Parents voice concerns about the direction of the Princeton Public Schools

Editor’s note: Planet Princeton reached out to the Princeton Public Schools administration for a response to this letter before publication, but a spokesperson said district officials have decided not to respond. School officials published the full unredacted Milou math report on the district’s website a few days after the letter to the editor was received.

To the Editor:

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—and even that 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

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 this year alone is 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 Princeton Board of Education members are our elected representatives. Concerned community members should write to the Board and demand transparency and accountability.


Princeton Public School parents:
Eleanor Hubbard
Jill North
Jai Subrahmanyam|
Rachael Winfree


  1. As a Princeton Public School parent, I will certainly be writing a letter! Thanks for bringing attention to this!

  2. As the parent of two PHS graduates, both of whom went on to complete Math degrees at University, I can only say that I am shocked that Princeton Public Schools would ever consider the proposed change to the Math curriculum. In my opinion, this is a terrible example of fuzzy thinking. I believe in equality and equity in education. This is not the way to accomplish these goals.

  3. I have long been a critic of the District’s math curriculum and strongly oppose tracking but having also received responses to OPRA requests that were less than satisfactory, find myself sympathetic with the authors’ concerns about transparency and their agency as parents to direct their kids’ education. I see how one might interpret one of Dr. Milou’s examples as a suggestion to forego calculus, but as a longtime parent and observer, I would say the possibility of calculus being dropped completely from the curriculum is highly unlikely. Even if it were to occur, the worst-case scenario would probably involve high school math students being forced to take it at the university which, as we know, is quite a dump.

  4. It is amazing how this group continues to misrepresent and right out fabricate my positions and those of the school district.

    I am not arguing for removal of calculus at any high school but cautioning the rush to calculus and arguing for alternatives to calculus for students. We should all agree that while entirely appropriate for some students, the standard pathway towards calculus is not meeting the needs of the majority of high school juniors and seniors and that serious consideration of rigorous alternatives is a solution whose time has come.

    Yes, I am advocating for de-tracking which is a racist policy but acceleration is absolutely still appropriate for students who are ready.
    If this group which I have reached out to once had any real interest in honest communication, they would work with me and others to find common ground.

    1. Mr. Milou,
      Please consider also posting your comments on Planet Princeton’s Facebook page and outing these people for defamation. I’m very dismayed by the hysteria propagated by the parents of this district. Dr. Kelley has not been on her post for even 1 year at this point and everyone is all ready to jump on the bandwagon. I completely disagree with the authors that the “poor disadvantaged children” will lose out because the well to do folks will look out for the their own. With or without curriculum changes the latter has always been the case.
      I’m equally disgusted by a particular ethnic group of parents who make claims such as “maybe some kids are not motivated” when giving reasons for the inequality. How about, maybe when teachers look at some children, they are not really expecting much from them due to their own unconscious bias. There are several ways to skin a cat, parents who really want to seek the answers will find true answers. All others can continue to put their blinders on as they wish. I’d challenge the report writers to put their collective heads together and come up with real policy change considering that they have so much free time. It’s great being a Princeton resident isn’t it?

      1. Are Princeton students striving to be equally mediocre instead of having high expectations for each and every student no matter their language, race or socio-economic status? I find this approach shocking as a descendent of non-English speaking, poor immigrants who accepted zero government assistance or special inclusion programs based on race or lack of finances. There was plenty of bias against our family yet we didn’t scream racism at every turn.
        It is shameful to tell a child that s/he is not capable of greatness unless there are special unnecessary accommodations. The achievement is lessened when the bar is set lower in comparison to peers. Ask two equally capable students competing in a race where one is given a minute head start. Is the race fair and fairly won? How do the students feel about the win?

      2. Dear Wary Resident,
        The reason that the letter writers are so upset is that the district appears to have decided to come up with a solution to the problem in secret and to not involve the general community. It’s also come out that the district used legal reasons to lie about what Dr. Milou’s report said and the reasons why they couldn’t release the entire report. I am thankful that School Board president Kendal released the entire report. This misrepresentation by the district makes me distrustful about the current school leadership of Dr. Kelley.

    2. In the letter writers’ linked google doc “Inequitable New Approach” report (INA), on page 2, they state that Eric Milou’s report to Princeton Public Schools, “District administrators have refused to release the full text of Dr. Milou’s report and instead have released only a heavily redacted version in response to numerous requests by parents for the
      report under the New Jersey Open Public Records Act.”

      Perhaps Dr. Milou can provide his report to the letter writers, or to Planet Princeton, as well as any other communications with Princeton Public Schools that the letter writers’ requested under OPRA.

