By Chelsea McNerney-Martinez
MONTE VISTA— The Sargent Board of Education discussed concerns with student math scores on the PSAT and SAT and some data regarding the successes and concerns with the four-day week during the Monday, July 23 meeting.
Junior/Senior High School Principal Ronna Cochran provided the board with some scores they had requested. The class of 2019’s PSAT math score was 428 when they were in 10th grade and improved to 460 in 11th grade. Their ELA scores also climbed from 474 to 495. Cochran noted they did not make the cut score for math but still showed significant improvement. When comparing the class of 2018 to 2019, the class of 2019 was 32 points lower than the class of 2018 in math and 104 points below the class of 2018 in ELA. Cochran noted the class of 2018 had shown significant growth over the years. “As long as each group is growing, that is very important.”
Gina Mitchell had taken some time to analyze the scores and compare them to other state and federal trends, because as she noted although the classes were improving, the students need to be able to compete on a national level when they graduate. Mitchell noted there are some struggles in math beginning as early as kindergarten, and the board should be looking into ways to integrate K-12 solutions. Mitchell also stated the district was not aligning to national trends based on the income level of the students. Students with higher incomes typically perform better but that is not reflective of the situation at Sargent.
Board member Tyler Kyffin asked if some of the problems were stemming from common core math, which Elementary Principal Joni Hemmerling responded, “We’re teaching four ways to solve a problem… sometimes parents struggle with different methods or have one method they know or prefer using.”
Hemmerling suggesting hosting evening sessions for parents and students to come in and work together on what the students are learning.
Cochran also pointed out the difficulty of hiring, and more importantly retaining, good math teachers in the long-term. Gina Mitchell asked about recruiting a math graduate or math education graduate from Adams State University, which Cochran stated would be a good idea except ASU’s class of 2018 had only one math graduate, so they would be unlikely to find recruits. Kyffin and Superintendent Greg Slover agreed that integrating ways to apply math concepts, like woodshop for geometry, is vital in ensuring students understand and retain the information.
Cochran noted they are also using Khan Academy to help at the junior high level for students who need more practice with specific concepts. Cochran and board member Tyler Mitchell also discussed the importance of looking at how math and reading compare in the time spent in classes. Cochran noted roughly six out of seven periods are reading-based and only one is for math. Finding ways to carry math concepts through more of the school day or having more periods of math courses would be helpful, with Slover noting two periods of math per day is a requirement for seventh and eighth graders in New Mexico unless eighth graders test out of their second period.
Gina Mitchell also discussed the survey results and data from the first year of the four-day week, explaining she had coded the results into categories so the answers, which were mainly very broad, were more digestible and the board could look at both overall themes and “what parents appreciate and what they want to see more of.”
The students seemed to be more rested and less stressed with the four-day week. Parents also felt like there were fewer academic interruptions but there was a significant increase in tardies, even with a start time only five minutes earlier than before. There were also more suspensions and more behavioral problems.