On Monday, August 29, Kate McWhirter, Kari Douglas, Helen Fitzgerald and I met at Sherman Middle School with Ann Yehle, Principal at Sherman, Barb Brodhagen, Learning Coordinator at Sherman, Maria Brown, Spanish Teacher at Sherman, and Pam Nash, Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Schools.
Foreign Language Issues
At this meeting, where we were pressed for time, Maria spoke about the foreign language classes for 6th, 7th and 8th grade. In past years, 6th grade students received 4 1/2 weeks of French and 4 1/2 weeks of Spanish. This year they will be receiving 9 weeks of each class (A/B schedule). In seventh grade the students only receive one semester of class. This is due to the block theory that they are trying to implement at Sherman. The Foreign Language teachers prefer this type of schedule because they have more consistancy with the students for a greater amount of time. Meeting every day the pronunciation of words would improve vs. every other day with more students. Working with a student everyday helps the teacher becomes more familiar with the student. Unfortunately, for those students who have it first semester, they will receive no foreign language again until 8th grade. That year, those students will take foreign language all year, every other day. All Sherman students are required to take a foreign language.
We spent most of the time discussing foreign language so we didn’t get a chance to go into an in-depth discussion of other areas that we’re concerned with. One of course, is Algebra. More information will be available tomorrow, and I’ll update you as to what was decided. But just to keep you up to date on the situation, only 5 students “qualified” to participate in Algebra. After a letter was sent out from Superintendent Art Rainwater’s office, 48 students are now opting for the Algebra class, with one teacher. This will change asap. However, students now can choose to participate in algebra, which conflicts with Sherman Principal Ann Yehle’s plan for heterogenous classes.
We are still concerned about the pull out program for music. Nick Lane is the new band and choir director at Sherman. Levi Olson, hired back at Sherman after being pink-slipped last year from his orchestra position, is now the General Music teacher. His responsibilities include orchestra along with teaching general music for all students (students must take general music even if they are in another music class). Students are pulled out of their exploratory classes including foreign language to participate in band/orchestra and choir. My daughter has selected both band and choir and as a result is missing spanish two days a week. This week she will miss only one class since she has just one day of band. This is not acceptable and I have informed both Pam and Ann about it.
Pam saw that there was a need for us to get back together after a few weeks of trying this new schedule. We are meeting in October.
We also suggested that each team designate a person as the “go to teacher” for accelerated students. Pam and Ann thought this was a great idea, and are going to look into it, but we’ve heard nothing on this suggestion.
Principal Ann Yehle is going ahead with her plans to make changes at Sherman, regardless of the number of parents who have expressed their concerns. Students are being forced to participate in classes, and no longer have the option to choose. The afterschool classes are still being called the 8th hour, but are not considered a gradeable class.
My opinion is that the Madison School District Administration is going into these heterogeneous classes without considering the implications to Sherman students, this year and into the future. I see Sherman students falling far behind the other middle school students that feed into East, along with the entire MMSD. The downtown Madison School District Administration is allowing these changes to take place and ignoring the parents who are concerned about these schedules.
Experimenting on the children
I stated at a School Board meeting this summer, and have repeated over and over: “While Sherman tries to figure out what they want to do as far as education, and make changes year after year to “get it right”, my children only have these three years of Middle School education and cannot get them back. How can I as a parent allow my children to be guinea pigs while they figure it out? And what can I do to finally get the Administration to sit up and realize that they can’t mess with my children’s education?”
I am counting on this year as being a lost year for my 7th grade daughter. Do I give up the fight and send her to another school? Do I pull her out of a neighborhood school where all her friends are, so she can get an education that is superior rather than a substandard education at Sherman?
When did we begin to consider mediocrity acceptable?