Teachers, parents voice concerns over newly proposed school program

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Following a presentation Tuesday focused on a new program that may be implemented within classrooms in Socorro's school district as early as the 2014 fall semester, dozens of questions from teachers and parents arose.

Randy Earwood, Socorro Consolidated Schools superintendent, lead the discussion on the new JUMP program, or Joint Ungraded Multi-age Primary.

The program consolidates students from kindergarten through second grade into a single class where they will remain with the same teacher for three years. The idea to implement the program in Socorro, Earwood said, was sparked during a recent school board conference in Las Cruces — a place where JUMP is already being carried out. In larger schools, such as those in Las Cruces, students are screened and only the "bottom" ten percent are put into the program; however, at a school as small as Midway Elementary, all "kinders" through second graders would be consolidated.

The superintendent said what the schools are doing now "isn't working."

Earwood said one of the best ways to help children with varying developmental needs is to place them in a single classroom with a teacher who remains with them. Still, he admitted there are "a lot of unknowns" and will likely be "bumps along the way."

One benefit from remaining in the classroom for three years, Earwood said, is that by the time these children reach the third grade, the skills they have learned and developed will be "engrained." He said JUMP gives them a setting where they can develop at their own pace.

Many teachers and parents said they weren't convinced.

Barbara McLain, an educational assistant at Midway, said her main concern is the student to teacher ratio. She said if planned well, the program could be effective, but during years when the school has a large influx of kindergarten students, it may cause a problem.

Parents brought up concerns of regression, a diminished attention to individual children due to larger class sizes and a lack of transparency from the district.

Teachers raised issues as well, including the limited time they will have to prepare for such a drastic change. They also brought constructive ideas to the discussion, including the possibility of a transitional program that would further prepare students for the third-grade classroom environment and the possibility of an individual aid for each class.

There were further concerns that, in taking on the program, Midway would possibly lose a teacher.

Earwood encouraged parents and teachers that the district is only in the beginning stages of determining whether or not JUMP is something that should be pursued here; he said that if parents do not want to buy in, it "won't be successful."

Tuesday's meeting was held at Midway Elementary; a similar meeting is scheduled at 5 p.m. Monday, March 31, at Parkview Elementary School.

The first official planning meeting for the program is scheduled at 1 p.m. Wednesday, April 2, at the Socorro Consolidated Schools district building. Teachers, parents and those interested are encouraged to attend.