Thursday, May 31, 2007
That is good advice, I think. It's tempting to fix what isn't broken because we believe we see a better way. Even when something is clearly amiss we find when we go to fix it that everything is interconnected, and we can't fix one part of the system without stretching another. Please keep that in mind when it seems that an obvious change is slow in coming.
And yes, our teachers should be paid more. Public school teachers everywhere should be paid more.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
The facts of the question are best laid out in the Washington Post article, and my suggestion is that anyone concerned about the issue read it carefully. Twice.
You’ll see that when it comes to an opt-out policy for contact by military recruiters, both the recruiters and the concerned parents are asking for the same thing: Make the opt-out process more prominent than a paragraph on page 23 of the student handbook.
The protesting parents want more parents to be informed that the military is recruiting from our student bodies, and that there is a way to opt their children out of the recruitment process. The recruiters want to know who doesn’t want to be called. That is just one more piece of data in addition to the contact information that LCPS is already required to provide by federal law. Both sides can be given what they want by sending an opt-out sheet home with HS Juniors & Seniors at the beginning of each year. It is unfortunately that the emotionalism over the current wars makes it appear that the two are on opposing sides.
The parents are also calling for restrictions on recruiters’ access to students while on campus. This is a separate question. The School Board should ensure that LCPS is in compliance with Federal Law in providing recruiters with the same level of access as college and career recruiters. Anything more is inappropriate.
Washington Post: Parents Challenge Request by Army
WJLA News: Parent Protest Army Recruiting Survey
- Adult Education, June 1st
- Monroe Technology Center, June 14th
- Thomas Jefferson, June 16th
- Park View, June 21st
- Potomac Falls, June 21st
Friday, May 25, 2007
After the meeting I got a full tour of Park View from Dr. Minshew as the first block classes got rolling. I was especially pleased to see a pervasive emphasis on recycling at the school. It was Chemistry SOL day and many students were preparing to take the test. There were free snacks and drinks outside the library for those students who were taking the SOLs.
It is an older building, originally built in 1975 and though it has been refurbished and is well cared for, there is no escaping the small, fluorescent-lit enclosed cinderblock feeling. It just emphasizes the need to do our best in building schools to maximize the use of windows and natural lighting to make the environment better for everyone working and learning within. In a county growing so fast and striving to keep taxes low, we can barely keep up with the need to build new high schools but I aspire to a day when we can replace Park View's outdated design with a new building showcasing green design principals.
I'd like to hear from students, parents and teachers at Park View... what's your perspective?
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
If you are the parent of a Sterling Elementary student, I want to hear from you about your child's experience there. Heck if you're a parent with a kid in any school and a story to tell, I want to hear it!
So far, I have toured Potowmac, Algonkian and Guilford Elementary schools (and of course I'm intimately familiar with Countryside Elementary). I have also toured River Bend Middle School and Potomac Falls High School. Each time I have had an excellent conversation with the principal, opening a dialogue to help me be better informed as I make decisions on the Board.
Tomorrow I'll be visiting Park View High School, and Horizon Elementary is June 7th.
But I get the feeling this year that we have gone too far in our emphasis on SOLs.
When I see an elementary track team wearing t-shirts to the spring meet that say “We do our best on the SOL test!” I wonder if we have gone too far by holding the tests over the heads of our children even during after-school activities.
When I see that the marquee at a school lists the dates of the SOL tests but doesn’t list the dates of the end-of-year band performances, I think maybe we have gone too far by emphasizing this one aspect of education over all of the other enriching aspects of a school community.
When a child’s day is consumed by practice SOL testing and when she gets home and she has homework consisting purely of practice SOL workbooks, I suspect we have gone too far by putting test strategy ahead of actual learning.
When I hear the story of a third grader in tears because he failed a practice SOL test, I know we’ve gone too far, because I know that we have failed him. We have failed because we have led him to believe that all this testing is because we are evaluating him with these tests, which is true on one level, but the larger truth is that we’re evaluating ourselves. And that frightens us.
We are an impressive school community and we prepare our students for careers and life exceptionally well by any measure. We don’t need these tests or any other to prove it.
We may not have a choice about administering SOLs to our kids, but we have a choice about the emphasis that we place on these tests. Educators have a choice about whether we will teach to the test. This community has a choice about whether to evaluate its schools based on test scores.
