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Students in highline have been pressured and cajoled into signing up for AP classes despite clearly not being able to handle the fast paced and demanding environment. Staff is advising students based on the best interests of the College Board, NOT the best interest of the students.
Don't believe me? Check into the failiure rates for AP classes. They are unacceptably high. Students should not be allowed into an AP class at all unless they KNOW they can handle it.
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.
1. Support for teachers/students has dramatically decreased over the past five years. When I started teaching in 2008, in our building was a full time literacy interventionist, full time math interventionist, a math coach and each new teacher had a district mentor that met with them at least once per month to observe lessons and provide feedback. We now have a .75 time literacy interventionist, a .6 time math interventionist, no coaches, and essentially no mentors for new teachers. At that time we also had a sheltered ELL room and therefore general education teachers did not work with the enormous range of language development. We now have level 1 – 3 students in our classes and a .4 ELL facilitator. We need a full time interventionist for both math and reading, coaches in each area, and a full time ELL facilitator.
2. Beverly Park Elementary has been subject to fluctuating/decreasing enrollment for the past five years, and possibly longer. Yet schools within a few miles of us are overcrowded and do not have enough space. The current solution is to “balance” students from year to year between these schools. This is not healthy for students and their families as they are unable to create the bonds needed to succeed. It also creates fluctuations for the staffing of the school. My grade level team has changed every year for the past five years. This does not allow teachers to create consistency and it also means that new teachers are continually passing through without an ability to fully develop their teaching skills and collaborate with the same team over time. The solution is to change the boundaries slightly to create stability for families and teaching staff.
3. A real “game changer” would be to put two teachers in a room of 27 – 30 students, at the intermediate level; possibly lower numbers of students at the primary level. Each teacher could focus on one or two subject areas, yet be available to work with small groups in any academic area when not leading his/her given subjects. There are many benefits to this idea. Teachers could focus on, and become experts in, one or two academic areas. A built-in interventionist is in the room to work with small groups of students all day. Teachers could receive PD during the day without the expense of subs and the fear of a “lost teaching day”.
4. Given the increased time demands on principals with the new review system, each building MUST have an assistant/co-principal. Having been part of the pilot program, I can say with firsthand knowledge that principals are going to be pushed beyond their limits to carry out the increased observation duties required by this system and will be hard pressed to carry out all of their other important duties such as support for discipline issues, budget management, SIP plans, PD planning, etc.
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.
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.
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...)
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?
We need tutoring for all students no matter what income level they are at. If a student is struggling it should not matter if their parents do not qualify for free or reduced lunch, they should be given the extra help.