Tonight's meeting consisted largely of an update from each of the elementary school principals, followed by a presentation by Mike Hayes on the K to 6 math program. This presentation is available on the ARPS website: http://www.arps.org/node/345. Because this report is available on the website, I won't go through all details of it, but do want to make a few points (from the perspective of a School Committee member, parent of 2 kids -- next year 3! -- in the elementary schools, and a member of the Math Review Committee.
First, I do believe that it is good the district is finally looking at the math curriculum from a K to 12 perspective. This seems very important in terms of making sure all kids are able to move in sequence through the appropriate math topics/courses.
Second, it is clear that the district is at a pretty critical point in terms of math in a number of ways. One issue that was brought up is whether the 6th graders in all schools should be using Impact I (the first year of the sequence of math books now used by 7th and 8th graders). This seems like a very easy decision to me -- particularly because it would help equalize the experience kids have in math prior to the middle school. This decision will be made by a subcommittee of teachers, with a recommendation due later this year (and such an adoption would cost about $25,000). Another issue that was brought up was whether the 8th grade should have the option of a regular algebra class (in the current system, we provide 8th grade honors, which is a very intense class, and a regular 8th grade math class that touches on algebra but only prepares students for algebra in high school). Although this idea was seen as too close to tracking (by Mike Hayes), it seems to me that our two classes are in fact tracks -- we just have opted for the highest and lowest options of tracks, and not a middle choice. I would imagine that a stronger elementary schoool math curriculum (which could include Impact I for all 6th graders) could potentially lead us to be able to offer two tracks at the middle and high level instead, which seems preferable.
The presentation was very long, and hence several parents had questions that were not able to be answered. These questions were given to Mike Hayes, and their answers are now posted on the district website. These questions included one by Steve Rivkin on what the district is doing to support kids who are struggling in math, as well as one by Caroline Goutte on what the arguments would be against using Impact 1 for all 6th graders. I do think it is unfortunate that the presentation of the math topic (one of great interest to many parents) was presented the same night as the principals' updates, which led to a very long evening -- and hence a lack of an ability to have a real discussion and get community questions answered.
My Goal in Blogging
I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.