'not clear' standard U.S. algorithm?

And this "clear and concise" pattern continues throughout the year in take home exercises where students are instructed to use "clear and concise notation" (homework; Grade 5; Unit 9; Session 3.2; page 42).

It is 'beyond interesting' to note that in Beyond Arithmetic book (authored by Susan Jo Russell, the main person behind Investigations) page 74 states "In the Investigations curriculum, standard algorithms are not taught because they interfere with a child’s growing sense and fluency with the number system" [source].

  4.6 Investigations: Fails its own benchmarks

In Investigations very own document, they claim a 'Benchmark' (what a child must know) of:
  • Multiply 2-digit numbers efficiently
  • Solve division problems efficiently
The Investigations multiplication (and division) strategies are not efficient. There is no question or argument about this fact, which was demonstrated above when multiplying 148 by 42 [§4.0], when multiplying 1346 by 231 and 123456789 by 2 [§4.2], and when dividing 21 into 1275 [§4.3].

The reason so few people notice how inefficient Investigations strategies are is that in grades K-5 you are only dealing with small single or double digit numbers, where the same inefficiency is present, but rarely noticed.
But, if you disagree with that statement, multiply a nine digit number by a nine digit number using the Investigations method. Then do it the 'standard' way. The 'standard' method works, and is very efficient.
Investigations has failed by their own published benchmarks.

Why not instead use the strategy that Investigations itself calls "elegant and efficient" (page 127 of Grade 5, Unit 7) -- the 'standard' multiplication strategy.

  4.7 Investigations: 'Skip Steps' Strategy

In mathematics, teachers want (and need) students to show 'all of their steps' in the process of obtaining an answer to a new math problem.

This is needed during the learning stages of a new strategy (like multiplication), because it allows the teacher to pinpoint exactly where errors (if any) in a strategy are taking place, and take corrective action immediately.

However, the problem with 'showing all the steps' of an inefficient strategy is the sheer number of steps and digit-writing that needs to take place [§4.2], which is why in mathematics, after learning something, more efficient strategies are introduced and used, like the 'standard' multiplication strategy (with carry numbers shown).

Multiply 48 by 42
And yes, the 'standard' multiplication strategy does show intermediate steps. If a mistake is made, a teacher knows exactly where the error was made (what step).
The worst part about Investigations is that they claim to be 'transparent', but then they promote strategies that hide steps, and hence are no longer transparent. Talk about one step forward but two steps backwards.
Transparent defined: "the properties of the operations and the place value of the numbers are not hidden by shortcut notation" [reference]
Missing steps in Multiplying 48 by 42
Take a look at the example seen to the right, which is an Investigations multiplication exercise, and solution. Notice "48 × 40 = 1920". Of course that is the correct answer, but this involves multiple intermediate multiplications and an addition, which are not shown. The same can be said for "48 × 2 = 96". What if instead of "48 × 40 = 1920" I had written "48 × 40 = 1810". Because the intermediate steps are not shown, you (the teacher) now no longer know where I made the mistake (multiplication? addition? where?). All you know is that I got the 'wrong answer'.
Sometimes (rarely) a child gets the 'right answer' by accident, by making multiple mistakes in the intermediate steps. That is why a teacher is so interested in how an answer is obtained.
What if the original two-digit multiplication problem was just "what is 48 × 40"? Would simply writing on the next line "48 × 40 = 1920", be OK? Of course not. The teacher is not interested in the answer (but wants it to be correct). Instead the teacher is interested in seeing the steps taken to obtain the correct answer. So, simply writing "= 1920" is not acceptable -- not as a stand-alone problem, and not as part of another multiplication problem.

In Investigations, using two-digit multiplication (48×40 and 48×2) in the solution for a fourth grade two-digit multiplication problem (48×42) is ... well ... crazy.

I do not doubt that these can be calculated without pencil and paper. But I do question the integrity of a text for fourth grade that (while teaching multiplication) recommends a strategy where a single step hides multiple multiplications/additions.
We expect our children to eventually just 'know' the answer to any single-digit by single-digit multiplication. In 'FCPS' speak, this is called instant 'recall of math facts'. We do not expect children to 'just know' the answer to any double-digit by single-digit multiplication, which means they need to 'calculate' the answer. So, these 'calculation' steps are simply (and inappropriately) not shown by Investigations in the strategy.
Missing steps in multiplying 148 by 42
The 'skip steps' strategy may be fine for adults (who know multiplication and can probably perform the steps in their head), but it is inappropriate for teaching two-digit multiplication to fourth graders. Even the efficient 'standard' multiplication strategy used by most adults shows intermediate steps (as digits, and carry values).

Surprisingly, this 'skip steps' method appears all over Investigations. Consider the example you see to the right of adding six numbers together to come up with 6216. Did the child add entire numbers left to right mentally? Or add digit by digit right to left (and not display carry numbers)? The steps are missing.

The authors of Investigations have dug an incredibly big hole for themselves. Investigations is promoting strategies that hide steps. Since these strategies appears throughout all of Investigations, this casts doubt on the entire Investigations series.

  4.8 Investigations: Errors in teaching guides

I decided to test Investigations. Since my daughter is in first grade (I attended some of her first grade math classes) I purchased "Investigations, Grade 1, Unit 1, Second Edition, (c) 2008, 5th printing" online. Just search Google on the ISBN number (0328237264) to purchase this book yourself. Or better yet, as per Math Facts [§5.0], "Investigations is available in each elementary school media center ... for parents to review". After reviewing it for only a couple of hours, I immediately found several errors.
If Investigations is not available in your elementary school library (like it was not in mine), this is likely a communication problem between the county and the school. Don't blame the school (the county is likely to blame). Kindly point out school policy and you will be allowed to review the books.
Leap Year problem
A Factual Error: The factual error can be found on page 244 grade 1 unit 1, which shows page 19 of the Student Math Handbook, where it states "Some months have 30 days. Some months have 31 days. February has 28 days. Every 4 years, February has 29 days. This is called a leap year."

The 'Every 4 years' statement is simply wrong. Most '4 years' are indeed leap years, but not 'Every'. Visit Wiki to learn about leap years.

Also, a child could easily conclude that 'February has 29 days' is called a leap year. The 'This' in the sentence is poorly worded and refers to what? To clearly see what I mean, change the sentence to "This is called a leap day". Now you changed what 'This' referred to -- because you (as an adult) personally know what a leap year and leap day are. Knowing the meaning of the term referenced told you what 'This' refers to. But if you don't know the meaning (like the child reading the sentence) how are they supposed to know what 'This' refers to?

Add and plus symbol referenced
A Major error: The major error is a logic error. The problem when writing a book on any topic to an audience that knows nothing about the topic is that you need to be incredibly careful to not use terms or symbols (that you obviously know very well) that your audience knows nothing about. After all, the entire point of the book is to teach the entire subject matter -- not assume your reader knows something about the topic. In Session 3.2 "Five-in-a-row" (day 13) on page 109 in Resource Master M27, the term 'add' and the mathematical symbol for addition, namely "+", is used in materials seen by students.

Add and Plus Symbol defined
However, the term "add" and the "+" symbol are totally unknown to students at this point in time. It is not defined nor explained to students until Session 3.3 "Addition Story Problems", page 117 (day 14).

So what is the big deal you say? This error may not seem like much of a problem, but what if I were responsible for teaching you something new and I gave you a worksheet with "3 ⊕ 4" on it, but I did not tell what ⊕ meant? You certainly would think it was a big deal then, wouldn't you? So why is the situation with a child any different? Hopefully this clearly shows the problem, and the lack of peer review in the Investigations material.

Also, if Investigations is 'real', I should not be able to find any errors in their books, especially after a couple hours of casual review. I do expect errors in the first edition, first printing of any book -- but I do not expect obvious errors in a second edition, fifth printing.

Investigations: Error adding 0.8+0.75+0.625
Another Error: In the Grade 5 "Implementing Investigations in Grade 5" book, page 18 (and in this online document) they demonstrate various strategies for adding 0.8 + 0.75 + 0.625.

The first way you get 2.175. Correct.

The second way you get 2.175. Correct.

The third way you get 2.175. Correct.

The fourth way you get 2.125. WRONG

Is this what you want Investigations to teach your child?

After all of these many years of Investigations being out there, any error in the books quite simply reflects very poorly on the authors and organization producing (and using) the material. In the math world, there is no middle ground. Something is either right, or it is wrong. Because of this, most 'obvious' errors in any 'real' math book are found quickly and corrected during the review process.

But somehow errors in Investigations were not found or not corrected. Why? This raises a lot of questions. Especially about the review process.

What time is it? In Grade 1, Unit 1, Section 1.1, page 27, what time is it (look right)?

