Tonight's Open Forum

For our debut Open Forum, we had two Board Members (one for each hour :)) 4 parents and 2 media folks. And a whole heck of a lot of discussion. I cannot possibly do justice to all that we covered, especially since I am tired. But I am going to convey the notes I took. In addition, I am hoping Meg Dickinson will write up an article, and we have a video (not sure about the quality). I am also hoping that those who were there (looking at you, readers!!) will fill in the blanks and continue this conversation.

[in no particular order at all]

Climate

  • Achievement expectations are low
  • Behavior expectations are low
  • Does not support a lot of learning
  • Teachers should dig into the backgrounds of their students
  • Don’t compare students to each other
  • Turn org chart upside down
  • It is time to truly focus on kids, not adults (and not merely give lip service)
  • More diversity
  • High Mobility correlates to low Performance; schools of choice correlates with high mobility at some schools

Transportation

  • Privatize the transportation department
  • The money spent on leased land could have been better spent on simply buying land and a garage (20/20 hindsight)

Money

[we started off with this, but I did not take notes – leaving it as a topic]

Curriculum

  • Not hard enough
  • Need “better” differentiation than what we have now; teachers cannot possible differentiate between 22+ students at once.

Raise Expectations

  • More strict expectations
  • Needs to be enforced

Thinking Out of the Box

  • Need a small group of support around each student; build a profile of student’s comprehensive progress
  • Change report cards such that the comment section is mandatory
  • Education has to be relational
  • throw out schools of choice

Discipline and Bullying

  • Right now we do not have a record of prior history
  • Teachers are too often observers
  • need more transparency in the decision-making process
  • don’t have the whole picture

Goals

  • Teachers should intervene with kids who struggle for one reason or another
  • Change Policy (in regards to retention/holding back)? Get kids into different learning environments

Communication

  • A huge disconnect
  • Some office staff are not friendly

Next Meeting

  • We need more issues on the table
  • We need more diversity (not just fans of this blog *grin* – love you guys)

And now I invite you to rip this apart.

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14 Responses to “Tonight's Open Forum”

  1. Chuck Jackson Says:

    I don’t like the verbiage of “Teachers should dig into the backgrounds of their students” – the idea was that teachers need to see their students within the context of their lives and not assume they arrive every day ready to soak up knowledge.

  2. charlesdschultz Says:

    Good point. Can you suggest an alternative that I can change it to, maybe summarize what you just said?

  3. pattsi Says:

    great, first toe in the water.

  4. Karen Says:

    I know it’s unpopular, but, this is where my thoughts are somewhat anchored WRT to ‘reaching’ all kids:
    http://www.aft.org/pdfs/americaneducator/spring2012/Clark.pdf
    I don’t think it’s so much about ‘learning style’ (<<controversial, in terms of empricial support) as it is about how 'we' have put on the back burner the basic things that we know 'work,' in terms of what is known (so far) about the human brain and cognition. In a former life working with people with speech-language/cognitive-linguistic issues, modeling, practice, and feeback were essential components of effective learning and mastery. Methods within that general framework could obviously be tailored, depending on various client-related factors. But, repetitive practice was essential to get things to 'stick,' so to speak. I know this is in direct opposition to constructivist pedagogy–but, again, I keep asking, why are things done just because 'we' think they should be, whether or not there is empriical proof of effectiveness.

  5. Karen Says:

    D’oh. Leave it to me to forget the ‘instruction’ part (when I reference modeling, practice, and feedback…).

  6. Jackie Says:

    Karen: I loved the article to which you linked. Thank you! I’m like-minded on this one . . .

  7. charlesdschultz Says:

    Karen, thanks for sharing that article. Having read Freire and Horton (a little), I thought the author’s attack on inquiry learning was not fully fleshed out. On top of that, there is something that was just way too oversimplified.

