MT School Board hears parents' concerns about math

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Tribune News Staff

Several parents were present at the Marked Tree School Board meeting on Monday to express their concerns about the school's efforts to improve scores in math on the benchmark test.

The school implemented a plan for students in grades seven to 12. Using practice benchmark tests, school officials were able to determine math areas with which students were experiencing difficulty. These highlighted weak areas are currently being targeting in every class room. Superintendent Gary Matthews said, "This math is a prescription based on a test we've given to diagnose weaknesses. The students who are struggling the most in math will benefit the most from this program."

The main concern among parents centered on how the math prescription would affect the grades of students, especially seniors. Sheri Hendrix of Marked Tree voiced her concern about her son, a senior, who has continually struggled with math. "I don't want to see my son's GPA pulled down over a test he will never take again," Hendrix said. Other parents present expressed similar concerns.

Teachers present at the meeting explained to the parents that the math work is used only as bonus points for participation. According to the teachers, a student's grade can only be hurt if he or she refused to participate at all. Any effort to comply with the policy could only positively benefit a student's grade.

"It's not our intention to punish anyone. We want to help. We all love our children and we're concerned about their future," school board member Keith Steele said.

Masters explained that all the teachers meet together regularly to go over problems focusing on the seven problem areas diagnosed by the practice tests. The teachers then go back to their classrooms and explain the math using their class material if possible. "Having math explained in a home economics class using a home economics problem helps a student understand in a whole new way. Suddenly something confusing becomes clear," Masters said.

The school is also using peer tutoring to help teach math in new ways. According to Masters, peer tutoring can help students learn math in an environment that is less intimidating and less stressful. "Research shows peer tutoring to be very effective in math situations," Masters said.

Counselor Patricia Gallion agrees that the new approach to math instruction helps students feel less intimidated by the subject. "Even for the faculty it's removing the fear of math. Used to, you could say Pythagorean theory and students would break apart," Gallion said.

In other business, Gary Masters gave an update about the work that has been done on the gym and adjoining facilities for the basketball regional tournament to be held the last weekend of February. "It is looking sharp," Masters said. "It will be a showcase for the community."

After a meeting in executive session, the school board voted to rehire Anessa Thompson as principal of the high school and Jana Hatley at elementary school principal. The board also passed a policy to raise the pay of bus drivers by $10 per day for routes lasting longer than an hour for at least a two week period. The pay will be reduced if the route falls below an hour for a two week period.

The school board also passed a policy to establish a new level of pay for substitute teachers with a college degree. The board approved an amount of $75 per day after a substitute has worked 10 days at normal substitute pay. The policy is contingent upon the approval of all classified employees.

The school board was asked to make a decision about the use of Channel One in the classroom. Channel One is a newscast program in which teenaged anchors bring present news targeted toward their peers. The program is broadcast 12 minutes per day during first period through equipment provided by the free service. After a visit from an educational standards committee, the school was asked to extend their school day 12 minutes to accommodate for the class time consumed by the viewing of Channel One. The school board voted to remove the service and equipment rather than extend the school day.

In other business, the school board presented and approved the financial statement and minutes from the previous meeting. The next meeting was rescheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, March 22, to accommodate for spring break.

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