Look at the hour hand on the clock. Not half-way between 9 and 10, but pointing directly at the 9.

I don't want my child looking at a clock where the hands are not in the correct position. That only confuses children.

  4.9 Investigations: Self-importance claims

Investigations: Self-importance Claims
On page 16 (Grade 1; Unit 1) Investigations states "In this unit, your students will have opportunities to engage with ideas that lay a foundation for algebra. To the surprise of many, 6-year-olds can and do think algebraically. Part of the work of Grade 1 is helping students learn to verbalize those thoughts."
Algebraically: Designating an expression, equation, or function in which only numbers, letters, and arithmetic operations are contained or used. reference
Actually, anyone who spends any time at all with kids in first grade (like I have) quickly realize that this is no 'surprise' at all, but rather is the norm. So why do the authors claim that this is a 'surprise', when it is not? This really makes me wonder about the character of the authors, that they need to make a claim that they have 'special knowledge' about 6-year-olds.
An example of an 'algebra' problem my six-year old can solve. I say to her 'I have a coin in my hand. If I double it and add five cents, I now have a 25 cents. What coin do I have in my hand?' My daughter does not know that this is solving for 'x' in the algebra problem '2x + 5 = 25', but she can already figure out the answer.

Want to make a splash on the first day of 'algebra' class? Use a dollar coin and ask a similar 'what coin is in my hand' verbal 'algebra' question. Don't make a big deal about the question, but when the first student answers the question correctly, give the coin to the student and let them know they just solved an algebra problem correctly. You will likely have the full undivided attention of the entire class for the next minute. Make the most of it.
But then, after making such claims, the authors of Investigations in later grades don't teach standard multiplication (which anyone who understands algebra can understand very quickly), but rather the authors feel the need to present a very 'dumbed down' method of multiplication. The result is a contradiction.

Quite simply, there is a contradiction in what the authors of Investigations claim vs what they teach. If kids can and do think algebraically and are 'smart' as the authors claim, why are they teaching children 'dumbed down' math strategies? This is understandable in grades K-1, but not grade 5.

  4.10 Investigations: Deep Understandings?

Thinking Man
Those who support Investigations claim it teaches a deep understanding of math. But does it? It may attempt to provide a deep understanding of inefficient strategies, but not 'core math'.

If Investigations really taught a deep understanding of math, that would mean a child really truly understands the math. And any child who really understands math is allowed to use any multiplication strategy (they have a deep understanding and can explain and understand all strategies). And a smart child would select that most "elegant and efficient" (what Investigations calls 'standard' multiplication on page 127 of Grade 5, Unit 7) multiplication strategy available, right? So why do Investigations kids continue to use horribly inefficient multiplication strategies? The answer is simple. They are only using what they have been taught.

How about 1346 × 231, which Investigations says is best solved using calculator? [§4.1] Is that promoting a deep understanding of math?

People defending Investigations can not have it 'both ways'. Either a child has a deep understanding, in which case they can understand a more efficient strategy, or a child does not have a deep understanding, in which case the Investigations claim of 'we teach deep understanding' has failed. So, which is it?

How do you add fractions? Ask any math professor, someone who by definition has a deep understanding of math, and you will hear an answer containing 'common denominator'. And yet, Investigations does not discuss 'common denominators' and encourages drawing shapes, shading in areas, drawing on clock faces, etc. Learn more about this from this document. Common denominators is a core math concept that can not simply be ignored.

  4.11 Investigations: The Bottom Line

Investigations is dumbed down inefficient math [§4.6] that promotes strategies in which steps are skipped [§4.7] and only mentions (does not teach) standard algorithms.

It uses multiplication and division strategies that children who have trouble with math can (this needs research) understand and use. This is good for children in trouble. But it is not good for children who are very good at math. Investigations strategies are not what any child who understands math would use in everyday life.

Investigations fails to graduate students to a more efficient math strategies (standard algorithms), once the students understand the math concept being taught.

The core failure of Investigations is that it fails to graduate children from 'strategies designed to teach math' to 'strategies designed to be efficient for everyday (and test-taking) use'.

The true implications of using Investigations will not be known for possible a decade from now. I recently spoke with a friend who had a similar 'fuzzy math' in high school in the early 1980's. They said they entered college a "math illiterate" because of fuzzy math -- and had to take remedial math just to catch up to the level where everyone else was at.

  5.0 FCPS 'Get the Facts' versions & troubles

The Frederick County Public School system has published a "Get the Facts!" document in an attempt to convey their side of the argument in support of Investigations.
Marita Loose (director of communication services for FCPS) wrote in a June 11, 2009 unsolicited email to me "That document was developed initially by Dr. Bonnie Ward in collaboration with Nelson Palmer, FCPS elementary math curriculum specialist, and Dr. Bonnie Hain, director of curriculum."
Version 1: The first version is dated September 8, 2008. The author is listed as "david.klees", but as he is just the 'multimedia coordinator for FCPS', David only created the PDF from the original Microsoft Word document. The true author appears to be Dr. Bonnie Ward. This version attempts to rewrite history. It states:
"Why is FCPS purchasing new math textbooks? The math textbook series previously in use was 8 years old and did not fully align with the current essential curriculum and voluntary state curriculum. Also, we wanted a text that would satisfy the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Curriculum Focal Points and National Mathematics Panel’s 2008 recommendations for improving math instruction in U.S. classrooms, including providing students an early start and emphasizing conceptual understanding, computational fluency and problem-solving skills."
First, FCPS did a horrible job of selecting Investigations because it horribly fails to meet the NCTM Focal Points in regards to fluency with standard addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division algorithms [§2.0], and it fails to meet the National Mathematics Panel's 2008 recommendations [§2.1].

Second, the textbook selection committee selected Investigations on Feb 22, 2008, before the National Mathematics Panel 2008 report was finalized and published on March 13, 2008 [report], which means the final report had no part in the selection.

Get the Facts Cover
Version 2: The second version is dated May 18, 2009. The PDF author is listed as "Steve Ward of Ward Systems Group" (Dr. Bonnie Ward), and this version is a substantial update.

Version 3: The third version is dated May 27, 2009. The PDF author is listed as "Steve Ward of Ward Systems Group" (Dr. Bonnie Ward). Compare to version 2 above and you will notice that a lot of information about St. Mary's County has been removed, including positive (pro-Investigations) quotations from Dr. Michael Martirano, Superintendent in St. Mary's County.

PIA4: Under the Maryland Public Information Act (Freedom of Information Act), FCPS has no evidence explaining the appearance and then removal of Dr. Martirano's quotations. [view Public Information Act]

St. Mary's Dr. Martirano released a statement about the incident, saying he never provided a quotation to FCPS for publication.

Version 4: The fourth version released (to the public) June 6, 2009, but still dated May 27, 2009. This PDF appears identical to Version 3, except for internal author information. The PDF author is "FCPS" and "david.klees", but as he is just the 'multimedia coordinator for FCPS', David only created the PDF from the original Microsoft Word document. Since otherwise identical to the prior version, the author is still Dr. Bonnie Ward.

Bonnie Borsa has also gone on morning radio to talk about Investigations and 'the facts' [listen].

The only problem with the county putting out a document with a 'Get the Facts!' title is that they had better be incredibly sure they themselves have the facts correct. Continue reading. They do not...

  5.1 Get the Facts: Lincoln Elementary

Bonnie Borsa (VP, Board of Education) said on a recent morning radio show (May 19, 2009) about Investigations: "We know it does work. We've had it in Lincoln Elementary School for four years and they have doubled their achievement in math" listen. Doubled? Really? Let's look at the MSA math test scores at Lincoln for the last four years (2005,2006,2007,2008,no data for 2009):
Lincoln Math Overview
[ Source: Grade 3 | Grade 4 | Grade 5 ]
There was no doubling of math proficiency (or total math proficiency) at Lincoln over the last four years (the average proficiency is above 50% - you can not double that - total proficiency must be under 100%).
Just think about the 'doubling' comment for a minute. Proficiency has doubled? A proficiency around 90% is very good, which means for that statement to be true, proficiency would have to originally have been under 45%. That means over half the children were failing. Does that sound typical of your school? A turnaround, regardless of math curriculum, was expected by the State Board of Education.

And even if there were a doubling of proficiency, would you really tout that given the horrible total proficiency (below Annual Measurable Objectives) of 5th grade (small graph right; full graph below), which is the culmination of many years of education at Lincoln?
PIA1: The results of a Maryland Public Information Act are in. Dr. Bonnie Borsa can not back up her claim and can only point to AYP numbers, which shows an increase of 67%, not 100%. [Maryland Public Information Act]

Lincoln AYP
[source of data]
Also, examine Dr. Borsa's 'doubled in four years' statement and look at Lincoln's AYP numbers over the last four years of available data (see right). So, we are looking at a 67% improvement, not a doubling.