    Allow me to take a step back and relate from my own personal experience. Starting in high school, I grew to have an extreme dislike for the traditional boring lecture style of transferring knowledge, as it were. By the time I got half-way through college (this fine University we keep talking about – I am not convinced they actually know how to teach students like me *grin*), I didn’t see the point of going to most “classes”. As such, I am now embittered whenever I am forced to endure any kind of long, drawn-out period of one person talking (speeches, sermons, professional “training”, meetings, etc). Whatever style of “teaching” you call this, it don’t work for me. From my very naive point of view, this boring lecture style seems to have some small amount of correlation with explicit and guided instruction. As opposed to partial or unguided.

    I suspect that the crux of the problem between relating the Clark article my own reality is that Clark was using a more ideal and perfect sense of guided learning than I ever experienced. Maybe. But if that is the case, than how does one measure the effectiveness of what we have in our schools here in Champaign? They are not purely guided, nor the dreaded “partially guided” style. Its a mish-mash of hybrid approaches, a smorgasbord that utterly depends on thousands of different factors. I for one do not believe that blanket anything will work for all children. Clark might be right “in general” and maybe mostly correct about the need to guide most of our children, but what do we do about everyone else?

    I am still hung up on the need to get more people involved; bring in the parent volunteers, form relationships, find out what the child needs. I do not know the perfect system. I do, however, believe that we are relational beings and in my book, being able to resolve conflicts trumps the quadratic equation any day.

    Let’s keep this conversation going. 🙂

  8. pattsi Says:

    If you are wanting to wrestle with these ideas, I again suggest Hug Petrie’s book, The Dilemma of Enquiry and Learning. http://books.google.com/books?id=cXubgoso6UwC&pg=PR10&lpg=PR10&dq=hugh+petrie+and+powers&source=bl&ots=xd7rZJpQXe&sig=E_5W43uls8Ydr3rl79zXJkGEYYE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=OISPT7HCBIH00gH_iPSaBQ&ved=0CCIQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=hugh%20petrie%20and%20powers&f=false
    And the seminole work of Petrie’s student, William T. Powers, Perceptual control theory http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perceptual_control_theory

  9. Karen Says:

    I don’t disagree about getting more people involved in a child’s education. I see such things more as supplemental, though. And, as not ideal as it is, there IMO has to be in place some core ‘blanket’ method that will do the most good for the most people (given the limitations of practicality/efficiency/resources, etc.). I’m not saying don’t dream big. I am not saying just leave some students to fall through the cracks. I am just concerned about what kids are learning/not learning these days (I am not a fan of the more process-oriented, almost anti-knowledge, theories/ideologies—nice in theory, but, are we doing kids a disservice by not taking better advantage of loading up their memory stores with knowledge, at a time when their brains are most receptive to it). The case can be made that the knowledge part needs to precede the many ways it can be strategically manipulated. Is there the prerequisite knowledge base built-up/in place for learning and applying such things as ‘critical thinking.’ Boring stuff in school? BTDT, straight through grad school (not all of it, of course–all throughout there were great things, too). But, for some reason, I have some level of appreciation for doing things merely as an exercise in self-discipline. Maybe that’s partly a coping strategy. Or maybe it’s partly related to the satisfaction that comes with having ‘mastered’ something. I have this Algebra textbook from 1942. Yes, boring, it remains to me, lol. But, there is an elegance to the simplicity and directness of it’s presentation that I appreciate. I think I would rather sit down and work throught that book than have to contend with what comes home somtetimes with the Everyday Math Curriculum. Circling around and laying the path to ‘knowing it’ (whatever is intended to be learned–if there is even a concrete knowledge goal) through various processes with a ‘guide-on-the-side’ falls short IMO (I am talking generally, not just math). Among other things (efficiency, ? proof of effectiveness, etc.), too much room for ‘almost learning’… What do you think would have helped you as a student? What does work for you when you are trying to learn something? For me, I would have been devoted, no matter the subject, to any textbook with a French pink hard cover and Dick/Jane style artwork. Such presentation probably would have made even Neuroanatomy more palatable to me, lol. Seriously, what ‘does it’ for you, in terms of reaching you as a learner, given your personal example?

