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.
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?
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.
Highline schools should have Tech Tosas that help train teachers to integrate technology in the classrooms and better prepare our students as well as make learning more meaningful to students.
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?
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.
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.
Band parents together to hold HPS system accountable for protecting our children.
It seems that the current Special Education program is very rigid. It is not flexible at all and it is my impression this is mandated by the school district. I would like to be able to collaborate with the special education team to have my students receive support that is connected to what we do in the classroom. The current lack of continuity is very frustrating and a change would be a "game changer!"
I promise not to post any more ideas (at least not tonight...)
Imagine if most of the high schools in the district did not have a football team, or if elementary schools did not have softball teams or Field Day. Few people would stand for that, and for good reason. But just as all schools should encourage physical excellence, they should encourage academic excellence, as well.
Academic excellence does not mean getting a perfect score on a test in class, just like physical excellence does not mean doing 20 push ups in PE, although both are great. Academic excellence means reaching beyond the classroom and testing ourselves against others. This isn't just for a few superstar students; there needs to be a team to support them, just like the star quarterback needs a team to support him and a team to compete against.
I believe the district should require/pressure/encourage schools to create math clubs, robotics clubs, chess clubs, creative writing clubs, language clubs, etc. to a much larger extent than they currently do. I understand that not all schools will be able to have every possible club, but to have few or none should be unacceptable.
The district could provide mentors for teachers or parents who are unsure how to run such clubs, and could provide small stipends that build over time until such "positions" are filled. To really be pursuing academic excellence, clubs should be encouraged to attend regional competitions and events to measure themselves against their peers from other schools and districts.