Also, FCPS in their "Get the Facts!" document [§5.0] states:
"One of the schools included in the field test was Lincoln Elementary School, which had used the text since 2003 as part of a collaborative agreement for school improvement between FCPS and the Maryland State Department of Education"

"After carefully reviewing all field test information from the six schools and achievement results from schools already using the text..."
FCPS based their decision to adopt Investigations based in part on achievement results from Lincoln Elementary (and two other schools: Yellow Springs and Woodsboro).
Lincoln Elementary (web site | profile) is a 100% Title I school with 19% "Limited English Proficiency", and 15.2% special education. Lincoln Elementary was in deep trouble. At one point, it was the only school in Frederick County (then named 'South Frederick Elementary' [source]) to be on the state-wide Schools in Need of Improvement list [source].
So, let's dig into Lincoln Elementary achievement results. An excellent resource for this information (on all Maryland schools) is

What follows are MSA Proficiency Levels graphs for Mathematics for several grade levels from Lincoln Elementary:
  • Advanced (good) = Students at this level show they can regularly solve complex problems in mathematics and demonstrate superior ability to reason mathematically
  • Proficient (ok) = Students at this level show they have an understanding of fundamental grade level skills and concepts and can generally solve entry-level problems in mathematics
  • Basic (poor) = Students at this level show they have only partially mastered the skills and concepts that Maryland expects students to know and be able to do at this grade level
Lincoln Elementary Grade 3 MSA 2003-2008
[source of data]

Lincoln Elementary Grade 4 MSA 2004-2008
[source of data]
Now, pay very close attention to 5th grade, which is the culmination of many years of education at Lincoln using Investigations:
Lincoln Elementary Grade 5 MSA 2003-2008
[source of data]
WARNING: Part of the 'problem' in looking at Lincoln elementary is that the 'sample size' is so incredibly small. The graphs above represent a maximum of 54 to 65 children (3rd grade), 49 to 69 children (4th grade), and 48 to 67 children (5th grade). This means that in 2008, the percentage change of 23.2% (from 40.3% in 2003 to 63.5% in 2008) only represents 12 children.

FCPS says Investigations was started at Lincoln Elementary in 2003. So, K in 2003 is 1st in 2004, 2nd in 2005, and 3rd in 2006. So, in 2006 (after four years of Investigations) 50.8% of 3rd graders (vs 2003's 53.8%) and 56.9% of 5th graders (vs 2003's 59.7%) are still in deep trouble (only at the 'basic' level). This is effectively 'no change'.
I may be 'off' by one year, depending upon how FCPS classifies a year, but 2006 was still very bad, when compared to similarly bad 2003, the year Investigations was started.
Clearly, Investigations did not help from 2003 to 2006. Even in 2007 and 2008, result are mixed. Take a look at a class of 2016 children (4th grade in 2007 to 5th grade in 2008) in the charts above as they move through the grades. Proficiency is down.

But in 2007 to 2008, since there is some improvement, something else is going on. Let's look at what happened to the Faculty at Lincoln during the same time frame:
Lincoln Elementary: Classes not taught by Highly Qualified Teachers 2004-2008
[source of data]
In 2004, 12 out of 41 (29%) of the classes were taught by teachers that did not meet 'Highly Qualified Teachers' as defined in the 'No Child Left Behind' act. In 2006, there were 2 out of 30 teachers. In 2005, 2007, and 2008, there were zero.

Also, the make-up of the Lincoln Faculty changed significantly:
Lincoln Elementrary: Teacher Certificates 2003-2008
[source of data] APC=Advanced Professional Certificate; SPC=Standard Professional Certificate
RTC=Resident Teacher Certificate, COND=Conditional Certificate. [Maryland Certification Table]
The percentage of Faculty holding an 'Advanced Professional Certificate' went from 36% in 2004 to 70% in 2007. Looking behind the numbers, the total number of teachers went down, which implies that lower quality staff left, leaving higher qualified teachers to teach to remaining children.

So, why the big changes in Faculty? Well, in January 2007, Frederick County voted for changes -- and the Maryland State Department of Education voted in February to take over the school. According to the minutes of the Maryland State Board of Education, Tuesday-Wednesday, February 27-28, 2007 meeting:
  • "the Board approved the proposed alternative governance plan for Lincoln Elementary School in Frederick County"
  • "Ms. Knott reported that all or most of the staff will be replaced at Lincoln Elementary School and that a Co-Principal will be designated with equal decision-making capacity and authority"
  • "...provision of a Co-Principal who has a high success rate with special education students"
So, after 2003 to 2006 with no statistical significant increase in math test scores, the state in 2007 sets in motion an 'alternative governance plan', and test scores have a mixed increase.

Full implementation of the plan was averted when 2007 test score results came in. Although, for a while, the plan was started, as the Frederick News Post reported (Co-Principal).

The Principal of Lincoln Elementary School, "Ann Reever" wrote in an email on May 26, 2009 in regards to the ongoing turnaround at Lincoln that "It is more about the people who stand in front of the classroom whether using a basal approach, Singapore math, or any other resource." [view email]

We all know that it is the teachers that make a real difference in the education of our children. But don't just take my word for this, instead listen to the state of Maryland. They say "The link between student achievement and teacher quality is well documented in educational literature" [reference].

It is time for FCPS to back up all of their claims of positive Investigations test results during 'field tests' with real data that has been peer reviewed. And in enough detail so that any claims can be independently verified and fact-checked.

Another complicating factor for any statistically valid results from Lincoln is 'Student Mobility', the percentage of students entering and exiting the school each year. At Lincoln, this number is very high (around 20%) as compared to other schools as low as 3%:
Lincoln Elementary: Student Mobility 1993-2008
[source of data]
Also, another complicating factor is that county-wide test scores have historically gone up every year, meaning that we would expect Lincoln scores to also go up accordingly:
Frederick County Grade 4 MSA 2004-2009
source of data
  5.2 Get the Facts: St. Mary’s County

"there are clearly other reasons"
- St. Mary's County Superintendent
St. Mary's Dr. Martirano (superintendent) explains that there are many reasons (other than Investigations) for improvement in test scores -- unlike FCPS, which attributes the increases in St. Mary's County to Investigations.

I have just been notified that St. Mary's County as of the 2008-2009 school year is no longer using Investigations as a primary resource in the 5th grade and parts of 4th grade. So far, school officials are NOT responding to my emails, and refusing to return phone calls. Now CONFIRMED [source].

St. Mary's County Public Schools
[source of data]
FCPS in their "Get the Facts!" document [§5.0] touts "St. Mary's County", as they have seen "continuous and sustained improvement on MSA scores in elementary since we began using Investigations". But the published table (seen right) has some problems:
  • Grade 4 '2003' data in this table looks to actually be '2004' data
  • The 'proficient' data shown in this table is actually the sum of the raw 'proficient' and 'advanced' numbers
  • The "88%" is incorrect. It is (401+617)/1164, or 87%. [source]
  • The "33%" is incorrect. It is 399/1238, or 32% [source]
  • FCPS claims there are 20,000 students in St. Mary's County, but St. Mary's own 2007-2008 fact sheet says 16,922 total, with only 7,920 in Elementary. The table presented (grade 3/4/5) only covers 3,545 students [source]. For 2008-2009, the total enrollment was DOWN to 16,581 [Source is 6/29/2009 email with SMCPS]
  • As per SMCPS "The first year of full implementation in ALL K-5 classrooms in SMCPS was 2004-2005", (or 2005 in these charts), so the prior (non-Investigations) year is 2004, not 2003 [Source is 6/18/2009 email with SMCPS].
This table with inaccurate information certainly raises an eyebrow about county officials. What else did they get wrong now, or in the past?

This St. Mary's data can be seen much better visually:
St. Mary's County Grades 3-5 Math Performance
[source of data]
On first glance, this looks good, but FCPS is inappropriately looking at an 'effect' (increased test scores) and selecting the 'cause' (it must be Investigations) that fits their purpose.

What FCPS fails to disclose it that "continuous and sustained improvement on MSA scores in elementary" is actually 'the historical norm for the State' and is to be expected.

Test scores increased similarly for Frederick County (using 'standard' math), and the State of Maryland, as can be seen in the tables below:
Frederick County Grades 3-5 Math Performance
[source of data]
So results between the two counties are very similar. But, if I use the same convoluted logic FCPS is using (to attribute the increase to Investigations in St. Mary's County), FCPS would have to attribute the increase in test scores in Frederick County to the 'standard' math used there.

It is easy to use statistics improperly. It is very hard to use statistics correctly when cause and effect relationships have a lot of possible causes.

