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Math takes priority

November 22, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Some students at Lincolnshire Elementary School have been getting less instructional time on science and social studies in recent weeks after students at the school scored low in Washington County Public Schools' math tests, Principal Darlene Teach said Thursday.

Parent Stacey Hambleton said Wednesday that about three weeks ago her fourth-grade daughter was told there would be no more social studies or science classes in the near future. Her daughter was disappointed because science is one of her favorite subjects, Hambleton said.

Stacey Hambleton said she thinks the changes are unfair for children, especially those who enjoy or excel in science or social studies.

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In response to the math scores, Teach said she told teachers about three weeks ago to find ways to adjust the class schedules to spend more time on math, with the goal of improving students' abilities and scores. She did not tell them what classes to change or cut to make that possible, she said.

About once a month, students in the elementary schools are given what the system calls a "benchmark" test to evaluate their proficiency in reading and math, Mowen said. The next test is Wednesday.

Students in third, fourth and fifth grades recently scored low on "math response extensions," which require students to explain in writing how they reached an answer, Mowen said.

Teach said none of the 12 teachers teaching those three grades cut science or social studies out of their instruction in the last few weeks.

But Teach said some of the 12 teachers changed a block of time devoted to social studies and science into a block of time on social studies, science and math response extension.

In some classes, for example, there would then be two days where that block would focus on science, two days on social studies and one day on math, she said.

The result is a temporary reduction of science and social studies instruction, she said.

But Kristi Violet said her daughter's fourth-grade class did not just have a reduction in science and social studies time, but rather "it was cut completely."

"I do not agree with it. I feel that our children need science and social studies as important as anything else," Violet said.

The principal and parents interviewed gave conflicting answers about how much social studies and science time was cut from the schedule.

Parents say that in some grades, a 50-minute block of time typically set aside for social studies and science was instead used in recent weeks for increased math instruction. A letter sent to parents, apparently by a school employee, and provided to The Herald-Mail, also says that changes were made in some grades.

The school is writing a letter to send to parents to clarify what changes have been made and why, Mowen said. Schools often make adjustments to their schedules, she said.

The social studies and science classes resumed for fourth-grade students last week, Teach said. The fifth-grade class will return to a normal schedule this week, she said. It has not been determined when the third-grade classes will return to normal schedules, she said.

Teach and other school employees plan to meet Tuesday to evaluate the schedule changes, she said.

Joetta Palkovitz-Brown, the system's executive director of elementary education, said she knew Teach told teachers to increase the emphasis on math, but hoped no teacher would do that by cutting social studies or science out of their instruction.

She was unaware of any other schools in the system making such a change, she said.

Elementary school teachers are required by the school system to spend a certain amount of time during each nine-week marking period teaching social studies and science, she said.

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