By Linda Dillman, Staff Writer
Parents at Norwood Elementary are questioning Jefferson Local Schools’ use of double-blocking fifth grade classes, with one mother saying the program is impeding her child’s academic progress.
“We feel our children are not receiving the education they deserve,” Edie Piazza told school board members during a Dec. 9 meeting. “This year, new strategies have been implemented that we feel are hindering the way our children are learning.”
Piazza is among a handful of like-minded parents who signed a petition presented to the board. Their primary concern is the two-hour block scheduling program where subjects are taught on alternating days. According to Piazza, instead of receiving core subject instruction every day for 55 minutes, fifth-graders are getting instruction for only two core subjects per day.
“We think it is imperative that students receive math education daily,” Piazza said. “Math is a subject where you must build from one skill to the next, and the child needs time to practice the skill to master it before building further on top of that skill.
“The children are essentially spending the first hour reviewing from their last class because many have forgotten what they had been working on. This is not a best case scenario for teaching students. This is an issue for all classes, not just math.”
In addition, Piazza contends that children are have a hard time connecting with their teachers if they do not understand a concept or have questions, because they see each instructor two to three times a week instead of daily.
Piazza said her math-accelerated daughter is confused and unhappy with the current programming.
“The students are young and should not be sitting for a two-hour block of time and be expected to stay fully engaged the entire time,” Piazza said. “They aren’t retaining all of the information discussed during the two hours because it is too much at one time for their young brains.”
Norwood Principal Sue Barte, who was hired after the decision was made to double-block classes, said teachers and administrators are monitoring the situation and want to do what is best for all students.
Barte said the decision to try double-blocking at Norwood was based on research and discussion with other districts that have implemented the concept.
“The literacy framework was driving the instruction,” Barte said. “Literacy was affecting math and science scores, so we tried to look at something else… We’re looking at other models.”
Board President David Harper told Piazza the board was not aware of her concerns until the day of the meeting and, as a collective group, they need to re-evaluate the situation.
“I am asking the administration and (Superintendent) Mr. (William) Mullett to get back to the board and correct the problem we heard about tonight,” Harper said.