Archive for Thursday, May 4, 2006

De Soto school leaders debate math policies

May 4, 2006

De Soto USD 232 Board of Education member Bill Waye wants to make sure students in De Soto get the best math education possible.

After listening to reports from district learning services director Bret Church about changes in De Soto USD 232's high school summer math program, Waye said he was still concerned.

"I don't feel like we have a bunch of kids failing math," he said. "I feel like we have a math program that's failing kids."

Although no board action was taken at Monday's board meeting, Waye asked Church for an in-depth report on math learning in high school classrooms.

Church had informed board members about a new summer program that would give students math credit for summer programs instead of giving them credit for a required course. For example, if a student were failing Algebra I, the student could take a summer course that would give them a credit of math, but not a credit for Algebra I. If that student still didn't have the skills to continue onto the next course, they would enroll in Algebra I again the next year.

"They realize if they're in danger of failing the course in February, they have a tendency to shut down for the rest of the year," Church said.

Waye criticized the recovery program because he said it allowed students to get math credit at below-level standards.

"We started out this year with a high level of concern about math," he said. "I guess I still have that, and this process just elevates that about three times higher than it was before."

The De Soto school district is one of the few in Kansas that requires four math credits for graduation. However, specific classes to earn those credits aren't required.

Despite Waye's concerns about math, De Soto High School did make adequate yearly progress last year on state assessment tests. Last year's Lexington Trails Middle School students, who will be freshmen at De Soto High School next year, achieved the standard of excellence in mathematics for the 2004-05 school year.

Starside Associate Principal Tim Smith said changes have been made to improve math education at the school.

"LTMS sixth-grade teachers were frustrated," Smith said. "They came to us complaining that students were still counting on their fingers."

Smith said the math family nights are helping parents get familiar with their child's math learning. Smith reported to the board that students from third grade and up have been participating in an in-school tutoring program. He said that last year, only three students at Starside were in the "unacceptable" category of the state assessments. Starside also achieved the state standard of excellence in mathematics last year. Starside has a math lab to help those struggling with learning math facts. He said the school made changes in how it taught basic facts.

When students entering Lexington Trails took a placement test, Smith said 23 of them showed they had mastered the skills -- 18 of those students were from Starside.

Board member Janine Gracy said she was appreciative of the high school math recovery program, which she said would give the students a better chance of graduating on time and being able to master math skills.

"We had an experience with that," she said. "If the student couldn't do it in a year, there's no way they could do in four weeks."

Waye said the board might want to consider giving specific directions for math credits.

"Algebra and geometry should specifically be required," he said. "For kids who aren't going to master calculus, maybe the three math credits everyone else requires has some merit."

In other news:

  • The board agreed to give the De Soto district's attorney a directive to require U.S. Foods to adhere to its contract. The company is currently on a three-year contract, renewable each year.

For its contract, the district pays an 85 cents markup per case of product. The company told the district it could no longer honor the contract because of gas prices and inflation and would have to charge $1.40 markup per case of product.

Student nutrition director Julie McGrath said other school districts in the area pay much more: Blue Valley pays $1.90, Gardner Edgerton pays $2.18 and Kansas City, Kan., pays $1.65 per case markup.

McGrath said she would prefer the district bid out the project to allow U.S. Foods to enter a new contract. The only other food provider in the area is the Sysco Corporation, she said, and the district could only hope the other company could come in under bid. With such few companies willing to bid, she said, it was important to maintain a positive business relationship with the company.

"U.S. Foods has provided us with more service in the past, and their need is legitimate," she said.

  • Agreed to hire Angie McDermed as temporary part-time occupational therapist, Sherry Dumolien for special education at Lexington Trails, Tod Hessong for math at De Soto High School, Kathleen Keen as second-grade teacher at Starside and Jose Mendez as school psychologist. The board accepted the resignation of Chuck Lauritzen, chemistry teacher at De Soto High School.

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