We need to take a hard look at ourselves as we prepare for the 2007-08 school year and decide who we are and who we wish to be. What is the soul of this school district? Is it filling in the circles on the NCR forms or is it in the mentoring of an exceptional teacher recruited from among the best in the nation? Is it in the strategies for test taking or in the innovative instruction? Is it in the grueling repetition, or in the tremendous variety of academic and extracurricular experiences that we make available to the children of our community? It is my feeling that we are losing our excellence by attempting to test for it so aggressively, and I will be calling upon Dr. Hatrick, Mrs. Ackerman, and my colleagues to work with me to restore a reasonable level of emphasis before next year’s round of SOL tests.
Monday, May 21, 2007
1) LCPS has several systems that track information, and they don’t all talk to each other. It is a primary effort to reduce this inefficiency as best as possible over time, but it will take time and probably won’t ever be completely resolved.
2) Some school staff find it easier to have paper forms on hand rather than looking up the information in a computer.
3) Contact information does change, and by asking for the same information repeatedly, LCPS always gets the most recent information. This is especially important for medical information.
That said, there is a team at LCPS called the Working Technology Group that includes representatives from the Instruction, Pupil Services, and Business and Finance departments. It also includes the directors of elementary, middle, and high school
education. This group is working on the problem. I have an idea or two I’m going to send their way, and if you have ideas, please let me know so that I can forward those along too.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
This is the issue that I have spent the past four years working on, prior to joining the School Board, and one that I am passionate about. The HAB, IDA, EDC, ADUAB, Chamber of Commerce, Social Services Board and others are all working hard to resolve this crisis and have concrete measures ready to be implemented, but the Board of Supervisors has been sitting on its hands since 2004. Every time it comes before them, they send it back to committee.
The whole event was put together by the 2007 class of Leadership Loudoun, they are to be applauded for their vision in getting involved with this issue. They created the following Workforce Housing Resource Guide, which now lives on the County's website.
Expect to see a lot more coverage of Loudoun’s workforce housing crisis in the press this year as changes to the County’s housing polices are passed, and demand to know what this year’s local candidates will do next year to turn information into action.
Many thanks to all of this years' retirees.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
What is certain is that the kids in the JDC are still our students, and we still owe them (and ourselves) our best attempts at keeping them on track academically. That can’t happen if we view them as somebody else’s problem just because they’re attending class in somebody else’s building.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
“just the thing the school board doesn't want people reading”
I like Tammi’s blog, it is a good source of information. But it's old schtick to sell something with the exciting claim that it exposes the dark underbelly that some authority figure is trying to hide from you. The truth is that the School Board is just nine hard-working people, all of them parents of kids who are in or have been through the LC Public Schools, all of whom ran for the School Board hoping to make a positive difference, and none of them whom have been there for so long that they have a personal stake in masking problems.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
I had lunch today with members of the Loudoun Education Association to discuss an article in the Virginia Journal of Education about teachers being overworked. The issue is that even beyond of increasing academic loads, teachers’ planning periods and after-school work time are being taken away by additional meetings and duties at school. This pushes their planning & grading work to evenings and weekends, and many complain of reaching the point of burnout. I’ll be working together with the LEA and my fellow members of the Board to find a long-term resolution that helps our teachers get their work/life balance back.
Tuesday, May 8, 2007
Kids are evaluated for possible delays in their development in various ways, including and motor, speech/language, cognitive, emotional, and learning. Prior to kindergarten, kids with delays in these categories can be eligible for Early Childhood Education, which is preschool specially designed to prepare them for Kindergarten given their special challenges. Services for ESCE kids are class-based, that is the whole class receives the services. Once they enter Kindergarten, kids with delays or disabilities are evaluated individually and programs and implemented are developed for each of them individually.
These services are driven by needs, and not by label. In their parlance, “Label is not determinative.” This means that whatever label is given to a child’s special challenges doesn’t (or shouldn’t) impact what they are or aren’t eligible for, because two kids with the same label may have entirely different abilities and needs.
One interesting tidbit… even kids in private schools are eligible for LCPS services if they have special needs, and I have to say that Dr. Kealy and Ms. Kearney were downright insistent that every child in this county should be taking advantage of every service they are qualified to receive.
For those interested in learning more, there is a Special Education Town Meeting on Monday, May 21st from 6:30-8pm at Harper Park Middle School in Leesburg. I’m sure that Dr. Kealy and Ms. Kearny will be there to answer your questions. School Board members Warren Geurin and Sarah Smith are particular advocates for the Special Education program at LCPS and are also very good resources for parents.