On Tuesday, February 20, the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education voted 7-2 to approve Resolution 3693, restructuring or “realigning” the STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) curriculum.
The restructuring entailed a reduction or consolidation of levels in Science and Mathematics, with most of those reductions coming in math.
(Read responses to the resolution by community groups here: PARES, Black Parents Workshop and the Schools Committee of the South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race.)
“This is an issue that goes beyond stem alignment to … who we are and what kind of community this is,” said Interim Superintendent of Schools Dr. Thomas Ficarra.
Ficarra began with an extended metaphor about the district as an organic body. “Like a body, we are not made of disconnected parts, we are made up of parts all connected.” Ficarra noted that particular parts of that body were suffering, impacting the whole. “The African American community is hurting, angry and frustrated to the point of outrage,” said Ficarra. “We have operated a system of invisible segregation.”
The realignment is reducing the math program grades 6-12 and science grades 9-12 by 15 levels in the 2 departments.
Regarding middle school math, Ficarra stated, “At middle school with so many levels, we are limiting students’ ability to take higher level math.” He added, “This leveling program prevents students from learning a standards based curriculum before they finish high school.” Ficarra noted, “With this path, they cannot take pre-calculus until they are seniors, or calculus at all.”
Overall, math for grades 6-12 is being reduced by 11 tracks.
In science, physics and chemistry are being reduced to 2 levels instead of 4 each.
In response to those who had expressed a concern that the reduction in levels would constitute a loss of rigor, Ficarra noted, “We are going to reduce levels and introduce best practices.” Ficarra said that those best practices “require resources, support and money.” All of those, said Ficarra, were being figured into the 2018-19 budget to “ensure children succeed.”
Regarding the costs, Ficarra assured the Board of Education that he would “never introduce a change without the budget to support it” and said that changes and supports were being figured into the 2018-19 budget now in draft.
The changes in curriculum alignment are to go into affect in September. The timetable presented showed that guidance counselors were to begin meeting with students this week to discuss the changes and curriculum choices for 2018-19.
See Ficarra’s andActing Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Dr. Donna Rando’s presentation here beginning at the 5 minutes and 15 second mark.
Below is the slide presentation given by Ficarra and Rando: