The Palo Alto school district would convene a parent-teacher task force on elementary school mathematics under a proposal to be discussed by the Board of Education tonight (Feb. 22).
The purpose would be to share approaches currently in use on the district's 12 elementary campuses to challenge and stimulate children, particularly those who are strong in math.
The idea stems from a Jan. 25 school board discussion in which board members noted some campuses have developed "flexible groupings" and other approaches to challenge children, and that those ideas should be shared with other schools.
Board member Barbara Klausner said the fact that some schools have such programs -- staffed by parent volunteers or in some cases math specialists -- while others do not is an "equity issue" that needs to be addressed.
The Jan. 25 discussion was prompted by an earlier board pledge to consider how to offer greater math challenge for high-performing students as well as to find a "metric" to measure math progress for the large number of children who perform above grade level.
More than 70 percent of Palo Alto elementary students perform at the "advanced" math level on the California Star Test. And more than 40 percent of Palo Alto elementary school parents said in a 2010 survey that their children are not sufficiently challenged in math.
The Jan. 25 discussion evolved into a three-hour conversation among board members, parents and district staff members that touched on the full range of students -- including special education students and "middle students" -- as well as critiques and defenses of the district's elementary math curriculum, Everyday Mathematics, which was introduced in the fall of 2009.
Skelly's proposal places any discussion about the "merits of the existing adopted curriculum (Everyday Mathematics)" specifically outside the purview of the task force.
Rather the role of the group would be to consider what's currently being done in Palo Alto and elsewhere "to promote intellectual curiosity and excitement around mathematics, particularly to more fully engage students at grades three through five with an interest in and talent for the subject."
After meeting monthly beginning this spring through March 2012, the group would "make recommendations for the superintendent, considering a whole range of potential resources and the way the recommendations would affect each elementary campus."
The school board will discuss the task force proposal tonight, and is scheduled to vote on the idea March 8.
Under Skelly's proposal, the panel would consist of one parent and teacher representative from each elementary school, one middle school math teacher and one or two principals. It would be co-chaired by one principal and one parent, with support from district staff.
Parent representatives would be selected by the site council of each elementary school.
In other business tonight, the board will discuss a proposal for a pilot full-day kindergarten program at Barron Park School beginning in November of this year.
The board also will discuss schematic designs for stadium improvements at Palo Alto High School, and bid authorizations for a new two-story classroom building as well as a media arts building at Paly; and bid authorizations for classroom air conditioning, a new two-story classroom building and a new gymnasium at Gunn High School.
The high school construction projects are among the upgrades to the district's 17 campuses being financed under a $378 million facilities bond that was approved by 78 percent of voters in June 2008.
Tonight's meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the board room of school district headquarters 25 Churchill Ave.