Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lawton Principal Change

The former Lawton principal, Christine Helm, has taken another job, assistant principal at Whittier Elementary, and the Lawton assistant principal since the start of school this year, Dr. Neil Gerrans, will serve as the interim principal at Lawton.


They will both be at the Lawton PTA meeting tonight to answer questions about the change.


Does this change re-open the whole question of the structure of the Lawton Spectrum program?

47 comments:

Po3 said...

Going from Principal to Assistant Principal 2 months into the school year is odd, but in SPS nothing surprises me. And good theory about sending her into Whittier to dismantle Spectrum, aren't they the only self-contained program left?

Po3 said...

oops, sorry I misread your theory of Lawton discussion being reopened. My theory is she's going into take the hachet to Whittier!

whittier07 said...

More likely she is coming to Whittier to dismantle the Spectrum program.

Rufus X said...

A refresher on the Lawton timeline:

http://lawtonelementary.org/2010/11/11182010-letter-from-principal-helm

http://lawtonelementary.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Lawton-Spectrum-Letter.pdf

Charlie Mas said...

Of course the Advanced Learning committee that the District has been planning to form for the past three years will probably address the question of Spectrum structure and delivery model.

If it is ever actually formed, if it ever actually meets, and if it is ever given any actual authority.

Melissa Westbrook said...

The Magnolia Voice blog says that this is the 5th principal at Lawton in 3 years. Not a good sign and very hard on a community.

Interestingly, the new principal, Dr. Neil Gerrans, has a PhD from Carnegie Mellon in computational electromagnetics. He also taught ELL. He also worked for McKinsey as a strategy consultant. Not your typical principal. But he only an interim.

As for the Advanced Learning committee, I look forward to being part of it and advocating for a coherent, stable and great program that will reach all students who need and/or desire more rigor.

also_anon said...

As a Whittier parent, I am concerned about this new assignment. Linda Robinson has already been making noises about a Spectrum restructure and now it appears she has been given a right-hand woman to make it happen. What advice can those of you who have been through the dismantling of a Spectrum program offer us?

Anonymous said...

@also_anon:

What advice can those of you who have been through the dismantling of a Spectrum program offer us?

My advice, having been through the Lawton change: retreat, retrench, lower your expectations.

Don't expect the administration to listen to you, no matter that you are using solid research and the SPS's own bylaws to support your position. You are an elitist parent.

Be careful around friends with kids not in the program. It's a more sensitive issue than your realize. They think that you think that your kid is better than theirs. You can offend them and never know it.

No matter how much the other parents in the program bitch about the change, this is Seattle. People are "nice". People will talk pitchforks and torches but show up to a public meeting with a plate of cookies.

Stick your head out and you may be shot at.

Seriously

Anonymous said...

Seriously, you posted "Don't expect the administration to listen to you, no matter that you are using solid research and the SPS's own bylaws to support your position." I don't think pitchforks, torches, or plates of cookies and bootlicking would make a difference.

In anycase, Ms. Helm did not instigate the Spectum changes at Lawton. That started before she was hired. Ms Helem was a new, inexperienced principal. Remember Lawton was on its 4th principal in 2 years. The school was in a state of flux and perfect time for some to make big changes. It's also tough when a majority of your staff signed a petition and got the OK from then Chief Ed officer, Dr. Enfield and AL's director, Dr. Vaughn to make the changes without consulting the affected student/parent community.

She got a hornet nest for her first assignment.

mag parent

Anonymous said...

If you have a belief, believe in it. Be vocal about it. Be honest with all about it. Don't say one thing to one group and then the converse to the other group. It is ok to have different opinions about Spectrum but just be honest about it to all. The game playing is what hurt the Lawton community.

- Been There

Anonymous said...

Just be prepared to take the slings and arrows for what you believe in. We did, but thank god, we had a backup plan too!

been there too

Anonymous said...

It is the 5th principal in 3 years (Noh,Raines, Bledsoe, Helm, Gerrans) but the Raines debacle could have been avoided if MGJ had made an appropriate placement - or better yet - formed a hiring committee, after Ed Noh left. The Raines placement was a SPS personnel issue that was foisted on the Lawton community and it's been hard to recover from that (it was in this leadership vaccuum that the Spectrum issue manifested unchecked and became such a negative issue. If there had a strong leader to help navigate at that point, and someone skilled at communicating with stakeholders and building consensus, much of the resultant community deteriration could have been avoided.)

