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High schoolers to enter
2008-09 minus a math curriculum

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

The Clayton County Board of Education has been told its high schools are scheduled to use planning guides -- instead of a full curriculum -- to teach math next year.

That news was not greeted warmly at a recent school board meeting.

"We're going to go in to the next school year with a curriculum that was slapped together at the last minute. The kids are going to suffer," said board member, Michelle Strong.

Planning guides are issued by the Georgia Department of Education. They tell a teacher how much time should be spent on a particular topic or theme, in a class, but offer little guidance beyond that. The planning guides are not detailed like a curriculum.

"[As a teacher in the Fulton County school system,] I had the curriculum from the county two years before I was going to teach it, so I knew what was going to be added, and what was going to be taken out," Strong said. "I knew how to get myself ready to start teaching a new curriculum. You can not throw a new curriculum, that's going to be drastically different, at a math teacher, especially one with less than five years of experience."

News of the use of planning guides came from Tarcia Jenkins, the math coordinator for middle and high schools, while board members sought answers to why Clayton students are not doing well in math. The lack of a curriculum for next year was not the only item to draw the ire of board members.

Board members also were trying to decide whether to approve a $96,000 contract with a Fayetteville-based, math-training company: Dimension 2000.

The proposed contract calls for the school system to pay $9,900 for off-site professional development for math coaches, math department chairs and a special-education, school-improvement specialist. The district would also pay $23,175 for systemwide professional development for math teachers; $51,565 for on-site professional development in select math classrooms; $9,960 for support materials for Algebra I, and Geometry, and $1,400 for professional development for all middle, and high school principals.

Anthony Smith, the school system's chief academic officer, informed the board that some employees had been trained in the Dimension 2000 program, even though the program has not yet won board approval.

"You can not enter into a contract before you come to us," said board member, Sandra Scott. "That's disrespectful to us. You think we're going to approve a contract just because you brought it to us?"

Smith told Scott the school system sent some of its math employees to a workshop offered by Dimension 2000 because the cost was less than $25,000, the threshold for requiring board approval. He said the training was "well received," and that he then made the decision to get more people trained by the company. However, Smith said, the request to the board is necessary now because the additional training cost will exceed $25,000.

"We have identified a critical need in math," said Smith. "Out of all the schools that failed to make AYP last year, many of them didn't do well on the math indicator."

The Clayton school district, as a whole, failed to meet the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) standard for high school math during the 2006-07 school year.

Only 88 percent of Clayton County eleventh-graders met, or exceeded, the passing mark on the math section of the Georgia High School Graduation Test last year. Statewide, 93 percent of eleventh-graders met or exceeded the passing mark on the same test.

The board was told the Dimension 2000 program is in use in Henry, Fayette and Cobb counties, and in North Carolina and South Carolina.