AISD: Math Debate, More on Kealing

Board members and faculty debate which text to adopt for middle school mathematics, board discusses plans for Kealing Middle School

A special meeting of the Austin Independent School District board of trustees ran long into the night Monday as board members and faculty debated for more than two hours over which text to adopt for middle-school mathematics across the district. The board had reached an impasse after the committee that was formed to make a recommendation failed to reach a consensus across grade levels.

Subcommittees representing sixth through eighth grades selected three different texts, but through mediation by the district, the choices were narrowed to two: the Connected Mathematics Project, which the district has used for several years, and a text by Holt, the publisher of the district's high school math texts. District officials cast the tie-breaking vote to recommend the Connected program based on data showing that it was successful at improving math performance in middle schools districtwide. Austin middle schools rank the highest among urban districts in math (though they lag behind the rest of the state when rural districts are included). The difference between the two texts is in the approach, faculty members said. The Connected program emphasizes individual discovery and experimentation, while the Holt text focuses on repetition and structure. The board is expected to vote at next week's meeting before the state-mandated April 1 deadline. Diane Young, who teaches seventh and eighth grade at Covington Middle School, said teachers can work with whatever the board decides. "Rigor comes from the teacher, not the textbook," she said.

Later the board discussed its plans for Kealing Middle School in the aftermath of a fierce debate over formally splitting the school's advanced academic magnet from the neighborhood school. In February, Superintendent Pat Forgione created two committees to draft separate proposals for restructuring Kealing as two schools on one campus. Though Forgione announced that the district will not split the schools for the purposes of state and federal accountability, the board will still enact the plans drafted by faculty, which call for a redesign similar to those taking place at high schools such as LBJ and Johnston.

The board heard testimony from the two committees, but notably absent was a third proposal demanding greater crossover between the two programs, which advocates of a one-school solution drafted separately. At one point, board member Robert Schneider criticized Forgione for not taking enough action, saying the board was simply "sliding the issue back under a rock." Forgione responded, calling for patience and faith in the faculty's proposals. "What we are doing now is not moving forward," Schneider replied. "We're maintaining the status quo."

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AISD Board of Trustees, Connect to Mathematics Program, Holt, Kealing Middle School, Pat Forgione, Robert Schneider

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