Newport-Mesa elementary schools lack sufficient textbooks, group alleges

A truck with a message opposing the Swun Math program parked outside a Newport-Mesa Unified board meeting in 2016. A complaint presented to the board Tuesday contends sixth-graders have been “denied sufficient math curriculum” because they continue to use Swun Math.
(File Photo)

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District says it will investigate a complaint presented to the school board Tuesday night by a group alleging the district lacks sufficient instructional materials for elementary school students.

In its complaint, the Newport-Mesa Community for Students says there aren’t enough recently adopted English language arts and math textbooks.

Reading Wonders by McGraw-Hill Education was chosen in June for kindergarten through sixth grade. The Math Learning Center’s Bridges in Mathematics program was adopted in May for K-5.

The complaint also contends that sixth-graders have been “denied sufficient math curriculum” because they continue to use Swun Math, which parents and teachers have said contains errors and typos.

Temporary lab stations at Costa Mesa High School also are a concern, according to Erica Roberts, a parent representing the group, because they lack electrical hookups or sink access — “an ongoing deficiency over several years.”

Roberts urged the school board to delay a vote to approve a resolution on Tuesday’s agenda acknowledging sufficiency in textbooks and other instructional materials until the district investigates the complaint.

The board voted to pass the resolution, with trustee Walt Davenport absent.

Roberts told the board during the meeting that it knowingly used the “defective, non-Common Core-compliant and underdeveloped” Swun Math instead of using a “readily available” state-adopted math curriculum.

Parents and students urged the board last year to adopt Go Math, a program published by Boston-based Houghton Mifflin Harcourt that is one of several on a list adopted by the state Board of Education.

“Teachers were asked to edit this half-ready product [Swun Math] while the district paid millions for this experimental math curriculum,” Roberts said, referring to a panel of 11 teachers directed by the district in 2015 to perform what administrators called “edits” to fix mistakes in the materials. “This has resulted in significant harm caused to students.”

Roberts asked the district to survey teachers anonymously about the adequacy of instructional materials.

Vanessa Galey, district director of special projects, said officials will investigate the group’s concerns , though it may be difficult to pinpoint which school sites lack sufficient materials if that isn’t noted on the complaint.

Galey said district staff checked with all elementary schools about their textbook quantities and that it cross-references information in an internal database. In instances when more textbooks were needed, Galey said, staff sometimes walked to the warehouse to remedy the need.

Principals signed off as having necessary materials, Galey added. Trustee Martha Fluor requested all documentation showing that.

District spokeswoman Annette Franco said the district understands concerns about Swun Math, which is why the board approved the new textbooks for kindergartners through fifth-graders.

This year a committee of sixth- through eighth-grade teachers is evaluating possible pilot math programs to try out, Franco said.

Newport-Mesa elementary schools began using Swun Math in 2013, but critics have urged the school board to look at other math programs based on Common Core State Standards after finding errors in Swun materials.

Cypress-based Swun Math has said the Common Core math curriculum is new for the company and that when it finds errors and typos, it posts corrections on its website.

Superintendent returning to work after injury

Board President Karen Yelsey said Supt. Fred Navarro will return to the helm Thursday after being hospitalized following a fall on his way to work in August.

Yelsey said Navarro will be easing back in, working limited hours.

Russell Lee-Sung, deputy superintendent and chief academic officer, has been filling in for Navarro.

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