KUSD meeting to discuss transformational plan
Tonight, the KUSD Board met to discuss the a new personalized learning model, which requires that the way we educate our children in the district will change. This was a special joint meeting of the school board and the Curriculum/Program Standing Committee. The proposed student schedule at the high school level will be transformed to create a flexible eight-block schedule.
Michele Hancock, superintendent opened the meeting. The room was filled to capacity with audience members. Public comments were not allowed during this meeting. Hancock then turned it over to Dan Tenuta, assistant superintendent of secondary school leadership, who stated the goals of the project: to meet the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts, Mathematics, and Literacy in All Content Areas; and to provide a personalized learning approach, taking into consideration technological changes. The common core state standards have been adopted by over 40 states.
The way curriculum is being delivered to K-12 and post-secondary schools is changing every day. Most post-secondary students today will experience classes delivered in an on-line or blended model. The high school transformation includes the exposure to instruction in this style. This exposure will prepare and ready KUSD’s students for 21st century learning. A significant increase in on-line courses and a steady migration to a blended school model is underway. A graduation requirement will be added to include an on-line course or experience for all students.
Secondary school leadership, principals and teaching and learning administrators were there to present the Secondary School Transformational Design Informational Update and respond to questions. To review for yourself the report and appendices which were discussed at the meeting, please click here: KUSD Meeting – 2012 01 31.
Tenuta called upon various high school principals and coordinators to go over certain portions of the plan. Dick Aiello, Tremper High School principal, explained the flexible eight-block bell schedule. Single blocks consist of 46 minutes, and double blocks consist of 97 minutes. Double blocks of time would be used for classes which would require extended time (science classes, and art classes, for example). Classes could run only one semester, two semesters, or the entire school year. Advanced Placement (AP) classes would run all year long. Students would be able to build their schedules to accommodate a wide variety of options. Staffing would be more efficient, and teachers would be in front of the students for longer periods of time. Sample course schedules were provided as examples.
Next was a calendar showing the school year starting in September 2012. The current four full days off for staff development were increased to six. The calendar also decreases the half day and early release day schedules and replaces them with full days off. Parent-teacher conferences would be held after the first and third quarters, not after each quarter, and evening and morning times would be scheduled to accommodate parents’ varied schedules. The schedule was coordinated with the elementary school schedule and would create both a family friendly and efficient schedule.
Beth Ormseth, Indian Trail High School principal, explained the delivery of honors courses. Starting next year at the ninth grade level, regular credit and honors credit students would be in the same class. This is being called the “integrated style.” The “optioned style” would be used for the upper grades. In optioned honors courses, full honors classes will remain, but if a conflict occurs with a student schedule, students could be added to standard courses, but get the honors curriculum delivered to them. This will be phased in over four years, and would provide a smarter use of staffing. It will increase the rigor across all content areas, not just honors courses.
Bradford High School principal, Sue Savaglio-Jarvis, talked about course consolidation. “This is the perfect opportunity for educators to prepare learners for the 21st century. We want to provide them with the essential skills to succeed in work and life. We want to help them be critical thinkers, innovative thinkers. They need to learn how to do research and learn on their own, to communicate and collaborate with others.”
Chris Pratt, coordinator for math and science, described the proposed ninth grade integrated courses: Geometry, Biology, Survey of Literature and Composition, and U. S. History. Geology would be an integrated course for the upper grades. A whole range of classes would be offered as honors option courses in the upper grades. Discrete Math would be discontinued, as well as debate and speech. These disciplines will be integrated into the standards.
Sue Mersky, coordinator for the literacy department, stated that “the skills we want our students to learn are thinking, arguing, supporting, and writing well. We will be providing an integrated literacy model.”
Mark Hentenberg, social studies and career tech ed coordinator, stated that he was very excited about the changes. “In social studies, we want to teach the students to respect cultural differences and be open-minded. The common core is research and problem solving. Currently, World Geography and World Issues will be consolidated into World Studies. The topics and issues covered will be broadened. Computer applications need to be ramped up a bit. We need to put more meat on the bones of the business education courses.” The courses will all have a careers component. Notetaking (speedwriting) is outdated; therefore, it’s being discontinued.