I can even show that Frederick County performed better than St. Mary's County over the same time frame -- which by FCPS logic would prove 'standard' math is better then Investigations math. Just look at Frederick County Grade 4 -- where the results beat St. Mary's County in total Proficient, and percentage increase of 'Advanced' children.

And, just look at the entire State of Maryland overall:
State of Maryland Grades 3-5 Math Performance
[source of data]
Increases in math scores in the entire State now looks to be very typical -- so test score increases being attributed to Investigations actually happened everywhere in the state in all schools -- even those not using Investigations. So Investigations is not the 'cause' of the test score increases at St. Mary's. Something else is the cause.

But, there is a core underlying flaw in looking at the data in this way. It is comparing one entire class of kids from one year, to an entirely different set of kids the next year, to a different set of kids the next year, and on and on.
So, you have a son in 5th grade and a daughter in 4th grade. Would you compare how well your son does this year in 5th grade to how well your daughter does next year in 5th grade next year? That is what FCPS is doing. Or instead would you look for improvement in your son from year to year, and your daughter from year to year?
Instead, let's look at the 'class of 2012' as they moved through the grades at St. Mary's:
St Marys class of 2012
[source of data]
All of a sudden, Investigations is not looking too good anymore. The total number of 'Proficient' children in the class of 2012 has barely moved at all from Grade 3 (69.3%) to Grade 8 (70.8%). Is this the fantastic improvement that Investigations is supposed to deliver? And if you look at this class starting in 2004 instead of 2003, proficiency is down.

The results from Frederick County (using mostly 'standard' math) are similar, but slightly more of a positive and consistent change in the total number of 'Proficient' children, as well as a greater percentage of 'Advanced' at the end of 2008:
FCPS Class of 2012
[source of data]
Now focus in on the 'same class' during the transition from 5th grade to 6th grade and you will see some very interesting results at St. Mary's:
St. Mary's 'same class' Proficiency
Class of...Total Proficient%
 5th grade6th gradeComment
201057.1%53.1%decrease in proficiency
201167.0%63.8%decrease in proficiency
201274.7%73.0%decrease in proficiency
[ 5th grade data | 6th grade data ]
If Investigations is as good as claimed, why are the number of proficient students decreasing in the 'same class' in the switch from 5th grade to 6th grade at St. Mary's?

There is yet another problem. Because according to a St. Mary's County fact sheet, SAT scores for mathematics, reading, and writing are all going down:
St. Mary's County SAT Scores
[source of data]
So, what is wrong the Maryland's MSA scores -- math scores go up and up -- but for college bound kids, SAT scores are going down. Sure seems like a contradiction. Clearly, MSA scores are no longer correlated to 'real world' math achievement.

  5.3 Get the Facts: Other Counties

Also, FCPS in their "Get the Facts!" document [§5.0] states:
"Investigations is the primary text resource for Frederick County, St. Mary’s County, and Baltimore County. Other counties that use Investigations or Everyday Math are Baltimore City, Caroline, Carroll, Charles, Harford, Howard, Kent, Montgomery, Queen Anne’s and Talbot.
So, let's do some fact checking and ask some of the other counties about Investigations:

St. Mary's County: Still waiting to hear back from the county, but published documents make it clear that Investigations is no longer the primary resource in parts of 4th grade and all of 5th grade [§5.2]

Caroline County Public Schools: "I can tell you that the elementary program does not use TERC." Coordinator for Mathematics and STEM Initiatives (June 4, 2009 email)

Carroll County Public Schools: "I'm not sure where you got this information or idea, but, no, our curriculum is not based on TERC Investigations. The materials are available in a few schools as resources that teachers can use in alignment with our curriculum and approved texts" Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Staff Development (June 4, 2009 email)

Howard County Public Schools: "It is in no way used K-5" Coordinator of Elementary Mathematics (June 4, 2009 email)

Montgomery County Public Schools: "Kindergarten: All schools use Scott Foresman and Investigations (K students do not have student books or workbooks). Math 1-5: Schools may choose between Harcourt Math (2002) or Everyday Mathematics (2001) to support the curriculum." Acting Supervisor, Pre-k-12 Mathematics (May 20, 2009 email)

Waiting on responses from the other counties...

  5.4 Get the Facts: Mastering Math

On June 7, 2009, there was a Frederick News Post article entitled "Educators say Investigations teaches children to embrace, master math", about a fourth grade math class, with the following picture (seen below right) alongside the article.

Picture from the Frederick News Post -- June 7, 2009

These children are still using cubes at the end of fourth grade!

According to the county's own 'Get the Facts' document [§5.0] by the end of fourth grade a child must be able to:
  • Add and subtract 4-digit numbers using the standard U.S. algorithm
  • Multiply a 3-digit by a 1-digit number using the standard U.S. algorithm
If these children were truly being taught math, they would no longer need to use blocks and should have already become fluent (have a 'mastery' of, according to Nelson Palmer) using standard U.S. algorithms for addition, subtraction, and multiplication.

Where is the accountability? Is playing with cubes at the end of fourth grade a sign of success in math at FCPS, or a sign of failure? You decide.

  5.5 Get the Facts: Lincoln Elementary Teachers

So exactly why are Lincoln Elementary Teachers so pro-Investigations? Well, let's simply look at the public record and find out.

Go to FCPS BOE meeting videos and click on "BOE 03 25 09". Then click on "032509 BOE 306" and forward to time index 20:34, and listen to Katie Saris, 3rd grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary discuss math:
Katie Saris
"My first impressions as I prepared to teach 3rd grade was that -- maybe I picked the wrong profession because my students could calculate and manipulate expressions quicker than I could at 22 years old and I was shocked" Listen
Well, I am shocked too -- because Lincoln Grade 3 achieved nearly the worst overall 2009 MSA Grade 3 mathematics performances in all of Frederick County (in the bottom 3 of 35) , as can be seen in the chart to the right.
This overall score also puts Lincoln Elementary Grade 3 Math achievement in the bottom 20% of all Grade 3 students in entire state of Maryland.
And it is these (nearly worst overall) students that can calculate and manipulate expressions quicker than their teacher? WOW!

Maybe FCPS should test their teachers to make sure that they can perform math at the grade level they are teaching -- before allowing a teacher to teach.

And this performance (near the bottom of the list in the county) is after Lincoln has been using Investigations since 2003!

Even Ann Reever, Principal at Lincoln even says:
"We do use Investigations ... so please don't make this about that. It is more about the people who stand in front of the classroom whether using a basal approach, Singapore math, or any other resource." [view email]

  5.6 FCPS: BoE says 'Curriculum has not changed'

After the FCPS Board of Education selected Investigations as a new primary resource, there apparently was a heated debate. In the June 5, 2008 "CURRICULUM AND INSTRUCTION COMMITTEE" minutes, it states:
"At the end of the discussion, Bonnie Borsa stated her concern about misinformation being disseminated about the FCPS math curriculum and the TERC Investigations series. She indicated her intent to write a commentary for the Frederick News Post addressing these topics."
Two weeks later, on June 19, 2008, the following article appeared in the Frederick News Post (also verifying that the 'Curriculum and Instruction Committee' members agreed with her decision to publish this letter):
Dr. Bonnie Borsa - VP Board of Education, FCPS
Dr. Bonnie Borsa
Clarifying FCPS math curriculum

Recent communications to The Frederick News-Post have raised several issues regarding the mathematics curriculum of Frederick County Public Schools. Let me clarify several points:

The FCPS mathematics essential curriculum has not changed. The goals and objectives of student learning and mastery of material remain the same.

Students are taught the essential curriculum through many resources, including textbooks.

In April, the board of education approved a new textbook for grades K-5: "Investigations in Number, Data, and Space," second edition, published by Pearson Scott Foresman. Students will still learn by direct instruction from the teacher, and the text will be used to support the concepts the teacher has introduced.

The extensive research base for this text series supports its use as a resource for math instruction. No single textbook can account for all the instructional needs of students. This text is only one component of the mathematics essential curriculum.

Also, one component of the essential curriculum is the expectation of student recall of math facts.

A committee of teachers, parents and administrators spent over a year reviewing available textbooks, and two were field tested in six elementary schools in 2007-2008. Survey and focus group information, field observations, and recommendations from teachers and principals were used to select the text. The text provides a focused, coherent progression of mathematics learning for students.

Like every major subject area taught at FCPS, the essential curriculum for mathematics is evaluated and updated every summer in a three-week curriculum workshop.

