Tuesday night’s meeting of the Amphitheater Unified School District Governing Board was standing room only. Parents, students, and teachers came to discuss the District’s new Common Core aligned math and language arts curriculum.
During the general Call to the Audience, 8 parents, 4 teachers, and 1 Ironwood Ridge High School senior addressed the Board.
Parents made comments regarding the methods used in the teacher survey, which could not have produced meaningful results because the teachers did not have anonymity. Parents were critical of the Board for “not protecting” their children from the untested Common Core curriculum, and 2 of the parents read statements from teachers, who feared retribution from the District for their opposition to the new teaching methods.
A parent, Annette Hesselink, told the Board that “there is one set of hardback books, but only for classroom use. The students must use online resources.”
Hesselink said that while the District has agreed to increase the number of laptops, they have not materialized and as a result, teachers are giving up on using computer labs during class time. “The labs are too busy,” she said, and the teacher “felt the AP students should have precedence.”
According Hesselink, there is a bandwidth problem, slow performance, and slow uploading of assignments.
The Board was also advised by Hesselink the new curriculum requires that in order for a student to be successful, they would need extended access to a computer at home. However, because the Pearson online texts are not supported by Apple, too many students are unable to do the assignments. Hesselink said, “Apple products do not support Pearson online texts, so iPads/Mac books don’t help the kids at home.”
Hesselink read from a hand written note from a student to a teacher. The student was concerned about not being able to complete some online quizzes. The student wrote:
Hi Ms. (Anonymous),
My mother turned off our wifi and cable, so I couldn’t do the quizzes at home. When I got to school I tried doing it 3 times and two of those days the Amphi website was down. The day it wasn’t down the school computers weren’t loading and I waited 45 minutes for it too [sic] load. Then the bell rang and I had to leave. SORRY I was irresponsible.
Hesselink advised the Board that the situation was “heartbreaking. The freshman student truly felt she had been irresponsible and deserved zeroes for the quizzes. It didn’t occur to the student that the school computers should have worked the first time she tried accessing the quiz.”
According to one teacher, the math book she was expected to use “is a complete waste of time.” The teacher told the Board that “the school has become a Toxic environment.” Teachers are reporting the same experience across the country.
Another parent, Rachel Diaz de Valdes, told the Board that she wanted them to understand how administrators had conducted the teacher surveys regarding their use of the new math curriculum in the classroom, and why those findings were invalid.
“During the surveys, teachers were interviewed in person, not anonymously, by district level administrator.. not peers. They were verbally asked questions and the administrator wrote down the answers. Let me repeat that ‘administrators themselves wrote down the answers.’ And in some cases the name of the teacher was written on the top of the paper,” said Diaz de Valdes.
Diaz de Valdes continued, “Now numerous studies have shown that surveys done within organizations should be done anonymously or by someone from outside. Allow me to summarize these research findings. Research shows that when a company surveys their own employees: the interviewer can modify or sway the results without any recourse, the interviewer may choose to take comments out of context or lean the opinion given in one direction or another, the interviewer may spin the answer to suit the needs of the company, and finally, the employee may feel threatened or intimidated to answer a particular way. Specifically, they could choose not to answer truthfully to save their job.”
Diaz de Valdes told the Board that she had “personally spoken to teachers that said they felt intimidated during these recent interviews. Please…. think about this when ANY survey results are presented to you tonight.”
The IRHS Senior was there to say that students want and need a voice in their education. The student, who wants to be a math teacher, told the Board that she tutors in the school and said that the new experimental curriculum is hurting students.
The Board’s meeting agenda item was on the Carnegie math curriculum. Superintendent Patrick Nelson told the attendees, “We can’t undo what the Board approved in curriculum choice.”
He continued, “We need to further address the students and teachers. We should provide additional traditional books.”
He promised to meet with principals next week to tell them not to intimidate teachers.
The public was allowed to once again address the Board on the specific agenda item. A total of 14 people spoke including 5 teachers and 6 parents, who oppose the curriculum, and 1 teacher from La Cima Middle School and 1 from CDO High School, who support the curriculum.
One teacher told the Board that a majority of kids will fail Geometry. One teacher complained that while doing a problem in class, he checked the teacher’s manual for the answer, and it was completely wrong, to which Board Member Dr. Kent Barabee inexplicably responded, “A wrong answer in a Teacher’s manual is a good teaching moment for the kids.” The attendees suppressed their snickers at his absurd rationale.
A total of 6 parents said that they refuse to accept the claim that the District has to keep the Carnegie Curriculum. One parent brought a Glencoe math book he had personally bought, and suggested they use it to replace Carnegie.
Mr. John Fife , president of the Amphi teachers’ union, said that the survey indicated that a third of the teachers liked Common Core, a third didn’t like Common Core, and a third of the teachers were neutral. Fife concluded, “One size does not fit all.”
The meeting, which started at 6 p.m., lasted until 10 p.m.
The parents intend to continue the fight against Common Core. They will not be alone. Across the country parents, students, teachers, and education advocates across the political spectrum are questioning the controversial program.