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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Carr and Patu Tour Anaheim District

I will do a write-up of the BEX IV Work Session held yesterday later today (if possible). 

I did want to let you know that Directors Carr and Patu are back from their tour of the Anaheim school district.  Both were quite enthused and apparently could not find anyone to say anything bad or worrisome about Superintendent Banda. 

Carr mentioned going into classrooms where math was being taught.  The math program they use integrates the use of technology and she said it was great to see how the teacher moved through the room with her iPad and sent info to the kids' desks.  She was excited to see kids very engaged in learning. 

She also pointed out, in terms of the BEX discussion, that Anaheim has 650-700 seat schools (this is K-6) and some go up to 900.  She said it sounds large but that the schools seemed well-run, not crowded and not chaotic.  She mentioned a class size of 30 which I know has been an issue in that district. 

Her point is not that we necessarily have to have elementary schools that size but that the small model is not, from an operational standpoint, viable given the costs.  With the advent of BEX IV, we will be seeing larger elementary schools and this is the way of the future. 

14 comments:

mirmac1 said...

Okay, so we will be having to build additions to our historic buildings? They noted last night that a number of schools in BEX IV will likely have landmark status.

And coincident with larger schools is higher transportation costs.

BTW, the smart tablets and whiteboards Carr mentioned are what I reported about Enoch's San Ramon Valley district. So far we have spent $7M for MAP and network improvements, and $1.4M for VAM roster verification; we could've done some great tech improvements in the &*%$@! classroom!

kelstar said...

How will moving to super sized elementary schools help with the expensive transportation costs?

Seems like less walking to school and more busing. Given the craziness we're going through to save $1 million in transportation costs, I am keen to learn the thinking behind the initiative for big schools.

Po3 said...

This large school size bothers me as it is example of, "oh look here, supersized K-6s (in a small district w/o no 9-12 or assignment issues, transportation issues etc.) Cool lets to that.

We need a well thought out picture that ties all the pieces of OUR district together.

With that said, ironic that several years ago DeBell pointed to another CA district - who had just dumped the Discovery Math books. And that was met with hands over ears by Carr.

This board needs to get some focus!

mirmac1 said...

kelstar,

That just goes to show the lack of integration and compartmentalized thinking.

Carr must've read somewhere that we will save ?? FTEs (maintenance and admin). Things she'll have to think about:

Lot size
Historic buildings
Boundary changes
Transportation
Scheduling
Accessibility and life/safety(multistory structures)
etc. etc.

Anonymous said...

With the $1 million bus cost overrun upending operations, good to know that the district has the $$ for Carr and Patu to fly down CA to check out a superintendent they've already hired.

Ridiculous. Outrageous.

DistrictWatcher

kelstar said...

It makes one wonder if the staff attended some national school construction conference and came back after being wined and dined to pedal the idea of super sized elementary schools.

It seems we're moving to a build em cheaply, use 'em and then tear them down model of school construction. Oh and in the meantime remodel buildings you already know you're going to abandon.

mirmac1 said...

You know, for a bunch of people who wrote a procedure saying they a) don't micro-manage; and b) are there as "ambassadors" to and for their constituents; they are really cocking things up. For one thing, I don't think there's a crowd of constituents there with pitchforks demanding 650 kid elementaries. Furthermore, by issuing directives like "build a downtown school and they will come, even if the numbers don't justify it" or "go out and scrounge $1M from transpo NOW", that doesn't sound like governance to me.

Anonymous said...

I have heard Banda used fundamentally sound math books in his district. If he dumps our Discovering and Everyday textbooks, it would be a huge improvement.

Sherry Carr was sold on these textbooks because a school district person conducted a private tutoring session with her daughter. Since her daughter did well, she figured this approach would work for all students.

Unfortunately, many students with ADD, language barriers and other issues do poorly with these text heavy books. These books do not allow enough practice for many students to ever become proficient. Just ask the 60 UW math and science professors who complained about incoming freshmen math skills.