(annoyed w. sps, again)

Melissa Westbrook said...

Whittier parent, look to the example of the Ingraham High school community (recently named as an influential group for 2011 by Seattle Magazine). Strength in numbers.

Your problem, of course, is that it is unlikely that most parents will join you, most teachers and, of course, the students are too young.

If Whittier's Spectrum program falls, then we will know the fix is in.

Lawton Parent said...

I think Whittier should learn from Lawton and recognize that self-contained Spectrum is on its way out as it is incompatible with the NASP. You can't guarantee program slots and at the same time guarantee the neighborhood kids. And then there is the sibling issue. SPS is moving towards site-based advanced learning at the elementary level. It has to. The real braniacs can go to Lowell, Lincoln, TM. What Whittier needs to do is make sure they get walk to math AND walk to reading/writing. That will make Whittier the new model and, probably, a better school. Lawton got a "SOMETIMES walk to reading/writing" when they cluster-group model came out last year and it is delivered in only one instance at this time. Heck, I don't think they are even cluster-grouping as per the model as it didn't really solve the main problem which was dealing with capable kids who missed the testing cut off and were year after year in classes that went from high to low ability and these kids never got to be in with the Spectrum kids.
Personally, I think that Dr. Enfield gave Christine a very tough job in changing Spectrum at Lawton and all things considered, she did what had to be done and people aren't really that upset this year. There are some some strains here and there, but most everybody is speaking to each other and the kids are frankly happy to be mixed up again. I think Dr. Garrens will be a great principal and will hopefully start more walk to reading/writing. I also think it is very noble as well as good for Lawton that Christine is moving across the bridge. She has taken more flak than most people could bear and I'm sure it hasn't been easy for her. I wish her the best of luck and I hope that she does well in the future.

Anonymous said...

Spectrum at Whittier is a terrific program, but very oversubscribed. If your kid manages to get in for First Grade it's all well and good, but beyond that kids rarely get in, and there is typically a waiting list at each grade level. My son tested in twice, but we never got a place, so gave up on the testing after 2nd Grade. Long term, walk to math or reading would be a beneficial as it would serve more kids, not just those who managed to secure one of the 28 or so places.

Whittier Parent.

The Dolphin said...

Seattle is a weird city. It seems that if the district just came out and said what they wanted and why, a lot of energy could be directed in other more productive areas. If Spectrum as a self-contained model has to go, then so be it. But spend time figuring out how to make school work just as well as it did for the Spectrum kids but including all the kids. I know that was the title of Lawton's committee, Challenge All students, but the premise should be that we don't take away from what we are offering the Spectrum self-contained kids, we offer it to everyone. It became a zero sum situation. Spectrum parents saw that they would only lose out on their child's education and non-Spectrum parents saw it as the only way to get more for their children was to spread the Spectrum kids around and dilute the "hard to teach" students. I think Lawton staff needs to consider school-wide walk to reading/writing as a way to truly challenge all students.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it isn't just spectrum program that is not compatible with NSAP, so are all the APP kids who have to move on and out too because their program just aren't compatible with NSAP. Sigh.

Maybe we should just open one school for the AL program and be done with it. Any large derelict SPS building around to accomodate?

- in need of a home

Anonymous said...

huh? this wasn’t the main problem.. "capable kids who missed the testing cut off and were year after year in classes that went from high to low ability and these kids never got to be in with the Spectrum kids." If they missed testing, they could take it the next year. They didn't spend year after year in classroom limbo. And the whole cluster grouping model is premised on the fact that "high achieving-but-non gifted students" don't thrive in classes with gifted kids.

A main problem (not the main problem) was the perception (by staff and some parents alike) that spectrum kids were 'easier' (or any other term you want to plug in there to mean less behaviour problems) and a desire to divide out the "time intensive" students. (That perception and dividing is absolutely confirmed - read the CASteam minutes) To be sure, a main problem was that teachers wanted more say in classroom placement, which they didn't have if the spectrum cohort stayed self contained. Self contained was more problematic some years than others (both when the cohort is large and takes up much of the self contained classroom, and when the cohort has students who don't do well in the same classroom together) but to me it was a throw the baby out with the bathwater situation v. trying to figure out how to adjust the bathwater on a year by year situation.

The whole thing was complicated by the principal churn we had and NO direction from SPS for a very long time. That and there was a meeting with Enfield and Vaughan to which no Spectrum representative was invited. (that meeting resulted in the "permission" to split the cohorts and rightfully left a very bad taste in people's mouths about the lack of tranparancy about the meeting)

I don't disagree that they aren't delivering the cluster grouping as proposed by CAST and approved by staff, especially in 5th grade. All "levels" (1-5) are mixed together, which negates any benefit of cluster grouping (wider range for differentiation, among them)

And walk to math/reading is no great shakes as it is disrupted anyway every time the others walking to or away from you have MAP or picture day or a field trip yadda yadda. (that's a lot of days 'we didn't do math b/c ms. X's kids had the ___") (oh, and I think all grades are doing walk to math. Not sure about reading)

I do wish Christine well. She walked into a school in flux, with difficult issues.

-also a lawton parent

Anonymous said...

Dolphin, like your comment, but when that was brought up, it was called tracking and somehow got attached to segregation lingo as well. The whole thing at Lawton got so muddled up, even when you try to find a common ground. I still don't understand why the idea of evaluating kids to see where they are and what they need to providing it is so bad. Now the problem is there's no policy in place, so who knows what next year will bring.

mag mom

juicygoofy said...

Is it possible that Whittier was simply given an assistant principal because of a need for more administrative help?

Also, I don't know the exact figure, but the Spectrum program at Whittier houses a large number of APP students who chose to stay near their cluster, rather than commute to Lowell. This wouldn't be just a Spectrum issue, but APP as well.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, I was wondering about all these assistant principals. I thought you needed to be 500+ to get one of those. Hmmm.

Anonymous said...

An Assistant Principal is at an enrollment of 450, from what our principal said.

As to Spectrum, and just testing the next year - If you miss the testing window and have to wait for the next year to test, it means two years of possible misplacement. You have to wait until the next fall to test, then not until the fall after that could a program placement be made. Two years is a long time...

parent

Anonymous said...

Some history on Lawton: For years it did NOT have a self-contained Spectrum program. (My time there dates back 8 years. I served on both the Building Leadership Team and the PTA board) It had mixed-grade classes and it had "walk to math and reading" in grades 3 to 5, though it wasn't called that. We just called them math and reading blocs.

This was a conscious decision on the part of staff and parents; Lawton had to get a pass from central. SPS wanted Lawton to go with a self-contained program for a number of years, and Lawton resisted. Why? Because it was a small school with 2 classes per grade, and with self-containment kids viewed the divisions as smart and dumb. Also, there weren't enough Spectrum kids to fill a self-contained class.

The community worked out its own site-based solution to differentiated learning.

When Beverly Raines started, the self-contained program was brought to Lawton. The school was bigger, and there was at least grade that could do a self-contained class. Some parents undoubtedly preferred it, others strongly opposed. When parents and staff tried to discuss it, they were essentially told this is the way it is.

When Ms. Helms started, the community wanted to revisit the Sprectrum issue. Especially the staff.

- Ramona Hattendorf, Lawton and McClure parent

Charlie Mas said...

Ms Hattendorf's comment highlights an important point.

A small school, one with only one or two classes per grade, is a completely inappropriate choice as a Spectrum site.

Yet the District did that at Lawton and at other schools.

They did it because they used to place programs based primarily on politics and space available. Smaller, under-enrolled schools had the space for the program so they got it, even if it were a program that could not be supported at a small school.

High Point was a designated Spectrum site when it had only one class per grade. How is that even possible?

The previous board tried to fix the corrupt and dysfunctional program placement process. They set a program placement policy. This board has looked the other way as that policy has been violated.

Anonymous said...

