The Board of Education accepted the recommendation of both middle school principals Thursday night to eliminate the 5th- and 6th-grade multiage looping programs after this year.
During a special meeting before its regularly scheduled session in the Commons area of Stonington High School, the board heard testimony on the controversial looping issue from both Mystic Middle School Principal Jenn McCurdy and Pawcatuck Middle School Principal Tim Smith.
The pair issued a handout to explain their position that the 5th- and 6th-grade looping programs (Pfish and Otters at Pawcatuck Middle and May-Junes at Mystic Middle) should be shuttered because of alignment issues with the state's new Common Core educational standards. The 6th- and 7th-grade Crickets program at Mystic was spared, but changes will be made in the selection process.
The decision to seek input on the looping programs at a public forum on Feb. 20 caught many parents by surprise, but about 100 adults and students turned out, mostly in support of the programs.
In the handout, the administrators said the Common Core standards are grouped in clusters for kindergarten through 5th grade, and 6th grade through 8th grade, making it hard to formulate a curriculum to meet the needs of a blended class.
"The difference between the 5th and 6th grade standards are significant," the principals wrote. "Although the teachers have indicated various ways (to) accomplish some of the specific grade level learning outcomes with the multiage grouping, the administration feels that separating the grade level expectations is in the best interest of academic achievement for all students."
At Pawcatuck Middle, a projected enrollment decrease in 5th and 6th grade also played into the principals' decision.
The administrators added that positive aspects of the looping programs will remain even after the 5th- and 6th-graders are converted to traditional classrooms next fall.
"As we reconfigure our 5th and 6th grade teams for the 2013-2014 school year, the positive aspects of our multiage classrooms, such as, flexible grouping, thematic units, collaborative group work, and project based learning will be incorporated in all classrooms," the handout said.
A handful of parents and one teacher spoke both for and against the decision during public comment time.