Iva Plumming covered world languages. One skill necessary for the students is how to interact with people from another culture and language. Courses are being consolidated into year-long courses in order to decrease interruptions in learning. There will be five languages being offered. Spanish will be offered in each high school. Then each high school will be focused on another language. Italian will be taught at Bradford, German through the eSchool, Chinese at Indian Trail Academy, and French at Indian Trail and Tremper High Schools. Hancock interjected that students need to know at least two languages. The world languages are becoming Mandarin, Chinese, and Spanish. Students will choose a language in which to become extremely fluent, starting at the kindergarten level.
Dr. Wells spoke on the fine arts. There are few changes in this area. They will move from four bands to three. Elimination of A/B days allows for all ensembles to rehearse on a daily basis. The only other change is that Ceramics 1, 2, and 3 will be combined into one ceramics course. There are no changes from the current offerings.
Steve Knecht, athletic director, spoke enthusiastically about athletics. “A sound body equals a sound mind,” he said. Currently, high school physical education is a tiered structure. Health class will remain the same; this is a Department of Public Instruction requirement. Physical Education Foundations will be the base level class as an introduction to physical education in high school. From there, the student will have one of three choices: lifetime fitness (team sports and team building), active lifestyles (individual sports and fitness), and personal fitness (fitness centers and weight room). The lifeguarding elective will be discontinued due to a low student ratio. Middle school athletics will change from a junior high model of interscholastic competition to a middle school model of intramural activities. This will give more students the opportunity to experience before and after school activity within the intramural structure. Students will no longer be “cut” from activities and, therefore, the opportunity is there for more students to become involved in or connected with their school beyond the academic day.
Chris Kegler discussed the proposed on-line graduation requirement at the high school level. In evaluating other schools, they found that each student should attempt an on-line course or at least an on-line portion for a class. Students need to learn on-line collaboration skills.
Tenuta then stated that the other high schools, Harborside, Reuther, Lakeview, and Hillcrest, were also involved in the transformation plan. However, with their schedules being different, it was felt that it would be more appropriate to leave them with the schedules they currently have.
Vicki Brown-Gurley was on hand to answer questions from the committee. Pam Stevens wanted to know why the changes were needed. Brown-Gurley responded that this is the time when we must become competitive in this global economy. “It’s our responsibility to prepare students to become competitive leaders,” she said. Stevens stated that she would reserve the rest of her questions for the meeting on February 14th. Jo Ann Taube wanted to know about AP courses. They were not listed. Will they remain the same? Yes, the current AP courses will remain. Taube was also concerned about, with a class size of thirty, whether or not the students would get enough time to practice. She also asked about drama courses. None are being eliminated.
Bob Nuzzo, suffering through a nose bleed, asked if every student would be required to take a language course. Brown-Gurley responded that the courses would be available for the students, but not required. He also asked where the district found a Chinese language teacher. The response was that the district already had one.
A committee member wanted to know if extra projects would be required for the students in the honors courses. Hancock replied that the intent is to “stretch” students. Some students have been telling her that, in honors classes, they can do more. She stated that she doesn’t want to hold any child back. “The blended personalized learning approach will help the students soar further. One of the major goals is the accelerated learning of all children. However, all of the students don’t learn at the same rate and pace. This blended model will help the teachers differentiate the lessons and activities to accommodate each student’s level.” Carl Bryan stated that he was excited about some of the things he saw here tonight, but he also had some concerns. He wanted to know if the board was going to have to vote on all of this. The answer was yes. Brown-Gurley stated that she was hoping to be able to move quickly on this because students were getting ready to register for classes.
Another committee member pushed for a coordinated schedule for all schools, elementary school right on up through high school. Hancock replied that efforts were made toward that end. “It’s not perfect, but we have reduced it.” The committee member also asked about special education children. Brown-Gurley stated that there is a move toward an inclusion model, where appropriate.
Elizabeth Daghfahl asked about the foreign languages requirement. “What if a student was already in high school, learning a language, and their high school no longer offers that language?” Brown-Gurley stated that, if a student had a specific situation, they would work to support that student. She also stated that they are exploring eSchool offerings for students to learn other languages.
Mary Snyder, president of the school board, thanked everyone for their attention and attendance. “This is just the beginning of the conversation on this issue. If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail them to Dr. Hancock’s office and/or to the seven board members.” (Click here for their e-mail addresses: Board Members.)
The meeting had to be adjourned due to the fact that a closed session was following this meeting to discuss litigation, a sale, and collective bargaining deliberations.