Friday, December 5, 2014

Open thread

Winter break is coming up fast. What's on your mind?


Anonymous said...

Are teachers required to get parent's approval before showing a PG-13 movie to a class?

- Unhappy

Anonymous said...

What movie and what grade?

If the students are under 13, then a note should be sent to parents prior to viewing.

See Board policy, "Classroom Use of Electronically Accessible Materials."

Years ago, there was a proposed 6th grade field trip to see the Hunger Games. Some students were still under 13, and some parents weren't to thrilled with the movie choice. There's a reason for the policy.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the information.
The movie was "Master and Commander" for 7th grade LASS. My kid is 12 and did not enjoy the violence and amputation scenes. I will send a note to the teacher.


Anonymous said...

Isn't 7th grade supposed to be studying World history up to the year 1450, per the state social studies standards? In addition to the issues with some violent content, how does "Master and Commander" even fit with that time period?

Our child's class is reading "Funny in Farsi," which actually isn't all that funny (according to my child), and has seemingly nothing to do with the period of history they are supposed to be studying. The random chapter I read relayed a story about a trip to the Bahamas, not knowing it was Spring Break. The narrator rants about masses of people drinking too much and then being offered cocaine. She goes on to rant about beauty pageants and then she spends a good amount of space putting down her father.

It makes one wonder what criteria teachers are using to select materials for class...

also unhappy

Anonymous said...

Correct. Master and Commander does not fit with the time period they are supposed to be covering in 7th grade SS. Nor does Funny in Farsi.

At which schools are these being used? This is something on which I'd like to follow up... Someone needs to be monitoring this nonsense.


Anonymous said...

Funny in Farsi is being read at JAMS.

Anonymous said...

Master and Commander was shown at JAMS. My 7th grader was also disturbed by the amputation scene. I was also not thrilled that the teacher shared a college drinking story with 7th graders.

Anonymous said...

I'd encourage parents to share concerns with the teachers (and cc the principal), if you haven't already. The JAMS principal has also begun a monthly chat with parents where they can discuss anything they'd like. There is one meeting in the morning and another in the evening.

One HCC teacher from each grade is part of the curriculum development that is happening with AL this year. The above choices certainly have me concerned. I think all of the JAMS teachers on the committee are new to teaching HCC/APP this year.

Anonymous said...

Are LA and SS classes still linked at JAMS? At HIMS they've been unblocked, and the LA texts don't seem to be related to the SS topics anymore. Maybe that's the explanation for Funny in Farsi?


Anonymous said...

Hamilton supposedly unblocked the LA/SS for ease of scheduling, but wasn't the material supposed to be linked still? If they are no longer covering period literature when studying world civilizations, that is a big change and a huge loss.

The only period world literature that has been covered in JAMS (7th grade) this year is a prose retelling of one of the Canterbury Tales. By comparison, previous years might have read a short version of Beowulf, memorized lines of Canterbury Tales, read excerpts of Dante's Inferno, and read a Shakespeare play in full.

what the ?

SusanH said...

The same thing is happening at WMS, even though their classes are still blocked. Because of the change in Common Core requirements, they are having to greatly shorten the usual World Culture curriculum. Thus no time for any corresponding literature, or projects, etc.

Anonymous said...

The students are doing a movie review for the language arts portion of the block. They are currently reading historical fiction. The teacher chose a film that was set in a historical time period, and they're going to review it individually.

I haven't seen this film, but I do think my son is old enough now to have a conversation about a PG-13 film if it makes him uncomfortable. Speak up! Walk out! Ask questions! With due respect to your concerns, I think that our students are going to have to make sense of all sorts of materials that are difficult -- books and news and media. The fact that this film has been "stopped" by complaining parents, and that permission slips are going to come home, will likely only squelch good discussion (and, perhaps, creative teaching).

Anonymous said...

I'm still confused about the LA being so detached from the historical period they are supposed to be studying.

Aren't "complaining" parents simply asking that policies be followed? As in, give parents the option to decide for their individual child. We expressed concern with the age appropriateness of a book one year and we simply asked if our child could read an alternate book. No one else was prevented from reading the class text.

