‘Keeping Residents Abreast’

School district hosts several informational forums

Photo by Jeylin White
Clayton County Public Schools administrators and staff members sat on the panel to answer questions during the school district’s Informational Session held Tuesday, at North Clayton High School.

Photo by Jeylin White Clayton County Public Schools administrators and staff members sat on the panel to answer questions during the school district’s Informational Session held Tuesday, at North Clayton High School.

Gwen Cheatham and Regina Frambro are parents of students who attend Clayton County Public Schools. Cheatham and Frambro seem to also share another common interest: Making sure their children are prepared to transition into the new Common Core Curriculum.

Their concern –– shared by many other parents and community members –– was addressed during the Clayton County Public Schools Informational Sessions held Tuesday evening at several locations throughout the district, including: North Clayton High School, Morrow High School, Mundy’s Mill High School, and Jonesboro High School.

Clayton County Public Schools Chief Human Resource Officer Doug Hendrix said the sessions are to inform the public on issues facing the school system, particularly the system’s transition from the state-based Georgia Professional Standards performance practices and mandates, to Common Core Curriculum standards that are intended to be used nationwide to create a common set of standards for students across the country. Changes in high school math, college/career readiness, and understanding the school district’s different operational systems were also topics of discussion.

Hendrix was the meeting facilitator at North Clayton High School, where parents, Frambro and Cheatham were in attendance. He began the meeting by introducing a panel –– made up of district staff members and educators that included Denise Stevens, chief financial officer; Celeta Thomas, Area-Two math facilitator; Tonya Clarke, Area-One math facilitator; and Stephanie Williams, lead counselor for Lovejoy High School.

During Hendrix’s presentation, he explained how the district will choose from three computer operations systems, by which to manage its affairs and processes.

He also briefed the audience on how the district plans to transition from the current Georgia Professional Standards, to the Common Core Curriculum, with mathematics being the emphasis.

Though the turnout for Tuesday’s forum at North Clayton was light, it did not hinder those in attendance from asking the panel and school staff members tough questions on how the new curriculum will help students improve their math scores, in particular.

Regina Frambo said she has two daughters at North Clayton High School, and one who attends Elite Scholars Academy. Currently, she said, her two daughters at North Clayton are struggling in math.

“[My two girls] are honor students,” said Frambro, “and I wanted to see if it is just [my daughters] or [are other students struggling in math].” From her conversations with other parents, she said, it seems to be an issue across the board.

Currently, according to Board of Education Member Jessie Goree, who was at Tuesday’s forum at North Clayton, math in middle and high schools is being taught through “an integrated system,” which integrates many topics or strands of mathematics throughout each year of secondary school. Math courses cover topics in algebra, geometry, trigonometry and analysis together, rather than separating them in different courses.

In elementary schools, Goree said, students are being taught traditional mathematics. Traditional methods are based on direct instruction where students are shown one standard method of performing a task. For example, decimal addition, is taught as a standard sequence, she said.

Being a former math teacher, herself, Goree said, in her opinion, the integrated method is why most high school students are struggling in math and failing to meet the math requirement on the state graduation test. She said this is a result of students being taught the traditional math method, while in elementary school, then being thrust into the integrated system once they get to middle school.

North Clayton Principal James Wilburn said students at his school have shown improvement in mathematics on the standardized tests. In his opinion, that is due to students working in groups, as opposed to teachers just lecturing them, he said. Wilburn said because his students have adopted this method of learning ,he believes it will be a smooth transition for them, when it comes time to switch to the Common Core Curriculum.

Goree said she hopes the district will give students an option, and incorporate both traditional and integrated math. Hendrix said that, in fact, the new math curriculum will do just that. “Along with the memorization and application –– is explanation,” he said. “Now, children will have to go to a higher level of thinking.”

Officials say another “upside” to the Common Core Curriculum is that it has been adopted by 48 states, which will ensure students in Georgia will be taught the same information as students in other states. This is intended to keep students from falling behind, if they relocate to another state.

As the district prepares to switch to the Common Core Curriculum, Hendrix said the school system will host several math academies for parents, which will give them an overview of what the children will be learning.

He said the next informational forums will be held March 20, at Drew High School, Eddie White Academy, and Adamson Middle School.