For reasons that remain mysterious to me and to many other parents, the board of education has established a goal of teaching ninth grade math (also known as "Math A") to all eighth graders, beginning with the 2003-2004 school year. The reasons for setting this goal have never been clearly articulated, and I am at a loss as to why we are trying to do it at this time. I am all in favor of raising the bar, but only after we have provided our students with the skills they need to clear it, and only after we have established a sound educational basis for doing so. I believe that the board and the administration have done neither in this case.
At the board meeting of Tuesday, April 9, the administration presented their plan. Important details were still missing, including how they will structure the classes to meet the needs of students at different ability levels. During the presentation, the administration proposed additional math support classes for seventh and eighth grade, but expressed serious reservations as to whether this would be enough to adequately prepare all of the students for Math A. Given the test results that were revealed that evening, it is not hard to understand why they are worried. Last year, 25 percent of our eighth grade students fell below the minimum standard for the State Math Assessment. This means that at the end of eighth grade, at least 25 percent of the students were still not prepared for Math A. Furthermore, in our high school, 27 percent of students in grades 10-12 who took the Math A Regents received a failing grade. It is obvious that the administration is on the mark in their recommendations for additional math support, but why are we proposing to rush all of our eighth graders into Math A when we have neither established the need for it, nor demonstrated our ability to succeed in doing it?
The saddest part of this whole affair is that, regardless of the final vote on the administration's recommendations, we have wreaked havoc on what was a quality middle school offering. The middle school math parogram was not perfect, especially in regard to the amount of additional support given to struggling students, but it was very good and it was moving in the right direction. Now the program is in chaos, yet another victim of a fitful and capricious decision-making process.