We write to express our serious concerns about the direction the Princeton Public School system is taking under the current administration and the new superintendent, Dr. Carol Kelley. We first became aware of this new direction when the district formed a “Math Committee” this spring to consider changes to the math curriculum. The committee was charged with considering changes proposed by an outside consultant hired by the district, Dr. Eric Milou, who is a well-known advocate of “detracking,” or eliminating accelerated course options. The proposed reforms included detracking the math curriculum through 10th grade, so that all students — regardless of aptitude or interest in math — would be taught the same content. Algebra 1 would no longer be taught to 7th and 8th grade students; instead all students would take Algebra 1 in 9th grade. The Princeton High School math curriculum would end with Precalculus; the existing Calculus courses would no longer be taught. It is disadvantaged students who stand to lose the most from this “leveling down” approach; families of means can and will seek such instruction elsewhere if it is not provided by the public schools.
Even more disturbing, in response to a parent outcry opposing these changes, district administrators engaged in what can only be called a cover-up – by denying that the Math Committee was formed to consider Dr. Milou’s recommendations, by denying that Dr. Milou even made recommendations, and by releasing only a heavily redacted version of Dr. Milou’s report that conceals his recommendations — [made available] only after parents made a formal request citing the Open Public Records Act. It is shocking to us that the leadership of the district is dissembling like this. We have detailed all of this in a report available at https://tinyurl.com/5a3cexd8.
The district’s Math Committee fiasco is an instance of a broader problem: the lack of transparency, accountability and good governance on the part of those running our schools. For example, in the past year alone, the district has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer funds on outside consultants, many of whom are pushing ideological agendas. Under Dr. Kelley, spending on public relations media and consulting firms in this year alone are 30% more than the previous two years combined. The district paid $47,000 to Dr. Milou, who is well-known for his anti-tracking agenda, to advise on the math program. It paid $92,000 to hire a consulting firm, Performance Fact, to advise on a new strategic plan centered on equity. Performance Fact informed the Princeton community that equity demands “equal outcomes, without exception” for every student. That extreme and simplistic approach to equity leads naturally to the district’s new “leveling down” approach. Yet a recent community forum on the Strategic Plan (one of only two opportunities so far scheduled for public input) was devoted to an abstract and unhelpful discussion of the “ideal graduate” of our schools rather than to concrete actions for addressing problems of equity.
The Board of Education are our elected representatives. Concerned community members should write to the Board and demand transparency and accountability. For more information and to join our efforts, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
(Princeton Public School parents)