Instead of catapulting students into courses they might not be ready for, the Lodi Unified School District Board of Trustees has approved four new courses in middle and high school to serve as stepping stones.
The courses approved on Tuesday meet the same state standards and graduation requirements as current courses for pre-algebra and earth science, though they do not meet all college entrance requirements.
Each lesson goes into less depth and allows more time for students at a lower academic level to learn each concept.
It's a class that students working at a different level will have a shot at passing, said board president Ron Heberle.
Middle school students can now enroll in Pre-Algebra Essentials for seventh-graders, or Pre-Algebra/Algebra Essentials for eighth-graders.
Trustee Bonnie Cassel said teachers at Morada Middle School raved about the new classes, adding that they are the needed boost for student success.
Currently, if a student takes Algebra 1 in middle school and fails, he or she has to take it again in high school and fail it twice before they qualify for any kind of math remediation. By that time, the student is 20 credits behind and feeling defeated, said Heberle.
"We did that to them. That has to change," said Heberle. This way, students have a chance to catch up before they reach high school.
A similar problem has been taking place in science courses for high schools. Students who weren't academically ready for a college-prep earth science class as a freshman were enrolled anyway, because there wasn't another option.
There is now. It's a general earth science course, approved in tandem with College Prep Earth Science.
Teachers who make up the curriculum council were hesitant to approve the new science course, saying there wasn't enough difference between the two. The council studies and debates curriculum changes and shares their recommendations with the board.
Completing one course helps to qualify a student for college entrance. Completing the other does not. But the differences are so slim it is hard to explain why not, said Aimee Ramsower, a third-grade teacher at Tokay Colony Elementary School. Both courses use the same textbook and a similar pacing guide.
But the curriculum council didn't have enough members present at recent meetings to slow down the approval process.
In years past, teachers on the council were released from their classes to examine curriculum. Now all meetings are held after school.
Lori Celiz teaches third grade at Ansel Adams Elementary School and serves on the curriculum council. She said some teachers have so many commitments after school it is not always possible to get to a council meeting.
"We were unable to vote on items approved tonight because we didn't have quorum," she said. Celiz asked for more support in the form of time and direction from the district to make decisions.
Jeff Johnston, president of the Lodi Education Association, echoed the call for more help for the curriculum council.
"They provide a very important service, and that's to have a dialogue with the rank-and-file employees who will be implementing the curriculum," said Johnston.