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Newport-Mesa to gather input from parents on middle school math offerings

Newport-Mesa to gather input from parents on middle school math offerings
A file photo shows a series of complex mathematical equations. (Photo by Maxiphoto / Getty Images)

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District will host parent meetings this summer to collect public input on plans to modify how math classes are offered to middle school students.

A meeting is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 22 with two more in September. A school board study session will take place in the fall.

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Newport-Mesa notified parents Monday that it would maintain current math course pathways for the 2018-19 school year after parents protested the possibility of eliminating honors and enriched courses for middle school students.

During Tuesday’s school board meeting, Supt. Fred Navarro said the district committee made up of teachers, principals and officials will continue discussing what changes could be made to better align math pathways to the state Common Core standards.

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“[Their] concern is, ‘How do you fit two years of math into one?’” Navarro said. “They don’t want our students who are being accelerated to have any deficiency.”

Navarro explained that potential changes to the district’s pathways came about when a group of teachers piloted new math materials for grades six through eight.

District staff learned they need to address things earlier, Navarro added.

Students who pass the math placement exam will continue to be eligible for middle school honors or enriched math classes. The recently adopted curriculum, Illustrative Mathematics, will be used but the pathways will remain the same.

Parents thanked trustees for slowing down the process but were critical of what they termed a lack of transparency in informing parents earlier of potential changes. Some also requested to see data and research the committee used to determine how eliminating advanced math classes was the best option.

Jon Gurka, a parent of three boys in the district, said he was pleased to hear more information sessions will be offered in the summer.

Bob Parzick said he wanted to hear to hear directly from the committee at the upcoming parent meetings.

Parent Gia Gaffaney said Laguna Beach Unified tried eliminating advanced classes and urged trustees to look to the nearby district for guidance.

Back Bay High School math teacher Dennis Ashendorf spoke against returning to a “flawed system.”

Parents first received news of the potential changes from district officials days before the June 18 study session, where Director of Curriculum and Instruction John Drake, teachers and a math expert explained why altering pathways would better align curriculum with Common Core State Standards.

Unlike the former state Standardized Testing and Reporting exam that measured a student’s memorization skills, Common Core focuses more on understanding the concepts of problem-solving and math’s real-world applications.

The committee proposed eliminating enriched or honors math classes at middle schools. Instead, all students would take the same math courses until they reach their junior year in high school.

Supplemental math classes are being considered for students who need extra help or show signs of quick comprehension.

The district had planned to adopt a new math pathway during a future board meeting with changes implemented for the 2018-19 school year, but trustees directed staff to first consider parents’ concerns.

New security system

In other business, the school board unanimously approved a $46,215 districtwide security management system that checks visitors against custom databases set by school sites.

Raptor Visitor Management System will help ensure accurate and reliable records are kept for every visitor that enters a school, according to the meeting agenda.

The system’s approval is another recent effort made by the district to step up safety measures across its 32 campuses and work sites.

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