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San Bernardino, Riverside County, CA November 8, 2005 Election
Smart Voter

Budget Issues and Math reform

By Tobin Brinker

Candidate for Governing Board Member; COLTON Unified School District; Trustee Area 2

This information is provided by the candidate
This is an Op-Ed article by Tobin Brinker that ran in the Press Enterprise
On Thursday June 16th the Colton School board took action on two items. Both passed unanimously and both have profound and wide ranging implications for the children of the district. First the board passed a major math reform initiative called, "The Equations Project." In short it fundamentally shifts resources and responsibility for mathematics proficiency downward from the High School to the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. Second the board passed the 2005-2006 Budget which included $5 million dollars worth of budget cuts. This is significant because the board is simultaneously attempting a major curriculum change.

It is a fine balancing act that will require the support of all stakeholders if the district is to succeed. At the same board meeting the classified employee's union (CSEA) showed up in force to demand a change in contract language that is currently being negotiated. In the past the local teacher's union (ACE) has demanded raises and complained about a lack of respect. This past year much of the community was upset after a student walk out at Colton High and over a thousand community members showed up at a board meeting to demand action. Thankfully as each of these groups has come before the board they pledged loudly to put the needs of the kids first.

Now we as a board must ask them to match their words with action. Soon the board will move to make passing Algebra a promotion requirement for 8th grade (to take effect in 2008). We will ask teachers to attend trainings on evenings and weekends and during the summer so as not to disrupt the school day with substitute teachers. We will ask parents to send their kids to special after school or before school math classes and to special summer school courses. All of this will cost money which will mean tightening our belts in other areas. People will be asked to do more with less.

Why are we doing this? This year the Colton School District was named a Program Improvement district by the federal government. Which means we failed to meet the academic requirements of the "No Child Left Behind" Act. Last year we had over 1200 students taking Algebra in 9th grade, which would be fine except, the state now requires that Algebra be taught in the 8th grade. Also, students must pass Algebra in-order to graduate. Students who take Algebra in 9th grade have their state math Test scores reduced by 20%. Therefore 1200 scores in Colton were penalized last year simply because kids were taking Algebra in the wrong grade. If we are to meet the federal requirement we must act now.

Colton's Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, Angela Wyles, said it best when she said; "This Math Equations Program would be a catalyst for change." Her philosophy is that a rising tide lifts all boats. By providing Math support early and developing our children's Algebra readiness we will be able to offer more advanced Math courses at our High Schools. Since it requires three years of High School Math to go to college many more students will be exposed to Algebra II, Trigonometry, Calculus and Statistics.

To be successful the school board must maintain steadfast in demanding accountability and holding high standards for all children. The community must embrace the changes and support the district in three ways: 1) make sure your children make it to school every day on time, 2) make sure they attend all math support classes even if it means changing the family vacation or missing a sports practice 3) support the policy of retaining kids in 8th grade if they do not pass Algebra.

The Unions also must be willing to do more with less. They must understand that the school board has an immediate obligation to provide an academic program that meets the needs of the community but at the same time meets the financial requirements of the state.

The board unanimously took action on these items because not to do so would be a serious dereliction of our duty. Several of us are up for re-election this fall and we know that talking about failing schools and budget cuts doesn't portray the school district or the board in the best light. However, we also know that we were elected to improve the schools. Overall our schools have had rising test scores. Unfortunately, the rigorous demands of recent laws have been raising the bar even faster. Please continue to support the district as we make these very important fundamental changes.

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