Saturday, November 14, 2009

Advisory Committee meeting notes

As ArchStanton noted, the official meeting notes from the November 3 APP Advisory Committee meeting are now available. You can get to them in the APP AC Seattle Google group. To make it easier to access, I made a copy available (PDF).

Some excerpts from the meeting notes:
The top concern was student safety and staff response. There was a lengthy discussion in which parents brought up examples of unsafe behavior at Thurgood Marshall, mostly during recess. Several parents voiced concerns that not enough was being done to control students' unsafe behavior.

Julie Breidenbach provided a number of comments to address the concerns. She emphasized that in order to institute a discipline program it is important to develop relationships with the students and to get their buy in. Adults have to understand what is driving the students' behavior. She noted that trust in those in positions of authority needs to be established. Some students are too rough on the playground and staff has frequently had to work with them to modify their behavior. The key is to help kids find alternate behavior that fulfills their need so that the discipline can be a learning experience. This takes time to put into place.

In the meantime, other practices have been initiated to help students deal with the changes. The library has been made available to kids during recess. So kids who don't feel safe on the playground have an alternative. Attendance in the library has decreased which suggests that more kids are feeling comfortable going out to the playground during recess. More adults have been assigned to recess duty.

[The] final topic [was] concerns about equity and/or disparity in the two APP elementary programs. Parents who were specifically interested in this topic also interpreted it in different ways. One view was that the extra effort and attention required to address issues of safety and discipline at Thurgood Marshall would detract from the academics there. Another parent voiced concerns about the very large second grade classes at Lowell as compared to the classes at Thurgood Marshall. Gregory King replied that he is trying to remediate the large class sizes by using tutors in the overloaded and split classrooms.
There also was a list of concerns that were mostly unaddressed in the meeting. Those concerns appeared to included what APP and ALO means and whether those definitions were being violated, people's confidence in the APP program, and the level of support APP has from the district.

The same day these meeting notes came out, there also was another e-mail from the APP advisory committee titled "APP Update". A full copy of that e-mail is available from the APP AC Seattle Google Group. An excerpt from it is below:
These transitions are challenging and are works-in-progress--no doubt, this will continue to be a bumpy year, but APP is intact, our elementary and middle school students and staff are adjusting.

Lowell and Thurgood Marshall face unique challenges .... We feel it is very important to acknowledge and address very real parent concerns, and balance those with the realization that it will take time to work out the transitional issues at all our schools.

Our schools will be different from here on out, our children's experiences will be different, hopefully better in the long run. It will clearly take all of us working to help our schools succeed and thrive. It will also take our patience as we hit some bumps during this transition year.

Know that lots of people -- parents, teachers, principals, staff -- are working hard for APP's success, and be reassured that the CAO supports the program, supports the model, supports the work of the Advanced Learning office, and supports the cohort at Garfield.

The APP AC will do what it can to help with communication and raising issues with appropriate people at the District, School Board, the PTSA's, and you, the APP community. We will devote the APP AC Meeting December 2 at Lowell to discussing many of the issues which we did not get to address at the November meeting, plus a few other important topics. Please continue to write us with your concerns...we are working on them.
The e-mail also very briefly addressed keeping APP mostly self-contained and curriculum changes in math and other subjects at all APP levels.

From the frustration I see in previous discussion threads, I have to wonder how this will be received by the APP community. The demand to wait and be patient seems to confirm, as a couple people ([1] [2]) wrote, that "we [can't] even agree ... that violence in the school will not be tolerated" and "no kid should be scared at school". Another parent said earlier, "People needed reassurance that something was being done" and needed to see "the district ... properly resourcing the merger" but "weren't satisfied". Charlie Mas added, "The whole legitimacy of the APP split was predicated on having a written, aligned, taught and tested curriculum for APP... but not only have we no curriculum, we don't even have an acknowledgment of the promise." So then, will the latest be viewed, as one parent angrily wrote, as more of "the typical oddly pro-school-district rhetoric offered by the all the APP AC toadies"?

Please see also the earlier threads, "Impressions from the APP Advisory Committee meeting?" and "What was not discussed at the APP Advisory Committee meeting?", which have parents descriptions of what happened at the recent meeting and what some of their concerns appear to be, including the ones I mention above.


Ben said...

"She emphasized that in order to institute a discipline program it is important to develop relationships with the students and to get their buy in."

I'm all in favor of obtaining the consent of the governed, but, no. You establish rules and tell the kids what the rules are. Bear in mind that no one's talking about draconian rules that would be burdensome or disrespectful to any kid. We're talking about rules like, "Don't kick people" and "Don't fight."

If the kids object or don't give "buy in," then what? No disciplinary procedure?

Corina said...

CLASS SIZE is perhaps the most serious problem at Lowell. King deserves credit for finding student teachers to help out part-time, but it is not enough.

One third-grade teacher is expected to teach differentiated math to 29 students, including 8 who need extra support, single-handedly. Unless she is hiding a cape under her cardigan, the teacher cannot possibly meet this completely impractical expectation.

With this degree overcrowding, it hardly matters what the math curriculum is, since there are simply too few adults per child to teach it. Remember when the split was sold to Lowell as a cure for overcrowding?

Ben said...

Oh, the magical split. Is there anything it can't not do?

Robert said...

I don't think anyone tried to sell the split. However, there ARE less students at Lowell this year; Some of the classes are jammed because of the size of that grade level... Which is a direct result of the program split as are the additional split grade classes.

ArchStanton said...

Ben said: "I'm all in favor of obtaining the consent of the governed, but, no. You establish rules and tell the kids what the rules are."

Excerpted from previous posts I later deleted:

I just can't help but wonder what message the kids (both APP and ALO) are learning when they see the way adults tiptoe around this stuff or see how powerless adults feel in dealing with it.

It seems we are always reminded in parenting books that the kid's job is to test limits and the adult's job is to set them. We are told that kids need clear limits and boundaries and even desire them. When are the adults going to start acting like adults?

I just hear this unwillingness for the people in authority to exercise their power for fear of being labeled racist, elitist, or whatever. Until they do, the kids know who has the power on the playground and they are receiving an unfortunate object lesson on how the adult world works (at TM anyways).

Ben said...

I agree. And what (racist?) message does it send when you tell the kids, "We don't believe you can be expected to behave better?"

Charlie Mas said...

Can someone ask the Advisory Committee what advice they have given lately, to whom they gave it, and whether it was followed?

How can we continue to call this an Advisory Committee when it never gives advice? What is the point of an Advisory Committee when their advice, on the rare occassions it is given, is never followed?