Duval County parents and teachers didn’t seem to hold any frustrations back at a town hall about school curricula Thursday evening.
School Board Member Jason Fischer is holding the forums at elementary schools in his district this month.
Fischer’s focus Thursday was the elementary math and language-arts curriculum adopted last year to align with Common Core state standards.
About 35 parents and teachers trickled into the Twin Lakes Academy Elementary School library with questions ready to go.
Amy Woodward says the new curriculum in unacceptable. She has a son at Bartram Springs Elementary and says she’s up all night trying to help him with his math homework, and it doesn't help that the lessons don’t come from a textbook.
“My husband and I are trying to figure out how to help him, and we have no textbooks so we’re going on Google, finding things to help him because we don’t have anything that’s being sent home to help him,” she says.
She says she doesn’t find the homework hotline provided to parents helpful.
It was a common complaint from parents Thursday night. Another mom says it’s been the worst school year of her child’s life, and her daughter doesn’t even want to go to school anymore.
Math problems require kids to show their work in specific ways or the answer is counted wrong. Without a book, parents don’t have many examples.
Fischer says he, having a kindergartner in Duval schools himself, knows their frustration. He says 50 percent of instructional materials must be electronic learning under state law, but parents and teachers want books.
“As a school board member here, I know my constituents better than anyone in Tallahassee or in D.C., and the same thing with the teachers, right? The teachers know the students better than anyone downtown,” he says.
Fischer is running for a state house seat. He’s said in school board meetings he doesn’t like Common Core, and he used Thursday night as an opportunity for his constituents to ask district staff questions.
“My goal here tonight was to make sure they had access to the staff who could help answer questions, to get them connected to resources and make sure their kids were learning,” he says.
District staff presented curriculum improvements happening next year, including a new phonics program, reading printouts in color and more flexibility for high-performing teachers.
After listening to the comments from district staff and parents, fifth-grade teacher Annie Raynor said she’s concerned. She says the parents at Thursday’s meeting are obviously very involved, but that’s not necessarily the majority.
“What we’re forgetting is that there’s a whole other group of students," she says. "What are the children doing who go home to no parents? They must be struggling even more than the ones who have parents who sit with them for two hours every night.”
Fischer says a lot of these comments aren’t surprising to him. He says he’s taking the feedback to the Board. His final forum is Monday evening at Loretto Elementary.