A couple of corrections. It was under Ed Noh that Lawton had a large enough spectrum cohort that could be placed in one classroom. Ed brought this issue up ONLY when there were enough students to fill the class because up to that point, there were not and a moot issue. The staff and Ed preferred to keep the spectrum kids in blended classrooms. In this blended classroom model, Ed discussed appropriate cohort size. Ed left and Ms. Raines was appointed in 2009. Ms. Raines was suing the district and her appointment was hadicapped by this from day 1. She was walking on eggshells and chose to follow district policies to the letter and that incuded how spectrum was delivered. It was because of this (until we got a formal waiver to do otherwise) that Lawton had its self contained. Ms. Raines left mid year and we had an interim principal, Ms. Bledsoe to finish the year and who made no chages to self-containment. At the end of that year, a waiver petition signed by most of the staff was brought to Dr. Enfield (CAO at the time) and Dr. Vaughn. A teacher rep and a parent (who was not a spectrum parent, but was against self contained classroom) presented the petition to waive. The petition was approved.

Ms. Helm was not in the picture at this point of the petition. She was selected at the end of that school year and became our new principal starting in Fall 2010. When she came on board, the waiver was in place (which at that point, MOST of the Lawton community did not have knowledge of). She announced she did not wish to change the class roster which included self contained class at the beginning of the school year, but will do so the following year. Thus began the journey to where we are today.

I don't place blame on Ms. Raines or Ms. Helm as to what happened. They came and went through Lawton's principal revolving door. What I hope the Lawton community would learn from all of this is you do need to have engagement, transparency, and consensus building when you want to change a program that will affect even a small, but significant group of kids and their parents. I believe we would have found a common ground and worked it out. It was about trust and not taking the short cuts.

-mag parent

Anonymous said...

FYI - 'that parent' mentioned above in -mag parent's comment is a Spectrum parent.

S. Allen

Anonymous said...

If so, I stand corrrected on that point.
-Mag parent

NLM said...

The changes in the Lawton Spectrum program wouldn't be so bad if there was more transparency as to how these classes are/were balanced. I know what the CAS reports say was supposed to happen; I'm not sure that's what actually happened. And then when you take into account that the official homework policy is that the school *WILL NOT* differentiate for any learner, it's hard to imagine much support for differentiation within the classroom either. If this is all that's going to be available under NSAP in this cluster (just due to capacity issues), then it's time for us to consider homeschool.

Lori said...

NLM wrote, "And then when you take into account that the official homework policy is that the school *WILL NOT* differentiate for any learner..."

This is a really interesting point that I haven't seen discussed before in the Lawton and Wedgwood Spectrum conversations.

We had the same experience before transferring to APP. It seemed that some differentiation was going on in the class for math, but every child got the same homework, and my child would literally get angry and defiant about having to waste her time doing homework on topics she'd already mastered. It was a dilemma because you don't want to teach your child to defy or ignore their teacher, but it's hard to spend so much time night after night arguing about homework too, particularly when you agree that your child is getting nothing out of it. (and, yes, we were told we could substitute some other homework of our choice if we wanted to, but that wasn't practical for a variety of reasons.)

So, how's it working out in ALO programs and the new Spectrum cluster models? Is any school differentiating homework? Is a lack of differentiated homework an issue for others? Are schools aware of the potential problems that "too easy" homework causes?

Lawton Fly on the Wall said...

Self-contained was the issue. It works well for those in the program and not so well for the rest. At Lawton the "discussion" degenerated into Spectrum parents being labeled as elitist snobs controlling the school and this was not a good way to convince them that their kids would be better off in blended classrooms. Then the staff petition and the secrecy behind the waiver added to the feelings of distrust. It seemed that the parents opposing self-contained were very conspiracy minded when in fact the Spectrum parents were only excited to have their kids in a quite rigorous academic environment. It, in some ways, felt like private school. Spectrum parents had a good thing. They knew it, everyone knew it. The question was how to take it away from them and the staff and some parents got pretty mean about it. Spectrum parents didn't create the program, they took advantage of the opportunity which was presented and many of them felt it was very good for their kids. To get called names and have decisions made with no input or even notification is very alienating. Spectrum parents(who liked self-contained) advocated for their kids and that is only normal, but the difference is they did not sneak around getting signatures and have unreported meetings with then CAO Enfield. They got blindsided and then cast as the bad, selfish, elitist parents. The well got poisoned by the secretive and malicious nature of the attack on self-contained Spectrum parents. Parents who liked self-contained are not like the people who were described at meeting after meeting of the BLT and those parents and staff who felt it necessary to demonize them should consider more appropriate methods in the future. Staff seemed particularly unprofessional. They are too busy to research and make a strong case for blending, so they get surrogates in the form of angry parents to do their dirty work for them. They present a paper outlining their reasoning that would get a D- in a high school English class and expect that to cool he flames? I mean if they wanted to make a point, do the homework, it was insulting to the parents who attended the ill-fated Spectrum meeting.
Are Spectrum advocates blameless in all of this? I'd say yes they are. They had a program that worked for their kids and they wanted to keep it. They had no ill intent towards staff or non-Spectrum kids and parents. Any plan to keep the good parts of self-contained and expand it to the whole school would have been well received, I'm guessing.
I think the fact that pro self-contained parents are still at the school volunteering and being civil is testimony to their good intentions. Did Lawton raise the bar for all kids as intended or just lower it for the Spectrum classes? With no walk to reading program in place, it looks like the latter.

Anonymous said...

The devil is always in the details. The word of advice I would give Whittier is if you are looking at changes to your spectrum delivery then ask for it to be an open process. Ask for it to have some enforceable methods of delivery where differentiation does happen. I believe cluster groupings can work, but the district has to support it with adequate resources, principal and staff have to support it by implementing the plan with integrity and parents need to work with their kids and each other to help support that endeavor. Otherwise, it will be another wasted effort.

-mag parent

Anonymous said...

Has anyone seen differentiation actually fully realized on a school-wide level, I mean other than in their dreams? :)

I don't mean one brilliantly motivated and hard-working teacher applying it, I mean even the "just average" teachers applying it and making it work?

Schools are justifying changes to the Spectrum program based entirely upon what is theoretically possible, but may not be achievable in actuality.

I've been on the lookout for it but not seen it, this rare thing, differentiation.

As far as homework, if your kid is frustrated by it, don't do it, unless s/he will be building on it in class and therefore needs to have it to function in class. I don't worry about teaching my kids to do what their teacher says. If anything, my kids are overly worried about pleasing their teachers. I believe i am more in tune with what they need. My kids practice their music and read. We sometimes drill on math skills, because I think EDM gives skill development short shrift. The rest of their time is free for them to use how they please.

Allowing a kid to get frustrated by homework is teaching them to hate homework.....don't let them get burned out in elementary school.


JMHO

Anonymous said...

I go back 7 years and have researched this with parents who go back at least 10 or more years. It is true Lawton did not have "self contained" - meaning it that only Spectrum students in a class b/c the numbers have traditionally been low. (estimates betweeen 5-12 or so per grade) BUT for all those years since becoming a Spectrum school, Lawton did have the cohort grouped all together in the same homeroom classroom. So call it, nearly self contained, or cohort grouped - I've even heard it called "as self contained as it could be" but they the key was that there was critical mass of those in the advanced learning program. Since the numbers were generally low, the classrooms were completed with other students. OR there were split grade level classrooms that accomplished the same delivery of year ahead curriculum to Spectrum students. Ed always called this "blended."

In 2008-9 the 2nd and 3rd grade cohorts were big (over 20) and in the spring of 2007 Ed Noh conducted a community meeting to see if families would be open to splitting those two cohorts for the 2008-9 school year, in those two grades. I presume that staff had been having the same discussions, but don't know that for sure.

2008-9 saw the 2nd and 3rd grades split. Noh leaves in June, 2009. Raines arrives in August, 2009 and realizes the Spectrum students have been divided among all classrooms, at all grade levels and seeks guidance from the district, who evidently said, Spectrum kids need to be grouped together per SPS policy. Last minute shuffle and all kids are reassigned, and "as self contained as it could be" is back for the 2009-10 school year, but those same 2 cohorts are still big. (now they are in 3rd and 4th grades) Bledsoe came in and kept the "as self contained as it could be" for the 2010-11 school year (those large cohorts are now in 4th and 5th grades). Helm came in and kept those classroom placments intact instead of trying to shuffle them around and because families had been told by Bledsoe how the classrooms would be formed for the following year.

While those details are very important as to understanding the history of Spectrum at Lawton (and specifically to correct the recurring misinformation that we had only self contained when Raines and Bledsoe brought it to the school, b/c that's inaccurate) I totally agree that the pot blew off the kettle b/c of the lack of transparancy and collaboration with all the stakeholders. It could have played out very differently. Parents made enrollment choices (came out of cluster to attend Spectrum (at least 40), chose to stay at the neighborhood school v. moving to APP) based on the program as defined by the SPS. To alter that without consulting those families was in bad faith - both by SPS in granting the permission to change and the staff and whoever else lobbied for it without engaging the Spectrum families

Anonymous said...

