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Dec 15, 2011 3:46 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Eastport South Manor Middle School Parents Are Ticked Over Curriculum Changes

Dec 20, 2011 6:06 PM

Approximately 40 parents attended last week’s Eastport South Manor Board of Education meeting to complain about a recent curriculum change that will require all middle school students to follow an accelerated education program.

The change, signed off last month by school district officials, will eliminate the distinctions between honors and non-honors students in the seventh and eighth grades, and place all incoming middle school students—starting with next year’s seventh-graders—on an accelerated curriculum. In other words, all of the district’s middle school students will be required to take courses that, as of right now, are offered only to honors students.

“It defies common sense to me,” said parent Jen Kelly, who addressed School Board members during their most recent meeting last Wednesday, December 14. She noted that she has two children, one of whom is an honors student while the other is not.

“If my honors student needs extra help with this program, how will my non-honors student handle the curriculum?” Ms. Kelly continued, adding that it is common for those students enrolled in honors to seek extra help in order to keep up with the demands of the program.

Other parents echoed similar concerns, with some also stating that they are worried that non-honors students may have an especially difficult time with the advanced curriculum.

In response, School Board members scheduled an informational meeting next month for parents during which administrators will explain why the district is opting to increase the educational requirements of its middle school students. The meeting will be held on Thursday, January 5, starting at 7 p.m., in the cafeteria of the junior-senior high school in Manorville.

“We appreciate your input and your feedback,” Superintendent of Schools Mark Nocero told parents during last week’s meeting. “This is a good thing for your children. If it wasn’t, we would not be doing it.”

Last Thursday afternoon, Mr. Nocero made it clear that the point of next month’s meeting is to explain the reason for the changes and how the middle school curriculum will be modified. He added that district officials have no plans of backing down.

“We are going through with this plan,” Mr. Nocero said. “We are very committed to it because it is what [all] research shows is best practice for adolescent learners.”

Other parents in attendance last week said they were looking forward to next month’s informational meeting, adding that both the district and School Board need to do a better job communicating with parents when it comes to policy changes. The district never sent out a letter alerting parents of the change and has no intention of doing so, according to Dr. Jennifer Morrison Hart, the assistant superintendent for curriculum at ESM.

“I am looking forward to the program in January—I want more information,” said parent Jodi Sleavensky who attended last week’s meeting. “I have a daughter in the sixth grade now, so this will affect her.”

While she does not necessarily oppose the program changes, Ms. Sleavensky said she wishes that the district made an effort at the elementary school level to help ease the transition for students.

“I find that this does benefit many students, but not all of them,” she added. “My concern is that these kids were playing a game and the game was changed in the middle.”

School Board President Kevin Gleason said he hopes that the reshowing of the presentation made last month, explaining the curriculum changes, will help parents understand the benefits of the program and alleviate some of their concerns. Three or four parents attended the board’s November meeting.

“The presentation last month was fantastic and very well done,” Mr. Gleason said. “We would all have a better understanding if we can do it again.”

School Board member Karen Kesnig said many of the concerns raised by parents stem from misinformation that has been circulating in the community with the help of social media. In response to complaints that the board isn’t doing a good enough job publicizing policy changes before they are made, Ms. Kesnig told parents they should try to attend more of the meetings. She also pointed out that the change was discussed in great detail during last month’s board meeting.

“It makes our lives easier when you can hear first-hand about our presentations,” Ms. Kesnig said.

In addition, she reminded parents that, like them, board members have a vested interest in their school district and wouldn’t implement curriculum changes unless they believe they will benefit students.

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Seems like a good idea for all kids to get to an advanced level if they are to compete in the world today. Unfortunately the ones who are getting thrown in now without the prior background could suffer initially. I see to much emphasis being placed on sports today and not on education. Parents need to decide on sports or education. Look at the Southampton Press for example a whole section on HS sports and nothing on education. . It's a rare kid who who can make it in sports. It's just as rare a ...more
By realistic (472), westhampton on Dec 17, 11 9:26 AM
2 members liked this comment
O dear, a school raising its standards instead of dumbing them down. Now the Mom in the article will have to spend time with her non-honors son as well as the honors kid. (assuming she has the aptitude for either)
While obviously not every kid is going to end up performing at honors level in high school, challenging them in middle school so they enter high school on the best possible footing is probably a good idea. Clearly some parents don't want the additional challenge it may present for ...more
By smacw (240), New York on Dec 19, 11 9:38 AM
1 member liked this comment
While I appreciate your concern for my aptitude, may I assure you that you've nothing to worry yourself over. First of all, this entire article is wrong on too many levels for me to convey here, but let's touch on just a few-
First of all, as prime example of the misreporting within this article; BOTH of my children *are* honors students. What I said was that one didn't enter the 7th grade in honors, rather he EARNED his way into 8th grade honors. The way it should be. Now both of my children ...more
By JenKelly (3), Manorville on Jan 3, 12 1:54 PM
1 member liked this comment
Let me clarify a word I used- Allow me to replace "misreported" with "under-reported".. I feel this article failed to convey the true picture of what's really going on at ESM..And what many parents are truly upset with.

I don't believe a single parent is against raising the standards or bar. Even if they are against it, they're stuck as this "acceleration" is by state mandate in accordance with Common Core Curriculum. ESM has just packaged it in a nice box with a pretty bow and is essentially ...more
By JenKelly (3), Manorville on Jan 3, 12 3:26 PM
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Challenging all the kids an excellent idea, I fought unsuccessfullly to get mine into gifted courses in SH middle school, which stuck doggedly to some mindless rubic of its own, because they were often bored in their regular classes. Once they entered high school that changed and they could - and did - take every AP course they could. Southampton Middle School ought to be doing the same thing. Its expectations are too low.
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Dec 19, 11 12:20 PM