If Banda delivers a better math curriculum, it would be a huge step forward.

S parent

mirmac1 said...

You can view the ACSD Technology Plan 2010-2015 here

Jan said...

I disagree with the criticisms of Sherry and Betty here (not everywhere, just here). I think it makes sense to take a look at the District where Mr. Banda is coming from -- if the Board wants to get a jump start on who he is, his style, his preferences, how he has worked there. This is NOT an expensive trip to make.

If Sherry now wants to correct her earlier position on math curriculum, let's welcome it. What do we want? For her to stick to her guns to prove that she is never wrong, and that her thinking should never need to evolve. The poster above who states that if we get a better math curriculum, it's a huge step forward is SO right. Just doing that alone (with the concommitant rise in test scores a few years down the line) will make Banda, the Board, and the teachers all look like geniuses. I have no desire to rub Sherry's nose in how we got where we are. I just want it to change.

As for bigger schools, IF we are going to start looking at NEW construction, or big remodels, we should at least take a look at what our assumptions are, and whether they are solid. I am a small school proponent -- but that is because small schools always worked best for my kids, and big ones seemed chaotic and run by "kid culture" values -- not "teacher culture values." If someone could show me different results, my assumptions might need to change to accommodate them. So, yeah -- MAYBE this is all just "build em cheap; pack em in." But maybe not. I for one would like to know more. Certainly, smaller schools do have more cost associated with them (principals, janitors, nurses, counselors, secretaries) -- you can't just scale up forever without increasing staff, but I have always understood that the cost per kid is higher. I assumed more sanity and better learning was the result. If that is not necessily true, then we should at least look at the issue.

Jan said...

Also- -- I want Mr. Banda to have as much Board support as possible, since the ed reform crowd all appears to be sucking lemons over him. Anything reasonable in cost that we can do to coalesce Board support around him and his management, I support.

mirmac1 said...

I agree Jan. I think the trip was worthwhile.

Yesterday at the BEX discussion, Carr made the comment about "Wow, their schools were 650 and they had only ONE secretary." That's seems to be the only data point made available to the public to justify this new direction.

The upsized elementaries are
Arbor Heights,
Schmitz Park,
Wilson-Pacific,
North Beach, and
Thornton Creek (K-5).

What do those neighborhoods think? You better articulate your thoughts and start asking for specific information like: how many APs? Any head teachers or house administrators? family support worker? What will gym, recess and lunch look like? what's the class room size (30:1?) etc.

Anonymous said...

I admit, it is my gut feeling and not any standard of research that makes me feel like large elementary schools are a bad idea. My gut feeling combined with actual experience having two kids go through a very small school that grew as our family moved through it. The older child who experienced the school at its smallest had a far, far better experience.

Incidentally, Sherry Carr's kids went to a very small elementary (she helped start the Montessori program at then-way-underenrolled Bagley). In my opinion her kids reaped a benefit that she is now in the position to say "doesn't make sense" for other kids, but she probably doesn't see it that way.

I do think it might be worth exploring whether a school that is actually built to be larger functions better than a school that is simply packed to the gills.

--small school fan

kellie said...

I think it is important to note, that the push for 650 student schools comes from capacity management.

Enrollment in SPS is growing and quite honestly, I don't know if there is an end to this growth curve in the next decade. In demographics theory, as soon as the economy improves, families will start to move back to suburbia and suburban schools. However, that theory is steeped in cheap gas prices. I imagine that with gas at $4/gallon, that the economics of the suburban lifestyle don't pencil out as neatly.

So urban districts like Seattle as going to have to deal with some constraints:

- increasing enrollment
- no reasonable new property to convert to schools (ie. there isn't a lot of empty lots of cheap land just sitting around that can be made into schools cheaply)

The natural result of this tension is to make bigger schools to optimize the usage of limited land.

I am not arguing for 650 student school. I am just saying that the tension that is pushing the conversation to 650 student schools is unlikely to go away.