Workshops align the FCPS curriculum with the Voluntary State Curriculum, which is the curriculum tested on the Maryland School Assessments. We have every confidence that our mathematics curriculum is structured to create success for our students.

vice president
Board of Education
of Frederick County
It is troubling that Dr. Borsa (chairwoman, Curriculum and Instruction Committee) can not even keep her story straight in a single letter to the editor. Dr. Borsa states that the text (Investigations) "is only one component of the mathematics essential curriculum", that the board approved the NEW textbook in April -- and then that the "essential curriculum has not changed". Oops. So, new Investigations text means 'no changes'. Very interesting.

FCPS Integrity
Actually, FCPS tested Investigations at only three schools (not six): Lincoln (Grades 3/5), Yellow Springs (Grades K/4), and Woodsboro (Grades 1/2) [Source: FCPS itself in a PIA result document Results by School]. And Lincoln had already been using Investigations K-5 for many years, so in fact, FCPS only tested Investigations at two new schools (and asked for feedback from Lincoln, which already had implemented Investigations).

This letter was written from Bonnie Borsa, in her role as the Vice President of the Frederick County Board of Education (not as a private individual), to everyone in Frederick County (namely, you).

So, rather bluntly, you can 'take to the bank' that (1) what your child must learn ('the curriculum') has not changed and (2) the Investigations textbook must not be the only component taught as "No single textbook can account for all the instructional needs of students".

The FCPS Curriculum is posted online for anyone to review at [§1.3]. If you have concerns about what is being taught (or more importantly, not taught), please refer to and use this valuable resource.

  5.7 FCPS: Says 'standard algorithms are taught'

On September 19, 2008, the following news was published the Frederick News Post.
Dr. Bonnie Ward
I am writing in regard to the Sept. 15 editorial about Frederick County Public Schools’ use of the Investigations math text. To clarify, the new text -- which teachers are using in conjunction with a variety of other instructional materials -- was selected after careful evaluation. It supports our program of study, the state’s voluntary curriculum and national experts’ recommendations for improving math instruction in U.S. classrooms.

FCPS’ elementary math curriculum has not changed. Our students in kindergarten through fifth grade continue to study:
  • whole numbers and computation with whole numbers
  • fractions, decimals, and computation with fractions and decimals
  • recall of math facts using the Basic Math Facts program and text
  • standard algorithms (+, x, -, /) used for computation of whole numbers
  • geometry and measurement skills
We encourage parents and the public who have questions about the textbook and our curriculum to visit The textbook is available for review in elementary school media centers. Of course, principals and the kindergarten, second- and fourth-grade teachers who are using the textbook this year can also respond to inquiries.


associate superintendent
Curriculum, Instruction and Evaluation
Frederick County Public Schools
If anyone (like a teacher) ever states to you that your child may not use 'standard' multiplication and division algorithms, politely tell them that you have a letter from Bonnie Ward stating to you that 'standard' methods are to be taught within FCPS.

A second source of this information from the county is their "Get the Facts!" document [§5.0].

It is very interesting to note that FCPS no longer claims that students "study" standard algorithms. In the latest Get the Facts document [§5.0] FCPS has changed the wording from "study" to "work with".

FCPS Integrity
PIA5: Standard Multiplication was NOT taught: Under the Maryland Public Information Act (Freedom of Information Act), FCPS can provide no Investigations sessions, no supplemental resources, nor any other documents that shows that teachers in 4th grade taught 'standard multiplication' during the 2008-2009 school year. [view PIA letter & FCPS reply]
Isn't it beyond strange that core math -- 'standard' algorithms for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division -- is (incorrectly) claimed to be a part of the FCPS curriculum, but then a math text (Investigations) is selected that does not teach 'core math', but rather something totally different? [§4.4]

  5.8 FCPS: Only half the story?

Bonnie Borsa wrote "Only half the story" in a May 28, 2009 Frederick News Post editorial:
Dr. Borsa: "The May 21 News-Post article on the TERC (Investigations) math program only gave the beginning of the story. Elementary students are taught to have fast recall of math facts, and are taught the standard, basic algorithms for solving math problems. However, when math topics are introduced, students are given several different ways to solve problems so that they have a better understanding of how numbers work. Ultimately, students choose the approach that is most efficient for them -- and in many cases, that will be the use of the standard algorithm."
Sadly, what Dr. Borsa says does match up to what some schools are doing. There are letters from parents [§6.0] where teachers have not allowed students to use standard algorithms.
Notice Dr. Borsa said 'ultimately'. So, exactly when is 'ultimately' to her? Sometime during K-5, or after fifth grade?
FCPS uses Investigations, which does not teach the standard algorithms [§4.4]. That means teachers much teach 'standard' strategies themselves. It appears that is not happening to the satisfaction of many parents.

Also, according to the NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) fluency with standard algorithm is a 'focal point' (what children must know), which Investigations ignores [§2.0].
Dr. Borsa: "Why learn more than one way to solve a problem? Math teachers were finding that some upper level math students knew math only by rote and did not have a broader understanding of why they performed certain mathematical operations. (A very simple example: If you subtract 19 from 32, why can the "2" in the ones column become a 12?)"
Sure I want to learn more than one way -- but that is not what Investigations teaches. It only teaches its way. What about Lattice Multiplication, and others? [§6.3] Where is standard multiplication taught? It is only mentioned, not taught [§4.4]. They are not part of Investigations.
PIA12: Claims with no documentation: Under the Maryland Public Information Act (Freedom of Information Act), FCPS has no evidence that shows math students knew math only by rote. [view Public Information Act]
So, because a teacher failed to properly teach a student, the student must now pay for this bad teacher? Where is the accountability? Knowing standard algorithms is a NCTM focal point [§2.0], which means it is the responsibility of the teacher to teach the student. Nothing has changed by adding Investigations (which does not teach 'standard' algorithms). The teacher must still teach the 'standard' algorithm to the student.
Dr. Borsa: "The TERC Investigations program will give that broader understanding and several ways to think about math problems. But the FCPS essential math curriculum expects that students ultimately use the problem solving technique that is the easiest and most efficient for them."
Really? So why were some children not allowed to use standard algorithms in class? [§6.0] According to NCTM, a student must know the 'standard' algorithms, which Investigations itself calls "elegant and efficient". And as we have already seen, the Investigations strategies are horribly inefficient [§4.2].
Dr. Borsa: "If you walk into a store and find a $38 item on sale for 70 percent off, how much will you pay? I estimate. I round up the number to $40 and figure I will pay 30 percent. I compute that 30 percent of $40 is $12. How do you figure out this problem?"
Thank you Dr. Borsa for that excellent example of how you failed to use your math skills. I understand the role of estimation, an important talent. But that is not what Dr. Borsa asked. She asked How much will you pay? and How do you figure out this problem?. Since 70% off means that you will pay 30% (100%-70%), 30% of $38 is very simply:
  • $9 + $2.4 = $11.40 (30% × $30 plus 30% × $8)
Or she could have 'corrected' her estimation:
  • $12 - 0.60 = $11.40 (30% × $40 minus 30% × $2)
Maybe this is the clearest example of why Dr. Borsa should not be making math decisions that affect our children, because in this example, it is EASY to find the exact answer -- there is no need to estimate. I would expect any FCPS graduate to very quickly calculate this answer mentally. If they can not, FCPS has failed to properly teach math to the graduate.

Now, how about sales tax (6% in Maryland) on $11.40? Once again, very easy. 6% of $11 (66¢) plus 6% of $0.40 (2.4¢), or a total of 68.4¢. All done in your head without estimating and without a calculator.

  6.0 Note: For concerned Parents

UPDATE2: FCPS is implementing 'advanced' math classes with a new non-TERC textbook. Ask for your child to be placed into this new math class!

According to a FNP article: Lockard said there are no intentions of having cut-and-dried criteria for admission to the accelerated class. He said he doesn't want to shut the door on any child who could succeed in the class. "If a parent really wants their child in the class and tells me they will do whatever it takes to help their child succeed, I'm going to say, 'Come on in,' and we'll give that child a try," he said.
UPDATE1: I have heard back from parents of children who have been denied the use of 'standard' algorithms in class. For those parents who have followed up, simply pointing out FCPS policy (that standard algorithms are allowed) is enough to allow a child to use 'standard' algorithms in class.

But why that is needed even in the first place is a puzzle if it is indeed FCPS policy to allow 'standard' strategies in class. This points to a huge communication problem within FCPS.

I even have an email from one concerned parent stating "the teacher has embarrassed my daughter in 4th grade regarding solving math problems using the traditional algorithm". Given county policy on this matter, that should never have happened. You never embarrass a child, and certainly never for something you (as teacher) are required and responsible to teach them in the first place.

To me, there is clearly a lack of communication between policy makers at the county level and teachers at the school level.

