Important meeting with Dr. Wiegand, Trevor Nadrozny and Dr. DeStefano

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Reflection on the Jan 26 School Assignment Community Forum

Here is a letter I sent to various Unit 4 Administrators and a Board Member:

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,

The video is a huge hit! It is such a huge improvement over the previous forms of communicating information. It is exciting to see Unit 4 and the FIC moving in this direction.

While several of us were talking after the presentation, several things came up – specifically about getting information online and maybe even making a couple posters:

  1. put edulog online
  2. while #1 is being talked about, I have a google maps + javascript solution that gets pretty darn close
  3. Show people a map with the school district boundaries and the location of each school. Maybe a 4′ x 3′ posterboard and people can insert pushpins (I have done this elsewhere with great success).

Jamar, Orlando and Judy asked for the URLs for my projects. Feel free to share these Read the rest of this entry »

New School Assignment video is up on registration website

Here is the URL:

http://fast.wistia.com/embed/iframe/57f6eaeb23?videoWidth=630&videoHeight=354&volumeControl=true&playerColor=3853a4&autoPlay=true&endVideoBehavior=reset&popover=true

 

You can get there from the new registration website:

http://www.unit4registration.org/

 

They did a really swell job with the video – very impressive! I wish they spent a little more time explaining why the one parent did not get any of her 5 choices since that kinda sticks out like a sore thumb, but there is the implication that the parent finally get in via the waitlist. Proximity is described in much better detail, which helps. I still wait to see an online map and real-life examples.

 

Trevor Nadrozny has short outtakes in many of the sections (the “process flow” from the website), and does a lot of the explaining in the longer video. The repetition of the three R’s does indeed drive home the point of what one does, and I appreciate that Trevor acknowledges the pain points.

 

I am pleased that Unit 4 found someone to do such a snazzy video on such short notice. I hope they look to supplement the video and website with even better stuff for next year.

Reflection upon the Jan 10th "Choice" Community Forum

I am glad I rearranged my schedule to make it to this forum; as with all meetings I find myself in, I personally place a much higher value on the one-to-one conversations I have, over and above the information that is disseminated and dumped upon attendants. So here are the pros and cons, from my point of view:

Cons Read the rest of this entry »

Going to the "Schools of Choice" Community Forum tonight

But I’ll be late early. Quite late. 🙂 If you go, I would love to hear your first impressions, especially of the first 5 minutes. Seriously, I do want to hear back from a couple people about how “Choice” is presented and your perception of it.

Dr. Wiegand and Trevor Nadrozny have told me that they have some things ready for tonight, and they will have even more things ready by the next Community Forum (maybe a new webpage?). In particular, I am hoping they change the format of the “forum” such that there is more emphasis on community interaction with District experts. I am hoping that “overchosen” is clearly spelled out such that attendants know exactly which schools are historically overchosen. I am hoping that community members have more answers than questions when they leave.

So please let me know if that happened or not.

Large Kindergarten class sizes for 2010-2011 (and beyond)

Back in August, WCIA ran a story about the increased Kindergarten enrollment. It did not occur to me at the time what the ramifications of that were. Recently, I have been chatting with some current Kindergarten parents; apparently, they were informed as early as August 5th about the need to shuffle and squeeze in yet more students, bringing the totals up to 25 at 10 of the 11 schools and 24 at the 11th. 25 kids for one teacher is a lot. It is a lot when you only plan for 20 or 21. It is a lot when you have several kids that require a little more attention. The district responded by stating that they would add an extra teacher’s aide to each elementary school. Throughout the past semester, the aides were released at the end of the quarter (both quarters) and were only taken back on a couple weeks later. Also, this is one teacher’s aide per school;  a three-strand school would have to share the aide among three different classes.

 

It is not exactly clear what is going to happen this semester. I know that at Carrie Busey, several parents have stepped up to the plate and have been helping out in the classrooms. Parents have also been in contact with Administration and they seem to have a favorable impression of Trevor Nadrozny, who is trying hard to find solutions and also keep a line of communication open with parents. When I emailed Judy Wiegand with these concerns she replied (and gave me permission to quote):

We have been holding discussions around this issue and plan on adding a Kindergarten and first grade class for 2012-13 to address class size.  We are discussing location of the additional classrooms at the Leadership meeting tomorrow [Jan 5th] and once the BOE has been notified we will certainly work with Lynn to publicize it.  Our timeline is to have decisions made prior to Choice forums so parents are aware.

 

Yet this does not exactly spell out what will happen for Spring 2012. It is awesome to see parents getting involved, and I hope that trend continues. It is awesome to see folks in Administration taking parents seriously and responding appropriately. And I am ever thankful for our teachers – I have not heard a peep of complaint from them at all! 🙂

 

Another little interesting tidbit to come out of this centers around Registration itself. I have more to say about registration (imagine that!), but the purposes of this post, I was given a story of how one parent was not even aware of the need to register in March. Apparently, in 2011 there were a significant number of parents registering in August, and some of those allegedly already had children in school. So whatever Unit 4 did in early 2011 did not reach some parents. For whatever reason. Are there other ways in which Unit 4 can communicate with the community? Put up brochures in libraries/churches? More exposure on TV/radio?