      Surely Dr. Milou’s report can be understood with “Teacher A” and “Teacher B” substituted for identifying information. Indeed, knowing that the report was written for a public entity, it should have been composed in this way. If the identities were really needed, for example, for verification purposes, they could be included in a confidential appendix, with a statement that the confidential appendix contains exactly and only the true identities for verification purposes.

      The slide reproduced on INA page 10, shows one possible destination, and it is the only destination shown. It does not include calculus. The natural understanding is that the preference is to write calculus out of the curriculum.

      Selective acceleration as a substitute for tracking is just worse than tracking. There is no ability to fine tune, just be a whole year ahead or not. Whatever alleged racism with inure just as much to acceleration. More likely, de-tracking will inspire another group of families to join a growing trend of opting out of public schools.

      1. The unredacted report was posted on the district’s website this past week after the authors wrote that document and submitted the letter to Planet Princeton. District officials say it is a coincidence that the document was posted after the letter was submitted.

    3. Thank you, Mr. Milou. Important that you shared your thoughts to clarify any misrepresentations in the letter. There is a wealth of data supporting your statement about tracking. I applaud our school district as it continues to look for new research-based strategies to benefit all our students.

      1. The research shows that it is how students are selected for tracking that is the problem. It isn’t the tracking itself. It is educators with political opinions who are misrepresenting the situation. Many students are hurt, both academically and psychologically, by not having tracking.

  5. As a university administrator for 22 years, this detracking option is career suicide for students. I have been, and am, on the inside of the college game. Don’t let this insane idea propagate or it will destroy opportunities for many students. Detracking destroys opportunities for all students by making students from across the demographic spectrum ineligible for admission at technical schools. If they are admitted, they fail because they are behind in mathematics. The single best predictor of academic success in ANY technical university program is the math skill of the student. I don’t care what the race of the student is. Every student needs at least one year of calculus if they want to succeed, two if possible. If you don’t believe it, file an OPRA request and get the internal research studies from any university. I do that research.

  6. Mr. Millou—If you want to be taken seriously and have a reasonable dialogue do not begin asserting as fact something that is unproven. There are many respected and serious researchers who reject your assertion that tracking is racist. (You may want to reread your sentence above which by the rules of grammar asserts that you are advocating a racist policy. I give you the benefit of the doubt and assume it was written in error.)

    I would hold, as someone with more than a quarter of a century of educational research behind him, that you are fundamentally and egregiously wrong. You assert a dangerously misguided ideology as educational fact. It is not fact. It is a political ideology sometimes asserted as fact. Tracking may be implemented in a racist way, but that is an entirely different assertion and one that is clearly true, in some cases. Students learn at different rates and there is nothing racist about recognizing this reality. In the opinion of this researcher, you live in an impoverished world if you do not believe that most college bound students should be in a curriculum leading to at least one year of calculus. If they are not in that curriculum many university doors will be closed to them. (That is a fact, not an assertion.)

    During my years of USAID and World Bank funded educational research in Central Asia I learned that nearly all college bound students there are expected to have two years of calculus before applying to a university. If that can be achieved in the remote mountains of Kyrgyzstan I hope we can manage one year of calculus in Princeton—for all students, regardless of race, who expect to apply to a four year university.

  7. In order to achieve this plan (regarding the calculus issues), the idea is to take away the accelerated option at PMS, meaning that instead of taking Algebra 1 Accelerated (for example) in 7th grade, thus reaching Calculus by 11th, students will have to take two slowly paced years of pre-Algebra in MS. In 9th grade, they’ll take Algebra 1. Whether or not you agree that students should take Calculus at all, in 10th or 11th or not til 12th, this new plan, if put in place, will ensure that students who enjoy and thrive in challenging math situations will be significantly slowed in their progress, be bored, and end up “hating math.” Is that a good outcome? Doubt it.
    So, sure, yeah, we can send our math loving children for tutoring, enrichment, to PU for more math, etc, but one does wonder why our tax dollars are being spent on a race to the bottom type of planning which does not actually serve anyone’s best interests. What about children who want more challenging maths but whose parents cannot afford tutoring etc? This doesn’t seem right either.

  8. This is a long comment, and I’m writing just as a very involved parent who regularly attends PPS Equity and Student Achievement (SAC) Committee meetings and keeps in close contact with the district leaders. I’ve attended these committee meetings both before and after Dr. Kelley arrived. At no time has anyone suggested “dumbing down” any academic program. Instead, she’s said she wants *more* students prepared to take advanced math classes, including AP Calculus. She has consistently emphasized “building on the best” of PPS, not undermining it. This is not a platitude. It’s been clear to me she’s thrilled and proud to be here at PPS because of its academic excellence.


