Editor:

Re: Dear Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District community,

A fundamental shift is occurring in our schools, significant enough to this SMMUSD parent to alert school families and the community.

For the past several years, math-passionate SMMUSD students have been able to pursue a course of study that allows them to take three calculus classes during their high school years, culminating with multivariable calculus and linear algebra as seniors in calculus! This staggeringly amazing feat, rare for any high school, is a testament to our students and our exceptional SMMUSD faculty. Santa Monica High students first received calc instruction via video-conferencing from Malibu High, but the success of the program created such demand in Santa Monica, teacher Kelly Okla was tapped to teach the class at Samohi.

It’s awesome to see our kids graduate and move on to represent SMMUSD at prestigious higher learning institutions like Yale, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, Middlebury, Brown, Williams, UC Berkeley, UCLA, USC, Stanford and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. There are many great educational features that create this success, and unquestionably, the accelerated math pathway is one.

Thus I cannot comprehend why SMMUSD administrators put this valuable program in jeopardy. Love it or hate it, Common Core is here, but it’s not totally inflexible. Local districts may develop plans based on the needs of their students. Some districts, San Jose and San Juan Capistrano for example, are weaving in Common Core while protecting their accelerated programs. The implementation method SMMUSD has chosen, despite vigorous and repeated objections by scores of parents, creates obstacles in the accelerated math pathway, making the calc class onerous to reach.

A key component in reaching calc senior year is accumulating all the pre-requisites, which kids start amassing in middle school. They need to reach geometry by eighth grade, but herein lies the rub: middle school geometry is being eliminated! So how will students fit in all the necessary calc requirements? A district administrator states they’ve built in “multiple opportunities for students to accelerate so that all calculus options are attainable by those of our students who love and excel in math.”  Here are those potential “opportunities.”  Either take geometry the summer before ninth grade or, even worse, take geometry concurrently with algebra 2/trigonometry during their freshman year. And the kicker for the second option: the geometry class would be scheduled before the start of the school day, at 7 a.m.

These opportunities are not just dependent on a child’s passion, but on the family’s ability to handle these logistics, as they exist outside the parameters of the normal school schedule. What if a student needs to work over the summer? With the summer geometry option in place that child may be excluded from the ability to attain calculus instruction as a senior.

Or a 7 a.m. Geometry class, taken alongside algebra 2/trigonometry? Many families have more than one student enrolled in SMMUSD schools. We have single-parent families, families living many miles away from our schools, it seems highly probable a 7 a.m. class would result in the loss of math students, again not due to a child’s ability or desire but to family circumstances. Plus, can you imagine asking a freshman student to take two accelerated high school math courses together in one year? Factor in the mountain of evidence compiled by the National Sleep Foundation showing the negative impact early school-start times have on kids’ health and studies, and what we have is a 7 a.m. geometry opportunity I’m genuinely amazed any educator would suggest as a preference over the excellent and proven pathway that has been in place.

If you have an SMMUSD elementary school child who loves and excels in math, let your administrators know you are concerned about the state of the accelerated math pathway. Parents of math-passionate kids at Lincoln and John Adams middle schools in Santa Monica, find out what’s happening to your eighth grade geometry!

If the change to the existing math pathway, traditionally a crown jewel in the SMMUSD curriculum concerns you, reach out to Superintendent Sandra Lyon, Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services Terry Deloria, and to School Board members Ben Allen, Oscar de la Torre, Jose Escarce, Maria Leon-Vazquez, Laurie Lieberman, Ralph Mechur and Nimish Patel.

 

Martha Quinn

SMMUSD parent

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