By Terry D. Wright
PIQUA — Piqua Board of Education met for a lengthy August regular session Wednesday amid concerns for improving math and science scores while hearing about successful strides in students’ reading improvements.
It was reported that $35,000 was spent last year on a reading intervention plan for grades 3 and 4. Reasoning for the early intervention in children’s reading skills was to help eliminate difficulty in all subjects. As a result, Piqua reading scores have improved dramatically.
Board member Frank Patrizio voiced his distraught over the low math and science scores.
“I appreciate what is being done in the area of reading with the after school programs but I want to know what is being done to improve the math and science scores?” questioned Patrizio. Various school curriculum and administration staff members addressed the question stating that the issue was complex and a simple after school intervention program was not the single answer that would fix the problem.
“It is a complex problem,” said curriculum director Dwayne Thompson, noting that with the new set of Common Core standards the students are expected to know subject matter more in-depth. That understanding takes time and the teachers are feeling stress from not having enough time to teach for thorough understanding of the concepts before having to move on to the next unit.
“If it takes a budget request for an after school program in math and science intervention, then I would like to see a proposal made to the superintendent for the board’s review,” Patrizio said. Board member Robert Luby added that it was his experience from teaching that if you begin to lose the students at the lower grades because of not understanding the basic concepts; those pupils never seem to catch up and become an at-risk factor later of not doing well academically or dropping out.
Curriculum spokesmen reported that the teachers were doing all they could but were always trying to improve. As an example, teachers were using their lunch time and planning period to pull students in for extra help and guidance in lessons. However, the advanced curriculum and in-depth knowledge demanded by the state approved Board of Governor’s Conference concerning Common Core accepted standards was making it difficult to place that extensive amount of study, learning and complete concept understanding within the given hours of the day.
Superintendent Rick Hanes noted that adjustments were made with the current state standards, like all changes in the periodic state standards’ programs, with pilot and test programs being completed for integration and a smooth transition into new standards. Additionally, curriculum, lesson plans, and teacher in service training is always adjusted as to the best “fit” for the success of the students when a new set of state standards is adopted, he said.
Additional curriculum discussion included a presentation by Jason Haak, executive director, Upper Valley Career Center who discussed the new science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers course offered to every seventy-grader in Piqua Junior High School. The STEM course is taught by Steve Stamper, a Career Center instructor and design engineer with a background that includes a career in the military and past business owner and operator in tool design and machining.
The goal of the STEM program is to introduce students to the subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics and show how those fields are related to relevant work and professional careers in the job market. The STEM course is a mandatory seventh grade, one semester, program and part of an increasing collaborative effort among Piqua Schools, Upper Valley Career Center and Edison State College establishing an innovative educational endeavor entitled Menlow Park Cube.
“Menlow Park Cube is a new term for the cooperation and collaboration among all three schools,” Hanes said. It is such a new concept in explaining the transition of learning in Piqua among the city public schools, career training and Edison State College that other regions of the country are starting to take note. The idea is to build a complete transition and flow among educational efforts, institutional learning and job skills training, including collaboration of curriculum needs, education learning, certification processes and potential job opportunities for area students among all levels of local institutional learning for future job skills and service needs in the area. Haak expressed desires that the Menlow Park Cube would evolve into collective integration of regional manufacturing and business interests connected to the educational and job skills efforts as it develops. Many other regions are already looking at this innovative concept that began in Piqua, Hanes added.