At the February 20, 2018, meeting of the Board of Education, Interim Superintendent, Dr. Thomas Ficarra, and Acting Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, Dr. Donna Rando, presented recommendations for STEM Realignment with an in-depth PowerPoint presentation.
Note: The presentation begins at the Index Point "Superintendent's Monthly Report" in the top right corner of the video.
Dr. Ficarra began with a macro view of why the realignment is necessary, and why this is the right time to make the change. He shared data showing that the current program prevents students from learning a standards based curriculum before they finish high school. According to PARCC testing results, 69% of CHS students who take Algebra 1 and 61% of CHS students who take Geometry do not meet state expectations. This is even more troubling given the fact that 65% of all African American students enrolled in Geometry are in Level 2 or 3 classes, and none of the students in Level 2 or 3 Geometry met or exceeded expectations.
Dr. Ficarra declared that SOMSD must stop finding reasons to delay making changes which we know are necessary. He committed to ensuring that SOMSD implements best practices which also result in integration, are based in research, and enhance instruction. Dr. Ficarra explained how the budget process for 2018-2019 will ensure that the district allocates the resources necessary to fully support these changes, including providing teachers with professional development and building appropriate student supports into the schedule for next year.
Dr. Rando then gave a micro view of the proposed changes. Dr. Rando shared charts explaining the current levels in the Math and Science departments, and explained new charts showing the proposed realignment, with the reduction of 11 levels in math (2 in grades 6-8 and 9 in grades 9-12) and 4 levels in science (2 levels in Physics and 2 levels in Chemistry). STEM offerings will now include a choice of academic or honors for all core math and science courses at CHS, other than 9th grade Algebra 1 which is only offered as an academic course.
When asked if the district is sacrificing rigor to reduce levels, Dr. Rando assured the Board and the community that the realignment maintains the most rigorous courses SOMSD currently offers in math and science. She explained that the changes will not reduce rigor; they will just ensure that all students received the standards-based curriculum, skills and knowledge that NJ requires for high school graduation.