Friday, March 20, 2015

PARCC impacts Badger Students

Math teachers express concern about PARCC testing at School Board Meeting

Charles W. Hoffman

Math teacher Stacy Larson was at the school board meeting on Monday, March 16 to address the Board of Education about the new math curriculum.

Larson handed out a chart showing how the new curriculum will need to shift to meet state-mandated standards and to prepare students for PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) testing.

Having just finished the math portion of PARCC testing, Larson expressed grave concerns about the test.

The challenges of having a totally computer-based assessment, is that students must figure out how to explain their work, which is traditionally done on paper by showing formulas. Another problem with the test is the standards seem to be two years advanced from current curriculum.

Larson said the fields of algebra are being muddled together for testing purposes. Some of the questions on the Algebra I test are closer to Geometry, and the Algebra II test has questions ranging from trigonometry to stats and differential equations.

“Some of the things on the Algebra II test are not currently being taught until college statistics class,” she said.

Larson explained that the presentation of the test is mostly in story form, citing a few examples where students were required to read several paragraphs, decipher what was important to the equation and then explain in paragraph form the answer.

Anette Andersen, an elementary school teacher, expressed additional concern citing that the tests for third-grade students was very similar. Adding to the problem is the fact that current third-graders have barely been introduced to the keyboard and have no typing skills.

Mardell Martin, school librarian, added her frustration stating that she thought it was sad to see the frustration coming from children who do not possess a high level of typing skill. She said that even if the children know how to do the math, they have a very hard time trying to express it one letter at a time.

In order to prepare the students for this level of computer and typing experience, the school would need a significant number of additional computers in classrooms, which the district simply cannot afford.

Larson addressed the need for a complete course correction by shifting most of the math back approximately two full grade levels. That would put an introduction to Algebra at the end of the sixth grade and beginning Algebra at the seventh grade levels.

The first problem with this idea is the lack of textbooks that teach to the test standards.

There simply isn’t a math book that teaches geometry in an Algebra I class, and Trigonometry is not part of any current Algebra II books.

“We looked at buying new math books last year, but they are not significantly different from the current curriculum, and don’t come anywhere near what we need to meet the new standards,” said Larson.

Larson explained that it simply does not make sense to buy new books any time soon.

She hopes to learn more from the Cherry Creek School District which has developed a custom math curriculum tailored to suit the needs of the students in meeting new state guidelines.

When Larson and Andersen asked the board for direction on how to help change the course that the state has decided to take in the math field, they were advised to petition the state legislature and write letters to the Colorado Education Association.

Dean Twiss from the Limon Correctional Facility was in attendance with lighter and better news for the board.

Twiss asked the board for approval to continue with his plans to build shelters to be placed at bus stops around town.

The shelters would be built at the prison and delivered to locations that would be beneficial to students waiting for the school bus during inclement weather.

State funding and grant money would pay for the shelters and prison labor would be used for construction.

All shelters would be built off-site and would not require prisoners to leave the facility. They will be somewhat mobile and will be transported as fully assembled units.

The board informally granted approval to the project. Because the project is not funded by the school and requires nothing from the board or school personnel a vote was not taken.

Elementary principal Joel Albers reported that attendance is holding above goal at 96.05 percent.
Students have been focusing on PARCC testing and will continue to focus on testing for the next few weeks.

Summer school will be from July 13 thru July 27. Albers is working with the Methodist Church to provide accommodations for the students.

Kindergarten roundup will be held on Friday, April 17.

Third quarter report cards have been sent home with students.

Albers congratulated the fifth grade students on their participation in the band concert on March 3.
Secondary principal Traci Weisensee reported that the high school is still .58 percent below goal for attendance due to several bouts of illness passing through the classrooms.

High school students are continuing with their PARCC testing until March 19, then go into NWEA testing for the same subjects beginning on March 30 and continuing on to April 16.

From the counseling office, it was reported that Freshman Orientation was held on March 5, with 100 percent participation.

Pre-registration for the 2015-16 school year is nearly complete with several students having not turned in their forms.

Athletic director Dirk Pedersen congratulated Matthew Florek, Devin Christian, Luke Meier and Jayci Hollenbaugh for making first team All League in basketball, as well as Tristan Ruebesam for his honorable mention.

Pedersen also had high praise for the wrestling team for placing 11th overall in State Wrestling. Jayden Hilferty took first place in the heavy weight division and Kaleb Gaede placed third in his weight class.

High school baseball has 19 kids out for the team. Their first game will be on March 17.

Track has 17 boys and 17 girls running. The first meet will be in Lamar on March 21.

The 51st running of the Warren Mitchell Invitational will be held on Saturday, April 4.

Tim Anderson has donated $500 to the athletic department to make up for any real or perceived gate admission loss that may have been caused by the online broadcasting of the high school sports.

Superintendent Dave Marx reiterated concerns and frustration levels due to the PARCC Testing.

Everyone from teachers and administrators to the students are feeling the pain in this situation.
Marx will meet with Jay Hoskinson about the application for additional BEST Grant money to be used for updating the locker rooms in the gym.

Marx will have a better idea of the grant cycle and what money will be available after meeting with Hoskinson.

There is a lot of work to be done before the end of the school year. Marx said that everyone is working hard to see that everything gets completed.

The first action item on the agenda was to approve full-day kindergarten for the 2015-16 school year.
The second item was to approve the second reading of the updated dress code.

A first reading of new and revised policies was accepted and then discussion about the calendar ensued.

The first reading of the calendar has school set to begin on August 24. An alternate date of August 30 was also proposed.

Board member Bart O’Dwyer strongly urged the board to consider the ramifications of bringing the students back to school before the building is 100 percent ready.

Other schools have expressed the nightmare of having class while the construction is still ongoing.
There are many challenges with the schedule either way, but some great frustration can be mitigated if the construction and finishing crews have an extra week to complete the building.

Because the teachers will have such limited time between the in-service and the first day of school, it could also be beneficial to them to have a few extra days to get rooms ready before students arrive.

Many people rely on the school schedule including parents, BOCES, other schools and daycare providers, so the board feels the need to solidify a schedule soon.

The first reading passed with a start date of August 24, but more discussion and a potential alternate calendar will be presented at the next meeting.

After a short executive session to discuss the contract for Dave Marx, who faced an annual performance review last month, the board voted unanimously to approve his contract as superintendent.

Mike Kochis was approved as a middle school track coach, and the February 23 closing of school was also approved.

A new position for business education has been created by the board. The position will allow for a part-time teacher and give students the opportunity to take a business class. Funding has become available to cover the cost of the position and will begin with next year’s schedule.

The next meting will be held at 7 p.m. on April 20 in the choir room.

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