Parents of Amphitheater middle school students in accelerated math classes will be receiving notice next week that their students have an option as to how they want their credit transferred to high school.
Prompted by parental concerns and a story by the Northwest EXPLORER, Patrick Nelson, Amphi associate superintendent for school operations, sent memos to middle and high school principals Jan. 31 saying an Aug. 15 decision changing procedure for crediting accelerated middle school mathematics was being re-examined.
"Because of our communication breakdown, and in the interest of better communication and fairness, we want to give the students a choice as to how their math credit will be transferred," Nelson told the EXPLORER late Friday afternoon.
Students will have a choice of using last year's credit-transfer rules or choosing to use the new rules set up Aug. 15, Nelson said. This decision also will apply to freshmen and sophomores at Ironwood Ridge High School, 2475 W. Naranja Drive, which had planned on applying the new rule retroactively to cover those students.
The parent letters will explain the option and parents will have until Feb. 19 to notify their child's school of their choice through a return form. If parents do not notify the school, Nelson said, "every effort will be made to contact them so there is not any more misunderstanding. If we have to make phone calls, we will."
For the past decade, accelerated mathematics taken in middle school was transferred to the high school as math credit, and in the case of algebra II and geometry/trigonometry classes, received a letter grade going toward the student's high school cumulative grade point average. No grade was given for algebra I, but it did count as math credit.
High school math teachers and Ironwood Ridge Principal Sam McClung brought concerns to former Amphi Associate Superintendent Richard Hooley about accelerated middle school students opting out of math in their junior and senior years of high school, and the crediting procedure was changed.
Middle schools were notified anywhere from Sept. 19 to mid-November that, beginning with this school year, accelerated math classes would transfer to the high school as un-graded, elective credit only. Because the school year had already begun and students were under the assumption they would be receiving mathematics credit when the policy changed, some parents and middle school math teachers said the policy was flawed.
In addition, La Cima Middle School had been given a year of grace directly from Hooley, which some teachers and parents at Wilson and Coronado said was unfair, and McClung had announced that the new policy would retroactively affect current freshmen and sophomore students at Ironwood Ridge, a decision questioned by parents of those students.
Richard Anderson, who has an eighth-grade son in advanced math at Coronado K-8 school, 3401 E. Wilds Road, sent a letter to Nelson in January - a few days after he was notified of the change at Coronado - outlining his concerns about inequities. That letter started the ball rolling toward the district's decision last week.
"It sounds reasonable to me that they are trying to accommodate everybody now with this choice," said Anderson. "This is probably the best we could have hoped for. It wasn't really my letter that did it though. I think it was the investigative effort of the paper that showed the district this wasn't anything that was going to go away anytime soon. In fact, I had a call from someone who never reads the EXPLORER who saw the headline, read the story and was surprised because he has a child at Cross (Middle School) and didn't know there had been a change."
Karen Gasser, one of a handful of concerned parents at Coronado, said she was glad the district has decided to offer parents and students an option for this year.
"The whole thing that caused this was the way they went about it," Gasser said. "That was always what bothered me the most, that they met and didn't give kids or parents who were in the middle of these classes a chance to have a say. I think it is great that parents went to bat for their kids and I really appreciate the district giving us a choice. I think they could have avoided a lot of what happened if they'd done that in the first place."
Nelson said a spring meeting would be held for parents, students, teachers and administrators to discuss concerns surrounding accelerated mathematics in middle school.
"I don't know the format yet, and I don't know when it will be held," Nelson said. "But we will be using a committee process to look at factors like communication and to take in the viewpoints of parents and teachers."