    (1.) I heard Eric Milou’s presentation about middle school math in the spring of 2021 to the BOE Student Achievement (SAC) Committee. He showed several slides indicating that in 7th and 8th grade the PMS math classes aren’t covering all the NJ Common Core math standards. Milou never mentioned detracking or anything like that.

    (2.) In recent weeks, another parent, Leo Nguyen, attended a new math committee meeting. Apparently, at that meeting Eric Milou discussed ideas in his book REIMAGINING HIGH SCHOOL MATH. Leo was alarmed when he heard about Milou’s pathways approach. I don’t like Milou’s approach either, because it doesn’t seem that different than tracking, due to the fact that there isn’t much of a chance to move up from one pathway to a higher level. [ed. I see Eric Milou has read this thread, so I want to add that I have read his book, and think some ideas in it are helpful and interesting, but nonetheless I am not a fan of the pathways approach.] After that meeting, parent emails began circulating, suggesting that, if Milou’s “pathways” approach was adopted, it would make it hard to get to calculus at PHS. I’ve talked to district leaders about this. No one is interested in adopting his approach. Everyone I’ve spoken to, and every quote I’ve seen from Dr. Kelley about this, says they want to strengthen middle school math teaching by improving and adding new classes so that more students can take advanced classes in high school. To repeat: They are thinking about adding classes, not taking away acceleration or making classes less challenging for the children who have moved faster past the grade-level standards. I’ve had many discussions with Stephenie Tidwell about this. She’s expressed deep concern for all the students, including some elementary students who are several grade levels ahead. She wants all students to be challenged. At the same time, as a public school supervisor, she wants to address what is holding some students back and enrich math teaching for them too so they can be better prepared for the advanced classes at the high school. My understanding is that PPS doesn’t have students who are several grade levels behind at any point before middle school. It will not take a huge amount of change to help more students prepare for any advanced math class they want to take at PHS.

    (3.) Parents who have been protesting recently have emphasized PPS’s supposed “new direction” by pointing to one Powerpoint slide at the Strategic Planning Meeting last month. The slide referred to Equal Outcomes. This was one slide by the consultants, Performance Fact. It is not the definition of equity that PPS uses or will use. I complained to Performance Fact immediately after that meeting and spoke at a BOE meeting about it. I hope parents can just recognize that was a mistake to use that slide and move on.

    All school districts engage in strategic planning every five years or so. They typically use consultants for the surveys, data gathering, and to provide comparisons and ideas from other districts. There are also often outside reviews of the curriculum and programs, such as the recent Special Education program review. There is currently an outside review of the DLI program at CP. This is what PPS has always done since I’ve been involved in the district.

    I know that Dr. Kelley, district leaders, and the BOE members are interested in hearing from parents and working productively together. Our town and district have a lot of resources. I strongly believe that we can help all the students reach their highest potential. There are students here whose talents are not being cultivated as much as they could be. Please let’s talk about why that might be the case, and then work together to help them.

    I like that the parents’ “manifesto” that is linked in the letter here mentions evidence-based practices like those in the What Works Clearinghouse. The discussions in recent weeks have been really dismaying, for many reasons. But their recognition that we all can do more to improve equity in the PPS is heartening to see.

    Can we – the entire community in Princeton – build on that together?

    I’ve often been the only parent at the BOE Equity Committee meetings talking about these equity issues in recent years.

    1. I would like to think there’s no substance to these assertions, but there’s a history of trying to reduce the number of AP classes students can take. And the district has put up many roadblocks — which other districts don’t have — that prevent students from taking science and math sciences that they are already prepared for. Privately, a number of parents have experienced negative feedback or being ignored by the district when their children wanted to take more advanced classed than what the district wanted to assign them to.

      The district should be addressing the issues with why so many Princeton students don’t do well in math in the K-8 grades. Why does our district do worse than neighboring districts? I would hope that we can all work together to solve this problem so everyone can achieve greater academic success. The answer shouldn’t be to hold high-achieving students back from taking advanced classes.

    2. The problem with the slide that said “Equal Outcomes — no exceptions” is that Dr. Kelley’s name was on the first slide as an author and it was a firm that she has a long history working with. If her name was on it, we can assume she had read over its contents and was fine with the statement. In my job, I have to take responsibility for everything that has my name on it, and I only make a fraction of what Dr. Kelley makes.

  9. Mr. Milou is certainly entitled to his opinions about the merits of detracking. That said, if Mr. Milou believes that the majority of the college admission officers mistaken a solid grade in high school calculus as a favorable indicator of an applicant’s intellectual faculty, he should take his advocacy, likely unremunerated, to them instead of lending his academic credentials to our school district to justify unwelcoming changes to the math curriculum.