Another parent wrote to me "My son has lost a year's worth of progress due to the lack of content and inefficient methodologies used by Investigations. I have spoken with the principal, other staff at the school, and Nelson Palmer about my concerns. My son is now attending an after school Math Club with ~10 other mathematically talented 2nd graders once a week. While I appreciate the effort from the school staff, this type of band-aid approach fails to address the woefully inadequate content and pace of the Investigations Math program these mathematically talented students endure in class on a daily basis."

Read the rest of this section only if your child is still not allowed to use standard strategies in math class.
A mutual respect between you and your child's teacher will only form after you get to know each other. The only way that will happen is to spend time with the teacher, which means volunteering. It is easy for a teacher that does not know and respect you to say 'No'. It is much harder for a teacher to say 'no' to someone they respect.

So, be active in your child's classroom. Volunteer your time and build a working, friendly and respectful relationship with your child's teacher.

If you, as a parent of a child, are not happy with any aspect of your child's math education (like Investigations), first talk with your child's teacher face to face -- and not over the phone nor via email. Take a notepad with you and take notes from the conversation. Let the teacher know this issue is important to you.

If that does not work, ask for a friend's advice. Does your friend think your request is reasonable? If so, teach your child at home the strategy that you want them to use at school (make sure the child really and truly understands the strategy). Tell your child to use the strategy in school in class. If the teacher allows the strategy, great, job accomplished.

However, in the rare situation that the teacher does not allow the strategy, it is time to write a letter to your child's teacher and school's principal.

Explain in your letter that you and your child are simply following the FCPS curriculum [§1.3] "MA 300 - Essential Discipline Goals" which states a goal of "Choose appropriate technological tools to solve problems" -- and that your child has simply selected an appropriate strategy (with your help) to solve a problem.

I suspect that most parents reading this page will want to teach 'standard' multiplication and division, so state that in a September 19, 2008 letter in the Frederick News Post, that Dr. Bonnie Ward, in her role as "Associate Superintendent; Curriculum, Instruction and Evaluation", that:
Dr. Ward: "Our students in kindergarten through fifth grade continue to study ... standard algorithms (+, x, -, /) used for computation of whole numbers""
Further explain in your letter that since these 'standard' algorithms are the strategy that most of the world already uses to perform multiplication and division, that the 'standard' algorithms are in fact 'de facto' standards and hence 'appropriate' for the task (as per MA 300 [§1.3], your child is allowed to select an 'appropriate' tool).

Point out, that as far as you are concerned, for FCPS to declare that the 'standard' multiplication and division algorithms (that your child is trying to use in school) as 'inappropriate', FCPS would in effect have to admit that they think 'the world' is inappropriately using 'standard' multiplication and division -- and frankly, because any method used by the majority of the world's population is a de-facto standard, and hence acceptable, you feel doing so would impeach the veracity of any individual making such claims.

Also point out that as per the letter that Bonnie Borsa wrote to you (via the local paper) [§5.6] , that the FCPS Curriculum 'has not changed', and because standard multiplication and division was in use at FCPS in 2007-2008 (K, 2, 4), and appropriate then, that the strategies are also appropriate this year since the curriculum did not change (as per the Bonnie Borsa letter).

Point out that Bonnie Borsa stated [§5.6] that "No single textbook can account for all the instructional needs of students", so the benchmark as to what is allowed to be used in class is in fact the curriculum, and not what any single textbook might say or teach. And you are now officially notifying the school that 'your strategy' is an instructional need of your child and that failure to provide that need will require elevating this issue to the next level.

Finally, point out that Investigations itself [§4.4] mentions the standard algorithms, and says that they may be used, provided that a child understands (and can describe) how they work.

The teacher or principal will likely want to talk with you in person. You may if you want, but I would recommend that you don't. Instead kindly remind them that you already talked with them in person on a certain date about this very subject and that you now respectfully request that they answer all of the questions raised in your letter, in writing.

Resources will come and go, but it is the Curriculum that really matters. Use that to your advantage when going up against Investigations. Teachers are responsible for teaching 'the curriculum' through the use of direct instruction, textbooks, and other supporting materials. Since Investigations does not cover all of the FCPS Essential Curriculum, a teacher must use supplemental texts/materials to teach your child at FCPS.

  6.1 Note: For FCPS Teachers of Math

Investigations fails to meet the NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) focal points for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division [§2.0]

As a teacher of mathematics, this should concern you. Sure, FCPS says that supplemental materials will teach that (in the future; not 2008-2009), but why is a text being selected that does not meet NCTM standards?

If you are a teacher in the FCPS school system and have reservations about the Investigations resource, you can take the letter that Bonnie Borsa wrote to YOU [§5.6], in her role as Vice President of the Board of Education, that you (the teacher) can teach the curriculum (which has not changed) to students.

And Dr. Bonnie Ward, in her role as "Associate Superintendent Curriculum, Instruction and Evaluation", stated "Our students in kindergarten through fifth grade continue to study ... standard algorithms" [§5.7]

The Investigations text is only one component (out of possibly many components) that you can use to teach your students, via "direct instruction" (as per Bonnie Borsa).

Remember, Bonnie Borsa said [§5.6] (as VP of FCPS BoE) "the text will be used to support the concepts the teacher has introduced". You are introducing the concepts and the book supports you.
A teacher is not there to support Investigations; instead, Investigations is there only as a resource (as per Bonnie Borsa) to support the teacher.
The bottom line: Teach to the curriculum how you best see fit, using all the resources available to you. You have a letter from the VP of the BoE, and Associate Superintendent of the Curriculum to back you up.

And if anyone tells you anything to the contrary, politely ask that person to point out the written policy that says you can not teach to the essential curriculum.

Be aware and understanding that in the past, some teachers have (improperly) not allowed children to use 'standard' strategies in class. [§6.0]

Finally, a quotation from someone wishing to remain anonymous:
"A serious mistake too many teachers make is that they end up teaching the models rather than teaching the mathematics connected to the models."

  6.2 Note: Results will not be measureable

What impact, if any, will Investigations have on the FCPS school system? Well, simple you say. Just look at 2009 test score results (actually seen in the chart below), and we will know. Right? No. We already expect 'increasing' test score results 'year to year', as can be seen:

Frederick County Grade 4 MSA 2004-2009
source of data
So, actually, no -- simply looking at test scores will not help. We will never know the full impact. Sadly, the results of Investigations in the FCPS school system can not be measured with any degree of statistical accuracy that will pass any peer review process. The core problem is supplemental materials.

Bonnie Borsa, VP of BoE, has already stated that Investigations alone does not meet the FCPS curriculum, and that Investigations "is only one component of the mathematics essential curriculum". So by definition, any test results measures all components being taught -- and does not measure (what everyone really wants to know) the test results from the single Investigations component.

If FCPS wanted to obtain valid test results they would need to teach only Investigations (and nothing else) to a group of children. But that would violate the Maryland State Essential Math Curriculum (Bonnie Borsa said no one text book can do that).

Furthermore, any statistically valid (and peer reviewed) test results within the FCPS system would need to include a survey of child's parents to determine what supplemental materials (if any) were used at home. I know first and second hand that parents fed up with Investigations are supplementing their child's math education at home. That child's test results would need to be excluded from any statistical sample attempting to measure only Investigations.

Sadly, because the school itself is supplementing the Investigations text book, every child would, by definition, have to be excluded from any Investigations test results -- as the test results would be tainted by the child receiving supplemental instruction.

The bottom line is that we will never know the true impact of Investigations within the FCPS school system. If test scores go down, it is inappropriate to solely blame Investigations (due to supplemental materials) -- but it will certainly be a huge red flag. Likewise, if test scores go up, it is inappropriate to solely credit Investigations (due to supplemental materials and the fact that test scores historically go up every year).

There are simply too many factors since Investigations is not the only source of math taught within FCPS.

So, if and when test scores go up a little, that is to be expected, as that was already the trend before the switch to Investigations.

But since you can see (above) that 2009 test scores actually went down a little in 2009 -- start asking questions as to why that is.

  6.3 Note: Teach Multiple Strategies

Should only the a single 'standard' multiplication and division algorithm/strategy be taught? Actually, no, I am not advocating that at all.

Lattice Multiplication Example
Lattice Multiplication: Consider the clever 'lattice' multiplication (how it works) strategy that you see to the right (compare to [§4.0]). It works, and works well for some (not all) people. It maintains place value nicely, etc. If you really understand standard multiplication, you can see why (and how) the lattice method works. It is clever.
The lattice multiplication method initially looks very strange. But look at it and take the time to understand how it works. It displays every digit of every multiplication and every digit of every addition. It is very hard to argue against this method because it 'shows all steps' in more detail than most other strategies (even the 'standard' multiplication strategy).
I am all for (at the appropriate time) discussing all of the known strategies (for some strategies, it would mean just showing and demonstrating a strategy to the class once). Because anyone who truly understands how multiplication and division works -- can easily understand other methods, like the lattice method seen upper right.

