Wake County Schools

Emotions flare as Wake school board defends controversial MVP math program

Posted June 18, 2019 8:16 p.m. EDT
Updated June 18, 2019 11:07 p.m. EDT

— Some parents shouted, others walked out and many held up signs in protest as the Wake County Board of Education defended its controversial MVP math program Tuesday evening.

"You're not going to stand up for our kids?" one parent called out from the audience.

"You're hurting our kids," another said.

"Listen to the teachers. They don't want it," a parent shouted.

After months of tension between parents and school leaders over the program, the board heard results from a 17-page report detailing the Mathematics Vision Project, or MVP, and how it has affected students. The program encourages critical thinking by having students work together to solve problems instead of providing direct instruction from teachers.

Edward McFarland, chief academic advancement officer for Wake County schools, became emotional, his voice cracking, as he detailed his work to investigate the program that has infuriated some parents and students. He thanked parents for their feedback and acknowledged that the district must do more to support students who are struggling. But, he added, "we absolutely must stay the course."

Wake County Board of Education Chair Jim Martin echoed those sentiments, saying the board stands behind the staff's conclusions about MVP's benefits.

"It's important to remove as much political advocacy as possible ... That's why it's staff and not elected officials (reviewing the curriculum)," Martin said. "As a board, we will continue to support staff."

At least four parents walked out as Martin spoke.

About 25 people gathered to protest MVP, and six parents spoke at Tuesday's meeting to share how the program has affected their children and to explain why they don't trust Wake schools' report about the program.

"I hope and pray that MVP will get its day in court with a real court and a real jury," parent Blain Dillard told board members, criticizing their hand-picked committee that reviewed the program.

The committee "determined there were no violations of school board policy and no violations of law. In addition, no member of the committee recommended removing MVP and replacing it with a new curriculum," according to the report. "While the 2017-18 results indicate a modest improvement in student performance, additional years of data will be needed to confirm details."

Committee members did recommend some changes, including more professional development for teachers and support materials for students. But some parents who reviewed the report said they were still not pleased with the school system's response and questioned the accuracy of the report.

So far, 16 parents have filed formal complaints with the district about MVP math. But opponents of the program say many more parents have shared concerns on a Parents of MVP math students Facebook group, which has nearly 1,300 members.

Wake schools has invested more than $1.4 million in MVP math since the program launched last year. In a previous statement, Utah-based MVP said its materials "have received top marks in unbiased curriculum reviews, have been selected by numerous school districts and schools for classroom use and have been deployed with great success in the United States and internationally."

Wake school leaders say they hope to share more data about the program this fall, when new numbers come in. They also plan to have a separate, third party do an audit of the program this fall.