The Pleasanton school board is set to talk about student math pathways and non-district courses at a special meeting Monday evening.
The session's two-fold goals, according to staff, are to continue discussing potential adjustments to student math pathways and to clarify board policies regarding classes taken outside the district.
The meeting, which will be video-recorded but not broadcast live, comes on the heels of recent community forums on math pathways held throughout the district, and after parents turned out at the Jan. 30 board meeting to oppose a recent district proposal to phase out an accelerated middle school math program.
After soliciting feedback from relevant stakeholders, staff found that the Students Inter-Schools Action Council (SIAC), the community and staff all had different priorities when it comes to the district's math pathways.
SIAC wanted students to have engaging experiences, be college-ready and have flexible course options; the community sought quality instruction, students to be college-ready and opportunities to voice their opinions; and staff were looking for sustainable professional development, supplemental instructional materials and student placement criteria.
At the Monday session, staff said, they hope to address some of these points with the following outcomes: to refine middle school math placement criteria, engage the community in math discussions and implement a professional development plan for math teachers.
The second portion of the meeting will focus on non-Pleasanton Unified courses.
"PUSD needs a well-defined, systemic practice regarding students taking non-PUSD courses," wrote Ken Rocha, director of secondary education, in the staff presentation. "Current policies do not adequately address the contemporary educational environment."
The non-PUSD courses can be taken at local community colleges, online or at other high schools, such as Dublin High. Students generally take these classes for acceleration, remediation or because they have class conflicts due to extracurricular activities.
The lack of official policies could result in confusion for students and parents, and lead to the misalignment of current procedures with practices, Rocha said.
There are other issues related to the practice of taking these courses that need to be address as well, the report continues. In a district that already has an overly-competitive academic culture, the pressure to take outside courses can add to student stress.
"Mental health and stress levels may impact students; some students who are not taking outside courses feel the pressure to do so to keep up academically," Rocha wrote.
With less district oversight, "some outside courses may lack the content depth and breadth of PUSD courses," Rocha added.
And the practice can be problematic in terms of equity. The cost of one outside course ranges from $50 to $4,440, and while over 3,000 non-district courses have been approved since March 2016, the expense can present a barrier to lower-income students, staff said. Less than 1% of Amador Valley's underserved populations take outside courses, according to staff.
"Depending on the university, some students with financial means gain an unfair admissions advantage," Rocha wrote.
At the Monday discussion, staff hopes to update board policies and regulations regarding the alternative courses, determine a way to "provide equitable access for all students to high-quality, rigorous, and supportive educational experiences," and to make sure that students and parents understand the process of submitting transcripts from non-district courses to colleges directly.
The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Monday in the district office boardroom at 4665 Bernal Ave.