District parents and Board of Education members spoke at length Monday night about math curriculum, testing and placement.
Discussion began during the public speaking portion of the meeting. Parent Kelly Heinze reflected on the experience of her twin children, and urged the Board of Education to “compress” levels 3 and 4 in the district middle schools. “Children can be taught together at that age,” said Heinze.
Parents Lauren Freedman and Elissa Malespina spoke on behalf of a larger group, the South Orange Maplewood Parents for a Quality Education. Their remarks are below in full.
Camilla Essner, also a parent of twins, urged the Board of Education to reconsider placement processes from fifth into sixth grade. She noted that the “tests are hidden,” and when she was able to see the test, she found that there were “errors on the test.”
Likewise, both Michael Paris and Amy Higer expressed concern and disappointment in the test preparation required in fifth grade. Their daughter, said, Paris, “had no joy” in her math instruction and learning this year. Paris urged the district to consider teaching “ninety percent of sixth graders together,” limiting the highest level of instruction to the remaining ten percent.
Board of Education members further discussed concerns as part of a discussion of district goals, even reflecting on their own children’s math experiences. Specifically, Madhu Pai described the challenge of differentiating instruction across a very large span of student abilities in math. =“I believe our teachers do the impossible,” she said.
A number of Board of Education members concurred that greater communication around math placement and levels is a priority that the new superintendent, Dr. John Ramos, will address.
District parent Lauren Freedman, representing the South Orange Maplewood Parents for Quality Education Facebook group, read the following statement to the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education on Monday, July 20, 2015: