March 13, 2000
|FROM:||Christopher E. Smith|
|RE:||Meeting on March 13, 2000 concerning Kinawa sixth-graders’ math computation scores|
When I arrived for my meeting with Mrs. Hoevel this morning, I was surprised to see three additional people waiting to speak with me. However, I think the group meeting was a beneficial way for me to gain information from and express my thoughts to people involved with various aspects of the math curriculum.
I wanted to write a brief memo about the meeting to make sure that I did not misunderstand any of our discussions. It is my understanding that you have agreed to do the following:
1) Immediately reconsider the use of block scheduling for sixth grade math. My daughter has math for two-hour time blocks every other day. In light of the math computation deficiency identified by the Iowa test results, it seems wiser to have math every day for a shorter period of time in order to practice and reinforce knowledge and skills.
2) Immediately communicate with the fifth-grade teachers at the feeder elementary schools about the math computation expectations of the Iowa test so that these teachers can assess their students’ proficiency and consider giving greater attention to math computation for the next class of students that will take the Iowa test in the fall.
3) Evaluate the Iowa test reports of individual sixth-grade students so that the schools can identify if the low scorers came from particular elementary schools. I would also suggest examining the individual reports from Chippewa to see if high scorers came from particular elementary schools.
I would also like to take the opportunity to reiterate several points, although I did not get clear agreement from you about these observations/suggestions:
1) I think it would be beneficial for the Kinawa sixth graders to have math homework involving math computation every single night of the week, even if it is just a few problems. In light of the weakness identified by the Iowa test, this is an easy step to seek improvement. Moreover, as I said at the meeting, even if it turns out that students have improved by the end of the year, there is no harm in giving them a little more experience and practice. It would be far worse to discover later that they have not made desired progress and the school has missed the opportunity to give the issue extra attention in the final months of the year.
2) I fear that school officials are overly optimistic in believing that the extra computation instruction that was planned for Kinawa students before the Iowa test results were known will be sufficient to move the sixth-graders’ proficiency to the level of Chippewa’s students. I believe the Iowa test results should be taken as a sign to do extra work–such as five to ten extra minutes of math computation within each math class period.
3) I fear that school officials greatly underestimate the extent of parents’ dissatisfaction with the insufficient attention to math computation. I am still receiving calls and email messages every day from concerned parents. School officials seem to believe that the current curriculum has an appropriate mix of computation and other topics, but many parents clearly do not believe that their children have adequate proficiency.
Thank you for listening to my concerns. I remain eager to hear the results of your further analysis of the Iowa test results (e.g., if there were differences among students from different elementary schools) and I look forward to seeing the results of your math computation assessments of Kinawa sixth graders at the end of this year. As you are aware, there are many parents of sixth graders and fifth graders who will be monitoring their children’s progress more closely than in the past. Thank you again.
Christopher E. Smith
2069 Tamarack Drive
Okemos, MI 48864
349-3613 or 353-0735
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