I think the ESL programs are wonderful, but it is a disservice to children who only speak English not to also teach them a second language begining at the elementary level (Spanish being the obvious choice). These children will be at a disadvantage once they graduate as they have not started learning a second language at an early age. As our country becomes increasingly bilingual they will lose out on job opportunities as a result of not being bilingual. I believe this is an equity issue that needs to be addressed.
Connection Centers and Prevention/Intervention Specialist: 1. All High Schools would have a Connection Center. These centers would be modeled after HIPP (Highline Interim Placement Center - major kudos to Founder and Lead Teacher Bruce Dearborn and his staff). The centers would specialize in re-engaging students in their education. They would be staffed by a 2 person team of a counselor and a teacher or teacher/advisers. Students would have the opportunity to work on credit retrieval classes, meet with a caring adult that specializes in assessing students strengths and areas of need, participate in individual counseling and small group social skills/study skills lessons, develop authentic goals and a vision for their life, and engage in career development activities. These centers would also house students who were serving a short-term suspension (as well as long-term depending on the situation). This model could eventually be modified and implemented at the middle school level. 2. All Middle Schools would enage in an activity to identify which students have built a strong meaningful connection with at least one staff member on campus. There would be a full-time Prevention/Intervention Specialist hired to monitor this work. This person would work with those students who had not built a strong connection to a staff member and/or their educational success. The Prevention/Intervention Specialist would focus on collaboratively building these connections with the student, engaging them in school, helping them develop goals and a vision for their life, and help them see the connection between their actions/performance in school and their ability to reach these goals.
There are so many studies that prove that when kids have access to arts education: music, visual arts, performing arts, test scores improve. When children are engaged they are more likely to stay in school and do well. Not every child in engaged by playing sports or doing homework. Access to the arts allows more kids to succeed by encouraging their talents and sustaining involvement. This is not a budget issue, as there are many talented professionals and organizations within our community who would volunteer to bring more arts education into the schools. This is an issue about time and importance. The district needs to make arts education a priority within the curriculum so that we can create stronger schools, better students, and a more successful school district.
If a teacher or teachers are being highly successful with a technique, curriculum or intervention, does the district know who they are and what they are doing? Since we have a limited amount of time with our students we need to make every minute count with the most effective instruction possible. We test our students many ways MSP, MAP, MBA. The district can analyze this data to see where students are making the greatest gains. They can observe or interview these teachers to find out what they are doing that makes them more successful. Is it something that can be implemented easily, then share it. Help teachers apply it. The more we can share and work together, the better off we are.
I don't see the district currently doing this. For example, when I started teaching 5th grade our science MSP scores were low. I met a 5th grade teacher at a different school and found out that test scores were high at her school. I asked her what she did. She graciously sent me her binder of engaging experiments they had developed at her school. It was a great help to us. We have since added our own experiments, homework assignments, and developed science units. Our students have improved every year but we have never been asked what we do or had a way to share it.
I am sure there are lots of similar success stories to ours out there whether it be how to best communicate with families, get kids to learn their multiplication facts, do their homework, improve their writing skills. Who is doing well and what are they doing?
The middle schools would have a better understanding of where the elementary school children are curriculum-wise, and offer classes that serve students at different levels. For instance, all children who are ready for algebra in 7th grade should be able to have access to an algebra program in 7th grade and the option to take more advanced math in 8th grade, either at the middle school or by arrangement with the nearest high school. The integration between the schools should be clearly communicated to parents. There should be more and earlier open houses at the middle and high-school levels to introduce students and parents to the school and allow for questions about curriculum, etc.
Technology and analtyics are increasingly shaping our interatctions with government, companies and each other. Without an understanding and appreciation of what's going on 'behind the curtain', it will be impossible to be good and effective citizens, consumers and employees. Yet, very few students leave high school knowing how to write even a simple bit of computer code or with an understanding of even basic probability. Learning to create a PowerPoint presentation or build an Excel worksheet is not sufficient background in computer science and statistics is are more useful and immediate than trig or calculus. The beauty is that both computer programming and statistics are relevant to every field of study and could be incorporated in ways that deepen students' appreciation of their fields of interest while imparting critical skills and knowledge at the same time.
Band parents together to hold HPS system accountable for protecting our children.
I think this will encourage the children to actually eat their lunch verses putting it aside to run out and play. Probably not game changing, but this might allow the children to increase their nutritional intake and ability to focus the second half of the day.
There are a lot of very good ideas here that address the variety of issues that today's schools face on a daily basis. But the core of all of these problems is money. What schools need is a viable way for them to rally the community around them to fulfill the unique needs of their children.
With the support of community organizations such as the Community Schools Collaboration and the White Center Community Development Association, we have developed Locany.com: a local search platform that allows you to help local schools fund their needs by booking appointments with local service providers. This is program that allows schools to take an issue to the community and empowers that community to effect real change. What could a community accomplish when it comes together over a shared goal?
Teach critical thinking skills from elementary school up. This is a radical, game changing skill, essential to all members of a properly functioning civil society. This skill is difficult to quantitatively assess, thus it is not a “no child left behind” core feature. In the USA, teaching methods for the skill sets needed to communicate, analyze data, and accept authority in the public school systems have been well developed and heavily promoted. Teaching mechanical and technological skills are important, never the less, I believe that critical thinking is one concept that should never be neglected after we have assured our students first: a safe learning environment, proper nutrition, and an abundance of love. Regardless of our varied chosen life paths; plumber, physician, parent …, we need every member of society to be able to listen to discussions, ask enlightening questions, and formulate rational personal responses.