Helen Ming, West Windsor
At the Town Hall meeting with the superintendent, Dr. Aderhold, on Dec. 7, many parents were happily surprised to learn that the school actually plans to “expand” fourth and fifth grade A&E instead of “eliminating” it. The superintendent tried hard to convince the audience that all the criticism towards the school before had been due to “miscommunication.” Is it true?
During the Town Hall meeting, Dr. Aderhold reiterated the “whole child” concept, which embodies the idea that “each student is challenged academically,” and promised all students with “an enriched and rigorous math curriculum in the regular classroom.” However, behind these grand words, Dr. Aderhold offered very little as to how this promise would be carried out on the issue of A&E.
Based on our limited understanding as derived from varying BOE interpretations of the redesign as well as school officials’ vague descriptions, here is what A&E expansion will look like: before each new math unit starts, a pre-assessment test will be given to all students. Based on the test results, students will be divided into six groups (group 1 will be the academically most advanced, group 6 will be the most challenged). Then three teachers will teach three classes. Class 1 will have students from group 1, 2, 3, and 4. Class 2 will have students from group 2, 3, 4, 5. Class 3 will have students from group 3, 4, 5, 6.
Since Dr. Aderhold intends to expand A&E, class 1 will most likely become the future “expanded A&E class.” But can groups 1 to 4 all follow an A&E curriculum which is generally two years ahead of regular schedule? Dr. Aderhold seems to be quite confident.
At the Town Hall meeting, he pointed out that in the 2014 NJASK test, 71 percvent (1,091 out of a total of 1,541 students taking the test) tested “advanced proficient” and that “a rising tide lifts all boats.” If he concludes that these 71 percent students all qualify for A&E, it may explain why he believes group 4 students should also go to A&E.
I have to respectfully disagree. Common sense tells us that if 71 percent students are two years ahead of their regular schedule, the regular schedule itself should probably be re-defined. If only a portion of these students are truly A&E-level students, mingling them with the rest of the class will add stress to everyone in the class.
In addition, when teachers have to teach students with a wide gap of academic readiness, the most likely result will be that A&E materials will be “dumbed down” to fit the average students. A&E-level students will be left hanging. They won’t be challenged academically and thus won’t be “whole child.” Dr. Aderhold would have failed them of his promise of “an enriched and rigorous math curriculum in the regular classroom.”
What is more important, with completely different student mix and a dumbed-down curriculum (and most likely different teachers, too), should the plan be called A&E “expansion” or “elimination”? I believe the latter is vastly more accurate.
Helen Ming, West Windsor