Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Advanced Learning Taskforce Update

There is a joint meeting of the Advanced Learning Taskforces tomorrow, Thursday the 29th from 4-8 pm in the JSCEE auditorium.  They will be discussing their recommendations with an eye to presenting a combined recommendation plan to the Superintendent and Board in the future.  The public is invited to attend but no questions or feedback will be happening as this is purely a meeting for the committees. 

There's a very interesting report of "recommendations" that is a compilation of various members of the Taskforce at the Advanced Learning Taskforce page.  However, this is NOT official.  (What is interesting is apparently the first eight-and-a-half pages are from two students at Ingraham.)

It makes for tough reading as it is a large volume of very specific ideas.   You find yourself trying to figure out, "if this, then that? or "what would happen with X,Y,Z."

I think it great that these people have put forth a plethora of ideas because it helps to see options.  Some suggestions - like a decent ALO in every school - well, that hasn't happened and I can't see why writing it down as policy would make it happen.

There's also an FAQ from Stephen Martin, director of AL, dated April 2014 that also makes for good reading.  

The pages are not numbered but the middle section, by Karen B. Rogers, Ph.D., has interesting comparisons of what does and does not work for grouping of advanced learning students.

The end pages are Martin's recommendations for the program. It's worth reading. 


Anonymous said...

Personally, I would have liked to have seen something in Stephen Martin's recommendations about the need for a curriculum, as well as something addressing evaluation and monitoring. WHAT is delivered is just as important as to whom.


Charlie Mas said...

Ideally, we would be focused much more on what happens in the classroom than on who is in the classroom. So why aren't we?

We aren't because any talk about what is happening in the classroom is wasted talk. There is no way to police it. The students and the teacher go into the classroom and the door is closed and we have no idea what is happening in there. We can adopt curricula, but we can't enforce it or hold anyone accountable for teaching it.

Let's say that there was a written curriculum. Let's further presume that teachers were required to provide a syllabus for what they will cover and someone took the time to confirm that the syllabus matched the curriculum. Then someone would have to confirm, by interviewing students, that the syllabus was being followed. Then there would have to be someone with the authority and the ability to direct the teacher to cover any skipped items. Does any of that sound the least bit possible? Not to me.

Want to know why the District wants all of the teachers to be on the bottom of page 56 twenty minutes into the lesson on October 13? This is why. To try to make managable a situation that is completely unmanagable. But it won't work.

They can't get it to work this way because teaching and learning are human activities that rely on relationships, creativity, innovation and improvisation. You can't schedule it. This top-down dictatorial management won't work.

What might work, however, would be convincing the teachers of the value and importance of the grade level content and getting them committed to teaching it - as they see fit and as their professional judgement guides them. What might work is a bottom up process that respects teachers, acknowledges the humanity of teachers and students, and grants teachers the license they need to accomplish their task. It that context all of these buzzwords about professional learning communities, and teachers collaborating on student work and instructional strategies makes sense. But without the respect and the license all of that other talk is just rhetoric.

The district and the schools would work better with enlightened leadership that trusted and supported teachers rather than micromanaging them about and constraining them.

It's all been said before. Without the self-contained classroom (or at least all of the eligible students brought together in one classroom), Spectrum is no different from an ALO. And, as we know, ALOs are typically no different from non-ALO general education classrooms. So, without the self-contained model, Spectrum is no different from a general education classroom.

That's why people talk about WHO is in the room instead of what happens in the room. At least they can get the benefit of the cohort even if they can't be assured of anything else.

Anonymous said...

I would like to ask Stephen Martin what he feels is "unintentional misuse" of the appeals process.


Anonymous said...

A "who's in the classroom" approach might work in elementary school, where the classroom and teacher are together for most of the day, but come middle school, you need more structure. When kids and teachers reshuffle every period, the what becomes more of a factor than the who. There doesn't need to be a curriculum that goes to the level of "cover x on day y," but there should at least be some consistency as to the key topics that need to be covered, key texts/materials that should be used, etc.


Charlie Mas said...

I notice some recurring suggestions:

1. No re-testing required. If the student qualified in the fourth grade they have a ticket to enter the program in grade five - or any time up to grade 12.

2. A strong focus on having a cohort in the classroom and sufficient cohort size in the school.

3. A written curriculum used consistently across the district.

4. A real focus on the teachers - their interest in working with this population and their professional development to prepare them for it.

Anonymous said...

Any updates from the last AL Task Force meeting yesterday?