Ideas on restructuring Unit 4

When I talked with Dr. Bob Malito back in September, one of things I did not mention in my summary was one of the big ideas he has about possibly restructuring how we do 7-12th grade. During our last Wednesdays at Houlihans, this idea came up again, so I figured it is past time for me to give it some space here. I can swear I read this elsewhere, but right not Google is not helping me out. NG? WILL? I am sure I’ll find it some time…..

So here is where we are at. Not too long ago, a bunch of folks wanted to create a brand-new 3rd highschool up near Olympian Drive. I am not exactly sure who the biggest pushers were, but once the public got involved in the discussions, the BOE was forced to take a step back from their aggressive planning. Which is probably a good thing. Granted, we need to do something about our aging buildings. But what?

I am not sure if Dr. Malito conceived this idea, but in this post, I am going to give him credit for it. Please correct me if I am wrong. The idea is as follows – the traditional method of 6-8 middle school and 9-12 high school goes out the window:

due to the high drop-out rate and the stress of going from middle school to high school (all backed by statistics and test score metrics), 8th grade is combined with 9th grade. They become an independent campus.

10th-12th grade are on a separate campus. They could focus more on vocational/tech skills getting them ready for the workplace. In addition, there is some interest on working more closely with Parkland to start getting kids into the college scene earlier.

After talking with a Board Member, I gained the personal opinion that our current way of moving students through school really sucks. For instance, apparently we do not flunk students between Kindergarten and 8th grade (due to some policitcal/legal brouhaha). What sense does that make?!? Now perhaps I totally misunderstood what was said to me (would not be the first time). But in the current environment, it is entirely possible for a student to land in high school and hardly even be ready for 6th grade. Imagine the stress that puts on teachers (all teachers, not just the luck 9th grade teachers). I would first want to work on a way to promote students from one grade level to another once they are ready to move on. Isn’t that what happens in real life anyway? Think you can get a job in tax preparation without a CPA?

So going back to this idea of breaking off 9th-grade and partnering it with 8th grade. The root problem is not the testing – it is the progression of education. Would a combo 8th-9th grade work? Would placing more of a votech emphasis on 10th-12th be good for us?

That is a game changer for how we look at our buildings as well. Suddenly, if we have smaller populations of students under one roof, it is easier to find seats in existing buildings without having to go to the somewhat expensive process of buying land on the edge of town and building out there. Besides, we are quite cash-strapped at the moment, and I do not think it is realistic at all to buy land and build a new, larger structure.

I invite those who are knowledgeable on this topic to correct what I have said, and/or fill in details I might have left out. And the rest of you…. what do you think? =)

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4 Responses to “Ideas on restructuring Unit 4”

  1. papa@home Says:

    You said, “the root problem is not the testing – it is the progression of education.” I disagree. The root problem is teaching that doesn’t get the job done (and by saying teaching I don’t mean it is all the teachers’ fault).

    Whether it is because of cultural insensitivity or lack of understanding on how schools work or childhood trauma that blocks the ability to take math seriously because dad is dying of cancer or in the clink. There are a million reasons why education doesn’t work but the root cause is not social promotion.

    If we’re going to critique social promotion, let’s go more big picture and ask (along with Ken Robinson) why is the most important part of the educational system the date of manufacture? Group the children by ability and not by age. Then the whole issue with social promotion goes out the window and kids are being taught what they need when they need it.

    Somehow, I don’t think CUSD #4 is ready to blow up that part of how school works.

  2. charlesdschultz Says:

    I am thinking there is no one root problem, per se; I think it is a multi-faceted issue we need to all tackle and work on together.

    In terms of …. *searching for a different set of words to use* taking apart and reassembling “that part of how school works”, it seems like now is the perfect time to do that with all the changes going on in administration. As responsible citizens, we need to voice our opinions to the BOE, the Super and the Admin. And not as flame bait, but rather a parents and people who care about our kids addressing other parents and people who care about kids.

    So let us circle back to this idea of how we group kids. If not by “manufacture date”, then exactly how do we implement grouping by ability? Have two tests, one at the beginning of the year and one at the end of the year; if the pass the first, they can skip ahead and if they fail that latter, they repeat it again? That would be horrible for planning. 🙂 But I am not opposed. I just want to make sure we think this through. Thoroughly – it is no good to have vague ideas in our attempts to constructively criticize.

  3. What’s wrong with this picture? « A citizen’s blog about Champaign Unit 4 Says:

    […] offer constructive criticism means I need to work on building up and not just tearing down.)  In a recent thread, there is the idea of allowing kids to be grouped on ability or skill level, not age. I am […]

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