Ramos: More Middle School Students Scheduled for Higher Level Math


As part of his first Superintendent’s report, Dr. John Ramos said that 74 South Orange Middle School students and 67 Maplewood Middle School students have been scheduled for a higher level math class this year due to “a new initiative” to review the end-of-year performance of rising 7th and 8th graders and identify students with “a high likelihood to be successful in the next higher math course.”

Ramos said that, as a result of this initiative, more students would be eligible to “take Algebra in Middle School and be on the trajectory to complete Calculus in High School and therefore be on the path to College and Career readiness that is vital to their success.”

Ramos also reported that the district had “a very successful range of summer programming with classes at Clinton, Seth Boyden, Jefferson and Columbia High School.” As a result, Ramos said that 24 students moved up a grade due to successful credit recovery, plus “dozens of students participated in step up classes in math and science to move up to a higher level for 2015-2016, and approximately 100 students completed on-line courses.”

“In addition,” said Ramos, “39 incoming 9th graders completed the Cougar Prep program, offered in partnership with the Loft and Family Connections, to help them prepare for a successful start to their high school career.”

Despite the new initiative to move middle school students to higher math levels, one mother of a middle school stated during public comments at the Board of Education meeting, “District policy for math placement is denying my daughter and children like her opportunities for growth.”

The parent said that all the movement upwards discussed by Ramos was from College Prep up to Honors, but that her daughter “did not make cutoff to accelerated math.” The mother explained that, even though MMS Principal Jerrill Adams agreed that her daughter should be accelerated, she could not be accelerated because “it comes down to one in-house test” while not taking into account high NJASK scores and grades. “The way we assess math in this district needs to change,” said the parent. “One test should not have this much weight.”

Later in the meeting, Board member and former Board President Beth Daugherty asked that the Board of Education’s Equity and Excellence Committee “think about … the concept of the standard being Algebra 1 in 8th grade which right now is advanced honors in 8th grade. Are the kids college and career ready at 8th grade? We need to think about that being the standard and everything being on a trajectory to have them be successful in 8th grade with a full year of Algebra 1 with Geometry in 9th grade.”

Daugherty added that the students would need to be supported toward this goal from the moment they entered the district. “I think that’s a real conversation we have to have and getting it solidified in the goals is one way to go about this.” Daugherty added that making Algebra 1 the 8th grade standard would not “mean you can’t accelerate. That’s skipping a grade. We don’t want to lose that.”

Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad, who serves on the Equity and Excellence Committee, assured Daugherty that “the committee is committed to getting there.”

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