LIVINGSTON, NJ - A dialogue between the Board of Education and the Livingston Education Association took place at the board's meeting Monday night. President Anthony Rosamilia and several members of the LEA Executive Board were present to discuss pressing concerns that teachers have.
Foremost among those concerns was the collapsing and merging of class levels. At the high school level, the former "CP1" and "CP2" level classes have been eliminated; there is currently a single "College Preparatory" level for classes below the Honors threshold. This has caused a myriad of learning issues for both teachers and students, according to Rosamilia.
"I think the intent at the time... was to correct the inequitable weighting of grades at the CP2 level," he said. "There was also a perception, I think, that the rigor of the CP2 classes was not at the same level as the other classes and that students were not getting adequate access to a high-quality curriculum."
But there was no auditing process to determine the validity and quality of the CP2 level classes, Rosamilia said.
"Nobody came into any of our CP2 classes to see how they were running. We did not have a real opportunity to explain that the CP2 levels offer a rich educational experience and that the teachers felt strongly about the quality of the offerings. Instead we eliminated them."
The result has been a loss of specialized instruction for lower-level students who would have traditionally been instructed at the CP2 level. Rosamilia described seeing "overwhelmed" students who must come in after school for extra help in multiple subjects every day. These students are in danger of falling even further behind their peers at the College Preparatory level.
As they have expanded, the College Preparatory level classes have also now suffered from a perceived lack of rigor, according to Rosamilia.
"Rightly or wrongly, many students feel that they now have to move up to the Honors level to be challenged," he said. "The Honors level is just as rigorous as it was before [the change to CP level]. Many students drop back down to CP level after the first marking period."
Rosamilia cited the example of one colleague whose Honors level class started the school year with 27 students. The class is now down to 17 students. The result of drop-downs has been scheduling conflicts, lack of learning continuity, disruption to classroom atmosphere and the ballooning of College Preparatory level courses in which teachers have to serve students whose learning abilities may be wildly disparate, according to Rosamilia.
The sentiment was also reflected by members of the audience. In a public comment, Livingston resident Amy Schaefer encouraged the board to "talk to the kids in these collapsed classes. Very few of their needs seem to be served under the new system."
Livingston high school student Jay Schaefer related his own experiences with the collapsing.
"There were too many things trying to be accomplished with one class. That's difficult for both students and teachers," Schaefer said.
Board President Ronnie Spring emphasized the board's openness and reception to making possible changes, suggesting a focus group or public forum as possible venues to discuss changes.
District Superintendent John Alfieri thanked the LEA for their professionalism in presenting the concerns to the board. He also asked Rosamilia and the executive board to brainstorm a list of possible solutions to address these issues. Alfieri emphasized the need to find a happy medium that would satisfy all parties involved.
"We don't want to just throw every change out," Alfieri said. "But nothing is set in stone. We want to be able to work together [with the LEA] to find the best possible solution for the kids."