The thing that the Administration (nominal and de facto) at Lawton didn't understand is that listening to and involving the Spectrum families isn't the same as deferring to them and allowing them to dictate policy. They were so on guard against the Spectrum families and anything they had to say that the families felt like personae non gratae at the school.

The principal, who indeed walked into a hornet's nest, kicked that nest by failing to understand the difference between respecting and deferring. She felt that one parent had been allowed to be overly influential in the process and that that had created a big problem. An accurate assessment. Her solution, however, was to cut communications off entirely with the parent community on the issue.

I'm sure she learned a lot from the situation, and will become a stronger principal as she gains experience.

Saw it all

Jan said...

JMHO -- boy, I wish (on the homework issue) you had been MY mother! Lots of precious kid time wasted, in my opinion, on "stupid" homework -- while real learning (math, music, reading, playing) is starved for time.

On differentiation -- yes, I have seen it work, though not at a public school. At Hamlin Robinson, they get dyslexic kids in a constant flow, at all grade levels, and with all sorts of abilities. Their reading abilities may differ hugely from their math abilities. They do school-wide walks to subjects that allow kids to consistently work at whatever level is appropriate. We weren't there for a long time, but my sense is that the groupings are fluid enough that a kid walking to one room who falls behind is swiftly moved to another group -- same if they move ahead. In other words -- it is not that you base a whole year's groupings on a spring or fall MAP test. If a child thinks they can/should be in a higher group -- they just bear down and get there. The idea was that most kids would learn compensatory language strategies and return to public schools -- so they were interested in facilitating as quick a move upward as possible. It DID mean that the entire school -- ALL of them -- had to conform to a schedule for subjects that facilitated this. But it also made the entire school very cohesive in terms of helping kids learn as fast as they chose.

IF we abandoned MAP for more nimble, flexible grouping AND had an entire school "on board," I think you could do really incredible things with walk to math, walk to reading, and walk to writing. Because of the possibility of content gaps, it would be harder to do with science and history/social studies -- but if schools worked on a 3 year rotation (same stuff covered K-2 as in 3-5 -- but at higher levels) you could, at least, "ability group" kids more effectively, knowing that if you let a first grader have science with the 2nd graders, they would cover the same subject again.

Lawton Person said...

Saw it All,
You need glasses. The district sent reps out every month to BLT meetings in 2009-10 to listen to parent ravings about the evil Spectrum cabal and the "bait and switch" that supposedly occurred when blending was abandoned after 1 year. The district and the principals called the shots and to think that any parent has more sway at that school than staff is ludicrous.

Anonymous said...

Jan,
You make the case for fluid groupings to help challenge all students but I think the problem is the amount of organizational work required. Frankly, one walk to per day is fairly rare in SPS and getting two or more would be difficult. Could Lawton make lemonade and be the model for this? I think the ball is in the staff's court right now. They made promises and I would like to hear if they plan on delivering. I know that parents, and i would say especially Spectrum parents, are more than willing to provide the volunteer power required. Staff needs to give it a try.

Optomistic

Anonymous said...

Lawton Person,

Re-read my post. (Maybe you need glasses?) I did not say that a parent "had more sway than staff." I am aware of staff and district actions to disassemble the program.

I did say that the principal felt one parent had been overly influential and that is why she stopped listening to parents entirely. And I did say that I felt that assessment was accurate.

I stand by my post.

Saw it all

Anonymous said...

To elaborate, Lawton Parent, my understanding was that the overly-influential parent was involved in the campaign to eliminate the Spectrum program. When Spectrum parents who didn't like the change (some were supportive of it) were alerted to the impending change (by mistake, through back channels, as there was an attempt to keep things under wraps) and wanted to have a say as well, they were cut off.

Unforced error by the principal.

Saw it all

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jan said...

