By MATTHEW MEYER | Reporter
Parents are once again pressuring Palisades Charter High School to improve the quality of math instruction, with a particular focus on lower-level courses for freshmen.
In consecutive years, Pali’s annual survey of parents and students has revealed a more negative sentiment about the department than other academic subject areas.
Key issues include a significant percentage of students who say they rely on an outside tutor to grasp material and complaints that certain math instructors do not seem engaged with students, with reports of months-long absences, failure to teach the curriculum or a lack of responsiveness to parent outreach.
Those concerns were echoed at December’s Board of Trustees meeting, where three in a group of about 10 parents in attendance shared their stories publicly.
Tamberley Much said that her daughter and son have always had similar levels of academic achievement and produced similar results on subject tests. The twins each took freshmen geometry, but with different teachers.
While her son thrived, Much said her daughter struggled from the first week of school, due largely to the fact that her teacher spent most of the class period at her computer as students worked on their own.
Jill Calcaterra and Dori Delshad echoed the dissatisfaction with ninth-grade geometry, saying that their students’ teacher had “significant absences” starting in the early weeks of the semester, leaving the class scrambling to learn material via workbooks.
“The kids were getting further and further behind,” Calcaterra shared. “The absences were causing my daughter extreme stress and concern.”
And though she acknowledged the school’s efforts to eventually add TAs and even a second teacher to the classroom, the inconsistent teaching styles and classroom expectations were “unfortunate and confusing.”
Both Calcaterra and Delshad said they had to invest in outside assistance for math or even switch their students into online courses.
All three parents said they had voiced their concerns to administration—Much shared that after scheduling an in-person meeting with her daughter’s instructor, the teacher was a no-show.
“We hope tenure will no longer determine the teachers staying, but performance will,” she told the board.
All three of the parents voiced their overall support for the school and their pleasure with other instructors, including those within the department.
The concerns come even after Pali has invested more heavily in the department, reducing class sizes, hiring instructional coaches for teachers and bringing paraprofessional aides onboard to assist during class time. The school’s counseling office reports modest improvement in both math failure rates and SAT math subject test scores since 2013.
Board member Robert Rene, a parent representative, said the speakers’ comments prove that more still needs to be done.
“This reflects, as a parent conduit, I could say about a hundred other comments about the challenges,” Rene said.
He suggested a board subcommittee that included a teacher, administrator and one of the aggrieved parents to take “proactive steps” toward addressing the problems.
Without concrete action, he feared more students would fall behind.
“It’s unfortunate,” he said of the speakers’ tales. “And it’s untenable.”
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