Anonymous said...

Is it true that Lincoln won't be sharing Amplify results with parents? We forgot to ask at our conference.

Anonymous said...

This is a real question, not snark. Is it good educational practice for LA to write movie reviews?

I'm not a teacher, I don't spend a lot of time in the classroom either. I really don't know what the latest thinking is or what works to motivate kids. Maybe watching a 2+ hour film during the school week and writing about it is a creative way to engage middle schoolers and get them thinking and writing?

It just seems odd to me because it would be harder to support written statements about a movie with evidence relative to a book, where you can quote passages and go back and review and re-review as you're thinking and writing. I would imagine they just watch the movie once through and write from memory.

Again, I truly don't know but am curious what educators/parents who are also educators say about the educational merits of writing film reviews in middle school.

(also agree it's odd that the chosen film does not tie into the time period under study - but that's an issue separate from my question)


Anonymous said...

The fact that this film has been "stopped" by complaining parents, and that permission slips are going to come home, will likely only squelch good discussion (and, perhaps, creative teaching).

Part of teaching HCC classes is understanding that students are still young, despite the level of material they are able to comprehend. Some students may have the maturity to handle what is perhaps more appropriate for an older audience, but not all students do. This doesn't mean you need a curriculum devoid of any tough subjects or content, but you do need to be more sensitive to the varying maturity levels of students. Teachers do have a responsibility to be sensitive to the needs of their students, and parents do have the right to step in for their individual student.

As far as a student just walking out, well, why should students be put in that position? We've had this discussion with our children, and you know what, they are still at the age where they are afraid to stand up to their teacher for fear of getting in trouble. They are still learning how to speak up for themselves in a respectful manner and certainly don't want to put themselves in the position of standing out. They are also still working through whether the teacher really is the final authority on something and what happens when they think the teacher is wrong.

Years ago, a 6th grade class was given an in class reading assignment that made some students very uncomfortable. It was a narrative of marriage practices that contained some sexual content not really appropriate for 11 and 12 year olds. Students voiced their concern and yet the class went on. Not ok. The lesson is you really do need to be on top of what's happening in your child's class.

Anonymous said...

@ curious,

I, too, was wondering about the value of a movie review as an LA assignment, for those same reasons. I did notice that the new common core standards include a reference to film, but it sounds like its only as a counterpart to literature. It doesn't necessarily sound like it, but perhaps they'll be doing something like this?

English Language Arts Standards » Reading: Literature » Grade 7

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:
Compare and contrast a written story, drama, or poem to its audio, filmed, staged, or multimedia version, analyzing the effects of techniques unique to each medium (e.g., lighting, sound, color, or camera focus and angles in a film).


Anonymous said...

Students in 7th and 8th grade need to be preparing for high school, and for HCC students that means reading and writing at a more advanced level. The curriculum should be text heavy with many and varied writing assignments related to those texts.

However...if you read the CCSS you will see a media component under literacy.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:


Compare and contrast a text to an audio, video, or multimedia version of the text, analyzing each medium's portrayal of the subject (e.g., how the delivery of a speech affects the impact of the words).

The key is that you are comparing the media to the text. I could certainly understand watching a Shakespeare play after reading it, or perhaps reading and analyzing a famous speech and then hearing it delivered.

[...and I now see HIMSmom's post, which is similar, though now I'm wondering why the standard is worded slightly differently from what I copied from the CCSS site]

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with Anon at 11:16 AM.

While students need to be able to stand up for themselves and voice their opinions, the curriculum itself should generally be free of things that are not age-appropriate. In the absence of a vetted HCC curriculum, teachers and principals need to be careful and exercise especially good judgement. There may be good reasons for exposing kids to uncomfortable topics at times, but I think there should be a high bar--and teachers should convey to parents and students in advance why they think a particular movie or text is important to cover despite the controversial material. Just blindly assuming that all kids and parents are fine with exposing their 11-year-olds to violent imagery, books that include sex and drugs, etc. is probably not a great approach. Teachers of gifted kids need to take into consideration the fact that gifted kids are often exceptionally sensitive as well, and that troubling imagery can have more impact. Parents need a heads-up if they're going to to have to do damage control or engage their kids in important conversations related to material covered.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 11;49, it looks like you referenced a standard re: reading informational texts (RI), whereas I referenced one re: reading literature (RL). Both very similar.