An ability to understand other strategies is in fact a benchmark demonstrating a deep level of understanding (and vice-versa). A failure to quickly grasp a different multiplication strategy means that there is not a deep understanding of multiplication.

I am making a distinction between knowing about and understanding vs actually using (on a day by day basis) the other strategies. Teach multiple strategies, but use only the most efficient one (like 'standard' multiplication and division).
For example, one strategy for division is repeated subtraction of the divisor. This strategy is great for demonstration and understanding purposes, but horrible for everyday use. I think the same thing can be said about Investigations strategies. Great for demonstration, but horrible for everyday use.
Double Division
Knowing many ways to perform multiplication and division greatly deepens an understanding of the subject.

Double Division: Visit for an interesting way to teach long division to those children that struggle with standard long division. It does not make it right for all children, but some children will find it much easier than standard long division.

So, you really have to ask yourself: If FCPS and Investigations are truly interested in teaching a deep understanding of math, why don't they teach other strategies other than the ones they want children to learn? Like standard multiplication, lattice multiplication, double division, etc.

  6.4 Note: What should FCPS do?

Investigations has a lot to offer. But it also has a lot of bad ideas, some of which were discussed in this paper. I would like to see Investigations replaced. But if that is not possible, FCPS needs to make major changes.

Given that (within FCPS) the essential curriculum is what needs to be taught, and not any single text, that gives incredible latitude to the schools (and teachers) as to what is actually taught in the classroom.

The Solution: Take the FCPS essential curriculum (which is mandatory), and take some of the best ideas from Investigations (teach to a deeper understanding of math; use it only as a 'resource', but not as-is) -- and quickly graduate children from 'strategies designed for learning' to standard strategies designed for efficient day-to-day use. This means Investigations would take a 'back seat'.
I remember from 'college calculus' working with strategies (which were inefficient) for 'the derivative' which were clearly taught to us for 'learning and understanding'. But within days, much more efficient 'derivative' strategies were introduced and used in order to work with derivatives on a day-by-day basis.

The concept of introducing a 'learning strategy' and moving on to an 'efficient strategy' is a core concept in mathematics, but yet something the authors of Investigations fail to utilize.
So, go ahead and teach the Investigations way of multiplying only for a short period of time. It is just one strategy of many that a child should learn. Once a child knows and understands how multiplication works, you don't force them to keep using a basic strategy for the rest of their life. Move on and teach the "elegant and efficient" (what Investigations calls 'standard' multiplication on page 127 of Grade 5, Unit 7) standard strategies.

I strongly suspect that the people at Investigations can see the 'handwriting on the wall' that they need to teach a more efficient (standard) strategy. In this multiplication example (seen below) they show the following strategy to multiply (which, by the way, is missing intermediate steps [§4.7]):
Investigations: Multiplying 48 by 42
All you need to do is keep all of these numbers, but simply rearrange them and you have the 'standard' multiplication strategy (which shows the intermediate 'carry' values):
Multiplying 48 by 42
Any child that understands the Investigations strategy, and has a deep understanding of math (which they claim), can certainly also understand and use the 'standard' strategy.

  6.5 Learning: Six-year-olds are very smart

Kids are a lot smarter than anyone gives them credit for. I know this from first hand experience with my daughter, and all of her first grade classmates.

The real trick in helping students to truly learn is not simply stating that '6-year-olds can and do think algebraically' (like Investigations does), but rather it is to come up with creative ways to express advanced concepts to children in terms that they can not only understand, but also explain to others.

After all, the true test to see if a subject is truly understood is an ability to explain (teach) it to others. It also helps to verbalize to others that which was taught to you. Maybe there is an opportunity here. Maybe once a year (or more), all kids from one grade level are paired with kids from a grade level below - where they must teach something to the lower grade. Even if that 'something' is not actually taught, the experience of trying to convey something you know to someone else is well worth it.
Consider the following equation. How would you go about explaining it to a child (pre first grader), in terms that they can easily comprehend and explain back to you? Think like a child and what they play with. Do not think like an adult who already knows the subject matter:
Square Root of quantity '1+2×4'
I go about explaining this equation visually, using blocks:
Visual solution to: Square Root of quantity '1+2×4'
and in words like this: Addition (+) means to keep counting by one. Multiplication (×) means to count by some other number (usually greater than one), forming a rectangle of blocks. Grown-ups have a funny rule that we always multiply before adding. Square root (√) means rearrange blocks to 'form a square' and count how many blocks are on one edge of the square.

My pre-first grade daughter can look at the above equation (without blocks, but using her head, and sometimes fingers), and tell me that the answer is "three". And asking her to explain how she got that answer, she would answer correctly. This is after many equations where she first used blocks to fully figure out the answer.

Do I now force my daughter to continue to use blocks to solve problems like this, after she understood what I taught? Of course not. So why should I accept Investigations forcing children to perform math using a strategy that was designed for understanding the math, not for using the math day-to-day.
Give my six-year-old daughter 27 blocks and ask her to find the cube root of that number and she will form a 3 by 3 by 3 cube, and tell you the answer is "three". Because she has done this many times, just verbally ask her what the cube root of 8 is and she will think about it and say "2". When asked why, she will say, 'because two times two times two is eight'.

MathLink blocks
Want to see a 6-year-old smile widely? Give the child 1000 small 3/4" cubes (like those seen right) and ask to build a single large cube. It does not take as long as you might think. The resulting cube teaches the cube root of larger numbers very nicely. After doing this exercise once, my daughter immediately asked to do it again. She loved it. Play that is not only fun, but educational.
There is a lesson to be learned here. When learning is fun, children ask to do more. But when I look at Investigations, I don't see fun. Rather I see tedious, non-standard multiplication that is time consuming (notice all of the zeros they need to write). That is not fun.
As I have explained to my daughter, grown-ups like to use funny symbols and terms, but all they are doing is playing with blocks, adding or removing blocks, transforming the blocks into new shapes, just like she is. She understands that.

Now a test for all of the grown-ups reading this. Go get your child's building blocks and prove to yourself that 'n squared' is just the 'sum of the first n odd numbers'. Actually, if you look at the grid to the right, you can probably 'see' the pattern immediately and understand why this works.
[show hint to solution]

Ones, Tens, Hundreds, etc: There are some very smart people out there who say we are teaching ones, tens, hundreds, etc to our children in a horribly incorrect manner. We use cubes, For 'ones' we show one cube. For tens, we show ten cubes connected to each other (in a line). For hundreds, we show a 10×10 square. For thousands, we show a 10×10×10 cube. What next? A fourth dimensional hypercube [wiki info]. They exist, but are hard for most people to visualize, let alone a child. The problem with this technique is that we are using 'dimensions' to represent 'magnitude' to children.
This observation was from Dr. R. James Milgram, Professor of Math at Stanford University at the 'Leading Minds' K-12 Math Education Forum' in Baltimore on April 24, 2008.
Russian sticks
Instead, consider how Russia teaches this concept to children (seen right). One is a single stick. Ten is bundle of ten sticks. One hundred is a bundle of ten bundles of ten. One thousand is a bundle of ten bundles of hundred, and so one. After seeing this example, it really does make a lot more sense to use a single dimension to represent magnitude (powers of ten) to children.
Or, consider just using a sheet of paper to represent 'magnitude'. '1' sheet, next to '10' sheets, next to '100' sheets, next to '1000' sheets (2 reams of copy paper), next to '10000' (20 reams of copy paper about 3.3 feet high). The next step to '100,000' sheets is 200 reams about 33 feet high. The 'exponential' growth of place value in the base ten numbering system (powers of ten) now all of sudden becomes very real to students.
Using the U.S. method, how do you convey to a child what a million is? Your method of using 'dimensions' fails and you switch to something else. But using the Russian method, it is very clear how to convey that concept.

  A.0 How to get a grievance heard

So what do you do if you think the school system is doing something inappropriate according to the rules and regulations of the local school system, or even illegal according to State Laws -- and you want your grievance heard at the State level?
pull hair out
Do you write a letter to the local Board of Education? No. You could, but your concerns will likely not be properly heard, or acted on. Often times, you will just be outright ignored.

