PA Coalition for World Class Math

Three Village Everyday Controversy continues 10/16/2013 (NY)

Three Village parents decry classroom sizes, missing textbooks

October 16, 2013 | 03:58 PM

It's a month and a half into the school year and some Setauket Elementary School parents are unhappy. They're displeased because of recent budget cuts, the effects of which were starkly evident on back-to-school night, when more names appeared on student lists and additional desks were crammed into the classrooms.

With 50 teachers laid off, class sizes have risen across the district. It was, however, a Setauket parent who raised that issue at last week's Three Village school board meeting. She also brought up concerns about the Everyday Math program and the lack of math workbooks into the fifth week of school.

"Children need a teacher who can give them one-on-one attention every day," parent Rachel Erickson told board members.

Individualized attention is key during foundational years, said Erickson, whose child's second-grade class has 27 students. Britt Halvorsen, an eighth-grade social studies teacher in Kings Park and mother of a second-grade student, agrees. Teachers are handling behavioral problems while trying to teach a large number of children with different abilities how to read and write, she said during an interview.

Both mothers also are concerned about the lack of physical space in their children's classrooms. Erickson described them as "jam packed," with no room to move around. Halvorsen said her daughter's classroom is so full, all of the children can't fit on the rug, so one table of students must remain at their desks.

"We knew full well we were going to go into a difficult year in terms of class size. We knew they were going to increase," district superintendent Cheryl Pedisich said.

Pedisich agreed that the numbers are not ideal, but said they are still within "contractual guidelines." While Setauket's second grade has two classes with 25 students each and two with 27, the superintendent said the district's average second-grade class is 23.5 students.

"You have to look at the variables that go into balancing," she said after the meeting. Speaking of the district's middle schools, Pedisich said some classes have 30 or so students. "We did reduce electives, so we are trying to find that balance," she said.

Halvorsen, who also has a child at Gelinas Junior High School and teaches classes with more than 30 students, accepts that this is the reality for older students. However, she said, the class size issue "is worth fighting for the younger kids. If you get behind at this point, you're in trouble."

During the board meeting, Erickson, a third-grade teacher in Port Jefferson, also shared her reservations about the Everyday Math program. It's not aligned with the Common Core Learning Standards, she said. Her concerns were compounded by the fact that students were without their math workbooks weeks after the start of the new school year.

"We are aware that it doesn't align with the core," said Kevin Scanlon, assistant superintendent for educational services.

A subcommittee will decide whether to continue Everyday Math or change to state-prepared math modules, he said. If a change is made, the district will train teachers this winter so they can begin incorporating the program in the spring, before the next round of standardized tests.

As for the math workbooks, they arrived last Thursday. Before then, Scanlon said, teachers had been making copies of the lessons and homework for students. The problem had occurred at both Setauket and Mount elementary schools, whose principals had been switched this year. Scanlon attributed the late workbooks to "an administrative snafu."