Tomorrow, a couple other stakeholders and I will be meeting at the Mellon Center with Dr. Wiegand, Trevor Nadrozny (Unit 4 Director of Curriculum) and Dr. DeStefano (Professor of Educational Psychology and Director of I-STEM at the University of Illinois). The topic is a discussion about TASAP (Targeted [sic] Assistance Student Assignment Plan – should be “Technical”); I asked for the meeting on December 21st to talk about School Assignment on several different levels, and also to get an update on Dr. DeStefano’s research (of which I signed a NDA so I can’t say much about what I know).
As I have prepared and gathered together my thoughts on this, I find myself coming back to one major problem I have with the way Unit 4 has gone about this; Dr. Michael Alves of Enrolledu (based in Massachusetts). But before I get too deep in my own thoughts, allow me to make it clear that I am very receptive to what readers are thinking and I will take any appropriate feedback from you with me to the meeting tomorrow. What’s on your mind? Any burning questions about the Lottery?
So here is where I am at. The District is paying over $85,000/year to Dr. Michael Alves (this information can be obtained via FOIA – my latest snapshot was in 2010). The TASAP grant (with Sandra Duckworth’s name on it) is a two-year grant and I know Dr. Alves was paid out of that grant money. It is not yet clear to me if we have had on-going TASAP grants and if his money always comes out of that bucket or not. What value are we getting out of that? I mean, seriously. Where is the accountability? Where is the oversight? When I sent a proposal to the BOE about granting every resident a Proximity A to a school, the BOE and Culver passed the buck to Alves who gave me a very technical 5-page lecture on how bad my idea was. And I believe he charged us for that as well. I get the impression that we have very little local control over this thing, which does not make a lot of sense to me. And why are we sending our money to Massachusetts? (you are welcome, Minutemen) I have a glimmer of hope that this is why Dr. DeStefano (and last year, Dr. Burke) is involved.
Perhaps the bigger question is, what do we want school assignment to do? What really is “fair”? I have to be careful about using that word, because as we say so often to our daughter, “Life is not fair”. Perhaps a much better word would be “right”, but then we get ourselves tangled in a web of morality. Despite that possibility, I am going to stick with “right” since that seems like the most wise choice with the best long-term results.
My take on how we “do right by our society” is to start off by teaching our kids how to be effective community citizens. I disagree that we should focus primarily on turning them into money-producing worker bees, while I do grant that being productive should be a very important secondary goal. And note how this has nothing to do with the lottery system. 🙂 I say that on purpose. Because what is most important to me is that our children are provided with free, accessible quality education that shares the same primary goal. Personally, I don’t really care about AYP, and I personally do not think that any one Unit 4 school is particularly better or worse than any other – we are constrained (think handcuffs) in so many different ways that it is challenging for any one school to stand out, to be unique for its own merits. And yet some schools are doing just that. The Magnet programs are introducing another incentive along that route.
And one more maybe out-of-my-freaking-mind thought about different learning styles and/or cultures; what if we had a school that specialized in teaching and educating those children that do not learn well in “traditional” classroom settings? What if, as some research suggests, there was an option for an entire strand that focused on a “minority” culture? We could argue both sides of that ’till the cows come home – my point is even saying this in the first place is that I am tired of the bread and butter.
To wrap this up, when I go to the meeting tomorrow, my focus is going to be:
- Move away from Dr. Alves and Enrolledu; engage the College of Education in a much more intimate fashion
- Bring the community on-board with the school assignment process (transparency through open documentation/communication, community forums, commitment to place value on stakeholders’ perspectives)
- Continue to simplify the school assignment process and improve the image of Unit 4