In either case, I suppose the key issue is whether or not they'll be comparing the film to one of the historic novels on which its based. Does that seem to be the plan?


Anonymous said...

The PG13 film issue is not difficult. Parental Guidance under 13 means parents of kids under 13 should decide with their students whether to view the film. A week's notification should be plenty.

As for showing films in class, many students including my own retain far more from videos than books. It is good to mix it up. My son's teacher insists on in-depth written reflections when films are incorporated into a classroom topic. The guidance for this writing, and the results, are solid.

Video fan

Anonymous said...

I think the movie review is going to be "persuasive writing," which is a common core standard. I assume they could persuasively write about anything, and this particular teacher has a background in film. And they're reading historical fiction, so it's all linked together somehow. At any rate, this particular class is the only one my kid has that does not include worksheet upon worksheet upon boring worksheet. He wouldn't admit it, but he probably even likes it. ;) If he comes away from seventh grade motivated to do more reading and writing in the humanities, I consider that a win.

JAMS parent

juju said...

My kid is in the 7th grade LA/SS class at JAMS that is watching "Master and Commander" and I am inclined to give the teacher the benefit of the doubt. I'm really glad the parents of students that felt uncomfortable with the film's content spoke up (both on this forum and to the teacher/staff), especially since my kid does not always volunteer information about what he does in his classes. So I was able to talk to my kid about what he saw (so far) and do some research about the film, before making a decision (we decided that he can watch the rest). [BTW, I LOVE for determining the appropriateness of books/movies/music!]

We've been pleased with his LA/SS class and teacher in every other way so far this year, so (like I said) I'm chalking it up as a simple mistake. I realize someone whose kid was disturbed by the film would probably not feel so casual about it.

I think the larger issue is that there are no set curricula to guide the LA/SS teachers. Last year a committee set the scope & sequence for LA/SS in SPS, but (as I understand it) they are just now convening to decide on curricular materials. So LA/SS teachers are having to teach to standards, but have no curriculum with which to do so. They are having to make it all up as they go along! I imagine this presents a unique challenge for teachers of APP/HCC students, since (as others pointed out) their students are capable of advanced work but not always able to handle advanced materials.

Thanks, everyone, for the great discussion.

Anonymous said...

So LA/SS teachers are having to teach to standards, but have no curriculum with which to do so. They are having to make it all up as they go along!

This does present some challenges. I would add that several of the teachers on the committee developing the curriculum have little to no experience with APP. Where is the expertise with gifted ed that should help guide the curriculum development?

Anonymous said...

Experienced APP teachers were deliberately excluded from participating.

Anonymous said...

That might explain why district folks are being so cagey about who is actually on the committee. So, what can parents do? Since this is being done outside of a formal curriculum adoption, they are operating without any openly defined guidelines and there is no public vetting of the materials.

Anonymous said...

Just fyi, teachers on the committee supposedly met this past Thursday and Friday, so if your child's LA/SS teacher was absent, there is a good chance they are on the committee.

Anonymous said...

"Since this is being done outside of a formal curriculum adoption, they are operating without any openly defined guidelines and there is no public vetting of the materials."

From my understanding, they are only creating "Unit Plan Development Guides," not lesson plans. The idea is that the lesson guides will help teachers know WHAT to teach, without telling them HOW to teach. I'm not a teacher and don't know exactly how this distinction will affect teachers--or how much the lesson guides will really help, since they are only guides and don't have to be followed in the first place--and from what I last heard there won't necessarily be materials (e.g., texts) to go with the lesson guides, either. Regardless, the lesson guides are focusing on grade level standards, not acceleration. The plan is to go "deeper" into the grade level standards--whatever that means. And they are supposed to also focus on text complexity.

