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Archive for October, 2006

Bishop Program Committee Report

The Superintendent’s committee on Nathan Bishop met this evening. The program subcommittee present its recommendations regarding the academic program for Bishop. (Full disclosure: I’m one of the report’s authors).

The short version:

1) A neighborhood middle school (grades 6-8) that provides adequate and appropriate educational opportunities for all students in each of the following groups:

Students with special educational needs (Individual Education Plans and English Language Learners).; Students working below, at, or near grade-level; Students working beyond grade-level.

2. Open Admission:

No application process or entrance examinations.

3. Students will be placed in grade-level or above grade-level classes in each subject :

A student might be in any combination of advanced and grade-level classes (eg. Advanced Math & Spanish only).
The school would not operate a discrete advanced academic program

Placement based on grades, test scores, and teacher & advisor recommendations, as well as parent & student wishes.

4. All teachers (outside of special education specialists) prepared and qualified to teach grade-level and advanced classes.

You can download a PDF of the full report and recommendation here. It discusses the alternatives that we considered but did not adopt, and provides the rationale for the recommendation.

The full committee voted unanimously to support the recommendation. The next step is Superitendent Evans’ recommendation to the School Board. We hope he will endorse the recommendation. Your input is welcome here on the blog, via email, or at the School Board meeting. Of course, you can always give your views to Dr. Evans through his office, via email and phone.

One comment we got was “It sounds like the middle school I went to”. Exactly. There are a lot of whiz-bang options out there. Sometimes the trendy programs overlook the basics. We wanted the core academic program to provide two things: solid academics and a chance for ALL students to develop to their capacity. There is lots of room in the proposal for themes, teams, add-ons, pull-outs and whatever. As long as they don’t interfere with the core mission of the school, any combination of these might be fine. The process of determining these will continue over the coming months, assuming that the recommendation is accepted.

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Survey: Comments on ESPEC’s future

In the recent email survey, we also asked you what you would like to focus on in future meetings and forums. Here are your comments (be sure to click below for more comments):

a) Future forums on the state of the elementary schools as well as on the public school system as a whole, in an effort to discuss how the group can make the changes we want to see in the schools. Please have ESPEC meetings often – it is the best way to stay organized and keep us informed.

b) I would be interested in forum on curriculum and fostering a culture. David Bourns has done an amazing job of creating a culture of respect and responsibility [at the Paul Cuffee School]. He would be excellent at a forum. My children are lucky they are at such a great school – however – I strongly believe in a neighborhood school experience.
c) ESPEC neighborhood meet and greets to create hubs of interest and smaller groups who are more likely to discuss what they’re concerns and desires are. Urban public schools – what can they do for kids that private or suburban publicschools can’t. I wonder if we could pull together a panel to discuss why, once you get past the fear, these schools are great for kids. Do they prepare them for the real world? Provide a richer more dynamic social experience, engender a greater social awareness and creativity. Many parents that choose to live in cities do so b/c they value public spaces. How about a panel that demonstrates the value of public schools for kids?

(more…)

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Education Funding and Property Taxes

There’s an enormous amount of information available about public education in Rhode Island at http://www.infoworks.ride.uri.edu. Those interested in issues of education funding will find this particular link interesting. It leads to a PDF file that compares property tax rates and effort for various cities and towns. For instance, Barrington has assessed property valuation of nearly $600, 000 per student and taxes at a rate of $19.75 per $1,000. It spends $11,878 per student. Providence has an assessed valuation of $230,000 per student and taxes at a rate of $30.23 per $1,000. Providence spends $12,742 per student.

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In the survey sent to the mailing list, there was a summary of the recommendation from the Bishop Committee that the Superintendent endorsed. I’ve just realized that the full version was never posted. Here it is (in outline form)

– Nathan Bishop be a high quality middle school with 100-150 students/grade
– One grade to be added each year so that incoming students can learn the culture of the school and a stable population can be established
Quality leadership and teachers are key
– Strong leadership
– Committed teachers who want and choose to be at the school
– Teachers who want and are willing to forge bonds with students
– Promote teacher competence through continued professional development and support
Curriculum:
(more…)

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Comments from the Survey

Michelle McKenzie was kind enought to transcribe all the comments from our recent survey. Below, you’ll see what ESPEC members thought about the K-8 and Middle School options:

Forty-seven parents responded to the ESPEC survey. The following represents all the comments on the surveys (there were a number of surveys with no comments). The text below is almost verbatim. Exceptions are: correction of typos and paraphrasing if there was an identifying quality to the comment to protect confidentiality.

