Westhampton Beach schedules public session to discuss new math mandate

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The parents of Westhampton Beach Middle School students will have the chance to comment on a new policy, which mandates that all of the district’s 120 eighth-graders take an accelerated math course, during an informational session scheduled for Wednesday, January 21, at 7 p.m.

The accelerated course is designed to prepare eighth-graders who will be taking the integrated algebra Regents, a statewide test usually administered to ninth-graders, this June.

Members of the School Board, who announced the date of the informational session at the end of Monday night’s board meeting, said they would make a half-hour presentation explaining the district’s rationale for implementing the new program. Parents will then be allowed to share their opinions and offer suggestions.

“Some parents have raised issues [with the new policy]” Westhampton Beach Superintendent Lynn Schwartz said on Tuesday. “We’d like to hear those issues in a formal venue.”

Over the past few weeks, several parents have questioned the district’s reasoning in requiring that all eighth-graders take the algebra Regents a year ahead of schedule. Most parents have insisted that the students should be allowed to decide whether or not they want to take the accelerated class.

School Board President Aram Terchunian said on Monday night that school officials will share the grades of students taking the advanced math course at the next board meeting scheduled for Monday, January 12. The interim grades will be from the second quarter.

Earlier this month, Mr. Schwartz announced student grades at the end of the first quarter and noted that approximately 15 percent of the district’s eighth-graders were failing the course, meaning that they scored lower than 65 percent. The superintendent also noted that 30 percent of students received grades below 70 at the end of the first quarter.

In other news, Dale Mann, the managing director of the research firm Interactive Inc., presented findings Monday night of the district’s laptop program, which provides the computers to every student attending Westhampton Beach middle and high schools.

Mr. Mann said the five-year initiative has been a success and the district has seen increases in test scores and semester grades since its inception. In 2004, the initiative began in the middle school and, two years later, was expanded to include the high school. As part of the program, the district leases laptops that can be used by students both inside and outside of the classroom.

Mr. Mann said the project’s wide scope was one reason for its success. “I think that you would not have had these kinds of gains if you decided to do this in a couple of classrooms, a couple of times,” he said.

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