    It would have been nice if the school district had spent that $47,000 on something more meaningful. But, it’s abundantly clear from the letter above that Mr. Milou’s side gig isn’t what the parents are concerned about. What’s troubling to those who care about our public schools is the school district deliberately sidestepping parents in order to implement radical and unproven curriculum changes, the school board’s abdication of its oversight responsibility and the attempted cover up.

    I’m too disgusted by a few loud individuals who took a comment from a well-meaning parent out of context and used it to smear an entire minority group. Also, you are not defending the superintendent by discounting her ability to handle legitimate criticisms simply because of her race and gender. It’s condescension if not racism and misogyny.

  10. There is a lot of college recruiting for sports. My children should have a chance to improve their athletic ability to get a college spot for a sport team. Please create an equity path and individualized coaching to improve their athletic skills for an equal outcome and equal access to Division I athletics. This approach would help all students of Princeton have greater access to another pathway to competitive university admissions. Princeton should up their game to create higher achievement for all scholar athletes.

  11. Thank you very much for this letter and for the report, which I read with great interest. My children are still very young, but I am deeply concerned by these developments and really appreciate your efforts.

  12. Some particular residents have no problem making biased, stereotypical and racist statements about Asians who live in Princeton. The local media gives this behavior a pass with some local media adding to the bias. The commentary is offensive and appalling.

    1. Equal opportunity and access to advanced classes creates better outcomes. De-leveling creates equally average outcomes. I don’t want my children to be average when private school students can be high achievers. Princeton residents pay high taxes and move to Princeton with the expectation of high academic standards K-12. The heavily redacted report is a clear example of the lack of transparency and lack of parent input regarding decisions about curriculum. Has some de-tracking already started in the elementary schools? The difference in the “report cards” of Riverside and the other elementary schools is quite glaring with a notable recent transfer of the Riverside principal to the middle school. Pay attention to your local schools, board of education and town council!

  13. All I have to say to you all in Princeton is: Good Luck. I am a resident of Oak Park, IL, the last school district who employed Dr. Kelley. She is (and now was, thanks to you all) the worst 5-year period for student results of any racial background in the history of Oak Park ESD97. I’m also unsurprised to see that she’s hiring multiple consultants to do work and I’m sure employing a VERY heavy administrative bureaucracy. In her 5-year tenure here, we lost 14 principals across 6 schools, saw the highest recorded teacher turnover rate in Oak Park’s history and the aforementioned rapidly declining results. See for yourself. Illinois tracks all school results statewide here. Link to OP ESD997’s page: Dr. Kelley joined in 2015 and departed in 2021.

    All I have to say to you is good luck and PAY ATTENTION TO BOARD MEETINGS AND HIRING ACTIONS. Otherwise you’ll see what we saw – declining student results and a superintendent who is more concerned with her profile and resume than the success of the students in the district she administers.

    1. Thank you for the link to the data! The data seems to indicate that there was a collapse in test scores in Oak Park during the first two years of Dr. Kelley’s tenure there, and the student scores never recovered. The English scores in particular plummeted:

      This is very concerning, but as the Superintendent, it’s hard to believe that she would have had such a quick impact on the scores. Can you shed some light on what might have been the cause for such a quick change in the scores? At first, I thought a new test might be the cause, but the district’s performance plummeted relative to other schools in the state. So something at the school would be the cause.

    2. I found an online article from 12/2021 that reported positive progress in the Algebra I scores in Oak Park ESD97. The link is below and here is a quote, which suggests that there was a great improvement in Oak Park in 8th grade over the last four years (D90 refers to an adjacent school district). This contrasts with the other data presented above.

      “One point of progress for both school districts is the number of eighth-graders passing Algebra 1. D90 reported a 98% in that category, which is consistent with previous scores over the last five years. At D97, almost 89% of eighth-graders are passing Algebra 1, showing significant growth since 2017.

      In the last four years, a little over 40% of D97 eighth-graders were passing algebra, but recent changes to the math curriculum has helped students, Lofton said. Math for D97’s sixth- through eighth-graders are now more inquiry-based, which gives those students the opportunity to grapple and discuss different math concepts, she explained.”

    3. Thank you so much for these insights. I am not surprised, given all that has transpired in the past year, and saddened for PPS. This is on the school board!

  14. As a parent in Oak Park, IL who had children in D97 when Dr. Kelly was hired, I wish you all the best. As mentioned by another poster, record teacher turnover, multiple principal resignations and loss of valuable accelerated programs was what was seen during her tenure.

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