About 100 frustrated and emotional parents—as well as some students—voiced concerns regarding math department at a forum Jan. 30, reported Tiger Online.
The meeting was a sequel to a previous one held in December, which was created to present parents with changes in curriculum related to Common Core Standards beginning 2014.
South Pasadena High School Principal Janet Anderson says she quickly realized at the December meeting “a lot of parents came and didn’t necessary want to talk about the agenda. ... They had issues with the current math program as it is now.”
Parents critiqued much of the math department last Monday citing unmotivated and inexperienced teachers, a of lack of continuity in course instruction and extremely hard tests.
Even parents showed up: “I don’t have an athlete as a kid; I have a math kid. It’s his life. And I’m very concerned, hearing that we have to get a tutor, or that he can’t take tests, or about the unfairness or lack of enthusiasm,” one SPMS parent said, according to Tiger Online.
Both Anderson and Superintendent Joel Shapiro agree that the challenges the math department faces are nothing new.
“We have been trying to change over the years to be more responsive to our students’ needs, entry level skills and attitudes towards math,” said Anderson.
“We’ve been taking steps for at least the time that I’ve been here,” concurs Shapiro. “The board has been much more intentional about making this a goal.”
And part of that process, he says, is to hear from parents and students.
One parent, who asked to not be named, says the lack of motivation and understanding on behalf of math teachers at SPHS dates back to over a decade before Shapiro’s time in the district.
“The problems (with teaching, not with the kids) are long-standing, and existed well before my older son arrived there in 1999. The administration is a bit resistant to change. ... Every few years parents get upset and have meetings,” she wrote to Patch in an e-mail.
Since the math department has already been identified as an area of priority within the district—and math achievement is in its strategic plan—Shapiro says the board has looked closely at where to delegate resources.
When federal job money became available last year, for example, SPUSD created a position for a “secondary school mathematics coach ... to work specifically with teachers on assessments and instructional strategies in a variety of ways in which we can refine our program to improve instruction and improve student achievement.”
Anderson says she’s also been working with faculty towards implementing effective next steps. “[The teachers] really want to see the best things happen. They understand the urgency and want to be part of solution.”
Is Tutoring Necessary?
If you drop by any given weekday (except for Fridays, because it’s closed), you’ll find a handful—if not more—of SPHS students getting tutored.
Tenth-grader Blair Newman told Patch in November: "Mathnasium instructors teach what teachers don't." She first came to the program to prep a few weeks prior to geometry finals last year.
“I think at some schools, parents are told or just expected [to get their kids tutored]. That is not our expectation,” said Anderson.
With SPHS’s on-campus student tutoring and hosting math-specific sessions twice a week, Anderson says she would hope students didn’t have to go elsewhere.
Most Teachers come in early and are available to help during brunch, lunch and after school. “They really do want students to come to them,” she said.
Head instructor at Mathnasium Neil Figuracion says, generally speaking, students can learn the concepts; the question is whether they’re getting the instruction they need.
Of his experiences as a instructor, he says: “Students would do well is certain regions not because the schools themselves are better, but because the parents were giving them more help or had the resources to do so.”
“That’s the big advantage that this community has,” he said in November.
One solution a parent suggested Jan. 30 was a Math Booster Club. The group, Anderson says, has already generated lots of parent interest.
“We are working steadily to improve the [math] program, especially with parent support and tutoring—we can really take advantage of this momentum.”
WATCH Tiger Online's great video (attached) to hear what parents had to say at the meeting; click HERE for the full story.