Berkeley Heights Board of Education Discusses 'Concept' Courses

Berkeley Heights schools Superintendent Judith Rattner and board President John Sincaglia listen to conversation during the Thursday, May 24 board meeting about whether to include concept level classes in the curriculum. Credits: Deb Dawson

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - What would have been a routine adoption of existing curriculum guides for the 2012-13 school year turned into a lengthy discussion at the Board of Education’s Thursday, May 24 meeting when board member Paul Beisser questioned whether “concept” courses should still be included.

Concept courses are the lowest on the scale of intensity with advanced placement being the highest. For instance Chemistry Concepts would teach just the basic concepts involved in chemistry.

“I think we should eliminate low bar concept level classes,” Beisser said. “I’m going to withhold my vote because I don’t know what else to do.” He noted this has been discussed at length in the past.

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Superintendent Judith Rattner responded that some research indicates that in some subject areas that lower level is needed, such as in mathematics. But, the time to make changes to the curriculum, she said, is in October for the following school year.

“The Curriculum Committee has had many discussions with Judy regarding concept courses…. I’m sure there are many children that are learning in concept courses that are working at the level of their ability,” said Dr. Gerard Crisonino, also a board member.

Beisser repeated that he does not believe students need to be placed in a concept level class when they can be challenged with other students.

Megan Kingsley, a student representative on the school board, suggested, “You should look for some student input. They are the only ones that can tell you whether they (concept classes) are effective.” It is unusual for the student representatives to speak up after they give their initial report on student activities at the beginning of each meeting.

Beisser said, “It seems to me it’s an easy place to put students… who learn differently.”

Despite the discussion, the board, including Beisser, voted unanimously to accept the curriculum plan for the upcoming year. Beisser said he is “anxiously awaiting” what will be proposed in October.

In other business:

  • There were no bids to open for the district’s solar project on Wednesday, the day proposals were due back from vendors. Board Secretary/School Business Administrator Donna Felezzola told the board that consultants thought two changes made to the original RFP made it undesirable. The current rate paid was reduced by 30 percent and Governor Livingston High School was removed after the board decided to use the Union County Improvement Authority to install solar panels at that school. The board intends to wait a few months until the solar industry stabilizes and then send out another RFP.
  • The girls’ softball team is the Union County champion for the second year in a row.

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