#1 Which configuration do you prefer?

Comments supporting 6-8
a) There is already decent if not excellent focus on the academic needs of the elementary school-aged children. we need to bring strong attention to the academic fulfillment of middle schoolers in the neighborhood.
b) I buy Sam’s explanation in today’s journal
c) I feel that we already have two elementary schools. If this were to become an k-8 I fear that either King or Gregorian would close. I feel the greatest need is for a quality middle school experience. Starting a school is a tremendous undertaking. The energy and resources should be focused on grades 6-8 and all of their unique needs. It is critical that we get this school right. A vibrant, successful middle school would definitely bring back the middle class. Kids would come back and stay for high school. More families would consider starting out in elementary school without automatically dismissing public schools on the East Side. I say this as a parent of three kids and as a realtor. Each spring I watch families leave town because their oldest child is approaching kindergarten.. Also, I watch lots of relocating families choose Barrington, Cumberland and East Greenwich because they can not afford private schools.
d) I think they should start small, and that it is a good idea to add one grade per year. King and V.G. are two decent elementary schools on the East Side (at least they have potential and shouldn’t be scrapped) but there is not a good middle school.
e) I prefer 6-8. I think this is a simpler goal than trying out an entirely new configuration (K-8) in a school district that is as challenged as it is. Also, I think the two operating elementary schools in or near the east side are successful now and it would be a grave mistake to cause upheaval in their operation.
(more…)

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Several of us went to the School Board meeting tonight. During the public comment period Harlan Rich informed the School Board of the sentiments of ESPEC members by presenting results from our recent survey.

Here are those results in a nutshell:

Our brief survey elicited 47 responses in a short time. That’s less than we hoped for but enough, we think, to get a good (if not statistically valid) sampling of opinion. You were asked:

Which configuration do you prefer for the Bishop site?

K-8 15 (32%)

6-8 22 (47%)

Either 10 (21%)

Do you support the recommendation of the subcommittee?

Yes 36 (86%)
No 6 (14%)
5 respondents did not answer this question

Sam Zurier told the Board about the work of the Bishop Research Subcommittee which made the recommendation for Bishop to reopen as a middle school.

We are pleased to announce that the Superintendent told us that he has accepted and passed that recommendation on to the School Board. We have confidence that they will accept the Superintendent’s recommendation. We are one large step closer to having a good-quality a middle school on the East Side!

This result is due to the many, many people who have written emails, made phone calls, shown up at meetings and in other ways spoken out for restoring public Education on the East Side. Congratulations, and thank you!

Also, thanks to Dr. Evans for encouraging community participation in the process and being receptive to community input.

Of course, some big questions remain to be resolved. One is what the curriculum will be. The program subcommittee has been considering options. Expect to hear more about this very soon.

Another question is the opening date. This depends on the huge question of whether the Bishop building will be renovated or destroyed and rebuilt. Chances are good that we’ll hold another public forum when that question hits the table.

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Smart Counseling/ Smart Math

Julia Steiny has a very interesting column on North Kingston High School in today’s ProJo. It discusses the use of “Comprehensive Guidance Counseling”, a proactive approach including advisories. Steiny concludes: “A commitment to comprehensive guidance is one of the few strategies I’ve run across that has the power to change the structure or, more important, the culture of a building.”

The second part of the article discusses how the school has improved math performance. This is a nice story about creative and positive change.  College-bound students should make it through Algebra II, but many students were barely getting through algebra I.  Instead of lowering standards or giving up, incoming 8th graders who testing marked as low-performing were give a special section of Algebra with an Algebra lab replacing an elective.  In one year, the pass rate went from 67% to 82%.  They had to open 100 new seats in Algebra II.

The article can be read here

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