Extra Credit: Why Does the Mountain Have to Come to Middle School?

(By Julie Zhu)
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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dear Extra Credit:

I am a former Montgomery County public schools employee, a parent of two in the system and a lifelong educator. An accelerated math program is presenting a unique challenge for the whole system.

As a parent, I addressed the issue first with the principal, then at a PTA meeting and then to the director of school performance when I thought that no satisfactory resolution was being looked into. There is still no resolution, and I do not believe the problem is unique to my small school.

Approximately 25 children in my son's fourth grade have been accelerated two grade levels in math instruction. They took what's called Math A (usually for sixth-graders) this year. They are slated to take Math B (usually for seventh-graders) next year, when they are in fifth grade.

In the past couple of years, the few students who qualified for this level of acceleration were bused to a middle school, then returned to the elementary school for the remainder of their day. This year, so many students have been found eligible that parents have requested that instead of sending them to the middle school, a Math B teacher be brought to the elementary school to teach them. This would reduce disruption and be better for their development.

Parents asked the principal what options were available to them should they choose not to have their children bused to the middle school. The principal said their children could repeat the class they have just passed. That is clear violation of policy. When parents complained to central office officials, they were brushed off and told this option was only for parents who thought their children were not ready for a new level of math. No other option is being offered.

Additionally, the Math B class at the middle school is scheduled to begin an hour before the elementary school day. The children would then return to their home elementary school for a study hall, to be supervised by para-educators who would not be trained to support the children's math instruction but just supervise them for an hour.

The issue was brought to the community superintendent's office, but still no resolution. In fact, they have contradicted themselves and insulted me in the process. I have followed all appropriate procedures but have not received correspondence from the community superintendent herself, only from the director of school performance. I have requested investigation into the fact that forcing accelerated students to repeat a class would violate policy. I was told my perception was not reality. Could you please check this out?

Charlene Ward

Montgomery County

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