‘Stop the coverup.’ Wake County parents and students protest new MVP math curriculum.

Parents and students stepped up their efforts to get the Wake County school system to drop a controversial new math curriculum by holding a protest Tuesday outside the school board meeting.

About 20 people stood on the sidewalk in front of the district’s headquarters in Cary holding signs such as “Stop The Coverup” and “Stop the Teacher Re-education Camps” and chanting “Let Teachers Teach” and “Say Goodbye MVP.” Tuesday’s protest came after hundreds of students from Green Hope High School in Cary briefly walked out of class on April 10 to protest the MVP Math curriculum used in high school level courses.

“It’s like cigarettes,” said Blain Dillard, a Green Hope parent who created signs comparing MVP to cigarette-warning labels. “The more you use it, the more harmful MVP is.”

Wake has defended the program as being a valuable new way to teach math by switching the focus from memorizing formulas to learning by solving problems. But school officials have also acknowledged that some students are having problems with the new curriculum.

When Wake began to look in 2017 for new high school math materials, it picked the Utah-based Mathematics Vision Project instead of a large textbook publisher. The Mathematics Vision Project develops materials to teach Common Core math standards.

MVP provides open educational resources, meaning the material is in the public domain or can be freely used and edited. Wake pays for student workbooks and for teachers to be trained in the new materials. Critics of MVP say Wake has spent $1.4 million on the new program.

MVP was used for the first time in Wake in the 2017-18 school year in Math 1. This school year it has expanded to Math 2. Select middle schools and high schools are piloting the Math 3 resources.

From the start, Wake said MVP would require a change in how math courses are taught. Instead of hearing a lecture and memorizing formulas, the focus has shifted to students working in groups to solve problems while teachers act as facilitators.

MVP has referred questions about the curriculum’s use to Wake, the News & Observer previously reported.

The largest contingent of protesters was from Green Hope High in Cary but parents from other schools voiced their concerns Tuesday.

Speakers told the school board that the new curriculum isn’t doing a good job of teaching math, causing previously high-performing students to now fail their courses. They say that students are being forced to get help by turning to private tutors and online resources offered by other companies or risk getting poor grades.

“I should not have to pay for a tutor for my daughter to have a future,” said Vicky Burns, a parent at Middle Creek High School in Apex.

Stephen DeVoise said his previously high-achieving daughter has been filled with self-doubt since they recently moved from Virginia to Cary and began using MVP math.

“The frustration that our daughter is feeling right now concerning math is something I’ve never seen before,” DeVoise said. “The frustration on her demeanor and her outlook on everything is heartbreaking as a parent.”

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T. Keung Hui has covered K-12 education for the News & Observer since 1999, helping parents, students, school employees and the community understand the vital role education plays in North Carolina. His primary focus is Wake County, but he also covers statewide education issues.