BAUMHOLDER, Germany — Count on it, kids. This will be the school year for numbers. And leaving math class means you won’t necessarily leave math behind.

For the 2003-2004 school year, Department of Defense Dependents Schools’ theme of “Math Matters” will stress the use of math in everyday life to all 112 DODDS- Europe schools, and its projected 48,453 pupils.

The “Math Matters” campaign emphasizes practical skills far beyond the mathematics classroom, said Frank O’Gara, spokesman at DODDS headquarters in Wiesbaden, Germany. Teachers across disciplines will highlight math elements in history, social studies and English.

“Take history, for example,” O’Gara said. “Do you think early explorers could have done what they did if they didn’t have backgrounds in math?

“We want to show parents how to reinforce what their kids learn by weaving math into daily experiences.”

Nearly every ordinary activity in life demands math skills, he said. A trip to the commissary, for example, requires familiarity with unit pricing, weights and measures in the produce department. Mailing a package at the Army post office requires calculations of weight-related postage costs, distance and zone pricing. Sports are built on a foundation of statistics, percentages and other calculations, O’Gara said.

DODDS’ yearly themes are not so much about emphasizing one subject over another as about heralding new programs.

Each theme represents a funding initiative, financial infusions called “program obligation memorandum.” Each POM is meant to make that program more rigorous, and to address achievement shortcomings, O’Gara said. Once funded, each new curriculum is introduced, implemented and permanently integrated into DODDS’ classrooms over five or six years, according to teachers and administrators.

Though last year’s “DODDS Reads” school year theme gives way to “Math Matters,” the “Reads” funding goes on for five or six years, at which time that funding becomes part of DODDS’ baseline budget.

“The money doesn’t go away,” said Candace Ransing, DODDS- Europe deputy director.

The biggest changes parents and students will notice this school year will be more math course offerings, labs and a modernization of what used to be vocational school.

Under “Math Matters,” pupils will have a number of new programs, including Algebra I and geometry labs, with additional teacher training, on the way to expanding the labs to Algebra II next year.

The math initiative dovetails into changes in the professional technical studies curricula, where DODDS is offering more high-tech-related classes for vocational students.

“Woodworking and shop don’t get it,” O’Gara said.

The new courses are meant to “try to bring [vocational training] into the 21st century,” he said.

Changes in technical studies “tie in neatly to this year’s math theme … in that business after business after business, course after course, emphasizes the importance of algebra,” Ransing said. For the 2003-2004 school year, DODDS is dedicating about $250,000 in funding to refocus toward high technology. Part of that money goes to creating robotics programs at 19 high schools, she said. Other new technical classes include:

• Video communications and computer-aided manufacturing.• Engineering design and development.• Health care services.• Graphics production.• Web site development and management.• Cisco networking I and II.• Microsoft certification.• Interactive multimedia.• Computer service and support.

O’Gara offered the caveat that not all schools will have all the offerings, with new classes being implemented according to individual school interest and available instructors.

The best way to look at what’s coming may be to look at “DODDS Reads” program emphasizing language arts, launched last year. Under that theme, DODDS dedicated additional staff, computers and software to reading and language- arts labs, said Jim Funk, assistant principal at Smith High School in Baumholder. The reading and language-arts initiative continues for 2003-2004 as new high school offerings in journalism, drama, speech and advanced-placement language and composition.

The theme was “the building block. This is the superstructure,” Funk said. The emphasis on language arts translated into tangible improvements “not just in [test] scores, but in some students’ desire to read,” Funk said. “For the first time in their lives, those kids were taking pleasure in reading.”

Longer days, smaller classes improve early years

BAUMHOLDER, Germany — Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe is continuing its ambitious two-pronged program aimed at the earliest years of education.

The 2003-2004 school year is Year Four of a five-year effort introducing full-day kindergartens throughout DODDS-Europe, and at the same time reducing first- through third-grade class sizes to no more than 18 pupils per teacher. Those efforts are not in lockstep partly because staffing and space changes are different at each school, said Frank O’Gara, DODDS spokesman.

At Smith Elementary in Baumholder, for example, this will be the first year for implementing the reduced-class-size initiative, but the fourth year for all-day kindergarten, principal Bill Rose said.

Four schools haven’t yet started the program, but are scheduled to do so during the 2004-2005 school year, O’Gara said.

Ramstein Elementary is the only school in the most densely populated cluster of U.S. bases in Germany without either full-day kindergarten or the class size initiative, said Peggy Hoffman-Schmidt, public affairs officer for the Kaiserslautern District.

However, nearby Vogelweh, Landstuhl and Kaiserslautern elementary schools have instituted both the full-day kindergarten and the class size initiative, Hoffman-Schmidt said. Those three schools have either added new buildings or renovated buildings to comply with the mandates, according to Hoffman-Schmidt and O’Gara.

Before, schools had a morning kindergarten session and an afternoon session in the same room. But adding full-day kindergarten while cutting class sizes down to a target of 18 pupils from 25 or 26 for first through third grades “means you have to double the number of classrooms,” Hoffman-Schmidt said.

The prevailing wisdom in educational literature is that children learn better in small classes. DODDS is combining smaller classes with professional development for teachers moving into a more intimate class environment with more individualization, said Jennifer Halley, instructional systems specialists for DODDS Europe.

Out of 112 schools across Europe, the schools that don’t have full-day kindergarten programs or reduced class size, but will in the 2004-2005 school year:

• Aviano Elementary, Italy• Ramstein Elementary• SHAPE Elementary, Belgium• Vicenza, Italy

Twelve schools have not introduced the reduced pupil-teacher ratio initiative:

• Naples, Italy• Patch, Stuttgart• Aviano, Italy• La Maddalena, Sardinia• Lajes, Azores• Menwith Hill, England• Ramstein Elementary• Robinson Barracks, Stuttgart, Germany• Rota, Spain• SHAPE, Belgium• Vicenza, Italy• Verona, Italy

— Terry Boyd

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