Several mothers of gifted and talented students have complained to the Bayfield School Board about what passes for GT math classes at the mid school this year. It has caused their kids who love math to say they hate math, some said.
"Our goal is to ask the district to make a comprehensive GT plan from elementary through high school," Esther Kopf said at the March 22 board meeting. She has daughters in 5th and 7th grades. She said her older girl took 8th grade algebra last year in 6th grade. "I was surprised this year that it was all on computers and they didn't have a teacher. She was very unmotivated. We asked if there were other options and were told no because of lack of teachers at the mid school."
Kopf said 10 to 15 minutes of each class are spent getting on-line for the lessons. Kids with questions have to e-mail the on-line teacher. A promised video conference with the teacher never happened. "My daughter kept saying how much she hated her math class. She told everyone she knew," Kopf said.
"We want to start planning for next year," she said. "These students shouldn't be put in a room with a computer and told to teach themselves."
Kerri Bayles said her son was identified as gifted and talented in math and English language arts. He had to spend a weekend at home on-line trying to get caught up in math, and that was You Tube videos. "If they had questions, it could take three or four days to get e-mail answers. ... I felt the first semester was review, no new material until January."
Tricia Ross said her son who loves math was unable to catch up in algebra II because whenever he ran into something he didn't understand, he had to e-mail the question and wait days for an answer. "Had there been a teacher there, he could have caught up," she said. "He started saying he hated math. He started turning in assignments that weren't complete, because he couldn't get answers to his questions. He came home with a D last semester. He was in the 99th percentile" for math.
"He still can't catch up," Ross continued. "It was taking four days for the teacher to respond on-line. I believe to the teacher, he was just a number and basically got written off."
One option used in the past was to take these kids to math classes at the high school. But Ross said some of these kids might be one or two years ahead academically but one or two years behind emotionally, making that a difficult fit.
Bayles complained that these kids who want to be challenged can end up in a high school class "with kids who have failed before, low achievers, kids who are there because they have to have the credit."
Superintendent Troy Zabel agreed and said, "That doesn't make sense."
Both Ross and Bayles objected that these kids will run through the high school math offerings and have nothing left to take as juniors and seniors.
Another mom complained of lack of progress in material covered in an advanced science class, that her son isn't making adequate yearly progress. "He loves science. Please at least cover something. ... We hire a lot of teachers for gifted who don't have experience in that. There's no oversight from administrators. The services don't get provided... If we had someone whose job it is to understand this stuff, I think it would be a wise investment compared to what's happened here."
Elementary math coordinator Carolyn Striker said, "One of the most important things we can do is instill a love for math. ... Creativity, curiosity, teamwork can't be met in an on-line program." She would like a specialized mid school class to meet the needs of these kids at their age level.
Zabel apologized for what has happened with the math classes and said BMS first year principal Tod Lokey inherited this problem. The district is forming a task force to look at GT issues and find solutions. "You have my commitment to that," he said.