Math-Focused Independent Study Class Collapsed

By Marina Furbush and Illaria Lobo

The administration collapsed the math-focused Independent Study class in order to open up another section of Trigonometry/Statistics on September 14. Several other class changes were made in the math and language departments, causing schedule changes for many students.

“Our two Trig classes were averaging 41 [students]. That’s too big, so we had to open another section,” math teacher leader David Wetzel said. “The decision was made that the only way to accommodate [the new section] was to collapse my seventh period sheltered class to open up Trig/Stat.”

Principal Julie Synyard has been involved in the re-configuring of student’s schedules. “The first few weeks we have to take seat counts [to see how many students are actually in the class],” Synyard said. “One of the reasons why it’s so late is we just got our additional sections from the district….[Initially] we might have 30 kids in the class. But then…kids change [classes, and] some of those classes go down really small while others will go pretty high.”

Some students are upset about the changes to their schedules. “It’s disruptive to the students when almost four weeks into the school year your schedule gets changed,” junior Maggie Barbour said.

Synyard agrees, but feels that it was a necessary change. “It’s obviously not ideal, we’re four weeks into school,” Synyard said. “I totally understand that, but at the same time…I think it’s best for kids to keep class sizes to the smallest number that we possibly can.”

However, while most of the changes to student’s schedules were period changes, former Independent Study students face additional challenges. “[Independent Study] is a unique math class designed for all students with English skills or non-English skills who do not come in a traditional track,” Wetzel said. “Meaning the order in which they took their previous math courses don’t align with ours, making it very difficult for them to place into one of our math classes. The sheltered class gives me the opportunity to go at the pacing that they were familiar with, and adjust it just enough to get them back on one of our tracks over a [several year] period, the goal is to exit them from the program.”

Some Independent Study students are worried about changing classes. “I spent two years with [Wetzel] and it’s difficult to go to another teacher,” junior Perla Pacheco said. “Mr. Wetzel makes it easy….When you tell [other teachers] that you’re from another country, they just explain it really fast and give your homework.”

However, some students feel that the change will be for the best. “This change is perfect for me because I have a better schedule now and I think if we try a real class, it will…make us learn how to follow a hard class even if everything goes faster than in an independent class,” junior Coline Tricault said. “I think it’s a good change. Even though, if I…can go back to Mr.Wetzel’s independent class, I will because I can ask him anything as if I was the only person in the class and in a real [class] you can’t really.”

Synyard acknowledges the significance of the change. “I know it’s impacted the kids,” Synyard said. “We’re looking at different things, Mr. Wetzel’s been great, and trying to see how we can reschedule the kids into the regular classes…and then give them some additional support.”

An example of the support is the remaining Independent Study class at Tam.  “[The collapsed class] was just the math specific one, so I still have an Independent Study class…it can be for math also,” Synyard said. In addition, Tam has several PLATO site licenses, online classes which can be used to support some students. All teachers are trained in strategies to support English language learners, which Synyard believes will help avoid problems. “If…they’re not being successful then we’ll have to intervene real quickly,” she said.  “We’re fortunate because there’s not that many students so it’s really easy to sit down and…touch base.”

At this time Synyard plans to restore the class next year. Tam is in the process of hiring another math teacher, so the class could potentially be restored earlier.