Mar 17 2015

School Board: Common Core and High School Student Absences

School Board Meeting Report by High School Student Tristan Gardner:

On Wednesday, March 11, I attended a meeting of our esteemed School Board. Their job is to “serve every student,” and keep Piedmont schools in the top tier of all public schools.  These meetings are where motions pass and public opinion is weighed, so I sat in on one to observe and have my own concerns addressed.  The meeting covered some pretty bland topics, the student liaison spoke about the general feel of the high school, the new computer classes were explained, and a representative of a parent group said that they were very encouraged because the accreditation board, WASC, gave us two thumbs up.

One particularly important, though not really debated, item was on the agenda, the new common core curriculum for math.   For those who do not know, the new system will allow students to take more flexible paths by either taking classes that slow, or “expand,” the curriculum, or ones that “compress” it.  This allows students to have multiple opportunities to get into an advanced math class.

In the last system, your fate was decided by a test taken between fifth and sixth grade.  Some concern was raised by Board Member Doug Ireland, and quickly alleviated, regarding the summer school options and teacher readiness.  Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services Randall Booker confidently stated that the teachers will most certainly be ready.

The motion passed unanimously, but to understand it better, I caught up with Mr. Hayden, a Piedmont math teacher and meeting attendant.  He seemed a little anxious and excited about the new system and declared that the board “accepted just about all the terms they hoped for.”

After the initial roundabout of the board, they opened the floor to those who wanted to address any issue.  I took the podium to discuss Piedmont’s policy regarding 18-year-olds and absences.  Currently Piedmont High makes students get a contract signed by their parents allowing them to sign excuses for their absences.  When a student gets this contract, the parents still get notified every time their child leaves school.  If you cannot reach your parents, you cannot leave. California Education Code basically states that if you are 18, you have all the powers a parent of a minor would have.  I came armed with statutes and prepared to defend my case against strong opposition.

When I finished my piece, the board let me know that a discussion or vote could not occur that meeting because it was an off agenda item, but the Superintendent would stay in touch with me. To be honest, I was a little shocked about how receptive they were to an idea that I thought would get a lot of resistance.

Tristan Gardner

Editors’ Note:  The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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