Editorial | Math issues remain unsolved
February 17, 2009 · Updated 4:29 PM
It is difficult to understand how and why the math program in the Mercer Island School District is still not able to meet or satisfy the needs of students and their parents. It has been an issue for years. Administrators have tried to address the problem using several means: changing the curriculum, offering tutoring or what is termed ‘side-by-side’ classes at school, rearranging staff and other methods. But it appears not to be enough. Recent stories in the Reporter on the number of students who take classes for credit outside the district have refocused awareness on math education in the schools. But the idea that 100 or even 200 students are taking classes off campus in math, out of a student body of 3,900 students in a community that can afford it, doesn’t help us understand what is wrong or how to fix these problems.
Certainly, most students are learning something. SAT scores and numbers from the reviled WASL tests indicate that Mercer Island students are learning and even excelling at math. What might be instructive is to look closer at the students who take math classes elsewhere. We guess that one group is students who need help and whose teachers, for whatever reason, will not or cannot (perhaps because of large class sizes) help individual students who are struggling. Next are students who are working beyond their class level, who need challenge and growth, and cannot find it in a regular classroom. Finally, another group of students know that there is another way to take math and are either encouraged by their parents, who have the means to pay, or their peers, who tell them it is the better way.
Yet there must be room for improvement in the school district’s math curriculum. In all areas of the curriculum, the standard is set high by students, parents and teachers alike. For a high school that is singled out again and again as a high achievement school, the fact that math is considered lacking here is appalling. Bellevue schools have just completed a new math curriculum study, an undertaking that included parents as well as teachers. Don’t we owe our students as much?