Parents upset with possible curriculum changes at Da Vinci Middle School

PORTLAND, Ore. - Parents got their chance Tuesday night to voice outrage over a possible curriculum change at Da Vinci Middle School in Northeast Portland.

The principal has a plan to raise math and science scores for some of his students; state numbers show they aren't meeting the mark. Some Da Vinci families claim they were shut out of discussions about those changes -- which they believe ultimately damage the school.

"I really like the integrative model where the kids are blended from 6th to 8th grade and their 'core' teacher is their 'parent' for three years," said Jeff Katz.

His daughter, Mira, is in 7th grade at Da Vinci. Tuesday night he sat in an auditorium full of parents concerned with upcoming changes to their children's education.

"I first heard about it from my daughter coming home from school, and then we secondarily heard it from her teacher who's the one that's being let go," Katz explained.

Principal Fred Locke told parents some students aren't meeting the mark when it comes to math and science compared to other schools in Portland. He presented state numbers that showed a decline for those students over the past two years.

"Everyone who walks through our door, we are responsible for sending them to high school prepared in all respects to be successful," Locke said.

The solution: 10 more minutes of math each day, additional time in science classes, and restructuring the school day. That also means students will spend less time in language arts, or the school's "core" program, which distinguishes it from other schools. But, students will also get more time in art classes.

"I think this is happening too quick, too fast, too much," said Katz.

Students at the school think so too. They walked out in protest on Monday.

Katz believes the changes are more about numbers than student progress. He can't help but also think about the new common core testing that starts next fall.

"As Da Vinci migrates to this more instructional time with math and science, I believe the emphasis is going to be on how do we get those kids ready for those smart assessment tests," said Katz.

Principal Locke has the final say over what changes actually happen, and when they happen.

"I would like him to at least give it another year or so to really assess," said Katz.

Some parents are planning on attending the June 2 school board meeting. They want to make sure their voices are heard at the highest levels.

It's unclear when the principal will make his final decision.