  10. charlesdschultz Says:

    What “does it” for me? I can think of two examples.

    I teach part time at Parkland (Oracle databases). I cannot tell you how much basic stuff I have learned through having to prepare material in such a way as to help students understand it. I do realize the potential irony in this particular situation; here I am saying I hate the lecture method, and I have to constantly battle tradition as I try to figure out how best to teach kids (and adults) about SQL syntax. How do they learn? How do I give them the best bang for the buck? They are not paying me so I can learn. So I usually go with a “do everything possible” approach; I do a little lecture in front of class some days, other days it is a lot of self-discovery, some days are homework in class, and I try to spend a lot of time in one-on-one situations, trying to meet the learner where s/he is at. It totally wears me out, but I don’t have any other solution. And by doing this, I learn a lot. And not just about syntax. 🙂

    Another example. I “learned” about linear regression in class. That is to say, someone talked, pointed to pictures and attempted to explain and then gave a really stupid homework assignment that had us plug numbers into a calculator. And I was given a passing grade. That was essentially worthless to me. I really learned linear regression when I had to analyze 5 years worth of data and write a program that would generate a statistical report of the growth (and projection) of database objects. In fact, I was not told to use linear regression; I had to think about a vast array of tools in order to get the job done, choose this thing called “linear regression” that I found on google (having completely forgotten what I had “learned” in school) and taught myself how to use it in order to get the project done. When I went through that entire exercise, I learned linear regression.

    Do read about Hugh Petrie’s Dilemma. Good stuff. I might have to go crack open Perceptual Control Theory as well.

  11. Karen Says:

    This is timely WRT discipline records… I think this type of case law is important. The ‘no-record of this’/’we didn’t know’ (excuse at best, ‘convenience’ at worst) defense should be held to very high strict proof standards. Good for this kid for emailing the Guidance Counselor on his own. He left his OWN paper trail when the responsible adults in his chain of care at school seemingly didn’t (and, further, it sounds, lied about knowing about any history there with the bully). I don’t care that they settled and they (sadly) still see themselves as blameless. It should serve as a cautionary example of discipline documentation issues, if for nothing else other than fiscal responsbility reasons. I would love for school districts to actually care about it for the ‘right’ reasons, but, bottom-line dollar incentives might work to keep kids safe, too–as a sort of incidental benefit.

    ‘The family’s lawsuit alleged school officials knew or should have known the boy’s attacker had violent tendencies and failed to comply with a state anti-bullying law, said the Rosensteins’ attorney, Jeffrey Youngman. The boy had punched another student in the face on a school bus a year earlier, but the school kept no record of it or other attacks and the attacker was not subjected to escalating discipline, the suit said.

    Three months before being punched, Rosenstein, then 12, emailed school officials to report he was being bullied and to ask for help.

    “I would like to let you know that the bullying has increased,” he wrote to his guidance counselor at the Eric Smith Middle School. “I would like to figure out some coping mechanisms to deal with these situations, and I would just like to put this on file so if something happens again, we can show that there was past bullying situations.” ‘

    http://news.yahoo.com/nj-bullys-paralyzing-punch-nets-4-2m-settlement-161933503.html

  12. charlesdschultz Says:

    Lots of things bother me about this article – it is really hard to read and not get really mad. First, that the school district completely ignored this poor boy’s plight and did not even officially apologize. That nobody was fired!?! How about criminal charges? And then suing the entire school district? What’s the heck is the point?

    I am so glad it ends on a happy note. Sawyer Rosenstein sounds like a really amazing kid – kudos to him. He has shown wisdom, wit, intelligence, persistence, and some amount of forgiveness. He seems to have a great attitude about this whole thing.

  13. Open Forum is tomorrow (7:pm, Urbana Free Library, Lewis Auditorium) « A citizen’s blog about Champaign Unit 4 Says:

    […] we will organize these ideas along several themes, and then mesh them in with the ideas from the previous open forum. If attendees express a desire that we take certain topics to the School Board (either Unit 4 or […]


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