Optimistic -- I think you are right -- it IS a wholesale change, and Hamlin is a MUCH smaller school with MUCH smaller classes (and the usual ability of private schools to toss out behaviorally challenged kids, etc.) That said -- if the principal was committed to wholesale change AND could get buy in from the staff -- it could be done. Even if you just committed all mornings to "walk to." A teacher coming in at Hamlin would know, from day 1 that although they had kids A through Z in their "class," they were also somewhere on the ladder with respect to the walk to classes, and would be teaching any number of OTHER kids during the day. It requires tight coordination of timing, curricular materials, lots of discussion among staff as to who is moving where, and when -- and sufficient similarity of pedagogy and teaching method (and Hamlin excels at this as they are all Slingerland trained and their kids require high fidelity to a single teaching method). That being said -- to me all that hard work on the staff/organization side it holds LOTS of potential on the student learning side.

Anonymous said...

I know there is considerable interest in regrouping for reading and writing as well as math but for some reason it has been put on the back burner. Differentiation initially took the form of giving Spectrum students extra vocab words, however, as it was written on the homework sheet for the entire 5th grade that non-Spectrum students could do as many of the words as they wanted, even just one, and Spectrum had to do extra, this did not sit well with parents.
The staff has added several new students to advanced walk to math and it seems good. I don't know if adding walk to reading is a logistical problem or it's felt to be too much grouping and therefore possibly demeaning to the twice grouped in the lower level kids.
My latest musings on the anti-grouping sentiment is that it reflects strongly the conservative values of the Magnolia area. We have a few parents who were schooled in the USSR and they are shocked that students are not taught by ability in the US. They grew up in a school system, like most in the world, that is a meritocracy. The brightest are expected to do more and hard work is rewarded. They need to realize that in the US we have more a aristocracy. Success in life depends on wealth as much as talent. Magnolia kids are going to go to good colleges because they have money, not because they are the smartest.
Saturday musing

Anonymous said...

Musing,
Interesting, and something I hadn't thought of before.

I think basing a program on differentiation is building a house on an imaginary foundation. I just don't think differentiation is do-able on a broad scale. It's too hard, too much work, and we can't expect teachers to all be superheros. We need a system that works with just average folks, which is what most of us are.

Maybe we need to completely rethink how we teach kids.

Musing as well

Au revoir mais pas adieu said...

I will miss Ms Helm at Lawton. She is a very nice person who had to be mean and it was apparent she didn't like being mean( or was skilled at making you feel good about hearing no). I see a future for her as she learns to navigate public school politics. She took the fall for ending self contained spectrum, and she took it like a soldier. It's an unusual move going to VP, but it shows her humility and intent to improve. I also think she is a great role model as a young woman who can take a lot of heat and stay in the kitchen.(as the man who cooks in our family, I don't mean that in a sexist way).

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thank you to all for your insights. I think it only points out that our district has NO clear vision for the AL program because otherwise these kinds of unhappy machinations would not have happened (or be happening).

JMHO, you hit the nail on the head. If this district wants to get to cluster groupings, then every - single - teacher has to be trained in differentiating their teaching and differentiating the curriculum.

The district makes it sound like this is easy to do but I believe it means real professional development to have it work well. I do not believe the majority of our teachers know how to do this in a real and sustained manner.

So if they want cluster grouping, they better have the goods to back it up. Otherwise, it then looks like they are doing it to help the teachers and not the students.

Anonymous said...

Reading this is like watching a reality show. OK, I have to ask why did Ms. Helm leave Lawton? After reading the last several comments. she sounds like she is a good fit for the school (granted maybe not for the spectrum folks, but they seemed to have given her a pass and chalked it up to her inexperience).

According to one poster, Ms Helm had to end a program that needed ending and as one muser posted, especially since teaching to meet all those individual needs is just "too hard" (curious to know if this is REALLY what your teachers think about their work, 'cause it is not very complimentary). Anyway, sounds like you all need to get her to come back and continue what she started.

-watcher

NLM said...

Ms. Helm said she felt overwhelmed by the prospect of another year as principal without a vice to help out and had looked forward to the comeraderie a VP would bring. The Spectrum debacle and its aftermath was clearly very difficult for everyone. At the same time, she said the Whittier opening offered a chance to learn from and work alongside an experienced principal (in a school with similar demographics). It does take a strong person to admit being unprepared and wanting to gain more knowledge before taking the reigns of a school again. I certainly respect her choice and her reasons for making it. That doesn't mean, however, that the district/school wasn't interested in her for that role because of her experience implementing the cluster grouping model. Far from it, I think that was icing on the cake.