This meeting began with an update by Superintendent Al Sprague on whether the district does exit surveys when parents choose to leave the district (an idea that I've suggested repeatedly, to no avail). The high school currently does have an exit survey (although I've never seen data from this survey, so I have no idea when/how/who looks at this information), but the other schools do not collect such information. I believe it is essential that we start to understand why some parents might opt out of the public schools -- particularly in this time of increased options for elementary school children with the new Chinese Charter School -- and I very much hope that this district will choose to initiate this type of survey whenever a parent chooses to leave our public schools.
We then heard some new high school course proposals (all were approved), and voted on some policies.
Andy then described the interest some parents and School Committee members had in hearing about the trimester schedule, and its costs and benefits. I am strongly in favor of hearing information on this system, because I've heard concerns from parents and teachers about the problems with this system (including difficult timing for taking some MCAS tests, gaps in world languages, and inadequate amount of time for students to process information in a relatively small number of weeks). As I stated at the meeting, however, I'm not interested in hearing summaries of the overall costs/benefits and/or historical information about how we chose this system--I want to see data on the effects of this system on achievement (AP tests, SAT IIs, MCAS, etc.). Marianne Jorgensen then noted that both she and Elaine Brighty had asked for that information when the trimester system was first implemented--but that no data was ever collected (which seems shocking, but not surprising). It was then suggested that either this issue be turned over to the new "How Are We Doing Subcommittee" or that Michael Katz would prepare a proposal on this issue and bring it to a future meeting.
Finally, we returned to the issue of the retreat. I again noted my objection to such a retreat (I just don't think this is a key thing we need to focus on right now, when there is clearly much actual work to be done), but that I would go if the School Committee voted for it. And so they did -- 6 pro, 2 against (me and Kathleen Anderson). January 24th it will be.
My Goal in Blogging
I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.