Do your write a letter to the Maryland State Department of Education? Absolutely not. If you get any reply back at all, they will tell you 'we have no jurisdiction'. But how can that be? They are 'over' all schools in the state, aren't they?
"A school system makes its own rules and then decides if it is following its own rules."
How Maryland Schools Work: The rarely understood secret of the Maryland education system is that each school district jurisdiction (county) is autonomous -- having the power of self-government without outside control. The only way to get grievances heard at the State Level is via the appeals process. Even if a school system is violating State Law and doing something illegal, the State will not get involved until an appeal reaches it. In other words, a school system makes its own rules and then decides if it is following its own rules. The only way to challenge the rules or decisions of a school system to the State level is via the appeal process.
So work within the rules the school system itself created -- the appeal process!
The steps to take: When you have any grievance of a misapplied regulation or something that is illegal according to State Law, you MUST talk the people in this order -- and keep excellent records of any communication with school officials, hopefully getting everything in writing.
  1. Teacher
  2. Principal
  3. Department Supervisor
  4. Associate Superintendent / Executive Director
  5. Superintendent - FCPS Cabinet Level Organization Chart
  6. Board of Education - FCPS Policy 105 "Appeal and Hearing Procedures"
  7. Maryland State Board - COMAR 13A.01.05 "Appeals to the State Board of Education"
The bottom line: Start at the lowest level and ask for a ruling on your grievance. Often times teachers will just defer to the principal. If you don't get the answer you want, move up the chain of command (and outright ask who the next person to go to is). Keep doing that until you get a ruling from the Superintendent. And after that, you are entitled under Maryland State Law, Education Article §4-205(c)(3) to continue to appeal that decision up to the Local School Board, and then the State School Board:
§4-205(c)(3): "A decision of a county superintendent may be appealed to the county board if taken in writing within 30 days after the decision of the county superintendent. The decision may be further appealed to the State Board if taken in writing within 30 days after the decision of the county board."

Superintendent's Duty: And keep in mind that under §4-205 "Powers and duties of county superintendent", a Superintendent is required under §4-205(c) "Interpretation of law; controversies and disputes" to settle disputes and rule on an issue -- a Superintendent is not allowed to ignored concerns. And that is the power of §4-205 -- a Superintendent must rule and make a decision.
EXAMPLE: Review of State Law Read this excellent letter from the lead Attorney at the Maryland State Department of Education. This letter reads as a 'how-to-guide' on how to get a grievance about school system fees (part of State Law) in front of the State Board for review!

EXAMPLE: Review of Local Policy/Regulations: It will be incredibly hard to prove that the local school board made a mistake involving a local policy, as COMAR makes very clear:
COMAR 13A.01.05.05: "Decisions of a local board involving a local policy or a controversy and dispute regarding the rules and regulations of the local board shall be considered prima facie correct, and the State Board may not substitute its judgment for that of the local board unless the decision is arbitrary, unreasonable, or illegal".

And in the eyes of the State Board, 'unreasonable' is "A reasoning mind could not have reasonably reached the conclusion the local board or local superintendent reached". So, it will be very, very hard to reverse a decision of the local school system, but if you feel you have a case, the State Board must hear your appeal.
WARNING: Pay close attention to time deadlines and procedures when filing appeals. Sadly, some appeals that reach the State Level are simply thrown out on a technicality (an appeal filed afer a time deadline).

  A.1 Maryland Public Information Act

The Maryland Public Information Act (PIA) is just like the Federal Freedom of Information Act. It allows for anyone to file requests for public records.
It is critical to understand that there are two rights afforded to you regarding public documents under PIA law. The first is a right of inspection of a public record. The second is the right to copy a public record. Your PIA request should first ask to inspect a record, and then if possible, to copy the record. After all, you don't want to have to pay copy costs for a 1000-page document, if all you are interested in is one page!

If you are allowed to inspect a record, under PIA law §10-620, you must be allowed to make a copy of the record, if you want a copy made, with two minor exceptions that virtually never apply [§3.23].
Learning about PIA: There is a lot of information about Maryland's Public Information Act from the Maryland Attorney General, which includes background information, sample letters, etc.

PIA law: Or, for those that want to jump right into the Maryland State Governmaent Article §10-611 to §10-630, review the Maryland Public Information Act.

PIA Requests I filed / Sample PIA letters: The rest of this appendix is simply a log of all of my Public Information Act requests and responses - and one bogus reply from FCPS for a request I never made:
  A.2 Frederick News Post Coverage

  A.3 Gazette Coverage

  A.4 What is wrong with the MSA score?

According to an article entitled "MSA changes may have raised scores" in the Baltimore Sun:
"State education officials acknowledged yesterday for the first time that they had changed the Maryland School Assessment this year in a way that experts say contributed to an unusually large rise in student test scores.

"Maryland saw significant gains on the MSA this year, particularly among black and low-income students and those learning English."

...increases in Maryland are "really unusual."
Why do test scores in math on the Maryland School Assessment (MSA) keep going up and up, while test scores in math on the SAT (for Maryland High School students) are level or going down? This 'inverse relationship' means that something simply does not add up:
State of Maryland SAT vs MSA
[ Grade 6 | Grade 7 | Grade 8 | SAT data ]
I fully admit that this is comparing two different groups of children (Grades 6,7,8 to high school graduates). That is not the point. The true point of this graph is to point out trends in Maryland test scores vs trends in high school graduate SAT scores. Something does not add up. Is the MSA too easy? Is math achievement in high school (grades 9-12) dropping? Is the SAT getting harder? Or some other reason?

With so many children being classified by the state of Maryland under the Maryland School Assessment (MSA) as 'Advanced' in math, why are Maryland high school graduates below the 'national average' in math on the college SAT test? Are 'advanced' children reverting to 'average' in high school?

Maryland vs Nation SAT scores 2008
According to, receiving the 'state average 500' on SAT/Math would put you in the lower 5% of freshman at University of Maryland, College Park.

Is 'advanced' on the MSA is not as 'advanced' as we would like? Or are children in high school (grades 9-12) tanking in math?

I have reviewed some of the MSA sample questions online. When my first grade daughter can answer a seventh grade math question correctly, I do believe that clearly demonstrates flaws in the MSA testing process. Here is the 7th grade MSA question that is 1st grade homework:
Sample MSA question Grade 7
[source of data]
Maryland claims that the 'Objectives Assessed' by grade 7 question 11 is '6.C.1.a Add, subtract, multiply, and divide integers'.
According to FCPS Math Facts, "Add and subtract 2-digit numbers using a variety of increasingly efficient strategies" is second grade material, not 7th grade. Furthermore, any adult would immediately recognize that subtraction without regrouping (borrowing) is not a true test of a child's ability to subtract.

On May 28, 2009, I saw 'multi-digit subtraction without regrouping' as an homework exercise (seen right) for my first grade daughter -- the homework even had the same 'football' example. This is clearly first grade material, not seventh grade material.

This MSA test question is a prime example of the 'dumbing down' of the math system: Giving 1st grade homework as a 7th grade MSA test question. It is no wonder that many children do very well on the MSA.
Worse yet, in this third grade question, a calculator is allowed (notice the calculator symbol is shown):
Sample MSA question Grade 3
[source of data]
Mathematics has been 'dumbed down' so much that a calculator is allowed in third grade for this simple question.
FCPS argues that a calculator is a tool and children need to know how to use it to operate in the 21st century. OK. Then design test questions that test calculator knowledge and usage ability, and only allow calculator usage on these special questions. Since the question above is not about testing 'calculator knowledge', but rather "1.C.1.a Represent whole numbers on a number line", a calculator should not be allowed.

The state defines a manipulative as "Tools, models, blocks, tiles, and other objects which are used to explore mathematical ideas and solve mathematical problems" [source]. And since a calculator is a tool, you can now see the convoluted logic as to why a calculator is allowed.

The State needs to understand that the most important tool a child has is their mind, not a calculator.
UPDATE (June 2, 2009): Apparently Maryland and other states are realizing the problems with the testing system. A recent Baltimore Sun article entitled "Md., 45 other states to develop national education standards" states:
"Maryland and 45 other states announced Monday that they will develop common national standards for what should be taught in classrooms from kindergarten through high school in reading and math."

"Eventually, the state will replace its Maryland School Assessments with a national test that is developed by the states collectively"
  A.5 Other Web Resources

  A.6 Are you any good at math?

So you think you are pretty good at math? Then test yourself. Take the sample Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure tests in math and find out:
  A.7 Questions / Comments / Feedback

PIN:  - your PIN is:

Who is Jerry Jongerius: I graduated Magna Cum Laude from Northwestern College where I received both a Mathematics degree and a Computer Science degree. I enjoy writing articles (many published) and even wrote a technical computer book on programming, which was published by Prentice Hall. I hold a patent on panorama technology, and own several software companies. I am an active computer programmer, where my math skills are used on an almost daily basis. I am active in my child's education at home, and at school, where I sit in on my daughter's math classes, volunteer often, and am a PTA member. I have assisted in teaching children, and even taught a portion of a continuing education class for High School math teachers.

Contact Jerry: Use the web form (seen right) to contact Jerry

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