Education

Dad wants Wake schools to drop this math program. Now he’s being sued by the company.

Wake County parent who criticized math program sued

Blain Dillard asks the Wake County school board at its July 16, 2019 meeting to stop using the MVP Math curriculum. MVP's maker has filed a lawsuit accusing Dillard of making false statements about the program.
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Blain Dillard asks the Wake County school board at its July 16, 2019 meeting to stop using the MVP Math curriculum. MVP's maker has filed a lawsuit accusing Dillard of making false statements about the program.

Updated Aug. 2

The provider of Wake County’s controversial new high school math curriculum is suing the Cary parent who is leading the fight to get the program dropped from the district’s schools.

Mathematics Vision Project filed a lawsuit Thursday in a Utah state court accusing Blain Dillard of making false and defamatory statements about the MVP Math program that the company says have harmed its business. The company says it will ask a jury to issue damages against Dillard for his “intentional interference with MVP’s economic and/or contractual relations.”

“MVP believes in and supports public discourse, especially relating to the education of our children,” Joseph Shapiro, MVP’s attorney, said in a statement Tuesday. “Society has, however, placed limits on public discourse. One of those limits is a restriction against false statements.

“MVP’s legal action against Mr. Dillard is an effort to preserve these boundaries and maintain the civility, dignity, and productiveness of public discourse.”

Dillard and his supporters deny his statements are false and are accusing the Utah-based company of trying to silence opposition. They’ve started a GoFund me campaign for his legal defense fund that has raised $6,392 by Friday afternoon.

“I am innocent of all allegations and can defend each and every point made in the summons,” Dillard said in a statement Tuesday. “This is an attempt at intimidation and bullying to silence me and other parents’ free speech advocating for our children’s education.”

The lawsuit is the latest step in a contentious fight that has seen parents and students hold school walkouts, protests and speak at Wake County school board meetings. They’ve also launched an aggressive social media campaign to try to get Wake to abandon MVP Math.

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Parents protest the use of the MVP math curriculum outside the Wake County school system’s headquarters in Cary, N.C., on June 4, 2019. T. Keung Hui khui@newsobserver.com

On Aug. 6, the school board is scheduled to vote on an appeal filed over a district review committee’s recommendation to continue using MVP for the 2019-20 school year.

Tim Simmons, a Wake County school spokesman, said the district did not know ahead of time that the lawsuit had been filed.

Teaching Common Core math

Since the 2017-18 school year, Wake has used materials from the Mathematics Vision Project to teach high school-level math based on Common Core standards. 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.

Stephanie Herndon, an 8th-grade teacher at Leesville Road Middle School In Raleigh, explains how the new materials from the Mathematics Vision Project is changing how math is taught in Wake County.

According to the review committee’s report, Wake has spent $1.25 million on MVP Math, with 46% of the money going toward training teachers in the new curriculum.

Critics charge that the format doesn’t teach the materials, resulting in students coming out of the class struggling to understand what they would have mastered from a more traditional math course. They say it’s forced families to pay for private tutors to help their children learn the material.

As part of the campaign, Dillard, whose children attend Green Hope High School in Cary, created a Facebook group and blog to list his objections with MVP.

In the lawsuit, MVP cites the statements made by Dillard at school board meetings, in news interviews and on social media. The company accuses Dillard of making statements they say are false such as students are “drowning in math chaos Hell” and that reports of math improvement had been “falsified.”

Dillard has reached out to teachers and school officials in Utah where MVP has been used. The lawsuit accuses Dillard of misrepresenting his correspondence to those educators.

The company also accuses Dillard of making defamatory statements to Guilford County school officials as the company negotiated a contract with the district this year. A contract was reached, according to school officials. But MVP says in the lawsuit that Dillard’s actions forced it to spend more resources than would have been necessary.

“Dillard’s statements harmed MVP’s reputation as well as perceptions of the efficacy of the products and services that MVP provides,” the company says in the lawsuit filed in the Utah Fourth Judicial District Court. “Upon information and belief, MVP has been unable to enter into contracts, and/or has not been invited to make proposals for contracts, and/or has been forced to enter contracts on compromise terms.”

Threats of lawsuits have also been used recently in another case where Istation sent cease and desist notices to people criticizing how the state is switching to a new company to test the reading skills of young students.

Dillard’s defenders say that MVP is being a bully by filing legal action.

“Parents should never be silenced because of their advocating for a good education,” Michael Robinson says on Dillard’s GoFundMe page. “This is a lawsuit intended to silence parent opposition to poorly designed and implemented programs.:

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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.
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