Bernards Township Assistant Schools Superintendent Sean Siet on Monday night outlined a revised version of a math enrichment program for kindergarten through grade 5 students that he described as a "pilot" initiative and also a response to parents' request for a more delineated gifted and talented program.
The enrichment instruction would include "extension projects" that might include multi-day assignments and also supplemental lessons provided by the district's current "Go Math" curriculum, Siet told the Board of Education and parents in the audience.
Siet said teachers worked to helped devise a way of providing largely independent advanced math learning for children who will be identified as eligible for the program.
Siet said he would be working with the principals of the four elementary schools to set criteria for students who could benefit from enrichment math teaching.
"The [math] problems will be made available to teachers in the first few classes," Siet said in a discussion following Monday's meeting. But the program won't actually begin until the students are identified — which is one of the requirements set by the state for gifted and talented instruction, he said.
But he said it likely will be four to eight weeks before criteria is set, or "by Halloween."
Siet said that the Go Math program in place in the township schools in the past few years includes supplemental materials. But the program also would incorporate some of the advanced mathematics now offered in an afterschool "math league."
Siet said that frequency of the enrichment instruction has not been set, but it would be at least once a week.
Responding to the observation that the students would be asked to teach themselves, Siet said that the children who qualify for the program would be working on enrichment materials while the teacher walks around the classroom assisting all students with their assignments.
The students who would be targeted as advanced would have shown themselves capable of working independently, he added.
But he noted that the attention provided by teachers to students who are being taught math in all elementary classes is "substantial."
Siet said after the meeting that this year's version of math enrichment is a "short-term program," not the long-term solution to providing enrichment or gifted and talented teaching for elementary students.
Following the meeting, attended by representatives of a group of parents they say now numbers about 120, two parents commented that they are disappointed with the current plan proposed for the upcoming school year.
Janina Hecht said the new program, as described, sounds as if it would be "self-paced" and "self-taught," and is a more formal version of this year's program of providing enrichment packets to advanced students.
She said the parents really are looking for a program that would truly provide additional instruction for accelerated students.
Anther parent, Terri Faltas, said that she and a few other parents at the meeting had not decided how to respond, but added those in attendance were "not happy" with the program as proposed.