Course of Action
Curriculum and personnel changes at MPUSD take a toll on students, parents.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Battered by budget cuts and under enormous pressure from the state to raise test scores, the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District has made rapid-fire changes that have some parents cheering and others headed for the exits.
In Seaside, some applaud the district for attempting to raise achievement by applying for millions in federal grants. But in Monterey, others say a district-wide curriculum change aimed at raising student achievement by doubling English and math instruction while cutting science and social studies in half is wrong.
“They’re going to be teaching to the lowest common denominator,” says Liz Love Reisenbichler, whose kids attend Monterey schools.
Not true, respond district officials, who argue that teachers are not only being trained to incorporate science and social studies into English and math lessons, but also to challenge kids who already know the basics.
The curriculum shift comes as some Monterey parents are already angry over the closure of Bay View Elementary and worried that improvements at Seaside schools will come at the expense of theirs.
Love Reisenbichler says she faced an agonizing choice – remain in her home and take a chance on the new program or move to Carmel Valley, where the school system spends roughly double what MPUSD does per student – more than $16,000 annually. (Spending in the P.G. system is about the same because both districts are funded via parcel taxes.) For years, she and her husband invested time and energy in MPUSD, attending meetings and serving on committees. The kids wanted to stay put, and she didn’t really want them to go to Carmel “because of the diversity issue. It’s basically a really affluent community.” Still, she thought, her son and daughter could get a first-rate education just a few miles away.
“I know four families who have moved to Carmel,” Love Reisenbichler says.
Some are considering different options.
A group of Bay View parents recently completed a petition for a charter school, which would operate independently while remaining part of the school district. Others want an independent audit – or a Grand Jury investigation – of MPUSD to determine if it’s managing its affairs properly.
For now, Love Reisenbichler says, she’ll keep her kids in MPUSD.
But others, including some working-class families, may not.
In July, a controversial new law takes effect that allows kids from the 1,000 lowest performing schools in California to move to neighboring districts, like P.G. and Carmel, where schools are better. The law could further impoverish districts like MPUSD while granting tremendous opportunities to some children. The state Department of Education is due to release the list of qualifying schools next month