AP Calculus phased out, German likely gone at Nevada Union High School | TheUnion.com

AP Calculus phased out, German likely gone at Nevada Union High School

Sam Corey
Staff Writer

For someone interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), the last thing Eva Zliman wanted was for her progress in math to be stunted.

A junior at Nevada Union High School, Zliman wants to pursue a career analyzing cancer research.

"I really like science," she said. "(It helps you) learn so much about the world around you."

So this past January, when Zliman heard that AP Calculus BC, an advanced placement math class, had been phased out for the 2018-19 school year, and the German program at her high school would potentially be cut, she was upset.

As a result, Zliman and a handful of her peers have been meeting with teachers, administrators, the superintendent and attending board meetings in order to reintroduce the higher level math course and continue providing the only other language offered, Spanish, at Nevada Union.

Calculus

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Nevada Joint Union High School District administrators explained to students that the advanced placement class had been cut after last year, and German classes will likely be cut because of low enrollment in these courses.

The logic was simple: As demand for these classes dropped, the cost for teaching fewer individuals increased.

"The calculus class, we were told, would cost $20,000, and that was just too much," said Zliman, who said there are currently about five students interested in the program. The junior said in the past as few as three students had enrolled in the course.

Brett McFadden, superintendent of Nevada Joint Union High School District, said while the math class did run with fewer students, doing so made things more challenging for the district overall.

"It wasn't an optimal decision," he said. "It created an issue elsewhere (with scheduling)."

Another factor was the shift in how California teaches mathematics. According to Dan Frisella, assistant superintendent of the district, the state created new standards five years ago that put a higher emphasis on slowed progression in mathematics. The result was supposed to bring long-term success in the subject.

"We are not trying to push students to move too fast in math, as the experts in the field have placed greater value in foundational algebraic skills," said Frisella.

Zliman, however, would prefer a more accelerated curriculum.

"It's really hard, especially in this rural area," said Zliman. "There's just not a lot of math and science opportunities here, and it really puts you behind in college."

The junior also believes the cut goes against the school district's standards established in 2014. In an email to The Union, Zliman wrote the 2020 Vision Strategic Plan adopted by the school board states the "department teaches classes that meet all students' mathematical needs."

Right now, McFadden said, students can take the calculus class through Ghidotti Early College High School, Sierra College or online.

GERMAN

Cutting the German program would also be due to low enrollment, according to Frisella.

"Based on the number of students interested in German 1 three years ago, the course was offered," said Frisella in an email to The Union. "The numbers have not sustained themselves through German 4."

Nevada Union junior Alex Zetterberg, who grew up learning German from her grandmother, hopes to study abroad in Germany in the near future.

"I was very disappointed because I thought it was understood that I could take (German) for four years," said Zetterberg.

While it looks as though German will be cut entirely, the district hopes to at least grandfather students who have begun taking German classes.

"We're looking for ways to see how we can either try to offer one more section of German 3 and 4 next year," said McFadden.

ISSUES OF LOW ENROLLMENT

McFadden said the district is trying to ensure not just that the best performers succeed, but also those struggling are not bottoming out and have a fair shot at achieving high marks.

That means diverting resources toward students in need of more help, which is a growing population, according to the district.

"Forty percent of our students come from low socio-economic status backgrounds, are English language learners, foster youth or homeless youth," McFadden said.

Ten years ago, McFadden said, that number was about 15 percent.

While enrollment projections have risen slightly, according to McFadden, they have been falling steadily. As he said, the district has faced "17 consecutive years" of enrollment decline.

"We're over 50 percent smaller than we were 20 years ago," said McFadden.

This leaves constructing class schedules more difficult for administrators trying to serve a variety of students.

WHAT'S NEXT?

To revive the advanced placement class, Zliman, Zetterberg and a few of their peers said they will reach out to local companies that have a STEM emphasis, requesting more classroom dollars.

"We were also going to be reaching out to Telestream and any other tech companies in this area," said Zliman.

According to McFadden, the final decision on the status of German and the advanced placement class will be made in early March.

You can reach Sam Corey at 530-477-4219 or by email at scorey@theunion.com.

Clarification: The entire AP Calculus program was not cut. While AP Calculus BC was phased out at Nevada Union, AP Calculus AB is still ongoing.

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