Anonymous said...

In Amendment 4 (DeBell and Martin-Morris) of the Growth Boundaries Assignment action item (November 20, 2013), it states:

I move that the School Board:

...3) Direct the Superintendent to provide proper instructional materials and curricula for Language Arts and Social Sciences [studies] for all middle schools serving Academically Gifted Students in the Accelerated Progress Program (APP).

It is not supposed to be just a curriculum framework - they have been directed by the Board to provide materials.

Anonymous said...

We are really happy with our 6th grade LA/SS teacher at JAMS. I think most of the teachers at JAMS are young so none of them have years of experience. I like experienced teachers, and am sad when they retire or leave. We experienced anger and sadness when our well-loved experienced teachers were edged out of elementary APP.
But we are really excited about our young teachers that our kid has. Not because they are young. Because he likes them and is excited to learn, try and do well. We also loved our young HIMS orchestra teacher. It is partly a matter of determination, commitment, planning, and getting mentored. Hopefully there is some mentoring going on with the collaboration they are doing.

Anonymous said...

One of the 6th grade JAMS teachers is an experienced APP teacher from WMS. The newer 6th grade teacher is able to collaborate with an experienced teacher. I'm not sure how much collaboration goes on between grades.

Anonymous said...

That's nice that JAMS got an experienced WMS APP teacher--I'm sure that helps (at least for that grade)!

@ Anon on December 14, 2014 at 2:10 PM,
Yes, I realize what the Board directive said. I'm just relaying what I've been told at various meetings. They have been clear to date that they are not working on an actual curriculum, and thus not engaged in a formal (& public) curriculum adoption process. The AL office has also been very clear that they can't force teachers/principals to cover anything--it's all just guidelines. Oh, and there's the money thing, too. They said they might, eventually, go so far as to put together a list of recommended books, but since there's no money to buy them they aren't sure its worth the effort...

Anonymous said...

Dear Hamilton Families,

This afternoon I announced to the HIMS staff that I have been offered and accepted the position of Executive Director of Support Services at Singapore American School beginning July 2015. While I am excited about this new opportunity, please know I have a deep affection for our entire community and great pride and respect for the work of our faculty and staff at Hamilton International.

I will remain at Hamilton through the end of this school year and am committed to ensuring a smooth transition to a new school leader. Our Northwest Executive Director, Jon Halfaker, has expressed his desire to ensure Hamilton has a strong, thoughtful and innovative leader committed to the values of our community and dedicated to ensuring all students receive a rich and rigorous middle school experience. Beginning in January our Building Leadership Team (BLT) and PTSA leaders will work with Mr. Halfaker and other district leaders to ensure opportunities for authentic community engagement throughout the process.

Over the past two years I have been challenged, inspired, embraced and welcomed by this amazing community. Our leadership team, faculty and staff are some of the best in the business and they have made my work here the most rewarding of my career. Our students are smart, kind, compassionate, thoughtful humans – I’m moved by the way they learn, advocate, challenge and ultimately care for one another. Each of the 957 students who walk through our doors makes a positive impact on our school. Our families are supportive, collaborative and engaged – we could not ask for better partners in this work.

Hamilton International Middle School has a strong tradition of an exceptional staff, supportive and positive families and incredible students and I know this will continue. Saying goodbye to the Hamilton community is going to be really hard – I’m not looking forward to that day. Until then, we still have a lot to do this school year, a lot of time left together. I am excited and grateful to be part of it with each of you.

Cindy Watters, Principal

Anonymous said...

Why is there still no staff rep on the APP/HCC Advisory committee from Jams or HIMS?

Does anyone have a clear answer for this? Teachers are tight-lipped about it.

Anonymous said...

Jonathan Fox is the HCC staff rep from JAMS.

Anonymous said...

Can the kids (still) get high school credit for classes that they took in middle school (Algebra I, Biology etc)?

-credit curious

Anonymous said...

Yes, see SPS "Secondary Administrative Procedures and K-12 Counseling Services Manual," Section 7.11.1: