Extra Credit

(By Julie Zhu)
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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Dear Extra Credit:

My son, a rising seventh-grader at Takoma Park Middle School, took Math B, often a fifth-grade course, as a fourth-grader at Pine Crest Elementary School. He was the only one to do so. In fifth grade, he was told that he would have to attend Eastern Middle School for the next-level course, Investigations in Mathematics, known as IM, during that school's first period. Since Eastern was on a block schedule, this meant that he missed part of his elementary-school morning every other day. Moreover, the fifth-graders took their math class in the middle of the day, so it was necessary for my son to sit through Math B again, in addition to taking IM at the middle school.

We were forced into this arrangement against our will, and it felt like punishment. His Math B teacher offered to give him an independent study in advanced topics, but the principal would not allow the teacher to do so. I suggested other possibilities, such as having him sign up for a Johns Hopkins online course or directing him in an independent study myself. All of these options were rejected by the principal, who told us that we had to send our son to the middle school. I don't think an elementary student should ever be forced to attend a middle school against his or her will.

Leslie Hall

Silver Spring

Thanks so much for responding to my request for stories of the difficulties placed in the way of students ready for acceleration. Pine Crest Principal Meredith Casper said peer-group instruction is important for IM, and the nearest place your son could get it was Eastern. As for online or home study, Casper said, those options were open to you, but on school time, the district had to stick to its core curriculum. Casper and you agreed that the Math B teacher was terrific, and found some special projects for your son, who also engaged in some Math B classroom give-and-take. I have space here for more accounts of fast kids encountering a slow lane.

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