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Santa Clara Unified: Math Pathways Moving Forward, Enrollment Worries

Santa Clara Unified gets an update on the new Math Pathways. Enrollment has been declining. New facility fees are on the way.

“Changes are inevitable” seemed to be the theme of the Santa Clara Unified Board meeting on Thursday, Oct. 26. They got an update on the new math pathways, looked at enrollment history, and got a sneak peek at facility use fee changes.


Math Pathways

In August, the Board first saw the Math Pathways Committee’s recommendations for the new pathways for middle and high schoolers. Since then, they’ve held town halls with families to answer questions and gather feedback. Matt Baldwin, Director of Secondary Education, said the feedback was mostly positive. Families were happy to be rid of placement tests and were in favor of the compaction classes instead of skipping material to get ahead.

As a reminder, the August presentation detailed the new pathways that allow students to pursue AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC, or AP Statistics in 12th grade without skipping courses or relying on external courses. Before this, 5th graders would take a placement test and were allowed to skip up to two middle school math classes. With the new math pathways, at the end of 7th grade, families get to decide for their students based on recommendations using i-Ready scores, MARS/MAC Task Scores, and grades.


Most students don’t accelerate their math journeys, but for those who want to, there are now options without skipping classes, said Rachel Fainstein, Math TOSA. Instead, students can utilize two “compaction points” to speed up their math journey. First, in middle school, students can take Algebra 1 and Common Core Math 8 together in 8th grade. Second, high school students can take Honors Algebra 2 with Precalculus and Trigonometry in 10th grade. Depending on students’ proficiency and development they can take both compaction points or just one.

If a student wants to take advantage of the compaction points, all students still take Common Core Math 6 in 6th grade, then Common Core Math 7 in 7th grade, then the option for the first compaction point in 8th grade. In high school, every 9th grader starts in Geometry. After, students can continue as normal or take another compaction class in 10th grade. Lastly, students can take AP Calculus AB in 11th grade (some could double up with Statistics) and then AP Calculus BC in 12th grade.

Board Members shared concerns they heard from families about high achievers who might get bored with their math placements or, on the other hand, those who are struggling. Baldwin restated his stance that the math pathways are a system aimed to help the majority of students, but they already do and will continue to try to meet the needs of students who want to do more. He also pointed to AR 6146.11 which allows students to take external classes if they want.

“Our proposed pathways have the same amount of acceleration points that our previous pathway did, but if there is a student that we have to look at separately, we do have to accommodate them,” said Baldwin.

When it comes to those who struggle in math, the Board heard a presentation in September that detailed the District’s efforts to help improve students’ CAASPP (California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress) scores, especially their math scores.

Craig Hedlund, a Wilcox High School math teacher, asked the Board to approve the recommendation. “Every kid that I’ve ever taught in high school calculus has skipped classes to get there,” said Hedlund. “What we are currently doing at the foundational level of middle school mathematics is we are putting kids through middle school with cracks and gaps in their foundation… Those cracks and gaps grow for a lot of kids, and we are trying to build calculus buildings on a foundation that is just not ready to handle it.”

According to the website,, which has more information and an FAQ, the pathways will be implemented starting Fall 2024. The motion to accept the recommended Math Pathways passed 6-0 with Board Clerk Jim Canova being absent.



Enrollment all over Santa Clara County has been on the decline. Johanna Gonzalez, Enrollment Center Manager, said Santa Clara Unified has decreased by 682 students total over the last five years, with a slight increase since the 2021-2022 school year.

Probably due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the biggest decline in enrollment was from the 2019-2020 to 2020-2021 school year with a decrease of 624 students. For the 2022-2023 school year, they had other variables to keep in mind. They decided on class size reductions which meant 99 students had to be moved to other schools due to impacted enrollment. Because of the State, they also expanded TK offerings when age eligibility expanded. Lastly, the new schools at the old Agnews site opened new grade levels.

Elementary schools saw the greatest enrollment dip over the last five years with a 586-student decrease. Middle school enrollment saw an increase overall, but site-by-site enrollment decreased except for at Huerta Middle School when they added another grade level. Don Callejon K-8 lost 136 students, which was the biggest drop in enrollment, but other middle schools were also impacted, noted Dr. Brenda Carrillo, Director of Student Services.

Board Members were concerned about Don Callejon’s enrollment decline, especially if it gets too small. Gonzalez assured them that the Enrollment Team is keeping an eye on it. Superintendent Dr. Gary Waddell said Don Callejon is also considering making changes.

High school enrollment was the only level to see a slight increase over the last five years. Most sites saw declines except at MacDonald High School when they added more grade levels. This school year so far, all grade levels have experienced an increase, except for 9th grade which declined.


Facility Fees

Santa Clara Unified hasn’t updated its facility fees since 1994, and Director of Facility Development and Planning Michal Healy says it’s time. She won’t announce the actual fees until the Board’s next meeting, but she went into detail about the rationale.

New pricing will take into account operating costs, admin costs, and capital costs, all divided by square footage and then you get the facility cost per square foot. Then, they took the facility cost per square foot multiplied by the average square foot per facility, and then divided that by total usable hours, equaling the facility cost per hour.

Healy proposed that they need to update the fees after all this time and that based on many factors, including custodian time and facility replacements, many of their rentals are losing money. Depending on how the next few meetings go, the new fees will start in June 2024. They’ve already reached out to Group 1.5 users about the changes.


Difference Makers

The District takes time once a quarter to honor Difference Makers in the community. This quarter, in the category of “Certificated Staff Member,” the difference maker is Jessica Arana from Briarwood Elementary School. In the category of “Classified Staff Member,” they honored Helmer Umana from Buchser Middle School. And lastly, the Resource Specialist Program team of Amy Verma and Toni Scarborough from Bowers Elementary School was awarded.


Other Business

The Board approved hiring Roxanne Chavarria as the Administrative Secretary for the Human Resources Department.

During unagendized public comment, Katie Gilchrist, a music teacher at Peterson Middle School, came to the Board to bring attention to their music program’s needs. She said they need more resources and more staff since their enrollment has increased. The Board couldn’t respond but asked staff to get more information back to them.


The Santa Clara Unified Board meets next on Thursday, Nov. 9. Meetings are live-streamed on the District’s YouTube page and agendas are posted on their website.


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